Xtri is a triathlon broadly equivalent to an Ironman distance tri (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run) with the added elements of an extreme course and difficult conditions. This may mean swimming in arctic temperatures (Alaskaman), running and cycling through rocky and remote trails (Patagonman) and summiting a 4000-foot-high mountaintop to break the tape.
|Fodaxman Finish Line Views|
Xtris are limited in entrants due to a rigorous acceptance policy. Not anyone can do these events and ballots are typically limited to 250 (Fodaxman recorded 90 entrants). The original Xtri was Norseman Xtreme Tri (think Kona for all your Ironman types), first held in Norway in 2003. Since that time other races have followed the concept of this event, and in 2014 XTRI was launched as the global brand for these races. The event I was privileged to attend was Fodaxman, Brazil's own Xtri and a prospective race to add to the Xtri circuit.
TJ Thrasher and I had worked together in 2014, as he was preparing for Ironman Florida. When he crossed the finish line under 10.5 hours, I knew I had a very elite athlete on my hands. He is an endurance fiend and no amount of heat on the course that day could affect his ability to speed across the finish line in such a fabulous time. But after his race, he returned to life in Steamboat Springs: working, coaching winter sports in Colorado and spending time outdoors doing what he loved most: hunting. He quietly joined the Xtri circuit, first at Alaskaman and then Patagonman, where he was quite successful. But he had a goal in mind of a top 10 finish at this intriguing race in southern Brazil and I got the call to see if we could once again work together.
Over the next four months, we worked training into his busy schedule. He is, in one word, compliant. His dedication to his goal was impressive and he rarely missed a workout. Xtris also require each athlete bring his own support team, since there are no aid stations, and minimal signage on the course. So I joined Team Thrasher and flew to Florinopolis, Brazil to meet up with TJ and his lifelong friend and second supporter, Todd Lodwick. (Google Todd Lodwick, btw. TJ had chosen the right friend for his team).
Here are some details of race day:
The swim begins in the dark at 4a.m. This photo shows the first light on the water. In the distance is the steeple of a church, now underwater since the reservoir had sunk old parts of the village. Xtris prefer point to point swims, but this swim was a double triangle, partly because of the shallowness of the lake and all the old buildings underwater that were possible hazards. The site of 90 swimmers taking off in the dark with glow sticks attached to their swimming caps was incredible. Their only guidance on the swim were tiny buoys minimally lit. It proved to be a difficult swim for most of the participants.
|Uphill to T1 was definitely not covered in the IM red carpet|
Then onto the bike:
Cobblestones and speed bumps greet you at every village we passed, so biker beware. Team Thrasher stayed ahead out ahead of TJ, jumping out of the car every 5 miles or so to refill water, replenish nutrition and keep the morale happy. The first half of the route was vivid green landscape with rolling hills, cow pastures and rice fields.
And then we got to the big daddy: Serra do Rio Rastro, a famous ascent which climbs 12,000 feet to the top of the mountain range. But the climbing does not stop there. The second half of the ride has multiple climbs as well, finally decending into the town of Urbici, for T2.
|Support staff for all the teams kept the morale happy and the race fun|
On to the run:
The first eight miles of the run were on dirt roads, winding through more farmlands and crossing flowing streams -- up and down for miles. After that, there was the slow uphill 4000-foot climb to the top of Morro de la Igreja. Team Thrasher again ran alongside TJ as he worked his way toward the end of the race.
There are two options for finish lines at Fodaxman, a base finish and a top finish. The base finish does not climb the last mountain, but winds around it for an easier, yet still impressive, route. TJ had his sights set on the top finish and this is where he really shined. Todd and TJ ran together for the first nine miles and then we rotated between the team to stay by his side for the entire marathon. It was TJ's supreme endurance and uphill training that skyrocket him past multiple athletes, especially those that passed him due to his bike flat. He surged past competitor after competitor to finally claim ninth place overall in the race!
It was an amazing opportunity to be a little part of Team Thrasher 2019, and a coach to TJ. He introduced me to a new world called Xtri and along the way I fell in love with beautiful Brazil. Out of 90 projected finishers, I counted only 45 or so who crossed a base or top finish line. But we all had a spectacular time in this part of the world. What a wonderful place with kind and generous people. I won't soon forget. Now, who's ready for an ADVENTURE!