Q and A with the Men of XERRA Epic

The XTERRA Rustman Epic off-road tri – featuring a mile swim, 30-mile mountain bike and 10-mile trail run – returns to Lincoln Parish Park in Ruston, Louisiana on May 5 this year, and like last year will offer up championship points (100 point Scale) to amateur racers.

On May 6, the following day, DLT events is putting on the long-standing XTERRA Gator Terra off-road tri that features a half-mile swim, 10-mile bike, and 3.5-mile run.  The GatorTerra has been run every year since 1997, making it the longest running XTERRA outside of the World Championship in Maui, and “the bike course has remained basically unchanged through all these years,” said race director Fred Phillips.

XTERRA amateur standout Kyle Grieser from Texas has won the last two Epic’s, and we caught up with him, Mr. XTERRA Steve Cole (pictured above), and die-hard XTERRA racer Joey Guajardo to hear what they had to say about the uniqueness of this long-course off-road tri.

XTERRA: What do you like about the longer distances?

Joey: I come from an endurance background, so this was a nice change of pace. Be assured though, you still have to crank to be competitive out there.
Steve: The longer distances provide a different aspect to off-road racing. Instead of racing shorter distances at max heart rate, the longer the race the more pacing and nutrition is needed.
Kyle: What I like most about the Epic races is you really get a chance to see what you are made of; to see how your body will act when you have to push it longer than normal; to see how well you are really training and if it is paying off.

XTERRA: What do you like about the Ruston course in particular?

Joey: Ruston back in the day was Ned Overend’s favorite course. It was my first ever XTERRA event back in 2005. I have been back every year since. The course has incredible flow and is a blast. It’s a true cross-country course.
Steve: The Ruston course is a very fun and challenging course that requires a variety of mountain bike skills. I have done that course 6 or 7 times and it does not get old. The lake is pretty clear. The bike course is well marked and dialed in. The run is mostly single track and provides, like the bike course, hills, switchbacks, roots, and more.
Kyle: The Ruston course is just a fun and fast course, and the bike course really has everything you can for mountain biking. It has some technical stuff, switchbacks, some climbs, and some down hill sections. So you really get a little bit of everything on this course.

XTERRA: What advice would you give newcomers to the longer distance as far as training and race day pacing?

Joey: Work on your nutrition plan. These longer races require a different type of caloric intake. For pacing, keep in mind this is not going to wrap up in 1.5 hours. Check your ego at the trailhead and pace accordingly.
Steve: Newcomers would do best to treat the longer distance training as if they were doing a half ironman. The swim is fairly standard; only a mile. The bike is around 36 miles. So racers would be on their bikes from 2.5 to 3.5 hours and on a mountain bike that can be a long ride. The run is a trail run of around 9 miles. It is important to get training distance as opposed to speed for those new to the longer distances. On race day, you must start your race at a pace that you can hold for 5 hours or more. It is easy to go out too fast and then burn out later; making for a really long day.
Kyle: The best advice I can give somebody is to really pace yourself on this kind of race. You also need to have the right nutrition before and during the race. It’s crucial in the longer courses. Training for the race is different as well. You need to really put some long and intense training days in. Try and over-train if you can.

XTERRA: How does the post-race recovery compare to a regular distance race?

Joey: It feels like any other race. The harder you go, the harder the recovery time is.
Steve: More beer is needed because you use more energy and fluids.
Kyle: It does seem to take a little longer on your body to recover after an epic race. But don’t just take off more days. I think it is best to just do a little bit of a lighter work out after the race for a few days or so.

XTERRA: Will you do the Epic again this year?

Joey: Of course!
Steve: I am unsure at this time if I will do the Epic, Gator, or both. I have qualified for the ITU worlds in Birmingham, AL on May 19th and have yet decided what might fit into my training plans. As I am old, I need more recovery time than the average Joe, and I am not a stud like Casey Fannin!
Kyle: I do plan on doing both Epics again this year if I am able to get off of work and make it to both. I also plan on doing the Epic and Gator this year, it is just too far to drive and only do one race. I like that course, so racing twice on it in two days is not a big deal.

XTERRA: Tips for those making their first trip to Ruston?

Joey: Check out Monjunis. Only place in town that has pasta and it is pretty damn good!
Steve: I would get there on Friday to pre-ride the course. It is not so hard that it will wear you out for the race day. I camp at the park, which a lot of other people do, and it gives you a chance to get to know some of the other competitors; as well as tips from those that have done the race. Those doing the long course should also have extra food and fluids. There is a feed zone on the bike and run that you can place your extra food and gear. That way you don’t have to carry everything with you during the entire race or extra in case you run out. It is important to maintain fluid intake all the time. It can get humid and hot in the woods and dehydration is a concern
Kyle: Best thing to get ready for a Ruston is to prepare for any kind of weather. I have been there in cold, hot, and even stormy weather. There is no telling what you will have on race day. But one thing about the course is that it can take a lot of water and still be a great ride.

XTERRA: Craziest thing you’ve seen or done pre-during-or-post race during the epic weekend of racing?

Joey: Crazy was having six beers the night of the epic and still rolling strong the next morning for Gator Terra.
Steve: The best view for the spectators and where you will see the most exciting stuff is Tomac hill. It is located about 1/2 mile from the start for non-racers and about 4 miles into the mountain bike for racers. It is a steep downhill followed by jump then a sharp left hand turn. I have seen bikers fly over the jump and into the fans, into the trees, and just out of control. It is also where the bikers come back a mile later to attack the uphill switchbacks. Very spectator friendly area.

XTERRA: Are there really gators in those waters?

Joey: YES.
Steve: I have not seen a gator yet, but our first time there a park ranger told my wife there were all sorts of critters in the water and woods. I have seen snakes, turtles, and big-ass catfish though.
Kyle: I really don’t believe there are Gators in the water there. I think you have to go further down south to find them. But my first year there I was a little scared about swimming because I thought there might be some there.

For anyone looking to go long, see the gators first-hand, or experience a true XTERRA original, a road trip to Ruston May 5-6 is in order.  Learn more at www.dltmultisport.com.