Mary Storgaard, of Sturgis, competes at X-terra World Championships

Mary Storgaard competes in the mountain bike portion of the Xterra World Championship, Sunday, Oct. 27 in Kapalua, Maui. Photo courtesy Xterra

KAPALUA, Maui — Sturgis native Mary Storgaard’s first experience at the X-terra World Championship was in Oct. of 2017 was as a spectator. 

“My husband, Brian and I ran the Xterra 10k race on Saturday, the day before the championship. We had trouble sleeping that night so decided to get up early and watch the professional athletes compete,” she said.

The Xterra website describes the course in Maui as a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) swim that starts at D.T. Fleming Beach in Kapalua, a 31-kilometer (19.2-miles) mountain bike that climbs 3,500 feet up and down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains, and a 10.5-kilometer (6.5-miles) trail run that traverses forest trails, and beach sand.  Watching the pros compete stirred a fire inside Storgaard. 

“I completed my first triathlon 19 years ago, but the Xterra is so different. It’s all off-road, so to speak, and watching the pros compete on the Maui course was spectacular,” Storgaard said.

Storgaard, 53, and a grandmother of four, had a consistent workout regimen of running, swimming and biking, and she described her fitness base as decent but her workouts were in the pool or on the road.  

The Xterra is all in the ocean or on a mountain trail, so she started watching online videos on previous Xterra races and put together a plan. 

“I signed up for the race on Jan. 2, and was all-in from that point.  I trained four to five days a week and ran a few 10k races and half marathons so I worked in some recovery days,” Storgaard said. “ I knew the open ocean swim would be a challenge and the conditions would be out of my control, but the mountain bike and the run were events I could really train for in the Black Hills.”

Storgaard entered as an ‘at-large’ athlete and put in hundreds of miles running and biking the trails around Sturgis with her training partners, Billie Jo Bierle and Deb Estes. 

Storgaard said completing the grueling Dakota Five-O mountain bike race on Sept. 1 was a turning point. 

“When I finished that 50-mile grinder over some really tough riding conditions I knew I was ready,” she said. “I also put hundreds of hours in the Sturgis community center pool and that gave me a solid base for the swim.”

But it was a random compliment from a tourist on Ka’anapali Beach in Maui a couple of days before the Xterra that solidified her confidence. 

“I went for an open ocean swim to get in a workout and a lovely older lady came up to me and told me I had the most beautiful swim stroke she had ever seen. Then she wanted to take pictures with me because she thought I was going to win the whole thing,” Storgaard said.

Ocean conditions the day before the Xterra had Storgaard a bit concerned. 

“Waves at D.T. Fleming beach were five to 10 feet on Saturday, and that made me really nervous about the swim.  But I took an Xterra swim clinic on Saturday and got in the water for a little practice, so that made me feel better,” she said.

She also took part in a Hawaiian ‘cleansing and rejuvenation ceremony’ at sunrise on Friday, that brought on a sense of calm. 

“The Hawaiian elder said that we’d all put the work into this race and now was the time to find the joy in everything that you do,” said Storgaard. “ He said that during the race we will find signs that will remind us to stay positive.”

The elite athletes began their swim at 8 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27, and Storgaard and the other qualifiers and at-large looked on.  

It was time to put all the training into practice.  

More than 600 athletes competed in the event. 

“I really struggled to get my rhythm during the first swim lap and the ocean swell picked up during the second lap.  But I finished the swim in 49:07 so I beat my goal,” Storgaard said.

Storgaard completed the 31-kilometer bike race in 3 hours, 32 minutes and 28 seconds, and felt good heading into the 10.5-kilometer run. 

“My hundreds of miles of training on single track and technical rides in the Black Hills really prepared me for the Xterra course,” Storgaard said.  “I thought it was really easy compared to trails in South Dakota.”

Storgaard finished strong with a 1 hour, 58 minute, 22 second split for her 10.5-kilometer trail run, the last event of the triathlon    

The bucket list goal was completed six hours and 28 minutes later. 

“I couldn’t have done this without the support of my husband Brian and all my friends who gave me encouragement along the way,” she said. “My granddaughter gave me a Hawaii patch that I ironed on my shorts and that reminded me of the importance of my family.  I was the only competitor from South Dakota in this years’ event so that’s something to be proud of.”

2019 marks the 24th year of the Xterra World Championship on Maui.  

Storgaard plans on retuning next year for the silver anniversary. 

“I’ll be back again next year, absolutely!” she said emphatically.

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