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Meet the XTERRA World Champions Part II

Featuring Edmonton's Mike Cabigon.

While the pro champions Lesley Paterson and Javier Gomez grabbed most of the attention for winning the XTERRA World Championship, here we shine the spotlight on some of this year’s age group World Champions.

Mike Cabigon (CEO) Edmonton, Canada – 2:52:12

Mike Cabigon, the managing Partner and President of a Canadian venture capital fund, Foundation Equity, was the fastest in the CEO division by far.  He would have also been the fastest in the 35-39 division had he raced in his age group.

Cabigon did his first XTERRA in 2010 at the XTERRA Canada Championship in Whistler, B.C. and although he qualified for Maui at that race, he broke his collarbone just a week before the race and wasn’t able to start.

Cabigon had transitioned into XTERRA having done nine Ironmans 2006-2008 (including 6 Ironman’s in 6 countries in 60 days as a cancer fundraiser) and having raced MTB on and off since the 90s.  All of that combined wasn’t enough to prepare him for the rough water in Maui.

“I was scared sh*tless by the breaking waves (I am a nervous swimmer) and seriously considered not starting when the gun went off.  I stood there, waited out several sets of waves, then started.  Slowly.”

As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, except Cabigon started slow (28-minute swim) but then crushed the bike and run.

“I must have passed close to 140 people on the bike, and was able to hold position during the run. I saw that I was leading the CEO division coming into T1, but did not know I had gone fast enough to have won the 35-39 AG until long after finishing.  A friend of mine was tracking the race from Canada and texted to say I would have also won my AG,” said Cabigon.

At the 2011 XTERRA World Championship, where Cabigon finished 6th in the 35-39 division, his bike was on the West Maui Cycles repair stand with the fork removed and dangling by the brake cable just six minutes before race start.

“This year, nothing noteworthy before or during the race, which was welcome,” said Cabigon, who enjoyed the trip with his family and fellow CEO competitors.

Of note, this year’s race was Cabigon’s first since last year’s XTERRA World Championship.

“Just confirms how much I love this event – it is, and will be for as long as I can help it, the only absolute must-do race on my calendar.”

Judith Abrahams (PC Division) Kenai, Alaska – 5:41:22

A year ago Judith Abrahams had her right leg amputated just below the knee, the end result of years of complications (and five surgeries) stemming from a bicycling accident back in 2006.

“It shattered my tibia and fibula just above my ankle joint and things didn’t heal quite right to where I just couldn’t be very weight-bearing on the foot, so the bones in my foot started to deteriorate,” she told Brian Smith of the Peninsula Clarion earlier this year. “It was just one thing after another and I just couldn’t do anything.”

Prior to the accident Abrahams was doing great in Ironman races, having won the 30-34 age group at Ironman Brazil and finishing 25th in Kona in 2005.  It wasn’t until this summer, eight months after her amputation surgery, that she was able to get back into triathlons.

Abrahams, a facility engineer for an offshore gas production platform at Cook Inlet, Alaska, did a local road triathlon in Kenai in June, then qualified for XTERRA Nationals (which she won) at the XTERRA Hammerman off-road tri in Anchorage, Alaska in July.

In Maui, despite going head-over-handlebars during the first mile of the bike, then trying to straighten out the cleat on her shoe only to find the nut was stripped, she said “the race went well for me.”

“There was more walking of the bike than I hoped, but I felt strong and really enjoyed the downhills.  I also enjoyed running more on the run course with my new running prosthetic,” said Abrahams.

The biggest thing she said she learned this year in Maui was to get an accommodation outside of the tsunami evacuation zone.

“That made for an interesting pre-race night, not getting much sleep. It’s difficult to evacuate as I have so many more “necessities” that I have to pack to manage my prosthetics.  I also was lucky to find a pair of crutches in the accommodation I was staying at, those came in handy for the portions on the beach that I wasn’t wearing my prosthetic.  I definitely learned some lessons on this one as it was more logistically challenging for me than Utah.  I know what I would do differently for next year and I do hope to come back again,” exclaimed Abrahams.

