On July 9th, while racing XTERRA Victoria, pro athlete, Maia Ignatz, was running and navigating a large, rock surface. Her right ankle started to roll so she planted her left leg to steady herself. As the weight drove into her leg, her knee locked and her femur smashed into her tibia, resulting in a tibial plateau impaction fracture and a full thickness tear of her medial meniscus.
Ignatz was a runner first, and didn’t start mountain biking and swimming until 2008, when her husband Ryan recognized her potential. She competed in her first XTERRA in 2009, and in 2016, she finished the XTERRA Pan Am Championship – her favorite course – just three minutes behind fellow pro, Julie Baker.
Ignatz is also a renowned massage therapist in Boulder, Colorado. She has a degree in Integrative Physiology from CU Boulder and graduated with honors from the Boulder College of Massage Therapy. She currently has her own practice at Massage Boulder.
Ignatz is a firm believer in the body’s ability to heal. She uses her own experience to share how she stays positive, prepares for surgery, and stays strong mentally and physically.
Q. It’s common for athletes of all levels to become depressed when injured. How are you coping with this?
A. I have found that it is crucial to stay active and continue to do the things that bring you joy. While training is not the same when you are injured, it is important to get out and do what you can. I find that staying active and involved prevents me from feeling depressed.
I also think it is very important to allow yourself to feel the frustrations, sadness, and anger that come along with being injured and unable to do the things you wish you could be doing. But do not let yourself dwell on these feelings – acknowledge them and return to doing the things that you can do, and be grateful for what you can still do. Do your best to keep “training” with your community. Show up and do what it is that you can do or make modifications.
With my knee injury, I have not been able to ride or run. I can hardly walk and I can hardly swim. But I have continued to go to the masters swim workouts that I typically go to, and I have been going to the gym to do some strength training. I find that showing up and being the best “athlete” that I can currently be keeps me positive most of the time.
I think that one of the most challenging aspects of serious injury is the unknown longterm outcome. In my case, with this knee injury, the bone will heal. Fortunately, I do not require surgery to plate my tibia. But, with a soft tissue injury like a torn meniscus, the recovery from repair will be long and slow, and there are no guarantees. I will be unable to use my left leg and have to stay completely non-weight bearing for at least 6 weeks after surgery. Then it could be anywhere from three to ten months before I work my way very slowly back to cycling and eventually running. But, I have found a great surgeon, I will put all of my effort into being the best self-healer that I can be, I will keep showing up to “train”, and I will eventually get my left leg as strong as my right leg. There is still a lot to be positive about.
Everyday, I spend some time to think about it, write it down, and acknowledge all of the good that there is in my life, despite my injury.
Q. When is the best time to use massage, bodywork, acupuncture etc?
A. After some rest, ice, compression, and elevation, if you can be comfortable, pain free, and it’s safe for your injury, I recommend getting right into massage, bodywork, acupuncture, and physical therapy. I had a 90 minute massage two days after my injury. The massage therapist worked on everything but my knee, and I did some retrograde lymph style massage myself to help manage the swelling and decrease effusion.
I had acupuncture four days after my injury and would have gone sooner if I could. Let pain be your guide and listen to your doctors, but I believe that the sooner you can start promoting health and wellbeing for your injured body, the sooner it will respond with healing.
Q. How important is the mental side of injury recovery? Can positive thinking impact healing?
A. Our minds are very powerful – we know this as endurance athletes. Staying positive is as important for your mental wellbeing as it is for your physical wellbeing. You cannot separate the mind and body – they are integrated and one has a huge impact on the other.
Running is one of my greatest joys in life and I will do everything that I can to recover and rehab to the best of my ability, and this definitely includes thinking positively. It is my goal to return to my pre-injury, elite level performance.
Maintaining a positive mindset is crucial to achieving both short-term and long-term goals. I spend time everyday using imagery to “train” my left leg and send it healing thoughts. I try to be gentle and kind to myself and my knee. Never underestimate the power of your nervous system and the mind body connection. Sitting around, feeling sorry for myself is not an option.
With three weeks remaining in the regular season the battles for regional championships are heating up across the country. Every race counts this year, and there are just 10 races remaining in the XTERRA America Tour, including the season finale for every region across the country.
For those trying to win their regional championship and get the qualifying spot to XTERRA Worlds in Maui that goes with it, its crunch time.
