Middaugh Coaching Corner: Benchmark Testing

There are two main reasons to do benchmark testing.  The first is to figure out your current fitness level and the second is to identify the intensity levels to use during training.  With so many gadgets becoming more cost effective, you need to make sure you are putting them to good use instead of just racing your last known performance every time.  Let us help you simplify that process a little and dial in proper pace, heart rate, and power zones.

Many people are reluctant to have their level of performance cemented in and can’t take the blow to their ego.  One way to look it is if you are not “rested” enough to test, then how will you be rested enough to do hard workouts let alone race?  If you are never in a state to be able to put up an honest effort for a benchmark test, then maybe there is a problem with your training load.  Think of the testing as another hard workout and it is just a measure of where you are on that day.  Since you are using the results to guide your training, you just need the same level of freshness that you need to perform a hard workout, since that is close to the state you will be in when you use the data.

The worst feeling is showing up for a race and being surprised by a poor performance, especially if you know you have put in the time. It often occurs after long training blocks with little or no racing such as early season. You closely followed your workouts, but you get shelled during a race. Chances are you did not track your progress like you should have. After the XTERRA World Championship last fall I was asked if I was surprised by the win. The answer was no, but not because of a false sense of ability, but because I knew that the numbers I was seeing in my training didn’t lie.  I was confident because I had tracked my progress using benchmark testing. I had verified those numbers on the CompuTrainer, in the pool, and on the trail.

Benchmark testing should occur in each discipline every 6-8 weeks during the off season, and strategically during your race season to make sure you are making progress towards your goals. 6-8 weeks is enough time to make gains, but not so much time you can’t modify your training if you’ve plateaued. There is nothing more frustrating than training all winter and unknowingly starting your season behind where you ended your previous season.

Yaro’s previous article talked about setting process goals and benchmark testing is a great way to do this.  Knowing where you are in each discipline also helps you set more realistic, specific goals. If you can currently hold 6:30 min./mile pace for 30 minutes then 6:15 is a realistic pace for a key race in June. However 5:45 min./mile may not be. Sometimes athletes need to double check and evaluate their goals for each discipline after they have completed their first set of benchmark tests. If you take your second benchmark run test in February and you have gone from 6:30 min./mile to 6:05 then maybe that 5:45 is possible by June. Benchmark testing helps ensure that you go into each race with realistic goals and a solid plan.

“You are looking to satisfy two criteria for benchmark testing, reliability and repeatability”

Keep it simple

There are numerous benchmark tests that can be used to measure progress in your swim bike and run. For over 12 years I administered VO2 max tests running and biking, which can yield some good information, but I still prefer simple field tests to measure progress and set zones.  The type of step test needed to reach VO2 max is not very good for determining heart rate zones, power or paces and usually overestimates output and underestimates heart rate.

You are looking to satisfy two criteria for benchmark testing, reliability and repeatability. Steady-state field tests that have you performing closer to your race intensity are the best. Too short and it isn’t reliable, too long and it isn’t repeatable.  I am often asked why I don’t do shorter 8 or 10 minute tests on the bike and the truth is that they are just not as reliable as a 20-30 minute test.  Your goal is to gather some metrics that you can use in your training to guide your intensity levels.

“You are doing your clients a disservice when you prescribe heart rate zones based on age-predicted equations”

A word on heart rate

During my master’s program, one of my professors emphasized that you are doing your clients a disservice when you prescribe heart rate zones based on any age predicted equation.  It is true that max heart rate does gradually decline with age, but the variation can be huge.  About 20 percent of the population will fit into the age predicted equations, but for the rest of us, the variation can be plus or minus 20 beats!  For most of us we would be better off just match heart rate with perceived effort than using any age predicted equation.

I like to use heart rate for steady endurance efforts below threshold, and long steady-state tempo and threshold bouts.  Since it lags behind the workload, it is not the best indicator for shorter, harder efforts.  During low to moderate intensity you should see a long plateau as workload is kept constant, but as you approach threshold, you will see heart rate ramp.  This can also happen at lower intensities in heat and humidity. With any steady state bout, you will see heart rate decouple with either pace (runners) or power (bikers) at some point.  This means that for any sustained effort you will eventually see either a drop in pace/power, and/or an increase in heart rate and rating of perceived exertion.  This can have big implications for longer races.

“Heart rate max is arbitrary and heart rate zones are individual”

Heart rate alone means nothing. Heart rate max is arbitrary and heart rate zones are individual. It is pointless to keep asking your training partner what his/her heart rate is while you are out training together.  One big misconception is that heart rate at threshold should increase with training.  Output at your threshold heart rate should increase but the heart rate number itself may remain unchanged or in some cases even go down slightly.  Remember your goal is always to do more work at submax heart rates which are specific to you.

Heart rate can also be a good indicator of parasympathetic nervous system fatigue.  When RPE is much higher for any given heart rate, then I know that I am feeling some cumulative over-reaching symptoms.  Heart rate can also be affected acutely by previous hard workouts, illness, heat/humidity, and dehydration.

A word on power

Talking to some people and you are lead to believe that power is the holy grail of training metrics.  However, for it to be useful, you need to test it frequently.  Power zones change the most with your performance level, while heart rate zones have very little variation within a macrocycle.

