XTERRA Saipan

XTERRA On! Majors Abound This Weekend

Hundreds of amateurs and more than 50 of XTERRA’s fastest elite men and women will toe the start line at one of the three XTERRA championship races being held this weekend.

The “Crown Jewel” of XTERRA is in Saipan, the largest island of the Northern Mariana Islands. There’s a World Tour newcomer in Malta, the largest island in an archipelago in the central Mediterranean.  And Costa Rica, although technically not an island, certainly looks and feels like one.

Each will dish out amazing experiences on top of qualifying spots into the 20th XTERRA World Championship race in Maui to the fastest amateurs while elites chase cash and glory.

All three are bucket-list destinations for the adventure traveler … which one do you wish you were going to?

XTERRA SAIPAN – MARCH 28

The “original exotic” race on the XTERRA World Tour returns for the 14th year Saturday and Aussie Ben Allen and Austrian Carina Wasle are back on island to defend their titles.

Saipan is located in the middle of the Western Pacific Ocean, offering up azure colored water, a powder blue sky, light island breezes, and tropical 85-degree days prevail year-round providing the perfect venue for XTERRA.

“The relaxed island lifestyle allows you to unwind and just focus on the simple things in life,” said Allen, who has won the last three Saipan titles.

The place is so alluring that world-class athletes like Olivier Marceau and Renata Bucher make it an annual trek.

“It’s not an XTERRA season without a stay in Saipan,” said Bucher, a seven-time winner here.

It’s a great place to do some early season training, and always offers a classic road tri – the Tagaman – the weekend before or after. This year Tagaman was before XTERRA and won by Allen and Mieko Carey (Bucher was 2nd in the women’s race, Marceau 3rd in the men’s race).

In Saturday’s XTERRA, Allen will be up against XTERRA Philippines Champion Bradley Weiss from South Africa.

While Weiss got the better of Allen in Albay in February this year, Allen was almost 10-minutes faster than Weiss in Saipan last year.

After finishing second at his home race XTERRA South Africa Weiss has been dealing with a painful iliotibial band (IT band) issue that put him on the shelf for a few weeks but is grateful the rest seems to have been positive for him.

“XTERRA Saipan and Guam are races I look so forward to mostly because of the people I get to stay with, and the triathlon community these unique events draw each year,” said Weiss. “I am looking at the next few weeks as a building phase and will be training through most if not all of the races just to try and build my fitness again. I look forward to racing injury free again but I hold no illusions of my current form and know there is a long road ahead to full fitness.”

Other international elites in the mix include former XTERRA Japan Champion Takahiro Ogasawara, Philippines star Joe Miller, Markus Benesch from Austria, David Esposito from New Caledonia, and Aleksandr Dorovskikh from Russia.

In the women’s race last year’s champ, Wasle, will be up against the 2013 Saipan Champ Jacqui Slack from the UK, and the 2012 and 7x Champ Renata Bucher of Switzerland, Daz Parker from London, and local favorite Mieko Carey representing Saipan, Guam, and Japan.

XTERRA first ventured to Saipan in 2002, and 14-years later is still taking racers through caves where Japanese soldiers hid and fought from during the Battle of Saipan in 1944. The race starts on the same beach where Marines launched their attack, then the bike course traverses nearly every inch of the island where the battles took place.

“The dense jungle on island is forever challenging and there is always a hidden gem around every corner,” said Allen.

Triathlete Magazine called it one of the ‘World’s Best” races in 2011, and New York Times bestselling author Marty Dugard wrote about his adventures at XTERRA Saipan in his book, To Be A Runner.

There are a lot of reasons to love Saipan – the people, history, and adventurous course are a few, however, the most recurring comment you’ll hear when talking to alumni, “it’s so much fun.”

The XTERRA Tribe owes a huge debt of gratitude to the island locals who have embraced this race as their own, and particularly Eric Tydingco, who was born in Saipan and also produces the XTERRA Guam Championship. Tydingco has been instrumental in the sports success in the Western Pacific over the past decade, and has also been a force to be reckoned with at the after-parties as part of a band that has rocked the night away following XTERRA races in Saipan, Guam, and Maui races.

Josiah Middaugh

XTERRA COSTA RICA – MARCH 29

The second-running of the XTERRA Costa Rica Championship in Playa Conchal on Sunday will be without last year’s men’s winner Leo Chacon who is busy trying to make it to Rio and women’s winner Shonny Vanlandingham who retired.

