Steamboat Living: Heather Gollnick-Steamboat’s Spartan Race star | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Living: Heather Gollnick-Steamboat’s Spartan Race star







Gollnick's top training tips

1: Find an activity that pushes you and challenges you in a positive way.

2: Remember fitness should be fun so pick an activity that brings you enjoyment. We live in a magical place with a myriad of activities to engage in during every season. This spring be adventurous and try a new hike (maybe that 14er you keep thinking about), try a fat bike or explore one of our many incredible mountain bike trails, go for a swim in Steamboat Lake or Stagecoach Reservoir or try stand-up paddle boarding (then you can go for a swim when you fall off).

3: Have patience … set short- and long-term goals. Whether it's weight loss, training for your first 5K or getting to the top of that 14er, patience is key to your ultimate success. Set mini goals for yourself to keep motivated. Every new activity takes time to master, so be patient and focus on fitness as fun.

4: Everything in moderation. If you're making a lifestyle change that embraces new activities, healthy eating and a focus on fitness, ease into it. In the early stages moderation is key; remember, fitness is a lifestyle and should be enjoyed.

5: Hire a coach/professional to help set goals, answer your fitness questions and hold you accountable. Having a positive mentor who can guide you through your training increases your ability to achieve personal goals.

Heather Gollnick learned plenty in her career as a professional triathlete. And the lessons she picked up en route to becoming a five-time Ironman champion still stick with her, from training her body to win to tricking her mind into carrying on.

She became efficient in the water, powerful on the bike and swift on the run. But she didn't learn the first thing about throwing a spear.

Five years after stepping away from her pro triathlete career, that's one thing she wishes she was better at — because it's a key feature of her new passion: the Spartan Race.

To practice it, she and her husband, Todd Gollnick, built their own version of a Spartan Race obstacle course behind their Routt County home, including three different spear throwing sections.

"That's my personality," says Gollnick. "If I'm going to do something, I'm going to do it 110 percent."

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That's certainly what she did when she moved to Steamboat in 2013 from Florida with her husband, Todd, and their three children — twins Josh and Jordan, now 19, and Zachary, now 16.

The move was partly a result of a shift in her personal life and partly so her teens could grow up in a place she loves — she lived in Steamboat from the sixth through eighth grades and her family regularly vacationed here.

"We weren't at peace with where we were living," she says. "It was rougher. I wouldn't let them go out on their bikes."

Gollnick grew up an athlete in Wisconsin, eventually attending Valparaiso on a gymnastics scholarship. After graduation, she started working for General Electric in its corporate fitness center. The company sponsored a triathlon fitness challenge, and she was hooked.

"I had competed so many years as a gymnast, and I felt that competition void," she says.

She quickly started collecting top results, turning pro in 1999.

"With young kids, we recognized that it would have to be a real team effort," Todd says. "We realized she had an incredible amount of talent, so we thought we should see where it led. And it's led to some awesome things for us."

Gollnick made her pro debut in 2002, at Ironman Wisconsin. But after the 2.4-mile swim and 112-mile bike ride, she hit a mental block; her legs didn't want to move, and she thought about quitting.

But a glance over to Jordan, who suffers from cerebral palsy, changed the race and eventually her career.

"I looked to the sideline, and she was sitting in a wheelchair," she says. "I said, 'OK, she'd give anything to just walk in a marathon."

Twenty-six miles later, Heather had won her first Ironman. She went on to win the Ironman Coeur d' Alene and repeated her win in the Ironman Wisconsin in 2003. She also won Ironman Arizona and Ironman Louisville in 2007.

Now, after spending the past few years running Iron Edge Coaching and the outreach program for the Steamboat Christian Center, she's set her sights on Spartan Races — obstacle-course events that test racers with unique and brutally difficult challenges.

Gollnick has quickly warmed to them, bringing the same passion she had for Ironmans to the Spartan world. And she's already making waves after only one year competing.

In October, she won the women's championship in the elite masters division. Her performances have so impressed race directors that she was recently selected to the Spartan Pro Team and cast for season 2 of NBC's "Spartan Ultimate Team Challenge" as an elite coach.

"It was definitely a surprise," she says. "I never expected to find another sport where I would want to compete at this level, but I'm really enjoying it. It's great to be on the pro team and racing with everyone."

At 47, Gollnick stands out. Many of her fellow pro team members are in their mid-20s. A few can't even buy a beer to celebrate after a race.

"I'm thankful my body's still healthy enough to be able to do this," she says. "I've done so much in athletics; it's great my body's still in one piece."

And that body is still able to learn new tricks, like throwing a spear. An accurate throw requires patience, focus and a steady hand — all difficult to muster during a race. She's also had to learn how to slow her heart rate to get an accurate shot, which she admits "is nothing like a triathlon."

At first, she was only able to connect on about 10 percent of her spear tosses. While still not her strong suit, now she's up to about 60 percent. "I haven't completely figured it out yet," she says, "but I'm getting better."

On this year's pro team, Gollnick plans to hit at least one weekend of Spartan racing per month, which can range from one to two races. And as long as she's having fun, she plans to keep at it.

"Spartan Races are definitely different than triathlons," she says. "But that's why it's fun; it's a challenge."

And it's one she'll tackle with 110 percent effort — including a little help from her now snow-free backyard obstacle course.

— To learn more, visit http://www.heathergollnick.com.—Joel Reichenberger

Gollnick’s top training tips

1: Find an activity that pushes you and challenges you in a positive way.

2: Remember fitness should be fun so pick an activity that brings you enjoyment. We live in a magical place with a myriad of activities to engage in during every season. This spring be adventurous and try a new hike (maybe that 14er you keep thinking about), try a fat bike or explore one of our many incredible mountain bike trails, go for a swim in Steamboat Lake or Stagecoach Reservoir or try stand-up paddle boarding (then you can go for a swim when you fall off).

3: Have patience … set short- and long-term goals. Whether it’s weight loss, training for your first 5K or getting to the top of that 14er, patience is key to your ultimate success. Set mini goals for yourself to keep motivated. Every new activity takes time to master, so be patient and focus on fitness as fun.

4: Everything in moderation. If you’re making a lifestyle change that embraces new activities, healthy eating and a focus on fitness, ease into it. In the early stages moderation is key; remember, fitness is a lifestyle and should be enjoyed.

5: Hire a coach/professional to help set goals, answer your fitness questions and hold you accountable. Having a positive mentor who can guide you through your training increases your ability to achieve personal goals.

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