Great distraction: Koch uses Highline Hustle as escape from real world

A grin widens across Kevin Koch’s face as he nears the finish line Saturday in first place during the Highline Hustle triathlon at Highline Lake. Koch won in a time of 1:09:46 to earn his fourth first-place finish in the event.

Winning races isn’t anything new to Kevin Koch.

But at Saturday’s Highline Hustle Triathlon at Highline Lake State Park in Loma, Koch had extra motivation.

Koch’s 68-year-old father Keith was diagnosed with brain cancer this past week.

“It was emotionally hard to get on the start line,” Koch said. “There really isn’t anything we can do with my dad until Monday so it was good to get out and do something that was distracting from the real world.”

The Highline Hustle is made up of a 500-meter swim, a 16-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run, which Koch, 36, finished first in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 46 seconds. It was Koch’s fourth first-place finish in the Highline triathlon in his six years of participating. He finished second the other two years.

“Anytime you can win is awesome but this will always be a little special for me,” Koch said. “I was thinking this might be the last time I get to race for a while so I might as well finish strong.”

Koch, who grew up in Minnesota and ran cross country at St. Olaf’s College in Northfield, Minn., moved to Grand Junction in 2001. Koch said his father was more of a golfer than a triathlete, but has been waiting at the finish line during plenty of Koch’s races.

“He’s been very supportive of my endurance craziness,” Koch said. “He’s been to more of my races than anyone.”

Koch’s next race was going to be the San Juan Solstice 50-mile run in Lake City on June 18, but said he probably won’t race so he can be around for his father.

“I thought about him on the run especially,” Koch said. “Kevin (Martin) was catching me when I looked back so I just went for it.”

Martin was actually a part of a team with Cyrus Pearo. The two 18-year-old recent Grand Junction High School graduates partnered with Pearo taking the 500-meter swim and the 16-mile bike ride. Martin took on the 3-mile run.

The pair finished second in 1:10.15.

“We were talking about doing (the Highline Hustle) way back in the fall,” Pearo said. “I’ve done a couple (triathlons) by myself, but I have some messed up knees and can’t run really well.” Pearo came out of the water fourth and was in second out of the transition. Pearo, who swam for Grand Junction, said the water conditions were tough on him.

“I’m a pool swimmer and I wasn’t used to that open water,” Pearo said. “I was out of my element, but it was still a decent swim.”

On the bike, he passed the lone person in front of him and held the lead for two miles until Koch passed him.

Martin nearly caught Koch during the run, but the experienced and motivated Koch outlasted him.

“I was only a little bit behind him at the one mile, and I could tell he wasn’t feeling very good because I’ve raced with him before,” Martin said. “But he looked back once and just took off.”

Pearo and Martin said they plan to team up again next year.

“I think we are going to have to train a little harder,” Martin said. “We only have a 20 second deficit to make up.”

After a cold, rain-soaked 2010 Hustle, Saturday’s conditions worked in the favor of the 216 individuals and four teams that competed in the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation sponsored event.

“This was one of the smoothest years we’ve had from timing to race set up,” race organizer Shon Birch said. “We had one of the best swims we’ve ever had, we didn’t have to bring anyone in on the boat and it was the fastest swim we’ve ever had.”

The Highline Hustle has evolved in its seven years from having less than 50 people the first year to now more than 200.

“We anticipate more teams next year and we are trying to figure out what our maximum will be,” Birch said. “It’s a good problem to have and if we have to close registration because we are so full that would be fantastic.”

In the men’s race, Nick Bouton finished third in 1:15.03, Stephen Hiatt finished fourth in 1:15.06 and Robert Conley finished fifth in 1:16.28.

The top women’s finisher was Mandy Harter in 1:18.22. Shelly Steadman finished second in 1:26.40, Sara Cooper was third in 1:27.20, Kelley Griffin was fourth in 1:28.22 and Kari Kiker was fifth in 1:28.39.


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