XTERRA Worlds – 18 Years in Maui

In 1996 mountain biking and triathlon met in a duel of the fittest on the island of Maui. The race consisted of a rough water swim, a mountain bike race, and a trail run. It represented a bold new racing format that attracted outdoor enthusiasts, adventure seekers, mountain bikers and triathletes. The mountain bikers brought their laid-back style and bold self-assurance. The triathletes brought their hard-core training and avid dedication. They soon discovered a common “Live More” spirit that pulled them together. The relationship flourished into an internationally-recognized brand called XTERRA, and today there are tens of thousands of athletes not only taking part in the races, but truly living the lifestyle.

Maui Swim StartA fitting representation of this “XTERRA Tribe” – 775 athletes from 35 countries and 43 U.S. states – will gather at Kapalua Resort on Maui’s northwest coast next Sunday, October 27 and at 9am, they’ll put their mental and physical toughness up against Mother Nature at the 18th running of the XTERRA World Championship.

Here we meet just a few of them…

Kim Mufalli, 47, from Makawao, Maui – The dream of racing XTERRA was born on Christmas day. That was when she gave her son Tony a bike so he could begin training for Worlds.

“It was by far the best present I have ever given him, and he has been training like a maniac ever since,” said Mufalli.

The mother-son team will both be competing at XTERRA Worlds for the first-time, and rest assured they’ll have a raucous cheering section joining in the fun. Kim is a single mother of five – ages 16, 18, 20, 24, and 25 – runs her own company cleaning condos for vacation rentals, and is part of the West Maui Cycles Ohana.

“All of our friends are anxious to watch us compete next week,” said Mufalli.  “The owner and staff of West Maui Cycles have been extremely supportive in getting us ready to race, and I am proud to be representing their shop. It is hard to find the words to describe to you how much this event means to us.”

Mufalli has been working on her mountain biking skills for the past 18 months in preparation for next Sunday and said “learning mountain biking has been a hugely rewarding challenge at my age, despite breaking a rib about four months ago training in the West Maui mountains.”

Beyond just the thrill of mountain biking, Mufalli sees her active lifestyle as a path towards greater health, energy, and wellness.

“When I first got interested my friend took me under his wing, teaching me as much as he could, and painstakingly urged me through the long workouts required to finish the race. I finished my first half Ironman in six hours. It was the most awesome thing I had ever done for myself,” said Mufalli.

She went on to compete in the Maui triathlon and the Kings trail, and placed in her age group. Since then she has completed three marathons, two more half IM, and several Olympic distance tris.

“I try to participate in as many events as my time and energy allow, even our local bike races. If I can’t race, I often volunteer. I can honestly say that being involved in these sports carried me through some of the toughest years of my life. It gave me a purpose, put me around great people, and grew me into a confident and self-sufficient woman. And thankfully, some of it rubbed off on my kids.”

Tony, 25, who works full time at a golf course, has been working hard to get ready for XTERRA, said Mufalli.  “When he injured his knee surfing, he spent a month in the pool working on his swimming. He adapted and stayed focused.”

He’ll have to carry that focus into next weekend, as Mom is gunning to be the first one in the family across the finish line.

“I think he should be able to beat me on the course, if he has a great day!” said Mufalli.  “But as we know, it can go bad really quickly up there. I hope he finishes before me, as I am sure no young man wants to get “chicked” by his mom!”

Scott Brand, 46, from Honolulu – The biomedical engineer at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children will be racing the XTERRA World Championship for the 15th straight year next Sunday.

“I fell in love with mountain biking when I was at college in Spokane, Washington, and have been hooked ever since,” said Brand.

More than just the joy of “shredding volcanic downhills,” Scott says XTERRA is what keeps him in check health-wise each year.

“Every year I lose about 20lbs preparing for the race. This year, I lost 60lbs. Everyone at work asked me what I did, and I tell them XTERRA Training.  I love the spirit of XTERRA.  The staff, volunteers and athletes are always giving, supportive, and really cool.   I will be an XTERRA age group World Champion one day, even if I have to race till I’m 150 years young.”

If you think someone with 15 years of XTERRA racing experience at Worlds might have some good stories, you’d be right.  Here are some of them…

“Some of the fondest memories were of running across the finish line with my toddler daughter who is now attending UNLV.  There was a race a few years ago where a picture was taken of me at T1 with my beer belly accentuated by the under angle shot displayed on the big screen at the awards dinner.  It got a good laugh out of the crowd and my daughter called me out at the table.  I always have fun at the Halloween party. Maybe too much.  One year my wife and daughter made me wear a Fat Girl costume and I had the Big Kahuna announce me as “The first swimmer out of the water”.  That got a pretty good crowd response. Another year my 5 year old nephew went to the bike shop with his mom and picked out a multi-tool to give to me. That year my chain broke and I had that tool and was able to finish the race.  Getting to talk to Ned Overend was EPIC.  Every person I spoke to on the course felt like an intimate learning encounter.  I usually bomb the downhills then get caught on the climbs so I see some people several times throughout the bike course. Riding with CowMan was cool.  One time I was power sliding into T2 and the Big Kahuna was there and yelled  “Way to Finish Young Man!” I was 44. That really meant a lot to me. The Hawaiian Priestess was at the start of the run a few years back and she called me a “true longhair”. That was super cool.”

Lisa Helmer, 36, from Canada – The mother, wife, triathlete, cross-country skier, mountain biker, biologist, farmer, chef, and outdoor educator is passionate about living and working outside.  To give you a sense of who she is, here is how she describes her ideal day…

6am – Morning 2km swim in the lake, slipping out of the house before kids and husband wake up.  Back home to a latte pulled from our beloved Cellini Rocket Espresso machine with locally roasted Drumroaster bean, home-made honey-oat bread with local hazelnut butter & jam, and a cruise through the newspaper (being a fish & wildlife biologist, I keep close tabs on industry’s efforts to develop in pristine areas of BC).  Draw pictures, play lego, ride bikes with my two kids, age 3 and 6.  Visit the farmer’s market, stock up on fresh greens and whatever catches our eye to dictate tonight’s dinner plans.  Pack a picnic, wander through the woods with the kids, allowing our natural rhythms and the lay of the land to lead us where it may.  Afternoon 10km run while the family rests, mainly trail, and a few laps around the gravel track to remind my legs of goal pace for the weekend’s upcoming race. Home for a smoothie (kale added, always), then late afternoon swim with the kids in the lake.  Dinner prep – everyone helps, shaping our new treasures picked up earlier in the day into a glorious meal.  Sitting around a big table enjoying our food and each other, savouring every bite.  I truly believe that my food choices dictate my athletic potential. You are what you eat. And sleep. Off to bed.

Ken Stoddart, 39 from Texas – The 2013 XTERRA World Championship is a dozen years in the making for Ken Stoddart, “since I watched the Caveman win it for the first time in 2001.”

When he first started mountain biking Stoddart was 250 pounds and “terrible.”

“I slowly worked up my training to a point where I was riding well and racing in regional XTERRA races, but I knew it was Maui that I really wanted.  I have been training and racing triathlons of all distances for six years now, all in an effort to be ready for next Sunday.  I have lost 40 lbs during the process, biked thousands of miles, ran for 100’s of hours, and taught myself to swim from scratch.”

Stoddart is dedicating the race to his parents, who wanted badly to make their first visit to Maui just to watch their son cross the finish line.

