Tri Newbie Takes On Xterra
Typical of many triathletes John Close did not arrive from a particularly athletic background. His cycling and swimming skills mainly initiated from riding his bike all day as a kid and taking a dip in the neighborhood pool. John was talked into doing a charity bike ride a few years ago and found himself out in front and pulling away from the group. This inspired him to attempt the mountain bike leg of an Xterra off road triathlon relay team. He like the energy of triathlon and subsequently purchased a USAT license, but was so intimidated by the swim (and disliked running) that he did not race at all his first season. His second season was different story however. He broke through some of the mental barriers holding him back and applied himself to the sport of triathlon with great intensity. In his first season John qualified for Nationals, made Team USA, and went on to compete at the Short Course World Championship in Germany. Not bad for a rookie season!
For the 2008 race season John wanted to race both Xterra and short course triathlon. However, after some discussion with his coach, Matt Russ, John decided to focus his energy on Xterra. The fact that every Xterra race is different and poses new challenges, obstacles, and requires adaptability appealed to him. For instance, his first race of the season in Arizona, the Xterra Xtreme Dessert, had a 3 mile stretch of deep sand affectionately named “the sand pit” on the bike course. He has raced from Florida to California this year and each race is very different; requiring a unique mix of strategic planning and technical skills.
Although it is his first season his goal is to one day win his age group at the Xterra World Championship. That may seem lofty but John has won his age category at the Xterra Southeast Regional Championship and has since placed 5th and 4th overall at his most recent races. The most dramatic improvement has been in his swim times. He has gone from swimming barely 2000 meters per week, to second out of the water in his last race. His bike and run fitness have also improved dramatically, but he still struggles to be patient with his technical skills on the mountain bike. He likes the accountability of having a coach, the purposefulness of his work outs, and the analysis. John is one of the first Xterra athletes to incorporate the use of the new Power Tap hub designed for mountain bikes.
After the result of his last race John is now ranked 2nd in the nation in the 40-44 age category. With the Xterra World Championship still on the horizon in 08 it could indeed be an incredible inaugural season for John Close.