Off-road adventures

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 13, 2007

PELHAM &8212; Pure stamina may be the best way to describe the off-road triathlete showcase at Oak Mountain State Park this past Sunday as hundreds of athletes gathered to compete in the second annual Xterra Southeast Championship.

Athletes started the day with a 1,500-meter swim in Double Oak Lake, followed by an 18.5 mile mountain bike ride and 6.2-mile trail run.

While first-year pro Craig Evans sped through the water course in 19:26, he was caught and passed in the first few miles of the bike ride by top-ranked pro Conrad Stoltz of South Africa.

Stoltz went on to take a three minute lead entering the run before pulling away for a 4:48 victory over Andrew Noble of Australia.

For Stoltz the endurance needed to win is more mental than physical.

&8220;It&8217;s such a different and special venue. It&8217;s very technical,&8221; Stoltz said. &8220;I think part of this race is not going too hard and concentrate.&8221;

Another pro, women&8217;s champion Jamie Whitmore, of California, feels the same way.

&8220;Patience is a virtue and that&8217;s what I&8217;ve learned to have in this sport. I&8217;m willing to have patience and that&8217;s all it takes,&8221; said Whitmore who trailed the entire race before passing defending southeast champion Melanie McQuaid with just over two miles left to go in the run.

&8220;I know Melanie likes to go out hard,&8221; Whitmore said. &8220;It was a matter for me being very consistent and figuring that I&8217;d reel her in at some point in the race and that&8217;s what I did.&8221;

Just like Stoltz, who called the course &8220;insane and technical,&8221; Whitmore doesn&8217;t know of another course she&8217;d rather compete on.

&8220;Dude, it&8217;s my favorite. I love being here. It&8217;s just a great state; great southern hospitality,&8221; said Whitmore, who has spent the past week in Alabama after winning the BUMP and Grind.

&8220;I go out there and I just enjoy the race. It&8217;s nice to be able to go out on a course where you can think about having fun,&8221; she said.

Shelby County amateur athletes, such as North Shelby resident Jackie Ryan, agree.

&8220;This is an awesome course, and I&8217;m so lucky to live right here and come out here several times a week,&8221; Ryan said. &8220;When Xterra was created, this is the kind of course they were looking for right here.&8221;

Ryan, who won the women&8217;s 45-50 championship last year, finished second with a time of 3:00:12, 100 seconds faster than last year.

&8220;I certainly wanted a repeat this year, but I was happy with this. This will get me to the world championships in Hawaii, and that was my goal,&8221; Ryan said.

Another Shelby County resident that fared well was Helena&8217;s Hardwic Gregg, who started the day with a victory in the dauthlon.

&8220;Last year I did the full Xterra and found out that I can&8217;t swim and the 10K is a long way on those trails, so the 5K was a lot easier,&8221; Gregg said.

Other local winners included former University of Alabama runner Tyler Stanfill, who matched fourth-ranked pro Josiah Middaugh on the 10K run for the best time of the day at 37:13. Stanfill&8217;s run time helped him and Milo&8217;s teammate Dusty Davis win the men&8217;s relay team championship, one day after Stanfill won the Buster Britton Memorial road triathlon.

UAB pediatric urology surgeon Tony Herndon, who won Friday&8217;s 10K run, teamed up with nurse Dianne Jacobs, of Hoover, and Ross Taylor of Victoria, British Columbia to win the mixed relay, while Birmingham residents Casey Fannin, David Meadows and Lori Goldweber each won their divisions.