Weathering the storm: Rain adds new element to Highline Hustle triathlon

Competitors in the Highline Hustle Sprint Triathlon take to the water Saturday for the 500-meter swim portion of the race.

After swimming 500 meters through the chilly waters of Highline Lake, competitors in the Highline Hustle triathalon fly down a hill on 10 Road as they pedal 16 miles, the second of three parts of the event. The third leg of the triathlon involved running three miles around the lake.

Triathlons are difficult enough, so when you add in the elements, and things really get interesting.

Saturday at Highline Lake State Park in Loma, 245 participants embarked on a 500-meter swim, a 16-mile road bike race and three-mile trail run — the Highline Hustle Sprint Triathlon — in steady rain.

“This is our sixth year, and this is the first year with rain,” Highline Hustle coordinator Stacy Pike said. “But everyone was still really enthusiastic.”

The rain added a level of difficulty to every section of the triathlon. During the swim, the athletes had to deal with cold temperatures and choppy water.

“The swim was really cold,” Chris Johnson, 21, said. “That was the toughest part for me because it was different having the water in the condition it was.”

Johnson is a Mesa State College student who was participating in his first triathlon only one month after deciding to enter. Despite not having much training time, Johnson finished 51st in 1 hour, 42 minutes.

“This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done,” Johnson said. “I was a little behind (in my training), but it turned out OK.”

During the bike ride, the wet pavement gave some riders trouble, but for others it was a benefit.

Jen Rapiejko finished 21st in the women’s race and said she enjoyed having the rain during the 16-mile bike loop.

“It actually was pretty fun riding in the rain,” Rapiejko said. “You’d go pretty fast and it kept you cool.”

Rapiejko said she’s competed in eight or 10 triathlons, but Saturday was her first in inclement weather. Rapiejko said the elements made the run the most difficult part of the race.

“You couldn’t get much grip,” Rapiejko said. “Plus you were practically slipping and falling in the mud.”

The Highline Hustle is put together by the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department.

“Our goal is to encourage the running of triathlons as well as fitness and health,” Pike said. “But for the next time it rains, I guess we need more umbrellas, more tents and more rain jackets.”

On the men’s side, Marty Wacker finished first in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 18 seconds. Keven Koch was right behind in 1:10.56. Kenny Withrow finished third in 1:14.52 and Tsukasu Fukuta finished fourth in 1:15.58.

In the women’s race, Mandy Harter finished first in 1:18.27. Cheryl Castle was second in 1:19.34 and Mary Gonzales was third in 1:24.31. Tinker Dulco finished fourth in 1:25.15.

“Finishing is great,” said Kevin Maughn, 27, who came in at 1:28.10. “It makes all the training worth it.”


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