XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run is Always a Favorite

Mention the words “Oak Mountain” to any one who has ever run the course, and their eyes will light up. At almost 10,000 acres with over 50 miles of trails, Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama is one of the largest and most beautiful state parks in the country.

Held on May 21, 2017, the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run offers a 20K for long-distance runners as well as 10K and 5K races. All three courses will take place on the award-winning trails at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama. The 10K and 5K loops are separate courses, and the 20K racers run the 10K loop twice.

Last year, pro triathlete Mauricio Mendez won the men’s 20K trail run by almost four minutes. He ran a quick 1:16 after placing second in the XTERRA Oak Mountain off road triathlon just 2 days earlier. On women’s side, Rachel Harley of Birmingham won in 1:26, over two minutes ahead of second place Jennifer McGranahan, Pensacola.

“We are looking forward to another great year at XTERRA Oak Mountain,” said Trail Run Manager, Emily McIlvaine. “There are a lot of great athletes on the start list already including Andy Lee, two-time XTERRA National Trail Run Champ.”

Just outside of Birmingham, the park seems to be a world away from the city. From winding single track through the woods to flat open meadows to rocky trails that skirt lakes and waterfalls, Oak Mountain is a stunning and challenging route with superbly maintained trails.

“Oak Mountain is a beautiful course,” said Jo May, who won her age group in the 20K XTERRA Trail Run in 2016. “Even better are the people who participate. They will push you to do your best and will pick you up if you fall.”

In 2017, Competitor magazine named the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Run as one of the 19 Most Stunning Trail Races and compression+design named it the best trail run in Alabama. In 2011 Runner’s World magazine ranked Oak Mountain as one of the top 25 “Crown Jewels” of running trails across America.

All age-group winners for the 20K will receive a free entry to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii in December. XTERRA Oak Mountain will also serve as the season finale for the XTERRA Alabama Trail Run Series.

Learn more and register for the 2017 XTERRA Oak Mountain.

Olympian Liz Stephen on Trail Running

Liz Stephen has discovered a magic combination: the two-time Olympic cross country skier is also a four-time XTERRA Trail Run National Champion.

“I think trail running is what has made me a fit all-around athlete,” says Stephen. “I used to be an alpine racer, until I was 15, as well as a runner. Meshing the two has been a real benefit to my overall fitness, as well as a perfect fit with what I enjoy doing most, which is adventuring. I love being in the mountains and in the desert. Just being outside makes me happy.”

Despite the fact that both running and skiing are solitary sports, Stephen relishes being part of a close-knit group. “I believe so much in the power of a team,” she says. “In the last 10 years, our U.S. women’s team has gone from being ranked close to last in the world and consisting of only two of us, to a team of seven full time World Cup athletes. This year, we finished the season ranked fourth in the world.” Stephen adds that she hopes to make next year’s Olympic team and medal in the 4x5K relay event in Korea.

Stephen is considered to be one of the best climbers in the sport, which may be why she has so much success in XTERRA trail runs. “I don’t have specific running goals right now,” she says, acknowledging that she is at the end of her skiing season and is using the month of April to rest.  “But I’m always psyched to compete in XTERRA races if I am in town. I love the hills!”

She will resume training in May where she will follow a rigorous schedule. “On a typical training day, I wake up, eat breakfast, and then workout for two to four hours, either in endurance or intensity training,” says Stephen. “I refuel right away with lunch or a snack, because four hours later, I do it again.” Stephen complements her efforts with Pilates, yoga, massage, and physical therapy to prevent and treat injuries. “Your body performs as well as you treat it,” she says, “So I treat mine as well as I can!”

What’s remarkable about Stephen’s three-straight (and four total) XTERRA National Championship victories is that she won the races after an intense training camp with her ski team. If she can accomplish this when she is tired, what could she do on fresh legs?

“I have thought about focusing on running for a few years after I retire from my career as a skier,” says Stephen, “But we’ll see. Being a professional athlete at such an elite level is time consuming and all encompassing. Although, I would not trade my last 11 years for anything in the world!”