“I’ve traveled more than 13,000 miles this season in pursuit of that slot for Worlds,” said XTERRA rookie Jordan Winar (pictured with his family and their home made signs), who traveled to 10 races and racked-up a tour-high 612 points in the South Central’s 30-34 division so far. “My wife and three kids really want to go to Maui.”
Michael Drackert and his wife really want to go to Maui too. Problem is, he’s in the same region and age group as Winar.
“At the beginning of the season we decided that I could likely win the region with six or seven races…eight in emergency,” said Drackert. “So, I got out a map, looked at the entire XTERRA race schedule, and picked the closest races to Kansas City. There’s not many. But I went for it and had a great season.”
It was an incredible season. Drackert won his division six times in seven races and collected 517 points. He also won the head-to-head against Winar three times. If this was last year under the old rules Drackert would have had the title locked up, but with the every-race-counts rules change this year he’s on the outside looking in. The cruel irony is last year Drackert narrowly missed winning the regional title in the 30-34 age group to 12-time winner Kyle Grieser.
Is he bitter?
“No. Winar played by the rules and good for him for making the sacrifices to go for it,” said Drackert. “One evening while I was complaining to my wife about the situation she asked me, ‘Are you still having fun?’ I didn’t even have to think about it…Yes! I don’t train, race, and sacrifice for medals or trophies or results that nobody will really remember. I compete because the process makes me a better person. I love the trails. I love the process. I love competing. And that’s what really matters.”
This weekend Drackert and his wife are loading up the campervan to drive up to Canada for ITU Cross Tri Worlds on August 23, and “taking the long way to get there,” said Drackert. “Turning it into a 2-week vacation filled with hiking, riding, and camping in the national parks of the Canadian Rockies.”
Is his chase for the title over?
“I’ve been keeping an eye on the competition between those two all season,” said 2016 Mr. XTERRA award winner Marcus Barton, who himself is sitting pretty with 550 points in the 45-49 SE Region. “Those two have been battling it out back and forth, and this is a CLASSIC case of how someone who might not be the fastest can win his region and get a Worlds slot. I’ve been chatting it up with Jordan. It’s his first year at XTERRA and he can’t seem to get enough. His desire to get to Worlds is very strong and he’s done a ton of races trying to keep the points lead and Worlds slot in sight.”
Barton, the master tactician, broke down some potential scenarios for Winar, who remarkably was on a mountain bike for the first time in February this year, and did his first triathlon ever at XTERRA ATX in April.
“I told him a 4th at Waco on Saturday would put him at 668. If Michael did two more races and got 75 each, he’d be at 667,” explained Barton. “Wouldn’t that be a helluva finish!”
Time will tell, and the tales don’t stop there . . .
A QUICK PEAK AT OTHER REGIONAL CHASES
The American Tour consists of 50 races in 30 states, which are divided into eight regions. Every race counts, and the athlete with the most points from each region, in each age group, wins the regional championship. To be eligible to win a regional title you must race in at least one event in your region and two races total in the series.
Regional champions are awarded a qualifying spot into the 2017 XTERRA World Championships to be held October 29 in Maui, and they will also be recognized at the XTERRA USA / Pan America Championship race in Ogden, Utah in mid-September.
With the number of talented XTERRA athletes, there are some extremely close battles.
The XTERRA South Central Region has quite a few close regional title chases. In the 15-19 age group, Jared Clark and Evan Marietta are only three points apart. In the 20-24 division, Reiner Gunther and Jacob Turbyfill have 225 and 209 points, respectively. In the 40-44 age group, Joe Tegerdine’s 203 points put him just ahead of Josh Walker’s 192, and in the 45-49 age group, Jeremy Cogswell is just three points ahead of Scott Burris’ 195 points. The women in the region are fighting tough as well. Alissa Magrum is just ahead of Marcy Morris with 246 points to Marcy’s 217 in the 40-44 age group, and in the 35-39 age group, Lara Houseman is just ahead of Liesel McAllister, 264 to 217, and Heidi Fischer and Anna Culina are tied in the 45-49 division.
In the Atlantic Region, Kate Lucus and Jennifer Elder Brady are tied for first in the 45-59 age group with 142 points each. Sian Turner and Michelle Parker are tied at 150 points for the 35-39 age group title in the West.
