Colorado triathletes raced this weekend, in Texas and Colorado. In Galveston Texas, not only did the Colorado pros make a big impact, but one well known age grouper, Betsy Mercer raced in redemption of her 2019 attempt in Galveston where she was stopped 100 yards from the finish line because of weather. At Cherry Creek State Park, The Barking Dog Duathlon kicked off the multi-sport season with about 150 athletes racing.
Betsy finished fourth in her age group but cried at the finish line, not because she finished, but because her friend Michael Jones finished his first 70.3. Said Betsy, “I didn’t cry this time when I crossed the finish line, I cried when Michael did. That’s the beauty of triathlon, the community you’re a part of.”
Maybe similarly, Boulder Pro Jeanni Metzler who finished second to Skye Moench after a blistering, race best, 1:15 half marathon is with her husband, pro, Justin (finished 9th) at the podium spot. Skye said on her Instagram, “a big congrats to the ladies racing today, I was running for my life!” Skye was recently on the 303Endurance Podcast talking about this race and her comeback from a crash in 2019, listen here (303 Endurance Podcast with Skye Moench)
Boulder’s Sam Long shook off a disappointing swim to finish third behind Lionel Sanders and Ben Kanute with the fastest bike split of the day averaging nearly 28mph for 56 miles. Sam finished behind Ben by six seconds and just ahead of Castle Rock’s, Matt Hanson by ten seconds.
When asked if this race could’ve actually been the best situation possible to set Sam up for the rest of year he said, “That’s a great way of looking at! I discovered how much much I can push on the bike and run and that I can get myself back in the race. I’m pretty sure this was a one off swim and lit my fire for the next races!”
Whether a pro, or age grouper, the joy of racing is clearly more appreciated than ever after a rough 2020 season. In Cherry Creek, the Barking Dog Duathlon kicked off the multisport season in Colorado. Dana Willett (good friend of Betsy’s btw), said this after the race, “Great weather and so much gratitude to be back out there! Every- Single-Racer, gave encouragement on the course. Our lungs were burning but we found the breath to say “good job!”, and “you got this!” I couldn’t slap the smile off my face.”
A 1,000 miles south, Betsy said, “Galveston holds a special place in my heart because it was the very first triathlon I ever did, of any distance. That was back in 2009 (I believe). About 6 years ago the damage to my left leg became more significant after I developed osteonecrosis, which is a disease of the bone. I thought I’d never run again. Two years later, I did run again. 3.1 miles at Without Limits’ Summer Open. I cried at the finish line I was so happy. Slowly I began to think maybe I could do distance again. Two years ago I chose Galveston because it had been my first ever race. I just wanted that feeling of finishing one more IM event. I wanted to close that chapter of my life on a positive note. All was going fine in the race two years ago until a massive storm came in when I was halfway through the run. Hail, lightning, crazy winds. It was insane. Right before I crossed the finish line they called the race. I ran past the volunteer trying to pull us off the course and went across the finish mats, but they had turned them off minutes before. It was a DNF. I was devastated. I cried for hours.”
When asked about her future Betsy said, “I don’t know if Galveston is forever in my past, it’s one of my favorite events. I have one more race to put in my rear view mirror. IMFLA in November, ten years after I did my first full there at age 35. Then I swear, I’m retiring.” We shall see 🙂
USA Triathlon’s Elevate 2028 Strategic Plan will guide the organization’s priorities, decision-making processes and culture through the next two Olympic and Paralympic Quadrennials. The robust set of guiding principles, goals and strategies will enable USA Triathlon to grow participation, provide unmatched support to the multisport community, and reach vast new audiences culminating at the Olympic and Paralympic Games Los Angeles 2028.
Elevate 2028 is intentionally extended through 2028 to mark the moment when the Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games will return to the United States — to Southern California, the birthplace of triathlon — for the first time in 32 years. The LA 2028 Games will mark the first time triathlon is contested in the Olympic and Paralympic Games on U.S. soil, providing the opportunity to build a legacy in the U.S. and create mainstream exposure for the sport on an unprecedented scale.
Vision: To grow, inspire and support the triathlon/multisport community.
Mission: To provide resources that empower members of the triathlon/multisport community to reach their full potential
OUR GUIDING PRINCIPLES
Excellence: We embody the aspirational ideals set by our Olympic and Paralympic athletes, reaching the highest levels of performance in everything we do.
Service We operate in a spirit of service and giving back, enabling the triathlon/multisport community to attain its goals and thrive.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access We aspire to ensure the sport is reflective of the country we represent, and value and embrace diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives.
Collaboration We maximize reach and available resources through strategic partnership.
KEY AREAS OF FOCUS
Serve and Engage Our Community: Provide exceptional service, resources and value to our constituent groups – including Race Directors and Event Production Companies, Coaches, Officials, Clubs, Volunteers, Athletes and Fans, and any other individuals or organizations that support the triathlon/multisport community.
Grow the Sport: Increase participation and engagement by expanding and simplifying pathways for new athletes to enter the sport and develop and maximize their triathlon/multisport potential while empowering and providing meaningful value and support for USA Triathlon members.
Elevate the Brand and the Sport: Inspire athletes of all ages to become participants, fans and lifelong members of our community by sharing and celebrating the virtues of the sport, the mission of USA Triathlon, and the personal, unique and shared qualities of our members.
Embody Sport Leadership: Demonstrate global excellence in athlete support, sport performance and business operations.
Ensure Financial Strength: Diversify and increase revenue streams to fund our strategic priorities.
STRATEGIES AND TARGET OUTCOMES
SERVE AND ENGAGE OUR COMMUNITY
How We Will Do It (Strategies)• Service and Value. Transform the relationships with our constituent groups and their overall experience with USA Triathlon in significant, tangible ways, to increase satisfaction, retention and advocacy.• Resource Leader. Establish the most trusted and robust education and resource program in the endurance sports industry to develop a talented, diverse, and passionate pool of coaches, race directors, officials, volunteers, and leaders.• Build, Connect and Activate the Community. Create and cultivate an integrated network of meaningful relationships and volunteerism and maximize our constituent base across the triathlon/multisport community at the grassroots level.• Establish Government Relations, Advocacy and Public Affairs Capabilities. Develop local and national governmental relationships and partnerships to increase influence on local event permitting and costs, health and wellness, athlete safety, and environmental sustainability.
