WHEN RACE DIRECTOR JAMES KOWALEWSKI STARTED MINE OVER MATTER IN MILTON, ONT. HE HAD NO IDEA HOW POPULAR IT WOULD BECOME IN HIS LOCAL SOUTHERN ONTARIO TRIATHLON COMMUNITY, OR THAT IT WOULD BECOME A STOP ON THE XTERRA PAN AMERICAN TOUR IN JUST A FEW YEARS.
The race has grown in popularity in recent years in part thanks to joining the Xterra family and attracting international off-road pros, but also thanks to the fun and challenging race weekend.
The race takes place in Kelso Park and takes advantage of the quarry for a picturesque, calm and usually-warm swim course where athletes cover 1 km in the water before heading into T1. Triathletes then hop on their bikes for a two-loop ride that alternates between dirt, road and trails and offers interchanging single and double paths, so passing is safer. The run takes place on the same first loop as the bike course, so athletes are familiar with the terrain and know what’s ahead – this is great for first-time off-road athletes who may be apprehensive covering unknown territory at full speed and also for seasoned athletes looking for a fast time.
As the only off-road triathlon in the region, Mine over Matter gives triathletes the chance to try something new in the early season – the race takes place at the end of June – while still targeting any long distance or late-summer A races. Kowalewski has found that triathletes who give off-road a try return year after year and enjoy the challenge of a race that demands a type of effort different from road triathlon, but in a fun and supportive environment that welcomes first time mountain bikers as much as seasoned veterans.
Another draw to the race is that the course never gets boring. There’s always something to look at and, instead of being on open roads for hours, the park and forest setting give participants something to look at the entire way. Those that return each year notice the course is everchanging. This is the nature of off-road triathlon and something that adds to the excitement for regular participants.
Last year’s race was the largest yet and hosted the most diverse field of athletes to date. While top-ranked American off-road triathletes came to Milton to chase Xterra series points, local star Karsten Madsen stole the show, taking the first major win of his off-road career. Kowalewski says Madsen has been a tremendous ambassador for not only the race but also off-road triathlon in general and knows that part of the race’s success comes from Madsen’s role in encouraging traditional triathletes to leave their comfort zone and try something new. Most end up loving it and have made Mine over Matter a staple on their summer race calendar each year.
Madsen has some words of advice for triathletes thinking of trying an off-road triathlon such as Mine over Matter: “You don’t need a fancy mountain bike to start. Each year, it’s getting cheaper to get a good mountain bike, but you can also borrow from a friend – it’s just about getting out there. Lots of triathletes hesitate because they’re scared to get hurt. There’s no shame in getting off the bike and walking it in a race if the course gets too technical. Start with a local sprint race and go from there. Once you try Xterra you won’t want to go back. It’s exciting and stimulating and you get to see some beautiful nature.”—cd