Unlike many XTERRA athletes who find a race and then create a training plan, Dylan Friday performed this process in reverse.
“I was swimming and biking and running on a regular basis,” said Friday, 23. “ I just didn’t realize I was training for an XTERRA.”
Growing up in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, Friday regularly hit the trails on his mountain bike, played soccer, and ran track. In his senior year, he ran 1:57 in the 800-meter run at the Pennsylvania state championship meet.
“Sports have always been a big part of my life,” he said. “I love physical competition – I find it very satisfying.”
Friday continued to stay connected to sports at Penn State, where he majored in architectural engineering. He also kept trying out for the infamous Penn State football team for a position as kicker, which he now regrets.
“I feel like I wasted my college career a bit,” he admitted. “I should have just joined the triathlon club. I think I would have been better off.”
After college, he took an internship for an engineering firm in Avon, Colorado and decided to move out there.
“When I went back to school and heard about my friends’ internships on the east coast, I realized how much more relaxed Colorado was, especially in a mountain town like Avon.”
Moving to Colorado wasn’t just a good career move. Friday was able to find trails as good as – and better – than the ones he grew up riding and running on. It wasn’t long before he was back in his habit of swimming, biking, and running for fun and fitness.
“I had been mountain biking a bit and running a lot in the mountains behind my house because I love trail running,” said Friday, who lives near Avon, Colorado. “I started swimming during my lunch break at work, because it was the most efficient - I didn’t need to shower after.”
Friday heard about the XTERRA that was coming to Beaver Creek and decided to jump in and see what he could do on the dirt.
“I liked the few triathlons I tried in college, and I knew I loved trail running,” he said. “Because I had never done an XTERRA, I didn’t have a goal for myself. I didn’t even know what a realistic goal would be so that took some of the pressure off.”
A dark horse in the race, Friday finished second in his age group at XTERRA Beaver Creek in 2017 and qualified for the XTERRA World Championship in his first off-road triathlon ever. The only athlete who beat him in the 20-24 age group was Nelson Hegg, who recently turned pro.
Friday admits that he wasn’t sure what to think after Beaver Creek.
“I wasn’t sure if I had a good race or if there just weren’t a lot of athletes in my age group.”
But Friday decided to embrace the opportunity. He bought a ticket to Maui, and signed up for the XTERRA Pan Am Championship.
“If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it 100 percent,” he said.
Swimming and running was already a big part of Friday’s life, but it was a challenge for him to add in more time on his bike because of his long hours at work. A broken collarbone and a back injury sustained while riding had also given him a healthy respect for the sport.
“I never mountain biked seriously and I never raced. I always did it just for fun. Even when I was training for Worlds, I had a hard time admitting to myself that I was actually going to race. What I don’t love about mountain biking is that there’s a big component of it that’s out of your control or that your wallet has to control. The time and money to keep it serviced was kind of stressful. I can swim at lunch and run any time I have my sneakers. You can also swim and run at night but you can’t mountain bike after dark. Well, I mean I did – stupidly – but it’s a lot more difficult.”
At the 2017 XTERRA Pan Am Championship, Friday finished second in his age group (again behind Hegg). At Worlds, he finished 7th in his division, which included a talented group of athletes, including Ondrej Petr, a promising young triathlete from the Czech Republic who had one of the fastest amateur times of the day.
“I feel like I can barely remember it,” Friday says of the XTERRA World Championship. “I lined up on the far right for the swim. When I dove in, I landed on a rock so that kind of threw the swim off. But I enjoyed it once I got going. The hills and heat were definite challenges on the bike but it was also a great experience. But honestly, now it feels like a blur of mud and heat.”
What Friday does remember are the people he met in Maui. He traveled there with his girlfriend and parents and stayed in a condo near the course at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua.
“There were a few athletes in my unit from French Polynesia. We sort of eyed each other up a few times before the race – well, at least I was eyeing them up, wondering how good they were,” said Friday. “After the race, I was hanging out in the pool and they saw my XTERRA race tattoos, so they brought out some beers to share and next thing we knew it we had been sitting there laughing and learning about each other for three hours while the sun was setting. I felt like that was a pretty special experience, and really was the most charmingly unexpected end to my XTERRA season. If nothing else, that alone makes me want to keep racing.”
Earlier this year, Friday began taking stock of what he needed to do for his 2018 season, and began by focusing on his swim.
“I feel that swimming will be the ticket to advancing my bike split by landing me in a faster pack of cyclists from the get-go,” said Friday. “Another goal is to find someone I can train with since I did every single workout solo last year and got sort of burned out. Lastly, I want to explore trails and land around me. I found myself repeating trails and loops a lot, so I'm excited to get out and see more of this great state of Colorado.”
Don’t ask for anything more specific from Friday though, because he’s not saying more. Make no mistake – he’s not trying to keep training secrets to himself or outwit his competition. He just doesn’t like to plan too much, because it spoils the magic.
“I’m not good at plans. They lead me to me feeling like I failed so I try not to plan too much. I just like doing my own thing.”
You can join Friday on the trails this summer at XTERRA Beaver Creek
Image courtesy Enduro Photo