Running 101 with World Champ Michael Fussell

A few weeks ago, we were running over ice and snow. Now, we are slogging through mud, joyfully shedding layers and looking forward to summer. After all, longer days mean longer runs.

However, as XTERRA heats up and heads south for next weekend’s races at XTERRA Victoria Bryant (Royston, GA), XTERRA Myrtle Beach (Myrtle Beach, SC), and XTERRA ATX (Austin, TX) it’s important to respect the heat and train accordingly for warmer weather and increased humidity.

To dive deeper into this subject, we caught up with the 2016 XTERRA ATX Trail Run men’s champ Michael Fussell who will be heading to the race a day early this year, not to walk the course, but rather to provide medical assistance for the XTERRA ATX off-road triathlon held the day before.

“Most difficulties in a race come from not training properly,” said Fussell, a Registered Respiratory Therapist. “Neither the course nor the body lie. If you’re training at a nine-minute pace, you shouldn’t start running at an eight-minute pace just because it’s XTERRA Worlds.”

Fussell knows firsthand what he’s talking about. The 2016 55-59 division XTERRA Trail Run World Champion started running in the 1970’s when it wasn’t just a sport but a movement. Think Bill Bowerman, Steve Prefontaine, and Joanie Benoit. He set records at Hagerstown Junior College and the University of Georgia and raced against greats Frank Shorter, Bill Rogers, and Marty Liquori. In 1980, he was a rabbit for Alberto Salazar as he tried to break Pre’s 5K American record at the Martin Luther King games in Atlanta.

Currently, Fussell works as a consultant to a medical device company that provides therapy to a failing heart, helping restore a more normal function.

He measures the success of the device the same way he measured the success of the high school runners he used to coach: by recording VO2max, which is the maximum oxygen uptake by muscles during intense activity.

“VO2max is another way of saying cardiac output,” explained Fussell. “If you bring more oxygen-rich blood to the muscles, you have less lactic acid.”

Just as diseased hearts can become healthy again, normal hearts can become fitter and better able to handle the physiological stress of an endurance event. “And the better a body is at undergoing muscular stress, the easier it is to run faster in difficult conditions like heat or altitude.”

The bad news is that increasing fitness takes as long as it takes, which is anywhere from two weeks to acclimate to heat and altitude and three months to significantly increase VO2max.

“During the first 90 days of training, intensity has very little to do with improving fitness,” said Fussell. This is because it takes a minimum of 90 days for the body’s biological systems to react and adapt to new or additional stress. “Your body won’t respond faster than it can inherently respond.”

The good news is that we don’t have to kill ourselves to get stronger.

“Start where you are,” advised Fussell. “Run or jog at a pace so that you can carry on a complete conversation – not just a few words or half a sentence. Enjoy your time running, because you won’t continue something you don’t like. Whether you are just starting to run or you are running at a hotter time of day or in a warmer climate, go easy on yourself to avoid heat exhaustion, dehydration, and injury.”

Next, Fussell suggests signing up for a trail run. “Sign up for the 5K at XTERRA Victoria Bryant or XTERRA Myrtle Beach. Start small and see where you are. Test out your fitness by kicking the tires.”

Then, ask questions. “Everyone at an XTERRA trail run is there because they like trail running and healthy living. It’s a wonderful community and most runners want to share what they know and what they’ve learned.”

Fussell adds that most runners are happy to help you find trail shoes, locate running groups in your area, and share training tips.

Finally, Fussell recommends that runners sign up for an XTERRA regional series. “Most of the same people come to the races in a series and you’ll have a whole new set of friends. When you’re at that stage, fitness isn’t work but a lifestyle and something you will look forward to every day.”

Find an XTERRA race near you at

Going Long

Tips for the Trail – Going Long

Going Long.  The topic of the day, thus the focus for this week’s tip of the week. 


Unlike short distances like 5 or 10K runs, you don’t always get to run the actual race distance during training. It is more important to train being on your feet for a longer period of time than actually doing the distance.

Do note though, that elite runners are able to train for a 50K much like they do for a regular marathon, which will include fast intervals and pace runs at a high pace. The majority of runners though, should just practice being on the trail for several hours. Long trail runs between 4-6 hours in similar terrain to what the race will be held on will be your best chance of preparing for the longer distance.

Be aware, that not all your training runs should be this long, as you increase the risk of running into over-training. There are several signs of overtraining, and it will take a long article to go into details, but one obvious one is being constantly tired and not being able to sleep well. Variation in the training when training for long distance is key, in that way you will keep your training fresh and interesting.