“Unfortunately my father has suffered from multiple strokes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.  He is very sick and unable to travel.  My mother is providing 24-hour care, and she is the strongest women I know.  I so wish they could be there with me,” said Stoddard

Instead, he’ll hope to represent the pride of the Stoddart family with great dignity.

“In the spirit of XTERRA athletes I want to bust my ass out there on Sunday and cross that finish line knowing that my family is watching back in Buffalo, and hope I can bring a smile to their faces during very difficult times.”

Kathryn Taylor, 28, from Kailua – You might expect a shift supervisor at Starbucks to have a lot of energy, and in Kathyrn Taylor’s case – you’d be right.  The Columbia University grad poured a triple shot of adrenaline into her racing schedule this year.  She took on the Molokai to Oahu solo paddleboard World Championship race this summer, and just went 10:50:35 at the Ironman World Championship last weekend, making Maui her third world championship of the season.

“It’s actually going to be just my second XTERRA race ever,” said Taylor.  “I signed up for XTERRA Freedom Fest back in July and ended up doing pretty well even though I had only been on the mountain bike a handful of times.  I absolutely love adventure and risk-taking and the thrill of off-road.”

Taylor has been in Hawaii since graduating from College, where she was first introduced to the sport while babysitting kids of triathletes.

“The parents both competed and I had spent the summer watching their three kids at these odd hours so that they could go for really long bike rides (I would show up at their house at 5 AM).  I then watched Lake Placid and they inspired me to compete in a smaller Olympic triathlon later in the summer,” explained Taylor.

Taylor had originally come to Hawaii to try to make the Olympic trials in 2008 for swimming, and ended up getting addicted to triathlon.

“I think my first year after I stopped competitively swimming I signed up for almost all the local triathlons that were offered,” said Taylor, who now coaches open water swimming for BC Endurance Training to help triathletes get ready for the Hawaii half ironman.

With her solid outing in Kona, Taylor leads the women’s amateur double chase.  Her time is 10 minutes fast than Allison Linnell’s.

“Ten minutes is not a ton heading into this kind of race but I am quite excited to put every effort into keeping the lead!”

Interestingly, it’s former Double Champ and XTERRA ambassador Amy Eck who got Kathryn into the dirt.

“She’s always putting on these amazing races from running to triathlons at Kualoa Ranch, and she even offered me her mountain bike to ride since she’d be directing the race,” said Taylor. “So, had to go for it.”

As for her goals next Sunday?

“I think any race day is what you make of it, and it’s really hard not to have fun on these off road courses.  I find that laughing (maybe cursing under my breath a bit) at myself and still smiling at the challenges that come up on these courses is the best way to get through them!”

XTERRA World Championship Pro Update

Two of the contenders in the mens race have pulled due to illness and injury.  Brent McMahon, who twice finished 3rd in Maui, is recovering from a bug that left him unable to trail and thus unprepared for the rigors of the challenge and Hector Guerra, the XTERRA European Tour Champion, suffered a grade 2 sprain and bone edema in his ankle at XTERRA England on September 8 that will keep him out of the line-up.

Flora Duffy“Because of this it would be impossible to enjoy Maui so I have decided to wait until 2014 to fight for the title of XTERRA World Champion,” wrote Guerra.  “I’m disappointed because XTERRA has been the best thing that ever happened to me in sports, but trust that I will continue to enjoy it next year.”

In the women’s race there are two notable first-timers in Maui racing, a pair of Olympians with Flora Duffy from Bermuda and Nicky Samuels from New Zealand.

Duffy, a 2x Olympian who recently graduated from the University of Colorado-Boulder with a degree in sociology, has been injured (stress fracture) for much of the year and hasn’t done much racing but did manage a 6th-place finish in her first-ever XTERRA at the Mountain Championship in July.

Samuels, a 30-year-old from Wanaka comes to Maui with some big credentials.  This year she won the XTERRA Motatapu off-road tri in March and the 5150 in Columbia (USA) and was second at St. Anthony’s and Boulder 5150s. She was the 2012 World Aquathon Champ, NZ Road Race Cycling Champ, and ITU World Cup Tongeyong Champ, and in 2011 won the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon and ITU World Cup Mooloolaba.

There are 10 Olympians in the pro race. Nicky and Flora mentioned above, who raced in London (35th and 45th respectively), plus Barbara Riveros who was 17th.  Helena Erbenova, the two-time XTERRA European Tour Champ, is a Winter Olympic veteran – placing 29th in the Double Pursuit back in 2006, and Julie Dibens competed in the 2004 games.

For the men we have 3x Olympian Olivier Marceau (best finish was 7th in Sydney), two-time Olympians Conrad Stoltz (who led off the bike in Sydney), and Courtney Atkinson, plus Richard Murray and Leonardo Chacon.  Murray, Atkinson, and Chacon placed 17th, 18th, and 48th, respectively, in London last year.

Here’s a look at the updated start list:

MEN’S PRO START LIST (Alpha by Country)
AUSTRALIA: Ben Allen, Courtney Atkinson
BELGIUM: Kris Coddens, Yeray Luxem, Jim Thijs
BRAZIL: Felipe Moletta, Bruno Silva
COSTA RICA: Leonardo Chacon
CZECH: Jan Francke, Jan Kubicek
FRANCE: Francois Carloni, Brice Daubord, Marvin Gruget, Nico Lebrun
GERMANY: Dennis Kruse, Felix Schumann
GREAT BRITAIN: Asa Shaw, Richard Stannard
ITALY: Fabio Guidelli
NEW ZEALAND: Braden Currie
SOUTH AFRICA: Dan Hugo, Richard Murray, Conrad Stoltz
SPAIN: Ruben Ruzafa
SWITZERLAND: Olivier Marceau
USA: Brian Astell, Grant Bovee, Chris Ganter, Ryan Ignatz, Andy Lee, Kyle Leto, Jason Michalak, Josiah Middaugh, Branden Rakita, Will Ross, Tim Snow, Adam Wirth
Past XTERRA World Champs in Bold

WOMEN’S PRO START LIST (Alpha by Country)
AUSTRALIA: Tamara Donelson
AUSTRIA: Carina Wasle
BERMUDA: Flora Duffy
BRAZIL: Laura Mira Dias
CANADA: Katie Button, Brandi Heisterman, Christine Jeffrey, Danelle Kabush, Melanie McQuaid, Chantell Widney
CHILE: Barbara Riveros
CZECH: Helena Erbenova
DENMARK: Nienke Oostra
GERMANY: Kathrin Muller
GREAT BRITAIN: Julie Dibens, Daz Parker, Lesley Paterson, Jacqui Slack
ITALY: Genziana Cenni
JAPAN: Mieko Carey
MEXICO: Dunia Gomez
NEW ZEALAND: Sarah Backler, Elizabeth Orchard, Nicky Samuels
SOUTH AFRICA: Carla Van Huyssteen
SWITZERLAND: Renata Bucher
USA: Caroline Colonna, Emma Garrard, Heather Jackson, Suzie Snyder, Shonny Vanlandingham
Past XTERRA World Champs in Bold


WHAT IS XTERRA:  The world’s premier off-road triathlon, combining a 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) swim that starts in front of the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua … a 30-kilometer (18.6-miles) mountain bike that climbs more than 3,000 feet up and down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains, and a 10-kilometer (6.1-miles) trail run that traverses forest trails, and beach sand.  Top pros finish in roughly two-and-a-half hours.

