Josiah: ‘It was a struggle from start to finish’
BEAVER CREEK — He sat at the base of Beaver Creek at a table with his daughter, Larsen, in his lap, his two boys, Colin and Sullivan, around the table with his better half, Ingrid, dishing out some cheese pizza.
The average nature of this average Saturday scene was betrayed by the presence of a gold medal beside his paper plate.
“It’s going to taste so good,” Josiah Middaugh said of the pizza, not the medal. “I’m drooling right now.”
One would think that after swimming 1 mile, mountain biking for 15 miles and running 5 miles in the Xterra Mountain Championship off-road triathlon, and winning the race for the fourth time in five years, Middaugh might be doing cartwheels and engaging in a more boisterous celebration.
But this is a day at the office for Middaugh, 36, who has bigger goals this season, including the upcoming Xterra USA Championship in Ogden, Utah, in September and the same organization’s World Championship in Hawaii come October.
“I’m definitely tired, but I feel like I’ve been doing it a long time, so that it’s kind of a different workout too,” Middaugh said. “It’s definitely harder than what I do in training, but not much. It’s another hard day. I’m not anymore fatigued than I am on most Saturdays.”
Tougher than expected
It’s not arrogance, anything but. This is simply what Middaugh does. Whereas most people go to an office or drive a truck for a living, he runs and cycles all over mountains.
In fact, as simple as it may have been that Middaugh won 16th race on the Xterra American tour of his career — his overall resume exceeds page count — it was not simple on Saturday.
Some days, it clicks. Some days it doesn’t, and Saturday was the latter.
The 1-mile swim in Avon’s Nottingham Lake is a matter of keeping the leaders within hailing distance for Middaugh. His pre-race goal was to be within 2 minutes of the leaders after the water, he was roughly 2 minutes, 30 seconds, off the pace as he came out of the lake on Saturday.
“That made it for a really rough day actually,” Middaugh said. “Last year things clicked and it felt easy. This year, it was a struggle from start to finish.”
Middaugh comes from the world of mountain biking, and it’s how he wins triathlons. If things go to plan — and every minutiae is planned for these races — then he likes to reel in the leaders on this course during the first climb on the bike, a 5-mile stretch with a 2,000-foot elevation gain. After all, he trains in the high country and is used to the oxygen levels or the lack thereof here.
He was gaining time on this uphill, but still had to go out to Arrowhead and on to Village to Village to take the lead before coming into Bachelor Gulch and back to Beaver Creek.
Middaugh wants the lead before it’s time to run because “you don’t know how you feel” before it’s time to put on the sneakers.
“The first two miles is all uphill, so in my mind, I was thinking, ‘This race is going to be won in these first two miles.’” Middaugh said. “If I could increase my gap, I knew I could win the race. I got to the top of the climb and heard I had put another 40 seconds on them.”
And that was that.
More to come
Middaugh upped his lead slightly in the series points’ race. One would think having finished second, second, first and first in the first four races of the series, he’d be in pretty good shape. But racers get to drop one result.
That leaves Middaugh with 290 points just ahead of New Zealand’s Branden Rakita at 272. Middaugh’s bid for his third consecutive points title will come down to the USA Championship on Sept. 19 in Utah.
He’s won 10 national championships as the top American finisher at nationals, as the Utah tri is informally called, but Middaugh would like to erase all semantics by winning that race for the second time in his career. He won that race last in 2012.
There’s also the Xterra World Championship in Kapalua, Hawaii, in October. It seems like Middaugh’s been circling a win in the season finale with finishes of second, (2014), fourth (2013), second (2012) and fourth (2011).
“I don’t have too many more chances to win,” Middaugh said of worlds. “So I want to give it a go and see what I can do.”
In the meantime, he’s going back to work, but not after some cheese pizza.
“I’ve got a pretty good method I’ve been using with my coaching philosophy that I’ve been using with my athletes,” Middaugh said. “I know what’s been working for me. If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.