2017 XTERRA Pan Am Champ Karl Edgerton doesn’t race XTERRA to break records or make his mark on the off-road triathlon world. He already did that as a swimmer. Beginning in seventh grade, Edgerton trained twice a day in the pool, becoming an excellent AAU swimmer and earning a scholarship to swim at Fort Lewis College in Durango and then at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“My parents instilled a love of sports in us,” said Edgerton, 55. “They made sure we were at the pool for practice at 6AM and were there at 6PM to take us home at night.”
Edgerton’s love of sports wasn’t just limited to swimming. His senior year of high school, he ran his first marathon, and after college, he began competing in triathlons.
“I don’t think I got on a mountain bike until I moved to Vail in 1990,” said Edgerton, who immediately fell in love with the sport. He did his first off-road triathlon at XTERRA Keystone in 2003.
“I liked XTERRA so much more than road triathlons,” he remembers. “I loved getting off the pavement and onto the dirt and out of the pool and into the lake. Even the training was more appealing to me.”
Like many athletes, XTERRA began to travel into other areas of Edgerton’s life.
“I have never gotten out of the pool or finished a workout and said, ‘Man, I wish I never did that.’ Working out always puts me in a better mood.”
Even when Edgerton founded his own real estate and property management business and was focused on his family, he found a way to balance his workouts and time with his two daughters, either by bundling them up and running with them in the jogger or taking them to the pool with him and swimming their ages in laps.
“Racing XTERRA helped keep me balanced and focused on staying healthy. Having an XTERRA Beaver Creek or XTERRA Pan Am Championship marked on your calendar keeps you focused. For me it was more than just racing. It was about having a healthy and balanced lifestyle.”
For Edgerton, staying healthy wasn’t just about keeping his blood pressure down and his energy up. It was also about keeping pain at bay. In 1990, Edgerton had surgery to remove most of his L4/L5 disc and couldn’t run for several years.
“I had chronic pain for a long time,” he admits. “It was pretty bad.”
What changed for Edgerton was his relationship with his new coach and two-time XTERRA Pan Am Champ, Rife Hilgartner. The two knew each other from racing XTERRA, and then they began swimming together. After Hilgartner moved to Denver, the two kept in touch and Hilgartner kept coaching him. Edgerton attributes his success last year to Rife’s insistence he incorporate core strength, plyometrics, flexibility, and cross-training into Edgerton’s schedule. During the winter, Edgerton snowshoes and trains for Nordic ski races rather than get on the bike trainer at the gym, and when the snow melts, he hops back on his mountain bike.
“Rife and I sat down at the first of 2017 and talked about my goals. I chose XTERRA Costa Rica and Beaver Creek and decided my A-race should be the XTERRA Pan Am Championship.”
Before last year’s race at Utah, Edgerton had competed at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship about ten times but had only made the podium once, for third place. Last year, he won his 55-59 age group by about 20 minutes.
“Kudos to Rife,” said Edgerton. “Everything he had me do came together on race day and I felt great.”
This year, both Edgerton and Hilgartner will be racing at the XTERRA Pan Am Championship next Saturday. And while Edgerton hopes to defend his title, he has no need for it. What makes him happy is simply showing up for the challenge.
“I refuse to say I’m too old or that a race is too difficult,” said Edgerton. “At the same time, the atmosphere is so friendly that the guys I am competing against are also my biggest motivators. We are always chasing each other down, but if someone comes in ahead of me, I’m happy for me. We are all happy for each other.”