For much of her life as a triathlete, Michelle Mehnert has been racing from behind.
But not this year.
Mehnert won the Olympic-distance USA Triathlon collegiate national title earlier this month, with a comfortable lead out front.
Before this year, the University of Colorado graduate student had no hills to ride on. She grew up in Champaign, Ill., home to the University of Illinois -- a lot of cornfields and not much triathlon culture. Mehnert bought her first bike at a garage sale, then cobbled together her second from busted bikes left on campus over summer break when she was 15.
As an undergraduate at Illinois, Mehnert swam for the school's Division 1 varsity team for four years, which pushed triathlon to the back burner for much of the year.
And then there were nagging heart palpitations and arm pain that caused her to bomb during races, symptoms that no coach had ever identified as something serious. She'd wake up from naps, her heart racing at 180, 200 beats per minute. The summer before her senior year at Illinois, she learned about a heart defect that caused her body's engine to sputter during races, she said, and would lead to a stroke at age 25 if not addressed.
So Mehnert fixed her broken heart, left the Midwestern cornfields for Boulder's Flatirons and worked several jobs while going to school to buy a new bike.
Now, after her national title win, she's coming to terms with racing at the front of the pack.
Read more here.
Maybe you're worried about gaining that dreaded freshman 15, or maybe you were a die-hard soccer player in high school but couldn't convince David Beckham to scout your games.
Either way, CU's got you covered with intramural and club sports on campus. Don't want to play? You can also live vicariously through the Buffs' many talented varsity athletes or cheer them on with the student section, or C-Unit.
Intramural sports are the most casual way to play organized sports at CU. Teams in the intramurals program play other CU teams -- it's only CU students versus CU students. You can play all the classics, like three-on-three basketball, ice hockey, football and soccer through CU's intramural sports programs. But you can also try your hand at sports like broomball, innertube water polo, wiffleball and rock, paper, scissors (yes, that's really an intramural sport.)
Fall registration takes place the first week of September, and winter sport registration usually happens during the third week of January. Spring sport registration takes place the first week of March. You can even play during the summer if you plan to stick around campus. Visit http://colorado.edu/recreation/intramuralsports/sports.html for official registration dates, more information, or to join a team.
If you're a player or two short, the intramural office has created this nifty CU Intramural Free Agent Facebook group (https://facebook.com/groups/48881459083/) to help you fill out your roster. You can even come up with a clever team name, like "Ball So Hard University" (basketball) and "Sweepin' it Classy" (broomball) to shout from the huddle when you win.
Club sports requires slightly more commitment than intramurals. These teams employ part-time coaches and schedule practices that members are encouraged to attend. Club sports teams compete against other schools across the country, too.
There are more than 30 club sports to choose from like baseball, cycling, equestrian, fencing, lacrosse, swimming and more.
CU is well known for competitive club programs -- the triathlon club team has won 14 national titles, including four in the past four years. The CU club swim team has won seven national titles, most recently during the 2012-2013 season, and the CU freestyle club ski team won both the men's and women's national titles last year. And there are more, too.
You get the idea. Buffs are athletic.
For more information about club sports: http://colorado.edu/recreation/clubsports/index.html.
Your odds of playing for the Buffs are pretty slim, but you can help out by cheering them on.
Though the football team had a rough season last year (they finished the 2012-2013 season 1-11, ouch), the men's basketball team made it to the second round of the 'Big Dance,' or NCAA tournament. The CU ski team won its 19th national title last winter, too.
You can help by hanging out with the C-Unit, CU's loud and vivacious student section, which shows up to most sporting events on campus.
CU's move to the Pac-12 Conference in 2011 and the men's basketball team's successes have given the student section new life in recent years. Basketball player Spencer Dinwiddie has even referenced the deafening roar and atmosphere created by the C-Unit when talking about factors that led to Buffs wins.
Here's how to join your fellow Buffs in the C-Unit. Step one: obtain black and gold paint, apply liberally to body. Step two: cover any other body parts with Buffs apparel. Step three: locate other similarly dressed people in the crowd. Step four: stand next to them, cheer loudly, jump up and down and sometimes hold a photo of a giant, floating head of a player above your head.
Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.