Clark, Davanzo Take Top Honors at Topanga Turkey Trot

More than 700 runners turn out for SoCal race on Thanksgiving Day

Jon Clark and Nita Davanzo were especially thankful this past Thanksgiving Day. They were the overall winners of the XTERRA Topanga Turkey Trot Trail Run, which was completed last Thursday at Topanga Canyon near Calabasas, California.

Clark placed first overall, completing the 15-kilometer course in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 48 seconds. Davanzo was the first female, finishing with a time of 1:18:05.

A capacity field of more than 700 runners participated in the event, which has become an annual Thanksgiving morning tradition for the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series.

“The whole festive environment is a special way to begin the day, and it has become part of my Thanksgiving tradition as much as the Macy’s Parade, Detroit Lions football, and sharing good laughs and full bellies with family friends,” Clark said. “Definitely another blessing to be thankful for as I continue striving to be worthy.”

Clark has been a standout in the XTERRA SoCal Series for several years, and is a past winner of the Topanga Turkey Trot. His familiarity with the course played a role in his most recent victory.

“Knowing the course from previous years, I fully planned on attacking the initial climb from the gun and that’s just what I was able to do,” he said. “I comfortably led the race from start to finish and although I gave an honest push on this day, I basically just cruised into the finish.”

Nita DavanzoRyan Ung placed second with a time of 1:03:38, and was the only runner to get close to Clark. Dominic Grossman placed third in 1:06:10.

In the women’s division, Davanzo also scored an impressive win – made even more impressive because it was her first time entering the Topanga Thanksgiving event.

(Nita Davanzo pictured, courtesy Justin Davanzo /www.justindavanzophotography.com)

“The conditions were beautiful – a crisp, clear day, not too hot, not too cold,” she said. “The trail was in pretty good condition. There were a few spots on the single track that were crumbling off into the hillside, which I am sure only got worse as more feet passed over. The camaraderie between the runners was stellar; it felt like a team of us in single file as we raced down the single track.”

Davanzo said there was one female ahead of her for the first two miles, but she took over the lead by mile 3, and stayed in front the rest of the course. “Afterwards, she and I spoke, and she said she pushed too hard on that lead out, and burned out too quickly,” Davanzo said. “I was glad to have her in the lead through the first half; without her pushing me I don’t think I would have run that section as fast as I did.”

Davanzo said her husband was at the race as a photographer, so they had time after the race to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. “This is my first race on Thanksgiving Day and I will surely do it again,” she said.

Kaitlin Lavin was the second female in 1:19:40, and Kate Freeman was close behind in third in 1:19:49.

The event also featured a 10K course and a 5K course. Winners of the 10K were Aaron Smith and Teva Johnstone, and winners of the 5K were Obin Sturm and Zoe Fleck.

CLICK HERE for complete results.

The Topanga Turkey Trot Trail Run was the second of seven events in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series. The next event will be the XTERRA Crystal Cove Trail Run on December 9. To register for a race in the series or to learn more about it, please visitwww.trailrace.com.

About the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series
The XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In the 2012-13 season, there will be seven races available for runners, with the courses ranging in length from 5 kilometers to 22 kilometers. The top runners in every age group will receive points after each race that will count toward the overall series standings. At the conclusion of the series, each age-group champion will receive a free entry to represent Southern California at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Utah. SoCal is one of 13 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Northern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pacific Northwest, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas.

XTERRA Trail Run World Titles up for Grabs in 2012

No returning champions in this year’s field at Kualoa Ranch

Anybody want a world championship? The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is up for grabs this year.

This year’s event is scheduled for December 2 at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii, and in the unpredictable sport of trail running, this much is certain – there will be new champions.

Oregon’s Max King is the only runner to win the men’s title at XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. The event was created in 2008, and he has won it every year. King’s reign will come to an end this year, as he will stay in Oregon with his wife for the expected birth of their second child in early December.

In his absence, the list of contenders is impressive:

  • Ben Bruce has placed in the top three of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2011. He was a finalist for the steeplechase at the U.S. Olympic trials in 2012 (he placed sixth).
  • Joseph Gray is a recognized name in the sport of trail running. He placed second at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 2009, and is a three-time former winner of the USATF Mountain Runner of the Year award.
  • Thomas Rivers Puzey and Jacob Puzey are brothers who placed fourth and fifth, respectively, at the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. Rivers Puzey has somewhat of a home-course advantage, as he competed in college at BYU-Hawaii, which is located about five miles away from Kualoa Ranch.
  • J. Marshall Thomson placed second to King at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Utah in September.
  • Will Christian placed second to King at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, and the margin of 1 minute, 20 seconds, for that year remains the closest any runner has come to King on the Kualoa Ranch course.
  • Mario Mendoza placed second to King at the 2011 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Utah, and is a past winner of the USATF Trail Runner of the Year award.

Several other dark horse contenders could emerge, as more than 2,000 runners from around the world are expected to compete in this year’s race. King said the eventual new champion will have to be “an all-around athlete” to conquer the field and the course. “It takes a little bit of everything,” he said. “Strong technical skills and hill climbing endurance are a must, but parts of the course also require a high level of speed as well. The biggest thing that I’ve noticed is that the significant hill at mile 9 really wipes people out. Climbing ability is important from the gun but having climbing endurance in this race is even more important.”