What We Will Measure (2028 Target Outcomes)• Become an organization renowned throughout the sports industry for its exceptional customer service with an annual 8.0 blended average customer satisfaction rating (CSAT) across constituents and members• Position the organization as the industry leader in resources for all constituents and prospective multisport athletes to elevate and connect the triathlon/multisport community• Assure the top-25 markets in the United States have a vibrant triathlon/multisport community through support of youth and adult clubs, local races, volunteerism and strong governmental relationships
GROW THE SPORT
How We Will Do It (Strategies)• Deepen Connection with Membership. Retain and support the triathlon/multisport membership base by delivering meaningful value and transforming an athlete’s personal relationship with the sport into a lifestyle, mindset and passionate lifelong pursuit.• Build Youth Development Pathways and Infrastructure. Provide clear pathways into the sport from youth to collegiate athletes and develop programs to grow the next generation of athletes.• Ensure Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Access. Break down barriers and create opportunities to engage individuals from underserved and underrepresented populations and foster a welcoming and inclusive environment for people of every race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, ability and socioeconomic status.• Engage New Audiences: Increase pathways to attract fitness enthusiasts, become the trusted source for new triathlon/multisport athletes, strengthen strategic partnerships, and leverage innovative fitness technology and gaming to reach new audiences.
What We Will Measure (2028 Target Outcomes)• Improve the average membership lifetime value (baseline to be determined in 2021)• Increase diversity in triathlon/multisport to better reflect the demographics of the United States• Build an established and nationally recognized high school sport program
ELEVATE THE BRAND AND THE SPORT
How We Will Do It (Strategies)• Reposition the sport: Activate #PowerWithin to address the sport’s challenges head-on, galvanize the current triathlon/multisport community and inspire new audiences to discover the health and wellness benefits of the sport, and ultimately, realize the best versions of themselves.• Embrace All Multisport Formats. Fully embrace the diversity of swim, bike, run experiences by promoting all triathlon/multisport related disciplines.• Establish Triathlon and Multisport as Mainstream. Increase public awareness of triathlon/multisport as an aspirational, yet attainable, participatory sport and establish it as a compelling and exciting spectator sport.• Optimize the Road to LA 2028. Leverage LA 2028. Engage current and prospective fans and athletes on the journey through Tokyo and Paris to the 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games in Los Angeles to raise awareness, excitement and support for triathlon/multisport in the U.S.
What We Will Measure (2028 Target Outcomes)• Increase the brand health score by 20% by elevating the brand of the sport and USA Triathlon• Expand non-traditional swim-bike-run formats to double participation• Evolve triathlon/multisport from a primarily participant sport to a spectator sport
EMBODY SPORT LEADERSHIP
How We Will Do It (Strategies)• Ensure Athlete Well-Being. Support holistic athlete development, with an emphasis on health, safety, fair competition and personal growth through significant, focused efforts on SafeSport, and clean sport.• Support Olympic/Paralympic Performance. Establish the best Olympic and Paralympic high-performance triathlon programs in the world by providing resources focused on sustained competitive excellence and identifying and supporting the best athletes to attain podium finishes, and a comprehensive career transition program for elite athletes.• Establish International Impact. Foster meaningful relationships as an influential leader with the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee (USOPC), U.S. National Governing Bodies (NGBs), United States Olympic and Paralympic Properties (USOPP), LA 2028 Organizing Committee, World Triathlon, and other National Federations (NFs) for the sport.• Optimize Organizational Performance. Promote an organizational culture that is people-first and data and results-driven.
What We Will Measure (2028 Target Outcomes)• Develop the top high performance program in the world as measured by best overall podium finishes in LA2028• Continue to act as the prominent leader and influencer for the sport nationally and establish USA Triathlon as the primary leader for the sport internationally• Strive to become the best place to work in sports and earn a 90% overall employee satisfaction annually
ENSURE FINANCIAL STRENGTH
How We Will Do It (Strategies)• Inspire Philanthropic Growth. Create an industry leading major gift program and establish an endowment to support strategic priorities.• Expand Corporate Partner Engagement. Develop mutually beneficial partnerships with organizations that can lend expertise, exposure and resources to USA Triathlon and to the sport.• Maximize Revenue Streams. Expand existing sources of revenue and develop new revenue-generating opportunities.• Ensure Fiscal Stewardship. Prioritize sound financial management and organizational effectiveness to achieve strategic priorities.
What We Will Measure (2028 Target Outcomes)• Secure $4,000,000 annually in donations for the foundation and develop an endowment• Grow marketing related revenue to $6,000,000 annually• Ensure cash reserves equal to six months of operating expenses and exceed $20,000,000 in annual revenue
USA Triathlon Elevate 2028 Working Group
Ann Bailey, Government Relations, Executive Director at Morgan Stanley & Team USAAge Group Athlete
Victoria Brumfield, USA Triathlon Chief of Staff
Rob Canales, ROKA Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder
Dave Deschenes, USA Triathlon Foundation Executive Director
John Farra, USA Triathlon High Performance General Manager
Marcus Fitts, GRIT USA Founder and Owner
Dirk Friel, Peaksware and TrainingPeaks Co-Founder
Gabriela Gallegos, USA Triathlon Board of Directors, President and Race Director at Race El Paso
Rocky Harris, USA Triathlon Chief Executive Officer
Jacqueline McCook, Past President, USA Triathlon Board of Directors
Chuck Menke, Former USA Triathlon Chief Marketing Officer
Joel Rosinbum, President, USA Triathlon Board of Directors and Elite Paratriathlete
Erin Storie, USA Triathlon Elite Athlete
Kenneth Shropshire, Global Sport Institute Chief Executive Officer
Nellie Viner, USA Triathlon Senior Counsel
Earl Walton, IRONMAN Global Director of Training and Coaching
Katie Willemarck, USA Triathlon Controller
Tim Yount, USA Triathlon Chief Sport Development Officer
“Aaron’s the gold standard and I need to measure where I’m at.” “You’re strong so just go kick some fucking ass!” “How the fuck did they leave you off the national team?” “Go fucking throw down and show the world that you’re here.”
One year earlier I was coming off a herniated disk in my low back and was only a month removed from hand surgery after a 25lb dumbbell landed on my hand in the gym. I’d been ready to throw down and earn my spot in the driver’s seat to represent Team USA at the Paralympics for Paratriathlon. Then COVID19 swept across the world and upended life as we knew it.
