At 33-years-old, Josiah Middaugh has been unbeatable in the Teva Mountain Games’ Ultimate Mountain Challenge (UMC) since it started six years ago; he’s won every edition. But Teva is just his warm-up. He’s a seven-time X-Terra National tri champ and will be competing in—count ‘em—seven X-Terra events this summer. For the past 12 years, he hasn’t gone a month without competing. We caught up with Middaugh mid-UMC, which he went on to win. Naturally.
This was your sixth appearance at the Teva Mountain Games. How have you progressed over the years?
I’ve become more and more competitive at every event. As I’ve gotten better, though, the field has gotten better too, and most of the time better than me. I used to be able to get on the podium in the individual events and now I have a hard time doing that.
What event do you struggle most with?
The paddle, by far. I had never kayaked before I entered the Teva Mountain Challenge. The first year, I bought a kayak for a hundred bucks and took it to a lake nearby and taught myself how to roll. That’s the extent of my training. After six years, the locals still laugh at my attire and my boat. Most of the races, I end up upside down.
Do you practice for the paddle at all?
No, I dread it too much. I go out the day before the race and paddle once, then won’t even look at the kayak again for a year. For the real kayakers this is easy, but for me this is the most stressful and intense event all year.
Are you just not a water person?
With most of the other events I don’t feel like I’m risking my life. With kayaking, the water is so powerful and so unpredictable that it becomes a mental and physical challenge. Don’t get me wrong, I love challenges, but that river can be pretty intense.
If the paddle is the event you’re dreading, then which one are you looking forward to?
The run is my favorite, even though I suffer the most. I think it makes you feel alive. It’s also super competitive—actually one of the hardest 10k’s in the country—because you’re surrounded by the best trail runners out there.
You’ve been doing this for a while—12 years in fact. Will you ever stop?
As long as I’m competitive, I’ll keep doing this for as long as I can. I’ll do it until my kids start beating me. They’re actually doing the mud run right now, so perhaps it’s sooner than I think.