Most people would be bummed at the idea of camping and whitewater rafting during a hailstorm, but Tim Wachuta is not most people.
“It’s called the outdoors,” he says. “Cold weather doesn’t have to slow you down.”
Wachuta doesn’t mind being uncomfortable. In fact, he thinks it’s a good idea, and it’s the primary reason he’s done XTERRA races in Japan, Switzerland, Brazil, Tahiti, and Uruguay.
“Traveling to a place that you don’t know and where no one speaks your language can be a little uncomfortable, but there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Wachuta, as the hail pelts down. “When you feel a little uncomfortable in the short term, it makes you more comfortable later because you gain a better understanding of the big picture. We tend to live in our own little world. So it’s good to go to another world and try to understand it a little bit.”
Wachuta grew up in the small town of Prairie du Chien in Wisconsin. A high-school Hall of Fame football player, he traveled nationally and internationally with an ultimate Frisbee team after college. When he started blowing out his hamstrings, he began thinking about another sport.
“I was living in Denver then and was a mountain biker. I saw this race in Keystone called XTERRA and thought I’d give it a try. This was back in 2001 when XTERRA was just a baby. I loved it and have been doing them ever since.”
A full-fledged member of the XTERRA Tribe, Wachuta has raced in Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, New Mexico, and Utah, in addition to his international races. Three years ago, while training for XTERRA Beaver Creek, he crashed and broke his pelvis, his collarbone, and five ribs.
“I was out for two months but I still raced in Maui that year,” said Wachuta. “Maybe I’m stupid but I’m just not going to let that stop me. You just get back on the pony and try not to make the same mistake again.”
He also took a digger at XTERRA Uruguay.
“I was going pretty fast on a downhill rocky area trying to pass a guy in what was probably a no-passing zone. I just flew off my bike, and the other guy stopped and said, ‘Man, if you weren’t so strong, you would have broken a lot of things.’”
Wachuta races in the 55-59 age group and works hard to eat well and stay strong. He's a staunch believer in multi-vitamin and mineral supplements, protein, and probiotics. He also takes amino acids, creatine, and Optygen.
“I’m on it with nutrition,” says Wachuta. “I’ve done so much reading. And being a dentist, I’ve taken classes. I can’t believe how critical it is to training and racing. It can make such a huge difference.”
Yet, as in all areas of his life, Wachuta doesn’t get too bent out of shape if he doesn’t follow the rules to the letter.
“One reason I’m healthy and that I’ve been training and racing so long is that I don’t take things too seriously. I roll with about every punch there is. I’m really competitive but I don’t get that regimented about anything. When you get too regimented, you get tough on yourself and that gets you off-track.”
He admits that while he’s going to go for broke on the trails, he doesn’t really care about the final results.
“The thing is, I don’t really care if I’m on the podium. I’m an average joe racer. If I get on the podium, fine. If I don’t, I didn’t train hard enough. I just don’t care. Life’s too short. I see a lot of athletes who aren’t happy because they are too stressed out, but I’m all about happy. Most people don’t make the podium, so why are they still doing it if it’s not for the glory? Well, it’s gotta be fun, right? That’s the whole point of XTERRA.”
Wachuta is committed to passing on his passion for living to his three teenage children. A few years ago, Wachuta raced with two chips – one on each ankle – and when he came into T2, his son did the run with him and they counted it as a relay.
“Isn’t that cool?” said Wachuta, who seems to seriously enjoy breaking the rules. “I made that up.”
This year, his 16-year old son, Christopher, will be doing his first XTERRA at XTERRA Lory. His 14-year old twin daughters Brooke and Sabrina will be doing the XTERRA relay with him.
“Christopher kills me on the trails,” said Wachuta about his son. “I told him, ‘Dude, if you train with me and you do Beaver Creek, you can head to Worlds.’”
Wachuta already has a ticket to Maui, which he earned this year at XTERRA Uruguay. And true to form, he isn’t stressing out about training. He telemarks in the winter, rides his mountain bike to work, and right now, he’s focused on his rafting trip. That is, he was focused on it until he sees something that causes him to stop his car and take a photo.
“Wow,” he says, “You’ll never believe this. A golden eagle just flew over my car with a trout in its talons. See what happens when you get out of your box?”