Triathlons a family affair for Napiers



Swimming 400 meters in a pool, riding a bike 12.4 miles and then going on a 3.1-mile run is just another family outing for the Napiers.

Seven members of the Napier family participated in Socorro’s 16th Annual Chile Harvest Triathlon on Saturday, Aug. 1, including a three-generation relay team made up of family patriarch Peter, daughter Jenny and grandson Joshua.

Technically, Jenny and Joshua are Gonzaleses, but there’s Napier in their blood.

Triathlons are in their blood, too, as it’s a sport the whole family enjoys.

Tri-generational triathletes

This is the third year the trio has tried the triathlon as a relay team, with Jenny leading it off in the pool, Peter peddling the bike and Joshua finishing with the running leg.

The trigenerational team held its own, and placed fourth out of six coed teams entered in the relay.

“We didn’t quite place this year, but it was still a lot of fun,” said Peter, age 63. “Our goal is to keep doing three generations. We can probably go at least nine more years, if I can hold it together.”

The three-generation team could undergo a lineup change next year.

“This one’s getting too big,” Peter said with a nod to Joshua, his 11-year-old grandson. “He’ll be off doing it on his own pretty soon. But there’s more coming up.”

Lynette and Peter Napier’s son, Matt, has five kids, two of which were old enough to compete individually; and another son, James, would have been in Soccoro on Saturday but he and his wife, Melinda, were in Albuquerque tending to a newborn.

“There’s a lot more coming along,” Peter said.

All in the family

Lynette and Peter Napier met and married in New Zealand. After a brief stint in Virginia, the couple moved to New Mexico in 1975, when Peter was assigned to work at the newly constructed Very Large Array in western Socorro County.

“We’ve been here a long time and really like it,” said Lynette, who’s employed by Presbyterian Health Services.

While Peter was active in sports in school, Lynette said she didn’t get interested in running until she was 30, about the time Matt was born. She’s kept it up and added swimming and bicycling to her regimen. She and her husband have participated in the Chile Harvest Triathlon on and off since its inception 14 years ago.

“I’ll keep doing it until I’m 70; then I’ll think again,” said Lynette, who won the women’s 60-64 age division.

The Napiers passed on their healthy habits to their kids, who grew up playing sports and were standout athletes at Socorro High School.

“I guess we kept them busy and out of trouble by keeping them active in sports,” Lynette said.

All-American Boy

At 32, Matt Napier is in peak physical condition and is the family’s star triathlete.

A two-time state runner up in the 3,200-meters while attending SHS, Matt went on to become a cross country All-American at the University of Colorado.

“After I finished school, I gained a lot of weight and realized I needed something more than just running, so I started training for triathlons. Physiologically my body is made for the sport,” said Matt, who plans to compete in the grueling Ironman Hawaii Triathlon – considered the sport’s world championship – in October.

Ironman competitors swim more than 4 miles in the open sea, cycle more than 100 miles and finish with a 26-mile marathon. To finish is one thing; to be competitive at it is even tougher.

“Ironman is definitely a sport you build on year to year,” said Matt, who completed his first Ironman event in 2007.

To prepare for Hawaii, Matt squeezes about 12 hours of training into each week.

“A typical day for me starts at 4:15 (a.m.) to get in a couple of hours (of training) before work,” said Matt, who designs satellites for Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque. “I do a lot of early morning workouts so it doesn’t impact the family, and I do it with the family. It’s a great family sport.”

Matt credits his family for helping make him a better triathlete.

“I have a great support team with my wife, Erin – she’s the key to the whole puzzle – and the kids,” Matt said, and added that his children often help keep him hydrated by handing him water during races.

That wasn’t the case on Saturday, though. His son, Alec, 14, and daughter, Abi, 11, competed in the Chile Harvest Triathlon on their own and – not surprisingly – they each won their age division.

The three youngest stayed home with mom.

Winning Isn’t Everything

After deciding that he was going to get serious about the sport, Matt chose his hometown triathlon to be his first.

“Back then, I was chasing the Montoya brothers around,” he said of Michael, Danny and Steven Montoya, who placed first, second and fifth, respectively, at the 2006 Chile Harvest Triathlon.

This year – his fourth Chile Harvest event – Matt was chasing Paul Ward and Shane Cleveland around the Socorro course. Matt finished third overall, in a time of 58 minutes, 9 seconds.

That was 2:06 off Ward’s winning pace and a little more than a minute behind Cleveland, but Matt wasn’t sweating it.

“I’m in the middle of Iron Man training and this is completely different,” he said. “This is all out. If you want to be competitive, you have to go all out from the gun … This one lasts less than an hour; an Iron Man takes nine or 10 hours, so it’s completely different.”

Although he didn’t come away the winner, Matt enjoyed the trip back to his hometown and getting a chance to spend some quality time with his family.

“I like low-key races like this, and Socorro puts on a neat triathlon,” he said. “You can come here, have fun and do it as a family. For me, this race is less about winning and more about family.”