As you stay longer on the trail and gradually become more tired and less focused, you will also increase the likelihood of making mistakes. This includes not being aware of where you are stepping and this in turn can increase your risk of twisting your ankle or create other injuries. Being able to react quickly and switch your weight over to the other foot if you feel you are about to twist your ankle is important. Drills on hills will help you increase the strength in your ankle and your general strength.


Study the course, figure out what the surface is, and train on something similar. Study the elevation so that you don’t get surprised over a sudden hill or even a mountain, although in XTERRA it is most common that the participants do not know the course, and in that case, just be prepared for the unexpected : )


When you are running a marathon it has become a routine to use gels and fuel belts, and so should it be on a 50K trail run. During your long training runs you should start practicing what works for you.

For some people the regular gels will work totally fine, for me personally, when I ran Run to the Sun on Maui, I survived on a mix of raisins and gummy bears while one of my friends preferred to bring honey on his runs, and that worked for him. A lot of the gels contain a lot of concentrated ingredients, so it is important that you take these while also drinking water.

Most long races have aid stations with a lot of refreshments. It is important that you pace yourself while consuming all these refreshments, remember you have to get back out on the trail and continue your run. Practice during your training runs what your stomach can handle and what you can run on immediately after having eaten it.


Some races gives you the opportunity to change clothing, either if it is a loop course, or if they transport a change bag out on the course for you. If it is a muddy run, then there is nothing better than getting a pair of dry socks and new shoes on with about 10-12 miles to go. Same goes for a dry shirt if you are soaked through, although, if you are running for time or a placement, you might consider running on without any change of clothes as every minute will count towards the end if you are in a close race. Making sure that you get no blisters or chafing is one of the most important things when it comes to ultra running. The use of Vaseline, nip guards and band aids is of utmost importance.

After the Race

After you have finished your first ultra remember to celebrate yourself with a good meal. Most important, your body will need some rest after what you have put it through. Your training the following week should be minimal, but it is important that you still exercise so that you loosen up in your legs during the next couple of days. After about 10-14 days you can start thinking about some serious training again.

Good luck out there!

This XTERRA Training Tip is brought to you by Christian Friis, who has participated in every XTERRA Trail Run World Championship race since its inception in 2008 with a couple of top 10 placings to his credit. Friis got his trail skills fine-tuned on the island of Oahu, but before that, he participated in the World Cross Country Championships in 1992 for his native Denmark, and was also a NCAA Regional Champion and NCAA Championship participant for Hawaii Pacific University, where he later coached the Cross Country teams for eight years.

Tips for the Trail – Racing in Paradise

By Rachel Cieslewicz

What does it really mean to “Live More?”  For some it is facing challenges with determination and tenacity. For others, it means dreaming of adventure and doing what it takes to fulfill their greatest aspirations.  For many, it is being afraid, yet having the courage to look directly at that fear, while learning how to melt it into grace.  For myself, it equates to looking inside my heart and soul and inquiring what it seeks the most, and then doing all possible to play it out.  By choosing to “Live More,” we are led to experience how incredible life is, while celebrating how powerful and amazing we truly are.

Rachel CWhile there are many incredible experiences XTERRA provides for athletes to “Live More,” there is nothing like an opportunity to race a world championship to exemplify the mantra.   Since the inaugural XTERRA Trail Run World Championship race in 2008, XTERRA has welcomed thousands of athletes from throughout the world of all ability levels to race at Kualoa Ranch.  It is one of the few World Championships in any genre to have no qualifying factor.  This is amazing in itself.

XTERRA Trail Run Worlds are held literally in paradise.  The setting is the diverse and breathtaking scene for many movies such as, Jurassic Park, 50 first dates and the television series LOST. Yet there is a stark difference between watching the background on a screen, embracing the landscape in person. You create your own running reality as an athlete engulfed in some of the most beautiful scenery and challenging terrain, as you follow your own adventurous heart.  In tune with most of XTERRA’s trail races, a 21K half-marathon serves as the championship course, but there are also 10K and 5K races so all can enjoy one of Hawaii’s most beautiful settings.

As with any grand adventure, the rewards are many when you race with XTERRA. The feelings of tribe, friendship, and community are heralded. Athletes, friends, and family all come together to help realize dreams of visiting Hawaii, racing a World Championship, and remembering what it is to really live life.  The awesome feeling of racing with the goal of returning home a world champion also adds to the spirit of adventure. All have the opportunity in the 21K distance to race for the overall $10,000 prize purse or an age-group championship win.