In the Mountain Region, high-altitude fans Michael Kloosterman and Louis Cicchino are battling for the title in the 30-34 age group. They are just a point apart, at 243 vs. 242. In the 40-44 bracket, Mitch Sturdivant’s 276 points place him just ahead of Matt Lamm’s, who has 247 points. In the 45-49 division, Eric Snowberg is just three points behind Brian Krombein’s 291 points.
Back to the Atlantic Region, the race is tight in the 30-34 division between Charleen Secor and Meegan Kelly, whose 107 points are very close to Secor’s 118. For the 25-29 men, David Uber’s 184 points are just holding off Nicolas Cicio, with 142.
In the West, top amateur at XTERRA Oak Mountain, Humberto Rivera, is 25 points behind Alfredo Valdez in the 25-29 age group. In the 35-39 age group, Ryan Terry is less than 20 points ahead of Eric Johnson, and in the 45-49 men, Eric Reed is 23 points ahead of Tyler Ford.
In the Southeast, Dewight Winchester, Caleb Baity, and Marcus Barton are clear leaders in their age groups. But Mark Chubb and Dave Gill in the 35-39 age group are only one-point apart.
Marika King is less than 15 points ahead of Megan Mohr in the SE 25-29 division and Pan Am Champ Margo Pitts (pictured) is 32 points ahead of May-li Cuypers in the 50-54 division.
The Midwest men are also competitive. 25-29ers Dalton Guggemos is 11 points ahead of John Loucks’ 131 points, Phillip Towne is 14 points ahead of Doug Eubanks’s 103 points in the 30-34 age group, and in the 45-59 age group, Brad Scholtz is 30 points ahead of Jim Bartholomew’s 317 points. Jaret Johnson is only 10 points behind Bill Berghoff in the 50-54 group.
The Midwest women are a bit more spread out, but in the 35-39 category, Amanda Frost is only 40 points ahead of Kristen Wade.
The next few weeks will be crucial to all of these tight races, so expect to see some surprises and some extra fire on the course.
Find points standings here, and click the orange filter button to find the regional chase you’d like to see.
Here’s a look at the last 10 races of the XTERRA America Tour regular season…
8/12/2017 – XTERRA Cameron Park (Waco, TX)
8/12/2017 – XTERRA Portland (Portland, OR)
8/13/2017 – XTERRA Syracuse (Fayetteville, NY)
8/19/2017 – XTERRA Rockport (Rugged Alpena, MI)
8/19/2017 – XTERRA Auburn (Auburn, AL)
8/19/2017 – XTERRA Aspen Valley (Carbondale, CO)
8/19/2017 – XTERRA TRI the Torture (Santa Fe, NM)
8/19/2017 – XTERRA Lake Tahoe (Incline Village, NV)
8/20/2017 – XTERRA Wild Ride (McCall, ID)
8/26/2017 – XTERRA Iron Creek (Spearfish, SD)
The penultimate event on the XTERRA Pan America Tour takes place at Casa Bonita in the beachside town of Barahona in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.
Reigning Pan Am Tour elite men’s champion Josiah Middaugh has returned to race in the second-edition of XTERRA Dominican Republic in search of redemption and the chance to close the gap on Branden Rakita in the points series chase before the tour finale in Utah on September 16.
Last year at this race, while riding in the lead, Middaugh suffered a series of rather comical mechanicals on the bike that derailed any chance for a win.
“I was having a good time for a while,” he quipped after the race last year. “And then I got a puncture. I tried to plug it. I used my first CO2 to find the hole, but the hole was too big. So, I put a tube in and inflated it with my other CO2, but that tube had a hole in it, so then I had nothing. I started running with the bike. Rom Akerson and Braden Rakita went by and didn’t have anything to give me…then finally somebody had a tube. I put that in and then I couldn’t find my thru-axle. It was a half a mile back up the hill. I left the bike and ran up the hill but couldn’t find it. I ran past it, looked everywhere and then finally, found it and ran back to the bike.”
Akerson went on to win the race, Rakita finished second, Kieran McPherson was third, and Middaugh finally got himself together to finish in fourth. Akerson is not in the DR to defend his title as he is still recovering from recent surgery to fix a pinched artery in his leg, but Rakita and McPherson will be on the start line. Other contenders include Panamanian standout Billy Gordon, Frenchman Julien Buffe, and two-time Olympian Leonardo Chacon from Costa Rica.
