Overheard on the Trails: Weekend Race Wrap-up

Spring is a glorious season for endurance runners. We’ve survived winter and can look forward to summer weather, long days and lots of time on the trails.

Finally, we can pack away the headlamps and the fleece tops; the base layer and the tights. Rather than running with our heads down against the sleet and snow, we are beginning to look up and notice the flowers, the mud, and – could it be – the sun.

Last weekend, we talked to several athletes from South Carolina to Texas who tore it up on XTERRA Trail Runs.

At the XTERRA Victoria Bryant Trail Run in Royston, Georgia, it was unanimously agreed that the park is a different animal in the spring, when the leaves are off the trail.

Jacqueline Donaldson won the 6.2K race in 55:56, and Cynthia Altman, who was the runner up in 57:59 said, “Although I am more of a road runner, I love trail running and now want to do more of it. Those hills were no joke, but I thoroughly enjoyed racing with everyone this weekend.”

John Simmons had the best time of the day and won in 46:07. He was followed by David Jiminez, who crossed the line in 47:41.

XTERRA Myrtle Beach offered 5K, 10K, 20K and 50K Trail Run options at Horry County Bike & Run Park, nicknamed “The Hulk,” because its trails are similar to The Incredible Hulk rollercoaster at Universal Studios.

The overall 20K champ was Justine Whipple, a former US Naval Academy track star who still holds the school record in the indoor 5K.

David Knight was the runner up and men’s champ in 1:42:28.

Alexandra Gass was the women’s 10K champ in 48:22 (and beat all but one of the men). Kara Slick was second in 1:01:38 and then went on to place 16th in the women’s division of the XTERRA Myrtle Beach Triathlon the next day.

When asked how long she had been running on the trails, Kara responded, “I’ve never done one until today.”

Scott Recupero won the men’s 10K in 47:25 and Adam Riedel was the runner up in 55:26.

At the XTERRA ATX in Austin, Texas, new XTERRA Ambassador Steven Stoot was first in a time of 1:28:12. Emma Kosciak was the women’s champ with a time of 2:00:10.


XTERRA Tahiti Debuts New Course May 6th

On Saturday, May 6th, the XTERRA World Tour will stop in Tahiti for six races, on two islands over two days. Athletes will experience an amazing infusion of Polynesian culture paired with a brand new course on the island of Moorea. 

Last year, the XTERRA race was on the island of Tahiti, where the XTERRA Trail Runs will still take place. This year, XTERRA athletes will board a boat on Saturday morning and will be ferried from Tahiti to the island of Moorea to run on an imaginative new course that will prove to be a test of technical skill, mental toughness, and physical endurance. 

“We are delighted to expand the scope of this year’s race to two islands, to showcase our tremendous culture and unique landscape,” said race director, Jean-Michel Monot. “We will have over 500 athletes from all over the world competing in the weekend events, including some of the best in the world.”

Leading the pack this year will be the reigning XTERRA World Champion Mauricio Mendez. Challenging him are on course will be 2016 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Champion Ben Allen and his wife, 2017 XTERRA New Zealand Champ Jacqui Slack Allen. Also at the start will be 2017 XTERRA New Zealand Champ Sam Osborne, and Frenchman Christophe Betard, who placed 6th in XTERRA Reunion in April. 

For the past two years, Tahiti – and the island of Moorea – were included in the Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Awards. In 2015, The Huffington Post called Moorea “The Most Beautiful Island You’ve Never Heard Of,” alluding to how far away this paradise is. Travelers first must land in Papa’ete, Tahiti and then travel by ferry to Moorea, which is 12 miles away.

The Tahitian islands were formed by volcanoes and have the steep cliffs, gorgeous lagoons, and white sand beaches you might expect. However, beneath this extravagant beauty is an XTERRA course that has brought the pros to tears. Josiah Middaugh, the 2016 XTERRA Tahiti and 2015 XTERRA World Champ called the terrain “diabolical.”

XTERRA Technical Director and Hall of Famer Nico Lebrun, who competed placed third in last year’s race, said, “We were all happy just to finish the bike safe, and happy to start the run, but that is only because we didn’t know what was in store for us.” Although this year’s course is new, Lebrun expects it to be just as beautiful and challenging as in previous years. 

