Middaugh returns to the Xterra competition and finishes 3rd in the first game of the series
EagleVail athlete Josiah Middaugh returned to the Xterra race on Saturday after more than a year of absence from his favorite sport.
Xterra races take an off-road approach to the regular triathlon format, using mountain biking, trail running, and outdoor swimming in lakes and ocean instead of their more traditional counterparts.
The approach takes practice, and Middaugh said he definitely felt rusty returning to Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama, where the first Xterra race since the World Championship on Oct. 27, 2019, where Middaugh finished sixth. .
In Alabama, where he has won five of the last seven Xterra races, Middaugh said he found a large number of competitors who, like him, were eager to get back into the race.
âI didn’t expect that. I thought in the first race of the season everyone would stay at home on their continent,â Middaugh said. âI thought I would be riding mostly other Americans, then suddenly a few weeks later I heard that Sam Osborne from New Zealand was coming – he won the series in 2019. Then I heard that Bradley Weiss, who won the world championship in 2019, was from South Africa; and Karsten Madsen was from Canada; Kieran McPherson was from New Zealand; so all of a sudden we had a really stacked international field.
Middaugh said that while it was exciting to see the Xterra Alabama event attract an international peloton, he also knew that some of the contestants were likely going to show up with better levels of fitness than they currently have.
âThese guys are from the South African and New Zealand summer, so even if there wasn’t a pandemic I would expect them to have a lot better form,â Middaugh said. “That’s usually what happens, the first race is a revelation.”
This year, aside from being a revelation, the first Xterra event of the season gave Middaugh a boost. The New Zealanders had raced with relatively minimal interruption, and Middaugh, meanwhile, had tried to stay in shape by taking on personal challenges like the 80-lap road cycling on Buck Creek Road in Avon. He also did what he could, including the Spartan Games in Vermont, where he had to live on a farm with 23 other competitors. In addition to biking, running and outdoor swimming, challenges included obstacle courses and indoor fitness competitions.
âIt wasn’t necessarily in my chosen sport, but rather to nurture that competitive spirit a bit and also give me something to look forward to and what to train for,â he said.
It also made him excited to return to the Xterra race, but coming back he remembered why it was worth training.
âI did the roundup for the wrong reasons,â he said.
One feature of the Oak Mountain State Park course is known as Blood Rock, and Middaugh got over the handlebars of his mountain bike and smashed his face against the aptly named obstacle.
âOn this course there are so many mistakes you can make,â he said.
Oak Mountain is an almost 10,000 acre state park with 50 miles of trails through pine and deciduous oak forest.
Middaugh crashed into two of these oaks, leaving the area with bruises on the shoulders and hips.
âIt was pretty brutal to have these setbacks right on the bike, but it’s Xterra racing, you never go with your plan A,â he said.
Middaugh said he was happy with his third place that day. Sam Osborne finished first in 2 hours and 29 minutes – about 2 minutes ahead of second-placed Bradley Weiss.
âIt’s so good to be back,â said Osborne. âNational races are cool, but it always leaves you wanting more, you know, it feeds the addiction but not like that where you show up and there are two world championships and the terrain is so deep. What a race.
Weiss said he had some of his own issues with the course.
âI had a double puncture tire very early in the bike, hit a rock and hit both the front and the back,â Weiss said. âThe way Sam moves on these trails; every second you stand still, you lose the race. I got back up and I think I was about 1:50 by then, about five minutes off the bike.
Middaugh arrived 3 minutes behind Weiss.
“If I had had a perfect day I think I would have been closer to these guys, but I don’t know if I had the win in me, just where they are with their physical form and their skills. now, âMiddaugh said.
The next race of the season will be at Middaugh’s home course in Beaver Creek on July 17th.
âMy fitness is pretty good, but it was also a wake-up call that I’m not quite where I need to be,â he said.