Only ticks of a second after the starting gun fired, a field of 120 gutsy weekend warriors were off on a morning-long odyssey that would take them on a 50-yard swim, 15-mile bike ride and a 5K run.
That’s not the way most people dream of enjoying a leisurely Saturday morning, but these hearty athletes turned out to test their spirit, strength and endurance in the Town of Payson-hosted Sprint Triathlon held June 11 at Taylor Pool, Rumsey Park and local streets.
Competing in sunny, about 70-degree weather, it took all the entrants more than an hour to finish all three events and stake claim to have competed in one of the most trying endeavors in amateur athletics.
Brian Folts, the winner of the 2010 Payson Sprint Triathlon, ran, swam and peddled his way to the men’s overall championship, finishing in 1:00.54.
His time represented an improvement over the 1:04.18 he posted in claiming the triathlon gold two years ago.
Among the women on Saturday, Shawna Folts defended her 2011 championship finishing first in 1:17.55. In winning the 2011 event, Folts turned in an ET of 1:17.49.
Folts won the 2012 title on her cycling ability, finishing first over the course in a time of 44:08 that was about four minutes faster than women’s runner-up Jeanine Schmidt.
Folts was 10th in the swim and seventh in the run.
Brian Folts turned in an impressive all-around effort, taking second in the swim, first in the bike ride and second in the run.
Like Shawna, Brian used the bike competition to nail down the crown, finishing in 36:46 — almost five minutes faster than men’s runner-up Zack Chupa of Tonto Basin.
Just last week, Chupa was first overall in the Mountain High Games 5K cross country run.
In the triathlon, Chupa struggled in the swim, finishing 16th but was second in the bike ride and third in the run.
Mark Green, competing in the 40-49 years age group, caught almost everyone’s attention by turning in the fastest time in the 5K run. His clocking of 15:52 set an event record and eclipsed Brian Folts’ time by about a full minute.
Bob Young, a Valley area resident and newspaper sports reporter who maintains a home in Payson, turned in his second successive standout showing, finishing second in the 50-59 years men’s division. Young did especially well in the 5K, covering the course in 21:24.
Just last week, Young was fourth in the Mountain High Games 5K event.
In the 60-69-years age division, local plumber, businessman and mountain biking cyclist Charlie Hall turned in a 1:36.14 to add a gold medal to his collection.
Penny Nicholas won the women’s 60-69-years title in 2:53.24.
Among the younger set, Dannika Nileson was first in the 15-19 years girls division and Steven Kuluris was tops in the 15-19-years boys division.
The team competition drew a triathlon-record nine teams and was won by the Outlaw Tri Club in 1:10.57.
We Relay Tri Hard was timed in 1:22.37 and was second.
Schwind founds first
The Payson Sprint Triathlon has its roots in 2006 when then Town Parks and Recreation Director Bill Schwind hosted the first-ever competition in the Rim Country.
At the conclusion of the inaugural event, Schwind called it an overwhelming success and promised he would begin plans for it to become a highlight of the summer sports scene.
Although Schwind resigned two years later, his successors have continued to host the competition.
Triathlons, which originated in Hawaii but now take place all over their world, include a 2.4-mile swim, 110-mile bike ride and a full 26.1-mile marathon. Shorter “sprinting” triathlons, like the ones in Payson, are among the fastest-growing and most popular sporting events in the country. They typically cover about a quarter of the distances of the longer marathons. Although the prefix “tri” means three, triathlons actually consist of five events, the swim, transition from swim wear to bike gear (T-1), the cycling, transition from cycling to running (T-2) and the run. There are now several books, Web sites and magazines devoted to helping novice athletes prepare and practice for the three portions of the race as well as the transitions. The simplest training schedule and one recommended by many seasoned athletes is to alternate training days — run, bike, swim, run, bike, swim and rest on the seventh day.