More Than Just a Number

Oct. 19, 2016

Stroll along the sandy shores of D T Fleming Beach on Sunday and you’ll see hundreds upon hundreds of the fittest people on the planet, each with their own unique number tattooed on their arm.

For the pros, the number represents where they finished at last year’s race. The reigning XTERRA World Champion Josiah Middaugh will don No. 1; and last year’s women’s winner Flora Duffy will wear No. 61. For the amateurs, their race number is indicative of what age division they’re in. For example, No. 100 is Morgan Fortin, the youngest female in the field at 15-years-old; and No. 822 is Ron Hill, the senior statesman of XTERRA at 79.

For timing purposes, the numbers are identifiers, a way to track how fast No. 133 can swim, bike, and run. Of course, there’s more to No. 133 than her bike split. No. 133 is Tory Sigmond, a 27-year-old from Dillon, Colorado and for her, this trip isn’t all about the race ...

“In April 2015, after more than eight months of being bedridden with an undiagnosed pain, my Mom was diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma and was given 1-to-2 years to live,” explained Sigmond.

Upon hearing the news, she quit her job on the other side of the world and moved back to Colorado to be with her Mom.

“When I got there she was complaining about how cancer deprived her of much of her life over the last few months and she missed the outdoors, so on our way back from radiation we stopped and walked on trails. Seven minutes out and seven minutes back with a sitting break in the middle.”

The nature stops became a regular part of their therapy, and when Tory jokingly asked her mom if she wanted to run a 5K with her, she said yes.

“Even though I had been joking she was completely serious,” she said, so they made it a goal. Gradually, the mother-daughter walks grew in length and duration and even included some running, and by July 2015 she was ready to tackle the tough challenge of the XTERRA Beaver Creek 5K trail run.

“She smashed it,” said Tory, and a year later they were back at the same race and she beat her time by nine-minutes.

“A new goal was needed so I asked my mom, what about Maui? She had never been to a warm ocean before, and why not a Hawaiian-style 5K!”

Why not indeed. Tory and Mom will race the 5K on Saturday together, then Mom can sit back, relax and watch her daughter take on the XTERRA World Championship triathlon on Sunday.

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We were privileged to read the stories of dozens of XTERRA Warriors and are inspired by their dedication, perspective, and strength. Here are few of their stories, in their words …

No. 646 - Michael Ross, MD, 45, Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, USA

I remember lying in the hospital bed and seeing a news story about a colon cancer survivor who did a triathlon. At the time, I was 3 days into a diagnosis of stage 4 colon cancer. That was just two years ago.

After surgery, seven months of chemotherapy, and surgery again, I walked out of the hospital cancer-free. The immediate gratification of being alive and getting to spend time with my family was overwhelming. I couldn’t believe I had dodged this bullet.

Then, this summer, after 14 months’ cancer-free, I got some bad news. The cancer was found again on routine follow up scans. Amongst the thoughts I had were, “Will I ever be able to race again?”

I am currently undergoing an experimental treatment for colon cancer. Although I was told that Stage 4 colon cancer has a high mortality rate, I hope to be racing XTERRA for many more years. I can handle the physical part of treatment and the effects the cancer has on my body; I find the emotional strain to be the toughest part. Sometimes I have trouble sleeping at night but training for XTERRA has really helped me overcome the stress of the cancer.

My entire family will be there cheering me on, and I hope to inspire my sons to overcome their own fears both now and in the future.

No. 205 – Becca Johnston, 42, Lahaina, Maui

This event got me back in to racing! I had been a crazy endurance athlete when I was younger, but had fallen out of sports in general for about 10 years. I live in Lahaina, so when XTERRA first came to Kapalua, I didn't really know what it was, but watching it unfold brought back so many good memories, I really wanted to compete. But, I was so out of shape that I only entered the 10k trail run and barely survived! And I used to be a competitive skier and trail runner! I was so fired up after that disaster that the next summer I completed my first full Ironman (my very first triathlon, in celebration of my 40th birthday) and have since completed several Ironmans and XTERRA races, including the Maui WC, and I am faster, stronger, and feel better now than I did 20 years ago. As a boat captain and open ocean/whale researcher, I’m always asked what it is like to work out in the middle of the ocean, thousands of miles from the nearest humans and there are simply no words to describe what it's like out there it if you haven't seen it. It is something that must be experienced. XTERRA is the same way, you have to live it, breathe it, survive it. You can't describe it.

No. 825 - John Davis – 48, Littleton, Colorado, USA

This is my second triathlon. It is special because of what I have had to personally endure just to get to the shore line in Maui. It is special because I overcame by believing in, and attaining physical control of my circumstances.

In June of 2014 I was diagnosed with a terminal degenerative neuromuscular disease called Motor Neuron Disease. At the time I was walking aided with trekking poles and an AFO brace that I wore on my right foot to keep me from falling. In July 2014 one of my doctors told me to move or die.

In May 2015 I underwent major spine surgery. L3, L4, L5 spinal fusion, stenosis, synovial cysts as well severe arthritis. July 2015 I was on the trail in Beaver Creek when you were hosting the XTERRA 2015 Mountain Championships and I met a volunteer on the trail who explained the event. On that day, I decided I would compete in my first ever triathlon in 2016. And I did! I got to meet XTERRA President Janet Clark and share my story!

Everyone has a story and I feel blessed to be able to share mine with the tribe. It connects me with everyone who is taking their first step, cycle, or stroke in completing their first triathlon, or attaining a goal of moving up in the ranks.

But...I never imagined with my background in collegiate athletics, that I would ever be sidelined and not be able to use athletics as a connecting tool with my clients and friends. However, I have been sidelined, endured chronic pain, have had a team of doctors tell me not to move because the movement was creating more pain and injury. Thus, I was falling frequently due to complete atrophy and muscle weakness. According to my team of doctors, my days were numbered and I was told to get my house in order. Fortuitously, I did have that one doctor that I trusted; He said "John, you have to move or you will die!" So my stand out is that I trusted that if I moved, I would possibly improve my situation, my life, and again connect with people. I believe I exist to impact people with stories. That a story and a connection can make someone else's life richer.