Last year, Middaugh took the lead almost as soon as he got on the bike, but he stressed that this was a race where Mother Nature stayed tough. He finished almost 10 minutes in front of Christophe Betard who came through in 3:05:48. Lebrun was third in 3:12:47.

On the women’s side, two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson won with a time of 3:34:19 and was 6th overall. She was over an hour ahead of runner up Alice Bourgeoisat, who was the first Tahitian. Bourgeoisat’s fellow countrywoman Yasmina Chenel completed the podium.

Watch the 2017 video:

2017 is the Tenth Anniversary of the Vieux Sportifs Oenologiquement Passionnés (VSOP), which translates into “Wine-Loving Old Athletes”. The VSOP has been the chief organizer of the the XTERRA Tahiti as well as its precursor, the TranStahitienne. Some of the members of the club have traveled the world competing in triathlons while others created triathlon clubs such as Club Avignon Triathlon and Kona Tri Tahiti. As the name of the club suggests, they also offer wine tastings to athletes after the race. Perhaps even more notably, VSOP wants all competitors to share equally in the joy and hardship of the race, no matter if they cross the line first or last.

The VSOP has traditionally donated part of the proceeds of the race to a charity.This year, the club is garnering awareness of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The Vice President of the club, Loic Lecottier, was struck by the disease at the young age of 43 and passed away in October, 2015.

XTERRA Tahiti is the 15th of 38 events in which amateur athletes around the world can qualify for the 22nd annual XTERRA World Championship in Maui on October 29th. XTERRA Tahiti offers 26 qualifying spots and $7,500 USD in prize money to the top six elite men and women.

XTERRA Tahiti will host a fun triathlon on Saturday after the race, and on Sunday, there will also be a 42 km Trail Run across the island of Tahiti through the Papenoo Valley as well as a Run & Bike. After the race, athletes will be served a light meal and massages will be offered with the proceeds going to charity.

Learn more at www.xterratahiti.com

View last year’s results

XTERRA Oak Mountain Isn’t Just for Fast People

If you want to see some of the best triathletes in the world, come see the pros race in the XTERRA Oak Mountain on Saturday, May 20th.

But if you want to see some of the best future triathletes in the world, then come a bit earlier in the day for the XTERRA Xticer. Designed as an introduction to off-road racing for beginners, the Xticer consists of a 200-meter lake swim, a 10K mountain bike, and a 2K trail run.

“Most people come to XTERRA after they are already mountain biking or trail running or competing in triathlons,” said Janet Clark, President, XTERRA. “The Xticer eliminates the fear of the unknown and gives beginners a chance to see that XTERRA is absolutely for everyone. You will have so many people supporting you at an XTERRA race, whether it’s a volunteer on the course or a pro who shows you how to fix a flat.”

Last year Xticer welcomed athletes from 9 to 58 years old.

“People typically try triathlons later in life than other sports such as soccer, track, or lacrosse,” said Clark. “When you’re five and kicking a soccer ball, no one expects you to be good. But when we are thirty and trying something new, we put all this pressure on ourselves. We created the Xticer so that beginners can relax, feel safe, and have a blast.”

Between the Xticer and the XTERRA Oak Mountain Full Course, an XTERRA Sprint will offer newcomers and beginners a less demanding race on the same award-winning trails the pros race on. The course consists of a 750m swim, a 15km mountain bike, and a 4.5km trail run.

The day before the Xticer, the XTERRA Sprint, and the XTERRA Oak Mountain Full Course, XTERRA University offers all competitors a chance to take in last-minute advice from the 2015 XTERRA World Champ, Josiah Middaugh, and his brother, the 2017 XTERRA Blackwater Champ, Yaro Middaugh.

“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids and beginners and challenging them to try something they weren’t sure they could achieve,” said Yaro Middaugh, who was an elementary school teacher for 15 years before turning to coaching full time.

Paula and Jay Davis entered their three sons – now aged 13, 11, and 10 – in the XTERRA Xticer last year on a whim. “The kids were like, ‘Sure, we’ll try it.’ They were really excited about swimming in a lake and running in the woods,” said Paula.

Paula also enrolled her children in XTERRA University day before the race. “They were so excited to get to meet the pros,” said Paula. “And the Middaugh brothers were great in telling the kids it was OK to get off the bike and walk. My boys took that to heart.”

