XTERRA Events Put Athletes to the Test
By Michael Lyle
Jay Heller, right, helps his 4-year-old son Blake with his bike outside their Henderson home on March 28. Heller, who is scheduled to compete in the XTERRA West Championship off-road triathlon April 25 at Lake Las Vegas, likes to get his family involved in his competitions. His wife and children have competed in the past.
It starts with a daunting swim across Lake Las Vegas and ends with a sprint across the finish line.
The 15th annual XTERRA West Championships returns to Lake Las Vegas April 24-25 for its second year to showcase the athleticism of local and national participants. On April 24, events include a 5K, 10K, half-marathon and XTERRA University, where people can get tips on how to improve training for races. April 25 is the championship race.
"I've been an avid XTERRA fan since its inception," said Jay Heller, a 42-year-old local athlete who has competed with XTERRA for 13 years. "I got addicted."
The course includes a 750-meter swim in Lake Las Vegas, a 15K mountain bike trail and a 5K run.
"It's not your typical triathlon," Heller said. "It has got that 'X' factor."
Heller has competed in XTERRA Championships, which began in 1996, since he first heard about it in 1997. Heller, who co-owns the real estate development and property management group Heller Companies with his father, was looking for ways to keep himself occupied outside of work. Since then, he has trained vigorously and traveled throughout the country to participate in XTERRA.
"I go to complete them, not compete in them," he said. "Hopefully, someday I will be more competitive, but it's probably when I'm older."
Heller has faced a number of challenges through the years, including flat tires and injuries. Last year, he competed with a cracked rib.
One of Heller's more serious injuries was a knee injury. He was training for an event and crashed his mountain bike. The injury put him out of commission for a couple of months.
However, Heller would count down the days until he could return to training and racing.
"I couldn't wait to start training again," Heller said. "It has become a big part of my life. Life is short so you have to make the best of it."
Even though Heller is an athlete, he is a family man first. He is more intentional and creative with interweaving workouts into his schedule.
"He is really great at balancing it all," said Laura Heller, Jay's wife. "He got up at 5 a.m. today to go for a swim so he could be back in time to help get the kids ready."
On occasion, he might sneak away for a long run on the weekends or a swim at 4:30 a.m. before his twin boys Blake and Charles, 4, and his daughter Elliana, 7, wake up.
"I do a lot of morning workouts before their heads get off the pillow," he said. "I even (bike) ride (to work) in the mornings then take a long way home after work," he said.
Heller also makes sure the family is part of the XTERRA experience. They travel with him to the competitions, and his wife also has ran some of the 5K races. His children have even competed in some of the age-specific events.
"I think it's great to do outdoors stuff together," Laura said. "It teaches our children about having a healthy lifestyle. It beats sitting around and playing video games all the time."
People still can register online for the Lake Las Vegas event at www.xterraplanet.com. The XTERRA half-marathon starts at 8 a.m. April 24, followed by the 10K at 8:05 a.m. and the 5K at 8:10 a.m. The XTERRA West Championship race starts at 8:30 a.m. April 25.
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