There is no shortage of worthy candidates ready to stake their claim to the titles, however, as a star-studded field from around the world is in Central America to compete for the crown.

The men’s elite race includes XTERRA U.S. Pro Series champion Josiah Middaugh (pictured, second at XTERRA Worlds last year), the young-gun Mauricio Mendez from Mexico (5th at XTERRA Worlds last year), local stand-out Rom Akerson, America tour regulars Craig Evans (who will be celebrating his 37th birthday on Sunday) and Alex Modestou, as well as German representatives Nickolas Daimer and Sebastian Neef.

Last year Middaugh, Mendez, Akerson, Evans, and Neef finished 2nd through 6th, respectively.

Emma Garrard

The women’s race sees the return of two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson, who will have her work cut-out for her against the likes of XTERRA National Champion Emma Garrard, last year’s runner-up Christine Jeffrey, XTERRA newbie (but road tri vet) Sara McLarty, and Laura Mira Diaz from Brazil.

“I am beyond excited, it has always been on my bucket list of countries to visit,” said Garrard, who was recently named USA Triathlon’s Elite Off-Road Athlete of the Year. “I am bringing the family so I am just as excited to have some beach time and check out the wildlife as I am to race. Normally Vegas is my first race of the season so it will be great to have another race under my belt and see where I’m at compared to the other women.”

We asked Emma what her off-season has been like, and here is what she said…

“I feel like I take more of an off-season than most pro triathletes as mentally and logistically I cannot race 12 months a year. I have a two-year-old now so running intervals feels quite relaxing in comparison. I’ve taken on a year-round job as a coach for Park City Nordic so it’s been a lot of fun to inspire the next generation of endurance athletes. The winter in Park City has been mild which means I’ve done a lot more running, biking and swimming than usual. Although cross-country skiing is usually my secret off-season weapon, I did more mountain biking because the trails were dry. Despite the mild weather it was my first year since living in Park City I’ve had a season pass so I had more days telemark skiing than usual.”

As for the competition in the women’s race, Garrard says “Lesley always shows up at a race prepared to win and has shown she’s fit by her result in the Pro XCT last weekend. There will be some of the fastest swimmers in the sport there so I will have my work cut out for me to close the gap on the bike. Plus, there will be some local competitors who I’m sure are used to the humidity and know the course.”

Fans can watch all the action go down live with a streaming broadcast Sunday, March 29, starting at 6:45 a.m. MST on www.Teletica.com. Alternatively follow the links from http://www.costaricaxterra.com/ or Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TriatlonCostaRica?fref=ts

2014 XTERRA Costa Rica highlights

XTERRA MALTA – MARCH 29

The inaugural XTERRA Malta off-road triathlon on Sunday has attracted hundreds of athletes from 19 countries to the beautiful island nation in the Mediterranean.

As the first major on the XTERRA European Tour it’s a great chance for racers to collect some early points towards winning divisional titles and qualify for Maui at the same time. The elite field is strong and deep and will provide a good indication of who has done what in the off-season.

The men’s start list is highlighted by 2014 XTERRA Greece Champion Francois Carloni from France who finished third in the European Tour last year.

“I’m ready, but not sure to be the favorite,” said Carloni. “Brice Daubord trained hard, Nicolas Fernandez is a very good athlete, Roger Seranno looks good, and I never have topped Coddens.”

Daubord (FRA) finished 11th at XTERRA Worlds last year, Serrano (ESP) was in the mix at XTERRA South Africa last month where he finished third, and Coddens (BEL) was super impressive in his last race of 2014 when he placed runner-up to Conrad Stoltz at XTERRA England.

Others in the mix include Jan Pyott (5th on Euro Tour last year), Albert Soley (15th at Worlds last year), Clement Briere (former age group World Champ), and a cast of others featuring Henry Sleight (GBR), Jim Thijs (BEL), Tm Van Daele (BEL), Simone Calamai (ITA), Fabrizio Bartoli (ITA), Xavier Jove Riart (ESP), Arthur Serrieres (FRA), Rory Downie (GBR), Matt Dewis (GBR), Lars Van der Eerden (NED), and Fabien Combaluzier (FRA).