XTERRA Shepaug Run Raiser Trail Run Moves to April 8th

The back-to-back snow in the northeast last week proved the adage: “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb.” Because of the amount of snow on the trails, race directors of the XTERRA Shepaug Run Raiser Trail Run in Bridgewater, Connecticut have moved the race date until April 8th.

“The northeast got walloped this March,” said race director, Denise Mast of the New York Adventure Racing Association. “There’s a good two feet of snow on the trail, so we are moving the race so the sun can turn that into some really fun mud.”

All the registered entrants have already been notified, and almost everyone will be at the starting line April 8th. If runners can’t make the new date, they will have their money refunded or their fee transferred to  Wawaywanda or Steep Rock trail races.

While the XTERRA Shepaug Run Raiser is officially postponed until April 8th, an informal run will still be held on March 25th at 8:30 am on the 5K course loop. “For diehards, the 10K race will go in spirit,” added Mast. “Although I recommend snow shoes.”

The XTERRA Shepaug Run Raiser is the first race in the second annual Northeast series. The series kicks off on April 8th with the XTERRA Shepaug Run Raiser in Bridgewater, CT with 10k, 25k, 50k, and 80k courses. The same distances are offered at the XTERRA Wawayanda Trail Run on May 7th in Hewitt, NJ and the August 6th XTERRA Steep Rock Trail Run in Washington, CT. On August 14th, the XTERRA Syracuse Trail Run will conclude the series with a 10k/20k race in Syracuse, NY.

For more information, contact Austin Planz at austin@nyara.org.

9th Annual XTERRA Black Mountain 15K and 5K

XTERRA Black Mountain Trail Run will hold its 9th annual event on April 9th in San Diego, California at Black Mountain Regional Park.

“Black Mountain is a unique urban experience,” said race director Brennan Lindner. “You can run on sage covered hills and canyons on preserved land right in the middle of North County. ”

The course includes fire roads, single track, and rolling hills. “Even though the final hill is a bruiser, it’s a fast course,” adds Lindner. “And with all the rain we had this winter, the water may be a foot deep at the creek crossing for some extra fun.”

The XTERRA Black Mountain Trail Run is part of the XTERRA SoCal Series, which includes six races. Each race in the series offers a short course for beginners and sprinters, and a long course for experienced endurance runners. The short courses usually range between 5 and 10 kilometers; the long courses range from 15 to 22 kilometers and feature some of the most challenging – and scenic – trails in Southern California.

“There’s always such a great vibe at our races,” said Lindner. “We find that at every race there are tons of people that didn’t know that these parks are so close and accessible. You can get out of the chaos in just 30 minutes to serene trails and a great time.”

Learn more about the XTERRA SoCal series and register for the XTERRA Black Mountain 15K and 5K Trail Run.

Photo courtesy of Movin Shoes, San Diego

XTERRA SoCal Trailblazer Freddy Luis

Freddy Luis wasn’t always able to bang out 50-mile ultra runs. “I used to be 40 pounds heavier,” he says, “And until I signed up for my first marathon, I had never run more than four miles in my life.” 

But in 2009, his father’s battle with lung cancer inspired him to go after his dream of running a marathon. “I always thought about a marathon,” says Freddy, “But it didn’t seem very realistic. Then I saw what my dad did everyday to get through chemo, and it made me realize I could try.”

Freddy found a marathon training plan online, followed the training, but found that 15 miles into the LA Marathon in 2010, he was exhausted. “I realized that when I was training, I would stop at the red lights,” he remembers. “But in a race, there are no red lights.” What kept him going was a sign held by a spectator which read: “Remember Why You’re Doing This.”

“I kept going,” he says, “I remembered why I was out there and I just kept going.”  

Shortly after the marathon, Freddy’s friend convinced him to try the XTERRA Malibu Creek Trail Run .“The course was so beautiful. It was like I wasn’t in LA anymore. I was in another world.” At first, he just did the races for fun, but in 2013 he began training more seriously, adopting a vegan diet and his upping his training considerably to 60 miles a week.

Freddy has a good sense of direction and once he runs a trail, he doesn’t forget it. “I’ve figured out how to connect many of the trails in the Santa Monica mountains to make my own courses. I just did a 22 mile loop with 5400 feet of elevation gain.”

