Arizona Series Opens Season with New Winners

McGowan and Smith make victorious debuts

A new season brought some new – and very fast – runners to the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series.

Margaret SmithGabe McGowan and Margaret Smith both made victorious debuts in the Arizona Series by winning their respective divisions of the XTERRA Estrella Mountain Trail Run. More than 350 runners participated in the event, which was completed on October 6 at Estrella Mountain Regional Park in Goodyear, Arizona.

McGowan, 24, was the overall winner of the 20-kilometer course, finishing with a record time of 1 hour, 17 minutes, 54 seconds. Smith, 33, was the top female, finishing with a women’s course record of 1:36:51.

“This was my first time entering any of the XTERRA races,” said McGowan, who works as a hydrologist for a consulting firm in Tucson. “I moved to Arizona from North Carolina in 2012. For a variety of reasons, I had just been doing my own thing with my running. This year I found myself running well and wanting a specific goal. I Googled ‘Phoenix trail races’ and found the XTERRA Series.”

McGowan proved his worth from the start, racing to the front of the pack with 2012 Estrella Mountain race winner Jonathan Harmon. Those two ran away from the rest of the field, and stayed side by side for most of the course. A fall by Harmon late in the race allowed McGowan to pull ahead.

“Jon was right behind me until sometime around mile 8, when I heard him trip and fall,” McGowan said. “I slowed down, turned around, and asked if he was all right. He was already getting up and starting to run, so I took off again.”

McGowan was a middle-distance track runner in high school, and added: “The race I ran at Estrella was probably my best race since those high school track days.”

Harmon placed second in 1:18:53, which also beat the previous course record. Phillip Slama (1:27:19) beat John Reich (1:27:55) in a tight race for third.

Smith placed 10th overall and her victory capped a successful weekend of running for her. The day before the Estrella Mountain race, she won a 10K road race.

“I was expecting my legs to be more tired than they were,” she said. “Initially, I thought I went out too fast, but I never saw another woman on the course, so really, I was racing the guy who finished just before me and the guy who finished just after me.”

Smith works as a military intelligence officer in Maryland, but she is currently attending a training course at Fort Huachuca in Arizona. She has been in Arizona since the start of July, and has won seven different races since then.

She attended this race with her brother, Charlie Webber, who placed fifth in the men’s 35-39 division.


In addition to the 20K long course, there was also an 8K short course. Felix Sanchez was the overall winner of the 8K, and Rainey Weaver was the top female.

The XTERRA Estrella Mountain Trail Run was the first of four races in the 2013-14 season for the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series. The next race in the series will be the XTERRA White Tanks Trail Run on January 5 at Waddell, Arizona.

To enter a race in the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series or to learn more about it, please

The Kahuna’s Maui Prognostication

When it comes to racing and XTERRA there is no one more qualified to chime in than the managing director of the XTERRA World Tour “Kahuna Dave” Nicholas.

The human-powered/Mother Nature-inspired XTERRA racing scene has been his work-life passion for nearly two decades now.  He’s been to every World Championship since helping to create the sport back in ‘96, and this year watched races unfold in South Africa, the Philippines, Spain, Greece, Switzerland, France, Italy, Mexico, England and all over the U.S.

While he’s equipped with unequaled perspective on who might take the checkered flag on the lush green lawn of The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua on October 27, that doesn’t mean he’ll get it right.  In fact, he hardly ever does, going just 4-for-22 in picking winners over the last 10 years.

So, with a grain of salt, but some tasty insight nonetheless, here are the Kahuna’s 2013 Maui prognostications.

It is that time of year for me to prove how wrong I can be.  I have never seen so difficult a task to predict the winners as this year, especially in the men’s race.

You can’t look at the women’s field without seeing Lesley Paterson as the favorite.  Super Czech pro Helena Erbenova handed the little Scot her only loss this year at the ITU race in Holland but Les was not at her physical finest there.  Have no doubts; Erbenova is the real deal and has dominated Europe for two seasons.

Barbara RiverosVery much in the mix for the top spot is Chile’s Barbara Riveros (pictured).  Barb was 2nd at Maui last year and finished less than a minute behind Lesley at the USA champs and actually had a slightly faster run time.

Lurking in the back with every possibility to win must be three-time World Champion Julie Dibens.  Julie made her XTERRA return at Beaver Creek this summer and showed off her unbelievable swim skills and was very fast on the bike.  She was still not 100% and backed down on the run – OR was she keeping her British powder dry?

