XTERRA Trail Runs Extend Across America

The XTERRA Trail Run Series will truly stretch across the American continent in 2013.

Runs Across AmericaFive new regions have been added to the schedule this year, bringing the total number of XTERRA Trail Run regions to 16. The races will take place as far west as Southern California, and as far east as Delaware and Maryland.

The new additions are the XTERRA Atlantic Series (Delaware and Maryland), XTERRA Oregon Series, XTERRA Tennessee Series, XTERRA Utah Series and the XTERRA Washington Series. Each of the new series will consist of at least three races.

Kristen Thomas, director of the Atlantic Series, said of XTERRA Trail Runs reaching into that area of the country: “There is a very strong trail running scene in this region. There is a very wide range with the eastern states presenting some smoother, rolling terrain, and the terrain getting more mountainous as you reach the Appalachian Trail.”

On the other end of the continent, Oregon and Washington will join the fun, and both states are renowned for having strong running communities.

“Trail running in Portland is an enormously popular sport,” said Shane Kroth, director of the Oregon Series. “There are hundreds of miles of trails within a very short driving distance from the city.”

In keeping with XTERRA Trail Run rules, every new race on the schedule is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. Many of the races on the XTERRA schedule feature various courses to accommodate the different skill levels of runners. The Washington Series, for example, will have a 21-kilometer course and a 10-kilometer course at each of its races.

The other XTERRA Trail Run Series that are returning from last year are: Alabama, Arizona, Southern California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas.

It is worth noting that runners can enter races in different regions. A runner from North Carolina, for example, can enter races in North Carolina, South Carolina, and any other regions.

At the end of the season, all runners from all regions are eligible to enter two significant races: the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Ogden, Utah, on September 22, and the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii, on December 1.

To view the full schedule of 2013 XTERRA Trail Run events, please visitwww.xterratrailrun.com.

Schroeder, Lemon Win in The Mud at Monte Sano

Rain creates challenging conditions at XTERRA Alabama Series event

Brad Schroeder and Kylie Lemon made quite the first impression on the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series.

Schroeder and Lemon ran to impressive victories at the XTERRA Monte Sano Trail Run on Saturday, January 12, at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama.  Close to 350 runners, ranging in age from 8 to 73, braved a downpour of rain to participate in the event.

Monte Sano StartSchroeder was the overall winner, completing the 15-kilometer long course in 1 hour, 10 minutes, 35 seconds. Lemon was the top overall female, finishing in 1:26:37. It was the first time entering an XTERRA Trail Run for both runners.

“I have mostly done road races but I am slowly getting into trail races,” said Schroeder, who resides in Owens Cross Roads, Alabama. “This race was a good distance on a challenging course and looked like fun.  I don’t think I realized how much more challenging the race was going to be considering how soggy the course had gotten with the constant rain the past few days.  I was very excited about how well I did and to see how many people showed up for a race in the mud and rain.”

(Monte Sano race start pictured, courtesy Brandon Mader)

Ultimately, Schroeder left the others in the mud, as he took the lead early and stayed in front the entire course.

“After the first hill and the climb through the Stone Cuts path (about a mile and a half), the only person I heard sloshing through the mud was me,” he said. “I wanted to get in a good effort for the race so I kept pushing through the mud and attempted to pick up the pace when the path allowed.  I had no clue where anyone was behind me; it was quiet most of the run.”

Although this was Schroeder’s first XTERRA Trail Run, he is no stranger to running. He is a former track and cross country runner at Ohio Northern University, and is currently a member of the Huntsville Fleet Feet Racing Team.

Benjamin Dillon from Pensacola, Florida, placed second in 1:15:07, and Aaron Penton of Brownsboro, Alabama, was third in 1:15:36.

Kylie Lemon and Brad SchroederPaul Lemon placed fourth overall in 1:16:11, and he is the husband of the female winner. Kylie Lemon came in 15th overall – 15 minutes behind her husband, and more than five minutes ahead of the other females.