“I’m still on my way back from almost eight months of suffering through injuries but enjoying my time training for XTERRA again,” said Chacon. “To get ahead of Josiah on Sunday I’d need to be in the best form of my life, which right now I’m still training for. For this race, I just need to be smart, execute the course as best I can, and get used to the feeling of racing again.”
For Rakita, racing is a lifestyle. The 11-year veteran of the sport has competed in seven of the eight races on the Pan Am Tour since the season which kicked off in Argentina back in March. He has placed in the top seven at each event and sits atop the Pan Am Pro Series standings with 410 points.
“I originally was not going to race this weekend because the ITU Cross Tri World Champs is 10 days from now and I wanted to focus a bit more on that, however, once I learned Josiah was headed to DR I knew I had to go if I wanted any chance at keeping the Pan Am series lead,” he said.
There are two races left, and Rakita is 35-points ahead of Middaugh. Baring a DNF, he’ll keep that top billing heading into Utah and it’ll all come down to the XTERRA Pan American Championship race on Sept. 16 in Utah. See standings.
“I am very happy to be here racing in DR again,” added Rakita. “It’s a challenging race and the venue at Casa Bonita is stunning. Staying there is what people think all of the trips I take are like, which is far from it, but I will definitely take staying at a gorgeous resort for at least one race! It is hard to pick the most challenging part of the course, the swim last year was brutal, the swells and current made it a tough swim. We will see how angry it may be this year. The bike is tough as well, the climb is beastly, it is steep and exposed. We got lucky last year with some overcast weather that helped but the heat and humidity constantly beat you down. I really enjoy the run. It is a gradual uphill the whole way out and well-shaded as it traverses along a crystal-clear river the whole way. One of the best things about this race is that it’s off the normal beaten path away from any American tourist trap places and you get to see and have the opportunity to experience the local scene.”
Middaugh agrees, adding “it’s starting to become known for adventure and ecotourism. There are turquoise waters, surfing beaches, forests, and a developing mountain bike destination.”
In the women’s race reigning Pan Am Tour Champ and current Tour leader Suzie Snyder, who won this race last year and XTERRA Mexico last weekend, will not be in the line-up.
“I’m not racing this weekend because of the ITU Cross Tri World Champs on Aug 23rd in Canada,” said Snyder. “I feel pretty confident that my point lead is solid enough to skip DR so I can go into ITU Worlds more fresh.”
Indeed, Snyder’s series lead looks untouchable at 582-points, 145-points in front of Kara LaPoint who sits in second with just two races to go.
What that mean is there are butterflies everywhere as someone is going to win their first major XTERRA title on Sunday. In the hunt for that elusive career win are the 2nd thru 5th place women in the standings: Kara LaPoint from the U.S., Morgane Riou from France, Laura Mira Dias from Brazil, and Annie Bergen from Canada. Others in contention include Jessie Koltz and Genevieve Evans.
The frontrunner may be Riou, who finished nearly three-minutes ahead of LaPoint in Mexico last week and more than two-minutes in front of her at XTERRA Beaver Creek last month. LaPoint (pictured), however, has the benefit of experience having finished third here last year behind Snyder and Myriam Guillot-Boisset.
“I’m so happy to be back in the DR for XTERRA,” LaPoint posted to her social media accounts yesterday. “I love this place and every single thing about it! I had a great course recon this morning, with some exciting changes to the course from last year, even if I was sweating out my eyeballs!”
Follow along on Facebook.com/xterraDR
There are but three races left in the 2016-2017 XTERRA European Series; Poland, Germany and the Final in Denmark. There are any number of possibilities for the Championship jersey for both pros and age groupers.
XTERRA World Tour Managing Director, Dave “Kahuna” Nicholas and the XTERRA European Team are in Poland and the city of Krakow and they bring us their first impression from the country’s second XTERRA event:
“We are in Krakow this weekend. Today it is hot and muggy with temperatures today around 34C (93F) and about the same for Friday. The good news is weather for Sunday’s race will drop down to about 22C (72F),” said Nicholas.
Our organizer Wojtek Mazurkiewicz has grown the event and his team impressively. Last year Poland had about 200 entries, this year we will have eight events with over 600 participants. There will be XTERRA swim’s of 750m/1500m/3000m plus Charity runs of 7K and 21K. Then add five categories of kids races plus short and long distance XTERRA’s and we have a Krakow XTERRA Festival that has the city buzzing.
