XTERRA World Champ Wendy Minor Inspires the Next Generation
A few weeks ago, Wendy Minor was pushing the pace on her 44 mile mountain bike ride around the base of Mauna Kea. Riding fast isn’t unusual for the nine-time XTERRA age group World Champ. But on that day, her speed had nothing to do with hitting her target heart rate. Instead, Minor was sprinting home to make it to her granddaughter’s soccer game.
“It was freezing cold, my hands were numb, and I couldn’t feel the brakes,” said Minor. “But I kept thinking, I have to go. I told Riley I’d be there.”
Minor and Riley – who will turn eight next week – have bonded over their shared love of triathlons. When Riley was six, she wanted to run in the Keiki Dash at the Kona Pier.
“She won the whole thing,” says Minor, remembering. “She beat everybody. I was sitting there with my daughter Mandy and she said, ‘Oh my God, she’s first!’ We couldn’t even see Riley but we knew that was her pony tail bobbing along on the other side of the bushes.”
Last year, both Mandy and Riley went with Minor to the XTERRA World Championship in Maui.
“That made the hugest impression on my granddaughter. She was watching the swim which was atrocious. When I finally got spit out of the ocean at the end of the swim, Kalei – who’s a friend of mine – gave the microphone to my granddaughter who yelled, ‘My Tutu is getting out of the water!'”
After making the time cutoff on the bike, Minor told Riley they could cross the finish line at the XTERRA World Championship together.
“For the next hour and a half, Riley sat under a coconut tree at the bottom of the hill on the beach waiting for me so she could run up the hill,” said Minor. “It meant so much to her. My daughter kept telling her that she didn’t need to sit there for so long, but Riley said, ‘No, I’m going to stay right here.'”
The two crossed the finish line together and Riley accepted the award and stood on the podium with Minor. Since then, Riley got a mountain bike and rides with her Tutu, which is the Hawaiian word for grandmother. She also tried out for the Waimea Swim Team and made the cut.
“She’s enjoying every minute of it,” said Minor. “A couple of weeks ago, she got out of the pool and gave me a big wet hug. She said, ‘I wanna be like you, Tutu. I want to do swim races and all these races because I know I’ve got it in me to do it.'”
Despite being athletic all her life, there weren’t many sports available to women when Minor was growing up.
“When I played basketball, you could only dribble the ball twice, and then you had to pass it.”
Things changed when Minor moved from the mainland to Oahu in 1984. By this time, she was running her own food and water testing laboratory, which was eventually purchased by C.Brewer & Co. in 1998.
“I had been living in Hawaii for five days when I joined a canoe club. My daughter was eight so she paddled too.”
Minor also joined the Oahu Club and trained for the Waikiki Roughwater Swim. And then the 7K Waikiki Double Roughwater Swim.
“Then a friend said she was doing the Tin Man and I said, ‘Oh, I’ll do that.’ That’s how it started. I did the Tin Man in 1985, a half-Ironman in 1986 and qualified for Kona then boom – away it went.”
Since 1986, Minor has competed in 28 Ironman events, 15 of them at the Ironman World Championship at Kona and others in places such as South Africa, Asia, Australia. Her entry into XTERRA in 1997 was similar.
“A friend said, ‘I’m doing a race and they use mountain bikes.’ I said, ‘I just got a mountain bike, when’s the race?'”
Minor, who had only been mountain biking for about a month, won her age group on the South Maui course. “I screamed all the way down The Plunge to the bottom. I thought it was fun but I wasn’t sure I wanted to do that again. Then I came back a few years later and started doing XTERRA like crazy. ”
Minor has won her age group at XTERRA Saipan, XTERRA Tahoe, and twice at the XTERRA National Championship. She also won her age group every time she raced at the XTERRA World Championship except for once, when she was recovering from knee surgery. That year, she was second.
There was only one year in which the race was even close. In 2006, Minor signed up for the XTERRA World Championship even though it was just a week after Ironman.
“I arrived and got the little program and I read, Wendy Minor is expected to win her sixth age group world championship. I thought, that’s no fun.”
Yet, the pressure seemed to fuel Minor’s competitive fire. “I was looking at the biggest competitor in my age group and it was a girl from New Zealand. She could run! The only thing I had going for myself was that she didn’t know the bike course. And I know that bike course.”
On race day, Minor finished the bike in front and started running, but her competition was right on her heels.
“I thought, I gotta run like hell. So I ran like crazy. I’d go through the aid stations and they were all teenagers and I would just yell, ‘Bring me water, I don’t have time to stop, I’m in a hurry!’ I’m running along and this guy was ahead of me on the single track and I said, ‘I have to get by you, I’m in a hurry.’ He started chatting with me and I said, ‘I’m not talking, I’m in a hurry.'”
Minor expected to see her New Zealand foe as she ran across McKenna’s Beach, but nobody was there. It wasn’t until 35 minutes later after Minor had rinsed off and was hanging her wet gear on her hotel balcony that she heard the words: “and from New Zealand …”
“I have never run with such abandon,” says Minor. “And it was all because the program said I was expected to win.”
Even though Minor is usually in front, she doesn’t race for the glory. She simply loves to be in the water and on her bike, and she is thrilled to see other women out there with her. At the XTERRA World Championship in 2015, the most important thing to Minor was that her friend Charlotte Mahan make the bike cut-off. They finished first and second, but when Mahan climbed up to the second place spot to receive her award, Minor pulled her to the top step with her.
“I said, ‘Get up here, Charlotte.” Because in my opinion, we were both first.”
This year, Minor will be joined at Worlds by Riley and Mandy, who will be cheering for her at the finish line. And if you see a certain pony tail in the front of the Keiki Race, you will know who it belongs to.
“There’s another generation coming here, to XTERRA,” said Minor. “She will be filling in my footsteps.”
But for the record, neither Riley, nor her Tutu, are “expected to win.”
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