Power also can fluctuate in a huge range.  In 2011 I had an SRM on my mountain bike and I remember in a 1 hour race, counting 113 spikes over 500 watts, but average power was in the low 300s.  It can be impossible to use power as a good guide during a workout if you are jumping around in a `100 watt range.

I like to use power for my indoor training, and on smooth road climbs with consistent grades.  If you live in a very flat area, power can be a great metric since wind can have such a big impact on your speed. If you are on the mountain bike, or on variable terrain, power will not be very useful to guide you during, but could be good to analyze after.  Since power is almost instantaneous, it can be a good metric for shorter efforts and for pacing early parts of longer efforts.

Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE), the original training metric

Ultimately, we are trying to determine intensity levels to use during training and racing.  Training metrics can be divided into two main categories, subjective and objective.  Rating of perceived exertion is a subjective training metric and can be used in combination with other measurements, especially when racing.  In a rested state, such as following a proper taper you might be surprised at the heart rates that you can sustain and it is sometimes a mistake to be hold yourself back too much in medium length races.  For example, in training I can only sustain zone 4 heart rates for 10-15 minutes, but racing I can hang in zone 5 for over an hour.  Always verify heart rates and power levels with RPE.

Conversely, RPE can sometimes lead you astray with no objective measures to keep you honest.  For example if I ride inside without heart rate or power, I would think I was working sufficiently hard based on the pool of sweat gathering, but the reality might be that I am riding no harder than a brisk walk.  The reason to use a combination of measures is to dial in the proper intensity level to make that adaptations you are looking for.

Volume metrics such as time, distance, kilojoules/calories

Training load = Volume X Intensity.  Most people are too concerned with the metrics that measure their training volume and neglect intensity level.  Runners and cyclists can become obsessed with miles per week, and swimmers about yards per week.  As triathletes it is hard to compete with these single sport athletes in those categories, so we obsess about hours per week.  A metric I always think is odd to track is total kilojoules or calories, which might make sense if you are on a weight loss program, but not for performance.  In 2004 I was teaching the XTERRA University in Maui for the World Championship and I remember Greg Welch asking me how many hours I put in per week on the bike.  I felt embarrassed to say it was around 4 hours, because most of my competition was putting in 10-15 hours per week on the bike.  I went on to post the fastest bike split the next day.

“We don’t race on paper”

Final thoughts

I try not to be tied to any one of these metrics, but rather use them to guide me.  Heart rate zones, power zones, or pace zones don’t always match up and they aren’t always intended to.  Training zones are never set in stone. Be aware of the benefits and limitation of each metric you use.

One thing to keep in mind is that we don’t race on paper.  Use these benchmark tests to guide your training and gauge your race readiness, but ultimately the real test will be on the course.  Your testing is specific to you and be careful when making comparisons to others.  Some athletes are just gamers who don’t test well and rise to the occasion in a race.  Others train to train and have a hard time putting it together in the races.

Specific Benchmark Testing Protocols

For specific benchmark testing protocols and zone calculations we have put together on for each discipline on our

  1. Swim testing protocol to determine threshold pace
  1. Bike testing protocol to determine Functional Threshold Power, power zones, and heart rate zones
  1. Run testing protocol to determine threshold pace, heart rate and training zones

Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for a decade.  Learn more about the Middaugh brothers coaching at


16 in 16: DeSantis’ Dream Season

In the summer of 2013 Dave DeSantis was diagnosed with stage 3C melanoma and told he had one-year to live.  But Dave had other plans, so he fought and he fought. He tried every available remedy and medication until his grapefruit sized tumors shrank and his cancer went into remission.

Now he’s using his good health and good fortune to do great things.

“Over the past three years, training for – and competing in – XTERRA off-road triathlons has played a huge role in my battle against cancer,” said DeSantis, the reigning XTERRA Warrior Award winner. “Therefore, I’ve set an ambitious goal for myself for 2016 of racing in 16 XTERRA events in 16 countries around the globe.”

Along the way his goal is to raise $16,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

“I couldn’t be happier, I’m doing what I love and feel as if I’m getting a second chance – and I’m psyched about CAF, I love what they do and I’m very excited about helping them support athletes in need.”

On Sunday the 54-year-old from Milton, Massachusetts successfully completed his first XTERRA of the season under the shadows of the Mayon Volcano in the Philippines.

“Albay was amazing!  The people are so friendly and welcoming.  And I really lucked out with the weather on race day:  it was rainy and cloudy the entire day so I didn’t have to contend with reapplying sunscreen on the bike or have to run with an umbrella (per the oncologist),” said DeSantis. “The race course in Albay is incredible: black sand beach, and turquoise waters then mountain biking up the Mt Mayon Volcano through villages, a golf course, lava beds, dense jungle with animals everywhere – it is amazing!  Then a run up and though a dry river bed of lava sand then you descend through rice paddies and fields to the finish at the Cagsawa Ruins (a stone church buried when the volcano erupted hundreds of years ago).  Just an incredible venue.”

He finished second in his division, but first in the people’s hearts. As word of his “16 in 16” mission spread the XTERRA community jumped into action and raised more than half of his $16,000 goal in a matter of days.

“Fundraising for CAF took off in the Philippines,” explained DeSantis, who took in more than $8,000 in donations on his page.