The park is actually inside Krakow. The swim is in a calcium quarry. ,As mining continued the depth reached underground wells and the entire area began to fill. Today, with the white chalk base, the water is a beautiful azure in the sun leaning a bit towards teal in the shade. Because of its quarry heritage, youngsters love the thrill of jumping off the vertical 15m high cliffs.
XTERRA will start on a small beach at the lake and then have an uphill run, across a bridge over vehicle and pedestrian traffic to T1. From there, the bike does two loops and ends up at T2 well inside the park. The run is also two loops ending just under 10K. The courses are marked and ready to pre ride/run today and the finish build up will happen tonight and tomorrow. The Polish team will be ready to go on Saturday morning at 9am for the swim starts.
Krakow is a largely unknown jewel in central Europe. Perhaps the most famous citizen of Krakow was the hugely popular Pope John Paul II. Dating back to the 7th century you can still enjoy much of the medieval parts of the old town today in the 21st century. The old town must be visited with its huge market square. Wawel Castle and dozens of examples of architectural wonders make this city a walkers paradise. Myths say Krakow was founded when a young man defeated a huge dragon. You can see that dragon today at the castle and decide for yourself.
XTERRA European Director Nicolas Lebrun, previews the field and the trails:
For me it’s the most fun mountain bike loop in the tour – very twisty, with 80 percent on single track. It reminds me Richmond in Virginia, where I started XTERRA in 2001. It’s the kind of mountain bike loop that you want to ride many times, to work every corner, find the best line, where you will have to shift exiting a corner. You wonder how fast you can go over the moguls – can I ride the tunnel ?! There are two zones on each loop with two different styles and a flat and easy connection in between to let you drink and eat.
The run has fun parts too – be ready to use your hands as you will need to climb. The swim lake is 23C today. Poland like most of Europe was pretty hot last month and you might swim without wet suit in this special place, this old mine, now turned in to a lake.
On the woman’s race, we have a very strong field with 15 elite athletes.
I will start with our locals, who will not fight for the victory, but a place in the top ten and will have a lot of support during the day. Anna Tomica Raced AG last year and was 11th overall for the woman. She wants to start racing XTERRA more and is waiting to show us her improvements on Sunday. Sabina Rzepka used to race with us often. She was a DNF last year and I bet she wants to be strong here in her home country. Not far from Krakow, Kristina Lapinova SLK was 5th here in 2016 and with a podium in the ETU Cross Duathlon championship looks to be in very good shape. She is 18th on the tour with some points from Malta and France.
Close to Poland and leading the tour is Helena Karakova-Erbenova CZE. She has 51 points more than second place and won the first edition here last year. Second place is Brigitta Poor from Hungary, which shares no border with Poland but is not very far south. Poor has three wins this year and was second last year. It will be a big battle with her main rival Helena, and with her ETU title in Cross Triathlon, and a race who will fit her well, she is maybe my favorite for Sunday. Austria is also not very far from Poland so Carina Wasle, 4th in the Euro tour, will arrive after a podium in Romania last week. If she has no problems in the race, she will get back in the top three for the Tour. Nicole Walters is 7th and has not raced with us since XTERRA France where she had a fantastic race. As a very fast swimmer, she will probably be in the front for a while, and has a good chance for the podium. Lizzie Orchard NZL, after her come back in Italy and a solid second place, will also start in Poland. It’s good to see her on the list, that mean also she is now 100% fixed from her long injury.
Daria Rogozina is here from Russia. She struggled a lot in France with a very long race, strong. She is a cross country skier and suffers in the swim, but she won the U23 division at ETU Cross triathlon and Duathlon with a 5th and 2tnd places overall. Diane Lee from UK was 4th here for the first edition, she has not raced often this year but is always strong. Isabelle Ferrer from France is 13th in the tour, and might be slowed a little bit with a very twisty MTB loop, but she had time to train since Switzerland. Rocio Espada ESP, is 16th in the tour and is looking for a top ten with a strong race here. Suisse Angela Niklaus, was very solid in France, actually 19th on the tour, and is also looking some points.