In addition the XTERRA crew has their way of celebrating everyone and everything.  Children and spectators are loved and appreciated every bit as much as the athletes, as there is a free kids run and an expo area set up at the site on race day.  My personal favorite memory was at last year’s World Championship watching team X-T.R.E.M.E. sky dive to the race venue.  Eight men, two of them wounded warriors, then ran the entire hot and humid championship course wearing full gear and gas masks reminding us not only to “Live More,” but also to fulfill their mission of -leaving no man behind. The story about them is here ( ).  For me the reminder of what it means to be free, and to hold gratitude for the sacrifices others make to secure our freedom and allow us to live as we do was monumental.  These wounded veterans and those advocating for the Team X-T.R.E.M.E. cause are a shining example of courage, strength, and tenacity.  “Live More?” Yes they do.

The 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship will be held on November 24th.  There is still time to register.  The timing is perfect to make travel arrangements for the race in paradise followed by a beautiful sunny stay through the Thanksgiving holiday.  I challenge you to put yourself out there and rise to the challenge of pushing through one last training block in preparation for your own amazing race. It is a spectacular event I promise you will always be glad you raced. You will find your new edge and the next leap towards reaching your own human potential.  Living from your heart now ensures you will know forever how to “Live More” through all aspects of life.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her

Tips for the Trail – The Importance of a Mini-Break

By Rachel Cieslewicz

Many components create a successful XTERRA race season.  Consistent workouts, nutrition, equipment, and race logistics are typically on the mind.  This time of year is a great time to also look at burnout.  For most athletes, a training/racing cycle is anywhere from 12 to 24 weeks.  At the end of the cycle, a break is crucial in order to rejuvenate the mind and heal the body.  In the endurance world, the importance of taking rest, and sometimes a complete break from our sport is the last thing we want to look at.  In reality, it can save your season.

Rachel CXTERRA trail running offers many incredible events throughout the year.  The next big events on the calendar are in the latter part of September for Trail Run Nationals and then XTERRA Worlds in December.   By the time Worlds are here, it makes for a very long season.  In order to be strong and motivated for your Utah National Championship and even later yet, the XTERRA World Championship, ask yourself some questions now:

1. Am I as motivated to get up and train each day as in early season?
2. Do I feel good?
3. Do I wake up feeling rested?
4. When was the last day I took off?
5. What about injuries?
6. Do I have an appetite for healthy food?
7. Does my body continue to respond well to my workouts?
8. Do my legs have spring when I run (versus feeling like lead weights)?
9. Am I excited for my future races?
10. Do my season goals still seem attainable?

Taking a snapshot of where you are right now and making adjustments if necessary will ensure you finish your season strong and “Live More” while enjoying your trail running lifestyle.

If you feel awesome and motivated, that is fantastic. If you are right on track with the balance of training and life as you continue to build into a stronger runner week-by-week, wonderful!  Keep it up and fly strong.

But if training is becoming a chore or your body is developing nagging pains or injuries, or if you just seem off, then now is the time to correct the process.

The first step is to take a day or two off. This will not hurt your fitness. Take a little time to receive massage, practice yoga and sleep in. Your body will thank you.

A few days off training will grant the time to do a mental check and adjust training plans and goals if necessary.  Look at your nutrition and determine if you are eating enough and taking in adequate nutrients to keep up with your running.  Another great idea is to get some blood work done to rule out anemia or any endocrine problems.

If after a couple days you are still feeling tired, and blood tests, nutrition, and training have been considered, take a couple more days off. Do not be afraid to do this.  It takes almost two weeks of doing nothing to lose top end fitness.  A couple of sluggish days when returning to running is much better than to completely burn out or be forced a lot of time out due to injury.

If you are simply tired of running at the moment, then cross train. Ride bicycles, take yoga classes, or go hiking. In a short time the craving to run will return.   After your mini-break, the season will be fresh and clear, along with the desire to achieve your goals and “Live More”.  Taking time off when you need to rather than a forced timeout because you have to from injury will lead you to finish a strong, healthy and happy XTERRA season.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her


Tips for the Trail – Training Strategies To Run Your Best XTERRA Trail Races

By Rachel Cieslewicz


It is halfway through the year full of awesome 2013 racing, XTERRA style.  Ideally training, racing, and resting rhythms are a pattern of consistency creating balance, fitness, and health in your life.  As the season moves forward, your fitness may be to the point of needing shift to continue your abilities to develop and grow as a runner while finding your own ultimate running potential.

Traditionally, running is improved with an increase in mileage.  For trail running, time spent training, rather than mileage, is a better scenario to a meet your goals and avoid injury.  Other ways to gain fitness and improve running results are to focus on quality training, the number of workouts in a week, or by cross training.  Choose to focus on your goals for the season, while evaluating and advancing your current fitness. This will guide you to “Live More” and run your best XTERRA trail races ever.