Lucy SmithThe women’s division is also in search of a new queen, as 2011 champion Morgan Arritola will not enter this year due to injuries and other schedule conflicts. What’s more, none of the other previous women’s champions are entered. In their absence, there is also an impressive list of female contenders:

  • Lucy Smith (pictured) placed second last year in her first try at Kualoa Ranch. She is considered one of the top masters (40-older) endurance athletes in all of Canada.
  • Melanie McQuaid is a three-time former XTERRA World Champion for off-road triathlon. She placed fifth at last year’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
  • Kim Kuehnert is a runner on the Hawaii Pacific University cross country team. She is originally from Germany, and placed second at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship (she did not compete last year due to illness).
  • Polina Babkina is another runner from the Hawaii Pacific University cross country team. She is originally from Russia and was the team’s top-seeded competitor this season.
  • Susie Stephen is considered Hawaii’s top female distance trail runner. She placed sixth overall at last year’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, and first in the 30-34 age group.

More than 2,000 runners representing at least 15 countries and 37 states are already registered to compete in the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. In addition to the overall titles, the various age-group world championships will also be at stake. Every male and female age-group winner from the 21-kilometer championship will be crowned a 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Champion.

Returning age-group champions from last year include: Keith Rieger (men 40-44), Ray Brust (men 50-54), Susie Stephen (women 30-34), Melanie McQuaid (women 35-39), Lucy Smith (women 40-44), Brigitte Stemmer (women 55-59) and Lee Saltonstall (women 60-64).

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is an open race (no qualification necessary), and runners of all ages and skill levels can enter. There are even separate 10K and 5K courses for runners who want to choose a shorter distance.

Online registration is still available. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

XTERRA TRAIL RUN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
When: Sunday, December 2, 9 a.m. start
Where: Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii
Who: Open to runners of all ages and skill levels
Courses: 21K (championship course), 10K, 5K or “Adventure Walk”
Entry fees: $60 for 21K, $45 for 10K, $35 for 5K, $30 for Adventure Walk
Registration information: www.xterratrailrun.com

TEAM TO END AIDS to Run at Kualoa Ranch

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch on December 2 will feature runners from 15 different countries and at least 36 different states.

Team 2 End AidsLos Angeles, California, will be well-represented thanks to 25 runners from the TEAM TO END AIDS organization. They are entering the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship for the first time in an effort to raise funds to benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Kerry Quakenbush, the Director of Endurance Events for the team, said: “I ran the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 2009 and LOVED it. Many of our participants have been begging for a trail run destination event, so we decided to give this race a try.”

TEAM TO END AIDS has been training runners and entering races since 1998, but this will be the team’s first trail run. They have traveled to Hawaii several times in past years to run in the Honolulu Marathon.

To prepare for the grueling 21-kilometer course at Kualoa Ranch, the team has been training together once a week on various trails in Southern California. Each runner on the team is expected to help the organization raise funds for the cause.

Quakenbush said the team’s goal is to raise $100,000 through this race trip. More runners from the TEAMTO END AIDS organization will fly to Honolulu the following week to participate in the Honolulu Marathon.

Two ambitious runners from the organization – Edwin “Chachi” Camacho and Margaret Lorrie Drenk – will race in both the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on December 2, and the Honolulu Marathon on December 9.

To learn more about the organization or make a donation, please visit www.t2ea.com.

To learn more about the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, please visitwww.xterratrailrun.com.

Mader, Linn Prevail at Oak Mountain

Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama, once again proved to be the perfect setting for an XTERRA Trail Run last weekend.

Brandon MaderBrandon Mader and Elena Linn were the overall winners, but close to 300 other runners got a chance to experience the award-winning trails at the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run on November 11.

“I’ve raced at Oak Mountain seven times and have yet to run the same course twice,” Mader said. “It’s an adventure every time.”

Mader, who resides in Huntsville, was the overall winner, completing the 21-kilometer long course in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 25 seconds.

“Conditions were perfect, about 50 degrees and sunny,” he said. “Only about half the leaves have fallen so far, meaning the trails still had a clear path to follow and the rocks were still visible. Not too many slippery sections or hidden ankle attacks, which are more common in the first few weeks of the leaves falling.”

Mader and David Wall broke ahead early, and engaged in a close battle for the lead in the first half of the course. Mader eventually pulled away in the second half of the course.

“We were in a dead heat – I would gain a yard, he would take it back,” Mader said. “Then nearing the 4-mlle mark, we passed a technical section and I stretched about 10 yards on him. At that point, I knew it was time to determine how the race would unfold. I pressed hard, inching away from him for the next six miles.”

Wall placed second in 1:22:44. He had won the previous two races this season in the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. At this same event last year, Wall placed first and Mader was second.

“I have so much respect for David,” Mader said. “We are very evenly matched and it looks like the Alabama Series might have the best rivalry in XTERRA right now on the men’s side.”

Linn was an impressive sixth overall and the first female with a time of 1:32:36. She finished about a mile ahead of the other females.

