XTERRA Japan Set for September 3

The XTERRA Japan Championship race is confirmed to return to Lake Kanayama in Hokkaido on Saturday, September 3, 2016.

XTERRA Japan will be the third scoring race in the 2016-2017 XTERRA Asia-Pacific Tour, award $7,500 USD in prize money equally to the top five elite men and women, and distribute 25 qualifying spots into the 2016 XTERRA World Championship in Maui to the top amateurs in each division.

The race combines a 1,200-meter swim with a 24-kilometer mountain bike and 10K trail run. Last year Courtney Atkinson and Mieko Carey took the titles.

Learn more at


Middaugh Coaching Corner – 12 Strength Training Guidelines

In this third installment of the Middaugh Coaching Corner the World Champ tackles the tricky subject of endurance athletes and their relationship with strength training.

“For me, triathlon training started as a way to cross train for distance running,” said Middaugh. “I realized early on that I was not as durable as some of the other collegiate runners and strength training, swimming, and biking brought some balance and allowed me to continue training through injuries and multiple knee surgeries.  Swimming and biking are great low impact activities, but all triathlon disciplines are incredibly repetitive and can lead to some specific imbalances.  Strength training, when performed properly can improve mechanics, resist injury, and improve performance.  Personally I shoot for 12-16 weeks of consistent strength training starting in the off season then shift to strength maintenance during the competitive season.  Sometimes I will revisit a strengthening focus during a mid-season break.”

Ultimately, Middaugh explains, the goal of strength training should be two-fold: injury prevention, and a positive transfer of strength, power, muscular endurance, and movement efficiency to the sports themselves.

“Since movement patterns of swimming, biking, and running are extremely repetitive it is important to address movement impairments with targeted strengthening of under-active muscle groups to prevent injury. For performance, the exercises need to be very specific in terms of movement patterns and velocity. Properly periodized programs move from general to specific and in the case of endurance sports they need to start as specific and move to more specific to avoid conflicting peripheral adaptations. For swimming, cycling, and running, this means eventually performing a portion of the resistance training within the targeted sports.”

Middaugh went on to say the timing of your strength training is important as well…

“Although strength training has been demonstrated effective in all phases of an annual plan, it makes the most sense to start strength training during the off-season to avoid overtraining. If you can put in a solid 12-16 weeks of structured strength training now, there is a “Long Lasting Training Effect” and a “Long-Term Delayed Training Effect” of special strength preparation that can yield great results during the competitive season. What this means is that you might not see the benefit initially, and in some cases performance can decline a little, but long term it can be very beneficial. Here are some real guidelines to help you develop an off season strength routine.”

Read the full article:

Josiah’s 12 strength training guidelines every endurance athlete needs to know


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. 

Julie Baker

USAT Honors XTERRA Stars

Josiah Middaugh and Emma Garrard were named the USA Triathlon Elite Off-Road Triathletes of the Year for the third straight year this week while Cole Bunn and Julie Baker won the USAT amateur off-road triathletes of the year awards.

Middaugh, 37, of Eagle-Vail, Colorado, has been America’s best for more than a decade now and won the XTERRA World Championship in his 15th try on November 1.

Garrard, 35, of Park City, Utah, has just gotten better-and-better these past three years and in 2015 broke through by winning the XTERRA USA Championship, the XTERRA U.S. Pro Series, the USAT Off-Road National Title. She also placed a career-best third at XTERRA Worlds.

In the amateur division Cole Bunn, a 19-year-old sophomore at CU-Boulder, had a breakthrough day at Nationals to finish as the top amateur, 13th overall. In a field that featured 20 elite men Bunn posted the 9th best swim, 17th fastest bike and 12th quickest run. He finished 1:33 ahead of the 2013 overall amateur champ Matthew Balzer, who was the runner-up for the award.

Bunn, who has been racing XTERRA since 2012 and also won the 15-19 division national title in 2013, credits the CU triathlon team he trains with for his steady improvement the past two years.

Julie Baker (pictured above on the top step at Worlds), 39, from Sonora, California ran away with the award in the women’s amateur division. She finished as the top amateur (fourth overall) at XTERRA Nationals and was also the top amateur at XTERRA Worlds. Of note, Liz Gruber was right behind Baker in both Utah and Maui and was also the runner-up for this award.

The question for Baker now is, will you go pro?

