New triathlon team looks to push local athletes to the next level

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— Heather Gollnick, a five-time Ironman champion, knows what it means to take her game to the next level.

Since moving to Steamboat Springs in 2013, Gollnick has continued to coach a wide range of athletes from those hoping to compete in their first triathlon to those who have multiple events under their belts. No matter the athlete’s age or ability, Gollnick always works hard to help them reach the next level.

But Gollnick, a USA Triathlon-certified coach who has competed in 36 Ironman events, also wanted to take her own game to the next level and this winter came up with the idea of forming a triathlon team in Steamboat Springs made up of athletes looking for a way to push through to new goals. The team of 16 athletes will meet for the first time as a group in May, but Gollnick already has started working with individuals who make up the Iron Edge Triathlon Team.

“The athletes on this team all come from different backgrounds,” Gollnick said. “But they all share the passion to get to that next level and to compete in triathlons.”

Gollnick said the team would allow athletes of different levels and experience to gather together. It would be an opportunity to meet for training sessions, an opportunity to find motivation from another athletes and an opportunity for group members to share their experiences competing in multisport events such as the triathlon.

Gollnick said there will be an educational component, and the group will have a chance to get advice and tips from professional cyclists, Olympic swimmers and doctors. Gollnick hopes the information will help her athletes find the best path to success in a team setting.

The team also will offer to give back to Steamboat by volunteering to take part in community events. She added that she plans to visit local schools and hopes other athletes from the team will come along and volunteer to speak about what they do and their experiences.

“The team aspect is really appealing,” team member Julie McFadden said. “It will be great to have that support in training and at events. It will be nice to see people you know at the bigger events so that you know you are not alone.”

McFadden already has started training with another team member — something she said would not have happened if she were on her own.

Jim McCreight got hooked on triathlons in the late 1980s and returned to the sport seven years ago. He said finding a good coach, and a good team, is key to being successful in the sport. He will prepare for two Ironman events this year, including Colorado’s first Ironman event, which will be held in Boulder in August. He will complete in another Ironman in November.

“It’s not the norm to compete in two Ironman events in one year,” McCreight said. “But this is just how it worked out."

But McCreight admits that even with his experience — he has competed in four Ironman events — training is difficult at times. That’s why the idea of competing with a team is so attractive to him.

“Most of the time when you are training for a triathlon, you are training by yourself,” McCreight said. “You have to invest a lot of time in order to do an event safely, and it’s easy to become demotivated at times.”

He said being part of a team gives him the opportunity to pick up other athletes who might be struggling to find motivation. He also thinks it will help him get out and train with the group even when he is struggling to see the end goal.

McCreight said group training sessions mean he will need to meet the group at a certain time and a certain place, or he will let them down. He also knows that his teammates will pick him up when those training hours start to stack up. He added that those are powerful motivators in a sport that is all about personal accomplishment.

He's excited that the team aspect will band this group of athletes together as one. They will have matching jerseys, take time to help out with causes in the community and have social gatherings at which people with similar interests and similar goals can gather together in a friendly setting.

“It would be cool to see other people around town wearing their jerseys,” McCreight said. “I think it will start lots of conversations with people around town, and It’s fun to be a part of the team.”

That’s the kind of togetherness that Gollnick hopes this group will find in Steamboat Springs with the IronEdge Triathlon Team. Currently, the team is made up of athletes she is coaching, but she hopes to see the team grow in the future. Her plan is to use the team to bring more exposure to the sport in Steamboat's active-minded community.

"I think our team will grow to about 20 athletes over the summer," Gollnick said. "I'd like to see it continue to grow, but we will just have to see what happens."

The team will begin competing in May this year at events along the Front Range, and Gollnick said the team will be represented at triathlons in the region and across the country this summer. The team will wear matching jerseys at events, and Gollnick expects the members will support one another during races and at the finish line.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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