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Andrea Abrahamson, of Oak Creek, leads a pack of cyclists Sunday during the third annual Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon. The event drew 320 finishers to North Routt County.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Andrea Abrahamson, of Oak Creek, leads a pack of cyclists Sunday during the third annual Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon. The event drew 320 finishers to North Routt County.

Finishes powerful at Steamboat Lake Triathlon

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Full results

To find results from the 2013 Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon, click here.

— Who says you need to sprint to finish strong?

In one way, the last 40 steps of the Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon didn’t at all sum up the race Steamboat’s Jim Knapp had enjoyed.

It was his third attempt at the North Routt County race and it easily had been his best. Still, runner after runner flew past him as he made his way along the shore of Steamboat Lake and toward the finish line.

In another way, Knapp’s finish said it all. Those runners came and passed him, but he continued to walk slowly and carefully, holding tight to his daughter’s hand as she pushed a walker and beamed as bright as the sun on this perfect day.

Katherine Knapp, 8, was only two months — “exactly two months,” she said with emphasis — removed from the kind of major surgery little girls aren’t supposed to have to endure. It left her unable to walk alone to this day and unable to put any weight on her legs until a week ago.

“She could only take a few steps at first, mostly just walking in the water with no weight,” Jim said. “We really didn’t know if she’d be out here.”

Jim wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from himself, either.

Beautiful course

Even though it was the third year for the Steamboat Lake event, it was a new experience for plenty of racers, who traveled to the picturesque course from all corners of the United States, from Hawaii to Kansas to Minnesota and Missouri.

“It’s so beautiful out here,” said Heather Gollnick, an accomplished veteran of the sport but a recent transplant to Steamboat Springs.

She said she prefers longer courses but displayed her triathlon savvy by winning the women’s race. She conquered the 750 meters of swimming in the lake, 12.4 miles of cycling and 3.5 miles of running in 1 hour, 13 minutes and 43 seconds.

Susan Einberger, of Niwot, last year’s champ, wasn’t far behind, second in 1:14:28, and Betsy Mercer, from Parker, was in quickly after for third at 1:14:48.

“I felt pretty good. I’m much more geared for endurance events. I’d have rather it was three or four times as long, but it was a lot of fun.

“It was great to be able to race in my new hometown. It’s really nice when you get to sleep in your own bed.”

Ian Mallams, a Boulder athlete and former Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club skier, won the men’s race, recording the best times in the bike and the run to finish in 1:06:31.

Eddie Rogers was second in 1:09:11, and Steamboat’s Mark Satkiewicz was third, in 1:09:31.

Running inspired

Katherine Knapp’s surgery — the second in her short life — was to correct hip dysplasia. It’s a common enough ailment, her father said, but Katherine was stricken with an unusually bad case. The operation required breaking both of her legs to reposition them, hopefully solving the problem for good.

It defined the summer for the family.

“I wasn’t able to train nearly as much as I would have liked,” Jim Knapp said. “When I could train, I did. I did the open water swims. I ride my bike recreationally and run when I can, but my big objective this summer was taking care of her.”

He may have had the least amount of training he’s ever had before a triathlon, but he wasn’t ill-prepared and waypoint after waypoint, he was recording career-best times.

He shaved nearly 90 seconds off on both the swim and the bike, then clipped another 30 seconds on the run.

He ended up finishing in 1:33:29, two minutes faster than 2012 and 10 faster than 2011.

“I had a lot more personal motivation this year,” he said. “She was really my inspiration.”

As he approached the finish, other competitors sprinting by to strong finishes, he was joined by his daughter, and he took her hand. Together, they pushed across the finish line and there she let go of her walker and reached up for a hug.

It was powerfully delivered.

“It was really fun,” Katherine said.”It just made me feel so happy that I could do it with my dad.”

They didn’t sprint, but finishes don’t come any stronger.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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