Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon continues with beginner-friendly model | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon continues with beginner-friendly model

Austin Colbert

— Lance Panigutti, co-founder of the Front Range-based Without Limits Productions company, has been competing at the highest level of triathlons for the better part of a decade and a half. Even so, he finds it important to make the races his company organizes as beginner-friendly as possible.

"It's easy for us who have done hundreds of races to forget what it was like to be a first-timer. It's trying to re-create that experience and make it the best possible first race you can have," Panigutti said. "We are trying to get more people into the sport. Triathlons are a very welcoming sport, and we are just trying to make that experience even more welcoming for people that are nervous."

This ideology is a big part of Sunday's Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon, which is entering its fifth year. Despite being a relative newcomer to the Colorado race scene, the triathlon has become one of the area's most popular short-distance courses.

The race includes a half-mile swim, 12.4-mile bike ride and 3.5-mile run. Panigutti and the Without Limits Productions team have made numerous small tweaks to the event over the previous four years, but have dialed back on changes for this year, as they seem to have found the sweet spot that makes the race ideal for beginners and veterans alike.

"It's a course people love. It's a course we describe as literally the most scenic triathlon we've ever seen in the country. It's also one of the most rural triathlons out there," Panigutti said. "The bike course is gorgeous, rolling country side. It's an easy out and back course. The run course has dirt trails that literally run through wildflower meadows around the lake. It doesn't get more picturesque, and it makes for a very spectator-friendly course. So it's great for family and friends to come up and cheer on their friends."

The triathlon starts at 8 a.m. Sunday near the Steamboat Lake State Park marina — located approximately 30 miles north of Steamboat Springs — with the first of four waves spread five minutes apart. The start and finish lines are both located just inside the park entrance. The transition area and check-in table open at 6:30 a.m., with a post-race awards ceremony scheduled for 10:30 a.m.

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The purpose of the waves is to pair like athletes with one other, usually by age. This includes the final wave of swimmers, capped at 50 athletes, which is intended to be for the beginners who might be new to the sport.

"That was a big hit," Panigutti said of the beginners’ wave, which was started last year. "It gives the first-timers a clean, open-water swim. It's a less intimidating experience for them."

The sprint triathlon is the first of two races Without Limits Productions organizes in the area, the second being the Steamboat Triathlon on Aug. 16. That race is a full Olympic-distance triathlon around Lake Catamount, although there is a sprint distance option as well. Sunday's Steamboat Lake Sprint Triathlon is half the distance of the Steamboat Triathlon in August and often includes many athletes training for the late-summer race.

"A lot of the Steamboat locals are veterans. They are triathletes at heart — it's their lifestyle," Panigutti said of Sunday's competitors. "A lot of the athletes we have from the Front Range, it's their first time to Steamboat or first time doing a triathlon."

Panigutti is hopeful they will get close to the 350-athlete cap for Sunday's triathlon. Registration is still open, and athletes will be accepted all the way up to the start of Sunday's race. Fees are $85 for individuals and $115 for relays.

For more information on the race, including volunteer opportunities, visit withoutlimits.co.

To reach Austin Colbert, call 970-871-4204, email acolbert@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Austin_Colbert