FARMINGTON — A triathlon that has taken place for the last seven years at Farmington Lake was canceled on Monday.
The XTERRA Four Corners Off Road Triathlon, which was scheduled for June 7, was called off because of a low number of entrants who were siphoned off by competing races in the region, the local race's director, Ingrid Gilbert, confirmed on Friday.
"This would have been our eighth year," Gilbert said. "The big part of it is that we've seen a growth in XTERRA, greater saturation within the region, so this year we had a 38 percent decrease in registrants. I worked hard to get people to register early by May 6, offering a reduced rate for early registration, but, at this point, I can't offer a competitive race or be fiscally responsible doing so."
Go to xterrafourcorners.farmingtonnm.org or contact Ingrid Gilbert at 505-330-1063.
Gilbert said entrants who had paid entry fees were notified by email, letter, phone and social media about the cancellation and offered a refund.
She also listed upcoming XTERRA races in the region those athletes could enter instead, including an XTERRA Lory on May 31 in Bellvue, Colo.; an XTERRA Turkey Trail Run on June 7 in Pagosa Springs, Colo.; an XTERRA Deuces Wild on June 22 in Show Low, Ariz.; and an Aug. 2 XTERRA race in Pagosa Springs.
Farmington's one-day race challenges athletes to first swim two half-mile laps in Farmington's reservoir, which prohibits swimming year-round except for events like XTERRA. The athletes then pedal a mountain bike for 17 miles and run a final six miles along parts of nearby Road Apple Rally trails and Bureau of Land Management's Glade Recreation Area, before finishing back at the lake.
Athletes earn points that can send them to regional and national championships, broken up by age divisions. Last year, Four Corners XTERRA added a $1,000 purse split among the winners of the race.
But as the triathlon has gained popularity in the region in recent years, it has also meant greater competition among race sites, including races scheduled on the dame day. Farmington's race on June 7 was in direct competition with one scheduled on the same day in Pagosa Springs.
"In the beginning, we would see over 140 individual triathletes. Last year, we had just under 100," Gilbert said. "I will say that the triathletes that I've been working with, we're all saddened by it, but we've seen the numbers of races within the region grow, which is hard. Pagosa Springs' race is on the same day, so we were up against that. As triathlons have grown in Colorado and surrounding areas, we get fewer athletes entering."
Costs to hold the Four Corners XTERRA race each year — food and drink for athletes, an XTERRA franchise fee, a permit for the use of BLM land and race insurance — are covered primarily by sponsors and entrance fees. More than 80 volunteers are required to make a race successful, Gilbert said.
Like all XTERRA America Tour events, the Farmington off-road race is sanctioned by USA Triathlon, the national governing body of multisport events in the United States.
Complicating matters, Gilbert said, is Farmington's proximity to another XTERRA region, the mountain region, which includes Colorado. New Mexico is part of the South Central region. Only two XTERRA races are held in New Mexico. The other, the XTERRA Dreadmon race in Truth or Consequences, also canceled a race this year.
"We pool from the same athletes, but we're in different regions so those overlaps can occur," Gilbert said. "They have to draw those borders somewhere. Next year, we'll see if we can get something going differently and have those stronger numbers come back."
Jeff Culler, 56, went back to work after retirement to finance his racing bug. The Farmington man said he was sad to hear the Farmington XTERRA was canceled.
"I am going to try to do Pagosa in August. July 19 I'm going to near Vail, Colo. I'd really like to see it back here," he said. "I've competed in eight different states — Nevada, Utah, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona and Colorado. Farmington is unique. If you race off-road, it's always different. I'd really hate to see it die."
Gilbert has started compiling a list of triathletes from the Four Corners area to better gauge whether XTERRA's return to Farmington Lake will happen next year.
"I wish that decisions could be made by the heart, and not the number," Gilbert said. "There's costs for putting this kind of race on. I do want to see this continue. That's definitely the plan."