The women’s field features four racers who finished in the top 10 of the 2014 XTERRA European Tour standings including Brigitta Poor (HUN), Maud Golsteyn (NED), Louise Fox (GBR), Sandra Koblmueller (AUT), and Malta’s-own Danica Spiteri. Others in the mix include Jessica Roberts (GBR), Elisabetta Curridori (ITA), Nicole Olivari (ITA), and Karin Hansen (SUI).

On top of some great racing action Malta looks like an incredible place to explore.

“Whilst the beautiful beaches and rugged nature reserves are some of the most beautiful spots in the world, Malta’s archaeological and historical setting makes it a haven for travelers interested in how civilization shaped the way we live,” said race director Nathan Farrugia of Hellfire Events.

“Interestingly, Malta’s neolithic temples are older that Stonehenge and the Pyramids. Malta has been the melting pot of Greek, Roman, Norman, Anglo-Saxon, British and Italian civilizations, but is perhaps best known for the Knights of Malta, that fought off the invading Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, in the living monument cities of Valletta and Mdina.”

The race itself covers every aspect of what makes the Mediterranean the sought after destination that it is, said race co-founder Nathan Farrugia of Hellfire Events.

“The swim is held in the crystal blue sea of the Ghajn Tuffieha Bay, with the bike and run in two side by side nature reserves, The Majjistral and the Gnejna Plateau.”

The XTERRA weekend will also feature a sprint and team relay event, as well as a kids swim-run-swim experience on Golden Bay (weather permitting).

Putting it all together is the passionate husband and wife team of Nathan and Deirdre Farrugia.

“We are avid outdoor enthusiasts that find inspiration in nature, so it came as no surprise that we looked at the XTERRA movement as the next stage in our Team Hellfire’s development. We are a family of athletes, organizers and friends above all, that aim to marry experience, nature appreciation and personal challenge through our events,” said Nathan Farrugia. “Organizing a Malta XTERRA, for us and our tiny but beautiful country in the Mediterranean, is the perfect way to reach all our goals as individuals and on behalf of our sporting friends.”

Learn more at http://www.maltaxterra.com/ on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/XTERRAMalta. and about the island www.visitmalta.com.

campEagleClimb

XTERRA Points Series Update

Pro triathlete James Haycraft from Charlotte, NC and Kat Welling from Spartanburg, SC took home the titles at the XTERRA America Tour opener at XTERRA Hickory Knob in McCormick, SC on Sunday.

Haycraft took the tape in 1:34:09, more than one-minute ahead of amateur winner Sebastian Binnemann while Wellington edged Leyla Porteous by under a minute in the women’s race.

It was the most unusual of season-openers, a rare on-road, draft-legal, mountain bike experience. Why? The trails were just too muddy, and out of respect for the trails, the park, and all the other users it was the right thing to do. Despite the organizer’s offer to defer participant’s entry into next year’s event many chose to stay and give it a try.

“The mere prospect of racing on the road, using a mountain bike (XTERRA rules) didn’t appeal to many, but we all respected the decision to respect the trails,” said XTERRA ambassador Marcus Barton, who gives terrific insight into the day on his blog. “In the end, we all had a blast of a time and many commented on the fun nature of a draft-legal mountain bike race on the pavement.”

The top 15 racers in each division at Hickory Knob qualified to compete in the XTERRA USA Championship race to be held September 19, 2015 in Ogden, Utah. The new qualifying rule allows athletes from across the country a better opportunity to qualify for Nationals and more time to make travel arrangements.

The XTERRA America Tour rolls on this weekend with the ever-popular XTERRA REAL off-road triathlon in Granite Bay, California and incredibly interesting XTERRA Camp Eagle off-road triathlon in Rocksprings, Texas. The photo above is of the mid-swim climb.

Carloni-winsWeb

New Look XTERRA European Tour

New rules make for a new game in the chase for the XTERRA European Tour Championship title and this year the crown could very well be won by master tacticians rather than the fastest racers in the field.

“It’s a numbers game, that’s for sure,” explained Dave Nicholas, the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour, who restructured the way the European Tour point series works for 2015.

“We’ve got 12 majors in Europe split into two divisions, what we are calling our Silver and Gold races. We did this to keep organizers with great races – but not a lot of money – a chance to be successful,” said Nicholas.

