At XTERRA, we love surprises, which is a good thing in this sport of unruly weather and unpredictable races. We especially love being surprised by our athletes, such as Laura Philipp at XTERRA France, the kids who claimed podium spots at XTERRA Tsali, and the endurance of athletes like Libby Harrow, Ron Hill, and Charlotte Mahan.
Last week, we assumed that Charlotte Mahan was the only athlete to enter their first XTERRA after the age of 70, but we were mistaken.
Paul Coombes from New South Wales, Australia did his first XTERRA at the age of 75. Not to be outdone, Jon Adamson began his XTERRA career at 79, and says he has no intention to stop. We recently caught up with him to learn how to make XTERRA a habit for life.
Q. How did you hear about XTERRA?
A. One of the athletes I coach - Chris Grant - got into XTERRA in 2013 and convinced me to buy a mountain bike in 2015. I had been doing triathlons for over 35 years, so I had the endurance, but everything else was new in terms of skills and technique. I was 78 at the time.
Q. How long have you been an athlete?
A. I've always been into running and racing 5Ks and 10Ks. I did my first triathlon in 1982 in Tennessee. It was a half-mile swim, a 25-mile bike ride, and a six-mile run.
The water was 48 degrees and I didn't have a wetsuit - none of us did - and I thought I was going to die. My feet didn't thaw out until halfway through the run. Back then bikes were made of steel. No clip-in pedals and no aero bars. None of us knew what we were doing, but there weren't any triathlon coaches back then, so you just had to figure it out yourself.
Q. How old were you at your first XTERRA race?
A. I entered XTERRA Fort Yargo in 2016 when I was 79. It was a fairly easy course except for this eight-foot drop on the "Monster Mile." I walked around that.
Q. What do you like about XTERRA?
A. XTERRA is like going back in time 20 years. The racing is lower key, the people are friendly, and it doesn’t cost that much to sign up. XTERRA is like racing was in 1982.
The other thing about XTERRA is it's not easy. It’s hard. I like that. Too many things now are too easy. Race directors are canceling swims in races if the water is too rough or it's too windy. Not XTERRA. At the same time, the race directors do some nice things to help the athletes. It's just really fun.
Q. What advice can you give to other athletes who are trying XTERRA for the first time?
A. You don't have to risk your life. If some sections seem too scary on the mountain bike, you can just walk or go around them. Just stay in your capability and keep working on getting better. It's the same with trail running. You don't have to risk your life. You’re allowed to take it easy and go slow.
Q. What advice can you share about staying injury free?
A. I've had a few injuries, but mostly bike crashes, and I have a good surgeon who managed to put me back together.
The main thing is to keep your joints healthy. I’ve always managed to run on soft surfaces more than hard, especially when I was doing Ironman training. Swimming is great for the joints and it's still going to get your heart rate up.
Running is the thing that hurts. The pure effort of riding a bike and swimming is great exercise. You don’t need to run. Swim and bike and get on an elliptical.
Q. Will we see you at the XTERRA World Championships?
A. I'll be there. I had to ask XTERRA to add an 80+ age group and they did. I'm looking forward to racing with Ron Hill. He's been mountain biking for years, but I'm a good runner.
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share?
A. I did XTERRA Fort Yargo again this year and I did the entire 'Monster Mile' - I didn't walk around the drop. I just closed my eyes and went down and up the other side.
And I stayed in one piece.
Photo Courtesy of Todd Brown