WHO RACES IN MAUI:  A sold-out field of 775 racers including 70 professionals and more than 700 amateurs           representing 35 countries & 43 U.S. states, ages 14 (Ken Matsui) to 76 (Ron Hill).  92% of the field is from out of town.

WHEN:  The XTERRA World Championship starts at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 27.  The XTERRA Kapalua 5km and 10km trail runs are on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE: At The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on Maui’s northwest coast.

WHY:  The XTERRA World Championship race is the last in a series of more than 100 off-road triathlon races held in 20 countries and 37 U.S. States.  The concept is to provide a bona-fide world championship for amateur and pro off-road triathletes. For pros there is $100,000 in prize money at stake.

HOW THEY QUALIFIED:  Amateurs enter the World Championship through one of two means:
1. Earn a slot by qualifying as one of the top finishers in their age group at an XTERRA Championship race in South Africa, Philippines, New Zealand, Saipan, Guam, Australia, Malaysia, Spain, Greece, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Canada, Italy, Mexico, Czech Republic, Germany, Japan, Great Britain and Alabama, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia in the United States.  For those “lucky-you-live-Hawaii-guys” there were two local qualifying races at Kualoa Ranch on Oahu.
2. Enter through the at large drawing – a limited number of slots were offered on a first-come first-serve basis in January.

XTERRA  BACKGROUND:  This is year 18 for the XTERRA World Championship on Maui – the birthplace of off-road triathlon.  The first XTERRA race was held here on November 3, 1996 with just 123 participants and was televised on Fox Sports Net.  The demand for the sport of XTERRA exploded thereafter and there are now more than 30,000 competitors from all 50 states and more than 40 countries worldwide.

1996: Jimmy Riccitello and Michellie Jones win inaugural event in Wailea, Maui.
1999: 11 races spanning from California to New Jersey.  First year of Pro Points Series.
2000: XTERRA goes global with its first international races in England, Japan, and Canada.
2001: The first year of the XTERRA USA Championship Series.
2003: The first year of the XTERRA European Tour.
2013: Now 70 events in the U.S., plus more than 30 international races including tours in Asia-Pacific and Europe

TELEVISION:  This will be the 18th straight year a nationally broadcast one-hour show will be produced on the event, which showcases Maui’s natural beauty. The 2012 XTERRA World Championship will be seen by more than four million viewers via national syndication (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX) and Fox Sports Network.  This year’s show will start its run in national syndication in mid-January 2014.

ECONOMIC IMPACT:  Direct visitor expenditures from the 2012 XTERRA World Championship were $6.2 million.  The average length of stay on Maui is 6.7 nights (8.2 nights in Hawaii), the average party size is 3.1, and 58% of the field had a household income of more than $100,000 (expenditure source: DBEDT).

Online Resources: www.facebook.com/XTERRAplanet… Videos: www.xterra.tv… Event: www.xterramaui.com

Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Double

Sebastian KienleThe Outrigger Hotels & Resorts “Double” award is given to the pro and amateur man and woman with the fastest combined 2013 XTERRA World Championship and Ironman Hawaii Championship time. Pro athletes are awarded US$2,500 with the top amateur man winning a 6-night stay at the Kapalua Villas and the top amateur woman winning a 6-night stay at the Outrigger Napili Shores.  Last year Sebastian Kienle (pictured) won the pro men’s double with a combined time of 11:03:38, while Anthony Snoble (13:21:31) and Martha Koekemoer (14:13:11) captured the amateur crowns.

Here’s a look at the list of those that competed at Ironman Worlds and are now in Maui getting ready for some fun at XTERRA Worlds next Sunday.



First Last Country Gender Division IM Time
Richard Stoffel Switzerland Male 45-49 9:19:01
Pablo Ureta Argentina Male 30-34 9:21:59
Martin Flinta Sweden Male 40-44 9:30:45
Andrew Sellars Canada Male 40-44 9:41:41
Tim Sheeper USA Male 50-54 9:45:13
Leandro Gonzalez Bonet Argentina Male 35-39 9:48:18
Taylor Dudley USA Male 40-44 9:59:08
Ricky Simonsen New Zealand Male 45-49 9:59:43
brent lorenzen USA Male 40-44 10:03:37
Randal Walker Canada Male 55-59 10:22:28
Kathryn Taylor USA Female 25-29 10:50:35
Kirk Vandeweghe Canada Male 45-49 10:58:40
Allison Linnell USA Female 20-24 11:00:14
Rudy Becker USA Male 40-44 11:45:24
Milan Sallaba USA Male 40-44 11:47:30
Beverly Watson Canada Female 60-64 11:50:41
Uta Knape Germany Female 40-44 12:26:54
Eddie Johnson USA Male 45-49 12:33:38
Kimiko Matsuda Japan Female 65-69 15:36:39

The Kahuna’s Maui Prognostication

When it comes to racing and XTERRA there is no one more qualified to chime in than the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas.

The human-powered/Mother Nature-inspired XTERRA racing scene has been his work-life passion for nearly two decades now.  He’s been to every World Championship since helping to create the sport back in ‘96, and this year watched races unfold in South Africa, the Philippines, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, France, Italy, Mexico, England and all over the U.S.

While he’s equipped with unequaled perspective on who might take the checkered flag on the lush green lawn of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on October 27, that doesn’t mean he’ll get it right.  In fact, he hardly ever does, going just 4-for-22 in picking winners over the last 10 years.

So, with a grain of salt, but some tasty insight nonetheless, here are the Kahuna’s 2013 Maui prognostications.

It is that time of year for me to prove how wrong I can be.  I have never seen so difficult a task to predict the winners as this year, especially in the men’s race.

You can’t look at the women’s field without seeing Lesley Paterson as the favorite.  Super Czech pro Helena Erbenova handed the little Scot her only loss this year at the ITU race in Holland but Les was not at her physical finest there.  Have no doubts; Erbenova is the real deal and has dominated Europe for two seasons.

Barbara RiverosVery much in the mix for the top spot is Chile’s Barbara Riveros (pictured).  Barb was 2nd at Maui last year and finished less than a minute behind Lesley at the USA champs and actually had a slightly faster run time.

Lurking in the back with every possibility to win must be three-time World Champion Julie Dibens.  Julie made her XTERRA return at Beaver Creek this summer and showed off her unbelievable swim skills and was very fast on the bike.  She was still not 100% and backed down on the run – OR was she keeping her British powder dry?

Heather Jackson was 4th at Maui last year and has had a phenomenal 70.3 season.  She raced at Utah but was coming off a hard road schedule and did not finish on the podium.  She’ll be ready at Maui.

Never to be overlooked is three-time World Champion Melanie McQuaid and the now-back-to-full-strength Shonny Vanlandingham.  Both are motivated racers who are not ready to be put in the “past their prime” bucket.

How will it shake down?  Dibens, Riveros, Jacqui Slack and Chris Jeffrey will get out front on the bike.  It will be up to Lesley, Helena, Heather, Shonny, Melanie and the others to catch them but not use up all their energy because they know they will be in a battle on the run.

There are a number of very fast women who have every expectation to stand on the podium;  Renata Bucher (SUI) Suzie Snyder (USA) Danelle Kabush (CAN) Jacqui Slack (GBR) Emma Garrard (USA) Kathrin Mueller (GER) Flora Duffy (BER), Carina Wasle (AUT) and South Africa winner Carla Van Huyssteen are all fast and are all winners.

