Joel Reichenberger: Triathletes long on intensity |

Joel Reichenberger: Triathletes long on intensity

— Cover enough sporting events in Steamboat Springs and the characters in each tend to sort themselves out.

Oh, there's plenty of overlap. A few of the runners do the triathlon. Some of the mountain bikers cross-country ski. By and large, though, each seems to attract a largely unique crowd, and there are elements of each crowd that make it unique.

It wasn't until covering my fifth Steamboat Triathlon that I finally sorted triathletes.

Many runners in the Steamboat Springs Running Series are the nature nuts. All of the courses in the latter half of the season wind through the wilderness, and those people seem to live for that "middle of nowhere, amazing view" moment.

The mountain bikers from the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series are the tough ones, though few ever realize it. They love cycling on Emerald so much that they often seem able to blank out the pain of riding to the top of that mountain.

The participants in the Steamboat Marathon are happy. There's something about the typically beautiful early summer weather, something about the big crowds and the bright sun and something about the many miles of accomplishment that leaves the marathoners beaming.

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Triathletes: They're the intense ones.

Triathlon seems to sink its hooks into people in ways other sports don't, and that manifests itself in a lot of ways.

For one, there don't seem to be too many people who do just one triathlon. That means nearly everyone racing is doing so with a time to beat. They're a little more focused on the race, and they're checking their stopwatch at every checkpoint.

It also means they have the time and opportunity to accumulate more, fancier gear. Do a couple triathlons, decide it's something you like and suddenly investing some money in an expensive wetsuit isn't absurd; investing in a particular kind of combo cycling/running suit makes a lot more sense.

Some take it even further, of course, and those are the ones who stand out the most. There are a lot of intense athletes in Steamboat Springs, a lot who do go to great lengths to compete well in small and semiorganized competitions. The only place I've ever seen anyone don one of those big, long bike helmets that look like the monster from "Alien," however, is at the triathlon.

On Sunday, a guy rode by sporting "triathlon briefs" that left very, very little to the imagination.

Now, that's intensity. I suspect the freedom of movement his lack of shorts allowed might help athletes in other sports, but I've never seen anyone else try out that hypothesis. It was definitely an only-at-the-triathlon moment.

The one thing it all tells me is that there must really be something about the sport. I doubt anyone woke up one day and said, "Let's drop a small fortune on specialized equipment."

By the same logic, I also doubt anyone woke up and decided, "Let's go ride a bike in underwear in front of hundreds of people."

Some of Sunday's competitors got there, however, and more power to them. They truly are intense.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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