Longtime competitors, volunteers contemplate end of long-running Tri-Glenwood Triathlon
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Jeannine Ford Artaz has never competed in the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon, but she has always been at the finish line.
The 85-year-old Glenwood Springs resident has been a volunteer at the annual event for 29 of its 30 years, handing out bananas and bagel pieces to weary competitors who cross, and sometimes stumble across, the finish line in Two Rivers Park. And as festivities were wrapping up following the completion of Sunday’s event, she got a little emotional about the prospect of the event’s ending.
“I’d hate to see it go,” said Fort Artaz, one of dozens of combined volunteers and competitors who have been coming to the event for more than two decades. “It’s such a tradition, and the people who come here every year make this an absolute joy.”
She wasn’t the only one who felt that way on Sunday, as 85 female and 65 male competitors took part in what some think could be the final running of the event. The impending reconstruction of the Grand Avenue bridge — which the Colorado Department of Transportation expects to begin near the middle of next year — would block access to the event’s exchange zone where athletes make transitions from swimming to biking to running.
That said, there were plenty of people on hand who have never transitioned away from the event despite a growing number of alternative events that have become available over the past three decades. Race officials Amber Wissing and Brian Passenti noted at the awards ceremony that there were 11 athletes who have done the race more than 20 years and six who have competed in at least 26 of them.
“I’d obviously love to see it keep going,” said 61-year-old Howard Jay, who has run in 28 of the 30 Tri-Glenwoods and, on Sunday, was wearing the free T-shirt he got from running in the first Tri-Glenwood Triathlon in 1985. “But we’re a pretty creative group of people, so it wouldn’t surprise me if we were able to pull something off.”
Cindy Lundin, former event director and veteran of the local triathletes who have competed in each of the Tri-Glenwoods, followed a moment of giving kudos to event coordinators and volunteers after the race to say she hoped it could continue in a year or two following the completion of the Grand Avenue Bridge Project.
As for Sunday’s event, Casey Gdowski of Aspen was the overall winner, crossing the finish line in 1 hour, 23 minutes, 27 seconds. The winning time of the 35-year-old was just ahead of longtime triathlete and another former race director, 51-year-old Charlie Wertheim, who finished second in 1:23:54. Highlands Ranch’s Paul Turtle, 38, was third in 1:26:12.
The fastest woman in the race on Sunday was 53-year-old Heidi Vosbeck of Glenwood Springs, who posted a winning time of 1:30:52. Sara Austad of Littleton was second in 1:32:45. Third was another member of the Turtle family, 28-year-old Heather Turtle of Morrison, who finished in 1:34:09.
That family also has a longtime returner in Nancy Turtle of Littleton, who at 67 was making her 25th Tri-Glenwood appearance. A couple that has been in the event multiple times is Dr. Paul Salmen and Nancy Reinisch, who have competed in the event 27 and 28 times, respectively.
“I think it’s time to resurrect this in a different form,” said Reinisch, who has helped coach the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team for the past 15 years. “I think the Tri-Glenwood should keep going on, but I think we need to create a new course.”
The event includes an 825-meter swim in the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, a 15-mile bike ride from the pool parking lot, down Interstate 70 to Exit 109 in South Canyon and back to Glenwood prior to a 4.75-mile run that ends at Two Rivers Park. Part of the problem city officials expressed to Passenti and Wissing was the lack of road access for emergency vehicles while the race was happening.
Reinisch, however, was quick to point out that the event had never had an accident involving a car and a competitor. Some of the people who have had something to do with that have been the Burke family — including Wes and Judy — who have volunteered to monitor the bike turn at South Canyon for 29 years. Lundin was quick to point out following the race all of the volunteers who have been at the Tri-Glenwood for at least two decades.
Yet another competitor who has been in the event for two-plus decades was Maureen Nuckols of Carbondale, who at 70 years old completed her 27th Tri-Glenwood. She was greeted with warm hugs and appreciation at the finish line, which has made returning to the race year after year an easy decision.
She hopes she has that option down the road.
“Look at what I get here,” said Nuckols after she’d been greeted with congratulatory hugs at the finish line. “I’m a turtle, and you can have a sense of accomplishment and achievement being a turtle. I’m very sad about it stopping. But my hope is that after the construction is done that they resurrect it. That’s my hope.”
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