After months of lockdown and uncertainty we finally returned to full-time training. It took a while to get my groove back and for much of the remainder of 2020 I listlessly plodded through my workouts. Sure I could still throw down some decent bike power and there were some glimpses of speed in the water and on the run. I went home to spend time with my family over Christmas and New Year’s and returned to the training center the first week of January. I knew my first race of the year would be in Sarasota. Whether that race would count for Paralympic and/or World Ranking points was uncertain, but I knew it would count in my mind and depending on who decided to turn up and race it would count in the minds of everyone watching. So I made a commitment to focus on the process and to throw down. Fortunately for me my fellow resident teammates Howie Sanborn and Jamie Brown had moved on campus and were both committed to getting back to their best. Hailey and Melissa both also seemed hyper focused upon all of our return to training together. A shift seemed to be occurring on the resident team where we were all holding each other more accountable while being incredibly supportive. Every day we each showed up to train and pushed each other. We encouraged each other, and lifted each other a little higher with every swim stroke, pedal revolution and running stride. Before we knew it, it was time to travel to Sarasota to see what each of us was capable of doing.
The St. Pete Shit Show I stepped out of the shower into an inch of Luke warm water. “What the fuck!” Flew from my mouth. I must be very incompetent at showering. I immediately began mopping up the water that I thought was just by the shower. But as I moved toward the door to the rest of the house we’d rented my concern and frustration grew. The water extended all the way to the door and out into the hall. I began to really worry. What was going on. I called to Howie and Noah who were tinkering with Howie’s hand cycle in the living area. Noah grabbed the rest of the towels we had in the house and tossed them my way. I mopped up and rung out the towels. Mopped up and rung out. Mopped out and rung out. Mopped up and rung out. Then Andy came out of his room and asked what was going on. He peaked into the bathroom. “Oh shit, that’s coming from the toilet.” Since I had the pleasure of already being drenched in what we now knew as toilet/shit water Andy talked me through shutting off the water to the toilet. Even though I shut the water off it kept on coming. I continued mopping up with sopping wet towels as Howie worked to get hold of our Airbnb host to request a Plummer.
We’d arrived on Wednesday night and as we pulled up to the house Howie received a message from the host letting him know that one of the two toilets was out of order but the second toilet worked great and both showers were working. We walked into the house and while the floors were clean it was pretty evident that this house had been misrepresented on Airbnb. The walls and ceiling weren’t very clean, several outlets were hanging out of the walls, the TV still had a sticker on it, the box for the microwave was stashed behind the couch. Then standing at the kitchen sink we could look directly through a window into the back bedroom. Not exactly the most private for whoever got that room. Oh well, we could make do. Sure only having one toilet for four athletic dudes wasn’t ideal but we’d all stayed in worse before.
We’d chosen to stay in st. Petersburgh, Fla because our fellow teammates had rented a house not far from here and we all wanted to stick together and do some training together and be able to hang out both pre and post race. Sure we’d have to drive 45min to get to Sarasota on Sunday morning but it was worth it to us. Thursday and Friday passed with little issues except for us occasionally joking about how we didn’t think the Airbnb was worth what we were paying for it. We were also slowly breaking Andy out of his shell. Andy Potts had been training with us for a few months now and while he was a great guy and athlete we really hadn’t cracked through to his personality yet. After two full days with us nutcases we realized the we’d broken Andy and he was flinging insults, making wisecracks, and fitting right in.
Friday afternoon we spent tinkering with bikes, putting on new tubes and tires, and doing general tune ups. Melissa came over to hang out with us for a while and did an excellent job cooking us all up a few Bubba Burgers on the stove. We were bummed that the grilled that had been advertised was nonexistent, but Bubbas still taste great on the stove.
After Melissa left is when the shit hit the fan with the bathroom flooding.
I’d been able to sop up the majority of the water and discovered that the cocking on one side of the base of our one working toilet was gone. So now we had no working toilet. Howie had finally gotten hold of Airbnb who’d gotten hold of the host and we were promised a Plummer would arrive at 1:00 AM. It was going on midnight and Howie offered to wait up. The rest of us went to bed.
I was awoken by the sound of someone hammering on the doorbell at 7:00 AM. I stumbled to the front door making it there the same time Andy did. We greeted the “plummer” (term used extremely loosely) and invited him to come check out the toilet… After of course insisting he return to his truck to put on a mask. He walked in, stepped directly on the bath mat we’d bought and stuck in front of the door of the bathroom to stem the flow. I cringed at the squelch of a thoroughly soaked bathmat of toilet water. The “Plummer flushed the toilet and said he needed to go to Home Depot. Then Andy asked him to come take a look at the second toilet. Hey, this guy was here maybe he’d be able to fix both toilets so we could have two working toilets rather than no working toilets. As soon as Andy and the gentleman stepped into the second bathroom Andy began gagging. Sewage had pushed its way up through the shower and flooded the second shower. Howie immediately jumped online and booked us a hotel. There was no way we were going to stay in this house with sewage backing up into one of the showers.
The Plummer disappeared for a bit to go get his supplies and returned to try and fix everything. Meanwhile, Andy and I took off on an easy spin to loosen our legs, after all we had to race the next day. When we returned the plummer, who we were now expecting was more of a handyman friend who owed the Airbnb host a favor claimed he’d fixed the first toilet and was now snaking the second bathroom. We began moving our stuff to the cars. The handyman was up on the roof and insisted Andy go check the second bathroom to see how things were progressing. Andy, being a nice guy, did. He came out and let everyone know that the situation was even worse. Sewage was still coming up through the shower. We were all done with this shit show and ready to get away from this house.
Packet Pik Up and Course Preview We moved our gear into an extended stay hotel and then hit the road to Sarasota so we could pick up our packets and do a quick preview of the run course.
We arrived at Nathan Benderson Park around 3:30 PM. Andy and I immediately bumped into Aaron Scheidies and Greg Billington (2016 Paralympian, who would be guiding Aaron for this race). We exchanged pleasantries and wished each other luck for the next day’s race. As we walked away Andy told me in an undertone, “Aaron looks very fit. He came to race.” “Bring it on,” I said.
We headed out to jog the run course and talk race strategy. Then we collected our race packets and headed back to St. Pete and our significantly better extended stay hotel.