“I have been considering an elite license, just because it would be so fun to line up and race head to head with all those awesome women…but I might be too old and decrepit.  🙂   If I can stay healthy I might go for it.  I am always really inspired by the older competitors out there, especially the older women, who might have grown up in a culture where sports weren’t as accessible or encouraged as they are now.”

About USA Triathlon

USA Triathlon is proud to serve as the National Governing Body for triathlon, as well as duathlon, aquathlon, aquabike, winter triathlon, off-road triathlon and paratriathlon in the United States. Founded in 1982, USA Triathlon sanctions more than 4,300 races and connects with nearly 500,000 members each year, making it the largest multisport organization in the world. In addition to its work with athletes, coaches and race directors on the grassroots level, USA Triathlon provides leadership and support to elite athletes competing at international events, including International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Championships, Pan American Games and the Olympic and Paralympic Games. USA Triathlon is a proud member of the ITU and the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).

Rom Akerson

Rom Reigns in Costa Rica

Ten years ago at the age of 22 Rom Akerson won the overall amateur XTERRA World Championship title.

He turned pro soon after and has since put together a stellar triathlon racing career.

Last season was one of his finest, highlighted by an 8th place finish at XTERRA Worlds and a huge home-country win at the XTERRA Costa Rica Championship over eventual world champ Josiah Middaugh.

In just three short weeks, on March 20th in Playa Reserva Conchal, Akerson will have the chance to defend that title at XTERRA Costa Rica in a race that will kick-off the XTERRA Pan America Tour.

“I am super excited to try to defend the title,” said Akerson. “I like to think of myself as one of the best XTERRA racers, and train as if I was one. I have raced off-road events my whole life so XTERRA just kind of falls into my place.”

Akerson added that Costa Rica fits right in with XTERRA as well.

“Costa Rica is an amazing place and it’s my home country, so I think it is a perfect place to have an XTERRA. It really is a beautiful country. We have nice beaches, great weather, and amazing people. Plus, we believe in “Pura Vida” which means means pure life. XTERRA’s motto is “Live More” which has about the same idea.”

Beyond defending his title in Costa Rica, Akerson plans on making a run for the inaugural XTERRA Pan American Tour title as well.

“I also want to race at XTERRA Mexico, XTERRA Beaver Creek, XTERRA Dominican Republic, and then the final in Ogden,” said Akerson. “I think the new Pan Am Tour is a great idea and am looking forward to racing the events and challenging all the other XTERRA pros from the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean.”

To win at XTERRA Akerson says “you have to be tuff to be competitive, not just fast.”

“I wish all of the XTERRA racers safe training and I think this is going to be a great year, the field is super strong.”

Discover Costa Rica for yourself, visit

Bradley Weiss

Weiss, Duffy win XTERRA South Africa

Complete Results / Photo Gallery

February 20, 2016 (Grabouw Country Club) – Bradley Weiss and two-time XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy won the 12th annual Fedhealth XTERRA South African Championship at the picturesque Grabouw Country Club today.

It’s the fourth win in five weeks for Weiss, who captured all three events in the XTERRA South Africa Series that also included races at Buffelspoort and Nelson Mandela Bay, and it is his second win on the XTERRA World Tour this year following his victory in Albay, Philippines just two weeks ago.

“I don’t think the win has sunk in yet,” said Weiss.  “It’s been approximately five years since I started taking part in XTERRA Grabouw.  I started out in the XTERRA Lite. If I think back to then, I would never have dreamt about winning at the XTERRA SA Champs.  It’s such a surreal feeling.  I couldn’t be more proud.”

Weiss is the fifth different men’s champion in five years and joins a classy list of past SA champions that includes Conrad Stoltz, Dan Hugo, Richard Murray, Stuart Marais, and Lieuwe Boonstra.  His winning time was 2:30:42, followed by fellow South African James Cunnama two minutes back in second, and Kiwi Aiden Dunster in third.

For Duffy it’s her third straight SA title, 9th consecutive XTERRA major, and 13th win on the XTERRA World Tour in 16 tries since her debut in 2013.

“Getting my third victory in Grabouw is really cool,” says a delighted Duffy.  “I won my very first XTERRA here.  As I spend five months out of the year in South Africa, XTERRA Grabouw is an unofficial home race for me.  The XTERRA Grabouw course is phenomenal.  It’s a true XTERRA course.  You have to know how to ride a mountain bike.  The crowd and community involvement really makes this race special.  I’m happy with my overall 7th place and my third XTERRA Grabouw title.”