“I ran with the guy who got fourth overall for the first eight miles (until the hills hit), then he took off and passed me,” she said. “The guy who finished fifth passed me the last half mile (again going up a hill). It was a good race with both of them. They were both very encouraging and friendly! I wasn’t sure how far I was ahead of the other women. Once you’re in the trails, it’s hard to know where everyone else is.”

Linn, who is a graduate student at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, has been the top female runner in the Alabama Series for the past three seasons. She won two separate races at Oak Mountain last season. But like Mader, she said that the trails at Oak Mountain always offer a unique challenge.

“It helps a little, more for the mental aspect of being at a home course,” she said. “However, there are so many trails at Oak Mountain, I feel like I run a new trail every time.”

The XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run also included a 10K course and a 5K course. Other winners were Wade Morris and Kat Sweatt in the 10K, and Dillon O’Hare and Hannah Scott in the 5K.

CLICK HERE for complete results.

The XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run was the third of six events in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. The next race in the series will be the XTERRA Coldwater Mountain Trail Run at Anniston, Alabama, on December 15.

To register for a race in the series or learn more about it, please visit www.dirtyspokes.com.

2012-13 XTERRA Florida Series is Underway

The XTERRA Florida Trail Run Series got off to a fast start this month, with Eric Koenig and Jessica Wagner running to convincing wins in the season-opening XTERRA Wildhorse Trail Run.

XTERRA Florida Trail Run SeriesMore than 300 runners participated in the event, which was completed on November 6 at Dover, Florida. It was the first of three races in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Florida Trail Run Series.

Koenig was the overall winner of the 21-kilometer long course, finishing with a course-record time of 1 hour, 31 minutes, 57 seconds. He finished more than a mile ahead of the rest of the field.

“At the start and for most the race, a thick fog, hung in the air that made the weather cool and crisp – ideal for running,” said Koenig, 23. “The course was mostly double-track over short grass with some sandy patches, and started around some soccer fields.  However, there was between 4 to 5 miles of single track or off-trail terrain.  The single track meandered through the forest and the off-trail terrain was often very technical, following faint game trails through brush, mud, and up and down steep, short, and often abrupt hills.  I often had to slow down substantially to look for the next flag marker in the off-trail sections.  It was hard to get a rhythm going in the technical part of the course.  I was even attacked by vines on a couple of occasions, which held me captive for up to 15 seconds.”

Koenig took the lead after the first mile and increased his lead throughout the course. His pre-race goal was to finish in less than 1 hour, 30 minutes, but said after the race that he was satisfied with his time of 1:31:57, because the course offered many challenges.

“When I came out of the woods, and back around the soccer field, I still managed to duck less than 92 minutes, finishing in 1:31:57,” he said. “I had apparently extended my lead to eight minutes at this point and set the course record by over three minutes.  I felt pretty good about it.  Maybe sub-1:30 next year?”

He said his only previous race victories came when he was a runner at Beloit College in Wisconsin. Koenig is now a graduate student at the University of South Florida.

Zvanko Smlatic from Sarasota, Florida, placed second in 1:40:00. Making his performance more impressive is his age – 48. Preston Vaughn from Plant City, Florida, was third in 1:40:26.

Wagner placed 14th overall and was the first female with a time of 1:52:58. She finished nearly 10 minutes ahead of the other females.

“At about mile 11 a guy told me he hasn’t seen any other women ahead of me, however I didn’t believe him!” said Wagner, 40. “With the different race lengths and all of them similar routes, when I passed women I wasn’t quite sure which length of race they were running. Honestly, I wasn’t really paying attention. I was focused on going as fast as I could and passing all the guys!”

Wagner resides in Windermere and works as the Senior Membership Director for the YMCA of Central Florida. She placed third overall at this event last year, and second in her division in 2010. “I stumbled upon this race a couple of years ago when I was new to the area and spending many months at Tampa General with a very sick husband,” she said. “Running was my only release and therapy! I loved the run and the trail and have done it each year.”

Rebecca Reese from Orlando was the second female in 2:05:21, and Cindy Hazel from Tampa was third in 2:11:15.

The Wild Horse Trail Run features four different courses. Koenig and Wagner were the winners of the longest course. Other course winners: Jeffrey Hurd Jr. and Amy Meinig in the 10K, Matt Shanklin and Rae Ann Darling-Reed in the 10 mile, and Jon Howry and Kerri Dienhart in the 4 mile.

CLICK HERE for complete results.

The next race in the XTERRA Florida Trail Run Series will be the XTERRA Trout Creek Trail Run in March 2013. To register for the race or learn more about the series, please visitwww.tamparaces.com.

Introducing the 2012 XTERRA World Champs – Part 2

While the pro champions Lesley Paterson and Javier Gomez grabbed most of the attention for winning the XTERRA World Championship, here we shine the spotlight on some of this year’s age group World Champions.

2012 World Champs – Part 1

Judith Abrahams (PC Division) Kenai, Alaska – 5:41:22

Judith AbrahamsA year ago Judith Abrahams had her right leg amputated just below the knee, the end result of years of complications (and five surgeries) stemming from a bicycling accident back in 2006.