Race Day “It’s fucking race day1 It’s game time! Are you ready?”
Andy was practically spitting with excitement as he pummeled my shoulders in transition before the race. As we walked past Howie, Andy got right up in Howie’s face and did the same thing. Then turning around he pumped up Melissa, Hailey and Jamie in turn. What was going on? We were all jazzed but when you’ve got Andy Potts getting in your face pumping you up you can’t help but get even more amped. You’d have thought Andy was about to race in Kona he was so jazzed and excited. And that excitement and “Game On” attitude infected the entire Paratriathlon Resident team. We were all ready to throw down.
The Swim We stepped out onto the pontoon. The first wave of Paratriathletes went off at 11:00 AM. This wave consisted of the PTS2, PTS 3, PTS 4, and PTS 5 men. One minute later the PTS 2-5 women took off. Then Andy and I lowered ourselves into the cool water. Aaron (guided by Greg) and Owen (guided by Ryan) would begin chasing me 3 minutes and 21 seconds after I started. Small benefit of being totally blind I guess. Even so I’d never beaten Aaron in a race. Aaron had never actually ever lost to a fellow visually impaired American. Could I do the unthinkable? Something that had never been done before?
The horn sounded and I charged ahead. Andy, swimming to my left, was so jazzed he nearly ramped it up too much and was on track to go to his swim race pace before he remembered that despite my progress I can’t swim 1min per 100m… But we corrected and began getting in sync with each other. I’d been swimming well coming into this race but today felt different. Every time my hand entered the water I had no trouble getting a vertical forearm and catching the water. I was able to generate smooth and powerful strokes. I remembered the words of my coach, Derick Williamson, “Smooth, steady and strong.” I didn’t try to hammer the swim, I didn’t try to swim easy, I just swam and focused on breathing and pushing as much water behind me as possible. I felt us pass by one of the women that had started ahead of us. Then on the back half of the swim I felt us come up on the feet of someone else. Then we were past them, and then we passed a third person. WTF, what was going on? Either some people were having really tough swims or I was having the swim of my life. Turns out it was the ladder. I felt my hands hit the sandy ramp which signified our swim exit. I popper up and Andy immediately ripped off the tether and jumped to my right side. We sprinted up the ramp and into Transition 1. Swim Time: 11min 6sec
Transition 1 As I ran I yanked down the zipper of my sleeveless wetsuit. Initially I had a bit of trouble getting it down to around my waist but eventually was able to free both arms. Andy led me to the bike and I ripped my wetsuit the rest of the way down to my ankles. Of course, my wetsuit got hung up on my heels and I had to spend a few extra seconds prying the wetsuit off. Then I chucked the wetsuit, swim cap and goggles into the baskets where all of our discarded gear is supposed to go. Then it was on with my blacked out sunglasses, Giro Aerohead helmet, and cycling shoes. We grabbed the bike and ran to the mount line. We threw our right legs over the top tube, clipped in and took off. Transition 1 Time: 1min 13sec
The Bike It took a few pedal strokes to get up to speed but once we were up to race power and effort we settled in. We quickly made our way to the only technical part of the bike course, a tight 180 degree lefthand turn. We’d spun easy in the morning prior to the race and ridden around this turn two or three times, but riding easy around a turn and taking it at speed are very different. Andy took our first go at this turn a little cautiously. We came out of the turn and quickly powered up to speed again. I felt so good. I was cruising. My legs felt so fresh and I just wanted to hammer, but I knew I had to keep focused and stay within myself. This race wasn’t going to be decided on the bike. It was going to come down to how fast I could run.
Andy smoothly navigated the course. We kept ramping up our effort on each lap. As we came out of each 180 I consumed a good amount of fluid. I was trying a new drink mix that Andy gave me. It was an Infinite Nutrition Bike Blend with caffeine. It was easy to drink and wasn’t upsetting my stomach, not yet at least.
There were only two hairy moments on the bike. During the second lap the back end became a little squirrelly and Andy had me stop pedaling so he could look back and assess. He was worried we had a flat tire. After a few seconds though we resumed pedaling. We think some debris just made our back end wobble a bit. Then on the third lap we came out of the 180 turn and I began to throw down some power. Maybe a little too much because it caused us to swerve a bit and very nearly eat pavement. Andy kept the bike upright though and we continued. As we approached the end of the bike we passed my teammate, PTS4 competitor Jamie Brown. Jamie gave us a yell of encouragement, and after giving us the appropriate 10m drafting zone began trying to match our pace. We were flying. Jamie later told me that he was so jazzed and pumped up to see us come past him he couldn’t help but become reinvigorated to race and continue to extend his gap on his competitors.
Before I knew it Andy was telling me “left shoe” signaling to me to unstrap my left shoe and pull my foot out. Then a few pedal strokes more and pull the right foot out. We made the final turn on the bike course and Andy gave me the count down. “3, 2, 1, dismount.” I popped off and we began running with the bike. Bike time: 26min 25sec
Transition 2 We sprinted to our spot in transition. As of yet we hadn’t seen Aaron or Owen since the very start. I knew I had to be quick in T2 though because both of them could run like the wind. I fumbled with my shoes and had to take a couple deep breaths to center myself. Finally, my shoes slid on to my feet, I grabbed the run tether, yanked it over my head and Andy was there to run next to me as we headed toward the run course. Transition 2 Time: 58sec
The Run “Stay focused. Don’t go out too fast. Descend this run,” I told myself. We took a hard right hand turn, then a left and we were out on the run. I took a deep breath in through my nose letting my belly fill up with oxygen. Then I forcefully released it. Andy kept telling me “relax, chin down, show the bottom of your foot, roll with it.”
We made our way onto the first of three little foot bridges we’d have to cross. These bridges would be the only elevation gain on the run. In previous years running up these crushed me. Today I was feeling good. My legs felt lighter than they ever had coming off the bike. It took a ton of self control not to just start sprinting and throwing down the gauntlet. I knew that if I wanted to run the run I was capable of running I had to be patient and execute the plan. And Andy was sticking to the plan. Several times he’d tell me to back it off to pick it up. We wanted to run a conservative first mile. We hit the first mile in 6min 7sec. Then we began to turn up the heat. We made it off the last bridge and onto a flat dead straight stretch that would bring us out to the 5K turnaround point.