Silver races – XTERRA Malta, Portugal, Greece, Sweden, and Denmark – have pro prize purses that range between $7,500 and $14,000 USD, while Gold races – XTERRA Spain, Switzerland, France, Italy, Czech, Germany, and England – offer $15,000 to $25,000 USD.

While elites can race in all 12 events if they like, for scoring purposes the Tour will only count their best four Gold races and best three Silver races.

Gold races accumulate points on a 100-point scale (winner earns 100 points, second in 90, third is 82, and so on…) while Silver races accumulate points on a 75-point scale (winner earns 75, second is 67, third is 61, and so on…)

The maximum amount of points an elite can collect is 625 points (4 wins at Gold races = 400 + three wins at Silver races = 225).

“Certainly opens the door for the entire field of elites and I think makes the game a whole lot more fun to watch and follow,” said Nicholas.

“What we ultimately want is for all our racers – amateurs and elites – to explore and discover these great destinations and races all around Europe. How the chips fall at the end of the season, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Conrad Stoltz

Conrad Stoltz to Race at XTERRA Asia-Pacific Champs

Conrad Stoltz, the most decorated off-road triathlete of all-time, is returning to Callala Beach in Jervis Bay for another shot at the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship title on April 18.

“It’s a big race, has a TV show, big money, and just look how the Aussies crawled out of the woodwork last year.  That’s good for the sport,” said Stoltz, who has an unprecedented 51 XTERRA championship titles to his credit.

The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship, which again doubles as the XTERRA Australia Championship, is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.

“The whole race is phenomenal and very well designed. There is a lot of really good single track and it’s well balanced.  I loved the course and am super excited to have another crack at it.”

At last year’s inaugural race the seven-time World Champion from South Africa was in 2nd place after the mountain bike leg before pulling due to fatigue from a cold and a calf injury he couldn’t shake.

“Last year’s race was obviously very disappointing for me,” said the two-time Olympian.  “Fly fishing in the rain after XTERRA NZ was probably not the best idea … my wife was right – again!”

Despite the hiccup last year New South Wales still holds some special memories for Stoltz.  In 2000 when triathlon made its debut at the Sydney Olympics “the Caveman” broke away from the field on the bike alongside Olivier Marceau.  Those two took a one-minute lead into the run before getting chased down by the sprint pack.  The very next year he won his first of four XTERRA World Championships.

“Australia is such a triathlon hotbed, it’s nice to see XTERRA take off there and Callala Beach is perfect for off-road racing,” said Stoltz, who has 15 years of experience racing professionally in the dirt.

As the most prestigious event in the XTERRA Asia-Pacific series that includes championship races in Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Japan, Guam, Tahiti, and Saipan – the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship will offer $50,000 in prize money to the sport’s top professional athletes and produce a television show for international distribution.

The main event combines a 1.5-kilometer ocean swim at Callala Beach, approximately two and a half hours south on Sydney, with 30-kilometers of mountain biking followed by 10-kilometers of trail running.

The event lures amateur and professional athletes from around the world to New South Wales, and locals flock to the event in pursuit of XTERRA Australia Championship honours.  The off-road sports festival weekend also includes a sprint distance off-road triathlon, trail runs, and relay team competitions attracting more than 500 competitors of all ages.

For more information and links to registration for the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship visit www.xterraasiapacific.com.

The XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship is proudly supported by the NSW Government through its tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW.  Presenting sponsors include John Paul Mitchell Systems, the world’s largest privately owned professional salon hair care company, Outrigger Resorts – one of the largest and fastest growing privately-held leisure lodging, retail and hospitality companies in the Asia-Pacific and Oceania regions, and XTERRA Wetsuits & Boards Australia – the official swim sponsor.

Shonny and Dan

XTERRA Legends Ride into Sunset

There will be a new women’s champion crowned at the XTERRA Costa Rica Championship this year and new men’s names have already emerged as winners of the XTERRA Philippines and South Africa Championship races – developments made possible due to the retirement of two epic XTERRA warriors – Shonny Vanlandingham and Dan Hugo.

For Shonny V, who is proudly 45-years-old, it was time to get back to the hardwood.

“During my 15 years as a professional athlete (eight as a pro mountain biker and seven as a pro XTERRA triathlete) I have been working toward acquiring profitable rental properties to be able to retire,” explained Vanlandingham, who played college basketball at East Texas State before becoming an endurance sports icon.

