Winter Vinecki may be the most ambitious person you could ever meet. She also happens to be an extraordinary endurance athlete who will be making her XTERRA debut this weekend.
Winter is only 14, but is already an established name in the sports of triathlon, distance running, and aerial skiing. In keeping with her enterprising year-round schedule, her XTERRA debut will cover two days of competition. Winter will compete in both the XTERRA West Championship off-road triathlon on Saturday, April 13, and the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run 21-kilometer race on Sunday, April 14.
"The one great thing about being young is our remarkable ability to recover quickly," Winter said. "I've done numerous triathlons back-to-back, such as youth draft legal or spring tri one day and Olympic distance triathlon the next. I've also combined triathlons and running events on the same weekend. I run five days a week for my marathon training and will use the XTERRA Trail Run as training for my next marathon on the Inca Trail in June. I will see how I feel on Sunday and determine at that time how hard I will push the pace on the 21K. This is my very first race with XTERRA so it will be a learning weekend for me."
It might be a learning weekend for Winter, but everyone could use a lesson from her as well. This XTERRA weekend is the latest in her journey around the world to raise awareness for prostate cancer.
In 2009, Michael Vinecki - Winter's father - died less than a year after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Shortly after, Winter and her mother started the non-profit Team Winter to bring attention prostate cancer awareness.
"Since I'm racing for a cause, my non-profit Team Winter, I find myself always trying to do my very best and setting big goals and dreams," she said. "I race not for myself, but in memory of my dad and the 1 in 6 men affected by prostate cancer. My goal this season is to qualify for XTERRA World Championships either through a qualifying race like Vegas or through points. I never look at my age as a barrier."
Because of her busy schedule, Winter completes her school work online through EPGY (Educational Program for Gifted Youth), run by Stanford University. She is originally from Michigan, but now resides in Park City, Utah, so she can train year-round in her various sports.
Her most ambitious project for 2013 involves "seven marathons on seven continents." Winter has already completed marathons in North America (Oregon), Africa (Kenya) and Antarctica. Later this year, she plans to run marathons in South America (Peru), Asia (Mongolia), New Zealand and Europe (Greece).
The Antarctica event was just last week, and she became the youngest runner ever to complete a marathon on that continent.
"Running a marathon in Antarctica cannot really be explained," she said. "It is one of those things you just need to experience first-hand. The marathon to me was not just the day of the race. Ninety percent of the marathon was just traveling to and from Antarctica and all the obstacles you face along the way. The marathon was about falling in love with a continent and the beauty and secrets it holds."
Winter has been competing in triathlons since she was 5, and is a two-time IronKids National Champion. This weekend, however, will be her first major off-road events, including her first competition on a mountain bike (the XTERRA West Championship triathlon consists of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 30K mountain bike, and a 10K trail run).
If Winter places first in her age group during Saturday's triathlon, she will qualify for the 2013 XTERRA World Championship on Maui later this year. It won't be easy though, as her age division includes the reigning XTERRA amateur world champ, Hannah Rae Finchamp.
"It will give me a chance to gain experience amongst some of the best triathletes in this off-road series," Winter said. "Achieving my goal of qualifying for Worlds will mean more awareness for prostate cancer and more people knowing my story. I know I have my work cut out for me, but I'm always up for a challenge, and as I always tell others, Never Give In!"