From Adventure to Adventure

Myriam “Mimi” Guillot-Boisset just knocked out a four-day adventure race in China.

“Twenty hours of all-out with 7000m d+,” she explains. The event, one of the biggest in China, included mountaineering, orienteering, mountain biking, and boating. Her team, which includes fellow XTERRA standouts Daniel Jones from New Zealand, her husband Jacky, and Alex Hunt from Australia, won it all.

“I won’t be fresh that’s for sure,” said Guillot-Boisset about racing in Saturday’s XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship race in Langkawi, Malaysia. “My body has two options on how it will respond. Either I’ll be flying or I’ll be totally cooked.”

In 2015, under the same circumstances of coming straight off a grueling adventure race, she was “flying” … “I have good memories of this race because it is the one which motivated me to be a professional XTERRA athlete,” recalls Guillot-Boisset. “Three years ago, I wanted to have a try at XTERRA and in my first attempt here in Langkawi, I won. It was so surprising, and so cool!”

Last year here in Langkawi, not so cool. “I was cooked.”

She finished fourth on the day last year and heading into Saturday’s race, she is hoping for a day more like that perfect one here in 2015.

“I love this tropical climate, the diversity of vegetation’s and the wild animals. I really enjoy this race, the hotel, the atmosphere, the welcome dinner, the monkeys everywhere. The course fits me perfectly because it’s hilly, technical, and tough. For an adventure racer, it is perfect.”

Learn more about Mimi in this recent profile: http://www.xterraplanet.com/2017/03/myriam-guillot-boisset-dives-race-season/

Women Persist at XTERRA ATX

Despite a rainy start and a very technical bike course, Saturday’s XTERRA ATX in Austin, Texas had 163 athletes start and a record number of 40 women.

Jenny Burden whose blog – Cowgirls Tri – gives a detailed and entertaining account of the race, wrote:

… Rather than each woman essentially being the only person in our age group, several age groups were 5-7 deep with women, making the competition real! My AG, 30-34, was one that had more than 3, meaning several weren’t getting a podium spot. (This may seem silly to the men who race against dozens of their peers at every race, but as we work to grow the sport among women, know that it was a big deal!)

“It was such a great vibe,” said race director, Joel Grimmett. “Our regular racers were so friendly to the newbies and it’s wonderful to see more women in the sport. Additionally, we had seven XTERRA Ambassadors competing in the off-road triathlon and the XTERRA ATX Trail Run, including Steven Stoot, Stephayne Gibson, Nicole Dorholt, Lua Walker, Jason McIntyre, Alissa Magrum, and Jeanne Hoffman.”

The race was held in Pace Bend Park in Austin, Texas, where the trails are renowned for their challenging rock gardens, steep climbs, and technical drop-offs. After the race, Burden wrote:

… I would have committed a felony for a full suspension bike, or at least a full tubeless set up, by the time I got done with the 14.5- mile course. My competition, Sarah, caught me at mile 5, and passed me. I told her I’d see her at the finish line and she laughed and challenged me to keep chasing! I thought that put me in second, and kept riding hard because you truly never know.

The overall women’s champ was Melanie Etherton, who finished in 2:14:15, about 12 minutes in front of Liesel McAllister’s 2:26:54. Alissa Magrum was third in 2:28:43. Jenny Burden was 4th in her 30-34 age group with a time of 2:53:30.

Etherton discovered mountain biking after relocating to Austin from Germany where she was an avid snowboarder. After seeing how much she missed the slopes, her husband encouraged her to begin mountain biking. From there, Etherton began competing in XTERRA races, where she routinely beats most of the men as well as the women.

Not to be outdone by the women’s competition, the men’s race turned out to be another match up between XTERRA Regional Champ, Kyle Grieser, and XTERRA National Trail Run Champ, Andy Lee.

Lee finished in 1:45:29, about 4 minutes in front of Grieser, who followed in 1:49:34. The two often meet up during XTERRA racing season in trail runs and off-road triathlons. Their last race together was at the XTERRA Pedernales 25K Trail Run in February. In that race, Lee finished the course in 1:51:51, ahead of Grieser’s 1:58:04.

“It was a great match up!” said Grimmett. “Andy and Kyle work for the same fire department so they have quite the friendly rivalry.”

View the complete results.