“Sunrise Events made a very generous donation which then set in motion a ton of additional donations. The pros at the event were making donations, the age groupers made donations, friends at home saw the activity and made additional donations.  I’m amazed and very proud of the generosity of all the XTERRA athletes and friends that have supported CAF.”

His health is also doing well.

“I feel really good right now.  The cancer is in remission.  I do need to get CT scans and MRI’s every 90 days to make sure the cancer doesn’t grow or move.  I’m a bit under-weight and do get tired easily.  My coach had a long talk with me about rest and recovery through this year, and she has put together a plan to meet those needs. I really need to pace myself and be extremely smart about rest, travel and diet to accomplish my goals this year.”

Up next; XTERRA South Africa on February 20 in Grabouw.

“Every day I wake up, look at where I am and have to pinch myself,” said DeSantis.

Find Dave in a country near you this year, and join him in his mission to “Live More.” Here’s a look at his tentative 16 in 2016 schedule…

2/7 – Philippines
2/20 – South Africa
3/20 – Costa Rica
4/3 – Malta
5/7 – Greece
5/21 – Alabama
6/23 – Switzerland
7/3 – France
7/11 – Belgium
7/31 – Dominican Republic
8/6 – Mexico
8/27 – Japan
9/3 – Korea
9/16 – Utah
10/23 – Maui
11/19 – Australia (ITU)


Marais, Duffy to Defend Titles at Fedhealth XTERRA South Africa

Reigning XTERRA champions Stuart Marais (Stellenbosch) and Flora Duffy (Bermuda) will leave nothing to chance next Saturday when they toe the line at the Grabouw Country Club to defend their titles at the Fedhealth XTERRA South Africa Championship.

“I absolutely love XTERRA Grabouw,” says Marais.  “The vibe is electric and the course offers so much for all athletes, swimmers, mountain bikers and trail runners alike. The event is without a doubt a massive highlight for me. I will definitely be going for the win. The XTERRA SA events are incredibly well organised.  I love the XTERRA lifestyle and the type of people it attracts. My advice to newcomers to the sport is to start slowly and pack enough water bottles for the relentless heat.”

According to Duffy, it’s the adventure and unpredictability of the sport that attracts her to XTERRA. “Every XTERRA SA event is world class. The venues are beautiful, the setup is spectacular, the course is well marked, and the vibe is great. XTERRA Grabouw is my favourite XTERRA on the circuit, the course is incredible. The mountain bike discipline offers everything – climbing, twisting single track, rock gardens and beautiful views. The run is also really cool. At the highest point of the course, you can see the entire race village and the surrounding mountains. It’s quite breath taking. My favourite part of the run is the final 1km. The contrast between the water, beach sand and mountains is really cool.  My goal is to secure my third XTERRA Grabouw victory.”

The Fedhealth XTERRA Grabouw has attracted the attention of elite road triathlete, James Cunnama. “XTERRA will be a new challenge for me,” admits Cunnama. “I have been cross-training a bit on the mountain bike, which will without a doubt be the biggest challenge for me. I absolutely loved taking part in the Wines2Whales last year. My primary goal is to have fun, but I want to see what I am capable of and will give it my best shot.”

Top South African contenders to look out for will include: Bradley Weiss – who is currently on a winning streak having claimed gold at both the Fedhealth XTERRA Buffelspoort and Fedhealth XTERRA Nelson Mandela Bay as well as the XTERRA Philippines, Theo Blignaut, Antoine Van Heerden, Carla Van Huyssteen and Susan Sloan.

Top international XTERRA Warriors that will be vying for the top spot on the podium will include: Jan Pyott (Switzerland), Niels Brandt-Jørgensen (Norway), Aiden Dunster (New Zealand), Simone Calamai (Italy), Carina Wasle (a former XTERRA Grabouw champion from Austria), Daz Parker (UK) and Dominik Wychera (Austria).



Weiss, Orchard win XTERRA Philippines

Complete Results / Photo Gallery

February 7, 2016 (Albay, Luzon) – Bradley Weiss of South Africa and Lizzie Orchard of New Zealand won the 6th annual XTERRA Philippines Championship in Albay on Sunday.

It’s the third win in as many weeks for Weiss, who captured the first two races of the XTERRA South Africa Series before traveling to the Philippines to defend his title.  For Orchard, it’s her first championship win on the XTERRA World Tour following three runner-up finishes and an impressive 5th place showing at XTERRA Worlds last year.

In the men’s race Ben Allen was first out of the water, one-minute ahead of Weiss.  Weiss then posted the fastest bike split of the day (1:25:30) to take a one-minute lead of his own onto the run.   Allen crashed hard just before the bike-to-run transition but still hung on for second-place, holding off fellow Aussie Brodie Gardner by just nine seconds.  Takahiro Ogasawara came in fourth and Charlie Epperson posted the fastest run split among elites to finish in fifth.

“Has been a seriously crazy few weeks with 4 races in 5 weeks,” said Weiss. “Knowing I was taking on such an aggressive racing schedule I wanted to make sure I was in the best possible form coming in. Winning the first three has really gotten my 2016 year off to a flying start and I am hoping to build on this momentum heading into the XTERRA SA National Championships next weekend.”

