On Saturday, athletes from all age groups put on an incredible show of guts, grit, and grace at XTERRA Beaver Creek. From camaraderie and sportsmanship to stamina and determination, the amateur contenders demonstrated a remarkable level of professionalism that will set the bar for years to come.
Brett Tack of Boulder, Colorado was the top amateur of the day, finishing the race in 2:23:10, just a few minutes back from the lead pack of pros. Tack was also the 30-34 age group champ at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May.
"I had a solid swim and my strength is the bike," said Tack. "I used Lesley Paterson as my gauge and worked really hard. Then I just kind of survived the run."
On the course, a spectator yelled that Tack was the first amateur to come through, which fueled his confidence. He had a few injuries in 2016, so this year was meant to be a rebuilding season. However, the former pro cyclist has a hard time with taking it easy.
"You want to show up and compete," he said. "I don't like just being the guy to fill the pro field. I want to win." He added that The Alchemist Clothing Company has been a huge support in getting him where he is today.
On the women's side, Genevieve Evans from Carnelian Bay, CA was the amateur champ, finishing in 2:43:53, just a few seconds back from pro Kara LaPoint. Evans - a former pro herself - was also the 40-44 age group champ.
"I was pretty excited with today's race because I had foot surgery and took last year off. I just started running again in April," said Evans. "I felt good on the swim and on the climb on the bike - I'm a climber and this is a great course for that. Then you just hang on for the run, right?"
In the 15-19 age group, 17-year old XTERRA World Champ , Heather Horton, impressed with her time of 3:08:15, and Benny Smith won for the second year in a row.
Pan Am Champ, Nelson Hegg became the 20-24 age group champ after overcoming a bit of adversity on the course. He came out of the water with 40-44 age group champ, reigning Pan Am Champ, and second overall amateur, Garren Watkins. However, the first set of hills on the bike presented a challenge to Hegg, whose legs weren't moving as quickly as he would have liked.
"Garren encouraged me to follow him and pass other riders, but I had to settle down and not let my ego get the best of me," said Hegg. "I settled back into my own rhythm, and once I hit the pavement on the bike, I was feeling pretty good and was making time on a lot of competitors."
Unfortunately, Hegg got a flat about two miles from the end of the bike course. He became discouraged as he watched eight or nine other riders go by, but adjusted his attitude immediately.
"As a result, I was very happy with my race today, not because of a specific time or place, but rather to have overcome misfortune and turned it around as an opportunity."
Hegg finished about three minutes ahead of the men's 25-29 champ, Victor Arenas, who traveled to Colorado from his native country of Columbia.
XTERRA Pan Am Champ Margo Pitts led the 50-54 age group with her climbing ability. "In a sick kind of way, I love the long steep climbing on the bike. I love the rush! It gives me a desire to push harder, to be better."
Pitts admits she has fallen in love with the Rockies and spends six to eight weeks a year hiking, training, and racing in Colorado. She is the XTERRA Oak Mountain age group champ and the reigning and two-time XTERRA Southeast Regional Champion. She will return to Ogden this year to defend her title.
Jo Garuccio was the women's 65-69 age group champ. Fellow age-grouper and 2016 Pan Am Champ, Libby Harrow, was welcomed back to Beaver Creek after being out several months for a hip replacement.
"The mental part of racing can make the difference between quitting and success and I was determined," said Harrow. "The swim went smoothly, but I huffed and puffed my way up the climb on the bike with my quads burning the whole way. Finally reaching the top of the course, I felt a sense of relief, but knew I couldn't let up even for a second because the bike cut-off at 1 pm had me nervous.
"I finished the bike with 22 minutes to spare and headed out on the run. I am not supposed to run in training, as it wears out the artificial hip joint, so running during the race was a joy.The weather was beautiful, the scenery spectacular, and I hustled as fast as I could go."
Harrow had a group waiting to congratulate her at the finish line, including XTERRA's Janet Clark and fellow Colorado resident and 45-49 age group champ, Rife Hilgartner.