(Kylie Lemon and Brad Schroeder pictured, courtesy Brandon Mader)

“This was my first ever trail race, so it was exciting to come away with a win,” Kylie said. “This was also my first race of 2013, so it was a good way to start off the year.  In 2012 I won several local 5Ks and a 10K … as for how this race ranks, it was definitely one of the muddiest races I’ve ever run – I won’t forget it anytime soon. ”

Although it was her first XTERRA Trail Run, Kylie was already familiar with the course. She is a graduate assistant coach with the University of Alabama-Huntsville cross country and track teams, and they often train on the trails at Monte Sano.

“The course was extremely wet and muddy, which made for a more challenging run than usual,” she said. “I run the trails at Monte Sano Park often with my team, and these were the worst conditions that I’ve ever experienced on the trails.”

Kylie is a former cross country and track runner at Bowling Green State University, and is currently a member of the Huntsville Fleet Feet Racing Team.

Lauren Smith placed second, and Erin Looney was third. CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RESULTS

CLICK HERE TO SEE RACE VIDEO

The XTERRA Monte Sano Trail Run was the fifth of six races in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. The series finale will be the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Runs on May 19 at Pelham, Alabama. To learn more about the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series, please visit www.dirtyspokes.com.

About the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series

The XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In the 2012-13 season, there will be six 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 Alabama at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship. Alabama is one of 15 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Arizona, Atlantic, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

Coury, Axmann Prevail at White Tanks

Arizona Series rings in New Year with “perfect” conditions

A simple lesson learned in childhood held true for Nick Coury at the XTERRA White Tanks Trail Run last weekend: be prepared. Coury’s preparation and familiarity with the course were key factors in his overall victory on the 20-kilometer course at Waddell, Arizona.

Nick CouryClose to 350 runners participated in the race, which was completed on Sunday, January 6, at White Tank Mountain Regional Park.

Coury, 25, grew up near the park and said he often hiked on those trails as a youth member of the Boy Scouts. “I’ve been hiking them since I was a kid with the Boy Scouts and have had the chance to run them several times since,” said Coury, who currently resides in Phoenix.

Coury completed the course in 1 hour, 26 minutes, 6 seconds, and described the trails at White Tanks as “spectacular.”

“A tough climb on the way out puts you high above everything with a great view,” he said. “The work the regional park did to the Mesquite trail a couple of years ago leaves the entire route challenging yet well-maintained. The conditions were absolutely perfect, with cool enough temperatures for racing all morning.”

Coury’s experience on the trails extends far beyond his childhood. He currently works as a race director for the Aravaipa Running Club in Arizona.

Nathan Rath from Chandler, Arizona, placed second with a time of 1:27:04, and Dan Kuch from Lake Havasu City, Arizona, was third in 1:29:57.

Angi Axmann was the top overall female, finishing with a time of 1:41:01. She finished the race with blood dripping down her knee after she tripped over a rock late in the course.

She said the final four miles of the race were a struggle, as she had to stop several times because of the pain in her knee. Still, she finished more than eight minutes ahead of the other females.

Teri Twarkins placed second in 1:49:32, and Julie Allen was third in 1:54:11.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RESULTS

The XTERRA White Tanks Trail Run was the second of four races in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Arizona Trail Run Series. The next race will be the XTERRA McDowell Mountain Trail Run on February 3. To register for a race or learn more about the series, please visitwww.aztrailrace.com.

Toker and Todd Ring in New Year with Impressive Wins

Close to 500 runners hit the trails at Boney Mountain

Less than a week into the new year, Jonathan Toker and Jennifer Todd already found reason to celebrate.

Toker and Todd were the overall winners at the XTERRA Boney Mountain Trail Run, which was completed on Sunday, January 6, at Newbury Park, California. Close to 500 runners braved the rainy weather to compete in the event.

Toker finished first overall, completing the 21-kilometer course in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 23 seconds. Todd was the top female, finishing with a time of 1:52:08.

“Race day began with an unexpected downpour followed by clear skies and cool temperatures … perfect running weather,” Toker said.

Jonathan TokerToker resides in nearby Malibu, and often trains on the trails at Boney Mountain, and his familiarity with the course was a key to his victory. “These trails are my local training ground and a very familiar route, so I have a fairly good sense of pacing and what kind of terrain was still to come during the race,” he said. “Conditions on race day included some mud and cooler air temps and training on this kind of terrain in all types of conditions in the past certainly helped allow me to push through some of the tougher sections.”