“It shattered my tibia and fibula just above my ankle joint and things didn’t heal quite right to where I just couldn’t be very weight-bearing on the foot, so the bones in my foot started to deteriorate,” she told Brian Smith of the Peninsula Clarion earlier this year. “It was just one thing after another and I just couldn’t do anything.”

Prior to the accident Abrahams was doing great in Ironman races, having won the 30-34 age group at Ironman Brazil and finishing 25th in Kona in 2005.  It wasn’t until this summer, eight months after her amputation surgery, that she was able to get back into triathlons.

Abrahams, a facility engineer for an offshore gas production platform at Cook Inlet, Alaska, did a local road triathlon in Kenai in June, then qualified for XTERRA Nationals (which she won) at the XTERRA Hammerman off-road tri in Anchorage, Alaska in July.

In Maui, despite going head-over-handlebars during the first mile of the bike, then trying to straighten out the cleat on her shoe only to find the nut was stripped, she said “the race went well for me.”

“There was more walking of the bike than I hoped, but I felt strong and really enjoyed the downhills.  I also enjoyed running more on the run course with my new running prosthetic,” said Abrahams.

The biggest thing she said she learned this year in Maui was to get an accommodation outside of the tsunami evacuation zone.

“That made for an interesting pre-race night, not getting much sleep. It’s difficult to evacuate as I have so many more “necessities” that I have to pack to manage my prosthetics.  I also was lucky to find a pair of crutches in the accommodation I was staying at, those came in handy for the portions on the beach that I wasn’t wearing my prosthetic.  I definitely learned some lessons on this one as it was more logistically challenging for me than Utah.  I know what I would do differently for next year and I do hope to come back again,” exclaimed Abrahams.

The XTERRA Tribe hopes to see you back to Judy, you’re an inspiration to us all.

Mike Cabigon (CEO) Edmonton, Canada – 2:52:12

Mike CabigonMike Cabigon, the managing Partner and President of a Canadian venture capital fund, Foundation Equity, was the fastest in the CEO division by far.  He would have also been the fastest in the 35-39 division had he raced in his age group.

Cabigon did his first XTERRA in 2010 at the XTERRA Canada Championship in Whistler, B.C. and although he qualified for Maui at that race, he broke his collarbone just a week before the race and wasn’t able to start.

Cabigon had transitioned into XTERRA having done nine Ironmans 2006-2008 (including 6 Ironman’s in 6 countries in 60 days as a cancer fundraiser) and having raced MTB on and off since the 90s.  All of that combined wasn’t enough to prepare him for the rough water in Maui.

“I was scared sh*tless by the breaking waves (I am a nervous swimmer) and seriously considered not starting when the gun went off.  I stood there, waited out several sets of waves, then started.  Slowly.”

As the saying goes, slow and steady wins the race, except Cabigon started slow (28-minute swim) but then crushed the bike and run.

“I must have passed close to 140 people on the bike, and was able to hold position during the run. I saw that I was leading the CEO division coming into T1, but did not know I had gone fast enough to have won the 35-39 AG until long after finishing.  A friend of mine was tracking the race from Canada and texted to say I would have also won my AG,” said Cabigon.

At the 2011 XTERRA World Championship, where Cabigon finished 6th in the 35-39 division, his bike was on the West Maui Cycles repair stand with the fork removed and dangling by the brake cable just six minutes before race start.

“This year, nothing noteworthy before or during the race, which was welcome,” said Cabigon, who enjoyed the trip with his family and fellow CEO competitors.

Of note, this year’s race was Cabigon’s first since last year’s XTERRA World Championship.

“Just confirms how much I love this event – it is, and will be for as long as I can help it, the only absolute must-do race on my calendar.”

Dennis Brinson (55-59 Division) Carson City, Nevada – 3:13:03

Dennis BrinsonDennis Brinson, an Allstate insurance agent for the past 27 years, was first introduced to XTERRA back in the 90’s when he noticed all the course signs posted on the Flume Trail when Nationals was held in Incline Village, Nevada near his hometown.  It wasn’t until 2006, however, that he started competing.

“I did my first short course race at Tahoe City,” said Brinson.  “I thought I could never do the long course, that those guys and gals are animals.  Seriously, doing twice the swim-bike-run distance as the short course was inconceivable.”

In Maui, Brinson proved worthy of the challenge, finishing first among 22 athletes in his division with the third best swim (29 minutes, 35 seconds for the 1.5-kilometer distance), the second-fastest time in the 30K bike ride (1:52:16), and best run on the 10K trail (51:12).  His winning time of 3:13:03 was more than two-minutes faster than three-time World Champ Tom Monica.

“That race was a wild ride,” said Brinson.  “I couldn’t see the buoys so I just followed the “pod” and the second entry into the surf was crazy.  Nothing like some “beach break” to get your attention. The bike was tough, like a bobsled run…up then down then sideways. When I finally reached the downhill on the bike, traveling about as fast as possible in a cloud of red dust and riding by braille; the fellow I was riding with – his bike just seemed to levitate up then over. I could see it in my peripheral vision. He landed on his back I think…there was nothing I could do for him but I knew his race was probably over. I prayed for him throughout the rest of the race.”

Brinson didn’t even know how he had done in the race, until he got a call from a long ways away.

