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Sunday, June 8, 2003 -- Oak Hill, WV
XTERRA ACE Big Canyon Off-Road Triathlon (iPO Event Id#: 5274)
Story and photos by George Gannon

[Details] [Coverage]
[Overall Results]
Pictures: [Set 1] [Set 2] [Set 3] [Set 4] [Set 5]
[2001 Event Coverage] [2002 Event Coverage]

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XTERRA racing at ACE
MINDEN. - As one racer was nearing the finish line at the XTERRA ACE Big Canyon Off-Road Triathlon, he posed an interesting, if not altogether unreasonable, question.

"Did you guys import mud in for this race," he asked.

Though that might have seemed a likely scenario, given the fact that every racer was covered from head to toe in a grimy coat that would make a coal miner look twice, the answer was no.

The mud was a product of torrential rains that swept across southern West Virginia last weekend. The rains were so heavy, the swimming leg of the race, scheduled to take place on the New River at Thurmond, had to be cancelled because the water was so high. However, with a seven-mile run, 12-mile bike leg and another five-mile run to cap off the event, the racers had plenty to work with.

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Plenty of uphill running
The race started at Thurmond with a seven-mile run to the top of ACE Adventure Center. A single track, heavily wooded trail took runners out of Thurmond and onto their first major hill.

Kylie Kavanagh, the eventual female winner, said the first mile wasn't too bad, but then she faced the first of many hills.

"You don't think it's ever going to end," said Kavanagh, who made her way to the race from Australia via North Carolina.

Although she admitted the mud "made it tough," she said it was good course.

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Attitude is everything
Kavanagh, who lead the entire race, took what could have been the days most daunting obstacle in stride.

"It was the biggest mud pit for adults to play in. Anybody who didn't enjoy it just had the wrong attitude," she said.

Kavanagh finished with a winning time of 3:04:58. Coming in second was was Ellen Saunter at 3:12:52, and she was actually making up ground on Kavanagh in the final run.

Rounding out the top three women was Denelle Grant with a time of 3:23:48. While grant gave up time to eventual fourth place finisher, Whitney Johnson (3:26:37), on both running legs, she more than made up for it on the mountain bike.

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Breaking into a smile at the finish
For the men, Tim Menoher was going so fast he might have actually dried some of the course with the flames shooting out from under his running shoes and mountain bike tires.

Menoher, a Kentucky resident, made it across the finish line in just over two hours. In the lead the whole way, Menoher got out in front on the run, which allowed him to be more conservative on some of ACE's legendary bike downhills.

But their was more than the mountain for Menoher to contend with. Not only did her get snapped at by a dog, he narrowly avoided hitting a turtle and came too close for comfort to a snake.

"It was a great race," said an undaunted Menoher.

Time to cool down...
Recording the best split times for all three legs, his final time of 2:10:15 put him ten minutes ahead of second place finisher Mark Junkerman (2:20:43). And it was still another ten more minutes until third place finisher Robert Smith (2:30:05) crossed the finish line.

The mud came of with a quick shower, but the grin on many of the racers faces after beating one of the toughest mountain triathlon courses in the country might not be wiped away for weeks.