(Jonathan Toker pictured, courtesywww.JonathanStewartPhotos.com)

Toker moved into the lead midway into the course, and then slowly increased the gap in the latter stages of the race. Shawn Waco of Santa Monica placed second in 1:38:33, and Eric Lahaie from Hong Kong was third in 1:39:44.

“I moved into first at about mile 7, part way up the climb,” Toker explained. “After that it was just about holding my effort at a controlled but significant level that I felt I could hold for the rest of the distance. The course has a lot of narrow singletrack and poor sight lines and so I really didn’t know how much of a lead I had, but by the time I reached mile 12, I was confident I would take the win. I really had no idea of my lead until second crossed the finish line a little while later.”

Toker is familiar with success at Boney Mountain. He also won this race in 2008, placed second in both 2006 and 2010, and third in 2009 and 2012.

Toker is the founder of a company called SaltStick, which is an electrolyte product used by athletes in various sports. He said he took two SaltStick Caps Plus during the race, and it helped push him to the win.

Todd placed 13th overall and surprised herself by taking top honors in the women’s field. Only three years ago, she was told by doctors to give up her athletic career because of a severe knee injury. She underwent surgery on the knee and it required nearly two years of recovery and rehabilitation.

Todd returned to endurance sports a year ago, mostly in triathlons. She lives in Newbury Park – “literally down the street” from the event – and wanted to test her running skills on a familiar course.

“The joy of being able to compete again is what brought me to this race,” she said. “In fact, the Boney race was my first running race over 10 miles since the surgery.  It has been a long process, and I never thought I would be able to do a race like Boney ever again.  I am truly grateful.”

Todd works as a third-grade school teacher in Calabasas, California, and said her plans for 2013 include several XTERRA events – both triathlon and trail runs.

Anissa Faulkner of Ojai, California, placed second in 1:54:15, and Tara Kulikov from San Luis Obispo, California, was third in 1:57:31.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RESULTS

The XTERRA Boney Mountain Trail Run was the fourth of seven races in the 2012-13 XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series. The next race in the series will be the XTERRA Mission Gorge Trail Run on February 3. Please visit www.trailrace.com to register or learn more about the series.

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 15 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Atlantic, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

Serwan and Vaughn Run Away to Wins at Coldwater Mountain

The final race of the 2012 calendar year was a merry one for runners in the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series.

The XTERRA Coldwater Mountain Trail Run featured a capacity field of more than 200 runners, and the final podium featured a pair of first-time winners – Chris Serwan and Kristina Vaughn. It was completed on December 15 at Anniston, Alabama.

Serwan was the overall winner, completing the 15-kilometer course in 1 hour, 8 minutes, 23 seconds. Vaughn placed eighth overall and was the first female in 1:14:09.

“This was my first time to win a race overall,” said Serwan, who is 23 and resides in Auburn, Alabama. “I’ve won my age group and placed in the top five overall in previous races, but this one definitely tops my list as far as best finishes.”

Serwan said he surged into the lead within the first two miles of the race, and stayed in front the rest of the way. “I didn’t know what kind of lead I had, and was worrying the whole time about how close the others were behind me,” he said. “I was a little surprised about the lead I had when I finished.”

The runner-up was a surprise himself. Korey Shively, a 12-year-old middle school student at James Clemens School in Madison, Alabama, placed an impressive second overall with a time of 1:10:45.

Dillon Hidalgo from Somerville, Alabama, was third in 1:11:01, and 49-year-old Matthew Holdbrooks from Trussville, Alabama, was fourth in 1:11:23.

In the women’s race, Vaughn entered the race with her friend, Alison Hulsey, and they ran together for the first three miles of the course. Vaughn then surged ahead, not realizing that she was the first female.

“The Coldwater Mountain race was actually my first win in a trail race,” said Vaughn, 22. “I just began competing in trail races this fall after finishing my collegiate track and cross country career this past May.”