“Regarding XTERRA Philippines itself I lost around a minute to Ben on the swim leg which is a little more than I was hoping to lose if I am honest. My legs were not feeling great after two hard races back home in Africa and the long travel over to the Philippines just 2 days prior to the race. I finally bridged the gap at around the half way mark of the bike leg which did give me some confidence and a boost of energy. I noticed Ben was struggling a little more than myself in the wet and tricky conditions and on the next long decent I pushed hard to try and get him out of his comfort zone. The strategy worked in my favor and soon Ben made an error and hit the deck behind me with a thud and a groan. I took the opportunity with both hands and pushed hard once I was in the clear. Onto the run I had about a one-minute lead and with Ben being slightly injured after his tumble I had a relatively comfortable run home. Racing in the Philippines is always a fantastic experience with the locals seriously buying into the hype around the event and coming out in their masses to support us on race day. I am thrilled to have defended my title from 2015 and I cannot wait to return to Albay in 2017.”


In the women’s race Jacqui Slack had the fastest swim and bike splits to take a two-minute, 35-second lead onto the run but Lizzie Orchard posted a blistering run split to take the tape in 2:52:14, more than two minutes ahead of Slack.  Mieko Carey finished in third.

“The race course itself was a lot of fun,” said Orchard. “The one-lap swim was really calm and I thought I was by myself in no man’s land but was later to find I was only 10sec behind Mieko most of the way! Jacqui had a great swim and had put about a minute and a half on us. We had done a practice ride a couple of days before so I knew there were a few very long hills to negotiate in the 1st half of the bike. After these, the course was undulating with some great trails through forest and past fresh (2006) Lava! It was drizzling most of the bike so not too hot. There were crowds of locals cheering in the villages which I enjoyed a lot. The run was an adventure up the mountain and through a lot of small streams and rice paddy’s, I caught Jacqui about half way and was able to pull away towards the finish. Being my first-ever Pro win this race is bound to stay high on my favorite race results, especially as it was amongst such a great bunch.”

More than just the race, Orchard felt the overall experience was world-class.

“We really enjoyed visiting Albay – we actually went over on the Tuesday before the race so we could explore the Region a bit. We were met with such a welcome at the airport, were driven to see our personalized massive banners and meet the Governor! I’ve never felt so welcome and treated as such an honored guest before, Sunrise Events sure know how to put on a show. It was new to me to do TV interviews and speak publicly but the people are so nice that I was nervous for no reason. The pros were really taken care of also which made travelling and competing overseas less stressful than usual.”

Pos Name, NAT Time S B R Points
1 Bradley Weiss, RSA 2:29:56 20:47 1:25:30 42:20 100
2 Ben Allen, AUS 2:33:59 19:39 1:27:56 45:17 90
3 Brodie Gardner, AUS 2:34:08 22:31 1:29:53 40:27 82
4 Takahiro Ogasawara, JPN 2:41:04 24:23 1:30:04 45:11 75
5 Charlie Epperson, USA 2:43:40 25:27 1:35:40 40:22 69
6 Taylor Charlton, AUS 2:47:38 24:12 1:35:07 46:34 63
7 Michal Bucek, SVK 2:54:17 22:35 1:41:40 48:22 58
8 Cameron O’Neal, USA 3:00:08 27:04 1:44:12 47:20 53
9 Joe Miller, PHI 3:11:48 30:09 1:46:02 54:14 49
10 Barry Lee, MAS 3:19:35 25:13 1:57:20 55:34 45
Pos Name, NAT Time S B R Points
1 Lizzie Orchard, NZL 2:52:14 24:08 1:43:08 43:30 100
2 Jacqui Slack, GBR 2:54:30 22:26 1:42:13 48:22 90
3 Mieko Carey, JPN 3:07:35 23:54 1:49:24 52:49 82
Year – Men / Women
2011 – Sam Gardner / Shonny Vanlandingham
2012 – Ben Allen / Renata Bucher
2013 – Ben Allen / Lesley Paterson
2014 – Dan Hugo / Renata Bucher
2015 – Brad Weiss / Flora Duffy
2016 – Brad Weiss / Liz Orchard

XTERRA Philippines was the second of six races in the 2015-2016 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour where pros and amateurs count their best three scores (the finale in Malaysia counts double).  With the win Orchard moves into first place in the women’s chase, followed by Slack and Carey.  Ogasawara sits atop the men’s standings ahead of Americans Charlie Epperson and Cameron O’Neal.

Next up on the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour is the Crown Jewel in Saipan (March 12, 2016), then XTERRA New Zealand (April 16, 2016), the XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship in Australia (April 23, 2016) and the tour finale at XTERRA Malaysia (May 7, 2016).  The 2016-17 season will then begin with Tahiti (May 14, 2016) followed by Japan (date TBD) and points will continue to accumulate into 2017 until the Grand Finale in Langkawi at XTERRA Malaysia in May.

1 Takahiro Ogasawara, JPN 82 75 157
2 Charlie Epperson, USA 75 69 144
3 Cameron Oneal, USA 63 53 116
4 Courtney Atkinson, AUS 100 DNS 100
5 Bradley Weiss, RSA DNS 100 100
6 Cedric Lassonde, FRA 90 DNS 90
7 Ben Allen, AUS DNS 90 90
8 Brodie Gardner, AUS DNS 82 82
9 Taro Shirato, JPN 69 DNS 69
10 Taylor Charlton, AUS DNS 63 63
11 Hsieh Jason, HKG 58 DNS 58
12 Michal Bucek, SVK DNS 58 58
13 Raon Cho, KOR 53 DNS 53
14 Joe Miller, PHI DNS 49 49
15 Barry Lee, MAS DNS 45 45
1 Lizzie Orchard, NZL 90 100 190
2 Mieko Carey, USA 100 82 182
3 Jacqui Slack, GBR DNS 90 90

XTERRA Philippines was the first of 37 events where the fastest amateur athletes from around the globe qualify to race at the 21st annual XTERRA World Championship at Kapalua, Maui on October 23.

