Local triathletes take on the world | VailDaily.com

Local triathletes take on the world

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Tamara Donelson is young enough to dream and old enough to know how to make them come true.

Donelson was one of four local athletes who finished well in last weekend’s Xterra World Championships on Maui: Donelson, Josiah Middaugh, John Klish and Brad Zoller.

Donelson was the first amateur woman to amateur to cross the line, good for 14th overall among the women, well up in the women’s pro field.

She wanted position herself to race pro next year, which, obviously she could have done this year.

“Last year’s winner was 41 and that’s five years away. I have a lot of work to be done before I get to that, but I’m headed in the right direction,” Donelson said.

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She won her first-ever Xterra in Las Vegas April 10. We were still covered in snow and her bike leg was “wobbly,” she says.

She wanted to win Xterra Beaver Creek, and the nationals in her age group.

Still, doubts dog her footsteps.

“Who am I to have these kinds of dreams? But I didn’t want to be one of those people who has the potential to try and not do it. I’d much rather give it everything and if I don’t get there, well, I gave it everything,” she said.

So one day her husband, Brett said, “You seem to be winning stuff a lot lately. Exactly where are we going with this?”

Well, Maui would be nice, she replied.

“I think I have what it takes to be as competitive as some of the pro girls. Let’s give everything ounce this year, and see where it takes us,” she said.

Sometimes your biggest competitor is yourself, she said.

“If you can face your fears and leave your ego at the door, not being scared of failing or losing, you can accomplish more than you thought you might. If it doesn’t pan out, fine. But usually it does,” she said.

She survived the swimming in good shape and her bike leg was smooth. The run, though, was a lot of concentrated misery on such a beautiful day.

“The run was so insufferably hot,” Donelson said. “It just kept going up and up and up. People were shouting encouragement, but there were times I just wanted to burst into tears.”

Then they turned down the home stretch and had to run on the beach to the finish.

“Running on the beach at the end was just demoralizing. I couldn’t have given it any more,” Donelson said.

Tamara Donelson is a trainer at the Westin Riverfront Club and owner of Donelson Training Systems

And the guys?

Middaugh has raced in a world championship every year since 2001. He’s a seven-time national champion and finished third in the worlds in 2004. He was fourth this year.

Fourth place was a good finish, but still …

“I thought I had a good shot,” Middaugh said. “Confidence comes from your training and a lot of the terrain in the Vail Valley and Colorado helps you prepare for Xterra.

“Xterra fits with the mountain lifestyle,” Middaugh said.

The water was rough, but the field was rougher. The swim featured some Olympic athletes, and they did what Olympic swimmers are supposed to do.

“The competition was the best I’ve ever seen. It just keeps getting stronger every year,” Middaugh said.

When he scrambled out of the water, Middaugh found himself further back than he wanted and started working his way back up through the field during the mountain bike ride.

He was within striking distance when the run started and he ran well enough to win, but so did eventual winner Michael Weiss.

His run splits were almost identical with Weiss’s, and he couldn’t make up enough time to slip into third.

“There was so much energy being put out on the course by everyone,” Middaugh said. “I mustered everything I had, and I left everything on the course, so I have to be happy with that.”

It could have been last year when he suffered four flat tires on the mountain bike leg. He was in second place when that disaster struck. He said he was happy to finish well with his gear and himself in tact.

Happy maybe, but not satisfied. The Xterra World Championships is the world’s most prestigious off-road triathlon, he said, and this was the first Xterra on this course.

“Seeing the course I’ll prepare a little differently,” Middaugh said.

Brad Zoller finished 29th overall and 25th in the men’s pro division, on the strength of what he said was one of his best bike legs ever.

It seemed like every time they turned around, the competitors were climbing, and it turns out they were, Zoller said.

“There was much more climbing on this course than last year’s. Living in the valley we’re used to it,” Zoller said.

They’re not used to heat and humidity, and many in this year’s field were from Colorado where we don’t do the heat and humidity thing.

“The heat and humidity seemed to affect the Americans, because so many of us are from Colorado,” Zoller said.

This is his second trip to a world championship and his third time to the Xterra worlds.

“This has been such a great career year. I feel I’m finally reaching my potential,” Zoller said.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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