Newbies Take on “The Hulk” at XTERRA Myrtle Beach

This year’s XTERRA Myrtle Beach generated local news coverage because many of its 100 competitors came from out of state, and as far away as Ireland. Seasoned competitors, such as 2016 XTERRA Southeast Regional Champ Caleb Baity, XTERRA Pan Am Champ Margo Pitts, and 2016 Mr. XTERRA Marcus Barton stood on the line with newcomers like Kara Slick, who came in 16th in the women’s race and felt grateful for the help and support along the way to her first XTERRA finish.

Slick is a runner and spin instructor and didn’t even own a mountain bike until three days before the race when her fiance bought them each one.

“I saw an XTERRA video on YouTube about a year ago and thought that it would be really fun and something very different from road races,” said Slick. “I had forgotten all about XTERRA until I was looking for a race for last weekend and thought, what the heck.  I’m so glad we did it.  I had such a great time and I felt like a kid again.”

The race was also the first XTERRA for 16-year old Jake Higgins, who has been running since he was eight. He completed the race with his father, Jon, and surprised them both with his 27th place finish, despite a difficult swim.

“I had a hard time getting my breathing right,” said Jake, who is a standout 800 meter runner and teaches surf lessons on school vacations. “But I had a blast on the bike.”

Jon Higgins, who has been mountain biking for years, was 11th overall. “I gave Jake a mountain bike when he was six or seven and he was like, ‘All right, let’s go,’” said Jon. “It feels great to be able to bond with my son like this. We are going to do as many more XTERRAs as we can.” 

“XTERRA Myrtle Beach  is one of those races that everyone looks at and imagines is going to be a walk in the park,” wrote men’s champ Caleb Baity on his blog after the race. “They think to themselves, ‘It’s at the beach on flat land, how hard could it really be?’ But every time I go to ride at the Hulk I am surprised at how much of a punch they are able to pack in a very quick seven miles of trails.”

The race was held in the Horry County Bike and Run Park, which is widely considered to have the best mountain biking trails in the area. Nicknamed “the Hulk” because of its similarity to Universal Studios’ Hulk Roller Coaster, the single track trails twist, turn, and climb 12 steep hill before they drop.

As racers climbed down from their water taxi into the Intercoastal Waterway under a grey morning sky, they looked chilly but ready.

Featuring one of the most unique starts in the XTERRA series, competitors are taxied out 1000 meters and then swim back to shore to avoid pushing against the tide the entire way. After the swim, athletes run up a brand new, steep flight of stairs to get to the 14-mile mountain biking course, and finally, the 5-mile run.

In the men’s race, Caleb Baity finished in 1:45:34, less than two minutes ahead of Dwayne Dixon’s 1:47:09.  Marcus Barton finished just behind him in 1:47:49. Dixon and Barton were also second and third in last year’s race.

The women’s champ, Amy Carver, finished in 2:01:34, about three minutes ahead of  Margo Pitts, who finished in 2:04:47. Kate Horton was third in 2:05:48.

Middaugh Coaching Corner – Tips for Pacing your Next XTERRA

Presented by Suunto

Pacing an XTERRA race can be a tough nut to crack.  It’s not uncommon for athletes to finish a race disappointed because they thought they could hold a faster pace or more power than actually panned out on race day. On paper an XTERRA race looks easy and the results can be deceiving.  No two courses are the same and even from year to year conditions can change the course significantly.  So how do you know how to pace yourself? We have a few tips that we think will help:

Know Your Zones and Fitness but Don’t Rely on Just One Metric

In general if an event is more than 2-3 hours in length, but less than 6-7 hours, you will likely spend most of your time in zone 3 if you are a well trained athlete. However, an athlete with little experience will find maintaining zone 3 for even a short time very difficult whereas an elite athlete can race up to 4 hours with most of their time spent in zone 4. Elite XTERRA athletes often finish a course in 1.5-3 hours. It is likely they will spend most of their time in zone 4 with bouts of zone 5 on short punchy climbs or when trying to separate themselves from their competition. That same course might take an age group athlete 3-5 hours. It is not realistic for these athletes to spend much time in zone 4 because they will be out on the course much longer.

