Middaugh keeps going back to the creek
Vail CO, Colorado
VAIL ” Josiah Middaugh’s competitors had a small window of opportunity Saturday.
But Avon’s Middaugh slammed that window shut and ran away with the Ultimate Mountain Challenge title.
In what was admittedly his weakest event ” the downriver kayak sprint ” Middaugh pulled in a time that was just off the mark of several professionals.
A professional kayaker Middaugh is not.
“I’ve got a lot of experience,” Middaugh joked.
While Middaugh only has been in a kayak a handful of times, he took second among Ultimate Mountain Challenge individual racers. Middaugh then took first in the three other legs of the new Teva Games event.
Middaugh, who spends most of his time on the water swimming in triathlons, got some kayaking instruction from Gypsum’s Brad Ludden.
“I asked him, ‘How do you paddle this thing fast?'” Middaugh said. “He said it’s mostly core strength, and you don’t use your arms. I’m used to swimming, where you keep your elbows bent, which is a totally different technique. I tried to keep my arms straighter and used my core a little more. I had a fast boat and could paddle straight, so I put my head down and paddled.”
As the weekend progressed, Middaugh went back to the water a few times.
“With the format, it was all about recovery,” Middaugh said. “With (my) two kids, recovery wasn’t ideal, but I had the secret of the Gore Creek in between every event. I’d go soak my legs in there and kind of revive myself.”
Middaugh also has another secret to his success.
“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to my wife, Ingrid, because she’s probably as exhausted as I am from the weekend,” Middaugh said. “She was schlepping the kids to all the events, and she’s really been picking up the slack for me. I feel like I put together four good races, and I’ve been slacking on the parenting. So I’m going to have to make it up to her.”
Dave Mackey was second, while Greg Krause was third. Keri Nelson won the women’s event, taking first in both the trail run and hill climb.
In the mountain-bike race, Middaugh came in almost 10 minutes ahead of the next finisher.
“What was humbling about the mountain-bike race is that we are going in with some of the best pros in the country and even some World Cup guys, and I was just trying to hold my own,” Middaugh said. “A couple guys pulled me along for a while, and I had a good race.”
Middaugh was first by more than a minute in the 10-kilometer trail run.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect,” Middaugh said. “With my knee injury, I can’t run downhill like I used to, but I knew my lungs were in great shape, so I thought I could run with my lungs.”
Less than a year ago, Middaugh broke his patella and still has screws and wires in his knee.
In the final leg ” the hill climb up Vail Pass ” Middaugh was third among all competitors.
“I felt terrible,” Middaugh said. “But I figured I’d just keep pushing hard on the pedals. I’m used to a triathlon, where you have to run after (biking). About halfway through the race, I thought, ‘Hey, I don’t have to run after this, so I can pick things up a little bit,'” Middaugh said.
There won’t be much rest for Middaugh, as he will compete in Xterra races the next two weekends.
Danelle Ballengee was hurting but happy after competing in the final two events of the Ultimate Mountain Challenge on Sunday.
“I was still supposed to be in a wheelchair right now, and the fact that I’m out here competing and finishing is cool,” Ballengee said.
In December, Ballengee shattered her pelvis after falling 60 feet into a canyon in Moab, Utah. Ballengee, an accomplished adventure racer, has been making a speedy recovery considering the severity of her injuries.
“It’s tough,” Ballengee said of competing recently. “It’s a whole different experience for me. Instead of trying to race at this high level, I’m trying to get through it. It’s a different kind of struggle. I just thought about it out there when I was racing, how happy I was just to be there. Everyone was so supportive ” the athletes and fans.”
After the hill climb, Ballengee had a bit of trouble getting off her bike.
“By the end, I was so tired and weak. And my hip … was pretty sore,” she said. “My muscles are sore and tired, but I did it. And I’ll recover and come back strong.
“In the rehab process, you have to push yourself a little bit and suffer a little bit in order to move to that next step.”
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