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XTERRA kicked off Saturday morning with the USA National Championship Triathlon in the Ogden Valley. Amateur and professional athletes competed for their share of the $80,000 purse prize and a chance to compete in the XTERRA World Championship in Hawaii.
The race began at Pineview Reservoir’s Port Ramp, where athletes completed the 1,500-meter swim.
“It’s chilly this morning; I worry about the initial shock of the water,” said Michelle McDonald, an Ogden resident, whose 19-year-old son was competing for the first time. “Getting out of the water is the hardest part for him. Your muscles are cold and you have to transition to your bike as quickly as possible to start the climb up the mountain.”
McDonald said the hardest part about being a spectator is waiting.
“It’s not knowing where they are. I know his speed and what time he should be out of the water. But sometimes things can go wrong. I hate not knowing where he is and having to sit here and wait to see his head pop out of the water.”
Upon exiting the water, the athletes transitioned to their bikes and entered the Wheeler Canyon trailhead for the 28K mountain-biking section. The U.S. Forest Service built the mountain-biking course. A new 7-mile section has been in progress for the past three years, making its debut at this year’s XTERRA.
A helicopter could be seen weaving above Sardine Peak, following the lead racers and giving a visual cue to spectators as to where the athletes were on the mountain-biking course. The mountain-biking course maxes out at an elevation of 7,372 feet and gains 2,723 feet from beginning to end.
“The trail is sick! I’ve ridden it with my friends a few times,” said Zach Serrna, a Weber State University alumnus attending the event to cheer on his co-worker. “There are two pretty big climbs. I can’t imagine swimming, biking that trail and then having to run. These people are insane.”
At the Snowbasin transition check point, friends and family cheered on their athletes as they prepared for the last leg of the event, the 10K trial run. The Green Pond trail included a 700-foot climb, followed by a steep descent into the finish line.
Saturday’s winners included Lesley Paterson of Scotland, two-time XTERRA World Champion, who completed the course in 2:53:21. In the men’s division, Leonardo Chacon, a Costa Rican Olympian triathlete, finished in 2:32:31.
“I just love Utah,” said Paterson as she accepted her award. “I’ve been coming here for five or six years, and it never ceases to amaze me. Thank you for everything.”
Awards were announced on 25th Street that evening in conjunction with the Harvest Moon Festival and XTERRA after-party at Roosters in Ogden.
The second day of events kicked off with the XTERRA Trial Running National Championship Half-Marathon, followed by a 5K and 10K trail run and the Kids Sprint for the up-and-coming junior athletes.
Mindee Thompson drove up from Las Vegas to run the course with her two sisters.
“We love it up here. Utah is beautiful this time of the year,” she said. “I can’t get enough of the fall leaves. I’ve run marathons all over the world, but the view up here can’t be beat, not to mention how friendly everyone is.”
Both the men’s and women’s XTERRA National Trail Run Champions came from Utah this year — Patrick Smyth from Salt Lake City and Lindsey Anderson from South Ogden.
More information about the XTERRA series, including how to get involved next year, is available at www.xterraplanet.com.