By Kristen McFarland
August 8, 2010 (Eldora Mountain Resort, CO) – As those who ski and snowboard at Eldora know all too well, it can get very windy up here. And that can be equally true during the summer months. In addition to a challenging alpine course, big gusts on top of a steady strong breeze made for a difficult swim at this year’s Fleet Feet XTERRA Indian Peaks. The wind was with the swimmers on the way out from shore, but blew white caps right into their faces for the return.
Women’s winner Sara Tarkington (Boulder) had a little premonition about the conditions. “It’s funny, I had a dream about the swim being choppy last night, and my dream came true. It rattled me a little bit, probably slowed me down. It was really, really choppy.”
The hard swim wasn’t bad for everyone, though. Men’s winner and defending champion Brandon Rakita of Manitou Springs was psyched. “It was interesting. On the way out I noticed the chop on the water and I knew that coming back, once we turned around that last buoy, that it was going to really favor me a lot because I’m a stronger swimmer. I knew I could put some extra time on these guys because of that.”
Race Director Paul Karlsson didn’t hear of anyone not starting due to the wind, but the kayakers did have to help six people out who were unable to complete the swim course.
Earlier in the week, weather threw a little monkey wrench into race preparations. The Nederland and Eldora area made national news as a rather dramatic hail storm dropped a foot of hail. If Lake Petersen had warmed up any during the summer, that certainly cooled it right back off. The torrent also washed out some of the bike course, which Karlsson had to reroute at the last minute.
“It was a swamp back there. The mud was up to the doors of my Jeep. I was just back there about a half an hour ago and I had to hike up the course because it was so wet I couldn’t go on the road,” said Karlsson.
They had to change about a mile of the bike course; but did not have to change any of the triathlon’s run course (even though the course for the early morning La Sportiva 11K Trail Run had to be rerouted).
Rakita liked the mud as much as the choppy swim. “The course was a ton of fun. The mud was fun. I mean, it was just the right amount so everybody could ride everything and you’re not slipping and sliding all over the place. It adds something to the course.”
Avon’s Brad Zoller moved up six places from last year to finish second. A new full suspension Giant served him well, “way better than last year’s 26 inch hard-tail Craigslist special.”
Cody Waite of Lakewood, currently fifth place in the pro series, had more trouble with the mud. “The bike course was muddy. I fell down a bunch of times and broke my chain guide so my chain kept falling off. I probably lost at least five minutes on the bike.” Nevertheless, Waite managed to come in fifth place.
Sara Tarkington has done the race every year but one. Finishing second last year, this year she edged out last year’s winner Jennifer Smith of Gunnison (representing New Zealand).
Smith also struggled a bit on the swim, but enjoyed the remainder of the course. “I thought the swim was really hard. It was really windy and I wasn’t going straight. Other than that the bike was in fantastic shape and the run was really awesome.”
Brandon Rakita is currently ranked seventh in the XTERRA pro series standings. Tarkington is ranked ninths while Smith is eleventh.