One of the first things we like to do with athletes is set up their training zones based on heart rate, power, pace, and perceived exertion. Each workout is built around these zones, but the zones serve as a guide and you don’t want to be tied to any one metric.  For example, what does your heart rate do when riding at 100% of your functional threshold power for a given amount of time and how long can you stay there during a race?

Decoupling is a term used to describe the relationship between heart rate and power (biking), or heart rate and pace (running), during steady state exercise.  For example, if you keep the power steady during a somewhat hard, zone 3 ride you should observe heart rate ramping up into zone 3, plateauing for a while and then one of two things will happen.  Either heart rate will slope up as you hold the power steady, or heart rate remains in zone 3 and power drops.

Middaugh Coaching Bike Zones Calculator:

Middaugh Coaching Run Zones Calculator:

Tune into Your Body

Whether you are using power, heart rate or perceived exertion, it is helpful to know your zones so that you can monitor your output during training and races. Even if you never race with heart rate or power, training with a variety of metrics can give you greater insight into your capabilities. Tune into your body during key sessions and think about how it relates to a race effort.  If you are performing two minute intervals for example, that would likely be 10-15% higher than race effort, so don’t expect to be able to race all out, all the time.  Another term to be aware of is Critical Power, which describes what power you can average for different durations.  So CP30 is a power you can sustain for 30 minutes, CP60 is your highest average for 60 minutes and so on.  The same would apply for pace while running.  During a race I am always asking myself, is this hard enough and is this sustainable?  On some dynamic XTERRA courses you might be able to push above that limit on an undulating course, because the is recovery waiting on the downhills.

Know Your Course Type and Distances

XTERRA can be super tricky because every course is so variable in both length and terrain and requires a different strategy when it comes to monitoring your effort. Some courses are very short and may take just over an hour to complete while others can take up to 4-5 hours. Obviously, these races require very different effort output. If you’re not sure how long a race might take, look up the last two year’s results for your age group. This will give you a general idea of how long you might expect to be out on the course. You also must know the course. Pre-riding or running the course if possible is always recommended, but if you can’t see if you can look at the race profile and description. Check Youtube as well. There might be some video of the course out there.

Flat Courses

A flat course requires a steady sustained effort overall unless you are trying to catch or drop a competitor. You can settle into a rhythm and depending on the length probably ride in zones 3 and 4 if you are well trained. If you are a beginner, zones 2-3 is a safer bet to start with. We like to encourage athletes to pay attention to more than one metric. Perceived exertion is still a useful tool especially for racing. If it feels too hard to maintain and you haven’t hit the midpoint of the bike, it probably is. This type of course you can measure out your effort pretty evenly throughout the day with the most effort exerted on the run. For a relatively flat course, think about trying to gradually ramp your effort as the race progresses, and likely your output will stay fairly even.

Mountain Courses

Mountain courses such as Beaver Creek, Ogden, and Maui have long sustained climbs.  A long steady climb can be somewhat self-limiting, but if you attack too hard in the first few minutes you can really pay the price later.  Try to settle into a sustainable pace at or slightly below threshold so you know you can hang in there for 20-30 minutes.  Output is usually 90-95% Threshold power for these long climbs.

I also describe these mountainous courses as very energetically hard courses.  The energy you expend in a triathlon is a closed system and this becomes very evident on these challenging mountain courses.  Running off the bike after 3000+ feet of elevation gain in your legs is tough and you are not alone.  Pacing is much more critical and if you get it wrong you pay a huge penalty on the run.

Undulating Courses

Many of the XTERRA courses are going to be a mixed bag. They might have one long climb, lots of twisty single track, short punchy climbs with short downhills and a few jeep road sections. For these courses, you still need to have a plan that you have simulated in training. Will you settle into zone 3 for long climbs and singletrack sections, hammer the short climbs and recover on downhills? These courses might require short anaerobic efforts less than 1-2 minutes in length. You might be able to attack each short climb at well above functional threshold power without your heart rate getting above zone 3-4. How do you feel when you do these efforts in training? Have you tried running after doing threshold (zone 4) or VO2 Max (zone 5) intervals on the bike? Remember, you can only go anaerobic so many times before you can no longer recover quickly.  If you are not fit and haven’t simulated this in training you will have fewer bullets in your anaerobic chamber to utilize.