“My kids back home who were watching online, and they said I had won it…well actually God had brought me to the finish line so all the Glory to Him,” said Brinson, who made the trip into a vacation around a race.  “My wife and I had a wonderful trip…snorkeling, great food, wonderful weather, and a tsunami warning just to keep us on our toes.”

Kathy Frank (65-69 Division) Santa Cruz, California – 6:07:13

Kathy FrankKathy Frank is a 10-time XTERRA Regional Champion, a three-time National Champ, and now a two-time XTERRA World Champion.

When she’s not winning races she’s helping kids ages pre-school to high school as a home/hospital teacher for the City of Santa Cruz.

XTERRA has been her favored athletic endeavor for years now, ever since she finished her third Hawaii Ironman and was fed up with road cycling and scary drivers.

“I’d always been a trail runner, so XTERRA was a good fit for me,” said Frank. “Mountain biking is the best, I mean, where else can you go out on a training ride and see bobcats, mountain lions and wild turkeys?”

Frank said her raceday in Maui was perfect, and that she had a great time in Maui with her friends.

“I asked for four things:  to survive the swim, to make the bike cutoff, cloud cover on the bike ride, and a sprinkling on the run.  All four things came true!”

Tryg Fortun (60-64 Division) Kenmore, Washington – 3:24:10

Tryg FortunLast year Tryg Fortun – a retired firefighter who lives part-time in Maui – came down to watch the World Championship just to see what it was all about.  As it turned out, he was witness to one of the most dramatic moments in XTERRA history as three-time World Champ Melanie McQuaid collapsed right in front of him and just hundred-yards or so from the finish line after leading almost the entire way. When it became apparent McQuaid’s day was done, Fortun’s first-responder instincts kicked in.

“I helped carry her off the course. She threw up on me. I was hooked,” said Fortun.

Tryg was so hooked, in fact, that after his first-ever XTERRA in April this year he did eight more, and won his division at seven of them.  The most rewarding of them was also the biggest, thanks in part to the strong support he received from his family.

“My wife, daughters, and their husbands all showed up in “Team Tryg” t-shirts with XTERRA logos that they had made unbeknownst to me,” said Fortun.  “They were screaming at me in the transition and on the run telling me where my fellow age-groupers were, but my heart was pounding in my ears so hard and my ears were so plugged from the shore break waves that I couldn’t understand a thing.”

Haley and Gormley Win Again in Georgia Series

Capacity field of more than 350 runners participate at Big Creek

The XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series is fast becoming a showcase for Matt Haley and Tara Gormley. For the second consecutive race in the series, Haley and Gormley ran away from the competition. This time, it was at the XTERRA Battle at Big Creek Trail Run at Roswell, Georgia, on November 3.

Haley was the overall winner, completing the 10-mile course in 1 hour, 5 minutes, 26 seconds. He finished more than a mile ahead of all the other runners. Haley is a former cross country and track runner at Keene State College in New Hampshire who now resides in Buford, Georgia.

Matt Haley“The race course was a fun one,” Haley said. “It had some ups and downs along with some good twists and turns, and minus a few rocky sections and the obvious roots, it was really well groomed. It wasn’t a super-fast course but it felt far removed from everything. It was nice to feel like we were just out there cruising through the woods.”

(Matt Haley pictured, courtesy Mark Robertson /www.powerbar.com)

There was a “short course” race of 5.5 miles, and Haley said he chased some of the leaders of that course early on, thinking they were in the lead for the 10-mile course.

“Just before the 5 mile mark, I heard beeping from the timing mats at the finish line and thought, ‘I don’t think we go through the finish on our first lap (in the 10 mile race). Man it would be awesome if those guys were only running the 5.5,’ ” Haley said. “Sure enough at the 5 mile mark I passed Tim Schroer, the race director, and he said the guys up front ran the 5 and that I was leading the 10. This was a huge boost of confidence and really reaffirmed my decision to be a little more conservative at the start.

“I had been running in no man’s land for most of the race, but once I knew I was leading the 10 mile race I was completely on my own until I started passing some of the people that were still on their first lap. It was nice to be able to kind of cruise for some of the second half of the race, but with a lot of these trail races it’s hard to really know where you stand because of all of the twists and turns.”

Brian Rogers of Loganville, Georgia, was second with a time of 1:13:41. Gormley was third overall and the first female with a time of 1:14:03. She edged Travis Presnell, the third-place male, by one second.

“The race was a great one for me, personally,” Gormley said. “I ran with the second place male for a bit in the first loop until he passed me, but I tried to keep him in sight all the way to the end. The third place male started running with me with about three miles to go. He stayed right behind me the whole time and said that I helped pull him through the finish.”

Winning an XTERRA Georgia Series race is nothing new for Gormley, who resides in Marietta, Georgia. This was her 18th victory in the last five years. She also won the Battle at Big Creek in 2009 and 2010.

Tara Gormley“The course is one of the more technical courses of the series,” she said. “There are a lot of twists and turns, roots and rocks, and I saw more than a couple people fall out there, but that’s what makes it exciting, right?”