Local Daria Radczuk will start also for the first time in Elite at an XTERRA Race.
|EU Tour Rank||last year Rank||Name, Country|
|1||1||Helana Karaskova-Erbenova, CZE|
|2||2||Brigitta Poor, HUN|
|4||/||Carina Wasle, AUT|
|7||/||Nicole Walter, UK|
|13||/||Isabelle Ferrer, FRA|
|16||/||Rocio Espada, ESP|
|18||5||Kristina Lapinova, SLK|
|19||/||Angela Niklaus, SUI|
|22||/||Lizziz Orchard, NZL|
|36||/||Daria Rogozina, RUS|
|/||4||Diane Lee, UK|
|/||11||Anna Tomica, POL|
|/||/||Leicester Johandri, RSA|
|/||/||Daria Radczuk, POL|
|/||/||Sabina Rzepka, POL|
The Race will also be exciting for the men’s race, with 18th elites at the start.
With the top four not present in Poland, it will open the race for many athletes dreaming of a podium on Sunday. Our last year winner, Yeray Luxem, will sadly not be here for some personal problems. We hope to see him soon. My favorite for the race is Sam Osborne. I failed with the same prediction in Italy – Sam is strong, he is leading the Asia Pacific tour and I’m sure he will win one in Europe before the end of the tour, maybe this one.
Roger won Malta this season, he was back in better shape in Italy, and I’m sure he will love this race. I put him also as a potential winner. Jens Roth will be with those guys for quite a while at the front of the race. Can he expect another podium like in Greece? He has big potential, trains a lot and will also win one soon. Russian Pavel Andreev already won in Finland this year and is a 5 time winter triathlon world champion. He will be not first out of the water and might struggle to pass people on this tight and twisty MTB course, but for sure he will come back, maybe not for the victory but can be in the top 5. Arthur Serrieres showed some amazing results this year like in Spain and Switzerland. He had a bad day in France and Belgium, but on a good day he can be on the podium too.
Our best ranked on the Euro tour for Sunday, Rui Dolores from Portugal, will be happy with a top five, his best place was 7th at home. Oivind Bjerkseth took a second podium last week in Norway where he was also a big part of the organization crew, he will also struggle trying to pass a lot of athletes after a slow swim, but can be so strong on this bike loop. I think on the second loop with some energy left, he will come back for a top 10. Maxim Chane from France will not have this problem, he will not swim in the front, as Jens is here, but not far back. He is solid on the technical MTB part and will love this race. If he does not completely blow on the run, he can think again of a top 5 like his last race in Italy. Peter Lehmann from Germany was reborn like the phoenix in Norway! It was so nice to see him in second position on the Norway’s podium. For those who follow the tour, Peter had so much trouble this season. Now he is back and was 5th last year so there Is a lot of positive energy that should put him in condition to do it again.
Tomas Kubek from Slovakia started strong the season with a 6th position in Malta. He has raced less this year, so he might have lots of energy and is normally all the time in the top 10. Two Polish athletes will race in Elite, Mateusz Tylek was 22nd last year and won his AG. Sylwerster Swat is a new name for the XTERRA family, Only Kahuna Dave might know him. Mester Balint HUN was 11th last year, so he knows the race and can expect a top 10. Also 3 other French will take part in Elite, Theo Dupras his best was 8th in Switzerland, Christophe Betard, 3rd in XTERRA Tahiti this year and Valentin Genewe. And From UK Doug Hall, coming with his wife Nicole, will try to bit his best finish this season, a 12th place in Malta.
|EU Tour Rank||Last year Rank||Name, Country|
|5||/||Rui Dolores, POR|
|7||/||Oivind Bjerkseth, NOR|
|8||/||Maxim Chane, FRA|
|9||/||Roger Serrano, ESP|
|10||/||Sam Osborn, NZL|
|12||/||Jens Roth, GER|
|16||/||Arthur Serrieres, FRA|
|20||5||Peter Lehmann, GER|
|24||/||Theo Dupras, FRA|
|28||/||Pavel Andrev, RUS|
|28||6||Tomas Kubek, SLK|
|34||/||Doug Hall, UK|
|55||/||Valentin Genewe, FRA|
|/||11||Mester Balint, HUN|
|/||/||Bartosz Banach, POL|
|/||/||Christophe Betard, FRA|
|/||/||Swat Sylwerster, POL|
|/||22||Tylek Mateusz, POL|
Follow XTERRA Europe on Facebook at www.facebook.com/xterraeurope for all the latest updates and coverage on race day!
