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
Oh 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
Nobody 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.