“So now I am starting a new season of life and am very thankful and thrilled to have the time to pursue some of my other passions, like coaching basketball.  Fun to be back in the game after 17 years!”

The 2010 XTERRA World Champion and most successful women’s mountain biker in NORBA history gave new meaning to “biking like a girl.” She regularly out-split most of the men and had the fastest bike time at just about every race she entered in her career, including six times in Maui.

“I will miss all the personalities and seeing all the lovely faces and physiques of XTERRA,” said Vanlandingham, who won 17 XTERRA majors in her career including the Mexico, Saipan, Philippines, and Brazil titles.  “It’s been a great ride!  I am so appreciative of the opportunities I have had to race, travel and meet so many wonderful people.”

As for Hugo, who turns 30 this summer, the lure of his dream job proved too great an opportunity to pass up.

“I was offered and opportunity from Specialized to form a part of the Global Sports Marketing team, the sort of opportunity I was hoping to step into a some stage,” said Hugo. “I’ll miss the simplicity, the feeling of satisfaction after a long hard and successful training day, and yes, I’ll miss the clarity of objectives. Already I can appreciate that racing is black and white, success or failure. Whereas the workplace is a more of a flow. All told, I am thrilled at new challenges with a brand that is redefining the cycling industry.”

It’s safe to say Hugo left on a high note. He won seven XTERRA World Tour races on five continents including the prestigious XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship title last year.

The native of Stellenbosch, South Africa raced in the very first XTERRA South Africa Championship back in 2004 and was an integral part of the growth of the sport – both in South Africa and abroad – ever since. Fans can stay tuned to Hugo and read some of his colorful prose on his blog at dghugo.com.

For the XTERRA Tribe, watching Hugo and Vanlandingham overcome obstacles, adversities, and injuries to come out on top so many times has been a joy. Wishing these two legends the very best in their respective next steps.

XTERRA Resorts Collection

Introducing the XTERRA Resorts Collection

Honolulu, HI – TEAM Unlimited LLC, owners of the XTERRA World Tour, announced a new travel related initiative today aimed at the active lifestyle sports target market. The XTERRA Resorts Collection is a marketing membership consortium for resorts destinations and properties that feature the activities, facilities, adventure and services attractive to active lifestyle travelers.

Tom Kiely, TEAM Unlimited CEO, said “One of the things we have learned about XTERRA participants is their love of travel and ‘active travel’ and that is a key element to our endurance sports events because every course and every experience is different. Beyond that, this group has a high inclination to travel any number of times each year, and they actively search for destination resorts which offer an array of activities such as fitness, hiking, biking, skiing, surfing, adventure and more. This target market generates an annual economic impact of $600 billion just in the U.S., and it continues to grow. Therefore, we have created a membership marketing platform for destination resorts and properties that appeal to this active travel group.”

The XTERRA Resorts Collection is supported by a major marketing campaign featuring national television, digital / social network marketing, PR / communications, advertising, and event promotions. The www.XTERRAResorts.com URL will be the portal through which travelers will find information, promotions, and descriptions of the benefits and activities of destination resorts and properties. Key points of the XTERRA Resorts plan:

  • Member destinations will be invited to join based upon the sports/recreation activities, facilities, and services they offer in or nearby their respective resort area.
  • Member destinations must demonstrate a commitment to this active lifestyle traveler demographic target market
  • The initial marketing launch of XTERRA Resorts will be a $3 million campaign of national television, events, digital media, social networking and marketing communications.

“I have seen an array of travel related membership marketing programs and the concept is a very viable part of the promotion of hotels and resorts,” said George Ramirez, the President of Partnerships Unlimited, a tourism-focused consulting company.  “The XTERRA Resorts plan goes one step further because it specifically targets travelers that desire sports related/recreation activities and adventure as a key part of the vacation experience. This demographic group is highly valued by destinations, resorts, and properties.”

About TEAM Unlimited/XTERRA

TEAM Unlimited is a Hawaii-based television events and marketing company, founded in 1988.  It owns and produces XTERRA and in 2015 will offer more than 300 XTERRA off-road triathlon and trail running races in 25+ countries worldwide. In addition, TEAM TV has produced more than 300 adventure television shows since 1990.  View samples at www.xterraresorts.comwww.xterra.tv, and learn more at xterraplanet.com, xterratrailrun.com, and xterraasiapacific.com.