Heather Jackson was 4th at Maui last year and has had a phenomenal 70.3 season.  She raced at Utah but was coming off a hard road schedule and did not finish on the podium.  She’ll be ready at Maui.

Never to be overlooked is three-time World Champion Melanie McQuaid and the now-back-to-full-strength Shonny Vanlandingham.  Both are motivated racers who are not ready to be put in the “past their prime” bucket.

How will it shake down?  Dibens, Riveros, Jacqui Slack and Chris Jeffrey will get out front on the bike.  It will be up to Lesley, Helena, Heather, Shonny, Melanie and the others to catch them but not use up all their energy because they know they will be in a battle on the run.

There are a number of very fast women who have every expectation to stand on the podium;  Renata Bucher (SUI) Suzie Snyder (USA) Danelle Kabush (CAN) Jacqui Slack (GBR) Emma Garrard (USA) Kathrin Mueller (GER) Flora Duffy (BER), Carina Wasle (AUT) and South Africa winner Carla Van Huyssteen are all fast and are all winners.

Leonardo ChaconFor the men it is even more challenging.  Costa Rica’s Leonardo Chacon easily won Mexico and then repeated against a strong field at Utah.  This very quiet man is easy to miss in a crowd, but never forget he was 4th last year at Maui.  Look for him at the sharp end on Sunday.  Josiah Middaugh has had a fabulous season winning the USA series championship and has to be the favorite.  In 2012 he beat everybody in the field by over 2 minutes, except one.  Javier Gomez is not at Maui to defend his title and Josiah has shown both the speed and the mental toughness to bring the World Title back to the USA.  It will not be easy as 4 time World Champ and XTERRA icon Conrad Stoltz is looking unbelievably strong on the bike and wants that 5th title badly.

The only rider out there who matched Conrad at Utah was 2008 World Champ Ruben Ruzafa.  Ruben switched his focus from mountain biking to XTERRA this year and won two races in Europe and was 3rd at the USA Champs.  The fact is – Chacon, Middaugh, Ruzafa and Stoltz were within a couple minutes of each other at the USA final.  They could be even closer at Worlds.

A whole host of European speedsters are coming; Spain’s Hector Guerra won the Euro tour with young Belgian Yeray Luxem close behind.  World Champ Nico Lebrun is doing his last Maui as a top pro and would love nothing more than to go out on the podium.  Brit Asa Shaw was 7th last year and is again healthy after a disappointing Euro season.  South African winner Richard Murray is not well known here but he beat Conrad and Dan Hugo straight up.  Aussie Ben Allen is a threat, along with fellow Aussie and an Olympian – Courtney Atkinson.  Toss in Canadian Brent McMahon and Holy Cow, what a field.

McMahon, Allen, Chacon, Shaw, Atkinson, Richard Stannard, and Branden Rakita should lead out on the bike.  The South African trio of Murray, Conrad and Dan Hugo will not be far behind nor will the legendary Olivier Marceau.  I expect Conrad to charge hard on the bike and take the lead from Chacon with Josiah and Ruzafa coming after them.  If Ben Allen, McMahon, Hugo, Murray, Lebrun or Asa are on their game we could have 8-10 men coming into T2 in close proximity.  Josiah gave away over 3 1/2 minutes to Gomez in the swim last year yet finished less than a minute behind.  If he can do that this year he’ll see the finish line first.

But what will the Pacific Ocean give us for swim conditions?  What will Maui give us for temperature?  All that will play into the end game.  And we can’t forget the XTERRA family with more than 700 age group athletes from around the globe coming to see if they can go home with the title XTERRA World Champion.  It’s a worthy field fit and ready to battle.

Andre Szucs XTERRA Experience

There are a lot of inspirational athletes on the XTERRA Planet and at the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah last month, we discovered another.

Andre SzucsAndre Szucs, a below-the-knee amputee, has been overcoming adversity his entire life. So much so, he says “basically, I came to the conclusion that I am no different than anyone else out there, like everybody I am just exploring my physical limits…not to be confused with physical limitations because of an amputation, that’s not how I handle my life.”

Szucs, a 33-year-old from Brazil who now lives and works in Encinitas, is an accomplished athlete across many disciplines and an Ironman World Champ.