Freddy doesn’t just keep these trails to himself though. Through his Facebook page and blog, Freddy organizes group runs, shares information about local trails, and marks the courses he leads his fellow runners on. “I take flour in a ketchup bottle to make sure everyone sees the turns,” he says adding that flour is better for the environment than chalk.

The casting director and acting coach is starting to help others train for races and reach their goals. “Trail running changed my life,” Freddy says. “It clears my head and gives me a sense of clarity. Now that I have it, I can’t live without it, and I want to share it with everyone.” 

You can follow Freddy on Instagram @trailbroncos and on Facebook @Trailbroncos

Going the Distance – Your First 50K

Finishing a marathon or longer ultra race like the XTERRA Shepaug 80K takes serious endurance. Ultra runs are considered to be any distance beyond the marathon, and typically, held on trails. While gaining much popularity throughout the running community, ultras still remain an enigma to most.

“Do I pin my bib on my shorts? Is that even legal? Those guys look fast. Maybe I should move back. What’s that on his head? A light? Am I the only person holding a flashlight? Do I need a drop bag? That guy has a drop bag. Crew? I need a crew? Aid stations have real food? What about all these gels? Should I carry a water bottle? Hydration pack? What kind of shoes are those? Why is everybody smiling and joking around? Wait… is that toilet paper in a ziplock? Why does he have toilet paper? Toilet paper? Do I need toilet paper?”

However, while much longer than a 10K, training for an XTERRA ultra run isn’t radically different than training for a shorter race. Online training plans are becoming more prevalent and XTERRA trail runs are offered at longer distances in more places. Speed work still plays a major part in training. Maintenance runs and long runs still hold equal value. Strength training and core work remain a solid must. The biggest difference is time. A marathon plan may peak with 50-55 miles and 7-8 hours of running. A 100-mile training cycle may peak with 110 miles and 15-17 hours of running. During marathon training, most will work up to and run a 20 miler a couple of times. Any ultra distance training will cover that distance several times and a runner looking forward to 100 miler will become so comfortable with the distance that they will be thankful to see an “easy 20” on their schedule.

David Murphy, head ultra coach of PRS Fit and XTERRA’s new “Couch to Trail Program” advises athletes to keep it simple. “Find a plan or coach to get you there,” Murphy says. “Become comfortable being uncomfortable. Walk the line smartly between tired and injured. Learn how to eat real food and drink more than you think you should. Buy a headlamp. Carry toilet paper. Collect finisher medal or buckle. Brag on social media.”

Murphy adds that when you have a simple but solid training plan, you can devote your attention to mindset, which is a key element of a successful ultra. “It gets lonely on the trail,” says Murphy. “There can be stretches of solitude that last for miles. Walking becomes part of the race and is no longer something to be embarrassed about. Learning how to walk and, more importantly, when to run again is not easy but is very necessary.”  A small hill that would be easily conquered even in the late stages of a marathon become giant mountains and a welcome opportunity to walk. Effort-based training becomes your best friend as pace based training can lead you astray if relied upon as the sole factor during training runs.

“The key to mindset is knowing that you will finish before you even start,” continues Murphy. “Fear is good. Even necessary. Fear will keep you hungry and fighting. But doubt is the destroyer of dreams and will either kill your day before it starts, or prolong the agony to levels of pain you have never known. Before embarking on an ultra, you need to resolve to go the distance.”

Be Healthy, Train Smart, Have Fun

David Murphy is the Head Ultra Coach at PRS Fit. His personal accomplishments include:

5 x sub 24 100 mile finishes
MO AG State Record 50 miler
Sub 3 marathon PR
Numerous ultras and marathons
For more information on Ultra Training and Racing


Frozen Fun at XTERRA Brandywine

Despite frigid temperatures which literally froze everything from water cups to beards, the XTERRA Brandywine Creek Trail Run 12K and 5K was a true celebration of the great outdoors.

“Between the snow on the course and the cold weather, the race was a genuine adventure run,” said race director, Jefferson Nicholson. “The fact that we had a record turnout says a lot about the future of the sport and the character of our athletes.”