7-Feb XTERRA Philippines Albay
21-Feb XTERRA South Africa Grabouw, Western Cape
5-Mar XTERRA Motatapu South Island, New Zealand
12-Mar XTERRA Saipan Saipan, CNMI
20-Mar XTERRA Costa Rica Playa Reserva Conchal
26-Mar XTERRA Argentina Dique Ullum, San Juan
3-Apr XTERRA Malta Majjistral Nature Reserve
16-Apr XTERRA New Zealand Rotorua, North Island
17-Apr XTERRA La Reunion La Reunion Island
23-Apr XTERRA Asia-Pacific Championship Jervis Bay, NSW, Australia
7-May XTERRA Malaysia / XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour Championship Langkawi
7-May XTERRA Brazil Ilhabela, São Paulo
7-May XTERRA Greece Vouliagmeni
14-May XTERRA Tahiti Papeete
21-May XTERRA Oak Mountain State Park Pelham, Shelby County, AL, USA
21-May XTERRA Portugal Golega
11-Jun XTERRA Belgium Namur
25-Jun XTERRA Switzerland Vallee de Joux
25-Jun XTERRA Mine over Matter Milton, Ontario, Canada
3-Jul XTERRA France Xonrupt
10-Jul XTERRA Victoria Victoria, B.C., Canada
16-Jul XTERRA Beaver Creek Beaver Creek, CO, USA
23-Jul XTERRA Parry Sound Ontario, Canada
31-Jul XTERRA Italy Lago Di Scanno
31-Jul XTERRA Dominican Republic Barahona
6-Aug XTERRA Mexico Tapalpa
7-Aug XTERRA Poland Krakow
13-Aug XTERRA Sweden Hellsgaarten, Stockholm
14-Aug XTERRA Canmore Canmore, Alberta, Canada
20-Aug XTERRA Germany – XTERRA European Championship Zittau
27-Aug XTERRA Sleeping Giant Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
Jul/Sept XTERRA Japan (Subject to Change) Hokkaido
Jul/Aug XTERRA Korea (Subject to Change) Daeahn Reservoir, Wonju City
4-Sep XTERRA Denmark Mons Klint
4-Sep XTERRA Quebec Quebec City, Quebec
11-Sep XTERRA Woolastook New Brunswick, Canada
17-Sep XTERRA USA / Pan Am Championship Ogden, Utah, USA
23-Oct XTERRA World Championship Kapalua, Maui

XTERRA’s Couch to Trail Series Intro

Meet Lauren, a college student and aspiring XTERRA triathlete.

“I’m looking to test my limits and find my true potential,” she said.  “I was trying to find a challenge that was do-able, but totally out of the ordinary and I came across XTERRA.  It looks extraordinary and that is how I want to feel … extraordinary.  But, where do I start?”

Answer: Right here, with our new XTERRA Couch to Trail program designed to help first-timers get into the sport.  We’ll start by answering some of the first questions that came to Lauren’s mind, and we’ll evolve from there. Every other week XTERRA will share ideas just for beginners in the Couch to Trail column, and on alternating weeks the Middaugh Coaching Corner column will delve into training ideologies and specifics.

First, some of the basics, with answers and ideas from XTERRA gurus Amy Eck and Mimi Stockton….


Q: I know XTERRA combines swimming, mountain biking, and trail running, but what are the distances?
A:  It varies.  The shortest XTERRA race, our “Xticer” super-sprint race, combines a 200-meter swim with a 10K (6.2-mile) mountain bike ride and a 2K (1.25-mile) trail run.  Our standard championship distance combines a 1.5K swim (1-mile) with a 30K mtb (18.6-mile) and 10K (6.2-mile) trail run. We also have sprint races that are half those distances.

Q: How far would 200-meters be in my local pool?
A:  It depends.  An Olympic size pool is 50 meters in each direction, but most U.S. pools are 25-yards (23-meters) in each direction.

Q: What bodies of water are the swims generally done in?
A: There are XTERRA races with swims in oceans, lakes, and rivers.  I would have to say the majority of our swims are done in lakes.

Q: Are there separate events for people of different skill levels?
A: Yes.  There are different distances, different wave starts, and different age classifications.  So if you’re 27-years-old you’d be racing other competitors in the 25-29 age group. Depending on the event, there are usually several “wave” starts for the swim. For example: all pros start first. Then, three minutes later all men, and three minutes after them, all women.  This also varies per event.

Q: What conditions would the weather have to be like for the swim to get canceled?
A: Safety is always first, and there are number of scenario’s where a swim can get cancelled – unhealthy water, freezing water, high water – but it doesn’t happen very often.  In 20 years of XTERRA, there has only been a few notable cancellations, like when the James River in Richmond, Virginia was flowing so fast it turned into a Class IV rapid.

