Athletes talk shop before the 106 West Triathlon half-Ironman in Dillon, Sept. 10 | SummitDaily.com

Athletes talk shop before the 106 West Triathlon half-Ironman in Dillon, Sept. 10

A swim in the 55-degree waters of Lake Dillon is the least of Candy Elkind's worries.

At 9 a.m. this morning, the 46-year-old Elkind joins roughly 700 athletes from across the nation and globe for the inaugural 106 West Traithlon, a half-Ironman and quarter-Ironman held on and around Summit County's hometown reservoir. Everyone in the half-Ironman will face the same daunting task for 70.3 miles — a 1.2-mile swim, followed by 56-mile cycle to Montezuma and a 13.1-mile run to Heaton Campground near Frisco — and Elkind feels more than prepared. After all, she's a natural-born swimmer, and that's easily the hardest part of any triathlon for most athletes.

Add the fact every leg of the 106 West tri is held above 9,000 feet — the twin taglines are "Highest triathlon in the world" and "It might won't be pretty, but it will be beautiful" — and, suddenly, folks who live and train in the High Country have a definitive advantage — if they can put together the perfect race when it matters.

About a week before the event, the Summit Daily sports desk caught up with Elkind between training rides at Swan Mountain and across the county to talk about training, the appeal of half-Ironmans and why living at altitude is just as good as a lifetime of swimming when she enters the water early, early this morning.

Summit Daily News: You're hardly a newcomer to triathlons and Ironmans — you've finished three in the past. What keeps you coming back season after season?

Candy Elkind: I like the challenge of it — the mental stimulation, the physical stimulation. This is my first time doing a tri this high up and I like that it's in my backyard. I signed up last year for the Boulder Ironman, but it just didn't work with my schedule. I had to cancel.

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The community of camaraderie with an Ironman is amazing. It's great to have it right here in our backyard, where I don't have to travel a far distance. I even convinced my cousin to come out from Santa Barbara, and she even convinced a friend of hers to race. It will be a family affair.

SDN: So it's as much about the tri community as the racing itself.

CE: Yes! I have a friend who lives in Switzerland who I met through this, and she just did an incredible race high in the mountains of Switzerland. You meet some pretty amazing, badass people, and it's nice to have that connection by challenging yourself in a physical way. There's alike-mindedness with people who do these endurance events that is very cool. I look at the masters swimming — I swim with Jaime (Brede) and a couple others who are triathletes. Not everyone is comfortable there in the water, but it's my Zen place.

SDN: You started competing in triathlons as a strong swimmer. Is that still your strongest event?

CE: Swimming is still my best leg, but I've been getting better at the biking. Joe Howdyshell is my coach up here, and with interval training and speed work and vertical — just trying to understand my body and equipment and engine at altitude — it has made a huge difference. I've been training for this triathlon, but those have all been my side goals. As I get older I've seen a lot of athletes who get better with age, and I want to do that. This is how I get there.

SDN: And, do you feel like you've been getting better over the years?

CE: Totally. My tolerance for pain has definitely increased, especially when I'm training at altitude. There's also the mental capacity, saying, wow, I did the copper triangle, I did pacing at the Leadville 100. It's raising the bar for myself, and the community — living here in Colorado — helps.

SDN: You moved to Colorado and Summit County fulltime about three years ago. Has living and training here helped you stay in the triathlon scene?

CE: Yes, it's just a great way to meet new people when you move to a new community: "How do you find these pockets of people who race?" You go out and do it. But, here in Colorado, I feel like I'm more well-rounded than before, with trail running and distance cycling.

SDN: Looking ahead to the 106 West Tri, what section are you most excited to tackle?

CE: I just think it's great to showcase Summit County with this race. I know that Human Movement has done the Silverthorne tri, with the smaller distances, but when you can put all these local elements together — a run around the lake, the bike to Montezuma — that will be the best part. I've been on the lake before on a stand-up paddleboard, so I've seen the lake and surroundings, but I can't wait to swim. I'm also looking forward to seeing how the community responds to this kind of a race, this kind of distance. It's all coming together, and I know it's taken a long time.

SDN: What stretch of this tri is making you the most nervous?

CE: I don't want to sound conceited, but not much. My body temperature runs a little low so I was nervous about the swim, but what I've been doing at north pond — also riding in the rain and running in cold temperatures — has really helped. I just hope the weather cooperates enough that it's not a downpour, with sleet and all of that. When you get into extreme weather it becomes a safety issue. But really, I'm just looking forward to having it here and having a good day.

SDN: Along with swimming at the pond, what else have you been doing to train this summer?

CE: I started training in January, not necessarily for this distance, but to focus on my core. My upper body strength wasn't everything I wanted it to be, so I went to Altus fitness and tried to transition from winter trail running to biking in April and May. I wanted to feel strong enough to head out right away for the 30-plus-mile rides. Com may I started working with Joe, and I don't really need a coach because I've been doing tris for so long, but he understands the effects of altitude. I was feeling tired and not eating well, so Joe got me into a great program with rest and nutrition and just having fun with it. I was getting burnt out.

SDN: You started to get burnt out, but you still stuck with your training plan. When did you get back into the groove?

CE: Probably May or June, when I saw the results of how strong my core was. I was doing these crazy climbs on the bike that I wouldn't have been able to do in the early season. I'd also go to Denver for open water swims at grant ranch in Lakewood, plus some trail runs and road races. You have the end date of your event, so you have to break down your schedule with key events to prepare for race day. I had to change my mindset — it was super-important for me to do this race and do it well.

SDN: And now race day is nearly here. How are you feeling about it?

CE: I feel like my body is ready to tackle this. I'm getting a little antsy — I'm done with the long training rides and just ready to get out there. I'm a little nervous about how cold the swim might be. I've been training at North Pond (in Silverthorne), and last Saturday I got in there early in the morning and thought, "This is OK — this isn't too bad." You do these mental training things to just calm your mind, remind yourself that it's just a little colder, a little higher.

SDN: Have you been training for the unexpected, like rain and hail and all of that?

CE: I've been riding around. The storms were crazy on Hoosier Pass last week. It was raining, but it wasn't all that bad. You can't say, I won't train today because it's not sunny. You have to put yourself in all of those situations, and it helps you become a stronger overall athlete. You know what to expect.

SDN: I hate to jinx you but I have to ask: What's your time goal for this race?

CE: I've been thinking a lot about that, time wise, and it's hard to tell. Doing a half-Ironman at sea level is so different than this. Look at the transition: I'm not normally wearing gloves and booties. I'm thinking 6-and-a-half hours or 6 hours and 45 minutes — if I get in there I'm happy with that.

Where to watch

The 106 West Triathlon isn’t just for the athletes. The day features a vendor village at the Dillon Marina, with plenty of opportunities to clap, shout, cheer, ring cowbells — anything. Here’s where to go.

Swim

The swim begins at 9 a.m. and ends around 10 a.m., and Dillon Marina’s Tiki Bar will be open all morning. Post up for food, beer, margaritas and more right on the dock within steps of the transition area.

Bike

The eastbound lanes of U.S. Highway 6 will be closed for the race — the bike route runs from Dillon Marina to Montezuma and back — but the entire Summit County rec path around Lake Dillon and down to Keystone. Try riding your bike from the marina to the eagle statue on the highway, or continue all the way to Keystone, passing by Swan Mountain Road and the Keystone golf course.

Run

The run leads from Dillon Marina to Heaton Bay campground near Frisco on the Dam Road. Bike is still the best way to get around on the rec path, or you can post up at the Frisco Marina to get away from the traffic. Heaton Bay will also be open to the public.

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