Reflect on Each Race

Each race is different. It is its own experiment used to fine tune your pacing for the next race. In order to truly know how to pace yourself in a race you need to know how you have responded in a race and this takes racing and reflection. Write down a brief plan for each race and then take a few minutes to revisit that plan when you’re done. What would you do the same/different? Where did you make up time or lose time your competition? This reflection can help drive your training and guide you as you prepare to plan your next race strategy.

Swim Pacing

Proper swim pacing can help set up the rest of your race and it needs to be better planned than get out hard and find some feet. Getting out hard means something different for each person. If swimming is your strength it might mean sprinting nearly all out for the first 200+ meters, for a novice it might simply mean staging properly and starting just slightly harder than they plan to for the rest of the race for just 20-30 strokes. We train our weaknesses, but should race our strengths.  If swimming is your background, then you can burn a few matches there without it affecting the rest of your race.  If swimming is not your strength, you can pay a big penalty for going out too hard. In fact, I made this very mistake at XTERRA Blackwater this year. It was an 800 yard swim so I decided to go out very hard. I found myself just off the front and instead of backing off and settling into a hard, but manageable effort I kept the pace near maximum for too long only to get passed with a few meters left in the swim as I floundered. I stumbled into transition and I had to recover the first 5-10 minutes of the bike allowing a gap to form that I couldn’t close until near the end of the bike. I should not have sprinted for so long at the start of the swim, and I should have settled into my “strong” perceived exertion effort sooner. I likely would have come out of the water in the same position, but feeling much better. Luckily I wrote that down and will not make that mistake again.

Pacing Takeaways

  • Know your zones and use them to gain understanding of your own abilities.
  • Practice race pace efforts in training.
  • Be familiar with the terrain and distance of your race course.
  • Simulate the race course as closely as possible in training.
  • Don’t rely on just one metric to monitor effort.
  • Come up with a pacing plan for each race and reflect on it after it’s over.
  • Incorporate key brick sessions at race intensity and monitor how your pace, power and effort respond.
  • If you haven’t been able to do it in training, don’t expect to be able to do it in a race.

About Suunto

Suunto builds the tools to help you reach your goals. With an award-winning line up of GPS sports watches, heart-rate monitors, and mobile apps, Suunto helps athletes train smarter and perform better. Sophisticated design and rugged construction ensure each Suunto watch is ready to tackle whatever you (and mother nature) throw at it.

Learn more at www.suunto.com.

More Middaugh Coaching Corner Articles

Craig Daugherty on Hammering and Happiness

Unlike many triathletes, who view swimming as something to get through before the biking and running competition begins, 2016 XTERRA Pan Am Champ Craig Daugherty actually loves the water.

“Getting out of the water first in XTERRA races helps tremendously because it’s so much harder to pass on the bike,” says Daugherty. “I’d rather be ahead in open water than behind on the single track.”

Daugherty has been swimming since he was five, a sport he continued throughout college at Dickinson, in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. In fact, he entered his first off-road triathlon because he was looking for a way to stay in shape over the summer so he could maintain fitness for the fall and winter swim seasons.

“In 2004, someone asked me to try the Mt. Gretna Off Road Triathlon and I thought, what the heck? I know I can survive the run. I’ve been mountain biking for a year or two. And swimming is something I’m actually good at.”

After college, Daugherty and his Ironman Triathlete wife, Kate, relocated to Boulder, Colorado, which was an easy decision for both of them. “We wanted to move to a city with a more bike-friendly culture,” says Daugherty. “We were going to check out Portland and Eugene too, but once we were in Colorado, we realized we didn’t need to visit any place else. I was already working from home, so I told my boss, ‘Hey, I’ll wake up at 6 am to work at 8 am east coast time and you probably won’t even know I’m not in Pennsylvania.’”

His official job is a software implementation consultant, but his real love is working as a Bicycle Education Trainer for the Boulder Valley School District. “I basically teach kids how to ride their bikes the way we drive our cars,” says Daugherty. “We want kids to be more confident on their bikes and to learn critical thinking. Like, what side of the road should they be on, what are the hazards of the road they are riding on, are there parked cars, is someone going to open a door?”

Daugherty works hard to help kids catch bicycle fever, but in his own workouts, Daugherty has a pretty mellow philosophy. “I am definitely a proponent of fun first,” he says. “It doesn’t matter what I am doing. What’s important is that I’m having fun and that I have good people around me.”