The XTERRA Elite power couple of Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack Allen each claimed the top podium spot at XTERRA Indian Peaks at Eldora Nordic Center, August 5th.
Located just outside – and above – Boulder, Colorado, XTERRA Indian Peaks is a high-altitude race. The 1,000m swim is pretty chilly at 9,000 feet, but the scenery is incredible. The 22k bike course is on Eldora’s phenomenal single track, and the 7k run took place on the eastern trails of the Eldora Nordic Center.
Allen finished the race in 1:50:03, almost four minutes ahead of the amateur winner, Pan Am Champ Nelson Hegg, who had a strong race and the fastest bike split of the day. Pro Brad Zoller was less than a minute back from Hegg in third.
In the women’s race, Jacqui Slack Allen finished in 2:09:35, almost five minutes ahead of runner-up and amateur winner Whitney Barrett. XTERRA Pan Am Champ Deanna McCurdy was third in 2:22:57. McCurdy had a phenomenal race, considering she has been taking time off to recover from some health issues. On Facebook, she said this wasn’t an A, B, or even C race on her schedule. Instead, she and her coach “labeled it an F race… as in, go out and remember why this sport is Fun.”
Specifically, McCurdy called it “gruelingly fun” which sounds just about right for XTERRA.
You can view the complete results for XTERRA Indian Peaks at www.racedirectorsolutions.com.
Christy Williams is the picture of health. Tall, blond, and lean, she looks as fit as anyone on the trails at XTERRA Beaver Creek.
You would never guess that 15 years ago, she was in a wheelchair, unable to walk up the stairs, much less swim 1500 meters, climb hills on her mountain bike, and run a 10k through the woods.
Williams has ankylosing spondylitis (AS), an autoimmune disease that causes chronic inflammation of the spine, as well as all of the connective tissue in the body, including joints, kidneys, eyes, and even the heart. The outcome for many AS patients is complete spinal fusion, or ankylosis.
Williams became sick shortly after the birth of her first child when she was only 24 years old.
“I was frozen in my body two days after the birth of my daughter,” said Williams. “I could barely move, I couldn’t eat, and I had a fever that wouldn’t go away.”
Eventually, her body degenerated to the point where she couldn’t walk, and her husband had to carry her up the stairs in their home. Outside the house, she used a wheelchair.
It took a long time to diagnose Williams because despite her symptoms, her blood work was normal. After finally diagnosing Williams with AS, doctors tried many different drugs – each for three to six month periods – to see which one would work.
Six years after getting sick, Williams was being treated with Methotrexate – a form of chemotherapy that suppresses the immune system – when a new drug called Remicade was being used in clinical trials.
Biologics, like Remicade, are not a chemical but a protein. Williams goes into the hospital every four weeks for a three-hour IV treatment that brings her to near remission. However, she still suffers from chronic fatigue, low blood pressure, and a very weak immune system.
Ironically, another way to fight AS is to exercise. So Williams walks the delicate balance of moving her joints and connective tissue but avoiding overtraining, which can further tax her weak immune system.
“My doctor is always telling me, ‘Do not crash your bike. Do not get sick. Do not get a cut.’ I’m tested for TB on a regular basis, because my body can’t really fight infection.”
Still, Williams views Remicade and triathlon as the best gifts for getting healthy.
“Signing up for races, putting something on the calendar, it gets you motivated right?” said Williams. “When you have a disease, if you are having a bad day and your body is revolting, you still realize, ‘No I gotta go, because if I don’t move, I’ll feel worse.'”
Williams admits that she is both blessed and cursed by the genetic lottery.
“I have some athletic gifts and I also have this huge weight on my back. I see it as a welcome challenge – who is going to win? Am I going to let the disease be stronger than me or am I going to be stronger than the disease? That’s the competition in my mind.”
In 2011, when Remicade showed promise, Williams was still in a wheelchair. But she made a goal of competing in an Ironman triathlon.
“I used triathlon because growing up as an athlete, I knew how to use my body,” said Williams. “I knew I could rehab myself back because I knew how to start small and get strong.”
It took Williams four years, but in 2015, she competed in Ironman Boulder.
Shortly afterwards, Williams met the founder of The 2xtreme Foundation, John Davis – also a challenged athlete.
