Maui triathletes Gerry Clark - who won the 30-34 division in 1997 - Joe Alueta, and Steve Fisher are the only three racers to have done all 20 XTERRA World Championship races since the inaugural 1996 event, and they're all back to do it again in 2016.
“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.”
Scott Brand, 48, a biomedical engineer at Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children will be racing the XTERRA World Championship for the 18th 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.”
Lorenn Walker has done 16 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 (pictured above) won her eighth title in 2015, and was the first women’s 70-74 division champion.
Then there is Fouad “Ed” Fattoumy who has won the physically challenged open division XTERRA World Title 10 times in 11 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.
Marcy Fleming, an extraordinary 55-year-old woman from Kailua, is racing XTERRA Worlds for the sixth time since 2004 and also doing the “Double” by competing in both the Ironman and XTERRA World Championships. Marcy is the only local woman and one of just 16 athletes doing both races but what makes her story so interesting is that her great grandfather is D.T. Fleming, the plantation manager of Honolua Ranch (now known as Kapalua) in the early 1900s. The beach where it all starts is named after Mr. Fleming.
“He was a pioneer in Hawaii Agriculture and believed that Hawaii needed to diversify its agricultural base, he transitioned Honolua out of cattle ranching and into Pineapples,” explained Fleming. “On the lands where will be riding, he grew everything from mangoes to watermelons. DT spoke fluent Hawaiian, and in the 1940s and '50s, enabled his company's employees to obtain mortgages and buy house lots in West Maui. There are two arboretums that bear his name, one on West Maui and the other at Puu Mahoe in Haleakala. His son, my grandfather, was a doctor on Maui who continued his tradition of giving back to the community. I'm proud to be riding on these lands and think that both DT and Dr. Jim would appreciate that XTERRA is doing much to diversify tourism in Hawaii.”
Another local athlete who knows the area quite well is Ryan Kirkham, the Principal of Maui Preparatory Academy.
“The bike course goes right around our school, so yeah, XTERRA is literally in our backyard,” said Kirkham. “As a family, we have played the role of spectators several times at this race. After a few years of watching in awe, I wasn't sure if I should (a) be inspired by these tremendous athletes or (b) be embarrassed to call myself a human being. I guess (a) won out.”
Kirkham isn’t the only educator in the bunch. We also have Maui High School science teacher Mitch Wendorff, who is also doing the double.
And the title of Hawaii’s fastest XTERRA racer has to go to Sergio Florian, 36, who won the local qualifier at XTERRA Freedom Fest for the third straight year and was Hawaii’s top finisher last year in 175th place overall.
Florian, who was born in Argentina, moved to Southern California at the age of 12 and has been living in Kaaawa since 2007, says we should look out for Jacob Pembrook, a lifeguard on Kauai.
“He's super excited about racing XTERRA the last few years, and was 3rd at Freedom Fest this year and looking strong.”