Gormley actually had a fall in one of her previous races, and ran this race with a broken finger on her right hand. “My injuries from the trail race I ran earlier in October are much better,” she said. “My bruises on my hip and knees are almost completely gone and I feel no pain there. My broken finger on my right hand is healing well too. I have minimal swelling and it doesn’t bother me at all when running.”

(Tara Gormley pictured, courtesy Mark Robertson /www.powerbar.com)

Elizabeth Callaway from Atlanta was the second female with a time of 1:19:56, and Crissy Ivey from Pendergrass, Georgia, was third in 1:21:59.

CLICK HERE for complete results.

The Battle at Big Creek was the third of seven races in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series. The next event will be the XTERRA Little Mulberry Park Trail Run at Dacula, Georgia, on November 17. To register for a race in the series or learn more about it, please visit www.dirtyspokes.com.

About the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series
The XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In the 2012-13 season, there will be seven races available for runners, with the courses ranging in length from 5 kilometers to 42 kilometers. The top runners in every age group will receive points after each race that will count toward the overall series standings. At the conclusion of the series, each age-group champion will receive a free entry to represent Georgia at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship. Georgia is one of 13 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Pacific Northwest, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas.

Costello Transforms for Trail Run World Championship

Pennsylvania runner has dropped 47 pounds while training for event

Remember Richard Costello, the “Shave It or Save It” bearded guy from the 2010 XTERRA World Championship triathlon?

You may not recognize him now, and it’s not just because he shaved off his massive beard on Maui two years ago. Costello has lost nearly 50 pounds in the past year while training for the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.

Rich Costello and Richard BurgunderCostello, who resides in Warminster, Pennsylvania, said he weighed 247 pounds when he competed in the 2011 XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon on Maui. The excess weight took its toll, as he finished near the back of the pack for the race.

(Richard Costello, middle, and Richard Burgunder at right; courtesy Richard Burgunder / www.powerbar.com)

“Athletically, I was feeling overweight and sluggish,” said Costello, 45. “My nutrition was in the toilet. My performance in all three (swim, bike, run) suffered that day, but it was clearly an ongoing frustration with my inability to put together a decent run in these races that had bothered me the most.”

For 2012, Costello decided to focus his efforts entirely on trail running, leaving triathlons aside for the time being. He entered races in the XTERRA Pocono Trail Run Series, and also did the XTERRA Richmond Trail Run 10K. He now weighs 200 pounds, and will compete in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship for the first time. This year’s race is scheduled for December 2 at Kualoa Ranch on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

To prepare for the race, he sought coaching help from Richard Burgunder, a fellow Pennsylvanian and a longtime successful XTERRA Trail Run competitor. “His inspiration and input was and has been huge for me throughout in building my confidence,” Costello said of Burgunder.

Burgunder said he knew of Costello through XTERRA triathlon races and the LONGTRAILHEAD blog, and was surprised when Costello first called for assistance.

“I was surprised and extremely honored due to how prolific of a figure Richard is in the XTERRA and adventure sports community,” Burgunder said. “I knew who Richard was, but I had never met him personally prior to the Pocono Trail Run Series. We first met at the Mount Pocono Trail Run in early May, which was the first race of the 2012 XTERRA Pocono Trail Run Series. I was absolutely enamored by Richard and ecstatic about finally meeting the mighty beard guy!”

Costello famously shaved his beard on stage at the awards ceremony for the 2010 XTERRA World Championship as part of a fundraiser for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Burgunder said he prescribed a weekly workout schedule for Costello that mostly featured hill climbs and other training techniques on technical terrain. As an example, Costello said he would run for 15 to 20 minutes, then stop and do a set of bodyweight squats, then start running again, and repeat the process over and over.

Rich Costello Utah“I found these to not only be a great exercise in stressing all the muscles in my lower limbs, but also a great way to mimic the expected muscle fatigue I will encounter and have to overcome during the race,” Costello said.

(Richard Costello pictured, before shaving his beard and losing the weight, courtesy XTERRA Photos)

His background in triathlons also allowed him to cross-train with swim and bike sessions. Overall, he said he has been training four to five days a week for the entire year.

Still, he has no delusions of grandeur when it comes to the race. For starters, the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship will be the first 21-kilometer race of his career. All his previous running races were 11K or shorter.

“My personal goals set for the impending 21K world championship race are to simply complete the entire distance, and to feel as though I have put my best effort into accomplishing it performance wise,” Costello said. “Looking at pictures taken from previous years’ events tells me that this race will also be incredibly fun to take part in. Truthfully, I’m pretty stoked! The Kaaawa Valley venue looks absolutely amazing, beautifully challenging, and XTERRA tough for sure. I can’t wait to see and experience it all first-hand!”

There will also be the long travel from Pennsylvania to Hawaii, not to mention the drastic weather change. Temperartures were in the 50s in Pennsylvania this week, and in the 80s in Hawaii.

“Clearly I know it is going to be challenging for me, there is no disputing that,” Costello said. “The nature of the course, and the expected demands overall of which I will face, are all part of what lures me to such athletic opportunities offered. As for the heat, I say bring it on! Right now, I’d rather be sweating in Hawaii than shivering in Pennsylvania.”

