Francis and Ruth Abate have spent the summer training with the Old Town Hot Springs Triathlon Club. A daunting task at the beginning, the two have thrived in the setting.

Shannon Lukens/courtesy

Francis and Ruth Abate have spent the summer training with the Old Town Hot Springs Triathlon Club. A daunting task at the beginning, the two have thrived in the setting.

Steamboat Springs couple reaches summer goals

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Steamboat Triathlon

  • Sunday, August 19, 2012, 8 a.m.
  • Lake Catamount, State Highway 131, Steamboat Springs
  • Not available / $110 - $140

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— There is a pep and swagger to Ruth and Francis Abates' step.

Watch the Steamboat Springs couple mingle at Sweet Pea Market on a delightful Friday night and it’s apparent the two are feeling great.

In a town full of weekend warriors and elite athletes, the Abates have joined the fray, but they aren’t itching for the top of a results page or podium.

At the beginning of the summer, the couple made a pact and a goal. They decided to participate in the Old Town Hot Springs Triathlon Club.

Like so many, it wasn’t about finishing first; it was about finishing.

“Ruth introduced me to spin class, and I thought that was the hardest things I’ve ever done,” said Francis Abate with a twinge of East Coast matter of fact and charm. Triathlon Club coach Amy Charity “asked me about the triathlon class last year. Two years ago, I didn’t know what a road bike was and didn’t know how to swim.”

The couple has been in town since 1999, trading in the traffic of Washington, D.C., for the slower and more delightful Colorado lifestyle.

They’ve always been active, but decided the Triathlon Club was something they could do together, even if it seemed farfetched at times.

“I hadn’t been on a road bike in 20 years,” Ruth Abate said. “It’s good to have a goal. Even if it’s a goal you don’t think you can obtain.”

They started May 1, and it wasn’t always fun. It was rarely easy at first, but as it went on, it became the focal point of their lifestyle.

They didn’t miss practices. They were accountable for each other, and they were even — gasp — having fun.

“At first they laughed when I asked them if they were interested,” Charity said. “As the winter went on, they got more into it. Once they got it in their heads to do the Triathlon Club, they went for it.”

Through the first couple of months, things went smooth. Then before the Bald Lake Open Water Swim Series, the two hit a low point.

The first swim in open water was intimidating. It was the first time they questioned what they were doing.

“I thought, ‘I can’t do this,’” Ruth said. “I thought, ‘Who am I kidding?’ But everyone has low moments where you think, ‘This is stupid.’ That’s why it was good to be in the club.”

The couple worked through it together. The hardest weeks were when Francis Abate was traveling for work. At one point, he was gone for two weeks. But regardless of where he was, he yearned for a pool, track or local YMCA.

“No question,” he said, “It’s what I wanted to do.”

They completed the swim series — Ruth Abate won the women’s half-mile overall title — and worked right up until the Steamboat Sprint Triathlon.

“I was nervous at first,” Francis Abate said. “But when I stepped into the water, it was like I was just going for a swim. It was, ‘I know I can do this.’”

Now Francis Abate will compete in Sunday’s Olympic-length Steamboat Triathlon at Lake Catamount. There weren’t any reservations as he talked about it Friday.

Nerves weren’t present, and in their place was an actual twinge of excitement.

The summer hasn’t been filled with podiums or top results, but it has been filled with a tremendous sense of accomplishment for the Abates.

And it’s just the start. Ruth Abate has a goal of finishing the Walt Disney World Marathon in January. Francis Abate admits he is in the best shape of his life.

“No question about it, (the Triathlon Club) has been money well spent,” Francis Abate said. “The coaches are superior. Really the results weren’t physical, they were mental.”

To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com

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