Middaugh second at Xterra Worlds | VailDaily.com

Middaugh second at Xterra Worlds

Special to the DailyEagle-Vail's Josiah Middaugh pedals his way to a second-place finish at the Xterra World Championship Sunday in Kapalua, Hawaii.

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Dad will make it home for Halloween.

And, yes, Eagle-Vail’s Josiah Middaugh is planning on going as Elliott from the movie “E.T.,” with his three youngsters, who are doubtless pumped for tonight’s candy haul. Middaugh could also dress up as one of the word’s best off-road triathletes.

That’s because Middaugh, 34, finished second in Sunday’s Xterra World Championship triathlon in Kapalua, Hawaii, just 50 seconds behind Olympic silver-medalist Javier Gomez, to cap the best season of Eagle-Vail resident’s accomplished career.

“It’s very exciting,” Middaugh said Tuesday. “It’s such a competitive field. Any one of a dozen guys could have won the race. I was definitely fortunate to be second. I definitely went for the win. Second place is always tough in a way. You think what could have been, but I’m really excited where my fitness is and how far I’ve come. This is the best ending to my season.”

Yes, it is. Combine second at Worlds, along with his eighth and the most-precious Xterra victory of his career last month, the Xterra U.S. Championship, and 2012 has been one for the books.

New approach

By now, no one is surprised that Middaugh does well in Xterra events. But, he says, what’s taken him to a new level in the premiere events like a national title and a second-place finish at Worlds is a different training regimen.

“I trained more specifically for Xterra events,” he said. “And the results came through in the big races. I mapped it out a year in advance.”

That meant no more road triathlons. Not only did Middaugh ditch the road triathlons, but he did specific training for the World course in Maui.

It also meant improving the swimming portion of the triathlon. Middaugh has often joked that he pretty much hoped not to drown during the 1-mile swim and then make up the time on the bike and running portions of a triathlon.

“I’ve got a great group of swimmers at the Eagle-Vail pool in the summer and the Westin pool in the winter,” Middaugh said. “They’re good guys. They push me a lot. They’re ex-college swimmers.”

Of course, Middaugh wasn’t exactly expecting the after-effects of a tsunami last weekend in Hawaii after the earthquake off the coast of British Columbia. The postcard blue Pacific turned nasty and muddy brown Sunday.

“I had an idea I was doing OK, based on some of the people around me,” he said. “It was the roughest open-water swim I’ve ever had.”

Maintenance issues

Gomez is superb swimmer, regardless of the conditions, and led Middaugh by 3 minutes, 43 seconds as both moved to their bikes. Middaugh had planned for that, telling his wife, Ingrid, not to be worried if he was 4 minutes out after the swim.

That’s because, Middaugh knows how to ride a bike.

“Right away, I got into a rhythm and knew I was making time on people,” he said. “I had people on the course, yelling out splits.”

Middaugh nabbed South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz, who has been his nemesis in American Xterra events. Middaugh was closing on Gomez in overall time, but then disaster struck.

With 2 miles to go on the bike, his rear wheel fell off. His pedals simply stopped. Middaugh said he was quick to fix the wheel – “It was probably 15 seconds,” but it was a momentum killer.

Despite the mishap, Middaugh still won the biking leg of the event in 1 hour, 23 minutes, 34 seconds, a little less than a minute ahead of Stolz and nearly 4 minutes faster than Gomez.

Don’t look back

One of the many reasons Gomez ended up on the podium in London at the Olympics is that he can run as well. That proved decisive.

Middaugh finished fifth in the 10-kilometer run, and just like the biking, he credited that to where he lives.

“The Vail Valley is a perfect environment to be able to go out and just go uphill and use the ski resorts of Beaver Creek and Vail,” he said. “In the winter, I run up Simba two or three times and use the lift to download.”

Despite that training, simply ridiculous to most mortals, Middaugh knew that Gomez had him on the run. The key was for Middaugh to run his race.

“I could make up a little time when (the trail) was steep or technical,” he said. “Otherwise, he was just too fast. At the same time, I didn’t know who was coming behind me. There are guys at this race from the (International Triathlon Union) who can run 10K in 30 minutes. I still had to be fast to stay in second.”

He did. And, while the Xterra season is done, a finish like this, as well as his win at nationals, has Middaugh already pumped for next season.

“You don’t learn anything from winning a race,” he said. “I felt I learned a lot from this. Nobody’s invincible. I’m going to use my second-place finish as motivation for next year.”

But for now, Dad’s going trick-or-treating Sullivan, 8, Porter, 7, and Larsen, 2, Middaugh tonight.

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

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