The XTERRA Tribe hopes to see you back to Judy, you’re an inspiration to us all.

Dennis Brinson (55-59 Division) Carson City, Nevada – 3:13:03

Dennis Brinson, an Allstate insurance agent for the past 27 years, was first introduced to XTERRA back in the 90’s when he noticed all the course signs posted on the Flume Trail when Nationals was held in Incline Village, Nevada near his hometown.  It wasn’t until 2006, however, that he started competing.

“I did my first short course race at Tahoe City,” said Brinson.  “I thought I could never do the long course, that those guys and gals are animals.  Seriously, doing twice the swim-bike-run distance as the short course was inconceivable.”

In Maui, Brinson proved worthy of the challenge, finishing first among 22 athletes in his division with the third best swim (29 minutes, 35 seconds for the 1.5-kilometer distance), the second-fastest time in the 30K bike ride (1:52:16), and best run on the 10K trail (51:12).  His winning time of 3:13:03 was more than two-minutes faster than three-time World Champ Tom Monica.

“That race was a wild ride,” said Brinson.  “I couldn’t see the buoys so I just followed the “pod” and the second entry into the surf was crazy.  Nothing like some “beach break” to get your attention. The bike was tough, like a bobsled run…up then down then sideways. When I finally reached the downhill on the bike, traveling about as fast as possible in a cloud of red dust and riding by braille; the fellow I was riding with – his bike just seemed to levitate up then over. I could see it in my peripheral vision. He landed on his back I think…there was nothing I could do for him but I knew his race was probably over. I prayed for him throughout the rest of the race.”

Brinson didn’t even know how he had done in the race, until he got a call from a long ways away.

“My kids back home who were watching online, and they said I had won it…well actually God had brought me to the finish line so all the Glory to Him,” said Brinson, who made the trip into a vacation around a race.  “My wife and I had a wonderful trip…snorkeling, great food, wonderful weather, and a tsunami warning just to keep us on our toes.”

Kathy Frank (65-69 Division) Santa Cruz, California – 6:07:13

Kathy Frank is a 10-time XTERRA Regional Champion, a three-time National Champ, and now a two-time XTERRA World Champion.

When she’s not winning races she’s helping kids ages pre-school to high school as a home/hospital teacher for the City of Santa Cruz.

XTERRA has been her favored athletic endeavor for years now, ever since she finished her third Hawaii Ironman and was fed up with road cycling and scary drivers.

“I’d always been a trail runner, so XTERRA was a good fit for me,” said Frank. “Mountain biking is the best, I mean, where else can you go out on a training ride and see bobcats, mountain lions and wild turkeys?”

Frank said her raceday in Maui was perfect, and that she had a great time in Maui with her friends.

“I asked for four things:  to survive the swim, to make the bike cutoff, cloud cover on the bike ride, and a sprinkling on the run.  All four things came true!”

Tryg Fortun (60-64 Division) Kenmore, Washington – 3:24:10

Last year Tryg Fortun – a retired firefighter who lives part-time in Maui – came down to watch the World Championship just to see what it was all about.  As it turned out, he was witness to one of the most dramatic moments in XTERRA history as three-time World Champ Melanie McQuaid collapsed right in front of him and just hundred-yards or so from the finish line after leading almost the entire way. When it became apparent McQuaid’s day was done, Fortun’s first-responder instincts kicked in.

“I helped carry her off the course. She threw up on me. I was hooked,” said Fortun.

Tryg was so hooked, in fact, that after his first-ever XTERRA in April this year he did eight more, and won his division at seven of them.  The most rewarding of them was also the biggest, thanks in part to the strong support he received from his family.

“My wife, daughters, and their husbands all showed up in “Team Tryg” t-shirts with XTERRA logos that they had made unbeknownst to me,” said Fortun.  “They were screaming at me in the transition and on the run telling me where my fellow age-groupers were, but my heart was pounding in my ears so hard and my ears were so plugged from the shore break waves that I couldn’t understand a thing.”