This year he took to the trails for the first time at the XTERRA Snow Valley off-road tri as a way to challenge himself.

“I thought I knew myself enough to consider that I was “fully capable” but I always had that unfortunate feeling that I could not run off-road.  This fear was always surrounding me that I could hurt myself and it could be bad for my knee and nothing could change that.”

Then he summoned the courage and gave it a try.

“It was a benchmark in my life and a whole new perspective on how far I could go. I am so excited to start this journey and I know there is so much room for improvement, especially on my prosthesis for running.”

Szucs second XTERRA was at the USA Champs, where he finished 3rd in the PC division and earned a qualifying spot into the XTERRA World Championship.

“Lesson learned,” said Szucs.  “Don’t be afraid to be happy. When asking ourselves if we can do something…before answering, go and TRY FIRST!”

Learn more about Andre at and find all the motivation you need to get out and go for it today by watching these short videos: /

Washington and SoCal Series Coming Up

The starts for the XTERRA Washington Trail Run Series and the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series are coming up in October.

Race Start The XTERRA Harvest Trail Run is set for October 12 at St. Edward State Park in Kenmore, Washington, and it will serve as the season-opener for the Washington Series. The event will feature two courses – a 21K half-marathon and a 10K. Both courses are open to runners of all ages and skill levels.

Here is the course description: St. Edward State Park is a gem of the Washington State Park system, due to the natural beauty of its natural forest areas and undeveloped waterfront along Lake Washington, its proximity to the Eastside and Seattle population centers, and its well-maintained amenities, including historic buildings, convenient parking, pleasant picnic areas, a phenomenal children’s play structure, and many miles of wonderful trails for hiking, biking and running.

To register for the race or learn more about the Washington Series, please visit

On October 13, the XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Run will be the first event of the 2013-14 season for the always-popular XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series. A capacity field of 500 runners is expected to participate in the event at Point Mugu State Park in Oxnard/Malibu, California.

The event will feature two courses – an 18K and an 11K. Both courses are open to runners of all ages and abilities.

Here is the latest note from the SoCal race officials: All participants get a high-end XTERRA Point Mugu technical race shirt, cool finisher medal, entry into the raffle of sponsor swag, and the satisfaction of completing one of the best races around!  Don’t forget your well-deserved hot egg breakfast, coffee, and the famous Beer Garden too.The event field is limited and filling up fast, so enter now!

To register for the race or learn more about the SoCal Series, please visit

Olsen, Pedrick Run to Convincing Wins at Cheaha

Alabama Series has five races remaining this season

The XTERRA Cheaha Trail Run takes runners to the highest point in the state of Alabama at around 2,400 feet above sea level. By the end of the 10-kilometer race, David Olsen and Rebecca Pedrick took the highest spots on the podium.

CheahaOlsen was the overall winner of the Cheaha Trail Run, completing the course in 43 minutes, 48 seconds. Pedrick finished in 52:18 to take top female honors. Around 100 runners from five different states participated in the event on September 28 at Cheaha State Park Trails at Delta, Alabama.

“The weather conditions were fantastic at Cheaha,” Olsen said. “The course itself, however, was much more difficult than I anticipated.”

Olsen, however, is proving to be a fast learner as well as a fast runner in the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. The XTERRA Red Mountain Trail Run on September 14 was the first trail race of Olsen’s career, and he ended up winning it. The Cheaha Trail Run was his second trail run, which makes him two-for-two in overall victories.

“I had never run a true trail race before Red Mountain a couple of weeks ago and I have very limited experience on the more technical sections, so I had to do some quick learning when I realized that most of this course would be steep, rocky, and single track,” Olsen said. “Not to mention, the course runs mostly downhill for the first half and makes you run back up the last couple of miles. I remember at mile three thinking, “Wow, I feel great!” only to realize that I would soon have to make up for our drastic elevation change and run back up the mountain.”

Olsen, 22, is a former track and cross country runner at Birmingham-Southern College. He finished nearly three minutes ahead of the rest of the field. “It was so quiet out on the course that I had no idea how far behind the next guy was,” he said.

Gene Hood placed second in 46:40, and 53-year-old Larry Dickerson was third in 48:04.

Pedrick was the first overall female, just one week after competing in the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Ogden, Utah. She placed fifth in her age group at the Utah race, but the extreme elevations (up to 7,300 feet) perhaps prepared her for the climbs at Cheaha.