At this point we were running into a headwind. We hit the turnaround and the air seemed to just stand still. I went from hearing the wind blasting in my ears and the breeze having a cooling effect to a very hot and humid day where I was trying to run 6min miles. My breathing rate seemed to double, I suddenly felt the sweat pouring off my face and body. My legs felt heavy and I just knew that Aaron would be there when I turned around. In my head I was saying “There’s no way you’ve been running at a 6min pace. Aaron’s got to be just behind you and Andy’s been lying about the run pace.”
Andy had a calm head though and I think he could tell I was beginning to struggle. He reminded me to relax, to let myself flow, to not become mechanical. We ran for 30sec, then a minute. Where was Aaron? Then he was there running toward us with Greg.
“Here they come,” Andy said. “You knew Aaron was going to come to race. So don’t give him anything. Look strong. Stay focused. You’ve got this!”
We passed each other and once we were out of ear shot Andy said, “You’ve got a 2min 40sec gap.” I couldn’t believe it. That knowledge gave me a boost. I began really pushing myself to go even faster. I knew that 2:40 gap could shrink in the blink of an eye if I let off the gas. Aaron’s been racing a long time and is probably the best blind/visually impaired triathlete in history. I knew he could turn the jets on and close a gap to anyone in the world. If I wanted to hold onto this lead I’d have to turn myself inside out to do it.
As we ran we began passing people in the opposite direction. We saw Owen and his guide Ryan looking ridiculously strong as they chased Aaron and Greg. Jamie Brown running strong. Then my teammate Hailey Danz. As we passed Hailey gave her trademark phrase “Fuck yeah Kyle!!!” Hailey and I are swim buddies in the pool. We pace off each other and push each other to dig deeper. We’d both made major jumps in our triathlon fitness the past two years and had both made significant strides in closing the gaps on our competitors. Hailey could see I had a massive lead on Aaron and she was stoked. Just a short 30sec later we saw our teammate Melissa Stockwell who yelled with excitement and encouragement to see our gap not just holding but growing. Then female BVI compatriot Liz Baker and her guide Jillian Elliott. We made it onto one of the bridges and Andy continued to push me.
“Come on Kyle, don’t let off the gas. Bring it up! Bring it up!” He was almost begging me to give a little more. I pumped my arms, kicked my legs behind me and forcibly exhaled. We made the final turn and hit the finisher shoot. Andy yelled at me to sprint and I did. I sprinted hard begging the finish line to come to me faster. Then we were there and I heard the announcer say that I was the first to cross the finish line in the men’s PTVI class. I couldn’t believe my ears. I grabbed Andy in a massive bear hug and held on, yes because I was excited and grateful that Andy had pushed me to my limit and helped me execute the race we knew I was capable of, but also to prevent myself from collapsing and hitting the ground too hard from exhaustion.
Run Time: 18min 38sec Total Time: 58min 18sec
The Aftermath I sank to the ground and stayed there on my elbows and knees trying to catch my breath as I listened to the music at the finish line and the excitement of the crowd that was there. After a minute Andy encouraged me to get up. “Don’t let your competitors see you on the ground. Stand up and be strong.”
I got slowly to my feet and we made our way to the side of the finisher shoot. Then we saw Jamie Brown make his final turn and come running into the finish line to claim his first win since July of 2019. He came to us and we bear hugged. “Fucking awesome bro!” He said. We all stepped out of the finish area and waited. Where was Aaron? After a couple of minutes we saw Aaron and Greg make the turn and run into the finish line. Less than two minutes later Owen and Ryan came in to round out the podium.
After a few minutes we were right back at the side of the race course eagerly awaiting our next teammates to cross. Hailey came across to win the PTS2 female race with Melissa hot on her heels to claim Silver. Not long after that Howie blazed across the finish line to claim his first victory since 2017. Across the board the USA Paratriathlon Resident Team dominated, more important than that to each of us though was that we were all just as excited for each others wins as we were for our own.
Each of my teammates came up to me after they’d caught their breath, gave me huge hugs and congratulations and I did the same for them. We’d all jelled as a team and the culture our coach had bred in us and our willingness to embrace that culture of supportiveness, camaraderie, and excellence brought us to these heights. What’s most exciting though is that none of think we’ve even touched our potential. Yes, we all crushed our races. Yes, we all overcame massive obstacles on our way to our first wins in 2021, but we still have a long way to go. We’re keeping an eye on our vision. Our vision is for us all to replicate Sarasota at each race, but especially Tokyo. We don’t know when we’ll race again, possibly May, possibly later. What we do know is that we will all be there ready to rock and roll.
Thank you to my team for believing in me every step of the way. Thank you to my family for understanding the dedication it takes to compete to be one of the best blind/visually impaired triathletes in the world. Thank you to USA Triathlon for believing in me enough to give me the tools to succeed and for having the vision to develop this USA Paratriathlon Invitational race Series to allow us to compete. Thank you to my coach Derick Williamson for taking me from where I was to where I am, we’re not done yet and he believes we can get even faster. Thank you to my incredible partners, Bubba Burger and Cycles Chinook for your unwavering support on my journey. Thank you Andy Potts for guiding me, pushing me to new heights, for being an incredible mentor and coach as well as my eyes. And thank you to all of you, the #eyeronvision family. I hope you enjoy these race reports. I hope you’re able to make it out to a race some time soon. I hope reading about my adventures reminds you to keep an eye on your own vision and to live your life without limits.
As storm Xylia pummeled the Front Range of Colorado, many Coloradans raced the Challenge Miami Triathlon over the weekend. Ten Colorado based pro’s and a large contingent of athletes from Boulder’s BASE team raced the three day event. On the pro podium hoisting some champagne from Boulder were Chris Leiferman (4) and Rudy Von Berg (5). Germany’s Jan Frodeno won the men’s race over Lionel Sanders (2) and Ben Kanute (3). For the women, in a bit of a surprise, British triathlete Jodie Stimpson edged out favored Lucy Charles-Barclay of Britain by almost a minute and a half. Rounding out the women’s podium were Jackie Hering, Sara Perez Sala and Skye Moench. Boulder’s Lisa Bechares and Lesley Smith (A BASE sponsored athlete) finished 11th and 12th respectively. Other Colorado pros finishing included Tyler Butterfield (7), Tim O’Donnell (11), Matt Hanson (13), Ben Hoffman (16) and Robbie Deckard (19).