Q: What should I do in order to prepare my body?
Mimi: This is a question I get asked a lot from people who are just starting out in the world of triathlon.  I tell them that the body is a finely tuned machine, and if you don’t take great care of it, it won’t perform optimally.  If you’ve decided to take the plunge and do your first XTERRA, you’re going to have to devote time and energy into training and buy some equipment.  Treat your body well.  Eat whole foods most of the time, take time to stretch out those tired and sore muscles, get enough sleep (this is when your body is repairing itself and getting ready for the next training session) and truly rest on the off days.  Listen to your body.  If you just aren’t feeling it one day, take it off.  Missing one workout isn’t going to make or break you.  I train a lot by feel and think nothing of taking off a day if I just don’t feel good.  Especially as you get older, diet and rest become increasingly more important.

Q: Is it better to train in groups or as an individual?
Mimi: I think this is a very personal decision.  If you are a person that enjoys group training in general, then by all means, train in groups.  Many people agree that group training can make you faster by pushing you to go harder.  I know for me this is definitely true in the pool.  And for beginner mountain bikers, I would definitely suggest going out with an experienced mountain biker–one who can teach you skills and help boost your confidence.  Group training is by no means necessary however.  I tend to do all of my bike and run training solo.  I enjoy training alone and most of my workouts are tailored to me specifically.  Furthermore, I can do them when I have time during the day. I do swim with others in the pool, primarily because this is my weak leg, and I need to be pushed and like to be pushed.  I believe I have gotten faster because of it.

Q: Preparing for something so rigorous needs a starting point in which to build from, so where do you suggest I start?
Amy: To be successful at anything you need a PLAN. In your triathlon preparation, finding educated professionals to taking on 3 sports can be overwhelming, and if done incorrectly can cause one to injure him or herself, so a great place to start is to partner up with a coach and possibly a training group for social and technical support.  The BEST place to find a triathlon coach is to go to website and look for a certified coach in your area.  There, you will also find a list of USA Triathlon approved and insured clubs.  Make sure that both your coach and your club are certified, as that will ensure your maximum safety (club will provide insurance) and sport knowledge.  In other words, you will be safe and have fun in scheduled workouts so you can be healthy and perform well in your race when the time arrives.

Note:  There are a lot of great XTERRA-specific coaches out there that can do training from afar and/or in-person. Josiah Middaugh of Middaugh Coaching; Lesley Paterson of Braveheart Coaching; Cody Waite from Sessions6; and Amy Eck from Camp Bennett are just a few.

Q: Is there a Triathlon community that is more social rather than competitive?
A: That’s XTERRA!  This community is very welcoming, and while the racing is competitive the people are widely referred to as the nicest in all of triathlon.

Q: What is the hardest leg of the Triathlon?
Mimi: This is different for each person.  Some start doing triathlons after a swimming or running career.  Others have spent significant time bike racing.  Then, there are some that have experience in all three sports, or some have no experience at all.  For me, the hardest leg has always been swimming.  I can practice all the time and feel great in the water, but it is still my weak spot.  Thank goodness it is the shortest leg of the triathlon!  Because it is the shortest leg, I realize that even if I’m not the strongest swimmer I’ll be able to make up the time on the bike and/or the run.  But still, I swim a lot and continuously trying to improve my stroke and overall speed.   I think many would agree, however; that the mountain bike portion of any race is usually the hardest just by virtue of it being the longest.  Then again, if you hate to run, you might beg to differ and argue that running 4-6 miles on trails after biking is the hardest part.

Q: How prepared do I need to be for terrain obstacles?
Mimi: Since each course is different, you need to be prepared to face anything and everything.  I think feeling comfortable tackling obstacles are essential to making yourself feel confident on race day.  I try and do all my running on trails.  And of course, it’s great to do long endurance rides on a road bike or trainer, but nothing beats riding a mountain bike on trails to get you ready for race day.  I really don’t think you can compare road biking with mountain biking.  The latter requires so much more athleticism, power, momentum and coordination. The only way to feel comfortable and confident on a mountain bike is to practice, practice, practice.

Q: How much money would I need to get started?
Mimi: There’s no doubt about it, triathlon is an expensive sport and hobby.  How much money you spend really varies.  Certain things are required of course, but how much you spend on those required items is entirely up to you.  The mountain bike, bike shoes and helmet are going to be the costliest items. Oh, and perhaps a wetsuit.  If you are just starting out, I might recommend testing out various bikes to see if you want to go with a full suspension or hardtail.  One option is to buy a used bike or borrow one from a friend.  There are plenty of great used bikes on the market.

Q: Is there a season for this?
A: Year-round!  There may be two-feet of snow on the U.S. East Coast right now (Feb. 1), but it’s summertime in South Africa so their season is in full swing.  The sport is more conducive to warmer weather.

Q: Is there an off season? Or should I plan to train all year long whether there is an upcoming race or not.
Mimi: There is an off season and most people would consider it to be November and December.  It’s a good idea to take a physical and mental break during these months to recharge and focus on something other than swimming, biking and running.  I think you’ll find that when you start training again in January, your body and mind will thank you for the much needed time off.

Q: What are average times I should shoot for?
A: To start, just getting to the start line on time and happy is a good goal.  The accomplishment of finishing is the first step to master, and is a super rewarding feeling when you’re just getting started.