He admits that this way of thinking is what keeps bringing him back to XTERRA. “XTERRA has such a different vibe than road triathlons,” he says. “The community is so much better. Everyone is there to enjoy being outside, and even the top guys are way more relaxed. Josiah Middaugh may have just won the whole thing, but he’d probably have a beer with you if you asked him.”

Typically, Daugherty puts in about 10-12 hours of training a week, but he doesn’t get too stressed out about it. He doesn’t have a coach, and last summer was the first time he even thought about a training plan.

“I bought one on Training Peaks for about twenty bucks,” he says. “But a lot of days I start a ride and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to do this workout.’ Half an hour in, I think, ‘Eh, I’ll hammer up this hill.’ And I end up doing the workout.”

But he readily admits that there are days that he pulls the plug and simply enjoys the ride. This doesn’t sound like typical Pan Am Champ behavior, but Daugherty believes it’s the secret to his success. “I think my laid back approach keeps my hunger alive because I’m never really overdoing it,” he says. “I don’t burn out.”

Even at the XTERRA Pan American Championship in Utah last year, where Daugherty placed first in his 30-34 age group, he wasn’t worried about his performance. “In Utah, the one thing that needs to be said is how gorgeous that entire course is. I almost wanted to slow down and just take it all in. The trails were in awesome shape, and ripping down the fast, flowy sections was just amazing.”

Daugherty wasn’t even sure how he was doing until the race was over the results were announced. “It’s hard to know who’s in front of you, so basically, I finished the swim and started riding hard. I was looking at a lot of legs to see where I was, but really there’s no way to know. When I hit T2, I just started running for my life as if a bear was chasing me because running is my weakest link. That’s where I suffer.”

Daugherty doesn’t want to pin down what’s next for him. Maybe it will include some mountain bike trips with his wife or his buddies. Maybe it will be starting a family. Or maybe, it will be a little bit of both.

The only thing for sure is that whatever Craig Daugherty is doing, he is going to be enjoying it. “I’m not in this to make money so what’s the point of stressing about it? I just want to get on my bike, ride hard, and have fun.”

XTERRA athlete profile by Reyn Okimoto, Shidler College of Business, class of 2017

Claw Your Way to the Finish May 7th

XTERRA Ambassador Jay Lund isn’t the only one looking forward to doing the XTERRA Claw 5 Mile and 10 Mile Trail Run on May 7th.  Held in the magnificent Alafia River State Park in Lithia, Florida, “The Claw” is one of the most popular races in the XTERRA Florida Series, even though, race director Jim Hartnett admits, “It’s a tough love kind of race.”

“I will indeed be doing ‘The Claw’,” said Lund. “It is one of the best – if not THE best – trail races in south Florida. Alafia River State Park has miles of fantastic trails and the race directors tweak it each year, so we never know what’s coming.”

Hartnett likes to keep the race interesting. “The diversity of the terrain is one of the best parts of the course,” said Hartnett. “One minute you are on top of a large berm with long-range views, then you are running through cogongrass, stands of pines, single track, double track, under the tree canopy and then out in the open.”

“It was absolutely crazy,” said Matt Bertrand, a Florida-based ultra runner, after last year’s race. “There was scrambling. There was a river I had to swim across. There was grass up to my chest. And I’m six foot seven.”

The 10-mile race will take runners into parts of Alafia River State Park normally closed to the public. “And the 10 mile course isn’t a second loop of the 5-mile course,” added Hartnett. “It’s completely different trails.”

Alafia River State Park was “Runner’s World’s” Trail of the Month in 2011 because of its more than 17 miles of well-maintained single track, which received an “EPIC” designation from the International Mountain Biking Association.

In last year’s race, Champ David Ramos won the 10-mile race in 1:25, almost four minutes ahead of runner up Hector Guzman. Ashley Samples won the women’s race in 1:42 and second-place finisher, Colleen McLaughlin, came through in 1:58.

The XTERRA Claw is the third and final race in the XTERRA Florida Series, following XTERRA Wildhorse and XTERRA Trout Creek.

The Runners in all of XTERRA’s Trail Run Series are racing for points towards their regional championship and the complimentary entry into XTERRA Trail Run Nationals that goes with it.

Learn more and register for the XTERRA Claw at www.clawrun.com