Suzie Snyder

XTERRA West Championship One Month Out

The XTERRA U.S. Pro Series kicks off April 25, 2015 in Lake Las Vegas, Nevada for the seventh straight year.  It’s also the first chance for U.S.-based amateurs to qualify for the 20th XTERRA World Championship in Maui on Nov. 1.

“I have a love/hate relationship with Vegas,” said XTERRA Pro Suzie Snyder.  “It is always a real challenge. There’s the temperature extremes of swimming in the cold water lake then biking and running in the hot, dry, exposed desert landscape.  And for a lot of people it’s the first race of the year so the nervous energy runs high as everyone is eager to see where they stand.”

Learn more at www.xterralakelasvegas.com.

Steve Tarpinian

Steve Tarpinian, 1960-2015

Steve Tarpinian, one of the true legends of triathlon, passed away this week at the age of 54.

“Tarp” was an XTERRA original. In that first race in 1996 he was one of the fastest swimmers in the field and ultimately finished on the podium in the 35-39 division, placing 36th overall.

The world-renowned swim coach from Long Island, New York fell in love with Maui and the challenge of XTERRA that year and made it a staple in every season thereafter.

For more than a decade Steve was the only competitor from the continental U.S. to have competed in each XTERRA World Championship, as he made the long trip to Maui every year for 17 seasons in a row.

“We lost a great XTERRA Warrior this week,” said XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas.  “Steve was there from the very beginning of XTERRA and we worked together well.  I recall meeting him in his office in New York and figuring out how we could work XTERRA and his swim coaching together and how to create an off-road tri in upstate New York.  Always had a smile when bantering with him, saying ‘when the hell are you going to get a haircut?’ to which Steve would reply ‘when you learn how to swim.”

Tarpinian’s impact on triathlon went far beyond XTERRA, and to get a feel for just how many people he touched have a look at the comments in Tuesday’s slowtwitch.com post announcing his passing.

“Steve was single handedly responsible for the triathlon movement on Long Island,” said fellow New Yorker and XTERRA great Anthony Snoble.

“A true legend of sport.”

At XTERRA Worlds in 2003 Tarp went head-over-heels on the bike, “a 360-degree flip” as he described it, broke his pedal, two ribs, and then flatted.

“I made the bike cut-off by five minutes, and the finish by 10,” recalled Tarpinian, later adding that the race was among his all-time greatest accomplishments.

Of course, much like all frequent visitors to the old Maui course, spills and thrills were nothing new…

“The first year I was in 5th after the swim and on the very first downhill I started to lose control at about 20mph and decide to lay it down right there before I got going too fast. While I was on the ground Ned Overend comes flying down in an aero tuck going at least 35 + mph, looking like he was on pavement! I laughed at how badly I sucked on a mountain bike!”

He didn’t suck. Ned was that good.

Tarpinian was a swimmer in college at Stony Book University on Long Island, where he made it to NCAA Nationals and graduated with a degree in electrical engineering. He had many skills but found his niche in swimming, triathlon, and coaching.

In a profile form he filled out 10 years ago Tarp described his pre-race rituals as “Coffee, chocolate, coffee, chocolate, repeat til’ ready” and listed his hobbies as “modeling, surfing, and romancing with Jean.”

Jean is his long-time partner, who he said always looked forward to the desert bar in Maui : )

Tarpinian was a good friend and motivator to many, and will be greatly missed.

Looking back, we found this article Steve wrote for XTERRA in 2004, titled “10 Years of XTERRA, already?”

By Steve Tarpinian

When I first did XTERRA in 1996 I knew immediately it was a special event, but I had no intentions of making any kind of a string of finishes. My interest was pretty pure and pretty much the same as when I did my first triathlon….gulp, 25 years ago! It seemed like a challenge and something not many had done. In a way, triathlons have always been about exploring new frontiers; but by 1996 they were getting a little stale. Well, I was soon to discover “the wild west” of our sport.

Looking at the course description for the first XTERRA race, the only thing that resembled a normal triathlon was the swim and the first two miles of the bike (on pavement). As soon as we turned off the road we did a little climb, and then preceded with what most of us triathletes considered a challenging course and mountain bikers considered “fun” and fairly non-technical!