Leonardo ChaconFor the men it is even more challenging.  Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon easily won Mexico and then repeated against a strong field at Utah.  This very quiet man is easy to miss in a crowd, but never forget he was 4th last year at Maui.  Look for him at the sharp end on Sunday.  Josiah Middaugh has had a fabulous season winning the USA series championship and has to be the favorite.  In 2012 he beat everybody in the field by over 2 minutes, except one.  Javier Gomez is not at Maui to defend his title and Josiah has shown both the speed and the mental toughness to bring the World Title back to the USA.  It will not be easy as 4 time World Champ and XTERRA icon Conrad Stoltz is looking unbelievably strong on the bike and wants that 5th title badly.

The only rider out there who matched Conrad at Utah was 2008 World Champ Ruben Ruzafa.  Ruben switched his focus from mountain biking to XTERRA this year and won two races in Europe and was 3rd at the USA Champs.  The fact is – Chacon, Middaugh, Ruzafa and Stoltz were within a couple minutes of each other at the USA final.  They could be even closer at Worlds.

A whole host of European speedsters are coming; Spain’s Hector Guerra won the Euro tour with young Belgian Yeray Luxem close behind.  World Champ Nico Lebrun is doing his last Maui as a top pro and would love nothing more than to go out on the podium.  Brit Asa Shaw was 7th last year and is again healthy after a disappointing Euro season.  South African winner Richard Murray is not well known here but he beat Conrad and Dan Hugo straight up.  Aussie Ben Allen is a threat, along with fellow Aussie and an Olympian – Courtney Atkinson.  Toss in Canadian Brent McMahon and Holy Cow, what a field.

McMahon, Allen, Chacon, Shaw, Atkinson, Richard Stannard, and Branden Rakita should lead out on the bike.  The South African trio of Murray, Conrad and Dan Hugo will not be far behind nor will the legendary Olivier Marceau.  I expect Conrad to charge hard on the bike and take the lead from Chacon with Josiah and Ruzafa coming after them.  If Ben Allen, McMahon, Hugo, Murray, Lebrun or Asa are on their game we could have 8-10 men coming into T2 in close proximity.  Josiah gave away over 3 1/2 minutes to Gomez in the swim last year yet finished less than a minute behind.  If he can do that this year he’ll see the finish line first.

But what will the Pacific Ocean give us for swim conditions?  What will Maui give us for temperature?  All that will play into the end game.  And we can’t forget the XTERRA family with more than 700 age group athletes from around the globe coming to see if they can go home with the title XTERRA World Champion.  It’s a worthy field fit and ready to battle.

Andre Szucs XTERRA Experience

There are a lot of inspirational athletes on the XTERRA Planet and at the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah last month, we discovered another.

Andre SzucsAndre Szucs, a below-the-knee amputee, has been overcoming adversity his entire life. So much so, he says “basically, I came to the conclusion that I am no different than anyone else out there, like everybody I am just exploring my physical limits…not to be confused with physical limitations because of an amputation, that’s not how I handle my life.”

Szucs, a 33-year-old from Brazil who now lives and works in Encinitas, is an accomplished athlete across many disciplines and an Ironman World Champ.

This year he took to the trails for the first time at the XTERRA Snow Valley off-road tri as a way to challenge himself.

“I thought I knew myself enough to consider that I was “fully capable” but I always had that unfortunate feeling that I could not run off-road.  This fear was always surrounding me that I could hurt myself and it could be bad for my knee and nothing could change that.”

Then he summoned the courage and gave it a try.

“It was a benchmark in my life and a whole new perspective on how far I could go. I am so excited to start this journey and I know there is so much room for improvement, especially on my prosthesis for running.”

Szucs second XTERRA was at the USA Champs, where he finished 3rd in the PC division and earned a qualifying spot into the XTERRA World Championship.

“Lesson learned,” said Szucs.  “Don’t be afraid to be happy. When asking ourselves if we can do something…before answering, go and TRY FIRST!”

Learn more about Andre at www.andreszucs.com and find all the motivation you need to get out and go for it today by watching these short videos:

http://vimeo.com/32307207 / http://vimeo.com/44410851

XTERRA National Champs, Continued

Last week we met about half of this year’s XTERRA age group National Champions, here we’ll introduce you to most of the rest…

Anne Gonzales (52, Aspen, CO) 50-54 Champ – 3:29:50

Since Anne Gonzales turned her focus to XTERRA two years ago there’s been no stopping her.

In July of last year Gonzales finished seventh overall ahead of several pros at the Mountain Championship in just her second XTERRA ever.  Then she won the USA and World Championships and now she’s a national champ for the second time in as many years.

This year’s title didn’t come easy, however…  “I had a slow swim so I had to charge on the bike and felt really strong. Getting through traffic was going well until my chain broke at the beginning of the Sardine Trail.  Fixing that chain took forever. I tried to fix it fast which only took longer- lesson learned!  I had to take a deep breath, fix the chain and continue on my mission which was finishing first in my division.  I had Maui on my mind,” said Gonzales.

Gonzales, who has spent the last 25 years on the ski patrol on Aspen Mountain, dedicates the race to her son Eric and new grandson Noah.

“The day before leaving for Snowbasin, Erik had ACL and meniscus surgery.  Thinking about him not being able to do much and me out there whining about a chain puts thing in perspective. My grandson just makes me smile.”

Matt Balzer (32, Reno, NV) – 30-34 CHAMP – 2:49:50

Matt BalzerMatt wasn’t just the fastest amateur in the 30-34 division, he was the fastest of all amateurs.  Balzer, a former pro who know dedicates more time to his 5-month-old, 8-year-old, wife, and business than training, still managed to finished 12th overall and more than a minute in front of young gun Cole Bunn.

“My day went amazingly well,” said Balzer. “I had a great swim, second out of the water, and passed the swim leader in T1.  I had a strong bike, even though it was incredibly tough, which allowed me to stay in the lead all day.”

Balzer did his first XTERRA back in 2007, but said the USA Championship was his best, and proudest triathlon result.

To make the weekend even sweeter his wife Aimee won the 30-34 division XTERRA Trail Run National Championship the next day.

“Congratulations to all the competitors, getting out and following your active lifestyle dreams is an amazing accomplishment,” said the owner of the Reno Running Company.  Next up: the family will take to the trails of Kapalua at XTERRA Worlds.

Kathy Frank (Santa Cruz, CA) – 65+ CHAMP – 7:02:40

Kathy Frank, who has been racing XTERRA for more than a decade now, won her fourth XTERRA National Championship last Saturday.

Here she talks about how her day unfolded…

“My day was really not great,” she explained. “The swim was long, so I was a bit worried about getting to the bike cutoff in time.  Then, about one third of the way up the canyon, my chain jammed so badly, I couldn’t budge it.  I was sidelined for about 30 minutes trying to pull it out.  A guy stopped and helped, but he couldn’t budge it either.  Fortunately my friend Roger Kern came along (so glad he’s a slower swimmer than I am!) and tried, but commented that it would take a long screwdriver to get the chain released.  I was already in tears at that point, and said “Who on earth would be carrying a long screwdriver on this course!”  Well, wonder of wonders, ROGER HAD ONE!!  We worked for about 15 more minutes, and finally got the chain unhooked!!  I finished the bike course barely in time to do the run.  My total time was probably the WORST time I’ve ever had, but I was grateful for Roger’s help (and the other guy, whoever he may be).   I was so happy to be off the bike and on the run that I decided I would run down a few people.  It was nice to have some company, and I was very happy to catch Ron Hill.  What a day!  I would like to dedicate this race to Roger, without whose help I never would have finished.  He is truly a good friend!”