The men’s race was quick over the challenging course, and the excitement at the finish generated serious heat with Evan Daney, Iain Banks, and Taylor Shoulders going one, two, three in 50:15, 50:16, and 50:19. In the women’s race, Amanda Pupillo crossed the line a minute ahead of Lyndsey Fraser and Christine Reiner who both finished in 1:06.

“The times were impressive for the conditions,” said Nicholson. “We are looking forward to warmer race weather, but it’s wonderful to be part of a community that consistently shows up with such a love of nature and willingness to have fun no matter what.”

The XTERRA Brandywine Creek Trail Run 12K and 5K is the first of five trail races in the 2017 XTERRA Atlantic Trail Race Series The runners in all of XTERRA’s Trail Run Series are racing for points towards their regional championship and the complimentary entry into XTERRA Nationals that goes with it.

Photo courtesy of Chris Patterson. You can follow Chris on Instagram @chrispatterson1919

First Annual XTERRA Blackwater 21K and 6.5K Trail Run

On April 2nd, the XTERRA Blackwater Trail Run will have its inaugural start in Milton, Florida, just a day after the popular XTERRA Blackwater Off-Road Triathlon.

“For two years, we’ve had such a great turnout to the XTERRA Blackwater,” said race director Ben Dillon. “’I’m thrilled to add an XTERRA trail race to take advantage of the incredible trails here and provide something special for the runners.”

The 6.5K race consists of well-maintained and clearly-marked single track that weaves around Bear Lake. “The course is flat and fast,” says Dillon, “But it includes enough rocks, bridges, and roots to satisfy adventurous athletes.”

The 21K course includes two loops of the inner hiking trail and the outer loop of the Blackwater bicycle trail.

Having participated in over 30 XTERRA races all over the world, Ben Dillon knows how to put on a great race. He is the founder of Blackwater Multisport, the organization behind both XTERRA events. “I was drawn to XTERRA because I could train for the races the way I used to train when I was an Aviation Rescue Swimmer in the Navy.”

U.S. Navy Aviation Rescue Swimmers are one of the top emergency response teams in the world. They routinely complete rescue missions in some of the most extreme environments, including mountain rescues, missions at sea, and humanitarian efforts in remote locations during natural disasters.

“The motto of every Aviation Rescue Swimmer is ‘So Others May Live,” says Dillon. “It’s a privilege to serve at this level, and after I separated from the Navy, I wanted to keep giving back. XTERRA’s “live more” philosophy is aligned to my own beliefs, and I love to see people test their limits and succeed.”

XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race Moves To October

After careful consideration, the race directors of the XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race moved the race to October 1, 2017.

“While we are grateful for the much-needed rain that fell in Southern California this winter, it was not conducive to safe trail running. In order to preserve the race experience our runners expect as well as the beautiful Point Mugu trails, we are moving the race to the first Saturday in October, where it will kick off the 2018 XTERRA SoCal Trail Run Series,” said race director, Brennan Lindner.

Points scored for the 2017 XTERRA SoCal Series will now be based on the best 5 out of 6 races for the season.

All entries from the XTERRA Point Magu Trail Race scheduled for February 26, 2017 will be automatically transferred to the XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race on October 1, 2017. If you are unable to attend the XTERRA Point Mugu Trail Race on October 1, you will receive a credit from Generic Events enabling you to enter any of the following:

XTERRA Topanga Turkey Trot – November 23, 2017

XTERRA Crystal Cove Trail Run – December 10, 2017

XTERRA Boney Mountain Trail Run –  January 7, 2018

XTERRA Mission Gorge Trail Run – February 4, 2018

XTERRA Black Mountain Trail Run – April 8, 2018

XTERRA Malibu Creek Trail Run – May 19, 2018

XTERRA Laguna Beach Triathlon & Trail Run – October 7, 2018

Turkey Trot Los Angeles – November 23, 2017

Carrera de los Muertos Los Angeles – October 28, 2017

Carrera de los Muertos San Diego – October 29, 2017

Pasadena Triathlon & 5k – March 10, 2018

Learn more about the XTERRA SoCal Trail Run SeriesYou may transfer your registration at myevents.active.com.

Photo courtesy of XTERRA Ambassador Freddy Luis and Chris Rea.