Chris Leiferman finished just under four minutes behind Frodeno and chased down Von Berg on the run overcoming about a minute off the bike to take fourth by 25 seconds. Said Leiferman, “I was happiest with my bike. It was fun and dynamic and being able to stay in the mix and come out of T2 in a good spot put me in a good position for the finish.”
Lesley Smith also competed at Challenge Daytona at the end of 2020 and has been working hard on her swim and had this to say about the race, “I was happy to see the consistent super swimming I did in jan / feb pay off, as the swim went better than it did in Daytona. The Bike course was far more technical than Daytona and that is not my forte but it was a really amazing race and I’m glad to have had the opportunity.”
Challenge Miami, similar to Daytona, featured many events for age group athletes including a sprint, mid-distance (70.3), a kids challenge and a 5k making it a three day event with the pros racing on Friday.
BASE president, Matt Miller said after his first racing in a while, “Challenge put on another fantastic event in Miami. BASE had 100 athletes in town racing split pretty even between the different events which was amazing. Everyone practiced safety snd was cautious with masks. I personally raced the sprint myself and although the body was rusty and filled with cobwebs, it felt to get back out there after 18 months and get a sweat on. Loved it”
Editors note, this letter has good information on where things are at with Covid and how Without Limits is handling not only capacity for venues, but also the demand levels to race with a new wait list program that offers utmost flexibility in this uncertain environment.
Dear Colorado Triathlon Community, As the days start to grow longer, that cabin fever has many of you wondering; what will triathlon season look like? Things are starting to move in the right direction for Colorado and the current COVID-Dial 2.0. Just this past week, Jefferson and Broomfield Counties recently moved to Level Blue, and the state enters Vaccine Phase 1B.3 for ages 60+ this Friday. Boulder County (Colorado Tri on June 5th) and Larimer County (XTERRA Lory on June 12th) “should” still safely enter Level Green (500 event limit) by the end of May.
We use “should” in quotes, as our goal continues to stay on the side of caution, giving each event the best possible chance to move forward. That being said, we’re placing a 250-athlete cap (Level Blue) on ALL June events. Our new registration provider (TriReg) has a waitlist feature. How does it work? Once we hit the 250 level you’ll be able to register for the waitlist, and it will store your payment info temporarily without charging you. Assuming we hit Level Green, then you’ll be automatically rolled into the event without any additional sign-up needed, receiving an immediate update e-mail.
Our goal is to notify all wait list athletes a minimum of 3 weeks prior to race day. Please note, that current 250 capacity level is combined for all distances. Unlike some running events that have been able to stage multiple waves throughout the day, we face unique obstacles such as limited water access, that prevent this option.
Special Incentive for Volunteers: This season ALL volunteers will receive their discount code immediately upon signing up, even if they want to use their code for a race prior to their volunteer assignment. Why the change? We want to ensure all volunteers have first dibs to register before a race reaches a COVID-19 capacity restriction. Please don’t abuse the system, if you race then bail on your future volunteer assignment we’ll hunt you down faster than Liam Neesen in Taken. To sign-up for the discounted entry program please email Olympia@withoutlimits.com TO REGSITER FOR A 2021 EVENT – CLICK HERE!
With love, hope, and support, Lance, and the entire Without Limits A-Team
If you know or have met Darrin Eisman, you undoubtedly have felt his positive energy and just his energy in general. His company Racing Underground has a number of multisport and running races, including past weekend’s Chilly Cheeks duathlon at Cherry Creek State Park. It was the third and final race of this popular winter duathlon series.
About 75 people raced in the cold around the west shore of the ice covered reservoir where even the slightest breeze added to the challenge of figuring out how to stay just warm enough to comfortably race. People raced on everything from TT bikes to fat tire snow bikes—although the roads were perfectly dry and clear. Some wore puffy jackets and others shivered in minimal kits and even with a few in shorts!
When Darrin popped out of his van (down by a lake, not a river :)), and was asked how the day was going, he smiled wide and beamed with happiness watching people race.
Like all racing events, Covid has had a major impact on Darrin’s business. His joy was more than just because the race was happening.
Darrin said, “I’m so excited, my staff is so amazing, and we did some things to cut costs with minimal awards and a few other things, but they volunteered to work for free and we actually might break even today! We did get few extra entries in the past week because we were recently allowed to go from 75 to 150 people. The series had sold out but with a few more people, we might break even and if we have any extra we will happily pay our employees—they are just awesome, they want people to have fun and be here.”
Like other races, they made some modifications to make it as safe as possible. Things like a time trial bike start and an overly ample amount of room for bike racking and transitions.
Racing Underground recently held the popular winter running race, the Yeti Chase. In April there is another duathlon at Cherry Creek, the Barking Dog. Check out their website for all of their races. They have a fun variety of venues and races all over the front range.
Deb Conley started running for the first time the summer before attending the University of Colorado at Boulder. She ran just to run with a new boyfriend. Like three miles. A couple of months later she walked on to CU’s cross country team and has been running ever since.
And just recently, she was inducted into the Colorado Running Hall of Fame. Wow. She never played sports growing up, never ran, never did anything but work and go to school.
In this video interview, Deb expresses a surprised happiness after being selected for the Colorado Running Hall of Fame. But she also shares something vulnerable; how running in college was the first time she ever experienced feeling truly happy. Whats not really discussed, is the rocky and almost impossible path she took to get here.
And now for the rest of the story.
If you knew Deb in high school you probably would never have foreseen her making the Colorado Running H.O.A. But like 99% of her classmates, I had no idea how hard her life was until we reconvened about this honor almost 40 years later.
My high school experience differed greatly from Deb’s even though we both went to Wheat Ridge and graduated in 1983. I played sports, didn’t work, had a car, stayed busy with practices and homework and hanging out with friends. Admittedly, I led the “Leave it Beaver” lifestyle (yes I’m dating myself), like a good chunk of my fellow “Farmers” (our mascot).
Deb, living just a few miles away lived in poverty. Her mom forged her birth certificate when she was 13 so she could work. Her bed was an old army cot. They had no refrigerator and the house was in disrepair. Her parents didn’t want her to go to college but rather help with the other kids. There was no modeling of “success” or “ambition” in her home. Yet she excelled at school and knew she had to figure out a way to go to college. She admittedly didn’t understand true happiness and felt lonely.
