Last August, 52 triathletes from Columbia Multisport Club confidently went to Boulder, Colo., to compete in the USA Triathlon National Club Championship. They were so confident that they brought T-shirts and a banner declaring them national champions.
It was their first year at the competition, and they won Division I.
“They announced the winner and we ripped open the boxes,” said Mark Livesay, a CMC member.
Today, the club is back in Boulder to defend its championship.
CMC brought the biggest group of participants last year and expects to be one of the largest there again.
According to the race Web site, almost 1,600 participants and 36 club teams will take part in the race. Proceeds benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Clubs travel from as far as Wisconsin, Texas and California.
The clubs are divided into divisions; CMC is in the division with the most participants.
“We surprised everyone last year with the number of people we brought,” Livesay said. “We’ll be a pretty awesome spectacle again.”
Forty-three members of the 300-member club left Friday, making the trek to Boulder on two sleeper buses. The caravan also included a Ryder Truck loaded with bikes.
The race today begins with a 1500-meter swim, a 42-kilometer bike race including an incline two-thirds of a mile up Old Stage Hill follows, and a 10-kilometer run on the dirt roads and dams of the Boulder Reservoir completes the race.
“For the club, it’s the biggest race of the year,” said Joe Bechtold, president of the Columbia club. “It’s kind of like our Super Bowl, but for individuals, some people have bigger races.”
Mark Livesay and his wife, Amy, are traveling to the championship for the second time but have also traveled overseas to compete in Germany, Brazil and Hawaii.
“We’re going to have to work pretty hard to win,” Amy Livesay said. “We’re taking less people and hoping and hoping more people will place in their age group.”
Clubs score half of a point for every person who finishes the race. If an athlete places in his or her respective age division more points are earned for the club.
“We won because of how many people we brought,” Amy Livesay said.
All 52 of the CMC athletes who competed last year finished.
“We’re bringing stronger triathletes the year,” Bechtold said. “Four or five people have a good chance of placing in their age division.”
The big difference between training in Missouri and competing in Colorado is the altitude, 6,000 feet above sea level. That was not a problem for the Missouri competitors, though.
“I don’t think anyone found the altitude to be a problem,” Bechtold said. “It was Old Stage Hill that was the problem. It’s a notorious hill. The bike (race) is very difficult; other than that, it’s like most courses here in Missouri.”
Between races, CMC members use their online list serve to set up four or five independently organized training events a week, on top of the club-organized weekly bike time trials and biweekly “aquathons” that alternate swimming and running.
The club started 2 1/2 years ago. Experience levels and ages vary. The youngest member is 12, the oldest is 68.
“Our members run the whole gamut from professional triathletes right down to people who are competing just purely for fitness, fun and camaraderie,” Bechtold said.
CMC members are not too cocky about trying to secure back-to-back championships. Instead, they said they are looking forward to the spirit of competition.
“Winning last year felt pretty cool,” Bechtold said. “There is a little pressure to win again, but not a lot, because mainly the nature of the club championship is just finishing.”
Said Amy Livesay, “I think we can pull it out. We’ve got some people that will score some points, and everybody will finish because is what they’re going for.”