Xterra Guam: A Championship Event

FOR: Marine Drive Magazine
May 2012
BY: Stephanie Lundberg

An XTERRA race isn’t your average triathlon – it’s for those who like to get dirty. The XTERRA organization, which provides off-road races all over the world in its America and World tours, combines swim, bike, and run courses in some of the most beautiful and challenging locales in the world.

Case in point: XTERRA Guam. The event has been on the island for eight years, the last six of which as a stop on the XTERRA America Tour. The Guam Visitors Bureau primarily sponsored the 2012 race on March 10, which was the first XTERRA Guam to count as a World Tour event, offering a $15,000 prize purse for professional triathletes and qualifying slots to the World Championship for amateur athletes.

MDM caught up with several of the professional triathletes competing in XTERRA Guam at a pre-event press conference on March 7. Hailing from the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom and Switzerland, the pro athletes had a lot to say about the demanding and technical race ahead of them.

Graham Wadsworth, an athlete from the United Kingdom, noted that Guam’s terrain makes the race difficult to prepare for from a distance. “You can look at maps [online] and you can tell quite a lot before you get here, but, as with anything, it’s totally difference in real life. We look at the road course and go, ‘oh, that looks cool, I’ll just run down that way.’ But when you actually get here and you see the steepness of the climbs and the descents and the stuff you’ve got to climb through, it’s pretty extreme. But it’s great, because it’s XTERRA and kind of anything goes. In other places people might complain, but here it’s hard change.”

“We travel a lot, and lot of the races just aren’t technical enough, and this one has a great variety of both uphill and downhill type stuff,” said Jamie Whitmore, an athlete from California, about Guam’s unique weather conditions. “I know the rain – the torrential rain that we had last night – are even going to add to that, so anyone who pre-rode previous to the rain, it’s going to be that much different, that much harder.”

Whitmore knows how to navigate difficult terrain – not only was she the 2005 XTERRA World Champion, and but she also recently won a battle against cancer. Although her fight with the disease left her with drop foot in her left leg, she’s back in the race now, and competed in the Pro Challenge category in this year’s XTERRA Guam.

“I definitely know that’s what drives me to want to try, because when you succeed and you get through all of that, it’s doesn’t matter what place you came in. It’s the fact that you did it,” she said during the press conference. “And it’s just going be really cool – and they have the best pictures here, too…I know when I was sick, the picture that Eric [Tydingco] sent me of me going down the waterfall was just like, ‘I remember doing that.’ It’s what heavily drove me back to come here.”

Will Kelsay, an American athlete, said he was drawn the Guam by the course’s promise of sheer difficulty and fun. “One of the things that brought me here, that I was really excited about, is that I’m always looking for a challenge and some fun. And after racing in Japan last year and traveling with Mieko [Carey, of Saipan], one of the pros as well, she was saying that if I liked Japan I was going to love it here, because it’s an adventure. It’s not just you versus the competitor; it’s you versus the course versus the other competitors. So that’s one of the things that brought me out here.”

Wadsworth agreed with this assessment. “A lot of triathlons, a lot of sporting events, you can turn up to anywhere in the world and essentially you might be racing the same guys week in, week out. You could be anywhere, it doesn’t really matter; you could stay in a hotel, turn up, race a course, it’s the same thing week in, week out. But with XTERRA everything is so, so different, and we’re all here to challenge against the course as well as each other.”

Kelsay summed up his expectations for the race with a bit of humor. “I think there will be a lot of Type 2 fun out there. Type 1 being, you know, it’s fun, okay, going to watch a movie, it’s fun, it’s easy, it doesn’t hurt. Type 2 fun starts out fun and then it ends up kind of hurting, and it isn’t really that fun while you’re doing it. But then once you’re done, it’s awesome – you’ve crossed that finish line.”

And cross the finish line they did – Australian athlete Ben Allen completed the race in 2 hours 29 minutes for a first place finish among the men, and Swiss athlete Renata Bucher took first among the female athletes, completing the race in 2 hours 47 minutes. 

Wadsworth completed the race in 2 hours 41 minutes, finishing fifth in the male category; Kelsay arrived seventh in the male category, completing the race in 2 hours 48 minutes. Whitmore placed 17th among the 25 women who competed and first in the pro challenge category, completing the race in 4 hours and 52 minutes.

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