Epic challenge awaits triathletes in Boulder | SteamboatToday.com

Epic challenge awaits triathletes in Boulder

— It's a race, so the whole point is to go fast.

In the days leading up to her first Ironman triathlon, Steamboat Springs athlete Marietta Roberts is thinking of things a little backwards, however.

Wait, how far?

Completing an Ironman triathlon is no small feat. Let us put the absurd distances into perspective:

2.4-mile swim — That’s 169 lengths of the 25-yard lap pool at Old Town Hot Springs in downtown Steamboat, or, if you started at about the same spot but swam the Yampa River instead, roughly from OTHS to the Bear River Skate Park. (No touching bottom!)

112-mile bike — You could ride the length of the Yampa River Core Trail 15 times, to State Bridge and back once (no stopping for a concert!) or to the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.

26.2-mile run — The Steamboat Marathon starts at Hahn’s Peak Village and finishes in downtown. If you go the other direction, you’d make it all the way over Rabbit Ears Pass to the east, or just past Phippsburg to the south (meaning you’d just need a short lift to make it to Penny’s Diner in Yampa.)

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She's among a handful of Steamboat Springs residents tackling the ridiculous challenge, and one of at least two doing so as full-length Ironman rookies.

She's mentally preparing herself to go slower, at least in the transitions, where the usual goal is to get in and out as fast as possible, hopefully at least in less than a minute.

"In most races, there's no time," she said. "For Ironman, my transitions are not going to be a minute. I will need to take five or 10 minutes. I have to regroup, reset what I'm doing, then go."

The Ironman races include a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run, so plenty about the huge endeavor seems to defy logic. Still, Steamboat's competitors insist they're eager — if a bit nervous — for the experience, even as they prepare for the pain.

Joining Roberts will be experienced triathlete Heather Gollnick, who completed 36 full Ironmans and won five in her professional career.

They'll also race with Heather Anderson, a three-time Ironman finisher and friend of Gollnick's spending the summer in Steamboat, and Tasha Thrasher, like Roberts an experienced triathlete stepping up to the big show for the first time.

"I never thought I'd do it, but here we go," Thrasher said.

She was so inspired by local finishers at last year's Boulder Ironman she felt compelled to sign up herself.

"I signed up, then immediately wondered, 'What in the heck did I just do?'" she said, laughing.

She committed herself to a year of training and nerves, that's what she did.

Roberts and Thrasher estimated they've been logging between 15 and 25 hours a week, every week, since last autumn. That includes long days on the weekends with five- or six-hour workouts, and intense sessions on weekday taking up two or three hours.

Roberts recalled trying to knock out a rehearsal for the 2.4-mile swim at the Old Town Hot Springs swimming pool. She'd already swam 130 lengths of the 25-yard pool, paused to calculate how far she'd been and realized she still had 1,000 yards, 39 more lengths, to go.

Training was so time consuming for Thrasher that her husband TJ Thrasher, a triathlete himself, had to opt to do his first Ironman in Florida in November because there simply wasn't time for both he and Tasha to train for Boulder and to care for Tristan, their 5-year old son.

"Do I know if I'll do another one? I don't know, but it's thrilling," she said. "It can give you a great feeling of accomplishment."

Up for grabs are 50 age-group qualifying spots in the Ironman World Championships, set for October in Hawaii.

Those aren't the targets for most of Steamboat's contingent, however. For athletes like Roberts, the looming dance with the Ironman isn't as much about getting it over as fast as possible as it is finishing one of sport's great challenges, even if that means taking a few extra minutes to collect thoughts and prepare in the transition zone.

"I'm going to finish it," Roberts said. "I know it's going to be fun."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

Wait, how far?

Completing an Ironman triathlon is no small feat. Let us put the absurd distances into perspective:

2.4-mile swim — That’s 169 lengths of the 25-yard lap pool at Old Town Hot Springs in downtown Steamboat, or, if you started at about the same spot but swam the Yampa River instead, roughly from OTHS to the Bear River Skate Park. (No touching bottom!)

112-mile bike — You could ride the length of the Yampa River Core Trail 15 times, to State Bridge and back once (no stopping for a concert!) or to the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.

26.2-mile run — The Steamboat Marathon starts at Hahn’s Peak Village and finishes in downtown. If you go the other direction, you’d make it all the way over Rabbit Ears Pass to the east, or just past Phippsburg to the south (meaning you’d just need a short lift to make it to Penny’s Diner in Yampa.)