America’s fastest off-roader, Josiah Middaugh, won XTERRA Worlds in 2015 on his 15th try at the age of 37. Can Suzie Snyder, America’s fastest female, do the same on her 13th try this year at the age of 36?
“My goal is always to win,” said Snyder, who won the 20-24 division XTERRA World Title in 2004 on her first-ever trip to Maui. “To do that, I’d have to have a solid lead on to the mountain bike, have the ride of my life to hold off everyone behind, and then run like I’ve never run before.”
It can happen. Snyder has the best swim time among returning elite women, had the second-best bike split behind only Lesley Paterson at the XTERRA Pan Am Champs in Utah last month, and is coming into this race fresh for the first time in her elite career.
“I don’t really know what my body is capable of right now, as I’ve only had a few months of training,” said Snyder, who didn’t really get going until June this year.
In her first race out at XTERRA Victoria in July she finished fourth, then she finished second behind Paterson at XTERRA Portland in August and was second again at the Pan Am Champs in September.
“The good part is I’m still fresh and excited mentally, which can go a long way in carrying you through physically,” said Snyder. “I really think my positive mental state is why I performed so well in Utah.”
Interestingly, Snyder was feeling so down the week before Utah she wasn’t even going to race.
“I felt terrible leading up to it. My legs were trashed, and I felt like I wasn’t even moving on the bike,” she explained. “So, I took two days off, and just took it super easy that week before and let my body rest. I went into the race with the mentality that nobody is expecting anything from me, so I’ll just go all out and see what happens.”
Snyder ended up having a great race and claimed the “Silver Cup” for winning the XTERRA USA Championship, which is awarded to the top American elites in the race, for the third time.
Since then, she has been training at home in Reno, Nevada, putting in extra high intensity hill climbing and sauna sessions to increase blood volume in preparation for the Maui heat.
“I think the climate change for a lot of us is the hardest part,” she said. “Especially those of us coming from the mountains or the east coast/northern areas where we’re getting cold autumn weather, and even snow. Heading to the tropics is a shock to the system for our bodies and is hard to adjust to in just a few days.”
Aside from the heat and humidity, Snyder says the XTERRA World Championship course itself provides its own unique set of challenges.
“The course keeps everyone honest,” she explains. “Over the years, the technical aspect in the lower bowl section has become more of a factor since it’s becoming more trail-like, but there’s still so much pure fitness requirement that there’s no hiding if you’re not ready for the climbing. The whole course is hard, especially when you stack it all together. The ocean is always rough and it’s tough getting out with the shore break. The run to T1 isn’t easy- it’s long and uphill, especially up the deep sandy beach. The bike is difficult because of the amount of climbing and steep grades. The run challenges are similar to the bike – long climbs, steep climbs, and the heat that accumulates in your third hour of racing. And to finish with that long sandy beach run. It’s brutal.”
If anyone can handle the rigors of such a challenge it’s Snyder, who works as a strength and endurance coach when she’s not out on the trails. And after all, it’s in Maui.
“I’m really looking forward to getting back to Maui, enjoying the fresh fruit and fresh fish,” said Snyder. “Maui is kind of where it all started for me back in 2004. I remember being so excited to see the pros back then, and then working my way up through the ranks. I just fell in love with the sport, and the mountain biking, swimming, and running, and being able to go out and see where the trail takes me and move across the country in that way. It’s a lifestyle that never gets old, and for me it evolved into a career. It may sound corny, but I guess you could say I’m living the dream.”