On July 20th, while most of the country was trying to keep cool, the XTERRA Tribe brought the heat to Beaver Creek, as together they fought hard through the 1.5K swim, the 25K mountain bike, and 9.3K trail run. The tough course is made even more difficult because of its location in the thin air of the Rockies – the swim in Nottingham Lake starts at 7,400 feet and the ride climbs to 9,400 feet.
But we are talking about the XTERRA Tribe, who always show up without excuses, complaints, or reasons. When the air gets thin, these amateurs simply breathe more of it, and when the course gets tough, they dig in deeper and drive harder. At XTERRA Beaver Creek, dirt becomes more than dirt. It becomes rarefied earth on which these athletes compete against each other, themselves, and Mother Nature.
The men’s and women’s amateur races were led by 16 -year old Robbie Day and 46-year old Jenny Smith. Day was ninth overall for the men and Smith was fourth overall for the women.
Day, who will be competing in USA Cycling Mountain Bike Nationals on July 23rd, has been focusing on mountain biking this season. However, the high school swimming standout also seems to have gills as well as gears. He was seventh out of the water at Beaver Creek, just ahead of elite, Karsten Madsen. On the bike, he had the fifth fastest split of the day, and was only bested by Josiah Middaugh, Mike Meehan, Sam Osborne, and Branden Rakita.
Even more impressive was that this amateur win came after a broken wrist and surgery in April.
“I had to take six weeks of recovery,” said Day, “So I’ve been working on the bike. And I just kept running. My swimming fitness seems to stay with me.”
Look for Day to keep improving throughout the season. He most definitely will be at the XTERRA World Championship on Maui on October 27th and might also compete in the XTERRA Pan Am Championship on September 9th in Ogden, Utah.
Smith – like Day – also has talent in spades. From 2005 until 2010, she raced as a pro mountain biker and triathlete. Her last race as an XTERRA elite was XTERRA Brazil in March, 2011, and her race at Beaver Creek last weekend was her first race since then.
“I stopped competing because it wasn’t making me happy due to injuries,” said Smith, who is married to elite XTERRA athlete Brian Smith. “But Brian has been encouraging me to get back into the sport for ages, so last October, at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui, I told him I would race at Beaver Creek.”
After having a child in 2013, Smith kept mountain biking, despite a broken collar bone in 2018.
“Today was wonderful,” she said after the race, where she posted the fastest mountain bike split of the day for the women, including the elites. “I loved the energy of everyone around me and it was extremely positive.”
Smith will most likely race next as an elite, but you can count on her to encourage everyone around her.
In the 15-19 age group, Sullivan Middaugh (pictured below) was behind Day in 2:33:48 with the fastest run split of the age group while Day had the fastest swim and bike splits. Juan Gonzalez finished in 2:53:11.
One bracket up, Blaise Snowberg won with a time of 3:57:14 while Kyle White was second in 4:11 flat. White took charge on the swim while Snowberg shredded the bike and run to come out on top.
In the 25-29 division, Nick Noone had the fastest time in the water while Jeff MacNair was about two minutes faster than everyone on the bike. Grant Crist posted the quickest run split. Noone crossed the line in 2:29:13, MacNair was second in 2:30:40, and Christ was third in 2:39:38. The sheer breadth of this age group is inspiring because they seem equally matched in talent. We look forward to watching them swapping lead spots in the pack for years to come as these young athletes continue to develop their technique and hone new skills.
In the 30-34 bracket, Alister Ratcliff claimed the top step of the podium with a time of 2:36:26 and the quickest bike and run splits. Simon Lapiere was second in 2:42:15. George Mainas was third in 2:45:04.
Even more impressive was that Ratcliff pulled off the win despite a recent knee injury.
“My goals for the race were quite a bit faster than I actually did,” admitted Ratcliff. “However, not being able to train for the run, I was happy with how it went. I’m really proud that my fiancé, Shauna Nelson, took 11 minutes off her time and had the fourth fastest swim split, beating most of the men and pros out of the water.”
In the 35-39 bracket, Peter Santini won with a time of 2:38:04 while Matthew Monnot was second in 2:42:49. Herve Orgeas was third in 2:46:09. Todd Stackhouse, who finished 14th in the division, had the quickest swim while Santini was the fastest runner and Monnot took the top split on the bike. Like the 25-29 age group, it will be fun to watch this well-matched group develop through the years.
Coming off his 40-44 age-group win at XTERRA Oak Mountain in May and status as top amateur of the day, Mike Dorr also took the top step at XTERRA Beaver Creek by virtue of posting the fastest run and bike splits. His time of 2:32:26 was ten minutes fastest than runner-up Scott McCalmon’s time of 2:42:29. Gregory Rhodes was third in 2:47:19.
