Ben Winterroth’s foray into biking began in 2006, when he decided to embark on an impromptu cross-country bike trip.
With little training, the Silver Spring man flew out to San Francisco with a friend and made it home seven weeks later with a new passion.
Since that time, Winterroth, 30, has competed in five Ironman competitions — a long distance triathlon — and dozens of shorter races, including the 2012 USA Triathlon Mid-Atlantic AquaBike Championship in Cambridge on June 10, where he took home the gold. The race consisted of a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride — what he calls his two strongest disciplines — in temperatures as high as 93 degrees with 88 percent humidity.
“I like going fast and just being outside on the bike — there’s nothing like it,” said Winterroth, who finished with a time of 2 hours, 40 minutes and 39 seconds, 10 minutes ahead of the next competitor. “It’s a great way to see the country, and it’s just one of those things that you slowly become addicted to.”
Winterroth said the seven weeks of biking across the country, 75 percent of which he traveled alone, made him realize he had a knack for the sport. He got into triathlons, a multi-sport race that includes biking, running and swimming, about three years ago when he became more competitive. Now he trains for about two hours every day, either swimming and biking or swimming and running.
His motivation, he said, lies in his desire to constantly improve.
“He had never been a runner as far as I ever knew and then one day he just said he was going to try a triathlon,” said Ben’s father, Chuck Winterroth of Bluffton, S.C. “His first major race was the half Ironman in Rhode Island. From that day forward, he devoted himself every day to all three disciplines.”
Steve Levickas, 46, of Woodstock has trained and competed with Winterroth about a half dozen times since 2010 when Levickas heard about him through the Mid-Maryland Triathlon Club, which they both participated in. Levickas said there are great perks that come with having a compatible training partner.
“He’s always looking to achieve that next level,” Levickas said. “Motivation is probably the biggest benefit because it is difficult to continue to go out by yourself and develop courses and go faster. We talk a lot of strategy — nutritional strategy, race day strategy [and] technical strategy.”
Winterroth will head to Kona, Hawaii, for the second time for the Ironman World Championship on Oct. 13 against the world’s strongest triathletes. Levickas said the terrain is not difficult, but elements like wind and heat make the race strenuous.
Still, Winterroth said thinking about the finish line is what has and will continue to inspire him.
“When you’re done, a part of you wishes you were still out there,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how hard a race was, you always have that feeling that you want to get back out there and get better, and push yourself even further.”