XTERRA National Champs, Continued

Oct. 4, 2013

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.