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The Roaring Fork Tri-Team training must go on

Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team members undeterred by likely lack of race to cap season

Roaring Fork Women's Triathlon Team members, from left, Kenna Wilson, Ella Lindenberg, Ella Johnson, Ashley Adams, Bridget Derkash, co-lead coach Sharma Phillips and Claire Wright go out for a run.
Taylor Smith

It’s not about the race.

That could be the Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon Team’s motto this year.

Actually, it could be their motto every year, but, thanks to COVID-19 event cancellations, this is the first time the women are training without being sure that there will be a season-ending race.

Their target race, the Outdoor Divas Sprint Triathlon on Aug.16, has not been canceled yet. Organizer Without Limits Productions has canceled all its June races and is cautiously optimistic about its July races.

But the point of the team is not to complete a race. While that’s a useful goal, team members say it’s about the sense of community.

Second-year team member Lindy Clarke said, “The training and what they provide is valuable, but the sense of community is so important as well, and I think that’s what had me coming back, and that’s not lost. … It’s a very different experience [this year], but the community and camaraderie is still there in full force.”

Assistant coach Jeannette Chiappinelli isn’t concerned about Outdoor Divas being canceled. 

“It doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day it’s just a race. This team has been more about having a group of women from all ages and abilities together for a common goal,” she said.

Co-lead coaches Sharma Phillips, left, and Carla Westerman talk to team members.
Taylor Smith

“It’s not about the race, it’s the journey,” co-lead coach Sharma Phillips said.

COVID-19 has had other impacts on the team.

“Before the season started we were faced with … when are the pools going to open, are we going to have anywhere to swim. It became evident as time went on that there was not going to be a pool that would open in time for us to do our regular swim training. So we had to make a decision that instead of being a triathlon team this summer we would be a duathlon team, and we just dropped all of our swim training. … We knew that we were going to have to be practicing social distancing. By this time we were on Plan C. We were going to have to be meeting all over town in groups of 10 or less,” co-lead coach Carla Westerman said.

And then there’s that running while wearing masks thing.

“It’s not as bad as I thought. It’s not my favorite thing. … It’s about the safety of others, the tri team sisters. My slight discomfort is nothing compared to making sure everybody stays safe,” Clarke said.

Westerman sees mask wearing as just something they have to do.

“You know how women are, women just want to be together. It’s hard to keep them 6 feet apart, so we insist that everybody wear the mask even while they’re running. Nobody likes it, I hate it, but it’s what we have to do to be able to be together,” she said.

Westerman and Phillips weren’t sure there would be a team this year and had to be upfront about the changes.

“Carla and Sharma, they planned everything. … They put a lot of thought into it and really wanted to make sure that we’re safe, and also that we were getting our money’s worth, as they described it. They’ve taken measures — they reduced the costs, they were very upfront about what it won’t be this year versus what it was last year, and they joked about, ‘We tried to scare you guys away and you’re back,’” Clarke said.

“There’s no swim, you’re going to have to wear a mask, we’ll have to be in groups of 10 or less, we won’t have a race … we still ended up with 50 women that just wanted to be together working on their fitness,” Westerman said.

The team, which ranges in ages from 15–73, filled up, but operations have changed.

“The team looks a lot different this year than it has in years past, that’s for sure,” Phillips said.

“Carla and Sharma have managed to make it work with Zoom meetings and different ways to still feel like you’re part of something and yet with social distancing as well,” Chiappinelli said.

“There is a give and take, we have to do everything virtually, work inside the parameters of 25 [people] and less. We usually get together once a week outside of our training meetings to have a meeting with just Carla and I to get all of our ducks in a row. But now we meet at least two times a week if not three and for probably twice as long each meeting,” Phillips said.

While Westerman and Phillips worked hard to figure out how to make the team work, the new skills could pay off.

“Now that it’s virtual we can reach a lot more people than we could just physically getting together. … Now everybody’s getting the same information on their own time through our words. There’s definitely been some silver linings. There’s talk about can we do this for remote teams next year. Say we had a Roaring Fork Women’s Triathlon division in Denver or in Meeker where they could have all the exact same information and experience, and then just train on their own,” Phillips said.

And that would pay homage to original team founder Nancy Reinisch, who died from cancer last year.

“That was Nancy Reinisch’s vision to be able to bring the team outside of the Roaring Fork Valley,” Phillips said.

cwertheim@postindependent.com


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