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By Karen Kefauver – Sentinel correspondent
February 4, 2011
Link to Sentinel article

Kathy Frank competing in XterraKathy Frank has been competing in triathlons for nearly 30 years.

The Santa Cruz resident got hooked on the swim-bike-run races and hasn’t looked back. After she worked her way up to the sport’s most demanding distance, the Ironman (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a 26.2-mile run), she switched gears to compete in off-road triathlons to give relief to her achy knees.

Her years of racing and strong performances have led her around the globe. Frank has competed at the highest level of the sport in her age group, including several times at the invitation-only Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. She has also found herself on or near the podium during trips to Switzerland, New Zealand, France and Mexico. Last year, she raced in the Czech Republic and in Sardinia.

So Frank, and her knees, are thrilled she won’t have to travel far this spring to compete in a major race, and that much of it will be routed over trails.

This week, the City of Santa Cruz approved permits to host its first-ever Xterra triathlon, officially the Xterra Pacific Championship – Santa Cruz, on May 14-15.

“The Xterra races are known internationally as one of the most difficult, all-around athletic tests. The triathlons incorporate enormous levels of endurance and skill,” said Jennifer Karno, who spearheaded the effort to bring the race to Santa Cruz as special projects coordinator with the city’s Economic Development and Redevelopment department. Karno was also key in bringing the Tour of California cycling race to Santa Cruz. Worldwide, the Xterra series of races is synonymous with off-road triathlon. Unlike most triathlons, the off-road versions feature riding a mountain bike [instead of a road bike] and running on trails [instead of pavement].

“I had great success and was forever hooked,” Frank said of the off-road triathlons she started racing in 2001, after knee pain kept her away from traditional races. The past two years she won the 60-plus division in the Xterra West series. “I love that Xterra races are always held in beautiful places, the mountain bike courses are always challenging yet fun and the runs are always trail runs. My knees are much happier.”

While the final details are being worked out, the Santa Cruz race course is designed to be challenging, as well as scenic.

The swim will consist of two laps of 750 meters each along the Santa Cruz Municipal Wharf off Cowell Beach. The transition area will be staged at Depot Park. From there, the initial bike ride is on West Cliff Drive, to the bike path that parallels Highway 1 and then to the tunnel that leads into Wilder Ranch State Park. The total distance of the bike is more than 19 miles, with 14 miles on trails at Wilder Ranch [a distance that may be increased.] The 10-kilometer run also is routed through Wilder Ranch.

The race is one of the later stops in the 2011 Xterra America Tour, which consists of 70 races in 36 states. It also has a special distinction: It’s one of the tour’s six regional championship races.

Regional championships generally draw larger crowds by offering more points toward series standings and more qualifiers for USA and world championship races.

Santa Cruz’s main event, the Xterra Pacific Championship, features a $10,500 prize purse for pros. Age groupers, meanwhile, will battle for slots to the Xterra World Championship in Makena, Hawaii.

In addition, Xterra is staging a full weekend of events. Among them are separate 5k and 10k trail runs/walks and a more challenging 21k half-marathon. There will also be a sprint-distance triathlon for first-timers wanting to experience an off-road triathlon.

“I’m thrilled that Xterra is coming to Santa Cruz,” Frank said, “because I love mountain biking in Wilder, running on the bluffs of Wilder, and I’m very glad that I don’t have to fly my bike anywhere. I can pedal to the race, which doesn’t happen very often.” She added, “I’m excited to show off Santa Cruz to my Xterra buddies.”

For more information and to register, visit www.xterraplanet.com or call 877-751-8880.

In other cycling news:

Stop by The Bike Dojo bikedojo.com tonight, 5-7:30 p.m. for the grand opening celebration in its new location, 1101 Pacific Ave., Suite G, in the University Town Center building, [enter from Cathcart Street]. There will be food, music, lots of cyclists, presented by founder and Santa Cruz resident Rob Mylls.

The Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz will be bringing back the Santa Cruz Mountain Bike Festival. The second annual event is scheduled for April 9-10 in Aptos. Details can be found at www.mbosc.org.

Karen Kefauver, www.karenkefauver.com, is a freelance sports and travel journalist based in Santa Cruz and an avid cyclist. She blogs about cycling for the Sentinel at www.santacruzlive.com/blogs/outside.

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