Burgunder, who will also run at Kualoa Ranch on December 2, said: “I think that it’s absolutely phenomenal what Richard has done with his transformation. He’s an incredibly inspirational individual and athlete. Richard is the ideal role model and active lifestyle ambassador that everyone should look up to for motivation to better their lives. Through immense determination, persistence, and immaculate focus, Richard has shown the world how to overcome extreme adversity.”

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is open to runners of all ages and skill levels, from anywhere in the world. Online registration is available at www.xterratrailrun.com.

XTERRA TRAIL RUN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
When: Sunday, December 2, 9 a.m. start
Where: Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii
Who: Open to runners of all ages and skill levels
Courses: 21K (championship course), 10K, 5K or “Adventure Walk”
Entry fees: $60 for 21K, $45 for 10K, $35 for 5K, $30 for Adventure Walk
Registration information: www.xterratrailrun.com

Meet the World Champions, Part 1

In the coming weeks we’ll introduce you to the 2012 class of XTERRA World Champions in each division, here are a few to get started…

Lucia Colbert (55-59 Division) Cordova, Tennessee – 3:49:55

Lucia ColbertLucia Colbert was an XTERRA veteran who never tasted the big time … until this year.

Despite starting her off-road triathlon career in the 90’s and racking up six XTERRA Southeast Regional Championships through the years, Colbert had never traveled to compete in the U.S. or World Championship races.

That all changed in May when the ITU Cross Tri World Championship was hosted by XTERRA in Birmingham, Alabama.  She won that race, then in September she ventured to Utah to race in her first XTERRA Nationals – and won there.  Two weeks ago in her first shot at Maui, she won again, edging six-time World Champ Barbara Paterson by less than a minute.

“I was very fortunate. I had a lot go wrong yet was still able to hang on for the win. I wasn’t sure I was in the lead because my swim was really off but I just kept going hard.  Then, a male competitor lost control of his bike and knocked me off mine. I was cut up pretty bad but got up and kept going,” said Colbert, who is a structural integration practitioner by trade.

During the run to the finish a younger competitor passed Colbert and as she went by “she told me I had beautiful running form. That made my day, that’s the XTERRA spirit,” said Colbert.

She got to experience even more of that spirit in the med tent after her finish as the legendary Dr. John Mills (a 2005 XTERRA Warrior Award winner) – who coincidentally went to med school in Lucia’s hometown of Memphis – took care of her wounds.

“As soon as I crossed the finish line a volunteer suggested I go to medical. I was unaware of how bad my cuts were. The volunteer escorted me over, and they immediately took care of my wounds and the ER doc stitched me up and sent me on my way.  Turns out he went to medical school in my hometown – what a small world.”

Indeed, a small world and a magic island that holds a special place in Colbert’s heart.  It was almost 25 years ago that Lucia was married to her husband Bert and came to Maui for her honeymoon.

“We had a wonderful second honeymoon. I got to race XTERRA Worlds, and Bert volunteered in the transition area,” said Colbert.  “Maui has special energy.  As one of my training partners said, ‘The whales don’t come down every February from Alaska for nothing.”

Roger Kern (70-74 Division) Scotts Valley, California – 5:30:38

Roger KernRoger Kern is a semi-retired mechanical engineer who got into XTERRA with a nudge from a training buddy after he successfully completed a sprint road triathlon back in 2010.

Kern played a big part in the 2011 XTERRA Pacific Championship at Santa Cruz. Wilder Ranch is his home turf and Roger did a lot of pre-riding and working with the rangers to determine the final bike course.  The week before the race he and his buddies were grooming the bike and cutting parts of the trail run.

“Maui went well. I enjoyed going thru the challenging surf and was able to stay “on course” pretty well.  Rode the first 9 miles conservatively to save the legs but then put the hammer down and had some fun on the rest of the ride.  The run was the real test of survival. I’ll bet Tarzan didn’t have to dodge golf balls when he ran thru the jungle,” said Kern, who said he got laughed at for drinking chocolate milk with a straw during the run.

Outside of the race he enjoyed the swimming and snorkeling spots Maui is famous for, and said meeting competitors from all over the world was his favorite part of the experience.

“I met up with several guys from Alaska who told me that they ride their fat tire (4″ wide) mountain bikes in the snow all winter, and that when they hit a soft drift they practically disappear.”

Mimi Stockton (40-44 Division) Stevensville, Michigan – 3:20:41

Mimi StocktonIn her fourth year of racing XTERRA Stockton was simply sensational.  She won the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship in Alabama in May, the XTERRA Torn Shirt off-road tri in June, the XTERRA DINO Versailles tri in July, and DINO Logansport in August.  She had a perfect score en route to winning the Midwest 40-44 Regional Championship for the second time, and saved her best performance for Maui where she took on 28 other women representing seven countries and 12 states.

Her time of 3:20:41 was more than three minutes ahead of runner-up Rachael Gordon of France, and good for fifth overall amateur.

“I didn’t have a very solid swim (I think I ingested enough salt water to last me through next season!), but I felt good on the bike and then once I got to the run I felt great and in my element,” said Stockton, who ran marathons before she got into XTERRA.  “Most of the bikes were still missing when I returned to transition but I had no idea how many were in front of me during the run. All I know is that I passed several women in my age group but I didn’t know for certain I had won until I picked up the results card at the finish line.”

