Vail’s Middaugh heads to Xterra nationals
VAIL – Porter Middaugh turns 4 Saturday and he wants Matchbox car for his birthday.
Dad, on the other hand, would like to a do a little something bigger for his youngest son. Vail’s Josiah Middaugh competes Xterra USA Triathlon Championship Saturday in Ogden, Utah.
Middaugh, ranked third in the world in the sport, will likely wrap up the national championship, has a shot at the Pro Series season title and still has his eyes on the Xterra Worlds next month in Hawaii.
“Winning the race would be my gift for him,” Middaugh said as his family – his wife, Ingrid, at the wheel, with sons, Sullivan, 5, and Porter, in the back – was driving out to Utah Wednesday night. “But I don’t think he cares. He generally likes to cross the finish line with me, so I’ll try to let him do that.”
Rest and training
Getting to the finish line is an ordeal. Saturday’s race, which includes around 300 of the world’s best off-road triathlon athletes, starts with a 1.5-kilometer swim in the Pineview Reservoir in Snowbasin. Next is 30K mountain-biking leg, followed by a 10K run to Ogden.
The course ranges in altitude from 4,500-7,000 feet, which is an advantage for Middaugh, who trains locally.
Middaugh has won one event this year, the South Central in Arkansas, and been in the top three in every Xterra event he’s entered this year. He was third in the last Xterra event, The Mountain Cup, in Beaver Creek in July.
He has used the 10-week break to rest from triathlons and recover from an injury in his right knee’s iliotibial band or T-band.
“I always feel like I get strong when I stay high up here in the mountains,” Middaugh said. “I always feel like I come out stronger when I’m not traveling all over the country or the world.”
Middaugh, who came to triathlons as a runner, has trained solely on his bike and in the pool at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. After competing in two Vail-Beaver Creek Mountain Bike Race Town Series events and a couple of Mountain Sates Cups, he’s been doing intense riding on the local trails.
That includes intervals where he uses a PowerTap, a device which measures the actual wattage of energy he produces while pedaling. This has allowed him to meet specific numerical goals in his training.
Not only does he use the pool to work on the opening swim, his weakest stint of the event, but he’s also been aqua-jogging in the water to simulate the running he can’t do on the actual ground or trails because of his T-band injury.
“My goal is definitely to try to win this race,” Middaugh said. “I’ve been so consistent all year, being in the top three. I feel that it’s within my reach. I’m going to try to get out of the water being within a minute of the leader. If I do that, I think I can catch the leader halfway through the biking. Then we’ll see if I remember how to run. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.”
Several plot lines weave through Saturday’s race. The first is the Xterra national championship for the top American point-getter in this year’s series. Middaugh has a sizable lead and candidly said that only “something pretty catastrophic” would prevent him from that goal.
Middaugh is the two-time defending Xterra national champ and also won the title in 2004 and 2005.
There is also the Pro Series title awarded to the top triathlete regardless of nationality. South Africa’s Conrad Stoltz leads with 482 points, followed by Nico Lebrun (462), who won at Beaver Creek in July.
Middaugh is at 452 points and can win the Pro Series if he were to win Saturday and Stoltz finishes fifth or worse.
“I had some high hopes earlier in the season,” Middaugh said. “If I could have won at Beaver Creek, I would have had a good shot, but I had some mechanical problems (on the bike) and blew my chances. My only focus is to win the race. If Conrad has a bad day or other guys have good days, it’s possible that Conrad would fall to fifth. But I’m not counting on it.”
After Saturday’s race, Middaugh is off to Hawaii for worlds. The bad news for Porter is that he and Sullivan don’t get to come along for this race. They will be stating with their grandparents. The good news is that Porter should probably have a Matchbox car by then.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.
Locals at nationals
Josiah Middaugh isn’t the only local athlete at the USA Xterra USA Triathlon Championship. Here are other local athletes competing Saturday in Utah.