Tri-ing Hyalite - Crashes, scenery, experience all part of XTERRA off-road event
By WILL C. HOLDEN, Bozeman Daily Chronicle Sports Writer
Finishers at the XTERRA Wild Horse Creek Triathlon come in all shapes and sizes.
Considering the event takes place in the beautiful Hyalite Canyon and has a long course (1,200-yard swim, 16-miles mountain bike, six-mile trail run) and a short course (600-yard swim, seven-mile, three-mile trail run), the wide variety of participants seems only natural.
One group showed up in a souped up van bearing the name Team Muleterro, which claims to be "Montana's ultimate leaders of endurance sports." Others drove up in an Audi adorned with ballons and streams, "Just Married!" in their rearview mirror.
Some dive in Hyalite Reservoir head first to begin the swim. Others, like Marilynn Davis, from Wilson, Wyo., hang back to "avoid panic attacks" from the multitude of nearly 400 furiously kicking feet belonging to around 200 swimmers.
Some tear down the final stretch of the bike ride atop the reservoir's damn, some gut it out on two flat tires.
Changing from biking shoes into running shoes, one racer said, "I can't wait to get up on this trail." Another says, "I can't wait to her the 'pssst,'" referencing the sound of a beer being cracked open.
Some sprint across the finish line with washboard abs glistening in the sun. Others are covered in mud and bearing battle wounds, doing everything they can just to make it across.
Most gather their smudges, bumps and bruises from the mountain biking section, fairly unique to the 60 XTERRA triathlons that take place around the country and will culminate with the national finals in Ogden, Utah on Sept. 25.
Race director Scott Muir called this particular race's mountain biking section, which is marked by several large ruts and rocks at the beginning of the ride, "very technical."
"The long course has most of the roots and rocks and some of the climbing," Muir said. "The short course has a pretty easy up and a fun downhill. It's really a great course."
While Davis said the biking portion was indeed challenging, she picked up her own set of scraps and dirt from the trail run.
"I was daydreaming, thinking, 'I'm done, I'm done,' and crash, I went down on my face," Davis said. "It was on the last lap. I had my moment of crying, but then I pulled it together."
Davis, who has done the Wild Horse Creek race the past two years in addition to several across the country, including the Boulder (Colo.) Triathlon, was one of the more diminutive of the participants on the day. But there are those like Mike Chase, a 6-foot-6 Bozeman native who had to duck to get under the finish line.
It was Chase's first-ever triathlon. An avid mountain biker, Chase said he came across the race last year when he was kayaking on the reservoir.
"I was really interested," Chase said. "Just because it was kind of out in the wilderness and you weren't' running on a road somewhere. So I went after it. And now that I'm done, I can definitely say I wish I trained a little bit more. But it was a ton of fun. And now that I'm done, it feels great."
Simply crossing the finish line distinguished Davis and Chase from another kind of Wild Horse Creek participant: Those who aren't able to finish. Fatigue gets the best of some, injuries end the days of others. Muir said there were three of such injuries in this year's event. It was a higher rate than usual, Muir said, but then again, anything is possible in a race that his wife, fellow race director Karen Lefebre, called "an x-rated version of triathlon."
A parking lot wheelie ended those aspirations.
"I flipped off the back and broke my right wrist and probably sprained my left wrist," said Larsen, a former Montana State student who now resides in Park City, Utah who took sixth in the long course race in 2008. "I rode the first half of the course still and thought, 'Well, probably not the best idea.'"
Lucky for Larsen, he was in good company.
"Karen and Scott, the people who put this thing on, are incredible," Larsen said. "My first time, they had a pushup contest for a free pair of shoes among all the first timers after the race. It's usually the last thing you want to do after this race, but somehow it's still fun."
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