The Local Favorites - Hawaii's XTERRA Tribe

Oct. 23, 2015


Maui triathletes Gerry Clark - who won the 30-34 division in 1997 - Joe Alueta, and Steve Fisher are the only three racers remaining to have done all 19 XTERRA World Championship races since the inaugural 1996 event.

“1996 seems so far away in time,” said Fisher, who is famous for training with his parrot Hi’ilani. “I am very proud to have been there from the beginning and really respect all the work Team Unlimited has down to make XTERRA so awesome. I plan to race again this year, making it 20 years in a row {my goal is another 30 races}.”

Scott Brand, 47, a biomedical engineer at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children will be racing the XTERRA World Championship for the 17th straight year. 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. In 2013 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.”

There are all kinds of inspiring local athletes racing XTERRA, like Kim Mufalli from Makawao who is a single mother of five – ages 18, 20, 22, 26, and 27.

Lorenn Walker has done 15 XTERRA Worlds, and won her division five times during a six-year stretch between 1999-2004. There are only two Hawaii racers who have won more than five, Wendy Minor and Ed Fattoumy.

Minor won her seventh title in 2013 and this year will break in a new age group category for XTERRA, the 70-74 women’s division.

Then there is Fouad “Ed” Fattoumy who has won the physically challenged division XTERRA World Title nine times in 10 years since 2005. Ed emigrated from Morocco more than a decade ago, and was in a hit-and-run accident with a car while riding his bike.  The accident left him with spinal cord damage and chronic fatigue. The effects, similar to that of Spinal Stenosis - a condition due to narrowing of the spinal cord causing nerve pinching which leads to persistent pain in the buttocks, limping, lack of   feeling in the lower extremities, and decreased physical activity, hasn’t stopped him from winning and flashing that brilliant smile of his.

Other local racers of note include Janet Higa-Miller, who told J.R. De Groote of the West Hawaii Today that she’ll be “racing against a ghost” in Maui this year.  Higa-Miller was one of the original 123 that competed in 1996, and this year she wants to beat her time from 20 years ago (4:35:44).

“They are totally different courses now, but it is a form of motivation for me. I don’t know if it is even comparable, but it’s definitely more psychological than anything,” said Higa-Miller.

Noel Mackisoc, who was the only Hawaii racer to finish the “Double” last year, is back for XTERRA but with fresher legs this year. The “Outrigger Resorts Double” competition is reserved for those who compete the Ironman World Championship on the Big Island then XTERRA Worlds in Maui.

“Amy Bennett Eck got me started with all this. First as a   volunteer, then she insisted I race it,” said Mackisoc. “Now I’ve done it mostly every year since 2009, and XTERRA Worlds every year since 2010. Even though these races test you to your fullest extent, I enjoy the fun and laid-back atmosphere of XTERRA the most.”

Of note, Amy Eck won't be racing this year as she gave birth to her second child today (October 23, 2015).

Now the fastest othe Hawaii bunch are Sergio Florian and Laurel Dudley.

Florian, 35, won the XTERRA Freedom Fest off-road triathlon (Hawaii’s qualifier) for the second straight year in July and was the top Hawaii finisher at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui last year, placing 13th in the highly competitive 35-39 division.

“My goal for this year is to better my result from last year and shoot for a podium spot in my age group,” said Florian, who earned a doctorate in physical therapy from Loma Linda University and is the owner/operator of Wellness Physical Therapy specializing in spinal cord and brain injuries.

“I will give it my all and trust in the training that I’ve done. Every year I have a better understanding of what it takes to do well in Maui. Racing against athletes from all over the world is intense.  This race attracts the best off-road triathletes in the world so you better be ready to put on a world class performance of your own.”

Florian, who was born in Argentina, moved to Southern California at the age of 12 and has been living in Kaaawa since 2007, says XTERRA is his passion.

“I choose to race XTERRA because I love being out in the open ocean, on the trails and on a mountain bike … and, a little dirt never hurt!  XTERRA also adds an adrenaline factor to triathlon which is something I’m drawn to.”

Dudley feels the same way, adding that “XTERRA is more than just a race. It is a culture and a lifestyle that transcends the race course and that I personally carry with me in life:  Passion, love for the outdoors, love for dirt, gratitude, and friendly fun competition!”

Friendly, Fun…and also Fierce!  Dudley will be making her XTERRA pro racing debut in Maui this year.  She qualified to race as an elite after finishing as the 3rd amateur (9th overall) at the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah this September.

“The coming together of people from all over the world with a similar passion creates a fantastic buzz of energy,” said Dudley, who is expertly trained by her endurance sports guru of a husband, John Henderson. “On race day the excitement is invigorating, and it pushes you.  It also instills a sense of gratitude, that regardless of your time or place that day, simply the opportunity to be there and race amongst such a diverse crew bonded by the XTERRA culture is awesome.”

Last year Dudley was just 30-seconds shy of winning the XTERRA World Championship in the competitive 35-39    division.  This year, in the pro ranks, she says expectations really won’t change.  “All I hope for is a good solid race.”

Here’s a look at this year’s roster of Hawaii’s triathletes competing this year:  Paulo Araujo, Patrick Black, Courtney Bollman, Scott Brand, Yvette Burdett, Tina Burgos, Roger Casey, Gerry Clark, Jarad Cliver, Nicholas Corbet, David Dalzell, Sean Dowling, Laurel Dudley, Elizabeth Edmonds, Robert Egbert, Sergio Florian, Josh Gruber, Kamuela Guth, Janet Higa-Miller, Patrick James, Becca Johnston, Michael Kedzie, Eric Kollai, Stacy Kunkel, Noel Mackisoc, Jeff MacNair, Scott McGill, William McMahon, Todd Meadows, Grant Miller, Wendy Minor, Julius Montehermoso, Bruce Moore, Kim Mufalli, Philip Myers, Craig Neher, Jefferson Oishi, Johannes Olind, Jacob Pembrook, Fred Rice, Shawn Rogers, Brandee Schiller, Paul Sibley, Daryl Smith, Janel Takasaki, Amy Vasquez, Dan Vasquez, Bruce Wacker, Lorenn Walker, David Weikel, Brent Wong.