Steamboat’s IronEdge triathlon team sending pair to national championships | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat’s IronEdge triathlon team sending pair to national championships

Austin Colbert

— Shortly after Dan Hohs moved to Steamboat Springs from Chicago a year and a half ago, he was bombarded with the name Heather Gollnick. A budding triathlete, Hohs finally gave in and reached out to Gollnick, a five-time Ironman champion who runs IronEdge Coaching in Steamboat.

It didn't take long before Gollnick had convinced Hohs to join her IronEdge triathlon team — a decision that is proving wise for the 29-year-old small business consultant.

"It's great to have a group of people you can train with and have fun with while all having a common interest," Hohs said. "It became a lifestyle that I really enjoyed because it's all about setting bigger goals. That goal-setting mentality has bridged the gap into my personal and professional life."

As Hohs approaches the end of his second season training under Gollnick, he faces his greatest test as a triathlete. Hohs, along with fellow IronEdge teammate Robyn Jankoski, will compete in Saturday's Olympic Distance National Triathlon Championships in Milwaukee after each qualified earlier this summer.

The race is put on by U.S.A. Triathlon and is one of the premier triathlon events in the country, with around 5,000 people vying to qualify for the 2016 International Triathlon Union World Championships in Cozumel, Mexico.

Gollnick, Jankoski and IronEdge athlete Tasha Thrasher all competed at the national championships in 2014, with the 45-year-old Gollnick finishing third in her age division to qualify for September's 2015 World Championships in Chicago.

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Gollnick is also qualified for October's Ironman World Championships in Hawaii after she won her age division at Ironman Boulder last week, although she has yet to make a decision on attending.

"You have to have dedication, and they both have that. They have that drive to learn and to get better," Gollnick said of Hohs and Jankoski. "Just putting yourself into that really competitive situation makes you a better athlete. They are hungry to learn, so it's fun to see how much they have improved."

This will be Hohs's first national championship as a triathlete, but not his first time on this large a stage. Hohs was a competitive water skier while attending the University of Michigan, where he was able to compete at a national level. It took a knee injury four years ago to turn his attention toward triathlons, beginning with shorter races, such as 5Ks and half-marathons, until he jumped into Olympic triathlons and Ironmans.

Unlike local races, in which Hohs may have only a dozen others at his level, he expects to have as many as 200 athletes in his age division with similar abilities at nationals. Hohs has qualified for this race before but felt the competition had been too much for him until this year.

"I think being around other people that are also competing at that level will really push me to my limits and help propel me," Hohs said. "This year, my racing has been going really well, and I feel like it will be fun. I think I'll land maybe middle of the pack, but I could surprise myself and get up there in the top 25 percent or so. And that would be really great."

This year's national championship course in Milwaukee is the same as 2014, which Jankoski said could be an added benefit after competing on the course last summer.

Jankoski, 54, is a certified public accountant who has lived in Steamboat since 1991. She finished 55th in the women's 50-54 age division last year at nationals but has even higher hopes this season as she is moving into the 55-59 age division.

Gollnick said athletes need to finish in at least the top 25 of their age division to have a chance at qualifying for the world championships.

"I'm looking for a five-minute faster time this year. I don't know if I'm going to make it, but that's my goal," Jankoski said, referring mostly to her swim time, which she has seen significantly improve this summer. "I did great last year. I was in the top third of the country, but I still missed it by 20 slots. But yeah, I think I'm faster."

The Olympic triathlon includes a 1,500-meter swim (0.93 miles), 40-kilometer bike ride (25 miles) and 10K run (6.2 miles). The national championship begins at 7:30 a.m. Saturday in downtown Milwaukee.

Free live coverage of the race can be found at usatriathlon.org.

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