Vaughn is a former steeplechase champion and cross country runner at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. She is now training with the Alabama Outdoors running team, and is aiming to run in her first marathon in 2013.

Her friend, Hulsey, placed second among the women with a time of 1:17:09, and Rebecca Pedrick from Alpharetta, Georgia, was third in 1:21:17.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RESULTS.

It was the first time that an XTERRA Trail Run was staged at Coldwater Mountain, and the runners seemed to like the new venue. “The trail was rolling, with one long gradual climb, but there wasn’t anything too steep,” Vaughn said. “Even though it was a bit of dreary, rainy day, the scenery was beautiful, with several incredible lookouts. I would highly recommend this trail!”
The XTERRA Coldwater Mountain Trail Run was the fourth of seven races in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series. The next race in the series will be the XTERRA Monte Sano Trail Run at Huntsville, Alabama, on January 12.

To register for a race in the Alabama Series, or to learn more about it, please visitwww.dirtyspokes.com.

About the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series
The XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In the 2012-13 season, there will be six 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 Alabama at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship. Alabama is one of 15 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Arizona, Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Oregon, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington.

XTERRA SoCal Series Wins Award

Dos Equis SoCal SeriesCompetitor Magazine has tallied the votes for its “Best of 2012″ awards, and the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series is the winner for “Best Post-Race Brunch/Party” for the Pacific West Region.

XTERRA SoCal Series director Brennan Lindner has turned the post-race festivities into an event that gives runners reason to finish the race and get to the party.

Dos Equis beer joined the SoCal Series as a sponsor in 2012, and provided free beer for runners of legal drinking age after each race. The breakfast spread usually included breakfast tacos, breakfast bagels, assorted fruits, pastries, and a Gourmet Coffee truck.

What’s more, a Kids Zone was set up at each event to provide activities for children, and a rock wall was also available for kids to climb.

“Love the post-race festivities … it’s a tradition that all of us look forward to, and the newly added beer is icing on the cake!” said Patrick Clark, winner of the last XTERRA SoCal Series race. “I also must add that we loved the kids area set up at the Malibu Creek race. It was a great addition that kept the family happy.”

XTERRA Fitness Give to Team X-T.R.E.M.E.

Team X-T.R.E.M.E.Todd Udowitch, VP of the XTERRA Fitness line of treadmills, fitness bikes, and ellipticals – was so moved by the courageous efforts of Team X-T.R.E.M.E. at this year’s XTERRA Trail Run World Championship that he donated an MB 8.5 indoor cycle to team member Ed Lychik.

Lychik, a combat engineer tasked with clearing roadside bombs in Afghanistan, lost his left leg while in combat but that has not slowed him down one bit.  To get a glimpse of his resilience watch this FOX news story about Lychik that aired in Houston, Texas.
“I’ll put the equipment to great use,” said Lychik.

“This cross training capability will help him in his training for future Team X-T.R.E.M.E. events in 2013,” said Team X-T.R.E.M.E. founder Jeremy Soles.  “I cannot think of a more deserving recipient for this offer than Spc. Lychik as I am confident he will utilize it as a resource to advance his rehabilitation in an effort to honor, empower and motivate his fellow wounded brethren.”

XTERRA Fitness is also providing major discounts to the XTERRA Tribe with their current “SAVE40″ 40% off equipment promotion happening now.  For more info, visithttp://www.xterrafitness.com/buy/tr62.html.

Tennessee Series is Underway for 2012-13 Season

College tennis player stuns women’s field with win

The XTERRA Rocky Top Trail Run proved that you don’t have to be an experienced runner to be successful at trail racing.

Zoe Hamel, a tennis player at the University of North Carolina-Asheville, was the top overall female for the 21-kilometer course. Erin Ryan, a soccer player at UNC-Asheville, placed second.

“It was my first trail race and the fact of being surrounded by a very pretty landscape made the time go by faster!” Hamel said. “It was great. The very friendly atmosphere was something I really appreciated during as well as after the race. I am a tennis player, and I really didn’t know what to expect.”

Zoe Hamel More than 200 runners gathered at Bays Mountain Park to participate in the Rocky Top Trail Run, which was completed on December 1 at Kingsport, Tennessee. It was the opening event of the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Tennessee Trail Run Series.