John Mezger (36, Parker, CO) – 35-39 CHAMP – 2:53:57

John MezgerMezger just finished up a New Zealand law degree and will complete the NZ version of the bar in five weeks, “oddly enough, I really enjoy tax law,” he said.

He also enjoyed his first trip to Ogden this year.

“Loved the entire course, particularly the bike, it’s great to have so much single track and good solid climbing to go with a some rough down hilling.”

It came down to the bike for the title too – as Mezger had the best split in his division and it’s where he pulled away from runner-up Bryce Phinney.  Mezger finished 18th overall, and fourth amateur.

“I’m just happy that I didn’t blow up, and that I got a chance to glance over the ridge and look down at the reservoir,” said Mezger.

Hannah Rae Finchamp (17, Altadena, CA) – 15-19 CHAMP – 3:14:51

It was a banner year for Finchamp as she celebrated winning the ENVE Performer of the Year award on the eve of the USA Championship, then went out and won her division … again.

Here she tells us how the day went down…

“This was my third time competing in the USA XTERRA Championship and I must say, every race with XTERRA brings new experiences.  My plan for this race was to go for broke.  I felt great on the swim and was able to exit the water with many of the pros and as the first amateur woman.  On the bike I said my prayers and hoped for the best powering up the hills.  One of the pros even took my wheel to get a draft for a few miles of the race.  This is one of the things I love about XTERRA: the pros and amateurs race at the same time which creates an atmosphere for someone like me, that aspires to be like them one day in the future, to witness their skills and expertise first hand and in the moment.  I held the first amateur spot until mile three on the run when it became evident 3rd overall and 1st in my age group was where I would happily finish. It was such a thrill to see some of the strongest fields ever come out to race!  Right now, as competitive as I am, I am really trying to capture the moment of each race because I know that if I have anything to do with it, I still have decades of hearing Dave set off the cannon.  I can assure you, with my 2013 ENVE Performer of the Year award on the self (thanks XTERRA!), a fire is under my seat and I’m counting down the days until worlds!  See ya’ll in Maui!”

Laurence Goddard (65, Los Alamos, NM) 65-69 CHAMP – 4:15:48

Dr. Goddard (physician, internal medicine) has been racing XTERRA for a decade but had never done better than fifth.

“My goal this year was to get in the top three, so winning it was great,” said Goddard, who noted he had a mistake free race except for one fall on the run.

“With half-mile left in the run I was thinking I might win it and took my mind off the trail … and fell flat on my face.”

Goddard dedicated the win to his wife “who has put up with my training and racing schedule for the last two years” and said the real “win” is being healthy enough to do this difficult sport.

Elizabeth Gruber (23, Redding, CA) – 20-24 CHAMP – 3:11:13

Liz Gruber, a pre-nursing student at Loma Linda, won the 20-24 XTERRA World Championship last year but says winning nationals was her best triathlon result of all-time.

“The race was a blast.  I felt stronger than I usually do in the swim which set me into the bike with confidence.  The only woman who passed me during the bike, a pro, was just out of T1.  This was a huge boost because last year a lot of women passed me.  I focused on steady strong efforts up the climbs and let it fly on the descents.  I ran out of T2 feeling strong and on a mission.  I focused on staying relaxed, keeping good form and my turn over high.  I ran with Julie, the eventual 2nd overall amateur female, a while early on in the run and caught up to Hannah Rae near the 2nd aid station.  At this point, I thought I could be in first but I wasn’t sure.  I laid down everything I had on the last couple miles of downhill and was ecstatic about my finish.  It was a joy to soak up the rest of the day with my XTERRA friends and their happiness for me made my achievement that much more special,” said Gruber.

Gruber dedicated the win to her Mom and Dad, saying that “without their support and belief in my decisions and aspirations I would never be able to race at the level I am.”

She also said the day wasn’t all perfect, “Somebody’s fingers jabbed into my mouth in the first 200 meters of the swim…but hey, that’s better than getting your goggles smacked off!”

Gruber, who did her first XTERRA at Vashon Island last summer and is now looking forward to defending her World Title in Maui, said she’s hooked on the sport.

“Triathlon is the best sport and XTERRA is my favorite type of racing.  From the beginners to the pros, everybody swims, rides, and runs the same course.  It is equally brutal to every sweaty body that crosses the finish line, no matter if you’re finished in two hours or six.  Everyone is equal and especially in XTERRA, everyone is on the same team.  I want to shout out to all my XTERRA friends!  The old and the new, you are my XTERRA family and make it my favorite type of racing and keep me coming back for more.   I love you guys!”

Andrew Duenow (48, Anchorage, Alaska) – 45-49 CHAMP – 3:08:54

Andrew DuenowFor Andy Duenow, who has been involved with XTERRA since helping to put on the Hammerman off-road tri back in 2001, the win came down to teamwork.

The Alaska-crew has always been a tight knit bunch but never was it so apparent than in Utah this year as Duenow and his training partner Fred West pushed each other to the top two spots in the division.

“The biggest advantage I had on the day was being able to work together with my training partner and second place finisher in my age group, Fred West,” said Duenow.  “Racing with someone you know, who is so close in ability, allows you to push that extra bit together and really work a bit above what you might by yourself, while not blowing up.  It gave us confirmation of our efforts and pace, as sometimes it can be a challenge to stay in your game when others might be going harder or easier than you should and you can get caught up in “their” race.  We were able to motivate each other the entire bike leg and were together all the way through mile three on the run!  There were certainly parts where I would have backed off if it weren’t for Fred, and I’m sure I helped keep Fred pushing through as well.”

The stay-at-home Dad/Triathlon Coach/Race Director dedicated the win to his family.

“My wife, Jeannette, tolerates my addiction and we make a great team in life!  My boys, Reece and Tasman are at the age where they are getting out with me to play, and I hope to set a good example of an active lifestyle for them to follow,” said Duenow.

Next up; Maui.  “I’d love to keep the momentum going, but I know that some guys were missing from Utah, and there are some crazy strong Europeans that will be hard to compete with!  I’ll give it my all and have a blast doing it though, so we’ll see what happens!  I’ll have Fred there again to hammer with, so I’m stoked to come out and play!”

Katharine Wilson (27, Vail, Colorado) – 25-29 CHAMP – 3:27:37

Wilson is in just her second season of racing XTERRA but is already among the best in the U.S.

The biomedical engineer said she “had a great day. It was so beautiful out. After floundering through  the swim, I took the lead near the beginning of the bike course and there was no looking back.”

Wilson had the second best swim and the fastest bike and run times in her division by far to take the tape more than 12 minutes ahead of the runner-up.

She dedicates the win to her boyfriend Paul, “who has put up with all my training hours and pre-race emotions!”

Craig Vogstberger (38, Olney, IL) – PC CHAMP – 3:43:11

Craig Vogstberger won his third national championship in Utah last Saturday, but it wasn’t easy.

