2015 Rocky Mountain Triathlon returns to Silverthorne as the ‘world’s highest tri’ Aug. 9 | SummitDaily.com

2015 Rocky Mountain Triathlon returns to Silverthorne as the ‘world’s highest tri’ Aug. 9

When Erin Young saw she was getting a bit lazy with exercise, she did what any self-respecting Summit local would do: She entered a triathlon.

The 29-year-old owner of Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea in Silverthorne has lived in Summit County for most of her life. And, as usual, she's been an avid athlete since the start, beginning with competitive freestyle skiing in her teens before picking up road and mountain biking as a 20-something.

But, not long after Red Buffalo opened shop five years back, Young fell out of the athletic groove. The hours were long, the business logistics were daunting and, when she wrapped up with 10 hours behind the coffee bar, all she could think about was rest. Then, her newborn child was born, and she added full-time mom to her workload.

"It's real easy in the mountains, when you're working in the tourism industry, to head home after a long day at work and kick up your feet," Young said. "It's easy for me to get off track with a regular, stay-in-shape plan. That can just be hard when you're busy with work and life."

No longer. This weekend, after a full summer of training, Young and three friends will tackle the Rocky Mountain Triathlon, hosted on the trails and lakes of northern Silverthorne. It's a first for all four women, and, rather than take the easy route by splitting legs as a team, each one will swim, bike and run nearly 27 miles (800-meter swim, 20-mile bike, 6.2-mile run) on the Olympic course.

"Living up here, you want to stay active, but I've never been an avid runner or swimmer," said Young, who agreed to train for a tri nearly on a whim. "It's been fun to use it as a bonding activity, heading out with friends for a swim or going for a run. And, I can see how (triathlons are) addictive. Once you get started, you just feel good about the results and your fitness."

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The 'highest tri'

Young and friends are joined on the course on Aug. 9 by roughly 500 athletes, some fellow newcomers, others die-hard triathletes from across the nation. Even a handful of international racers come out to test their mettle at the unofficial "world's highest tri."

"This is arguably one of the most scenic triathlons out there, with gorgeous views of the Gore Range, and it just keeps getting better as the course heads north towards Ute Pass," race promoter Justine Spence said. "Remember to soak it all in."

Starting in May, Young and her crew got serious about training. Those scenic views and tranquil trails were major incentives, even when plopping on the couch sounded like a much better option.

"It really helps that we live where we do," Young said. "If I want to bike, it's not like I'm going for a bike ride through the city on a dry bike path in 95 degrees. I'm doing 20 miles on a beautiful mountain pass in 70 degrees. That's a motivator."

Another motivator is her group of friends. One is a natural swimmer, another is an avid mountain biker, but none feel completely comfortable with all three sports. So, when it came time for a run — easily Young's least-favorite leg of the tri — she turned to her friends. They texted each other constantly and kept a workout thread, as in, "Hey, I got in 4 miles today. Did you?"

"We're all competitive with each other, even as friends," Young said. "Having someone else in the same boat as me has really helped. If you aren't feeling motivated, you might see a text from a friend saying, 'I got out for a run today,' and you think, 'Ok, I'm tired, but if they can, so can I.'"

A second first tri

Another Summit local, Breckenridge town council member Erin Gigliello, is getting a second chance at a first tri (pun intended). She's competed in just one before, the Tri for the Cure in Denver five years ago. It was a struggle, to say the least.

"I didn't train at all and I believe I was hyperventilating by the finish line," Gigliello said. This time, she won't fall into the same trap. Like Young, she rarely feels motivated to run, and so, she downloaded a structured triathlon-training plan, then tweaked it to fit her hectic schedule.

"It has things like 'run for 50 minutes,' or 'brick' (bike-run workout) each day, with a rest day once a week," Gigliello said. "I'm trying out the daily green smoothie thing to avoid feeling sore. They look disgusting, but so far, so good."

Again, like Young, Gigliello pulls plenty of motivation from simply living in Summit County. For the first time, she competed in a handful of trail-running races and found that she liked the "ceremony of the event," she said.

"I'm competing for fun, 100 percent," Gigliello said. "The training schedule has been an incredible motivator for fitness and relieving stress. I already feel such a sense of accomplishment just to appreciate what the body can do."

Young feels the same. For her, a triathlon was the best way to get back in shape, no matter her final time.

But first, that 6.2-mile run:

"If you aren't used to just pounding pavement for a long time, it takes a while to find the right mindset," Young said. "I call it my suffer mode. Once you reach that suffer mode, you're fine."

2015 Rocky Mountain Triathlon

What: The “highest tri in the world” at 8,730 feet in Silverthorne, with a sprint course, full Olympic course and divisions for teams or solo racers

When: Sunday, Aug. 9

Where: North Pond Park start line

Cost: $110 sprint, $120 Olympic,

Online registration is closed. Racers can register on-site from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on race day. Free parking is available at Silverthorne Elementary School near North Pond. If parked at the school, your car can’t move until the bike course closes at 11:30 a.m. (including spectators). For more info, see http://www.rockymountaintriathlon.com.