Hamel and Ryan are friends, and they were looking for a running event to keep help keep them in shape during the off-season for their respective sports.

(Zoe Hamel pictured, courtesy www.uncabulldogs.com)

“We were looking for a long-distance race, simply as a challenge,” Hamel said. “At first, we were looking for a marathon, but then we thought about it and decided we should probably start with a shorter distance since we don’t practice running outside of our sports.”

Hamel and Ryan ran together for the entire course, and broke away from the other women at the midway point of the course. Hamel then pulled away from Ryan in the final mile to take the win. Hamel finished with a time of 1:57:28, and Ryan came in at 1:47:53.

The top overall finishers in the men’s division were more traditional. Alex Griggs placed first overall with a time of 1:31:13. He is a freshman on the Mars Hill College cross country team, and earned all-region honors in 2012. Teammate Brady Adcock placed second with a time of 1:31:19 – just six seconds behind Griggs. Adcock and Griggs broke away from the rest of the field early in the race and stayed close throughout.

In addition to the 21K long course, there was also a 10K course. Winners of the 10K were Josh Fischer and Kathy Bronstetter.

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RESULTS.

The XTERRA Rocky Top Trail Run was the first of three races in the 2012-13 season for the XTERRA Tennessee Trail Run Series. The next race on the schedule is the XTERRA Power to the Tower Trail Run in April 2013. To register for the race or learn more about it, please visitwww.fleetfeetkingsport.com.

About the XTERRA Tennessee Trail Run Series
The XTERRA Tennessee Trail Run Series is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. In the 2012-13 season, there will be three races available for runners, with the courses ranging in length from 10 kilometers to 50 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 Tennessee at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Utah. Tennessee is one of 14 regions hosting an XTERRA Trail Run Series. The others are Alabama, Arizona, Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Pacific Northwest, Pocono, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas.

Tales from the Trails: Kualoa Ranch 2012

XTERRA Trail Run World Championship provided many storylines

The 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship has received its share of attention over the past two weeks. A photo finish that resulted in an unprecedented tie for first place between Ben Bruce and Joseph Gray has rightfully received most of that attention.

But more than 2,000 runners participated in the event at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii, on December 2, and seemingly each runner has a story to tell. Here are just some of the “Tales from the Trails” of Kualoa Ranch in 2012:

A fast foursome from Alaska

A foursome of runners from Alaska warmed up quite nicely in their first appearance at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on December 2.

Jon Lyon, Roger Kemppel, Tim Samuelson and George Haugen made the trip to Hawaii for the race from Anchorage, and they each returned home with a medal.

Roger KemppelLyon won the men’s 65-69 division, Kemppel won the men’s 70-74 division, Samuelson placed second in the men’s 65-69 division, and Haugen was third in the men’s 65-69 division. They have been friends for more than 20 years, and have been traveling to different races together for the past decade.

(Roger Kemppel pictured, courtesy www.brightroom.com)

They have done races in Hawaii prior to this year, but this was the first time they entered the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch.

“We’re not part of a club or anything like that, we’re just four guys from Anchorage, Alaska, who get together and run,” Kemppel said. “We do a bunch of things together throughout the year, and every year we pick a race that we can run together.”

Their success at Kualoa Ranch becomes more impressive when considering that they trained for it by running in the snow – in temperatures that often dipped below zero degrees – back in Alaska.

“Boy, it really was nice to run in weather like that,” he said of the 80-degree race day at Kualoa Ranch. “I ran without a shirt just because I never get to do that. It was like freedom to actually run with running shorts on, and not have to bundle up.”

However, it did help the foursome that Alaska has steep mountainsides to train on in preparation for the hills at Kualoa Ranch. “The course (at Kualoa) is beautiful, obviously,” Kemppel said. “But here in Alaska, we have some trails that are pretty severe and technical, so we were ready for anything.”

The foursome said they had so much fun on their “guys only” trip that they are looking to return and defend their medals at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. The only problem? “We were showing the pictures to our wives and now they want to come along,” Kemppel said. “So maybe we’ll have to save up more money to do it next year.”

