For many years, Lara Houseman had been checking off the boxes. In September of 2012, she did her first Ironman. In 2013, her husband, Brad, did an Ironman. In 2014, they became parents.
"After William was born, we were like, 'No. This just isn't sustainable any more.' So my husband suggested we do off-road racing. We started hanging out with some people who were involved with XTERRA racing and thought, 'Yes, let's totally do this.'"
While most new moms wouldn't think of XTERRA as a sustainable hobby, Houseman isn't most new moms. A lifelong swimmer, Houseman has been mountain biking for fun for about 15 years. When she bought a new bike, she asked the shop for a trail recommendation.
"That trail almost killed me," said Houseman. But rather than avoid that trail, Houseman went back. "I was so motivated to not feel like that again that I started working really hard, even though I told myself I wasn't really training. Then I got into single track and thought, 'Uh oh, I'm kind of doing this.' By that time, the people in my masters swimming group said 'You can swim and bike. Just do a triathlon.'"
Because she and her husband live in St. Louis, they often have to travel a long way for XTERRA races.
"We bought a camper this year," said Houseman, "Because we really saw ourselves enjoying XTERRA so much and having fun with it. Staying in a hotel and racing off road? It doesn't seem like the full experience."
Houseman says that because of camping, the races feel more like parties. They bring their three-year old son William and sometimes an aunt to watch him while the Housemans race.
"XTERRA DINO South was so much fun last year," she said. "The Ballheimers were right next to us and the Wades were in the next campsite over. They got pizza and we grilled and had a great time. That was really the whole event."
Houseman was first in her 35-39 age group at XTERRA St. Louis, XTERRA Illinois Wilds, XTERRA DINO South, and XTERRA DINO North. In late July, when she realized she had a shot at winning the regional championship for her age group, she went to XTERRA Panther Creek for another shot at points.
"When I saw I was leading the region, I was like, wow. I never even expected to come close. So I hitched a ride with Dan Ballheimer to XTERRA Panther Creek to get one more race in. I was thinking, 'Let's just see what happens.'"
The eventual winner of the South Central Region 35-39 slot was Liesel McAllister, but Houseman will still go to Maui because her husband has an at-large bid for the XTERRA World Championship.
"It's OK," said Houseman, of not winning the regional championship. "Now I can go surfing in Maui."
Houseman is equally relaxed about her goals for next season and will base them on whether or not they add to their cozy family of three. Regardless of her race plans, Houseman will continue to be part of the XTERRA community, whether it's cheering for her friends or serving as a lifeguard at local races.
"You look up 'class act' in the dictionary, and there's a photo of Lara Houseman," said friend and fellow athlete, Larry Klutenkamper.
"What I really like is the environment of XTERRA, everyone coming out and supporting each other. It's not about checking off the box. It's about building lifelong relationships. So I look forward to going to the races and seeing everyone who will be there rather than thinking, 'Gosh, I know that hill at mile 56 is really going to tear me up.' I love the triathlon community in general but XTERRA just takes it up a notch. Like if surfing and triathlon had a baby, it would be XTERRA."
Photo Courtesy of Ken Ballheimer