Look for part 2 of the newbie FAQ on February 18, and a launch of a three-month training program to get you ready for your first XTERRA to debut on March 3.  If you have a newbie question you’d like answered, email it to


Weiss, Van Huyssteen win Inaugural XTERRA Nelson Mandela Bay Race

Excitement was rife at the mesmerising Kings Beach on Saturday, 30 January 2016 when eager adventure seekers and multi-sport enthusiasts gathered to participate in the action of Nelson Mandela Bay’s very first Fedhealth XTERRA Full race.

The men’s race was dominated by Stellenbosch based XTERRA Warriors Bradley Weiss, Stuart Marais and Theo Blignaut.  According to Weiss, he didn’t expect to have to race too hard on the day.  “This past week my training was a bit more intense in preparation for XTERRA Philippines.  I then heard that Stuart would be racing, which was definitely a curve ball for me.  The ocean swim was more technical, with bigger swells than expected.  Theo was in the lead, but Stuart and I closed the gap in the second lap fighting for Theo’s feet.  Exiting the swim/bike transition, Stuart went out hard.  Instead of major climbs the mountain bike discipline featured a few 20 – 30 second kickers.  I managed to catch Stuart on one of these and broke away on the single track.”

“By the time I reached the turnaround point I had approximately 1 minute on Stuart, but he made up time on the flat sections,” continues Weiss.  “Entering the bike/run transition I ran down the wrong chute, as a result my lead decreased to 25 seconds going into the run.  It was only at the 6 – 7 km mark that I managed to open the gap.  I was chuffed running down the beach to the finish, it was beautiful. ”  Bradley Weiss completed the 1.5km ocean swim, 23km mountain bike discipline and 10.2km trail run in a combined time of 02 hours 01 minute 50 seconds.  Stuart Marais came in second, while Theo Blignaut finished third.

Carla Van Huyssteen took the lead in the women’s race crossing the finish line first in a combined time of 02 hours 21 minutes 42 seconds.  According to Van Huyssteen the Fedhealth XTERRA Nelson Mandela Bay course was amazing.  “I had a really good race.  The route included the perfect combination – the ocean swim was amazing, the mountain bike route was just long enough and the run through Happy Valley had such a nice vibe to it with people cheering for you all the way.  I am really happy to have been part of the first XTERRA in Port Elizabeth.  This event will definitely go from strength to strength.”  Andrea Steyn came in second, while Susan Sloan finished third.

After a gruelling day out on route XTERRA Warriors could regain their strength in the NUUN Recovery Zone.  “We were there to put back what the race took out with cold coolers of our proprietary blend of electrolytes in natural, delicious flavours – all without any sugars,” says Etienne du Plessis, CEO of NUUN.  Another special feature in the NUUN Recovery Zone was the serving of the proudly South African ButtaNutt series of authentic tree nut spreads.

Learn all about XTERRA South Africa, get race results, videos, and images at and


From the Midwest to Maui with Mimi

The new opportunity for XTERRA America Tour racers to qualify for the XTERRA World Championship in Maui by winning their region has Mimi Stockton, a 43-year-old mother of three from Michigan, dreaming of paradise.

“It’s 7 degrees and grey here,” said Stockton, the reigning and three-time 40-44 women’s World Champ.

“Just looking out the window makes me feel like an icicle, and right about now I’m thinking it’s a fantastic idea to be able to qualify for Maui by becoming the regional champion. It’s something to dream about and shoot for. It will undoubtedly give more racers a chance to qualify, especially those for whatever reason cannot make a championship race or finish first or second at one.  It will also mean more to become a regional champion. In my mind, that changes everything.  And perhaps more importantly, it should increase the number of racers at the local races.”

For Stockton and all the other XTERRA racers in the midst of snow and ice festivals, winter is the time to make a game plan on how to capture that regional championship.

“That’s how I’m going to punch my ticket,” said Stockton. “I’m a Midwestern girl and this area provides ample opportunities for me to flex my XTERRA muscles.  But first things first!  I am going to hit the road and travel south to Alabama, where the twisting, rolling trails of Oak Mountain State Park (May 21) await.  Since that will be my first race of the season, I have expectations, but admittedly they’re not very high!  My goal is to finish in the top three of my age group, but I’ll be happy with a top five finish.  After the warmth and sunshine of Alabama, hopefully I will have knocked some of that winter rust off my body and I’ll be ready to tackle the regional races.”

XTERRA Midwest Region Races:
July 16 – XTERRA DINO Southern Indiana (Versailles, Indiana)
July 24 – XTERRA Ionia (Ionia, Michigan)
Aug 6 – XTERRA DINO Northern Indiana (North Liberty, Indiana)
Aug 13 – XTERRA Illinois Wild (Hanna City, Illinois)
Aug 20 – XTERRA Rockport Rugged (Alpena, Michigan)

Mimi continues…

“I’ve decided to not race during the month of June to focus on fine-tuning my mountain bike skills, because let’s face it, I spend the majority of my time on the road. I’m trying to get over my fear of flying down tree-lined hills at top speed, but it takes time and practice.

By July I hope to be ready to rock and roll at XTERRA Dino Southern Indiana.  The trails there are my favorite, even the death-defying cliff section that manages to amplify my fear of heights.  This is a race I’ve done before and is not entirely suited to my strengths, but I hope to finish in the top two of my age group.  Next up: XTERRA Ionia.  A mountain biker’s nightmare, a road bikers dream!  I might have a decent chance of winning my age group in this race, if I can get some distance between me and the other fast women on the flat sections.  2 races down, 2 more to go!