“My day was rough,” said Vogstberger.  “Most interesting thing, as usual, were the issues and problems with my disabilities. At mile three on the run, I started having trouble breathing and moving my left side, due to my Closed Head Injury, Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury, and Nervous System injuries.”

While serving in the Army National Guard in 2001 Vogstberger was crushed between two Humvees, resulting in a mess of injuries that he deals with to this day (read more on Craig’s story here).

Vogstberger has been an inspiration to the XTERRA Tribe since 2008, and a true living example of never giving up.  He dedicated this year’s title to his Dad, saying “it is the first U.S.A. Championship he didn’t attend. He recently had a severe medical condition that required surgery and will have surgery again late October.”

Our thoughts are with you and your family Craig.

Maia Ignatz (33, Boulder, CO) – 30-34 CHAMP – 3:21:11

Fourth time was a charm for Maia Ignatz, who was 3rd in 2009 and 2011, and 2nd last year at Nationals.

“It was a good day for me,” said the massage therapist and foundation training instructor. “I think it was slightly warmer in the morning than in years past and that really makes a difference for me, especially coming out of the water and riding up the cold, shadowy canyon. The swim was unexpectedly long, and as a non-swimmer, I just hoped that I could hang in there for that long and still feel good for the remainder of the race! The bike went well for me. I road nice and steady out the road and up the canyon, and eventually found myself with a great couple of men who were riding the same pace. We stuck together and kept each other motivated. Towards the top of the 2nd climb and switchbacks, my little group caught up to Debby Woodbury Sullivan and sat in behind her through the descent. As we came out of the descent, I decided to go for it and pass Debby (3rd in my age group that day). Pleased with my ride, I was excited for the run, probably my strongest leg. I managed to jog up the 1st climb, walking for only about 15 sec up the steepest section, and then pushed it the best I could all the way through to the end. I had a good feeling that I had taken the lead when I passed Megan Sheridan (2nd in my age group that day) maybe half way through the run, and she told me that there were only a few female age group athletes ahead. At this point, I was feeling pretty good and just stuck with a nice steady pace to the finish.”

Ignatz finished as the fourth amateur overall, and dedicated the race to her Uncle Doug who passed away “far too soon.”

Maia will now head to Maui and try to regain the XTERRA World Championship title she won in 2011.  Of note, her husband Ryan is a long-time XTERRA pro who finished 10th overall at nationals.

“I am so grateful for my amazing, adventurous life and I love being part of the XTERRA family.”

John Royson (60, Albany, CA) 60-64 CHAMP – 3:27:21

Royson won his first of three XTERRA World titles in 2000 and now 13 years later he’s a national champion.

“Almost knocked myself out at the start of the swim on a channel buoy, then I thought my front tire was going flat from the start of the ride, but still somehow led from the gun,” said Royson.

Royson had the best swim and bike times in his division and crossed the line nearly 10 minutes ahead of the runner-up Michael Orendorff.

Maui Preps to say Aloha to World’s Best Endurance Sports Athletes

The 18th edition of the XTERRA World Championship on October 27 at Kapalua, Maui will feature one of the greatest collections of elite athletes in event history.

There are more than 70 pros representing 20 countries on the tentative pro start list including some of the biggest names from the XTERRA, ITU, 70.3, duathlon, winter triathlon and mountain bike racing scenes.  Of note, every pro on the start list qualified for Maui by racing in at least one XTERRA major this season.

Josiah MiddaughWith last year’s winner Javier Gomez not on the start list, the “favorites” focus shines on XTERRA icons Conrad Stoltz and Josiah Middaugh.  Stoltz has won an unprecedented four XTERRA World titles and captured his third straight ITU Cross Tri World Championship this summer.  Middaugh, who finished 2nd place less than a minute behind Gomez at Worlds last year, won the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series crown this season.

Leonardo Chacon from Costa Rica upset both Stoltz and Middaugh to win the USA Championship race in Utah last month and was fourth in Maui last year.  2008 XTERRA World Champ Ruben Ruzafa and XTERRA European Tour champ Hector Guerra represent the hopes of Spain.

Ben Allen won more World Tour championships than anyone this year with seven.  Dan Hugo makes his return to the Kapalua course where he was just seconds shy of winning the 2011 crown.  Brent McMahon is a speedster who’s finished in the top six four times, including a pair of 3rd-place showings.

There’s a cast of experienced Euro Tour stars in the mix including Yeray Luxem, Asa Shaw, Nico Lebrun, Olivier Marceau, Felix Schumann, and Kris Coddens.

Among all the heavy hitters two XTERRA World Championship first-timers stand-out, Olympians Courtney Atkinson from Australia and Richard Murray from South Africa.  Both won their home country XTERRA Championship races and bring world-class speed to the sandy shores of Maui.

The field is just as deep for the women although the “Scottish Rocket” Lesley Paterson, with her two world titles and seven straight XTERRA victories, is clearly the woman to beat.

The reigning and two-time XTERRA European Tour champ Helena Erbenova got the best of Paterson at ITU Cross Tri Worlds this summer, but Paterson wasn’t 100% for that race.  And last year in Maui Erbenova was shackled with an injury that kept her from her best.  Here’s to hoping both are in great shape on October 27.

Barbara Riveros was just 2nd to Paterson at the USA Champs in Utah, and was 2nd in Maui last year as well.  Heather Jackson is the top American female returner, she placed 4th last year and was the runner-up at 70.3 Worlds last month.  Emma Garrard was the top American at the USA Championship last month, finishing fourth behind only Paterson, Riveros, and Chantell Widney.

This will be the first Maui attempt for Widney, who was 3rd at the ITU Cross Tri Worlds this year. She’s part of a Canadian contingent that will be in full force with 3x XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid, two-time runner-up Danelle Kabush, Brandi Heisterman, Christine Jeffrey, and Katie Button.

Jacqui Slack and Renata Bucher won four XTERRA World Tour races a piece this year, and are joined by fellow Euro Tour star Kathrin Muller.

The U.S. can pull for its last two national champions – Shonny Vanlandingham and Suzie Snyder; while other notables include Nicky Samuels, Liz Orchard, and Sarah Backler from New Zealand and Carla Van Huyssteen from South Africa.

2013 also marks the return of three-time World Champ Julie Dibens, who dominated from 2007-2009.  Indeed a regal field with Dibens, Paterson, Vanlandingham, and McQuaid accounting for every XTERRA World title since 2005.

