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.
A 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!”