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Xterra is off-road, but right on the mark

Ian Cropp
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/Xterra/Rich CruiseCourtney Gregory at the Xterra Nationals.
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INCLINE VILLAGE, Nevada ” The Xterra National Championships two weeks ago at Incline Village, Nev., welcomed fall with a dusting of snow, but the triathlon was a slice of summer athletics in the Vail Valley.

The open-water swim, mountain bike and trail run competition was stacked with top-line athletes from all over the world, but it could have been a Wednesday night mountain bike race in the valley, a trail running race up Vail Mountain or a Dunk ‘n Dash by Nottingham Lake.

For the strong contingent of locals who qualified through top finishes in regional races, a long summer of training paid off in podiums and titles at nationals. In the pro division, Josiah Middaugh took fourth overall at 2 hours, 37 minutes and 47 seconds, and also reclaimed the national title.



“It can go anyway at that level, but I was pretty happy to finish as the first American,” Middaugh said. “I was happy with the most part that I had the fastest run. That was a good reassurance my knee is healing and my training is going well.”

Last year, Middaugh wasn’t able to race at nationals, as he’d injured his knee, although he competed at worlds and had a solid race for still recovering from the injury.

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“Last year I got off the bike in second and wasn’t able to run because of my knee,” he said.

This year, however, Middaugh wasn’t hampered by his knee at all, as evidenced by his great run.

“I know I can run now, so (worlds) might be a different story,” Middaugh said.



Toni Axelrod was fourth among amateur women and second in her age group.

“I was pretty excited,” said Axelrod, who was one of three members of Impact Racing, a local team, to go to nationals. “I was surprised actually. I’ve never had a great race at nationals. I’ve always been in the middle of the pack in my age group. I trained differently this year and followed a plan set up by Josiah.”

Karl Edgerton used solid swim and biking legs to spark one of his best triathlons results, taking third in the 45-49 division.

“I had a bit of a breakthrough,” Edgerton said. “I’ve never been any more pleased with any of my finishes. In the last six weeks, I concentrated on my bike a lot and it paid off and helped me shave off 12 minutes off my (last year’s time).”

Kevin Deighan was fifth in Edgerton’s division, while Courtney Gregory, in his first nationals and only his fourth triathlon ever, took sixth in the 30-34 division.

“I was hoping to get top 15, because there were 32 in my group,” Gregory said. “It was definitely hard competition, but I wasn’t expecting to do that well.”

Dawes Wilson took sixth in the 50-54 division to post his best time, while Petra Hartmann had the same finish in the women’s 35-39 group. Amber Moran was 15th in Hartmann’s group.

With the different events, the athletes have to divide their training and often cross paths with each other.

“That’s what’s so exciting,” Axelrod said. “These are the people I try to with. I swim with Karl once a week. You get together and these people are your friends, so it’s nice to see their progress, too.”

Edgerton, who gives tips to several local competitors in the pool, likes that he doesn’t have to train alone.

“What’s so appealing is to have so many athletes in the valley,” he said. “Whether I’m swimming with Josiah at 6 a.m. or running with Kevin, it’s great to have people who share the same goals.”

Deighan has introduced some people in the valley to Xterra.

“Most people that do the Xterra really enjoy them and talk about it to friends and get them interested and talk about it to other competitors at bike races (in Vail),” said Deighan, who like most of the Xterra locals, ends up at the local biking, running and swimming events. “I think we’re all at the Dunk ‘n Dash events here because we have few opportunities for open-water swims. And we’re at most of the trail races.”

For amateurs, who don’t have sponsorship work full time, squeezing in training can sometimes be as difficult as the actual training session. But having a set training program helps substantially.

“It’s nice to look at a schedule and say there are two things I need to do today,” Axelrod said. “There’s a game plan and I can budget my schedule. You kind of give in to the schedule, a bit, too. You have to trust it, but you don’t like it run your life … But I think it’s always about training smarter. I trained more in the past, but now it’s about more quality workouts.”

But making the commitment to racing, and the subsequent training works out well and becomes infectious.

“It’s really a good way to get healthy and stay in shape,” said Edgerton, whose brother has lost 40 pounds gearing up for Xterra races. “When you put a race on your calendar, it helps you focus on your training program to get there. I’m more motivated than ever and there’s more people in the valley doing it. I think we’re all promoting the sport and I don’t see any reason not to keep doing it.”

And it helps that the training isn’t as grinding and mundane as for just one of the legs of the race would be.

“I was an avid trail runner … and I wanted a change of pace,” Deighan said. “I wanted something easier on my body than running every day. I love the Xterra. I compete in road triathlons and duathlons, but I find this more interesting, and more fun to train for. You’re in the woods, on the trails and it’s a pretty exciting event.”

For the amateurs, the podium isn’t always the goal.

“I really had no idea what to expect or think or what the competition was going to be like,” Moran said. “I just wanted to have a good, solid race.”

There was plenty of motivation to finish well, however, at nationals, where many of the competitors had the death of Vail’s Becky Yarberry on their mind. Yarberry had qualified for the race and trained along with many locals who were at the race.

“You’re already emotionally shot during these, but I definitely thought about her a lot and wanted to dedicate my race,” Axelrod said. “I found myself really thinking of her and I was standing up (on the bike) and pushing harder. She can’t help but inspire people, and that’s one of her legacies ” she touched so many people.”

“She was always so good with our kids,” Middaugh said of Yarberry. “And she always had a smile on her face.”

About half of the locals who raced at nationals will compete at Xterra Worlds at the end of this month in Hawaii. Already, some have their eye on next year’s series.

“It’s pretty exciting because I think I can work on swimming all winter and that’s where I’ve got room to improve,” Gregory said.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.

For the amateurs, the podium isn’t always the goal.

“I really had no idea what to expect or think or what the competition was going to be like,” Moran said. “I just wanted to have a good, solid race.”

There was plenty of motivation to finish well, however, at nationals, where many of the competitors had the death of Vail’s Becky Yarberry on their mind. Yarberry had qualified for the race and trained along with many locals who were at the race.

“You’re already emotionally shot during these, but I definitely thought about her a lot and wanted to dedicate my race,” Axelrod said. “I found myself really thinking of her and I was standing up (on the bike) and pushing harder. She can’t help but inspire people, and that’s one of her legacies ” she touched so many people.”

“She was always so good with our kids,” Middaugh said of Yarberry. “And she always had a smile on her face.”

About half of the locals who raced at nationals will compete at Xterra Worlds at the end of this month in Hawaii. Already, some have their eye on next year’s series.

“It’s pretty exciting because I think I can work on swimming all winter and that’s where I’ve got room to improve,” Gregory said.

Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 748-2935 or icropp@vaildaily.com.


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