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How do I train and fuel for an XTERRA triathlon?
Athlete Stories

Sullivan Middaugh: Rising To The Top

Sullivan tackled his first elite World Cup this year, marking his second time ever competing in the elite category. Young and eager, he was not looking to “just participate”.

In fact, Middaugh dominated some of his more experienced predecessors.

Sullivan – XTERRA Beaver Creek was my second time competing in the elite category, and it was super competitive. They had a World Cup this year (in conjunction with the USA National Champs), so these were events that all the leaders were going to from all over the world.

The young US athlete posted both the fastest bike and run splits of the day, closing out the race roughly 2min ahead. Prolific XTERRA athlete Sam Osborn had this to say of Sullivan:

"Sullivan is a wizard out there. He’s a carbon copy of his dad but he swims better, and for sure he’ll be giving us headaches for years to come."

This sport is more than a solo interest, it’s a family affair. Sullivan gives us a brief insight into the history and family dynamic of XTERRA for the Middaughs.

My dad (Josiah) has been doing XTERRA even before I was born, so I've grown up with him racing and that being normal, traveling to different races. I remember watching him in Hawaii and a bunch of other cool places…

I think that I focused on running more specifically growing up, but I was always biking in the summer and doing some swim team as a kid. However, I thought that I would run in college. When Project Podium came about, I thought that was the right spot for me. I decided to join the team and now I'm taking triathlon full on, but this year my dad took me to five XTERRA events and he has a ton of knowledge, obviously as a 15-time USA Champ. Having him to just guide me through those races was awesome.

What is Project Podium?

It's an Olympic development team. It was built to get Olympic medals for specifically the men's side. Because the women have been doing very well at the Olympics and the NCAA triathlon, they have a very good kind of channel to go through. Project Podium was built to try and get the same success for the men.

Can you provide some insight into how you fuel specifically for these events?

Before every race, I would talk with my dad about what our plan was, but after a couple of races, I found something that worked really well for me. This involved taking a gel before (the swim), but then most of the fueling is on the bike because that's where we're spending the most time. I would have a bottle of Maurten 320 and usually two gels, either Maurten gels or NEVERSECOND gels. I would also put a shot of ketones in the Maurten 320 bottle. I felt that really helped me if I had that on the bike, going into the run I had a little more focus or pep in my step. Then, on the run, I would also have two more gels and maybe another shot of ketones. On the second lap of the bike, I would also have a bottle of First Endurance EFS Pro.

Have you had any major strategy shifts in your fueling this season? Were you doing anything significantly different than you are now?

I would say nothing too significant, but what has probably been most important is just feeling more for me. I found that the Maurten specifically sits well in my stomach, so I've been able to take in more of that. Also, I’ve been able to experiment with some other products just because they're so available on The Feed.

With a result as commanding as Sullivan’s at Beaver Creek, he was officially one to be feared. Then, just weeks later, he claimed 5th place at the XTERRA World Championships. This result truly bolstered the hype behind Sullivan.

I think that this year was really about just gaining experience – from the first race to the last race, I improved a ton. (For example) I was pretty gassed by the end of my first race, where the second one I was able to push through the whole time. Going into next year, I'll try to hop in a few XTERRAs as well as draft legal events.

Do you do any other disciplines (i.e., mountain bike races or single-day running events) to assist your training?

I haven't lately, but I have been talking with my coach about doing some track races, like some 5ks. I definitely think hopping in some mountain bike races is helpful and beneficial to my XTERRA racing.

Avatar Carson Beckett

Carson Beckett / Wednesday, November 15, 2023