Her winning time was 2:39:08, followed by Austrian Carina Wasle 17-minutes later then the top South African female Susan Sloan in third.

XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas was on-site to take in all the action and brings us this report…

An unusually cool morning for this time of year.  It rained buckets on Friday making the kids race a muddy affair and the rain continued into the evening.  The result of the rain was the cool morning and a very fast but sometimes slippery bike course.

Last year’s winner Stuart Marais did a short run first thing and had to admit he was not well and withdrew.  With Michael Szymoniuk and Theo Blignaut already having crashed themselves out, the men’s field was down three top contenders before the start.

The elite field was given a one-minute swim start lead on the masses yet Team T3 came out of the water first followed by Flora Duffy and a pack of men.  Poor Brice Daubord from France had his front brake lock on him just 1K into the bike and had to ride the whole way with the brake dragging and making his life miserable.

Weiss got into the lead quickly and by the 7K mark he was over a minute in front of local Ironman great James Cunnama in his first XTERRA.

“I’m not really a mountain biker but live close and rode the course 3 times this week” said Cunnama..  “I fell off on every one of those practice rides but stayed on the whole way today.”

Cunnama was locked into a great bike battle with 20-year-old Michael Lord.  Michael is very tall and a very enthusiastic young man.  “I love XTERRA and I’ll be racing for a long time” he grinned.

Trailing closely behind was another youngster, Aiden Dunster from New Zealand.  Weiss increased his lead with a steady, smooth ride that was three minutes quicker than the next fastest.  Young Lord got the upper hand and was 2nd into T2 with Cunnama close behind.

“I exited the swim with Michael, Antoine and Aiden close behind me,” explained Weiss.  “Although my transition was slower, by the time that I reached the first climb on the mountain bike discipline I managed to work my way up into third place.  I caught Michael Lord on the crest of the climb.  By the second portage climb I could hear that James and Michael were breathing hard.  I jumped onto my bike, pushed as hard as I could and opened a gap.  I didn’t have the best bike to run transition with my gloves and shoes getting caught, but my run felt solid.

Flora Duffy

On the women’s side it was all Duffy.  Fastest swim, fastest bike by nearly seven-minutes and fastest run by four.  That is a dominating performance.  Behind her was a great race between Carla Van Huyssteen, Susan Sloan and Carina Wasle.   Carla led with a very quick swim and held that position well into the bike.  Susan Sloan held third and passed Carla about half way into the bike with Carina not far behind.  It was a great battle with all three of these women within a minute of each other.  The run proved the podium placings with Carina moving to second, Sloan passing Van Huyssteen for third.

The men had a position change as well at the top with Aiden Dunster passing Michael Lord to come home 3rd. Cunnama put in the fastest run to consolidate 2nd and Lord carried on for a fine fourth-place finish.

FedHealth has become the title sponsor of XTERRA in South Africa and created a great contest for any athletes who competed in all three of the series races.  It came down to 11 people who were in the draw for an all-expense paid trip to the 2016 XTERRA World Championship on Maui.  Quite a prize as it included Air, Hotel, Entry and some spending cash to boot.  The winner of the drawing was also the winner for women 25-29, Denine Van Heerden.

All told, it was another fabulous XTERRA South Africa.  Anyone who has come down here to experience the great organization, the atmosphere, and the warm and friendly people will come back.  There is so much to do during a trip to Cape Town and the Garden route and a total world class XTERRA as well.

RESULTS:  Open Men

1 Bradley Weiss 02:30:42, 2 James Cunnama 02:32:39, 3 Aiden Dunster 02:35:01, 4 Michael Lord 02:35:44, 5 Antoine Van Heerden 02:36:12, 6 Jan Pyott 02:38:26, 7 Jeffrey Neethling 02:41:19, 8 Brad Matthew Edwards 02:43:17, 9 Aidan Nugent 02:44:39, 10 Darryn Purtell 02:45:56

RESULTS:  Open Women

1 Flora Duffy 02:39:08, 2 Carina Wasle 02:56:05, 3 Susan Sloan 02:57:32, 4 Carla Van Huyssteen 02:58:54, 5 Nicolette Griffioen 03:03:08, 6 Sandra Koblmuller 03:05:18, 7 Adrienne Moolman 03:15:41, 8 Denine Van Heerden 03:15:52, 9 Denine Van Heerden 03:15:52, 10 Johandri Leicester 03:18:46

“The Fedhealth XTERRA Full caters for more seasoned triathletes who want to put their fitness to the test,” says Jeremy Yatt, Principal Officer of Fedhealth.  “Regardless of the athletes’ own unique goals, it is also a fun weekend away in which the entire family can participate. We thoroughly enjoy seeing so many fit, healthy people in action!”

