Torture times 3
HITS Triathlon tests athletes' mettle
Grand Junction triathlete Mary Gonzales could barely stand Sunday when she accepted her first-place award at the HITS Triathlon Series.
And that was a day after she swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran a marathon, 26.2 miles, at Highline Lake State Park near Loma.
After winning the women’s Full triathlon Saturday, the 46-year-old’s muscles were sore, and as good as winning might feel, Gonzales doesn’t plan to put her body through the torture again. She said it was her first — and last — full triathlon.
“I did the full (triathlon) here because it is local, and it was so cool that I can sleep in my own bed,” Gonzales said. “The worst part of it was the nerves beforehand and really wondering if I could finish the race.
“Honestly, one of the disciplines of the full triathlon is enough for one day. I have no idea how people do all three. I put in the training, and I put in the time, and someone told me that if you put in the training, that’s your confidence. It worked for me.”
Her win in the women’s division was the ninth fastest time overall: 13 hours, 18 minutes, 30 seconds. Macario Avalos, a 39-year-old from San Diego, won the overall title in 10:19:02.
Gonzales said the only downside of the event was a strong headwind when biking west, but the tailwind when biking east balanced it out. “Biking into that wind when going towards Utah was probably the worst part,” Gonzales said. “You just had to put your head down and keep pedaling. That tailwind was really cool coming back, because everyone was going really fast.”
Filling a Western Slope need
The HITS Triathlon was the first full, local triathlon in recent years that offered a chance to qualify for the Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
When the HITS Triathlon Series was founded two years ago, race director Mark H. Wilson said the idea to bring a triathlon to the Western Slope was a matter of under-served athletes.
“We knew there were a ton of triathlons in Denver and a lot of triathlons in Boulder,” Wilson said. “Those would be the obvious places to hold one, but we didn’t want to go there. In Grand Junction, we knew there were a lot of athletes but no big triathlons. We wanted to go somewhere where those kind of (triathlons) weren’t set up yet.
“There used to be a triathlon (at Highline Lake State Park) years ago. When we heard that, we decided to come back here. It’s really a beautiful venue. The park is really gorgeous, with these beautiful, old trees and nice, green grass. The farm roads are perfect and quiet for biking because there really isn’t any cross-traffic.”
Wilson said more than 500 racers competed — about 650 registered — and despite the wind blowing over some signs, the event was a success in its first year.
Avalos said he wanted to run a full triathlon to qualify for major events during the next racing season. His first-place finish in the Full division at the HITS Triathlon did just that.
But the reason for Avalos traveling nearly 1,000 miles to race in Grand Junction was simple: He is getting married in Ohio this year, and he said scheduling conflicts led him to travel to western Colorado.
“I came to this specific race because I needed to qualify for races next season, but I’m getting married, and a closer race was the week before my wedding,” Avalos said. “There’s no way my fiancee would let me compete and then fly across the states for my wedding. It helped me stay focused for next year’s race season, and everyone is happy.”
Like she never left
After having children, Highlands Ranch triathlete Holle Nichols used the HITS Triathlon to return to a sport she loves. Competing in the sprint division, which offers a shorter distance for each event, the 42-year-old won the women’s division and placed third overall in her return to competition.
“It’s nice having friendly volunteers yelling for you,” Nichols said. “My kids dominate the schedule lately, but I’m hoping to get more in as they get older.”
Show up, be a winner
Minneapolis resident Ken Hola is a veteran of triathlons, but Sunday marked a first for him: The 69-year-old competed along with his son, Tim, albeit in different races.
Tim Hola is an Ironman triathlete from Highlands Ranch, and he won the Half triathlon division Saturday. Ken competed in the Olympic triathlon Sunday.
Ken said being able to compete along with his son, after competing in triathlons since 1984, was a special moment. That, and winning his age group by default as the lone entrant.
“You know, it’s great to race with my son,” Ken Hola said, starting to whisper. “It’s great winning, too, even though I was the only one in my age group. But you know, 80 percent of life is showing up. You’ll be rewarded if you follow that.”
How to Beat Boredom
Sometimes, love sparks interesting traditions. Other, less romantic times and traditions are sparked by pure boredom.
Trying to be a supportive husband, Grand Junction triathlete Kevin Koch showed up to his wife Shannon’s first Ironman triathlon. It took Shannon 14 hours to finish, and Kevin never wanted to watch a triathlon again.
Instead of being bitter about having to stand and watch, Kevin decided to train with Shannon, so they could compete together, which they’ve been doing for 10 years. Training, however, has created another hurdle.
“We spend zero time training together because he’s so fast,” Shannon said with a laugh. “I train with my girlfriends and our dogs, even though Kevin and I train at the same time.”
Kevin finished fourth overall in the Half triathlon, finishing in 4:34:57. Shannon finished 32nd overall in the Olympic triathlon and was the sixth woman to finish, clocking in at 2:45.04.
And the winner is ...
The men’s and women’s winners in each division were:
■ Men’s Full: Macario Avalos, 35, San Diego, 10:19:02.
■ Women’s Full: Mary Gonzales, 46, Grand Junction, 13:18:30.
■ Men’s Half: Tim Hola, 39, Highlands Ranch, 4:17:13.
■ Women’s Half: Heather Gollnick, 43, Steamboat Springs, 4:54:28.
■ Men’s Olympic: Kenny Withrow, 28, Denver, 2:14:46.
■ Women’s Olympic: Darlene Krohn, 32, Flagstaff, Ariz., 2:28:13.
■ Men’s Sprint: Mike Lyle, 53, Carlsbad, Calif., 1:13:19.
■ Women’s Sprint: Holle Nichols, 42, Highlands Ranch, 1:20:42.