“We were both working out with the same tri group, and John was swimming with Susan, who is an Olympic bronze medal winner, my coach, and a good friend,” explained Williams. “Then, at the wall, I could tell he was in a lot of pain. I asked if he was OK and he explained that he has motor neuron disease. I said, ‘Hey, I have a chronic disease too!’ We kind of had a little moment there.”
Williams explained that she met Davis at a crucial point.
“I was feeling really lonely at the time,” she said. “The road is long, the diagnosis is hard to accept, and the treatment is tough. I remember praying – please send me one person who knows what I’m going through. Then I met John.”
As a way of paying it forward, Williams wants to let others with chronic diseases know that they aren’t alone. She also wants to shatter some of the stereotypes surrounding challenged athletes.
“It’s easy to think a physically challenged athlete looks a certain way and I want to say – No – there are so many people who suffer from degenerative diseases that you don’t see,” said Williams. “The other end of the stereotype is that because you’re a challenged athlete, you should only be a finisher. A participant. No. You can also be fast.”
Williams acknowledges that she is passionate about her sport because she is working on borrowed time. That’s why she has been driving so hard. Last month, she won the physically challenged division of XTERRA Beaver Creek and she is going on to race at the XTERRA Pan Am Championships in Utah next month.
“Right now, my symptoms are under control but I’m still degenerating. My spine is fusing and there are things going on that aren’t going to stop. I am taking advantage of the time I’m given because of this medicine, but my doctor reminds me that the medicine could stop working at any time.”
Williams credits the trails and the healing power of nature with keeping her spirits up.
“The fear of regret, the fear of not having lived the life I wanted for myself and my family is what drives me,” said Williams. “When the medicine stops working and I’m back in that dark place again, I want to be able to say, ‘I wore it out. I did it all. I have no regrets. I took that time I had and I crushed it.’ Then I can rest a little bit at peace knowing I didn’t pass anything up.”
Ladina Buss and Dominik Wychera captured the championship titles at XTERRA Canmore on August 6th in Canmore, Alberta.
Ladina Buss, the Swiss pro triathlete, finished in 2:49:48 for 14th place overall. Austrian elite, Dominik Wychera, surprised himself with the win, crossing the line in 2:21:01, just over a minute ahead of runner up Jean-Philippe Thibodeau. Seventeen-year old Canadian phenom, Tate Haugan was third in 2:25:08.
“I wanted to race XTERRA Canmore as training for Penticton ITU World Cross Triathlon,” said Wychera. “It was my first XTERRA podium, and it became a win.”
Haugan finished the 1500 meter swim first, followed by Thibodeau, Aidan Nugent, and Wychera.
“I knew that it will be a fight between the four of us,” said Wychera, “So I went out of T1 on my bike and gave it all out. I was two and a half minutes back and I wanted to catch up to the guys in front as fast as possible. I overtook Aidan in the beginning of the first lap but didn’t catch Jean-Philippe until the second. I managed to get a gap between him and me and came into T2 in second place The run was tricky – again two laps – and I closed the gap on the first 2k and kept running fast for safety. Jean-Philippe managed to overtake Tate too, but the gap to me was too big. Aidan had a solid run, but was too far back off the bike to reach the podium.”
Wychera had the fastest bike split of the day by about two minutes and also had the quickest run time. “Young Gun” Tate Haugan was like an underwater missile, coming out of the water three seconds ahead of Thibodeau, who is known for his skill in the water.
In the women’s division, the Swiss pro, Ladina Buss broke the tape in 2:48:48, about eight minutes ahead of runner up, Penny Slater, who finished in 2:57:13. Susanne McArthur was third in 3:02:23.
Slater and McArthur had identical swim splits with Buss coming out of the water almost two minutes back. Buss went on to crush it on the 26k bike course, completing the two-laps in 1:32:15, about six minutes faster than Slater and 13 minutes quicker than McArthur.
McArthur ran strong, finishing the 10k in 52:48, less than a minute slower than Buss’ split. Slater ran 55:23, which was good enough for second place.
“The guys from Grizzly Mountain Events did a great job,” said Wychera, “And I think especially the bike course is one of the best from the world tour- so much fun.”
And to the best of our knowledge, no one needed to bust out the bear spray.
View the complete results at www.blitzevents.ca.