Courtney Kaup of Vermont was the day's 35-39 age group champ and was 15th overall for the women. Like Pitts, Kaup was the age group champ at XTERRA Oak Mountain.
"XTERRA Beaver Creek was a great event, albeit a difficult course," said Kaup. "It was an important learning curve, transitioning from Vermont to Colorado, because of how challenging it was. But I like the challenge. I worked hard on the bike and really enjoyed Allie's Way."
Deanna McCurdy - who has been on fire all season- finished in 2:54:02, which was only good for fourth place in her very competitive 40-44 age group. McCurdy was up against fellow age-groupers Genevieve Evans, Anne Nevin, and Jennifer Razee. It says something about the strength of this crew that although McCurdy was fourth in her age group, she was the fifth place amateur woman overall.
"I wish I could write you a raving success story about XTERRA Beaver Creek, but as you know, not all days and races are filled with top of the podium victories," said McCurdy. "Some races test the character and teach lessons about enduring and persevering. Beaver Creek was one of those races for me. One thing I have learned from watching athletes like Josiah and Lesley is that when they have a race or even a season that doesn’t go as they hoped, it doesn’t weaken them. They come back stronger both physically and mentally with a hungry fire in their bellies."
Johnny Davis, who came out on top in his 60-64 age group also had a challenging race, which required some mental fortitude. His nutrition fell out of his pocket during the swim to bike transition, and during the run, his legs began to cramp.
"I had to stop and get a handle on the situation," he said. "Then I found a motion to get me to the aid station where I could get some Gatorade. I told myself, 'We'll just take it aid station to aid station.'"
Ultimately, the cramps subsided and Davis crossed the line with his bid for Maui.
"XTERRA is the perfect venue to see both joy and heartbreak," he said. "You can't have one without the other, and I am so grateful to see the beauty that lies within it all."
Andre Szucs won the Challenged Athlete division, which had three other athletes, including John Davis, founder of The 2xtreme Foundation, and Craig Vogtsberger, who doubled in the XTERRA Beaver Creek 20K Trail Run the next day.
"I have wanted to double at XTERRA Beaver Creek in years past, but didn't have the time or training," said Vogtsberger before the race. "This year I am ready."
Christy Williams won for the women.
"One of the reasons I love XTERRA is the camaraderie and friendship that is created among strangers," said Hegg after the race. "Many of the people who asked if I needed help with my flat were in contention for top spots. But they were still willing to help out others on the course, even if that meant losing time on their end. That camaraderie among competitors is hard to find anywhere else."
AGE GROUP CHAMPS - WOMEN
|15-19||Heather Horton||Draper, UT|
|25-29||Sarah Horen||Greenwood Village, CO|
|25-29||Katarina Marks||Durango, CO|
|30-34||Amelia Vonesh||Avon, CO|
|35-39||Courtney Kaup||Richmond, VT|
|40-44||Genevieve Evans||Carnelian Bay, CA|
|45-49||Lisa Isom||Edwards, CO|
|50-54||Margo Pitts||Raleigh, NC|
|55-59||Janet Soule||Lakewood, CO|
|60-64||Martha Buttner||Boulder, CO|
|65-69||Jo Garuccio||Sandy, UT|
|Challenged||Christy Williams||Littleton, CO|
|15-19||Benny Smith||Glenwood Springs, CO|
|20-24||Nelson Hegg||Boulder, CO|
|25-29||Victor Manuel Arenas||Itagui, Columbia|
|30-34||Brett Tack||Boulder, CO|
|35-39||Benjamin Lokie||Gunnison, CO|
|40-44||Garren Watkins||Boulder, CO|
|45-49||Rife Hilgartner||Denver, CO|
|50-54||Grzegorz Zgliczynski||Highland Ranch, CO|
|55-59||Charlie Wertheim||Carbondale, CO|
|60-64||Johnny Davis||Boulder, CO|
|65-69||Laurence Goddard||Los Alamos, NM|
|70-74||Mike Judd||Ogden, UT|
|Challenged||Andre Szucs||Boulder, CO|