Triathletes Overcome Challenges to Compete in Ordinary Mortals

by | May 1, 2004 | News Articles

May, 2004 Fit to be Tied Column

From the Pueblo Chieftain
by Gary Franchi


Triathletes Overcome Challenges to Compete in Ordinary Mortals

In the world of triathlon, merely competing can be considered more important than the quest to excel. Being part of the pursuit of multi-sport training has more than just health benefits and often includes overcoming formidable obstacles.

Two Colorado Springs competitors in the women’s field in this Saturday’s Ordinary Mortals Triathlon know something about learning to overcome. For them, it will be more about trying to do their best under the circumstances.

Marcia Barber and Tracey Levenson are meeting challenges that most wouldn’t even attempt.

Barber, a 49-year-old single mom of daughters who are 12 and 14 years of age, is legally blind and requires a guide to compete and to train. Rather than dwell on the limitations that her Retinitis Pigmentosa condition has imposed, she remains positive and is happy just to have training partners who will do what’s necessary to accommodate her special needs.

“If I have the opportunity to do things, I usually say yes,” Barber said. “To me, exercise is huge – it’s a major de-stressor. It’s important to always do the best you can no matter what you do.”

During the swim, Barber has such limited range of vision that, while she can see the black line at the bottom of the lane, she can’t see the swimmer in front of her. She counts strokes to know when she is at the end of the lane.

Because of Barber’s condition, she will be in an end lane for the 525-meter swim, but her 11:30 predicted time indicates she’s a good swimmer. Her guide, Aaron Rosenthal, will be there to hold her elbow and lead her to the transition area when she exits the pool at the Pueblo Regional Center in Pueblo West.

She and Rosenthal will ride a tandem bike for the 12-mile bicycle leg and, yes, she’ll have the rear seat. Her guide will again lead her through the second transition to the 3-mile run that they will run side by side.

Barber had normal vision early in life but developed night blindness early and has had deteriorating eyesight since she was about 30 years old. She now has 20/400 vision.

Marcia has a journalism degree from the University of Northern Colorado and had jobs for a newspaper, in communications and for an ad agency before starting a desktop publishing business. That was before heR eyesight worsened, and she now is an elementary school secretary who uses special software that magnifies her work.

The Ordinary Mortals will be her fourth triathlon. She placed third in her age division of the Triple Trekker Triathlon in Colorado Springs last year.

Meanwhile, Levenson’s condition is just temporary, a “blip on the radar screen,” as she puts it. Tracey, who is doing her first triathlon in Colorado after moving here from Boston last year, is two weeks removed from a burst appendix.

“I’m just going to go to church and hope for the best,” she said with a laugh. “I’ll just do it for fun and enjoyment.”

Levenson, 40, has been involved in multi-sport training and competition for several years in the New England area. She has done approximately 20 triathlons, was the editor of an online website for multi-sport athletes and currently is the duathlon coordinator for USA Triathlon in the Springs.

While she will be pressed to compete at the level of her 10:00 predicted swim time that she turned before her appendicitis, she’s not too concerned with her finishing time and is more concerned about competing at altitude, which she still hasn’t gotten totally acclimated to although she’s lived her for a year.

“I’m not super fast anyway,” she said. “I do (triathlons) for my own enjoyment and I never win anything. I just always feel good afterward when driving home – you feel like you did something.”

Whatever your ability level, she pointed out, “it still takes a lot of training (to do a triathlon) and it promotes a healthy lifestyle.”

While the women’s race is full and will start at 6:45 a.m., the men’s field will begin at 7 p.m. on Sunday.

Race Director Ben Valdez of the YMCA could use additional volunteers. Those who can help can call him at 543-5151.


The poor weather that has plagued the Y-Bi Classic in several previous years did its biggest number ever on the event last month. Winds consistently in the 50mph range were deemed to be too dangerous for the biking leg, and YMCA race officials wisely cancelled the race. Because many of the competitors had traveled to the race from outside of Pueblo, a 5.5-mile run-only race was held instead, and 55 competitors stuck around to participate.


  • Cañon City native Hallie Janssen, previously featured in this column for her recent running exploits that included having qualified for and participated in the U.S. women’s Olympic marathon trials, is showcased in the new issue of Runner’s World magazine. Janssen is highlighted for her new-found running success following some dramatic changes in her training regimen.
  • Marv Bradley of Cañon City and Cheryl Cook-McCoy of Salida ran the Lincoln (Neb.) Marathon on May 2, and Marv, 65, topped 278 others in his age division with a sterling time of 3:47. Cheryl finished in 5:21 … Chief Reno of Pueblo ran the second marathon of his career, both this year, by finishing the Salt Lake City (Utah) Marathon is 4:01:24.
  • The limited-entry Pikes Peak Marathon scheduled for Aug. 22 is now 89 percent full. The two waves of the Ascent to be held the previous day have been full for almost two months.


  • The early deadline for area folks planning to run or walk in the Bolder Boulder 10K on Memorial Day (May 31) is May 16 The basic registration package is $32 with a T-shirt, $23 for the race-only package (no shirt) and $37 for the long-sleeved shirt package. Kids 14 and under seniors 60 and over get a 6-buck discount.
  • A homey, laid-back running experience close to Pueblo will take place on June 5 when the annual Run For Rio 5K run/walk is held at Rye High School. The race is held in memory of Rio Martinez, a Rye High multi-sport athlete who accidentally died in 1997. The beautiful course includes gently rolling hills through Rye neighborhoods at an altitude of 7,000 feet.

Upcoming Area Races

  • May 15 – Ordinary Mortals Triathlon for women, 525Mtr swim, 12M bike, 3M run, 6:45 a.m., Pueblo Regional Center in Pueblo West (543-5151).
  • May 16 – Ordinary Mortals Triathlon for men, 525Mtr swim, 12M bike, 3M run, 7 a.m., Pueblo Regional Center in Pueblo West (543-5151).
  • May 29 – Custer 2020 Run in the Valley, 6.25K run and 1M walk, 8:15 a.m., Westcliffe (877-793-3170).
  • June 5 – Run for Rio, 5K run/walk, 8 a.m., Rye High School (719-859-5136).
  • June 26 – Little Run on the Prairie, 5K run/2K walk, 7:30 a.m., Lovell Park in Pueblo West (547-3725).
  • July 3 – Women’s Distance Festival, 5K run/walk, 7:30 a.m., City Park (561-3343).

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