Moving up a division, Tim Hola won the 45-59 bracket in his third race at XTERRA Beaver Creek.
“This year, I came to Beaver Creek with the goal of winning my age group after placing fourth last year,” said Hola, who was the XTERRA Double Age-Group Champ in 2002. (This refers to the fact that he had the fastest combined time from both Ironman World Championship and the XTERRA World Championship.)
“The heat and altitude didn’t affect me, but it was a bit tricky to swim in Nottingham Lake,” said Hola, who led his age group until mile ten on the bike, when he was passed by Scott Silver and Jeff Beckman. Hola passed them back by mile three on the run and had the top split of the day. Hola posted the fifth fastest swim in the race, overall, exiting the water just behind Shauna Nelson.
Scott Silver crossed the line in 2:36:50 while Beckman finished in 2:38:18 with the fastest split on the bike.
Moving up a division, 2017 XTERRA World Champ, Gregorz Zgliczynski was quickest across the board. Like Hola, he was out of the water early and continued to grind, winning with a time of 2:34:02. Rick Zimmerman was next in 2:48:31, and Karl Wild was third in 3:01:25.
In the 55-59 bracket, Steve Gayner blazed through the bike and took the top step with a time of 2:43:18 while Charlie Wertheim – who reeled competitors back on the run - was less than a minute back in 2:44:12. Eric Long was third in 2:54:03. Karl Edgerton, who finished fourth, had the fastest swim.
In the 60-64 age group, the battle belonged to long-time XTERRA Warriors, Tom Monica and Cliff Millemann. Monica finished with a time of 2:59:59 while Millemann was just behind him in 3:02:57. Ron Wally was third in 3:07:31 with the fastest run split. Monica came out of the water first, and Millemann schooled on the bike.
This was Monica’s sixth race at XTERRA Beaver Creek and sixth age group win. Since 2002, Monica has claimed a remarkable 42 age group titles. Last year, he raced in both the Ironman World Championship and in the XTERRA World Championship and plans to make “The Double” a double by repeating it this fall.
“I broke a toe five weeks ago and wasn’t sure I could race at Beaver Creek,” said Monica. “I didn’t run until last week but decided to take a chance because I didn’t want to miss competing in Maui at the XTERRA World Championship. I knew Cliff would be tough competition as well as the heat and altitude. But now I’m looking forward to Maui!”
In the 65-69 bracket, Jim Mitchell, Kurt Dallow, and Bill Blankenship finished in 3:36:36, 3:45:09, and 4:02:19. Dallow claimed the quickest swim and run while Mitchell had the fastest bike split. In the 70-74 age group, David Rakita was the champ in 3:56:56 while John E. Davis was the fastest challenged athlete with a time of 4:00:30.
In the 15-19 and 20-24 age groups, Hannan Livingston and Riley Schumm claimed the top spots with times of 3:49:48 and 3:59:07, respectively.
In the 25-29 bracket, top amateur and XTERRA Oak Mountain age group champ, Emily Cameron, once again took the honors. She came out of the water just three seconds behind top men’s amateur, Robbie Day, and posted the fastest run split in her age group by about six minutes. Her final time was 2:54:12 while Janel Klug – who was 16 seconds faster than Cameron on the bike – was second in 3:15:37. Caitlin Bowerman was third in 3:26:35.
“I loved everything about the race,” said Cameron, who will compete in the XTERRA World Championship this October. “It was brutally amazing. Coming from Georgia, I had no idea what to expect in terms of altitude adjustment, but it seemed to be all right. The run was probably the most difficult, but I met a fellow athlete on the course and we helped each other through it, mile by mile.”
Cameron said that she didn’t have any goals coming into the race and didn’t realize she won until she got her finish card.
“Aside from the physical beauty of the race, I’ll definitely remember the encouragement other racers and volunteers offered as the race progressed. I’m so glad to be part of XTERRA.”
In the 30-34 division, Jordan Selk-Johnson finished closely behind Cameron with a time of 2:56:15. Former NCAA D1 swimmer, Shauna Nelson, was second in 3:00:29, and Alexa Turzian was third with a time of 3:02:50. Nelson’s swim split of 19:13 got her out of the water first overall in the amateur race (both men and women) while Selk-Johnson’s run split was the third fastest of the day for amateur women, just behind Kiki Silver and Racel Viele.
Turzian was an extremely talented classical and freestyle skier while at CU Boulder. She finished her collegiate career with six All-America honors out of a possible eight. In 2007, at the age of 18, she was the youngest person to ever win a US title in cross-country skiing when she skated past the finish line of the US National 10K freestyle race, placing her in the esteemed ranks of fellow teen skiing phenoms, Morgan Arritola and Liz Stephen, who went on the claim XTERRA Trail Run National titles.
