Summit County Kevin Shelden chases adrenaline rush
Editor’s note: This is the third installment in the Summit Explorer series profiling individuals whose intrepid, enthusiastic, adrenaline-charged character defines life in the mountains for so many in our community.
Kevin Shelden leans back in his chair on the back porch of Amazing Grace Natural Eatery in Breckenridge. Like most Summit County locals, he’s lean, tan and dressed casually in t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes. His quick smile, firm handshake and friendly blue eyes highlight his easygoing personality. His Fall Classic mountain bike stage race exhibits his passion. A lover of all outdoor activity, Shelden has a particular soft spot for mountain biking, a growing enthusiasm for adventure racing and a will to try anything that will speed up the heart rate.
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Shelden and his wife, Stacy, moved to Colorado from southern California in 1992.
“We were just ready for a change of scenery or lifestyle,” he said.
They spent a year in Littleton before relocating to Summit County after Shelden, a general contractor, got a project in Silverthorne. From there, the feel of Summit County just grew with them.
“The kids started growing, we had a couple more. … The community’s really good and supportive,” Shelden said. “We really enjoy the people here. It really evolved from there.”
While they often visit family in Orange County, Calif., it doesn’t take long for Shelden to start feeling the pressure of the crowds and a longing to return to the mountains.
The rest of the Shelden family is active as well and join him in taking advantage of the expansive outdoors that Summit County has to offer.
“It’s a great place to raise a family for sure, especially little boys,” he said with a laugh.
Shelden has four sons, each of which has his own particular passion. Taylor, the oldest, is a professional cyclist. Right now, Shelden is training with his second-youngest son, 19-year-old Tanner, for Tanner’s first triathlon, the Rocky Mountain Triathlon in Silverthorne next week.
As winner of two XTERRA USA Championship triathlons in Ogden, Utah, triathlons are something that Shelden knows well.
“That had been a big focus for me,” he said of his championship titles. He worked toward that achievement for years, pushing himself until he reached his goal. Then, it was time to move on to something else.
“Once I finally got that, I wanted to try some other things,” Shelden said. While he thoroughly enjoyed the XTERRA competitions, the intense training schedule kept him from spending time with his family and riding for fun.
“You just can’t sustain that, or I couldn’t. I enjoy doing all the local stuff here. There’s lots to do,” he said.
For the 21 years that he’s lived in Summit County, Shelden has attended more local racing events than he can count. He’s done mountain bike races, road bike races, trail runs, fun runs — you name it, and he probably has a t-shirt for it.
Most recently, he participated in the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge — a blown tire kept him from finishing — and the Swan River Rampage, which he lists as one of his favorites. He also tries not to miss the Pennsylvania Gulch Grind, another race in the Summit Mountain Challenge series.
“I’ve pretty much hit every race over the years, even over in Vail,” he said.
But it’s not all about racing for Shelden.
“I really enjoy the racing and the competitiveness, I do really enjoy that,” he said, before admitting that now he prefers to focus on enjoyment rather than competition. “I like the training and preparing for a race, but then it’s so nice up here, I find that I don’t want to be tied down to a training schedule. If I feel like ‘today, I’m supposed to ride 20 miles at a certain pace,’ (and then) it’s a great day, it’s really beautiful, I’m with my friends, and I want to ride 50 miles, why not? It’s not as live-or-die for me. I just enjoy getting out there and being on the trails.”
Shelden hit a personal milestone this spring, when he turned 50. The number doesn’t scare him, though, and he’s quick to look at the positive, exclaiming, “New age class!” At 49, he was on the older end of his age bracket during competitions. Now, he starts as the youngest, of which he will do doubt take advantage.
“I never worried about my age, and I still don’t,” he said.
He credits living in Summit County, having a job that keeps him outdoors and hobbies that keep him active, for his current state of fitness.
“Everybody’s got their own way to get their adrenaline fix,” he commented, whether it’s biking, skiing, bull riding or any other sport.
Overall, his plan is to “keep going till I can’t.”
While Shelden has spent much of his life competing down an established course, now he has become increasingly passionate about a different type of race — adventure racing.
Adventure racing combines endurance disciplines such as mountain biking and running with aspects of navigation or orienteering. Often, participants don’t know the course until they arrive at the race. They are given a map, compass and coordinates, at which point they march off into the wilderness and see who gets to the finish line first.
Shelden has done several of these races with friends and says he’s drawn in by the unique structure. He can take advantage of teamwork, for example, and winning doesn’t necessarily depend on physical superiority.
“It’s not always about the fastest person. It’s maybe somebody who’s the smartest about thinking through the best way to get from Point A to Point B, and that’s appealing,” he said. “It’s nice to mix it up. You’re using your head and your legs at the same time. It’s fun.”
Shelden is always up for new and different experiences. He’s been skydiving several times and went bungee jumping in New Zealand. He hasn’t heli-skied yet, although a thoughtful expression crossed his face at the idea
“There’s always something new,” he said with a grin.
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