By Amber Avalona-Butler/ParaglideJune 4, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Nearly 150 athletes plunged into the waters of Smith Lake Sunday with one goal in mind - complete the challenging XTERRA Smith Lake Triathlon.
The triathlon included a 1000-meter swim, 18-mile mountain bike ride and 4-mile trail run.
As part of the annual XTERRA America Tour, this race brought the "heart of off-road triathlon" to determined men and women, attracting competitors as young as 13 and mature as 67.
Pro and amateur triathletes raced according to gender and age specifics, with an optional category for physically and visually impaired athletes. Six relay teams blasted through the course this year, dividing events according to athletic strength. Smith Lake also welcomed its only wounded warrior competitor, Kent Solheim, an above the knee amputee, who finished the strenuous triathlon in 2:32:20.
Now in its fourth year, the XTERRA Smith Lake Triathlon draws more community support as word of the event spreads.
"We continue to be the only XTERRA held on any military installation," said Derek Weller, race director.
Weller, who works with Soldiers as part of the Fort Bragg Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation directorate, relied on word-of-mouth marketing and e-mail to raise awareness about the event.
According to Weller, "A lot of the guys run and bike on a daily basis but the swim was one of the big motivating factors for them."
The XTERRA Smith Lake Triathlon, originally hosted by a triathlete stationed at Pope Air Force Base, draws a number of Soldiers from Fort Bragg. One of those Soldiers, Gregory Chatham, placed 15th in the overall competition with a final tally of 2:23:41.
"The bike was fun. It's very sandy out there so it's difficult in these kinds of conditions. We just have to be really careful. It's so easy to wreck," Chatham admitted.
He advises other Soldiers to consider the time and energy it takes to complete a multi-sport event. "You want to always train for a little extra distance," Chatham said. "Push the pace. Try to be at the top of your aerobic threshold."
It's a sentiment echoed by Blake Voggs, whose performance garnered him second placement in the men's category.
"XTERRA is quite unique," said Voggs. "It's a different culture, it's a Family. You go from one race to the next and people are just going to come up to you and congratulate you or motivate you, and that's fun."
The triathlon attracted a number of women like Amy Quinn of Pine Knoll Shores, N.C. Quinn placed first in the female category, with a total time of 2:19:43.
This mother of three teaches fitness classes and coaches a swim team, in addition to dominating the triathlon circuit for the last ten years.
Quinn pushes along the mountain bike paths at the Cherry Point military installation to build muscle memory.
"I would say anybody can do this. Any age, it's never too late to start," notes Quinn, who turned off-road triathlons into a lifestyle.