Clearly, this group of women will be setting the standard for years to come.
In the 35-39 division, the 2018 XTERRA Pan Am runner up, Sian Crespo claimed her Maui slot and the top podium step with a time of 2:58:30. Megan Riepman was second in 3:11:46, and fleet-footed Rachel Viele had the fastest run split and an overall time of 3:17:23. Riepma had the fastest swim, while Crespo crushed on the bike course with the eighth fastest bike split of the day for elite and amateur women combined.
In the 40-44 division, Jill Sorensen was first in 2:55:11 while Holly Wright was next in 3:03:26. Kirsten DeHart was third in 3:14:10.
Sorensen – who wears the same simple watch she wore years ago when she was on the triathlon team at CU Boulder – is a free spirit on the dirt.
“I’m probably different from a lot of other triathletes in the sense that I don’t write things down, and I don’t follow a specific training plan, and I don’t wear a heartrate monitor,” said Sorensen, who is a physical therapist and has two children, ages six and seven. “I am very clear that I am doing this for fun. And it has to be fun, because it doesn’t work for me if it crosses a line and becomes too much pressure. Competing in triathlon is such a gift. I kind of learned the trade when I was young and now that I have the foundation, I just want to enjoy the beauty of this sport.”
Sorensen will be racing in Maui this October. The last time she competed in the XTERRA World Championship was over a decade ago, when the race was still held on the lava rock in Makena.
“Right now, my family comes first and we are all going to Maui together,” said Sorensen. “It’s different now. But I’m still committed to showing up and racing against myself.”
Jenny Smith took the 45-49 bracket while Jen Razee was second in 2:55:40. Kiki Silver was third in 2:59:59. Razee, had the ninth fastest bike split for the women – elites and amateurs combined - while Silver had the eighth fastest run split of the day for the women. This age group is always stacked with talent and technique. For her part, Smith had the fastest bike split overall for the women.
“Beaver Creek is always a tough day, but the camaraderie of our crew and XTERRA friends pulled me around the course,” said Razee. “Sometimes I definitely feel the juggle of family, work, and training is too much, but then I take a step back and remember how much I love it. The challenge of race day, training with friends, and the racing community all feed my soul.”
In the 50-54 age group, Patty Smaldone was first with a time of 3:35:58 while Michelle Blankenship was next in 3:36:24. Jennifer Pace was third in 3:42:17. Smaldone had the quickest bike split while Blankenship had the fastest run. Sixth place Zoe Nance had the fastest swim.
Moving up, 2018 XTERRA Pan Am Champ, Sharon McDowell-Larsen took the 55-59 age group with a time of 3:00:17 while Janet Soule was next in 3:11:21 with the fastest run split. 2017 XTERRA Pan Am Champ, Paula Maresh was third with a time of 3:23:10.
“At Beaver Creek, I love the bike and hate the run,” said McDowell-Larsen. “Running is always my segment, but this year I knew what to expect. I knew that mile two was going to be slow and mile four was going to be slow.”
A former semi-pro mountain biker, McDowell-Larsen was a road triathlete who found her way to XTERRA.
“XTERRA Lory was my first race and I fell in love with it,” she said. “XTERRA is the perfect sport.”
In the 60-64 age group, Barbara Peterson came through in 3:39:29 while Gail Waldman was behind in 4:10:02. In the 65-69 age group, Libby Harrow finished in 5:50:02.
Last September, Harrow flew off her bike and broke her collar bone for the third time, which took almost three months to heal.
“Needless to say, once I was healthy, I was eager to fight my way back to shape,” said Harrow, who also acknowledged that her goal was to make the cut-off on the bike and come into the finish chute running.
“As I neared the end of the bike course, course designer Chris Appleton told me I only had a mile to go and I would make the cut off. By then, I realized fatigue was setting in, and I had to concentrate more, so as not to make a mistake. Starting off on the run, my knee and lower back were aching as I limped out of transition.
My knee recovered quickly, but my lower back ached throughout the first climb. Finally, when I made the first descent, I was pain free and it was just a matter of picking up my cadence for the downhill.
As I came to the finish line, I was greeted by XTERRA President Janet Clark and announcer Kalei Waiwaiole as well as an enthusiastic crowd. It was amazing to have that kind of cheering! Jim (Lovell) brought me my timing card and someone else brought me lunch with the most amazing chocolate chip cookie that made the whole race worthwhile. As it has for the last 19 years, XTERRA has once again exceeded my expectations from the quality of the course to the orchestration of the race from registration to finish. I am encouraged to train even harder now for the XTERRA Pan Am Championship in September!”