Her friend and fellow classmate, Chris Tomlinson, one of the few who knew of Deb’s tough childhood said, “she was very smart, but seemed anxious and isolated. It seemed touch and go for her.”
She pushed through it, emancipated herself after graduation to help get Pell grants, was accepted to CU and enrolled for the fall semester in 1983. Freedom maybe at last? Happiness maybe or at least an opportunity to pursue it?
Then, she began to run. Like Forest Gump she broke free of her shackles of shame and living in a place she hated, a place she couldn’t have friends over, a place where she didn’t feel appreciated, maybe not even loved. She found joy and happiness from just moving how she chose to move and when and where she wanted to go.
She ran and she ran some more.
She then met some women on the cross country team and the coach and they encouraged her to come practice with them. They saw talent, raw talent. They encouraged her to try out for the cross country team. She made it, as a freshman—simply incredible. For the first time she did something in life that others recognized as outward success. That elusive feeling of belonging, of being part of a greater success—a team. To feel empowered. To feel in control. Finally.
Now fast forward four years and her team having won the first ever conference title for the school in women’s cross country. A tough division one conference with power houses such as Iowa State. Oh, and along the way she decided to give triathlon a try and finished fourth in nationals. Safe to say Deb found her sport, but more importantly she found her life, her happiness.
She never looked back. In fact, she kept running, hoping to make the Olympic trials as a marathoner. She narrowly missed recording a 2:46 marathon, but she kept running as an elite masters and still does to this day.
Soon though she found the gift of giving others a chance to thrive and began leading blind runners and changing lives. Lives with their own extraordinary challenges. Who better to help motivate others and to help them “see” their best selves and find happiness in running?
For the last three decades Deb has led countless blind runners and set up an organization to help others guide. She tirelessly has made strides in the visual impaired community and even has developed the official tether for blind athletes.
So between her own success running and her relentless pursuit of sharing the joy with others, she was inducted into a very exclusive place—the Colorado Running Hall of Fame.
The walls of Wheat Ridge High School are lined with photos of athletes who excelled in sports. They are revered. Some like Cherry Creek Football Coach and former pro football player Dave Logan, have certainly gone on to great success. But many faded into the everyday.
Deb’s picture is not on those walls but should be based on her athletic achievements alone, let alone her impact on others. Wheat Ridge students who don’t play sports should know of someone who left those halls with no idea what success was and went on to greatness. Maybe they will honor her someday like the running community has and some youth, feeling alone among a hallway of student athletes might be inspired by Deb.
Her friend, Chris, who himself as seen major despair as a journalist covering nine wars, now a well read author and Houston Chronicle columnist said, “for someone so extremely fragile and under such adversity to have become such a respected athlete and to give back so much to so many athletes is an extraordinary transformation I completely admire and respect, it’s mind blowing.”
Indeed it’s not only mind blowing, it’s worthy of the Hall of Fame—any hall of fame. Congratulations Deb.
The organizers of Mountain Swim Series are really excited for a 2021 race season! “The State of Colorado has provided guidance for outdoor events this summer, and we expect to host all four of our open water swims this summer!”
The 2021 Mountain Swim Series dates are on the books, check them out below, and registration opens on the first week of February. You will get an email letting you know that registration is open! But first, a couple of quick notes:
There is NO have race-day registration this year, and we will have to close registration 1-week in advance of all races. Please sign up early if you want to swim!!
“We have an exciting line-up of swims and are including additional race options, a 500 YD swim at the Solstice Sunset Swim AND Chatfield Classic. This distance will be a great opportunity for new open water swimmers, new triathletes, and KIDS! All kids who participates in this race will be receiving a finisher prize!”
The dates for the swim series are as follows:
Solstice Sunset Swim – Longmont, End of June, not yet confirmed: This event includes a 1.2 mi, 2.4 mi, and the NEW 500 YD swims!
Carter Lake – Saturday July 17th, 2021: An out and back 3-mile swim, similar to 2020, in beautiful Northern Colorado.
Chatfield Classic – Sunday August 15th, 2021: Limited to 200 participants, sign up in while there is still space! This event includes a 500 yd, 1 mile and 2 mile swim!
The Castle 2.5K/5K/10K – In Bailey, Saturday August 28th, 2021: This is the highest altitude organized marathon swim event in the country! We will have the camping option again on Friday night – which you’ll find through the swim registration site. Camping is $40 for a 4 person site and will decrease your morning day of drive!
VOLUNTEERS! We always need volunteers! If a significant other, friend, child (16 and over) is coming with you, we would love them to volunteer with us! If you are trying to decide to do one of the swims or new to open water swimming, volunteering is also a great opportunity! We couldn’t do this without our volunteers! In 2020, we will be continuing the tradition of giving our volunteers a free race entry after a volunteer shift!
Lake to Lake Events is adding a brand new triathlon in a brand new venue on July 31st. The very popular Lake to Lake Triathlon will be held as usual on June 26th, but event producer Peggy Shockley is adding a sprint triathlon utilizing Lone Tree Reservoir located just south of Loveland– – the Lonetree Sprint.
With a slightly longer bike than your traditional Sprint, this event caters perfectly to those who enjoy spending time in the saddle, especially through our beautiful Colorado Foothills.
Lonetree Reservoir is located just south of Loveland, CO. 500 acres of OPEN WATER, nestled on the west side of the Heron Lakes subdivision and TPC Colorado. Great water, beautiful views and quick access to the transition area. Read course details below:
750 yd clockwise swim. What do we love about this swim? The swim start and swim finish points begin and end on long concrete boat ramps. No mucky entrance into the water or at the exit. Blue Heron rookery on the south east side of the reservoir, it’s possible a few of them will be there to watch you begin and finish! Nice water~ nice views.
18 mile course that takes you west towards the foothills. No great elevation gains here, 421 ft. total and no spectacular elevation loss, 425 ft. total. At mile two, you’ll begin a gradual climb towards the foothills and at mile five a nice downhill towards WCR 20 (W. 1st St.) A few climbs, and few downhills, miles 10-11 a quick climb to CTY RD 18. Nice downhill to CR21, back south to CR16. CR16 will take you past Lon Hagler Reservoir as you wrap back around to SW42nd St and back the transition. NO stoplights!
Out and back course flat, just over two miles on asphalt and one mile on dirt road. Shade? Not really, so we’ll have aid stations stocked with cool water and fluid replacement drink.
