Steamboat woman dominates her first-ever extreme triathlon, qualifies for world champs |

Steamboat woman dominates her first-ever extreme triathlon, qualifies for world champs

Tom Skulski
Steamboat Pilot & Today

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A triathlon is designed to take your body to the limits and test your mental and physical toughness. An extreme triathlon does the same but on a much grander scale.

Steamboat resident Veronika Merchant traveled to Utah to compete in the Starvation extreme triathlon, part of the XTRI World Tour qualifiers, on Saturday, July 9.

This extreme triathlon started at 5 a.m. with a dark 2.4 mile swim, followed by a daunting 100-mile bike ride with 9,246 feet of elevation gain and finished with an exhausting 25.3 mile run with 7,543 feet of climbing.

After a grueling 18 hours and 10 minutes of intense competition, Merchant crossed the finish line just after 11 p.m.

“This type of race is about keeping your mindset up so you can finish,” Merchant said.

The 32-year-old only had about seven weeks of training prior to competing and was able to finish seventh overall and second amongst women. 

The race began with a field of 26 but only saw 10 finish. There is a checkpoint during the run that if competitors don’t reach by 8 p.m. then they finish the race on a shorter trail but do not officially qualify or place. 

Merchant was proud of her performance for the vast majority of the race but was frustrated on the final two miles when her hips and toes started to become painful.

She meditated, found some energy, and built off of the support that her boyfriend, Todd Lodwick, was providing to conquer the race and those final two miles.

“It was a surprise for me that I finished in a basically good time,” Merchant said.  “The whole race I felt pretty in good shape, so for me, it’s a mystery where the energy comes from and just being mentally healthy.”

Merchant’s purpose for competing in the race was to reset her mind and prove to herself that she is a strong woman and can do anything she sets her mind to. She was able to do that and so much more as she qualified for the XTRI World Championships in Norway on August 5, 2023.

Merchant will have a year to train for the world championships, but is in search of sponsors to help support her for the race and the year’s worth of training that she is facing. She competed in the Starvation triathlon on a 12-year-old bike and went up against competitors on much newer and better models. 

She will be competing in the Emerald Mountain Epic on August 6 and 7, as well as another triathlon in the next few months. Merchant hopes that this training will lead to a strong finish in the World Championships and strengthen her mind even more. 

“It’s a big awakening inside of me,” Merchant said. “That I can believe in myself more and I should believe in myself more and this is all my goal. (With) this race, and I wanted to prove to myself that I’m good enough and can do this type of race.”

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