Local pilates studio owner wins age group at Xterra World Championship
Completing a modified trail triathlon in about three-and-a-half hours, Steamboat Springs resident Holly Wright won her age group at the Xterra World Championships in Maui last month.
“I definitely exceeded my expectations of that race,” said Wright, who owns a pilates studio in downtown Steamboat. “I’ve had my goal to get back there and get on the podium this time. To come in first was a surprise for me.”
In 2018, Wright, 44, competed in the same race in the muddiest edition that Xterra had ever seen.
Days of rain soaked the makeshift bike course, so grass and mud stuck to the athletes’ legs and clogged bike components. Wright came in fourth in her age group, but she wanted to find out how she could do without the elements bogging her down.
Since then, an actual bike course was built, and Wright was excited to have a go at it. However, two days before the race, scheduled for Dec. 5, it started to rain. Wright felt the flashbacks coming on.
“I started having terrible anxiety about the weather because I didn’t want a repeat of 2018 — for it to be really muddy again,” Wright said. “The day before the race it actually stopped raining, but the surf was this huge colossal surf, so they ended up canceling the swim.”
That brought on a whole new wave of concern for Wright, since swimming was her strongest of the three sports.
“My kids grew up swimming,” said Dori Hamilton, Wright’s mother. “That is such an advantage in triathlons if you’re swimming. For other athletes, that’s such a traumatic piece to the event. She grew up swimming and played lacrosse and tennis, but she was never terribly competitive then. She was just a happy, go-lucky participant. Somewhere along the way, she changed.”
The rain had stopped for race day, but only temporarily. In place of the 1-mile swim, Xterra sent athletes off on a 3-mile run to start the event. As Wright took off, it started to sprinkle. By the time she got on her bike, it was raining again.
On the first downhill, Wright got bucked off her bike a couple times due to the changing consistency in the mud paired with slippery roots. So, she slowed down.
“I’m starting to get passed by people and kind of losing my confidence,” Wright said. “I was like, ‘Listen, Holly. You want this. You need to kick it into high gear. Don’t be afraid of the roots. Just go.’”
Wright’s husband, Bradd, and their 9-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter were there cheering her on during her transitions.
“My husband is the biggest cheerleader when I’m racing,” Wright said. “He’s like, ‘This is why you get up in the morning. This is why you do what you do.’”
Wright typically gets up at 4:15 a.m. to start her training. She was grateful for the reminder and motivation in Hawaii.
Wright started doing triathlons over 10 years ago, spontaneously deciding to do the Philadelphia triathlon with her brothers over drinks around Christmas. She ended up winning her age class. Realizing she was good at triathlons and enjoyed them, she continued doing road triathlons for a few years.
She lived in the Yampa Valley in the past but moved back about nine years ago and had some friends doing the Xterra race in Aspen. So, Wright started training and joined in, since living in Steamboat converted her to a mountain biker and trail runner. She won her age group in Aspen, too.
“I was like ‘Wow, I’m on to something,’” Wright said.
Every year she competes in the Beaver Creek Xterra, and recently, the U.S. Championships, where she qualified for Maui in September with a third-place finish. Her win in Maui earned her a slot at the World Championships again in 2022, but Wright wants to skip a year to allow her to spend a little more time with family in the fall rather than continuing training.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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