This event will be capped at 300 due to the unabundant parking. We will have designated parking and ask on race day that you are respectful of the properties nearby and park only where we direct you. Carpooling is encouraged!
Recently social media giant, Triathlon Taren interviewed the CEO of the Professional Triathlon Organisation (PTO), Sam Renouf. This podcast left me quite impressed with the direction of the PTO, Triathlon Taren and made me hopeful for the sport of triathlon.
In a public perception sort of way, we seem to want a good vs. bad, a black vs. white, a villain vs a hero story. In the triathlon space, last year PTO took a shot at buying IRONMAN only to be denied. Then PTO decided to introduce a golf influenced triathlon extravaganza, the Collins Cup to showcase the sport of triathlon and attempt to make it a made for TV event. But Covid killed that for 2020 and its slated for August of 2021.
They then partnered with IRONMAN competitor, the Challenge Family and made CHALLENGE Daytona their pro triathlon championship complete with a 1.2 million dollar prize purse. The PTO also awarded other non-Ironman races with prize purses during 2020 eventually rewarding pros with a few million dollars. Meanwhile IRONMAN had a few races in 2020, but all in all, PTO was responsible for a majority of the cash awarded to pro triathletes and frankly kept them going in 2020.
So now, in the eyes of the public, there seems to be a bit of a triathlon “war” between Ironman and the PTO. According to PTO, their mission is to grow the sport overall and they believe the way to do that is with a healthy pro field and events that appeal to sponsors who want to reach an audience not just racing, but watching on television or in the venue itself—like the home of the Daytona 500.
Furthermore the PTO believes that salaries and prizes for pros should not be funded primarily by age group entry fees, but rather by sponsor fees. In IRONMAN races, the age group entry fees are the foundation for the revenues and thus the vehicle to fund prizes. The PTO believes that sponsors, TV advertisers and event marketers should pay for the bulk of the prizes and the age groupers shouldn’t be funding the pros. PTO believes IRONMAN races are too expensive for age groupers and that the experience can be made better and less expensive and also that pro’s should be compensated much better.
Ok, so now what? PTO has deep pockets and has spelled out in this interview how they plan to eventually have a model like golf and tennis. There will be four or five triathlons the PTO manages that are the equivalent of the “majors” and will feed a championship. Along the way, local and regional triathlons will act as qualifying events for the majors.
Not every event will be the same or on a track like Daytona. In this podcast they discuss for example how Challenge Roth could be a possible major and how covering it for TV won’t be as easy as a Daytona, but necessary. They discuss how they want a mix of race types so different athletes with different strengths can emerge champions. Again, think tennis or golf. There are clay court specialists, long course type of golfers, and so forth. Yes, they all need to be able to be good in all conditions, but not all triathletes compete well in say a Kona type environment, or even at a full distance Ironman. A full distance IRONMAN is pretty much about attrition and stamina. There is strategy, and speed and making the most of one’s skills of course, but very few athletes have a chance to win. It’s not a compelling race. It’s a compelling event because what these pros (and age groupers) do is absolutely incredible and inspirational.
But, it’s not made for TV and a tough sell to non-endemic sponsors. The PTO, in Daytona had to prove they could pull off a made for TV event that was competitive and combined the need for skill and speed coupled with stamina and endurance—and they did it.
In Daytona, half a million people watched the race with an average watch time of 29 minutes according to Sam Renouf. That’s unheard of. The PTO definitely succeeded in orchestrating a watchable event. This isn’t to say that the steaming of Kona doesn’t have a large audience, but, according to this podcast the time watched is merely seconds versus 29 minutes. And, that makes sense. There is very little drama in Kona. In Daytona the lead changed practically every few minutes. People probably check in on Kona to see who is still in the lead and come back later. That’s what I do when I’m there. Once in a while there is some drama in Kona, but with the lap format in Daytona, each lap showcased someone moving up or down the leaderboard.
The bottom line, to me, is IRONMAN and the PTO can co-exist, quite nicely in fact.
IRONMAN has one huge advantage over Challenge or any other triathlon—they have a brand. They own triathlon.
To the average person on the street, if you say “triathlon,” they think “Ironman”. They will say, “oh that race in Hawaii.” Like Kleenex is to tissue paper. Do you see any tattoos of Challenge or USAT or any other form of triathlon on people? Nope. That says it all.
So as long as IRONMAN continues to put on quality events, and they do, and people aspire be “Ironmans” they will succeed. And as long as Kona or wherever the 70.3 championships are held, are tough to qualify for and have a worldwide appeal, they will be remain relevant.
To the pro’s, at the end of the day, they will, and need to go where the money is. But there may always be a desire to race Kona even if it’s not the top money gathering race. There may always be a desire to figuratively race against the legends of the sport on the same historic course; the Mark Allens, Dave Scotts, Paula Newby-Frasers, Chrissie Wellingtons, Miranda Carfraes etc. And the same goes for age groupers. As someone who nearly qualified, I know its a pretty exclusive club to race there, and that appeal is strong.
If I had my druthers, I would love to see IRONMAN and the PTO kiss and make up and throw IRONMAN races into the mix as qualifiers for the pros. Maybe Kona is the long course championship, maybe the Collins Cup is the place for national pride to take over (its America, vs Europe vs Internationals—like golfs Ryder cup) and maybe Daytona is a mix where triathletes of all disciplines get to race against each other and the fastest one wins. And maybe great regional races like a Lake to Lake, or Harvest Moon here in Colorado become qualifiers for a PTO Major maybe held in a place like Des Moines—think the old Hy Vee race.
Who knows, but a fun, healthy made for TV sport will only help provide more opportunities for both age groupers and pros to excel, make a living and have fun.
The sport needs heroes and characters. Locally we have someone like Sam Long who isn’t afraid to mix it up and call people out and behind his “yo yo yo’s” I believe Sam is having a ton of fun and trying to make the sport more dynamic and earn a living doing so. He, I believe wants nothing more than great competition like all triathletes I have ever met.
The sport needs a healthy variety of races and distances and a sense of pride for competing in everything from a local sprint to Kona. Every triathlon and triathlete should be judged on their willingness to try every single day at every single event.
Go PTO, raise the bar. Go IRONMAN, keep the dream alive and lets hope someday you both dance on the same dance floor together.