A Season to Remember

Sep. 17, 2015

Every parent looks for meaningful ways to connect with their kids. Here’s a story about a Dad who did just that, in the most healthy, active, outdoorsy way you can imagine.

It all started about 15 years ago when Carl Horton, a 57-year-old from Draper, Utah, started falling into a sluggish, inactive existence.

“My story is similar to many others,” he explained. “I was very quickly dipping into the middle age sedentary lifestyle and wanted to do something about my lack of fitness. I started with a goal of running 20 minutes in the neighborhood, and went from there.”

One of the first triathlons he ever did was a combo road/off-road triathlon. Both started with the same swim, went on separate bike course, and rejoined for a trail run.

“After the race the XTERRA athletes were covered in mud and seemed to have a lot more fun. That image of smiling dirt-encrusted triathletes stayed in my mind for another decade until I finally decided to join them a few years ago.”

His jump to XTERRA (he’s now a two-time regional champ) happened at an opportune time.  While his daughter Heather, now 15, grew up immersed in the multisport world and started swimming in grade school and doing triathlons in middle school, it wasn’t until she got to high school that she really wanted to mountain bike.

“When she was 13 and entered 9th grade at Alta High School in Sandy, she learned about the school’s NICA-Utah mountain bike league team,” said Carl. “It’s an understatement to say that high school mountain bike racing is big in Utah, and XTERRA is the perfect companion sport. Last year, she won the NICA Utah league overall freshman girls title, and is in first place for JV girls this year as a sophomore. The high school bike team is her greatest source of friends. She also lettered in swimming, and practices with the cross country and track teams when she can.”

This year, Carl and Heather set out with a goal to do a race a week – whether it be mountain biking, trail running or XTERRA.

“I believe that people get good at racing by racing a lot,” said Carl. “One can train at race pace, but one can’t train with race emotion.”

So, during the course of the 2015 XTERRA America Tour Carl and Heather did seven races together and if you took out the series rules about only counting the best four scores – those two tallied the 4th and 5th most points out of thousands of racers. Heather won her division in six-of-seven races, Carl won his three times, both won their region, and both got faster … but Heather got way faster.

“We started the XTERRA season with me waiting for Heather at the finish line. Then, about a month ago, she chicked me and began a new tradition of her waiting for me at the finish!” exclaimed Carl. “In Heather’s last four XTERRA races she finished 5th, 4th, 3rd, and 2nd overall female and is now very much looking forward to see how she can stack up against the big girls at XTERRA Nationals and Worlds.”

With success is a whole lot of fun, Carl insists the big picture is about spending time together and learning that you can do so much more than you think if you just put your mind to it.

“At this point, it’s about Heather having fun and learning that her body will do what her mind tells it to do,” said Carl. “We train without power meters, clocks, or training logs. We spend a lot of time training skills, learning race strategy, and motivation. Heather is very new to all this, although this summer she very quickly adapted to the lifestyle of a competitive endurance athlete- sleep, eat, train, and race. It amazes me how every day she can sleep 12 hours.”

As for Heather, she’s just having fun and enjoying time out on the trails with her Dad.

“It’s true,” Carl said. “Heather and I somehow managed to really connect this summer and had a lot of fun racing XTERRA.”

“I love our time together,” said Heather. “Almost every day we have the best daddy-daughter dates- we dress up in our finest lycra, eat energy bars, and dance through the mud! We have grown very close spending countless hours driving, talking about life, and racing together.”