The secret proposal

Stephanie Weigel made the trip from her hometown of Las Vegas to run in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, and she finished seventh overall among the elite women – which would seem like enough of an accomplishment to make it a memorable event for her. But it was what happened immediately after the race that made it unforgettable.

Kualoa ProposalImmediately after crossing the finish line, Weigel was instructed by the race announcers to turn around. There waiting for her on bended knee with engagement ring in hand was her boyfriend, Michael Ibasco.

“I figure this was the perfect place to propose since it was doing her favorite thing, running,” Ibasco said. “Hawaii has so much greenery, mountains and trails.”

Ibasco said he purchased the ring in Las Vegas and brought it with him on the flight to Honolulu. He carried it in his backpack everywhere they went during the Hawaii trip. “We arrived in Oahu four days before the race,” he said. “My excuse for carrying my backpack around with me practically all the time was so that if we purchased any gifts we could just put in my backpack instead of carrying it. She bought into it, but did I mention that I was stressed and couldn’t relax the whole time.”

Ibasco ran the 10K course at Kualoa Ranch, and then had event staffers help set up his secret proposal for Weigel at the finish line. Weigel said she was genuinely stunned when she saw Ibasco and the banner that read: “Stephanie, Will You Marry Me?”

“We never had that conversation,” Weigel said. “I just figured one day, but didn’t know when.”

Weigel and Ibasco have been dating for four years, and they own a training facility in Las Vegas called The Fitness Source. Weigel placed second overall at the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run back in April, and that earned her a free entry to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.

“I immediately thought it would be an amazing race to run and a lifetime experience,” she said. “Turns out I was right!”

The couple now plans to make the race at Kualoa Ranch an annual event. “No question that we are planning to do this yearly. I think we are calling ourselves the XTERRA couple.”

Another photo finish

The fantastic finish between Ben Bruce and Joseph Gray that resulted in a tie for the overall championship of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship was well-documented and captured from various camera and video angles.

But there was another close finish later in the race that decided an age-group world title that went much less noticed.

Janelle Lancaster Janelle Lancaster from Seattle made a last sprint to the finish line, and ended up passing another female runner by one second. At the time, she had no idea how it would impact the standings.

(Janelle Lancaster pictured, courtesy XTERRA Photos)

Turns out that Lancaster’s final dash gave her first place in the female 40-44 division, not to mention an impressive 10th place overall among the women. Tina-Marie Poulin from New York placed second in the age group by that one-second difference.

“I became aware of my placing after checking the postings,” Lancaster said. “I was thrilled! How exciting to come all that way and take away first place. I had passed the second place woman at the very end, not being sure at the time if she was in my age group, or having any idea of my standings.”

It was certainly a memorable first experience at Kualoa Ranch for Lancaster, who works as a CEO of two solar companies in Washington, and is also married with a 1-year-old son. “Between the killer hills, technical trails and heat, I definitely got what I signed up for,” she said. “The Ranch was gorgeous!”

Hawaii well-represented again

The home-state Hawaii runners took advantage of the tropical conditions on race day – temperatures in the 80s and high humidity – and ran away with 12 of the 26 age-group world championships.

“I love everything about being on the trails – the smell, rich air, sounds, sights, technical challenge, instant solitude; it can seem different every time,” said Honolulu’s Mark Speck, who won the men’s 40-44 division. “Further, I think Hawaii runners are used to the climate conditions found here during December, whereas many mainlanders are coming out of colder and probably drier conditions.”

Polina Babkina The age-group champions hailing from Hawaii are: Jakob DeWald (men 15-19), Willie Schefer (men 20-24), Polina Babkina (women 20-24), Natalia Kravchuk (women 25-29), Mark Speck (men 40-44), Ray Brust (men 50-54), Vicki Daniels (women 50-54), Ash Dustow (men 55-59), Edward Bugarin (men 60-64), Nancy Andrade (women 60-64), Lee Saltonstall (women 65-69) and Ed Fattoumy (physically challenged).

Saltonstall and Fattoumy are now four-time XTERRA Trail Run world champs; Speck, Bugarin and Dustow are now three-time champions.