The 2016 Fedhealth XTERRA Grabouw Full saw off-road multi-sport athletes having to complete a 1.5km swim, followed by a 28km mountain bike discipline before finishing off with a 12.5km trail run.

After a gruelling day out on route, XTERRA Warriors can look forward to recovering in the NUUN Recovery Zone.  “We’ll be there to put back what the race takes out with cold coolers of our proprietary blend of electrolytes in natural, delicious flavours – all without any sugars. Get excited for refreshing flavours like Strawberry Lemonade, Tri-Berry, Fruit Punch, Lemon and Lime and Citrus Fruit,” says Etienne du Plessis, CEO of NUUN.

Another special feature to look forward to in the NUUN Recovery Zone will be the serving of the proudly South African ButtaNutt series of authentic tree nut spreads.  “Our spreads are filled with healthy fats and proteins for sustained energy.   ButtaNutt will also be giving away an entire year’s supply to one lucky XTERRA finisher at each of the three events,” says Antoine van Heerden, Managing Director of ButtaNutt.

Look back at great coverage from the day on twitter and Facebook @XTERRASA / @Fedhealthmed

For further information visit or

Year Men Women
2004 Conrad Stoltz Megan Hall
2005 Conrad Stoltz Mari Rabie
2006 Conrad Stoltz Michelle Lombardi
2007 Conrad Stoltz Michelle Lombardi
2008 Dan Hugo Eszter Erdelyi
2009 Lieuwe Boonstra/Felix Schumann Carina Wasle
2010 Dan Hugo Mari Rabie
2011 Dan Hugo Carina Wasle
2012 Conrad Stoltz Carla Van Huyssteen
2013 Richard Murray Carla Van Huyssteen
2014 Dan Hugo Flora Duffy
2015 Stuart Marais Flora Duffy
2016 Bradley Weiss Flora Duffy


XTERRA South Africa was the second of 37 events where the fastest amateur athletes from around the world could 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
Marcus Barton

XTERRA Southeast Region Spotlight

In our on-going curiosity to learn how different athletes plan on going about winning their region we’ve stumbled across an interesting fact … not everybody wants to give away their strategy!

Take Marcus Barton for example.

Marcus, a self-described “average Joe Schmo trying to be a good employee, husband, dad and granddad while squeezing in training and racing,” is the ring leader of XTERRA’s Southeast Region.

The 46-year-old from Waxhaw, North Carolina is quick to share stories on races and places, lead group rides and trail work days, tell you what lines to take, where to stay, and how to get into the sport.  He’s a great resource for race director’s and racers alike, and even moderates the Southeast Region Facebook page.

Last year Marcus won his fourth SE regional championship title (45-49 division). We asked him if he was chasing his fifth title this year and he enthusiastically replied, “you’re damn right I’m going for it!!”

Then we asked him how he planned to do it, and he said “none of your business.”

Of course, that’s not actually what he said but it’s what he meant!

What he actually said was “I haven’t laid out my strategy just yet, but I have an idea of which ones I am doing.  Some of them are based around the fun ones; some are based around ones I think I’ll be good at.  BUT, I do want to keep the strategy to myself.”

Lucky for us, however, Marcus was willing to let us take a look back to last season to see how his chase for the regional championship unfolded …

“My original plan in 2015 was to win Pelham, get my USAT National title back, then go do Tsali and Greensboro (two races I hadn’t done before),” explained Barton.  “However, low and behold, David Meadows kicks my butt in Pelham, giving him 100 points.  I knew I was doing OtillO late in the season, so I wouldn’t be in racing shape (at least bike wise) in August and September.  This meant that he could have done Tiger, Tide and Blackwater and taken the Southeast title from me.  Soooo this means that Richmond HAD to be my win.  I HAD to get 100 points.  Even if I went to Richmond and got 100, he still could have tied me and if he raced Tide and Tiger, he would win the tiebreaker.  This meant I also HAD to beat him at a local race.  When I found out he was doing Knoxville (one week before Richmond I might add), I had no choice but to drop Tsali and Greensboro, go to Knoxville, beat him and then go to Richmond and win.  Luckily, I did and it worked out.  Why did I tell you this long story?  Because if someone is serious about the title, it’s not just about getting points, it’s about how you strategize against the other racers.”