Pedrick dominated the women’s field at Cheaha, finishing more than three minutes ahead. Hayley Long was second, and 54-year-old Therese Bynum was third.


The XTERRA Cheaha Trail Run was the second of seven events for the 2013-14 season of the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. The next race in the series will be the XTERRA Henry Farm Trail Run at Jacksonville, Alabama.

To enter a race in the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series or to learn more about it, please

Kapalua Trail Runs can be an Addicting Experience

2012 winners Auerbach and Schefer will be back for more

Running in the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Runs can have a profound effect. Just ask Ben Auerbach and Willie Schefer.

Kapalua Trail Runners  Auerbach and Schefer ran in the event for the first time last year, and they each walked away with first-place medals – Auerbach for the Hula Grill XTERRA 5K and Schefer for the Duke’s Beach House XTERRA 10K. Since then, they can’t get enough of the trails.

“I ran cross country in college, but last year at Kapalua was my first actual trail race,” said Schefer, who moved to Kihei, Maui, from New York in 2012. “Ever since that experience, I’ve become addicted to trail running. All my training is in the mountains now.”

The course at Kapalua is one of the most unique trails in the world. It starts on the pristine lawn fronting the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua resort, then takes runners into a variety of sights and terrains along the West Maui Mountains. The course then ends with a run along the beach.

“Honestly, just running with all that scenery around you is like a complete distraction from the pain of running, because it actually is a tough course,” Schefer said. “It’s like you’re immersed in nature up on those mountain trails, and then all of a sudden you pop out on the beach and have to run in the soft sand. It’s like euphoria at the end when you think back to all that scenery.”

Auerbach works as a trainer / fitness instructor at One Fitness in nearby Kaanapali, and after his race experience of last year, he started taking some of his clients to run on the trails at Kapalua.

“A lot of my clients are first-timers to the area, so when we get to the top and look at the views down at the ocean, you can’t beat that,” Auerbach said. “It’s a nice reward for running to the top.”

Auerbach said his running background was in shorter distances for track, and he didn’t necessarily like running in distance races … until last year’s XTERRA Kapalua Trail Runs.

“This race has so many twists and turns, and so many different challenges for a 5K,” Auerbach said. “It’s definitely unique.”

The 10K and 5K races at Kapalua are open to runners of all ages and abilities. In addition to the 10K and 5K, there will be the Kimo’s Keiki K, which is a free sprint race for children 10 and younger.


For the first time, the Duke’s Beach House XTERRA 10K will count toward the XTERRA Hawaii Trail Run Series. The top runners in every age group will earn points toward the overall standings for the Hawaii Series, and a chance to earn a free entry to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Utah in September 2014.

Inaugural Hawaii Series Starts on October 19

Gunstock Ranch Trail Run will be opening event

Kualoa Trail RunnersThe XTERRA Gunstock Trail Run is set for October 19 at the beautiful Gunstock Ranch on the island of Oahu’s North Shore. It will be the first of three races in the inaugural XTERRA Hawaii Trail Run Series.

The inaugural Hawaii Series will feature three events at three different locations (and two different islands). Each venue will offer visually spectacular and physically challenging trails unique to Hawaii.

The three events in the XTERRA Hawaii Trail Run Series:

  • XTERRA Gunstock Ranch Trail Run, October 19 at Gunstock Ranch in Laie, Oahu. This event will feature two courses – a 21-kilometer half-marathon and a 5K short course. Gunstock Ranch is a privately-owned working ranch, so this is a rare opportunity for runners to experience the trails of a remote location near the North Shore of Oahu.
  • XTERRA Kapalua Trail Runs, October 26 at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalua, Maui. This event will feature three courses – the Duke’s Beach House XTERRA 10K, the Hula Grill XTERRA 5K, and the Kimo’s Keiki XTERRA K. The 10K course will be the same trails used a day later by the world’s greatest off-road triathletes in the XTERRA World Championship.
  • XTERRA Freedom Fest, July 5, 2014, at Kualoa Ranch, Oahu. This event will feature a 10K and a 5K, and serves as an excellent preview of the trails that will also be used for the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship later in the year. Kualoa Ranch is a privately-owned working cattle ranch, and the trails are open to runners for only a few select events per year.

All three events in the Hawaii Series are open to runners of all ages and skill levels, from all states.

