Middaugh places fifth at USA Triathlon Junior National Championships
XTERRA USA champion was third American in draft-legal road event
Fresh off his XTERRA USA title last month in Beaver Creek, Sullivan Middaugh went back to the roads over the weekend, placing fifth in USA Triathlon’s junior nationals 18-19-year-old draft-legal championship in West Chester, Ohio on July 30.
Middaugh finished the 750-meter swim, 20-kilometer bike and 5-kilometer run in 56 minutes and 57 seconds, 53-seconds off his Project Podium teammate Keller Norland, who won in 56:04. Canadians Blake Harris (56:11) and Alejandro Dominguez (56:30) were second and third, respectively, with American Cole Jamieson (56:52) placing fourth, making Middaugh the third overall American in the 23-person field.
“It went well. I was pretty happy with everything,” he said.
“It was a bit smaller field, which meant I was by myself during the swim. I had a pretty good bike and a really good run, so I was happy with it.”
Middaugh was familiar with the field going in, having raced against many of the athletes throughout the summer in 16-19-year-old division triathlons. With the youngsters in their own race, Middaugh, who was aiming to “have fun and maybe get a podium,” anticipated alterations in how the racing would play out.
“I thought the dynamics were going to maybe be different,” he said. “Maybe a little more spread out on the swim and the bike — and it ended up grouping up a bit more on the bike.”
Unable to group up with the lead swimmers, Middaugh exited the water in 16th place, 1:39 off of race leader Braxton Bokos.
“I looked at that,” he said of his swim split. “Obviously, it’s not my strongest, but there’s definitely racing aspects I need to work on, (too). But also just swimming fitness overall.”
Once on the bike, it was about “going all out.”
Over the first two laps, the 18-year-old weaved his way through the pack, eventually reaching a chase group of five. Thanks to Middaugh’s heavy lifting breaking the wind — the longest pulls came courtesy of the EagleVail product’s steel legs — by the penultimate third lap, that chase pack trailed the seven-rider lead peloton by just over a minute.
“But I worked so hard to catch that group that my legs were toasted,” he admitted. “I think I lost 30 seconds on that last lap or so.”
Even so, Middaugh’s average speed on the bike was 27.44 mph, .8 mph faster than the seven lead athletes, all of whom came into the run exactly together, 1:31 ahead of the Battle Mountain graduate.
Middaugh dominated the run as well, ripping through the course in 15:47. Only four other athletes broke 17-minutes on the leg, with the second-fastest time of 16:20 coming from the winner, Norland.
“It was a really good course for me,” he said, noting two gradual ascents that gave him just enough chance to flex his hill-climbing prowess and “push through.”
“In the last half mile, I really made up a lot of ground,” he said. “I think if there was another mile …” his voice trailed off. Fortunately, his next race will have more real estate to work with.
Training in Park City and looking ahead
Middaugh moved out to Park City two weeks ago to train with his Project Podium athletes; the Arizona State University-based program is Team USA’s training capital until the end of September as they avoid Tempe’s blistering summer temps.
“I like it a lot. It’s similar to home, but it’s a lot different, too,” Middaugh, who is residing in the U.S. Olympic residences, stated of his first trip to the endurance enthusiasts’ mecca.
“It has really good road biking, running, mountain biking — it has everything.”
Project Podium meets for 2-3 sessions per day. In addition to workouts with his teammates, Middaugh is thankful for his coach’s support of his XTERRA goals, too.
“He’s super awesome about letting us mountain bike or go for a trail run, just to make it fun, too,” he said.
While there is another draft legal road race opportunity in St. George in September, at the moment, Middaugh said he’s more likely to just do XTERRA Worlds, which is the following weekend in Trentino, Italy.
While both disciplines are markedly different — Middaugh said the swim is “far more important” in road events whereas time can be made up more easily in XTERRA’s mountain bike leg — every experience is about growth.
“I’ve learned something every single race,” he said.
“And just practicing the format is really good for me — working on the technical aspects and transition — I learn something every time.”
Come Aug. 18, the incoming freshman will start another type of learning, too. He’ll balance ASU online classes while he continues to travel, train and compete.
“I think I’ll have about two classes per quarter,” he said. “I’m pretty excited to get into that.”