(Polina Babkina pictured, courtesy XTERRA Photos)

Making it more impressive, several of the Hawaii runners competed in the Honolulu Marathon just one week after the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. Five of the XTERRA age-group world champions went on to complete the marathon: Babkina, Kravchuk, Speck, Bugarin and Saltonstall.

Babkina placed third overall for the women at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship and 12th overall at the Honolulu Marathon, and was the first Hawaii female at each event. She is originally from Russia, but is currently a student at Hawaii Pacific University.

Thomas Rivers Puzey placed eighth overall at the XTERRA World Championship and 12th overall at the Honolulu Marathon. He was the top Hawaii finisher at the marathon (and second Hawaii finisher at Kualoa Ranch). He resides in Laie, Oahu, and is a former runner at Brigham Young-Hawaii.

Speck often enters both the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship and the Honolulu Marathon, and said he prefers the family atmosphere at Kualoa Ranch. This year, he did the 21K, his girlfriend ran the 10K, and his son participated in the OC16 Kids Race. After the race, they joined other friends and family members for a picnic at Kualoa Beach Park.

“It is more important to me than the marathon, which feels like a less personal race, and it is on the road which is not my preference,” Speck said.

The surprised champion

Nozomi WadeNozomi Wade and her husband James registered for the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship with plans to make the trip as much about vacation time as running time. In addition to some of the usual tourist memories and souvenirs, Nozomi got to take home an age-group world championship for the female 55-59 division.

“Oh, my gosh, this was one of the highlights of my life!” Nozomi said. “I had NO idea where I placed until my name was called at the awards ceremony!”

Nozomi has been a standout in the XTERRA Georgia Trail Run Series for the past few years, but she is still a relative newcomer to competitive running. She started entering races in 2009 – when she was in her early 50s – and had no previous experience in any other competitive sports.

(Nozomi Wade pictured, courtesy James Wade)

“My friends who knew me since I was a teenager are scratching their heads!” she said. “Oh, and of course my family members are also wondering what happened to the old Nozomi! But it’s all good, because they know running makes me happy. I am living proof that it is never too late to try something new.”

James Wade is a competitive triathlete, but he was gracious enough to stay near Nozomi for the entire course so that he could take pictures and provide encouragement along the way. “He was ahead of me in the beginning, but he’d stop, wait, and take a few pictures of me as I passed him,” she said. “Then he’d run again and wait for me  for more pictures. Eventually, he stayed behind to take pictures of the scenery.”

Nozomi works as an elementary school teacher in Georgia, and when she returned to work a few days after the race, the students from the school had created a congratulatory art-work display to greet the new world champion.

“Who would have thought that a school teacher from the suburbs of Georgia would accomplish that?” Nozomi said. “I mean … I wanted to win, but I knew I was up against some tough women. It was beyond awesome!”

The fast guy from Fiji

A quick look at the overall top 10 finishers of the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship reveals some familiar names from familiar places … with one exception.

Kenichi Komatsu Coming in 10th overall was Kenichi Komatsu, and his hometown is listed as Labasa, Fiji. Yes, Fiji. He was also the first international finisher, as the top nine were Americans.

Komatsu is originally from Japan, but has been living and working in Fiji for the past two years. Because of the lack of big races in Fiji, he often travels to enter events, and this was his first try at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.

(Kenichi Komatsu pictured, courtesy XTERRA Photos)

“I was surprised to learn most of top 10 runners are road runners or track runners, and they are really fast and top runners,” he said. “I was happy to have been able to run with them. They are actually way beyond my abilities … I reckon I did my best.”

Komatsu teaches physical education to elementary school students in Fiji. Although he still considers Japan his home country, he is the first athlete to list Fiji as his hometown for an XTERRA Trail Run event.

Costello Completes Challenge

Sometimes, the runners near the back of the pack have the best tales to tell. Such is the case with Richard Costello, who completed the 21K course at Kualoa Ranch in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 44 seconds, which was good for 41st place in the men’s 45-49 division.