Runners who enter the Gunstock Ranch 21K, Duke’s Beach House 10K and Freedom Fest 10K can earn points toward the overall standings of the Hawaii Series. The top age-group runners at each of those courses will receive points for the series. At the conclusion of the series, each age-group champion from the Hawaii Series will receive a free entry to the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, which is held every September in Utah.

The XTERRA Hawaii Trail Run Series also offers a chance for runners to prepare for the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, which is held in late November at Kualoa Ranch, Oahu. This year’s Trail Run World Championship is scheduled for November 24. It is worth noting that all runners who participate in a Hawaii Series event – short course or long course – can also participate in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch.

Please visit or call 877-XTERRA-1 for more information.

Georgia Series Race will Benefit Sarazen Family

Fort Yargo Trail Run set for October 12 at Winder

Geoff Sarazen’s name was associated with golf more than any other sport, but he also made an impact in trail running. In particular, Sarazen was a friend and supporter of the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series, and the upcoming XTERRA Fort Yargo Trail Run will serve as a benefit for his family.

Sarazen FamilySarazen passed away unexpectedly due to a stroke two months ago at the age of 40. He is survived by a wife (Chalise) and three children (Britt, Bryce and Mary Landis).

Tim Schroer, race director of the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series, said he lived on the same street as the Sarazens for the past 10 years. Geoff Sarazen was a local golf professional in Dacula, and the grandson of Hall of Fame golfer Gene Sarazen.

“He was looked up to by everyone he came in contact with,” Schroer said. “He was the kind of neighbor that would give you the shirt off his back … drop what he was doing and lend a hand with anything you needed.”

The XTERRA Fort Yargo Trail Run is scheduled for October 12 at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia, and it is expected to draw 300 runners. Among the entries are Chalise Sarazen and her three children.

Schroer said the Sarazen family will be recognized at the race, and all proceeds from the event will be donated to a fund for the family.

The Fort Yargo Trail Run is open to runners of all ages and skill levels, and ONLINE REGISTRATION is available until October 8.

There will be two courses available – an 8.5-mile long course, and a 3.5-mile short course. Runners can choose to run on either course.

To learn more about the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series, please visit

A Fast Opening Run for the Georgia Series

Haley wins in record time; Lynn takes women’s race

The XTERRRA Georgia Trail Run Series got off to a fast and furious start last month.

Matt HaleyA capacity field of 250 runners participated in the XTERRA Harbins Park Trail Run 10K at Dacula, Georgia. It was the first of seven races in the 2013-14 season for the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series.

Matt Haley from Buford, Georgia, took top overall honors, and he did it in record fashion. He completed the course in 35 minutes, 28 seconds, which was more than one minute faster than the previous course record at Harbins Park.

“It was pretty much full gas from the gun,” said Haley, 29. “I’ve run the trail a few times in the past, and it seemed like it was always a slow run, but the wide trail and hard-packed surface made it much faster than I had anticipated. I ended up racing in road flats and I think that actually gave me a little bit of an advantage over some of the guys who wore burlier trail shoes.”

Haley, runner-up Brennan Pratt (35:54) from Decatur, Georgia, and third-place Jesse Rappole (36:26) from Atlanta all beat the previous course record time. Haley said he jumped to the lead within the first mile of the course, and then made a move to pull away midway through the course.

“I think that the fast early pace probably helped as much as it hurt because no one really seemed like they had much left in the tank at the end of the race,” he said. “Brennan ended up catching and passing Jesse, so I was definitely trying to keep an eye out for him over the last two miles. I had this grand plan of really hammering the final paved section, but by the time I got there I was just on a mission to get to the finish first. I was fortunate to hold on for a really exciting win.”

Becky Lynn from Athens, Georgia, placed 17th overall and was the top overall female. She finished with a time of 45:42, and finished more than a minute ahead of the other top females.

Leah Derringer from Douglasville, Georgia, placed second at 46:55, and Melissa Chapman from Lilburn, Georgia, was third at 47:38.


The Harbins Park Trail Run drew runners ranging in age from 16 to 71, representing four different states.

The next event in the Georgia Series will be the XTERRA Fort Yargo Trail Run on October 12 at Winder, Georgia. Following that are two races in November – the XTERRA Battle at Big Creek on November 2, and the XTERRA Little Mulberry Trail Run on November 16.

All races in the Georgia Series are open to runners of all ages and abilities, from all states. To register for a race, please visit