More from Maui to come as we get closer to off-road triathlon’s greatest day…


(Place at last year’s WC) – Name, Country
(2) – Josiah Middaugh, USA
(3) – Conrad Stoltz, RSA
(4) – Leonardo Chacon, CRC
(6) – Brent McMahon, CAN
(7) – Asa Shaw, GBR
(9) – Yeray Luxem, BEL
(10) – Olivier Marceau, SUI
(11) – Nicolas Lebrun, FRA
(13) – Felix Schumann, GER
(16) – Felipe Moletta, BRA
(17) – Braden Currie, NZL
(19) – Brice Daubord, FRA
(20) – Jan Kubicek, CZE
(22) – Francois Carloni, FRA
(24) – Jim Thijs, BEL
(27) – Branden Rakita, USA
(31) – Jan Francke, CZE
(35) – Ben Allen, AUS
(37) – Will Ross, USA
Courtney Atkinson, AUS
Grant Bovee, USA
Kris Coddens, BEL
Chris Ganter, USA
Marvin Gruget, FRA
Hector Guerra, ESP
Fabio Guidelli, ITA
Dan Hugo, RSA
Ryan Ignatz, USA
Dennis Kruse, GER
Andy Lee, USA
Kyle Leto, USA
Jason Michalak, USA
Richard Murray, RSA
Ruben Ruzafa, ESP
Tim Snow, USA
Richard Stannard, GBR
Adam Wirth, USA

(Place at last year’s WC) – Name, Country
(1) – Lesley Paterson, GBR
(2) – Barbara Riveros, CHI
(4) – Heather Jackson, USA
(5) – Jacqui Slack, GBR
(7) – Renata Bucher, SUI
(8) – Shonny Vanlandingham, USA
(9) – Helena Erbenova, CZE
(11) – Elizabeth Orchard, NZL
(12) – Danelle Kabush, CAN
(13) – Melanie McQuaid, CAN
(14) – Brandi Heisterman, CAN
(15) – Katie Button – CAN
(16) – Caroline Colonna, USA
(17) – Tamara Donelson, AUS
Sarah Backler, NZL
Mieko Carey, JPN
Genziana Cenni, ITA
Laura Mira Dias, BRA
Julie Dibens, GBR
Emma Garrard, USA
Dunia Gomez, MEX
Christine Jeffrey, CAN
Kathrin Muller, GER
Nienke Oostra, DEN
Daz Parker, GBR
Nicky Samuels, NZL
Suzie Snyder, USA
Carla Van Huyssteen, RSA
Carina Wasle, AUT
Chantell Widney, CAN

Mr. XTERRA 2013 – Brent Bieshaar

What started out as a bucket-list idea turned into something much bigger for this year’s Mr. XTERRA award winner.

Brent BieshaarThe idea was to do an XTERRA every weekend of the entire season.  We’re talking about 23 races in 24 weeks, the lone break coming over Memorial Day when no XTERRA races were scheduled.  The odyssey was dubbed “XTERRA Across America.”

Now, there have been some pretty cool quests in the past, like when Will Kelsay went on a 12,000-mile XTERRA journey in a beat-up RV.

But every weekend …  all year?!

Nobody had ever done it, heck, the travel logistics alone could tie an intrepid traveler in knots.

Undaunted, the task master – a 48-year-old father of two from Colorado – scoured through the schedule and devised a fail proof plan.  Right!  Ever heard the expression “best laid plans of mice an men?”

Well, his first race of the season was cancelled a week before the event, and the trials and tribulations that ensued – delayed flights, bike fiasco’s, fires and foul weather, crashes, colds, aches and pains, sleep deprivation, and the tireless search for good sushi in strange places … only solidified his mantra.

Adapt and Conquer.

In between the races, he’d work.  A lot.  Despite traveling more than 40,000 miles and venturing to 15 states from coast-to-coast in a span of six months – he took just four vacation days from work.

And, what was the glue that kept the journey together you might ask?

Let’s start with Paula, his wife and part-time travel partner who’d help him pack, pen his journal, and support him every step of the way.  She was backed up by their two grown boys – Ryan and Danny – and an extended, sprawling, family network that would make the Brady Bunch proud.

Then there were his friends – lots and lots of friends, new and old from Cali to New Hampshire, from grade school classmates to college buddies.  But one stands out.

Don Young, his former high school teammate who is battling Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“His positive outlook and determination to make the most of his time made quite an impression on me” said Mr. XTERRA at the onset of the journey.

So he selected the Blazeman Foundation and the war on ALS as his focus through the odyssey, and helped raise awareness for the disease every step of the way, every chance he got, everywhere he roamed.

The Blazeman Foundation is a family-run non-profit named after the late Jon Blais, whose courageous battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease inspired a generation of triathletes when he became the first person with ALS to finish the Ironman World Championship in 2005.

His racing kit emblazoned with the logo “War on ALS” and the foundation saying “So Others May Live.”

At the finish line of every race, he did the “Blazeman role” – none more special than the role at XTERRA Renegade he did right alongside his good friend Don Young.

He raised thousands of dollars for the cause.  He raised hope for those touched by the disease.

For being the first racer to ever successfully race and finish an XTERRA every weekend of the season, for truly exemplifying the spirit of XTERRA – the challenge, commitment and camaraderie that is the essence of our sport, and more importantly – for being a genuinely great guy we are proud to honor Brent Bieshaar as this year’s Mr. XTERRA award winner.

Brent was recognized at the Night of Champions dinner Friday in Ogden, Utah on the eve of the XTERRA USA Championship, and after he was announced received a rousing standing ovation from the packed house – for a good 10 minutes.

Watch the video / Read the Deseret News story / Read his blog

Bieshaar has one more race – the XTERRA World Championship in Maui next month – it’ll be his unprecedented 24th XTERRA of the season.

Meet some XTERRA USA Champions

There was an XTERRA National Championship race in 25 different age group divisions in Utah last Saturday, and here we’ll meet some of the victors…

Ron Hill (76, Hayden, ID) – 76+ CHAMP – 7:07:43

Ron HillOh what a difference a year makes. Just 11 months ago Ron Hill was in a hospital in Hawaii with a broken pelvis, a result of a mountain bike crash on one of the last downhills of the XTERRA World Championship course in Kapalua.

It’s not an easy injury to recover from, not when you’re 30, definitely not when you’re 75-years-old.

“The recovery has been phenomenal, miraculous actually,” said Hill.  “I took it easy, did everything the doctors told me to do, to the letter.  I thought if I tried to push it and make a mistake and crack it again, I’d be in deep doo-doo.  So, I Iet it heal.”

He went from being prone in a hospital bed – to a wheelchair – to a walker – to walking unassisted by the end of February 2013.  It wasn’t overnight, it wasn’t easy, but it was done.

In April, Ron and his wife Bobbi (XTERRA’s most cherished volunteer) drove out to the XTERRA West Championship in Vegas just to help out.  It was during this trip, while taking the family dog out for a stretch that Ron started to jog, “just 50 feet back to the truck.”

By July, Ron was racing again, at the XTERRA Vashon Island off-road tri in Washington.  It took him a half-hour longer than the year before, but he did it and there was no pain.  Amazingly, there was really no pain the entire time after the initial accident.

“My orthopedic surgeon was amazed at my progress, downright giddy,” said Hill, who explained that the surgeon had told him he’d shown the best results he’d ever seen, and he was also his oldest patient.

In August, Ron raced at the XTERRA Wild Ride off-road tri in his home state of Idaho.  The bike is tricky, the distances are legit, and he made it.

Then, to get ready for the massive amount of climbing – at altitude – that the USA Championship course in Utah was known for, Hill started doing uphill sprints.

He did enough of those to prepare his body for one of XTERRA’s most grueling endurance challenges, and despite being worried about not making the cut-off at T2 on Saturday, he did.

“Bike came in as expected, right at cut-off, but I didn’t have anything left for the run.  I ran on some of the nice flat smooth stuff, but my body started telling me if I kept it up I wouldn’t make it so I settled into a nice fast walk. I started cramping at the end, but I made it.”

Yes he did, a national champion for the second straight year and the third time in his XTERRA career. Now he’s going to Maui, back for some unfinished business on the Kapalua course.