Stockton stays fit by chasing her three little kids all day, and teaches spinning at Maddog 5/1 Revolutionary Fitness in her spare time.   It wasn’t until a knee surgery forced her into a pool for a year that she decided to give triathlon a go.

“I did road triathlon for about four years and then realized that my true love was mountain biking, not road biking, so I made the jump to XTERRA. I couldn’t be happier.  Now I can only tolerate road biking.  It’s got nothing on mountain biking!”

Aside from getting pounded by the surf, Stockton said nothing too crazy happened to her during the race, but “afterwards I couldn’t figure out why I felt so sticky…until I got back to the room and discovered a Gu pack that had leaked all over my body.  Awesome!”

Sticky or not, Stockton said she had the time of her life in Maui.

“There is truly nothing that compares to racing in Maui.  At several points during the bike, I took a second and was just in awe of the scenery that lay before me.  I realized that I was pretty damn lucky to be able to do what I do.  Not only has XTERRA allowed me to push myself to new limits and experience lots of mud, sweat and (sometimes) tears, it has taken me to some of the most beautiful places in the world. I had such a great time in Maui. After the race we took a boat over to Lanai and I tried my hand at surfing…which admittedly was not quite an epic failure, but close.”

Elizabeth Gruber (20-24 Division) Redding, California – 3:23:04

Elizabeth GruberIn just her first year racing XTERRA Elizabeth Gruber was a perfect 4-for-4 in her division, won the Northwest Regional Championship, and the World title.

“I did a couple off-road tris, duathlons, and mountain bike races in high school, but it wasn’t until a good friend on my collegiate triathlon club at Oregon State University introduced me to XTERRA this summer that I got hooked.  What a perfect fit.”

Gruber is a full-time graduate student at Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, California, and in the midst of getting her master’s degree in prosthetics and orthotics.  She was one of five in the 20-24 division, and the lone American in the bunch.

“My race was awesome.  I was so grateful for the cooler weather because in past races I struggled a little in the heat. I was there with amazing friends and family; my whole experience was incredible.  I felt steady and strong and didn’t really think about what place I was in.  No one passed me that looked like they were in my age group, so I knew I was either ahead the whole race or somewhere behind.  I guess I was ahead!”

Indeed she was, as her winning time was nearly 20 minutes better than the runner-up Tereze Rudolfova from the Czech Republic.   She also got a little face time during the race on the live site.

“At the top up the climb on the narrow ridge section there was a camera woman filming.  When I rode by I yelled out “Lovin’ it!” and did a hang-loose sign.  At that same time my parents were watching the live feed and saw me on screen!  It was really cool for them to see me way up in the middle of the race.”

After it was all over, Gruber felt right at home in Hawaii.

“I loved my time in Maui; it’s literally paradise,” said Gruber.  “I snorkeled, saw tons of sea turtles, had fun pre-running, swimming, and riding the course, and spending time with good friends.  And I LOVED the Halloween party!!! I hit the floor hardcore for sure!”

Casey Fannin (50-54 Division) Birmingham, Alabama – 3:09:00

Casey FanninFormer Mr. XTERRA Casey Fannin finished 32 seconds ahead of Armand Surwilo from Poland to win his third XTERRA World Championship this year.  He also won the ITU Cross Tri World Title in his hometown back in May.

The victories are just part of the lure for Fannin, who got started in the sport back in 1999.

“I already loved mountain biking and really liked the triathlon thing, so I ventured over to Ruston, Louisiana to try out the XTERRA American Tour, and it was love at first race. Now 14 years later I still love XTERRA and its brand of off-road mayhem.”

Speaking of mayhem, that’s how his World Championship race started this year…

“I was not too sure about my race at Worlds last Sunday. The swim was quite pushy for me and I was well off course. I really thought I had put myself out of the mix when I was coming out of the water. I thought nobody can swim that slow and make up the time needed for a win, but once I made it to transition there were plenty of bikes still hanging at the racks, so I felt like I might be in alright position, and others must have struggled with the swim also.  Looking back, I would have to say that swim was the craziest thing this year. Big shore break, pushy current, just perfect XTERRA conditions. People were swimming into the flow of people going out and back in, it was nuts! Can’t ask for more crazy, like I said, perfect XTERRA conditions!”

In 2011, the first year World’s was held at Kapalua, Fannin was leading the race going into the run but got chased down by David Maclean and ultimately finished second.  He made sure history wouldn’t repeat itself this year.

“Last year my run was what lost the race for me, so this year I trained in the hills much more, and I feel it paid off. My run split was about 5 minutes faster this year and I feel it made the difference for the win. Not to mention I have the most loving, supportive, best fan in the world, and wife on the planet that boosted my spirits during the race, oh, and I prayed the whole race…that always helps, always!”

Outside of the race, Fannin “just kept falling more in love with my wife,” he said. “Maui is always a great place to spend time with my wife. We really connect there, and we love to swim with the marine life, especially the Honu. We had great accommodations at and I caught some sweet waves at Little Macs, it was going off the day after the race.  It was a fantastic vacation!  Maui no- ka ?oi.”