Community steps in to help triathlete who lost everything in Boulder fire – Triathlete

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Emily Thompson never received a call to evacuate. In fact, when a huge wildfire hit her hometown of Louisville, Colorado on Wednesday, Dec. 30, the 45-year-old triathlete’s sight was not that of smoky skies. Completely off the grid on a boat in Belize, she was surrounded by endless blue ocean and fluffy clouds. There was a light breeze – nothing like the 100 mph winds that whipped the fire into a frenzy in the Boulder County foothills. While her neighbors frantically grabbed what they could, Thompson had no idea what was going on at her house.

Her fiancé, Stefan Kienle, was also not at home. He was teaching on the slopes of Beaver Creek Mountain, which the former varsity skier always does the week between Christmas and New Years. As friends and family began calling and texting, his phone was silent, oblivious of the Marshall fire which eventually destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the cities of Louisville and Superior.

When Kienle finally learned that their home was no longer standing, he found some comfort in the fact that he had brought their two dogs to work with him.

Kienle texted Thompson hoping she would read his text before hearing the news. “He texted me just asking me to call him when I was back on the grid to let him know when my flight arrived. Typical Stefan,” she said. “He didn’t want to upset me. until I need to be upset.”

It wasn’t until the Sunday after the fire (three days later) that Thompson even knew what had happened. Finally within cell range, her phone rang with texts and phone messages from friends and family to see if she was okay. “The first thing I did was call Stefan,” she said. “All I cared about was that he and the dogs were safe. It really didn’t strike me at all that I had lost all my material history – my college journals and my wife’s jewelry. mother and my grandmother.

But soon after returning to Colorado, the loss finally started to hit. A catalog flashed through their heads as the two began the process of insurance paperwork. There were external hard drives and pre-iPhone photos. Sentimental work of Kienle’s mother, who died at the beginning of December. And, of course, lots and lots of triathlon and outdoor gear. Everything was gone.

Among those things was “Justin,” Thompson’s 2010 Cervelo S2 that she rode for the 13 Ironmans she had completed. “I got really sad when I thought about not riding Justin in Kona in October,” she said, where she earned a Legacy spot on the Big Island. “It took me almost 12 years to find what works for me,” Thompson said of all his gear. “I’m a little heartbroken, he won’t be joining me at the big ball!” »

More than a decade ago, a doctor suggested that being more active could help alleviate sleep problems and ongoing stress. “Next thing I know I was running, then I was cycling,” she said. After two years of riding an ill-fitting bike, Thompson splurged on his first new bike, Justin. “Justin made cycling painless and was about having fun and giving me the freedom to escape New York,” she said.

Trying to figure out how she could get a new bike now, in a market already plagued by low inventory and high demand, Thompson turned to a Facebook group, EnduranceGirl Colorado. “I just asked the group to keep an eye out for a used Cervelo bike in my size,” she said. An anonymous endurance athlete and trainer, along with a few other donors, instead came together to find Thompson a replacement bike within days and to cover the cost of purchasing it. “I can’t believe how wonderful everyone has been,” she said.

It will take a few rides on the Cervelo S3 before she can give it a name, she said. But naming her new bike will be “therapeutic”, she thinks, much like the sport of triathlon itself.

To add another hurdle to the duo’s challenges, Kienle recently tested positive for COVID-19. Thompson’s tests have so far come back negative and they’ve taken precautions, but it’s also made it harder to view local rental properties that are already in high demand. And insurance must approve a rental before money is distributed for expenses; a recent rental they applied for in Boulder failed. In the meantime, they sleep in separate bedrooms in their short-term condo in Breckenridge, wearing N95 masks even inside their temporary living space.

With all this, it was difficult to resume any training. Still, Thompson said it was a key part of processing his thoughts and the arduous task of starting over. She said she could see her personality starting to degrade after spending so much time riding and running. “I’ve led a very lovely life, so I can’t say I’ve had too many really tough times in the past,” she said. “But cycling and running have been my proven therapy and help me maintain a positive frame of mind.”

Just talking openly and freely about the experience motivated her to go out for a run last week. While the dogs were happiest going out for an activity, she and Kienle couldn’t deny how much better they felt walking out the door. “I felt tired, but it was really good to do something normal again,” she said, dressed in gear that was all donated by friends and teammates through Revolution Running and Runners Roost. “Especially this week, I’ve become more aware of the importance of being active for my overall well-being.”

Thompson and Kienle will run the Austin 3M Half Marathon on Jan. 23. They also plan to compete in the local Stroke and Stride series in Boulder this summer. And then Thompson will race 70.3 Oregon in July in preparation for his Kona debut on the new bike.

On a recent trip to sift through the ashes of their home, Thompson was able to find what was left of Justin. The once red and white carbon fiber bike is now just blacked out remains, with only a bit of the cassette and chain discernible.

Thompson holds the charred remains of his old bike (left) next to the new bike the community helped outfit him. Only one plate remains.

The two are also planning their wedding next August, but are unsure whether they plan to rebuild in the space where their home once stood or start over. No matter what, they are incredibly grateful for the support they have received, from offers of accommodation and meals to equipment and time off. They know they want to be close to friends and close to comforting, familiar bike paths and running tracks. The best way, they said, to show their gratitude is to pass it on and reach out to help everyone else who lost everything that day. “There are so many families who were underinsured, and we ask that you help others by donating to the general fire relief fund,” Thompson said.

You can donate to Boulder County Wildfire Fund to help families affected by the Marshall Fire.

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