Published: March 1, 2017 By

Laura Knoblach

As Tough as They Come 

Even in Boulder, Laura Knoblach (Span’16; Edu’17) stands out among endurance athletes. The CU Boulder senior, 22, competes in Anvil Triathlons — races two and three times the length of a full Ironman — while managing schoolwork, a bike shop job and certain memories she’d rather forget.

The Boulder Ironman in 2015 was your first triathlon. You know they do sprint triathlons and half Ironmans, right?

Yeah, that was not a good idea. I had never done an open-water swim before with a bunch of people. It was terrifying. I think the swims on these longer (anvil) races are easier because you don’t have to deal with 3,000 people getting in the water, all clamoring for a spot.

How many people competed in the Double or Triple Anvil races you were in?

The Double was under 20 and the Triple was nine, I think.

How many hours a week do you spend training?

It depends. For the double in March [‘16] I had a crazy class schedule. I was working and I was taking a full load of credits and, since I’m an Ed student, I had a practicum component where I was in a school for 10 hours a week. So I trained one day a week or two days a week. Every Saturday I would bike 150-200 miles and then I would go on a run afterward. I just made sure every Saturday I was out. I went out one time and it was 20 degrees, my water bottles froze and I had broken my arm that January, so I was biking with a broken arm. I had no idea how to train for something like this.

What’s the worst part of training?

It got lonely when I was training for the Double because I would do all these long bike rides alone. I would end up just calling people, I would have one earbud in and I would just call my friends. Thankfully in Colorado there’s a higher population of ultra people, so for the Triple I ended up training with people almost the entire time. There was a group of us that did two or three all-nighter workouts together. It sounds terrible, but it was really fun because we brought a bunch of pizza and coffee to 24-Hour Fitness and just hung out all night long riding on our bike trainers.

Is there any point during an Anvil race that you sleep or take breaks?

You can rest all you want, but the clock is still running.

What is the farthest distance you’ve run at one time?

In the Double I ran 46 of the 52.4 miles and that’s the farthest that I’ve run before.

What about biking?

Probably the 336 I did in the Triple.

How do you stay mentally focused during a long race?

Stopping can’t be an option. Quitting the race can’t be an option. You can’t let your mind go there, otherwise, once you go there, once you think, ‘I could stop right now, I could be done with this,’ you probably will.

What were you thinking when you crossed the finish line in the Triple Anvil in Virginia?

I was honestly just glad it was over.

What made you decide to raise money to fight sex trafficking through your racing?

I was molested for a little over 10 years growing up. When I came to college, I ended up getting involved with Empathy Week on campus, and there was a club on campus called CU Students Against Modern Day Slavery that worked with iEmpathize, a local nonprofit. I found out that a crazy number, a crazy percentage of girls who run away in the U.S. are trafficked. I think it’s 1 in 7 within 48 hours. And it kind of hit home, ‘that could have been me.’ And then I found out that my hometown was a huge hub of sex trafficking and I was like, ‘Oh, okay, so if my situation had been a little different, that literally could have been me, that could have been my life.’ It makes you care.

Is there anything you’d like to try, to push your limits?

I’d really like to do an ultramarathon, like a 100K or a 100-miler. Someday.

Condensed and edited by Jennifer Osieczanek.

Photo by Patrick Campbell