Awesome stuff, huh!

This year, with 11 races in the Southeast region, the chase is wide-open for the regional championship title and qualifying spot into XTERRA Worlds that goes with it. We just hope you’re not in Marcus’ division!

His final words of wisdom … “He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.”

Check out his blog at

2016 XTERRA Southeast Region Races

24-Apr XTERRA Myrtle Beach Myrtle Beach, SC
30-Apr XTERRA Fort Yargo Winder, GA
14-May XTERRA  Clemson Clemson, SC
21-May XTERRA Oak Mountain Pelham, AL
5-Jun XTERRA Knoxville Knoxville, TN
11-Jun XTERRA Greensboro Greensboro, NC
18-Jun XTERRA Lock 4 Blast Gallatin, TN
26-Jun XTERRA Tsali Bryson City, NC
9-Jul XTERRA  Whitewater Charlotte, NC
31-Jul XTERRA Panther Creek Morristown, TN
7-Aug XTERRA Blackwater Milton, FL
20-Aug XTERRA Auburn Auburn, AL
16-Oct XTERRA Hickory Knob McCormick, SC

America Tour Rules / America Tour Schedule / XAT Overview

Olympian on Display in South Africa

Two-time XTERRA World Champion Flora Duffy is the best racer in the world of off-road triathlon.

In 2016 she has the chance to prove she’s the best in the world of road triathlon too as she prepares for her third Olympic games this summer in Rio.

First, Duffy will kick off her season by trying to make it three-in-a-row at the XTERRA South Africa Championship on Saturday. By doing so, she will be providing triathlon fans at the Grabouw Country Club with a glimpse into greatness.

“I’m excited for Saturday and can’t believe it is time to race again,” said Duffy, who is focusing on WTS races in her build-up to Rio this year but couldn’t resist racing here.  “XTERRA South Africa is my favorite race so I always have to show my support.”

In turn, thousands of XTERRA Warriors in South Africa will show Duffy their support this weekend and on her road to Rio.

Dave Nicholas

XTERRA managing director Dave Nicholas is in South Africa and brings us this report on the eve of the 12th annual SA Championship.

“Great to be back in Grabouw for the FedHealth XTERRA South Africa Championships, which are being held on Saturday this year,” said Nicholas. “There have been drought conditions for several years here and the once huge reservoir is definitely lower.  There is still plenty of water to have the traditional 1500m point-to-point swim, but legendary route manager Hendrico Burger points out that it’s another 30-meters form the edge of the water to transition this year.”

“It’s looking like rain tonight and the forecast for tomorrow is calling for showers as well.  The forecast for the race itself, however, is a bit unclear.  While he looks strong, the rumor has it that Bradley Weiss, the very fast South African pro who won in the Philippines just two weeks ago, was a bit ill.  He says he is feeling fine and the world will find out tomorrow.  On the women’s side, Flora is looking fabulous and is happy to be racing.

Switzerland’s Jan Pyott is here with Frenchman Brice Daubord and young Austrian pro Dominic Wychera is starting his season early.  A host of South African men are in the race, none stronger than last year’s winner Stuart Marais.

Carina Wasle, who has won Grabouw a few times is back along with other fellow two-time winner Carla Van Huyssteen, and local Susan Sloan who finished in the top 10 at XTERRA Worlds last year.  The very fast Austrian pro Sandra Koblemueller has been here for a few weeks and actually won a 32K trail run over some of Africa’s fastest women last weekend.  She laughed when I asked her if she was taking swimming lessons.  Once Sandra gets out of the water only a few minutes behind – watch out.

Michael Szymoniuk from Vienna and Theo Blignaut from South Africa have withdrawn due to injuries.

Yes, the legendary Conrad Stoltz is entered, but as the swimmer on a team.  We saw the Caveman today as he got set for his “red couch” interview and he looks happy.  He just finished work on his house yesterday and smiled saying he had not swum since Italy last September.  We stopped by his Caveman Cafe located inside a very cool Specialized agency.  It has a great kids track just in front and a dirt pump track alongside.  Worth the visit.

Organizers have created a tent village on a bluff just above the swim start.  Most of their crew and several traveling athletes are camping there and the night scene is great.  I would imagine it will be quieter tonight as tomorrow starts early.

Race start is at 8am in the morning here, that’s 10pm Friday night in California. We’ll try to have results and photos for you when you wake up on Saturday.”

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

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)