terra returning to Keystone | SummitDaily.com

terra returning to Keystone

KEYSTONE – An icy swim in a pond, a lung-busting, technical mountain bike ride and a 10-kilometer trail run isn’t a mixture many athletes can blend at full speed. And even the best triathletes in the world struggle in the high-altitude Keystone terra Central Championships.

The Keystone terra triathlon consists of a 1K swim, a 31K mountain bike ride and a 10K run. The July 20 event features amateur and pro athletes from 30 different states and eight different countries.

The terra sport triathlon on July 19 is a half-kilometer swim, a 13K bike ride and a 5K run. Registration for both races is still open.

One racer who won’t be entering as an amateur is Breckenridge resident Jari Kirkland, who took fifth in last year’s full-length triathlon. After winning the terra as an amateur last month in Big Bear, Calif., she is now racing as a pro.

Kirkland, 27, has competed in several triathlons and mountain bike races over the last four years, but she maintains that the Keystone terra is the most difficult of any event she’s done – and one of the most exciting.

“It’s the best of all the regional championships,” Kirkland said. “You definitely have to be able to handle a bike, and you have to be in really good shape. The run is all singletrack, and the bike part is 90 percent singletrack. You really have to know what you’re doing.”

Conrad Stoltz of South Africa was the overall winner of last year’s race, completing all three legs in two hours, six minutes and 40 seconds. The swim took him 13:33, the bike 1:12:37 and the run 40:30.

Jamie Whitmore of Sacramento, Calif., won for the women with a finish time of 2:30:55, swimming in 17:03, biking in 1:25:54 and running in 47:58.

terra organizers contend that, although each leg of the Keystone course is challenging, the biking portion poses the greatest struggle.

“Each course has its unique challenges,” said terra coordinator Trey Garman. “Especially when the swim starts at 9,000 feet and the bike race pops out at 11,000 feet, and you climb 3,000 feet on the bike after getting out of frigid, cold water. Some athletes are better suited to the altitude than others, and the whole course is pretty grueling. But it’s definitely got to be the mountain bike portion that takes up 60 percent of the time of the race that is the hardest. Then you throw in the technical aspect of the course with Wild Thing and all.”

Wild Thing, which is characterized by steep pitches, tight turns and rock drop-offs, is the most challenging stretch of singletrack on Keystone Mountain, and few pro mountain bikers competing in the triathlon end up staying on their bikes through that section of the course.

“I don’t think any woman last year rode the Wild Thing, and there might have been just a couple guys with the technical ability to do it,” Kirkland said. “You have to figure out ahead of time if it’s worth it to possibly crash and get all bloody, or just get off your bike and carry it down. You still have the run to do after the bike race.”

Some athletes registering for the terra decide to tackle the race with a team of three members who complete one leg each.

Registration for the terra is $95 per person or $190 for a team. The sport triathlon costs $55 per person or $110 per team. All racers must also pay a $9 USA Triathlon fee. To register, or for more information, visit http://www.xterraplanet.com.

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