Cortez Burst becoming great holiday triathlon

July 4 marked the second year of the Cortez “Burst” Triathlon, a sprint triathlon consisting of a 50-meter swim, 16-mile bike ride and a 5K run. Eighty-five athletes competed this year, a 30 percent increase from last year, indicating a trend that is likely to continue as word spreads about this great local event.

Julie Thibodeau of Durango, last year’s winner who took first place again this year, had high praise for the race.

“I think this triathlon is great,” Thibodeau said.“I’m surprised more people don’t come over from Durango.”

Somewhat different from last year, the bike portion increased from 11 miles to 16, a change inspired by input from last year’s participants.

“I liked the course change,” Thibodeau said. “Those two hills on the bike were a little rough, and I wasn’t expecting that. I thought it was great, especially that downhill. It was so fast.”

Thibodeau is training for the Durango Double Marathon in October and hopes to compete in an Olympic-distance triathlon in the near future. For now, she says she is done racing and will focus on her marathon training.

Steve Stovall of Durango, a young 71-year-old known for competing in many area triathlons, came out for his second try at this event.

“They do a really amazing job. It is very well organized. I give them a lot of credit,” Stovall said. “My favorite part was the run. I’m a runner cleverly disguised as a triathlete.”

“The bike course was longer, and they added those brutal hills at the end of the first half that just about killed me,” he said. “I can’t wait to come back next year, although it’s beer and aspirin for dinner tonight.”

Heather Foster, a busy mother of four from Cortez, entered this year as an individual, having raced on a team last year. Finding time to train with four small children in tow can be challenging, but Foster is determined to get back in shape and having a goal race helps with that.

“It would have gone better if I hadn’t gotten sick last week,” Foster said, “and if I had a road bike.”

Durangoan Stephanie Milner, competing for the second time in this triathlon, also lauded the event.

“Absolutely, without question, I will probably be here next year,” Milner said.

She cited the pool portion as her favorite segment.

“I’m a swimmer, I like the long pool,” she said. “The bike was a little rough for me. That was quite the extension; coming back was nice.”

Milner’s goal is to do an Olympic-distance triathlon in the near future, and she currently is training for the half-marathon portion of the Durango Double.

“I’ve never run anything more than a 10K,” she said.

The Cortez Burst Triathlon offers a sprint portion, a team category and a children’s race, making it a family-friendly event suitable for all levels of athletes. Just another of the many events available to make Fourth of July holiday memorable.

Reach Marjorie Brinton at runswim55@gmail.com.