Tri-ing in the mud
XTERRA race grows in second running
LAKE PLACID - The dirty Ironman.
That's how one local spectator described Sunday's second XTERRA Triathlon race held Sunday in the village of Lake Placid.
In an event that saw its number of competitors double to more than 200 in just one year, triathletes took to the water, trails and roads on a wet, muddy day in the Olympic Village for an event that is becoming popular worldwide.
Sunday's XTERRA featured both a long and short course triathlon competition, and for the second straight year, Vermont's Matt Boobar was the fastest overall finisher. The 37-year-old from Stratton Mountain came back to defend his title, and came through with a wider margin of victory this time on a long course that featured a 1,500-yard swim, a mountain bike trail ride of nearly 20 miles and a 10-kilometer trail run.
The race began in Mirror Lake, with the transition and finish areas set up on the Olympic Speedskating Oval. Both the bike and run legs of the XTERRA passed through the backwood trails of Lake Placid, and due to the steady rain, conditions were wet and muddy, which forced competitors to be extra careful on their bikes and on their feet.
Boobar, a veteran of 50 Xterra events, said he liked the fact the bike course was considerably longer than the one used during the race a year ago.
"Mountain biking is my background, so I actually used the wet conditions to my benefit," said Boobar, who came to Lake Placid after completing a seven-stage, 400-kilometer mountain bike race in the Canadian Rockies a week ago. "I wasn't sure how I would feel after just finishing that stage race, but I feel great. I like the fact that they made the bike course longer. It's more in tune with the swim and run legs.
"I came back to defend my title for sure," Boobar added. "I learned a big lesson from a year ago. Last year, I was in the lead and let up a little bit. I nearly lost it. I won by eight seconds. This year, I wasn't going to let off the gas."
Boobar crossed the finish line in the Olympic Speedskating Oval in 3 hours, 24 minutes and 59 seconds to claim the win. The men's second-place overall finisher was Queensbury's Mike Wynn, who broke the tape in 3:32:19, and third place went to Kevin Bouchard-Hall of Jay, who was the fastest area triathlete, finishing in 3:34:29.
Valerie Hardin, of Doylestown, Pa., was the first overall female finisher, completing in the rugged course in 4:47:36. She was 49th overall on the long course.
Boobar and Hardin each earned $500 for their victories.
Bloomingdale's Douglas Hazelden continued his successful season as an endurance athlete going. After winning the King of the Mountain crown earlier this summer as the top overall combined men's finisher in the annual Whiteface Uphill run and bike ride, he decided to try the XTERRA Triathlon for the first time. With his wife Mindy greeting him at the finish line, Hazelden captured first place on the long course in the 50-54 men's division.
"I wanted to give it a try, and I'm happy I did," Hazelden said. "Conditions were tough, but I made it through. Sections of the bike course were a river of mud. It was a real maze, and it was easy to lose traction."
Placing 21st overall, Hazelden finished in 4:10:22.
Colin Delaney of Lake Placid also had a solid showing, despite breaking the seat on his bike. Fortunately, Delaney was able to borrow a mountain bike from a friend and took the title in the men's 19-and-under division. He also finished 11th overall in 3:56:23. Not far behind Delaney was fellow Placidian Jeff Erenstone, who was 16th overall in 4:00:54.
For many competitors, the goal was just to reach the finish line, but some of them were rewarded with first-place medals in their respective age groups anyway. One such triathlete was Saranac Lake's Karl Zaunbrecher, who did the Xterra for the first time and took on the short course, which was about half the distance of the long course.
The 57-year-old Zaunbrecher had been training on the course prior to Sunday's race, but still crossed the finish line in a great deal of pain. He won the short course men's 55-59-year-old division, finishing in 3:42:08.
"I could have done that course backwards with my eyes closed," Zaunbrecher said. "It was hard but a lot of fun. I was just doing this to survive, and fortunately, I did. The bike course was brutal, but I wasn't going to quit. They would have had to drag my sorry carcass off the course before I gave up. I know one thing - if I do this again, I need a better mountain bike."
Felix Hudon of Quebec took top men's overall honors on the short course, winning in 1:59:30. Fellow Quebec resident Christiane Bouchard won the women's overall title and placed fifth overall with a 2:27:01 finish time.
Cincinnati's Daniel Noguera also attempted the XTERRA for the first time. With a companion, Noguera made the trip with a friend from Ohio to race, and almost decided not to enter the race after checking out the mountain bike course on Friday. But after picking up some tips in a seminar Saturday, he decided to race and wound up surprised after winning the men's 30-34 age group title, finishing in 3:17:07.
"I'm so glad I decided to give this a try," Noguera said. "When I was heading down those stairs looking at the finish line, I was the happiest man in the world."
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