Cindi Toepel (62, Littleton, CO) – 60-64 CHAMP – 4:15:50

Cindi ToepelNobody does it better.  Cindi Toepel won her unprecedented ninth XTERRA USA Championship on Saturday, her seventh in a row and ninth in 10 years since 2004.

“I am very blessed to have the abilities to do these races,” said Toepel.  “I am also thankful that I can still pull off a win when I am not feeling 100%!  I’m trying to keep that Nationals win streak going since I have won every Nationals race I have started so far.”

Toepel was 10 minutes behind Jo Garuccio coming out of the water and said she didn’t take the lead until the first big climb out of transition on the run.

“I was not feeling great, the power and energy was not there.”

Still, she said some guy “told me I was crazy as he followed me on the downhill from Sardine Peak.  When he finally passed me on the two-track road going up the hill he gave me a very funny look!”

Toepel dedicates the win to fellow XTERRA ambassador Scott Scudamore, who was badly hurt in a mountain biking accident last weekend.

Michael Hagan (51, Colorado Springs, CO) – 50-54  – 3:03:40

He’s a retired military officer and an endurance sports coach so there was only one option for Hagan after a root caught his toe and sent him crashing into the dirt at mile four of the run.

“I got up and kept running before the pain set in,” said Hagan.  “It ended up being a moderate case of “dirt” rash on my knee, hip, shoulder, palm etc. It was pretty funny picking rocks out of my singlet during the remainder of the run. Fortunately, the wounds weren’t very serious and really didn’t affect my race.”

About a mile earlier Hagan had caught and passed Dennis Farrell – who was in the lead after posting the best bike split of everyone in the division.

“I was hoping I was still in the hunt coming into T2. I knew Dennis Farrell was in front of me. He is an awesome bicyclist. I just started running hard hoping he wasn’t too far in front and I could catch him. My hamstring cramped slightly at about 2 miles, which worried me more. But I caught Dennis at around 2.5 miles and the hamstring held in there until the finish.”

Hagan finished as the 9th amateur overall with a time that would’ve been fast enough to win the 20-24, 40-44, and 45-49 division too. It’s a landmark victory for Hagan, who has been racing XTERRA since 2010.  He dedicates the victory to his family “for all the great support,” to the athletes he coaches, and to his friends that train with him.

“My wife really helps motivate me (often by just making me work hard to keep up with her on runs) and so do my kids. I have tried to set a good example of living an active, healthy lifestyle for them and now they are making me proud. Our 15-year-old son is blowing away all my records in cross country and track and our six-year old keeps me on my toes,” said Hagan. “Also, I would dedicate the effort to the athletes I coach. I believe it is helpful to race myself and maintain current first-hand experience of the challenges they face and many of my athletes motivate me with the exceptional dedication and work ethic they show.  Finally, I would like to dedicate the race to my friends.  The social aspect is one of the most rewarding attributes of training, and my friends motivate me to train more and harder and we have a great time. Almost all of my best friends are fellow athletes.”

Catherine “Bradley” Richmond (41, Crested Butte, CO) – 40-44 CHAMP – 3:50:50

The 41-year-old Yoga instructor is in just her first-year of XTERRA racing, and enjoying every minute of it.

“It was so awesome to have the opportunity to compete in Ogden at Nationals,” said Richmond, who goes by her middle name Bradley.  “The race conditions were fantastic and it was so exciting to hear the helicopter and know where the pros were.”

Richmond was fourth out of the water but then posted the best bike split of women in her division to take a lead into T2 she wouldn’t relinquish.   Molly Obetz finished second in the division a little more than one-minute back.

“The day went really well.  I trained hard before the race and feel like the race was won the climb up Sardine Peak, just like Josiah Middaugh said it would at the XTERRA University clinic,” said Richmond.

The win is dedicated to Mike Preston, the love of her life who competed in the 40-44 division himself.  Now the two are headed for Maui.

“The bikini is packed!  The best local place to eat here has created the “Maui Tri” sandwich to help raise funds, and I have 22 hard core workouts between now and then.  So grateful and so psyched!”

Tom Monica (55, Thousand Oaks, CA) – 55-59 CHAMP – 3:15:44

Mark it XTERRA National Championship No. 4 for Tom Monica, who won his first one 10 years ago in 2003.

This year he defended his title against Dennis Brinson, who was the runner-up in the division for the second straight year.  Of note, Brinson out-ran Monica to win Worlds last year, and for sure we’ll see another rivalry race in Kapalua next month.

The director of process development for Amgen said “the day went pretty well. I got a good lead and never let it go. I rode well, and with some of the pro women as well as back and forth with Hannah Rae all day. The run felt hard, and I tripped and did a face plant at one point, but kept up a decent pace.”

Monica had the fastest swim of anyone in his division by far, putting more than six minutes on Brinson. He’ll have to do the same in Maui if he is to win his fourth XTERRA World Championship. He dedicated the win to his wife.

Lucia Colbert (55, Cordova, TN) – 55-59 CHAMP – 4:01:47

Colbert won the 55-59 division for the second straight year on Saturday, and is also the reigning XTERRA World Champ.

Saturday’s win was extra special for Colbert, a structural engineer practitioner who has been racing XTERRA consistently for eight years now.

“I dedicated this race to my two close family members who are battling cancer right now, and my 18-year-old niece who just last week took a few steps almost two years after a severe traumatic brain injury from a car wreck,” said Colbert. “There were a lot of prayers said out there.”

Colbert had the best swim and bike times in her division, and held off the speedy 7x National Champ Barbara Peterson on the run for the second year in a row.

Charlie Karstrom (26, San Diego, CA) – 25-29 CHAMP – 3:00:02

Karstrom had the fastest swim and bike times among the 20 racers in his division and held on during the run to defend his national title.  He was 7th overall amateur and more than 12 minutes ahead of 25-29 runner-up Chris Rodrigues.

Karstrom, who works in business development for Qualcomm, dedicated the win to his grandparents “who helped me buy a mountain bike last season so I could try out XTERRA racing.”

Rachel Farrett (45, Highlands Ranch, CO) – 45-49 CHAMP – 3:41:11

In just her first full season of racing XTERRA Rachel Farrett is a national champ.  The 45-year-old artist was third out of the water but posted the fastest bike and run times in her division and came in more than 17-minutes ahead of runner-up Christy Geyer.

“The weather was perfect for racing, and the run was harder than anticipated.  The terrain is very rocky and I twisted my ankles several times,” said Farrett.

Farrett dedicates the win to her “awesome” husband and her two boys – ages 10 and 12 – who “keep her life interesting.”

Julie Baker (36, Sonora, CA) – 35-39 CHAMP – 3:13:28

The soil scientist from Sonora, who was recently stationed in nearby Logan, Utah, posted the exact same finishing time as last year when she finished second in the division behind Genevieve Evans (now a pro).

This year that time (3:13:28) was good enough for the win – and the second-best time among amateur women.

Baker took a big lead out of the water and never looked back.

“Swimming is my strong point but I knew I was having a good race when I was playing leapfrog with some of the pros on the bike, instead of them just screaming by like usual, never to be seen again,” said Baker.

She dedicates the win to “Cathy, for her love, support, and cowbell-ringing encouragement; Brad, my number one human training partner; and Leika, my number one puppy training partner.”

Baker also wanted to thank the Paul Mitchell students for her “sleek and speedy new racing haircut!”

Kathy Waite, who had the fastest bike split in the division, finished 2nd.