Debut 106 West Triathlon brings half-Ironman to Lake Dillon Sept. 10 |

Debut 106 West Triathlon brings half-Ironman to Lake Dillon Sept. 10

Phil Lindeman

106° West endurance triathlon

What: The inaugural endurance triathlon in Summit County, featuring half-Ironman distances: a 1.2-mile swim on Lake Dillon, a 56-mile road ride to Montezuma and a 13.1-mile run around the lake for a total of 70.3 miles

When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016

Where: Dillon Marina starting line

Cost: $145 (quarter distance), $195 (half-Iron Man)

Online registration for the triathlon is currently open and the start list is restricted to 2,500 competitors. Price above doesn’t include online service fees and USA Triathlon fees. For more information on registration, training routines and more, see the official event website at You can also follow the event on social media (@106westtri on Twitter, Instagram) for info and updates.


Road closures

The 106 West Triathlon requires several daylong road closures on Sept. 10. Plan ahead.


Lodgepole Street in Dillon

Dillon Dam Road, from Heaton Bay Campground to U.S. Highway 6

Eastbound U.S. Highway 6, from Dillon to Montezuma Road

Montezuma Road

Lake Dillon Drive

U.S. Highway 6 crossing

Lake Dillon Drive

Tenderfoot Street

Elk Horn Drive

Lake Side Drive

Swan Mountain Road

Elk Drive

Elk Crossing Lane

Keystone Road

Rasor Drive

Oro Grande Road

Next weekend brings more firsts to Lake Dillon than our hometown reservoir has seen in decades.

For starters, Sept. 10 marks the debut of the 106 West Triathlon, the first (and only) half-Ironman staged in the heart of Summit County. That means it doubles as the first half-Ironman held completely above 9,000 feet — the dizzying altitude where endurance athletes simply can’t recover the way they’re used to — with a max elevation of 10,228 feet when the bike leg ends at Montezuma.

It also marks the first (and only) time athletes will be allowed to swim in the frigid waters of Lake Dillon, which is otherwise closed to everything except for boats, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. Even dogs aren’t technically allowed to take a dip in the reservoir that feeds Denver’s water supply.

Then come all of the first-place finishes for athletes from across the state, nation and globe, including true triathlon machines like two-time Olympian Laura Bennett of Boulder and Summit’s own Jaime Brede, a pro XTERRA off-road athlete who just couldn’t say no to her hometown half-Ironman.

It’s a weekend of firsts for the county, and more than 1,000 die-hard triathletes from 19 to 69 years old are thrilled to welcome them in style.

“For me, with the Olympic drive, you’re looking for the best competition in the world,” Bennett told the Summit Daily News shortly after organizers announced the swim, bike and run routes in May. “We want an experience-based triathlon and the altitude will be tough in this environment. The water will be freezing. I’ve done that before, and it can be challenging, and it won’t be easy, but, when you combine all these things, it really is just an epic way to do this sport.”

For race director Travis Dray, simply seeing so many athletes of all levels come together for the world’s highest half-Ironman is a first he just can’t miss.

“One of the cool things about triathlon is when people put their swim caps and goggles on, they’ll be standing next to Olympians like Laura Bennett,” said Dray, who works with event management company Human Movement of Louisville, a suburb between Denver and Boulder. “There really aren’t many other sports that offer that. It just doesn’t happen in a rec league or anywhere else. You have people who are living their lives — doing the nine-to-five routine — and they’re still fitting triathlon into their lives.”

The route

For newbies, a half-Ironman is one bigger and better than a standard Olympic triathlon. (The triathlon also features a quarter-Ironman, which is about the length of a traditional tri.) The race begins with a 1.2-mile swim, then leads to a 56-mile bike and finally ends with a 13.1-mile run for a total distance of 70.3 miles. It’s a hell of an accomplishment at any altitude, but add a starting elevation of 9,000 feet and nearly 6,000 total feet of vertical gain, and suddenly, the 106 West Tri becomes a monster.

“This race is going to touch on everything the athletes want,” Dray said. “They want something that’s challenging, something that’s rewarding, and they will leave with bragging rights. When you start at 9,000 feet, it’s a daunting triathlon, and each one of the athletes deserves amazing credit just for taking this on.”

First up, the swim leg. Athletes in the marquee half-Ironman race begin around 7 a.m., when the lake water is right around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s cold enough that everyone is required to wear a wetsuit.

Swimmers leave the Dillon Marina on a triangular course that heads west to the dam, south to the lake center, east to the Snake River arm and finally back to the marina. Transitions for all three legs take place in the marina parking lot, making it the perfect place for spectators to post up and cheer.

“If you’ve never seen a triathlon swim, it’s like a washing machine of arms and legs,” Dray said. “You’re going to push your body to the limits: your legs, yours lungs — everything.”

After swapping wetsuits for bikes, athletes then begin the 56-mile big leg on a road course from the marina to Montezuma Road. Riders make two laps on this leg, which ranges from 9,043 feet to the highest point at 10,228 feet. Dray expects racing to be heated, especially when elite athletes first pedal out around 8 a.m.

“There’s this old saying: You don’t want to go too deep when you’re racing at altitude,” he said. “But sometimes, when you get on your bike and have all that adrenaline going, you have to keep it in check. You can start burning through all your matches real quick.”

Around noon, the first racers ditch their bikes for the final leg: two laps on the Lake Dillon recpath, from the marina past Frisco to Heaton Campground and back, all at the base of the towering Tenmile Range. By then, they’ll be burning, but it’s no time to slow down — most tris are lost in the final run leg.

“You can have a great swim and a great bike, but you really want to make sure you have a great run,” Dray said. “The course fits with our tagline: ‘It won’t be pretty for the athletes, but it will be beautiful.’”

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