XTERRA Dino Northern Indiana is practically in my backyard and it is the one race where I can sleep in my own bed the night before.  I know these mountain bike trails by heart, but they still demand my full attention.  They are snaky and narrow and not at all easy for a 29er to maneuver through unscathed.  They are, however, relatively flat (we are in the Midwest after all) and fast, making the ensuing run seem relatively painless.  This is an important race for many reasons.  If I do well enough to land in one of the top two spots in my region at this point in the season, then I will head into my last race of the season feeling confident and positive that Maui is within my reach.

XTERRA Illinois Wilds is one of the most scenic and unique races I’ve ever done (running through a zoo anyone?!).  The bike section is technically difficult, but if I can make it through without crashing, I know I can rock the run.  I can taste it already…the brilliant blue Maui skies; the lush, tropical flora; the warm, cerulean ocean waters…I want it, I want it all and I can feel it as I cross the finish line.”

Take it from Mimi, she knows what she is talking about!  She earned her undergrad degree from Northwestern University and got a masters in public policy from the University of Chicago.  When she’s not chasing her kids around you might find her whipping people into shape at Maddog Revolutionary Fitness.

Her words of wisdom come from Mae West, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”

Rules Refresher Note: You count your best four scores. You must count one race in your region.  You have to count two races in your region.  Only two races in the America Tour offer points at the 100-point scale – XTERRA Oak Mountain in Pelham, Alabama on May 21 and XTERRA Beaver Creek in Avon, Colorado on July 16.  If you race at both, just your best score counts at 100-point level, and your other score reverts to 75-point level.  The most points you can score is 325.  Of the 176 regional champions honored last year, just 19 scored 325 points.  Happy Training!


XTERRA Philippines This Sunday

The 2016 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour racing season gets underway Sunday in Albay for the 6th annual XTERRA Philippines Championship.

XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas is on-site to take in all the action and brings us this report from Friday in the Philippines..

The 2016 XTERRA World Tour season is about to start this weekend. Our Philippine event kicks it all off with a 7am start Sunday.

It is never easy to predict early season races, but Bradley Weiss has been tearing things up in South Africa and is here to defend his 2015 title.  Aussie Ben Allen is always a threat in the Pacific and our very fast Japanese threat Ogasawara has made a last minute entry.

For the women, defending race champion and two-time XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy is focused on her build to the Olympics and thus couldn’t come to defend her crown in Albay.  We look then at Brit Jacqui Slack, second last year to Duffy and a winner here in the past.  She will be challenged by Lizzie Orchard of New Zealand and Mieko Carey of Japan.

The Asian Elite division is showing the promise we hoped for and between them and Filipino elites we have 15 entries.  Registration and the expo opened today and the place was rockin’ as Sunrise events creates such a great experience.  Athletes arriving today at the Legazpi airport were greeted with local Albay dancers and music, a treat one gets nowhere but the Philippines and Albay.  Governor Joey Salceda is quite involved and has personally greeted many of us coming to his part of the world.

The course has matured and last years 5th place finisher Charlie Epperson says the bike course is harder and faster.  “I expected those sandy places to be soft and slow, but grass has grown over and firmed it up.  It will be faster for sure”.

The run too will change slightly as the neat chicanes through the ruins of Cagsawa can no longer be used as that area is now designated as a protected historical spot.

Weather has been a bit cooler than past years but with rain every day.  We catch glimpses of the fabulous Mayon volcano but have not had a clear view yet.

We’ll post more insight from Dave along with photo galleries on our Facebook page at


Rotorua, New Zealand Added to XTERRA Travel Active Destinations


Home to XTERRA New Zealand since 2002, Rotorua, New Zealand is the latest active destination to land on the XTERRA Travel platform.

With action and adventure aplenty, Rotorua is the perfect place to test your limits. If you enjoy getting out on two wheels then you will love Rotorua’s world renowned mountain bike trails. If water sports hold greater appeal then conquering the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall, Kaituna Falls, should be one for the bucket list.

Imagine sailing across the waters of stunning Lake Rotoiti to uncharted hot pools and experiencing what many people will only ever read about.  A destination like none other, Rotorua has countless natural pools and rejuvenating spas spread throughout the region.

The rich Māori culture in Rotorua also offers an authentic and truly unique perspective for visitors, connecting with the history and the people of the land. Surrounded by nature, there are treasures to be discovered amongst the magnificent forests, the 18 sparkling lakes and the rolling hills surrounding the city. Coupled with geothermal features and unique otherworldly landscapes, Rotorua provides a dramatic setting for the ultimate getaway.

Catch a glimpse of earth’s powerful forces in Rotorua, New Zealand’s Coolest Hot Spot.

Activities: Mountain Biking/Cycling, Spa, Fly Fishing, Rafting, Eco Adventure Touring, Rafting, Hiking, Action/Adventure

Featured Assistance

A visit to the Rotorua i-SITE will help you uncover the hidden gems that will make your visit truly memorable.

With friendly staff that can assist with advice and planning for sightseeing, accommodation, activities and more, make i-SITE your one stop hot spot for a unique Rotorua experience.

Learn more and plan your stay at