A few things stand out in my mind from that first XTERRA World Championship (a little trivia for you, the first event was called Aquaterra). From the first contact with the people running the event it was obvious this was going to be a unique and first class event. Registration was very organized and the presence of such Mountain Biking Legends as Ned Overend (what a cool name for a mountain biker) and Mike Kloser in addition to triathletes like Mike Pigg, Scott Tinley and Jimmy Riccitello gave the event an air of a showdown.

The 9am start time was the equivalent of a noon start time for us veteran triathletes. As I approached the transition area I see at least a half a dozen television cameras and can hear announcer Whit Raymond with his deep voice booming on the PA system:

AAAAAAAAQUAAAAAAAAAAAATEEEEEEEEEEERRRA!

Ocean swim, mountain biking and trail running. All of a sudden I had chills and visions of sharks and broken bones! Why did I sign up for this again?

On the start line I felt more like we were all in this challenge together as opposed to a competitive world championship. A mass start would put professionals and age groupers on the start line altogether, just like the races of the early 80’s….cool!

Telling you the XTERRA Race course is beautiful is an understatement. The bike course is only open on race day each year (since it is privately owned). The view down Haleakala just before the plunge is literally breathtaking. It may be enhanced by the fact that you only get to enjoy it for a few seconds before the downhill takes every bit of your concentration, nerve and strength.

Here is a quick synopsis of my first XTERRA: I have a nice swim and get out on the bike course in the top five. A few triathletes like Pigg and Tinley make short work of me, but otherwise I get the first off-road climb under my belt in good form and start the first little descent.

Did I say mountain biking skills were not my forte? Well, about halfway down this hill I realize I am on loose lava rocks and stand no chance of braking. My speed is increasing and I guess I was going about 20 MPH or so. I start losing control and realize I am going to crash, so I make it a graceful slide off to the side of the trail and as I slowly get up and check my scrapes, I hear a low whirr……It is Ned Overend in a road bike tuck that I have only seen Tour de France riders use during a descent in the Alps! His bike is totally under control and hardly bouncing. I estimate he is going 35 – 40 mph and looking like he is on flat pavement! I am not sure but I think he even looked over to see if I was okay! With my ego bruised I forged on towards the “plunge”, a 5-mile screaming downhill with some random loose lava rocks looming like land mines on the trail and off the trail to either side was an array of sharp pointy lava rocks and Kiawe thorns. In other words: DON’T FALL! After surviving the plunge I am not sure if I just finished the most exciting amusement park ride or should be committed to a psychiatry ward for suicidal tendencies. Either way, I am full of endorphins and have an awesome run with single track trails, soft sand, rocky beaches and finally one of the most festive and exciting finish lines I have ever had the luck to cross.

Since then I have competed in every XTERRA World Championship, nine going for ten. Why do I go back each year?

  1. I have an annual swim workshop in Hawaii each October
    2. I love Maui and it’s residents
    3. Racing with my friend Rip Esselstyn
    4. The pre and post-race parties are unbelievable with great food and entertainment (read, Greg Welch)
    5. Top level international World Championship competition
    6. Colorful (and crazy) race director
    7. Great race shirts
    8. Great post-race dance and costume party
    9. The spirit and camaraderie of the competitors and event team
    10. The challenge
Squaw Lake

XTERRA Points Series Spotlight

It starts in California and ends up in Arizona … thus the name, the XTERRA Tri2Unify off-road triathlon.

Now in its second-year, the Tri2Unify takes place on a scenic, point-to-point course during the sunny end of spring, on Sunday, May 3 to be exact.

It starts at Squaw Lake in Bard, California, and ends at Historic Quarter Master Depot in Yuma, Az.

There are two major thrilling hills and a few exhilarating curves as the course follows the striking Colorado River. You finish the last half mile running past the legendary Territorial Prison, Ocean to Ocean Bridge, and the East Wetlands wild life bird reserve leading you up to the finish line. The event also includes a top-notch expo, and post-race festival complete with music and a large finish line with an awards ceremony.

The XTERRA Tri2Unify Triathlon has 3 different distances offered and is hosting the Unified Triathlon for the Special Olympic Athletes May 2 at the Yuma Palms Resort.

Learn more at www.tri2unify.com or email ewanancy@aol.com.