It's hard to miss Cameron Dye.
His shockingly white-blonde hair, now a mass of long spiral curls, has been poking out from under either a swim cap or bike helmet since he was a 15-year-old Fairview High student competing in, and winning, his age group for his first triathlon, the Boulder Peak Triathlon.
Now, at 28, Dye is back in Boulder for good, returning to his hometown to train and live as a professional triathlete with his wife Natalie and young son Liam. Last year, Dye won six races, a triathlon feat almost unheard of -- and an even harder one to repeat, Dye said. For his six-win in the 2012 season, Dye was named the 2012 Non-Olympic/ITU Triathlete of the Year by USA Triathlon.
Dye credits his success to years of hard work, miles on the bike, on the road and in the pool, and a newfound happiness after all the pieces of his life, including the birth of his son Liam in September 2011, came together.
"I'm actually living the dream," he said. "Last year and going into this year -- it's what I pictured in my head when I was 15 and wanted to be a pro triathlete. This is what I was trying to accomplish. And now it's real."
Dye, who's in his sixth year racing professionally, left Boulder after high school to swim for the University of Iowa, where he graduated in 2006 with a finance degree. He moved back to Boulder, where he met his wife Natalie, a fellow Fairview High alum, though the two never interacted in high school, Dye said. He went back to working with his high school club swim coach, Grant Hollicky, and helped form a triathlon training group under Boulder-based APEX Coaching's Neal Henderson.
Settling down in Boulder means Dye has an extensive support network for his family and burgeoning career. His son Liam, who turns 2 in September, has a few extra "uncles" because of the close-knit triathlon training group, Dye said, and his mom, Kathleen "Kit" Dye has made a tradition of having his family over for dinner every Sunday night, she said.
When Henderson was racing professionally, he remembers seeing Dye and wondering about his future in the sport.
"I saw this kid with white hair who swam incredibly fast and ran well," Henderson said. "I remember thinking, 'That could be interesting in the future.'"
Henderson said he credits Dye's success last season to years -- even decades -- of training that started when Dye was young. Dye started swimming at age 8, and ran cross-country in high school, which contributed to the "years of progressive work" that Henderson sees as Dye's foundation.
The two work well together because they have a mutual understanding of what it means to train and race professionally, while juggling the responsibilities of being a dad and husband, Dye said.
For Dye, having a family helps him push harder during a race, or keep suffering during a difficult workout. Natalie and Liam are the "ultimate motivators," Dye said.
"You have great days, you have bad days, but that's the one constant," he said. "It makes it really easy to go work hard. If you're having a bad workout, it's really easy to think, 'Well, I have to take care of my son, I should probably work harder.' Certainly it's beneficial. I'm happier. It's one more thing -- my life is more fulfilled."
Before his standout 2012 season, Dye said his "calling card" was being the only Boulder born-and-bred professional triathlete. His recent wins gave him an even sturdier reputation, he said.
Topping his 2012 season will be a challenge, Dye said, so his focus is to win the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship, one of the biggest races of the year, especially during a non-Olympic year. He finished No. 20 in 2011 and No. 21 in 2012.
Already this season, Dye competed at the Ironman 70.3 Auckland race in New Zealand. He finished No. 13 at a distance that's twice as long as his specialty, Olympic or standard distance races (0.93 mile swim, 25 miles cycling, 6.2 mile run).
Regardless of how this season goes, Dye is proud to represent Boulder and of his heritage, and said that without pros like Tim DeBoom and Simon Lessing living in Boulder to look up to when he was young, he might not be racing today.
"I take great pride in it," he said. "It's just kind of one of the things Boulder is known for -- super fit people and triathlon and that identity -- and I think it's part of who I am and the way I am."
--Follow Sarah Kuta on Twitter: @SarahKuta.