Josiah Middaugh second at nationals | VailDaily.com

Josiah Middaugh second at nationals

Josiah Middaugh, pictured here at the Xterra USA Championship in Ogden, Utah, in September.

OGDEN, Utah — Local endurance athlete Josiah Middaugh finished second in Saturday's Xterra USA Championship triathlon in Ogden, Utah, and wrapped up the American season points total for second year in a row.

However, Middaugh wasn't exactly bubbling.

"I feel really good about my performance," he said. "But I'm definitely somewhere in between."

This is Middaugh's evolution, particularly as an off-road triathlete. He won the USA Championship in 2012. Barring something drastic, he pretty much had the series title wrapped up, going into Saturday's race, with three wins in four outings in American races. (Middaugh's "worst" finish stateside was third in Richmond, Virginia, at the Xterra East Championship.)

Middaugh keeps raising the bar on himself, and his latest chase seems to be a world title. And that's why he wasn't doing summersaults and handstands on Saturday.

Ruben Ruzafa, of Spain, won Saturday's race — a 1,500-meter swim, a 28-kilometer bike ride, and 9.8K of running — in 2 hours, 21 minutes and 47 seconds, 56 seconds ahead of Middaugh.

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A new challenge

Ruzafa went 7-for-7 in Xterra competitions this summer in Europe, and Middaugh went head-to-head with him in races in the Czech Republic and Germany.

"I haven't found his weakness yet," Middaugh said.

Middaugh thought it would be on Saturday in Utah at altitude, and things were going well early. In the swim, he trailed the leader, Mexico's Mauricio Mendez Cruz, by 2 minutes, 10 seconds coming out of the water.

But Middaugh felt he had one of his better swims, traditionally his weakest leg of the triathlon, and, more importantly, was with Ruzafa, coming out of the water.

"I rode on wheel for the first five miles," Middaugh said. "He lost me on the first downhill and I just never caught back up. Thirty seconds turned into 2 minutes."

In fairness to Middaugh, Ruzafa is an Olympic and World Cup mountain-biker. Middaugh also gained back 1 minute on the run.

He said that he was happy with locking up the points title, saying that it was indicative of his consistency throughout the season. But with Middaugh, there's still always something.

And that next challenge is the Xterra World Championship in Kapalua, Maui, on Oct. 26.

"I'm talking about 1 minute," Middaugh said. "It's not unrealistic progress. There are lots of dynamics in races like these.

In the meantime, the two-time series winner is coming home, and going to continue his training for Hawaii.

"I think I just need to be smart about training, just recover a bit," he said. "I'm not going to do anything radically different."

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.