XTERRA Illinois Wilds is one of Larry Klutenkamper’s favorite races. Last year he was 12th overall and first in his 55-59 age group. This year he is going for another age group win.
“I’m trying for age-group regional champ this year in the hopes of making it to the big show at the XTERRA World Championships,” he said.
The 56-year old Lake St. Louis resident is semi-retired and a full-time athlete and coach.
“My wife and I have had a healthy, active lifestyle for years,” he said. “We have three kids and they’ve all done marathons. My wife is a breast cancer survivor and is doing her 13th Ironman in September. She’s so fast, she’s already qualified for Kona.”
But Klutenkamper’s life wasn’t always like this. In his twenties, his life revolved around partying and drinking.
“Honestly, when I was young, I was an alcoholic and ran around with a really bad crowd. Then I got sober and straightened myself out. Once I embraced triathlons at the smallest level, it changed my life.”
Klutenkamper remembers the moment that shifted his course. Newly sober, he had disbanded from his old drinking friends and partying lifestyle and needed something to fill the void.
“I will never forget this as long as I live. I was coming home from work and was like, you know what, I’m going to look into triathlon. So I went into Fleet Feet, bought Triathlete Magazine fresh off the rack, and went to an Italian restaurant. I ate pasta and read that magazine and I decided this is what I’m going to do.”
Klutenkamper didn’t look back. By the time he was 37, he reached his goal of completing an Ironman.
“But it got to the point where training for Ironman was such a commitment. I was working full time and it was a grind. Training felt like a job. Like, I have to ride. I have to run.”
While in Louisville for his wife's race, a friend suggested he try mountain biking. Klutenkamper raced motorcycles and dirt bikes as a kid, so his transition was relatively easy.
“I started moving through the ranks of mountain bike racing up to Cat 1, but I really missed triathlons. So a few years ago, I did XTERRA St. Louis and XTERRA Illinois Wilds, and it was a great fit. The community is cool and I get to be out in the woods. Last year, I watched the XTERRA World Championships and thought man, it would be really nice to go there. So this year I decided, let’s go all in on this thing.”
Klutenkamper is focused on sharpening his skills on the bike.
“I gotta tell you, there is a huge difference between road biking and mountain biking. I always call mountain biking a 'violent effort' because you go to a corner, you slow down, you take off again, and you’re off, you’re up, you’re around. On a road bike, you basically get on and grind. But mountain biking is really, really fun.”
Klutenkamper approaches training like a science, and even though he is approaching 60, he has found ways to increase fitness while decreasing the risk of injury and retaining his love of the sport.
“My wife and I take more recovery days now. I ride more and run less. We train with heart rate monitors and power meters. And the human body is the most amazing thing. If you cut your finger it will heal. If you drop your iPhone, it’s not going to fix itself. You can spend tons of money on a car or the latest gadget, but really, crossing a finish line is going to bring you more joy. You can’t buy it. You gotta earn it.”
Klutenkamper’s goal is to be at his peak in October for the XTERRA World Championship race.
“I’m so jazzed to be part of XTERRA,” he said. “I was really into the Ironman scene for a while but that ran its course. Now instead of saying, I have to run or I have to bike, I say I get to run. I get to bike. And the races? It’s like a catered workout. Everyone is cheering for you and giving you food. It’s a beautiful thing.”
For more information and to register for XTERRA Illinois Wilds, visit www.wildlifeprairieparksports.