The fact that Costello finished the race was the real story. He trained for this race for nearly a full year, and dropped close to 50 pounds in 2012 as a result. Although he has completed several triathlons in past years, the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship 21K marked the longest run he has ever completed.

burgunder and Costello“The 21K race went overwhelmingly positive for me,” he said. “I finished, and I finished in a time frame which I had allotted myself for personal success. I felt incredibly spirited throughout my entire run, and stronger in many areas than I had expected. Once I hit the mile marker of 8 miles, it was all smooth sailing from there. Each step I ran thereafter, was a new distance accomplished towards finishing my first 21K attempt.”

Costello trained in his home state of Pennsylvania throughout 2012, and enlisted the help of XTERRA Trail Run veteran Richard Burgunder for assistance.

“His accomplishment and journey are both awe-inspiring,” Burgunder said of Costello. “Richard dug deep and embraced an incredible challenge to compete in one of the most grueling races in the world against a remarkably competitive world class field of athletes. He persevered with incredible passion and shined brightly on a day that should be never forgotten.”

(Richard Burgunder, left, and Richard Costello, right, pictured courtesy Richard Burgunder)

Costello said the toughest section of the course came at mile 10, during a steep uphill climb. “The climb at mile 10 was not to be forgotten,” he said. “It was vicious and slow-going at times, but brought about a tremendous feeling of accomplishment looking back once I reached the summit. The quads were hurting at that spot there for sure! Overall, the experience was totally amazing for me, with much new ground and territory being covered from start to finish.”

Costello said he would like to run at Kualoa Ranch again, although he has other events he would like to try in 2013. Specifically, he is targeting the Continental Tour Divide mountain bike race in June. That event will require 20 to 30 days of commitment, as it will start in Banff, Calgary, Canada, and traverse down to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Welsch sisters garner more attention

There was a reason so many cameras were following the two littlest runners on the 21K course at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.

Twelve-year-old Kaytlynn Welsch and 10-year-old Heather Welsch – sisters from Alvin, Texas – are not only young, they are fast. And the rest of the country has taken notice.

Welsch Sisters(Kaytlynn Welsch, left, and Heather Welsch pictured, courtesy XTERRA Photos)

At the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Ogden, Utah, back in September, a reporter from the New York Times traveled to the race to write a lengthy feature on the Welsch sisters.

At Kualoa Ranch, a television crew from NBC was in Hawaii to film a segment on the sisters for an upcoming episode of Rock Center With Brian Williams. The cameras followed the family around in the days leading to the race, as well as on race day.

Kaytlynn was an impressive 15th overall among all females, and first in the 10-14 age division. Her time of 2:02:34 was faster than all the boys in that age group.

Heather finished 39th overall among all females, and second to her sister in the 10-14 age division. She also made history by becoming the youngest runner ever to complete the 21K course at Kualoa Ranch.

The Welsch sisters first gained attention during the summer, when Kaytlynn placed first overall and Heather was third at a race in the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series.

Their feature on Rock Center With Brian Williams is tentatively scheduled to air on January 10.

Puerto Rico runner has inspiring race

Alberto Saldana became the first runner from Puerto Rico to compete in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, and he did it in impressive fashion. Saldana placed 13th in the stacked 35-39 age division, and finished with a time of 1:57:31.

Sara Marie Pedragon Ojeda and Alberto Saldana During the tough sections of the course, and as he approached the finish line, Saldana said he had more than enough inspiration to push him through in the form of “a little angel.”

That angel is Sara Marie Pedragon Ojeda, a 2-year-old close family friend. As Saldana was preparing to leave Puerto Rico for Hawaii, he learned that Sara Marie was diagnosed leukemia.

(Sara Marie Pedragon Ojeda and Alberto Saldana pictured, courtesy Saldana family)

“That was a terrible notice for me going to Hawaii,” he said. “But I said in my mind that I have to be strong and fight for her. That’s why I dedicated this awesome XTERRA World Championship race to her and all the little kids in the San Jorge Children’s Hospital in Puerto Rico.”

Upon returning to Puerto Rico a few days after the race, Saldana visited Sara Marie in the hospital and presented her an XTERRA Trail Run World Championship event shirt.

“She helped me get through this race, and kept me positive,” Saldana said. “Now I want to help her get through her (illness) and keep her positive.”