By Sunny Gilbert
ISSUE #23, Summer 2004 – When we arrived in Lake Havasu City, AZ for the 2004 National Collegiate Triathlon Championships, the wind was blowing sand storms and the temperature was soaring in the mid-90s. We had left Boulder just as a snow storm was blowing in and the abrupt change in weather was alternately shocking, welcome, and worrisome. We warned everyone that hydrating was the key and no matter how bad your cycling tan lines, it was not a good idea to sunbathe the day before the race.
The morning of the race dawned serene and clear. In a cloudless sky, we were up before the sun had cleared the Sierra Madres and the temp was already a comfortable 75 degrees, promising a hot day as the race got underway. Resplendent in our Ironman Wetsuits, we started the swim in a narrow channel of Lake Havasu, swimming an out-and-back course that went under the famous London Bridge. The swim start was tough with everyone vying for position within the tight waterway. The bike proved to be a tough one with tight corners, steep climbs and downhills, long lonely stretches, and dangerous highway crossings. Everything we were ready for, including the 100m, 13% grade uphill that fell near the middle of the out-and-back ride. The coordinators did a fabulous job making sure that traffic was under control and water was readily available for the competitors. Onto the run, where even flat was an understatement. It was fast and open with a finish along Lake Havasu that was the perfect backdrop for the finish line.
In the men’s race, Micah Howard was out of the water first for CU, but was quickly joined by Ryan Ignatz in their pursuit of the leaders two minutes ahead on the bike course. Travis Macy made quick use of his powerful lungs and quick K2 bike to put himself into the race. Out on the run course, Travis displayed for everybody why he used to compete for the nationally ranked CU Cross Country team as he ran his way to the top of the men’s field. Ryan, continued to move up within the ranks, striding his way to the finish line. Kirk Nelson used his steady abilities to round out the CU scoring.
For the women, freshman and triathlon newbie Melissa Maxey headed out of the water first for CU, followed quickly by Sunny Gilbert and Rachel Klein. Out on the bike portion of the race over three minutes behind the leaders, Sunny set about weaving her way through the field to catch the leaders. Freshman Alexandra Forest was also on the move, using her skills as a cyclist to regain ground in the field. Into the run in 5th place, Sunny, a former member of MU’s track team pounded her way into a solid third place. Cindy Copeland, a marathoner and running specialist, made good to finish strong after suffering from a virus the previous week. Alex, also a strong runner continued her assault on the field to aid the women.
In the end, Travis Macy broke into the top 10 of a very competitive field with a smoking bike and run leg, followed by teammates, Ryan Ignatz (13th) and Kirk Nelson (17th) to round out the men’s scoring. Sunny Gilbert cruised to third place for the women, coming from behind with a 20.9 mph bike ride, leading Cindy Copeland (12th) and Alex Forest (25th) through the most competitive field that these championships has ever seen. Sunny also qualified for the World University Games Triathlon to be held in Palma de Mallorca, Spain on July 3, 2004.
When the heat cooled off and the blazing sun had sunk below the level of the lake, the University of Colorado was once again declared the National Collegiate Champions for the third time in a row and the ninth time overall, ahead of the University of California, Berkley and the University of Montana. The women again dominated the field in first and the men finished an extraordinary second to seal the victory.