When 2018 XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ Fabiola Corona was 15 years old, she borrowed a mountain bike and jumped into a race.

“It was a size large frame and very heavy, but since then, I fell in love with the sport and knew that it would be part of my destiny,” remembers Corona.

After graduating from university in 2000, she began racing in earnest, first as an adventure racer. In 2002, she did her first triathlon, and then found XTERRA in 2005.

“I was dating my now-husband Aaron in 2005, and we always like to be pioneers,” said Corona. “We were always trying new sports, new races, and traveling to new places. He is the one who finds new adventures for our bucket list, so instead of taking me to coffee or to the movies, he invited me to race in the XTERRA Midwest Championship in Milwaukee.”

Corona and Aaron Sanchez Garcia – who is also the 2018 XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ in his amateur division – competed in nine races on the XTERRA Pan Am Tour this year. To hear Corona tell it, she did it just for the experience of meeting new people, visiting new places, and trying out new food. However, Corona is an incredibly fierce competitor and has mad skills on the mountain bike.

In her first XTERRA in Milwaukee, Corona placed ninth in the elite race and went on to race in XTERRA Keystone where she finished 12th. The following year, in 2006, she competed in the inaugural XTERRA Mexico race in Puerto Vallarta. She was only beaten by XTERRA legend, Jamie Whitmore. Even her marriage corresponded to an XTERRA – this time honeymooning so that the couple could compete at XTERRA Saipan.

That same year she won two gold medals at the 2006 Central American and Caribbean Games in Cartegena, Columbia. She qualified for the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, where she placed seventh and became the first Mexican triathlete to compete in the Olympic Games, which were held in Beijing in 2008.

Soon after competing in the Olympics, Corona went on to Maui and raced at the XTERRA World Championship – when the race was held in Makena – and finished 12th.

“I went back to the XTERRA World Championship again in 2015 and only finished 17th. I decided Maui wasn’t for me.”

While the hot, humid conditions might not suit Corona, she excels in the mountains of her home country. An expert mountain biker, especially on technical single track, Corona has been dominating XTERRA Mexico for the last decade, winning five of the 10 times she has toed the line and finishing no lower than fourth. This year, she won again, beating Kara LaPoint by about two minutes.

“I will never stop racing XTERRA Mexico,” says Corona. “Tapalpa, Jalisco is a little town near Guadalajara – where the tequila and mariachi were born – so the fiesta is unique. Plus my dad lives there so I am very glad to race there every year.”

Today, Corona races with as much passion as she ever has. This year, she finished second at XTERRA Chile, won XTERRA Argentina, was third at Oak Mountain, won XTERRA Dominican Republic, was third at XTERRA Victoria, fifth at XTERRA Beaver Creek, won XTERRA Mexico and XTERRA Quebec in August, and placed third at the Pan Am Championship in Utah.

“This year, from the beginning, my goal was to win the Tour,” said Corona. “I knew we could make nine of the 12 races.”

At XTERRA Oak Mountain in May, Corona was in a cat-and-mouse race for third place with Kara LaPoint but she refused to give up, knowing that every point counts.

“Fourth place is like a chocolate medal to me,” said Corona after the race. “But third place is like gold. I had family that came to XTERRA Oak Mountain from Atlanta so I was giving my best. I wanted that podium with all my heart, not just for me but for my family, so I held nothing back.”

Corona did the same thing in Utah last month, where she also finished third, just ahead of Magali Tisseyre of Canada.

“I really wanted that podium,” said Corona. “On the downhill, I was like a snowball. I didn’t care. It was podium or die. So, at the end, I was really, really happy with third place.”

When asked about her favorite races, Corona said four stand out in her mind.

“I loved XTERRA Argentina because it was my first win in another country,” she said. “And XTERRA Dominican Republic was wonderful because there were some friends from México there who gave me a flag to run into the finish line with. XTERRA Mexico was special because my family was there cheering me on, including my five nephews, my sisters, my mom, and dad. And finally, my last win at XTERRA Quebec, had one of my favorite bike courses. The people there were so kind with us. The race director asked me what is a Mexican dish for the hydration station, and I told him to serve nachos with guacamole and Tequila. Obviously, we cannot eat or drink that in the middle of the race, but at the end, we had some burritos, big hats, and mustaches, and the volunteers were dressed as Mexicans. Well, kind of.”

While Corona isn’t sure about her goals for next year, one thing for certain is that she will be embracing the XTERRA Live More spirit as much as possible. In 2018, during “a break” between XTERRA Chile and XTERRA Argentina, Corona and Sanchez Garcia trekked to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

“We love to travel and love new experiences,” she said. “Sometimes we go to other continents and sometimes we go to nearby towns. Two weeks ago, we went to a cattle ranch near our home where they showed us the elaborate process of making milk and cheese.”

One thing for certain is that she and Aaron Sanchez Garcia will be together.

“We have been married for 13 years and it has been the best 24/7 adventure race,” she said. “We motivate each other, push each other, and even race each other. We love being together, even if it’s just going to the supermarket.”