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Middaugh third at Xterra worlds

Special to the Daily Josiah Middaugh pedals up Heartbreak Hill at the Nissan Xterra World Championship in Wailea Maui, Hawaii, Sunday.
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MAUI, Hawaii – Pro triathlete Josiah Middaugh is looking forward to a respite from his intensive training regimen when he returns to Vail this week.It’s a break that is definitely well deserved, too, after Middaugh, 24, finished third at Sunday’s Xterra World Championship in Maui, Hawaii, with a final time of two hours, 33 minutes and 28 seconds. Eneko Llanos of Spain won the pro men’s race in 2:28:44, and Olivier Marceau of France came in second at 2:29:45.”I think that I exceeded my expectations this year,” Middaugh said Monday via cell phone. “I surprised myself. … I kind of had goals in my mind at the beginning of the year. I wanted to have a podium finish in every race and I thought that I could be the top American. But, I really didn’t know what was possible.”What was possible for Middaugh was a sublime sophomore pro season to follow up a break-through first year on the Xterra professional circuit. The “Kid” won his first pro race in July at the Xterra Central Championship in Keystone, then grabbed third-place finishes at the Xterra West Championship in Big Bear, Calif., and the Xterra USA Championship in Lake Tahoe, Nev., before his big podium finish Sunday. Don’t bonkMiddaugh said the world championship, where he came across the line sixth last year and third as an amateur in 2002, is the toughest race in the Xterra series and is the only one where following a pace is necessary.

Held at the Wailea Marriott Resort on Maui’s South Shore, the three-discipline competition starts off with a 1.5-kilometer swim on Wailea Beach, then transitions into a 30-kilometer mountain bike leg that climbs 2,500 feet up the slopes of Haleakala volcano, then finishes with an 11-kilometer trail run that traverses rock, forest trails and miles of sand.The sharp lava rocks and kiawe thorns on the running and biking legs of the course pose two demanding on-course challenges to racers. The most challenging component to competitors, however, is how their bodies deal with the unforgiving heat and humidity of the tropical Pacific climate.”It’s a really different kind of course,” Middaugh said. “Mainly because of the environment, and how hot and humid it is. It’s one where you have to pace yourself. In other races I can usually go as hard as I can the whole way and always recover. I always have something left for the run. If you’re not careful, though, (at the world championship) you can really fall apart out there. You can bonk hard.”Middaugh didn’t bonk, but he did struggle with the run after hammering out the fastest bike split of 1:34:41. He estimates that he came out of the water somewhere between 30th and 40th place before moving up all the way to third place by the time he got to the run transition.From there, it was just a matter of hanging on to that spot.”By the time the run came around, I was hurting pretty bad,” he said. “I salvaged a decent run, but it wasn’t fast enough to catch the leaders. … It was hot, but we had a little bit of cloud cover for the run, which was nice.”Movin’ on up

After finishing as the top American pro in the two biggest Xterra races of the season, Middaugh hopes that the accomplishments lead to a new level of professional stability.The husband and father of one currently works full time as a personal trainer at the Aria Spa and Club at the Vail Cascade Resort. He also designs training regimens for a roster of local athletes in the area from his home.Those two occupations, coupled with the responsibilities of a busy family life, put added pressure on Middaugh to find time for himself to do his own training for his competitions. He is hoping that his third-place finish Sunday, along with his other podiums this year, will lead to more sponsorship money in the near future so that the title of professional triathlete becomes more than a misnomer.”It’s definitely a turning point in my career,” Middaugh said. “I think that I’m in a position where I could at least be a pro for part of the year. I’m pro now, but I’m not really a pro. I’m hoping I could get to a point where it could be my profession for the year. I think I could secure at least enough sponsorship money to do it full time for the summer.”For now, however, the one thing Middaugh is most concerned about is some needed time off.”I’m thinking I’ll take some real time this year,” he said. “It’s been a pretty long season. With the snowshoe competitions included, I’ve been racing since December. I plan on doing nothing for a little while.”

Isom finishes 15thLocal pro triathlete Lisa Isom, who trains under Middaugh’s tutelage, finished in 15th place in the women’s pro race with a time of 3:22:03. Isom was hoping for a better end to her first season as a pro, but said that she struggled on the bike leg, which, along with the running leg, is typically where she excels.”It’s all about the bike in this sport,” Isom said. “I’ve raced well here in the past, and I never had a big problem with the heat, but it felt like it was affecting me this time for some reason. I was drinking so much water and Gatorade, a lot more than I did last year. “Ultimately, you can never put your finger on why your body isn’t functioning. I don’t have any excuses for it.”Isom did say that despite the tough finale, she was very pleased with her first season as a pro. She is looking forward to applying the competitive knowledge gleaned from this season into her offseason training so that she can come back better prepared in 2005.”There are definitely some things I can do over the next nine months to get better,” Isom said. “I’m not going to be able to float on my races from this year. The women’s side (of Xterra) is getting more competitive, which is good, and I need to get better. … I’m going to stick with Josiah and work hard in the offseason. I love winter. I love snowshoeing. … I’m going to take some time off, but I’m looking forward to getting back to work.”Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at npeterson@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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