To safely add mileage, it is important to remember that small incremental increases up to 10 percent a week is ideal for the road. Trail running can be an entirely different world. For instance, if you live on flatter ground with smooth running paths, an increase in mileage works. But if you stick mostly to trails with many technical aspects or a lot of elevation changes, increasing mileage can be too much.  A great idea is to keep track of how much time your running workouts generally take you, and increase that time by 10 percent weekly, out on the trails.  Remember, it is important to take 5-7 days of light training and rest after every 4-6 weeks in order to continue your path to ultimately becoming a stronger healthy athlete while decreasing risk of injury or burnout.

Perhaps the thought of an increase in training time would be great, but it already feels taxing to be where you are now.  That is something to look at. Be certain first that you don’t need a few days off to rejuvenate.

An easy solution to add in more time being out in nature is to increase each run by five or ten minutes. This may not seem like much, but over the course of a week if you ran an extra ten minutes a day over six workouts, it would add up to an hour more work than you thought you could do before.

Another thought is to continue what you are doing during each respective run and add in an additional one or two short runs a week.  My favorite is to do an interval workout in the morning while I am fresh and then in the afternoon or evening take an easy run with someone who is generally slower so I remember to relax and enjoy while clearing my legs for the next day of training.

You don’t necessarily have to increase time running to become a better runner.  The quality of running is just as, if not even more, important than time training.  This can be accomplished by running hill or speed intervals to help your body adapt to a faster pace.

Drills are another way to give your running quality and purpose. I am a huge fan of drills to improve running form. One of my favorite drills is to feel what it is to run leaning from the ankles, rather than the hips. First stand 2-3 feet from a wall and lean into it with a straight tall body and catch yourself with your hands 3-5 times.  You should feel your abs tighten as your core engages.  Next take this same drill to your run by leaning forward from your ankles in the same manner and instead of reaching hands out, step a foot out and continue into a run.  This assists in running from the core and allows gravity to propel you forward.

Finally, another way to improve fitness and save yourself from too much impact, is cross training. I split my time between running and cycling.  I am on my bicycles about as often as I run.  This form of training is helpful for me as I easily go back and forth between racing the two disciplines.  The time on my bike refreshes my mind as it is something different, gives me a great workout without the impact of a run, and allows me to train muscle groups not necessarily trained in a run to create a more balanced and less injury prone happy body.  Cross training can be as simple as a once a week bicycle ride or swim.

Learn what works best for your body and evolve from there.  The most important objective is to enjoy your training so you can “Live More” and love the process. Showing up on race day with excitement because you are fit, healthy and happy will lead to your best results ever. You will find your own ultimate running potential.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her


Tips for the Trail – Inspiration from Trail Run Worlds

By Rachel Cieslewicz

In so many people’s lives today, it can be easy to fall into a thinking mode that all is not right in the world. Fortunately, XTERRA is an icon of what is right and beautiful.  The 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship represented the culmination of another year of sacrifice, fun, community and commitment of thousands of athletes, race directors, volunteers, and family.

Rachel CAs always, the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship race was absolutely unforgettable.  It is an amazing feat that XTERRA events celebrate all who come.  All who take on the motto of “Live More” are individuals who matter and are cherished members of the XTERRA Tribe.

The Trail Run Worlds course at Kualoa Ranch is exceptionally unique.  Yes, the course is challenging — hot and humid, with gut-wrenching climbs and breathtaking descents. It is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, while at the same moment, relentlessly brutal. It is a long 21k course that challenges even the most elite of athletes. Unique to XTERRA is, yes, this is a world championship course bringing together top runners to compete for the overall and age group titles.  Yet, embraced are all, regardless of age and ability level to learn by experience what they are truly capable of.  My favorite part of the race is lining up with hundreds of athletes literally from as young as the age of 10 years old, on up.   We are all on the start line together regardless of ability. I love the opportunity to race with runners just learning, as well as some of the fastest in the world.

This year, my experience was incredibly inspiring.  As sometimes happens, 2012 has been a challenging year of personal growth for me.  The goal of racing worlds after missing last year due to an E Coli infection helped keep me focused on eating, sleeping and training properly. This healthy balance assisted me through life itself.  Despite a variety of challenges along the way, knowing I was training for Worlds for purposes greater than myself, is what made my race extra special.

I love traveling to the warmth of Hawaii, and especially experiencing the grandeur of Kualoa Ranch. The energy of this fantastic venue, in conjunction with the XTERRA community, made all of my own sacrifices to race come full circle.

My favorite things about visiting Hawaii and racing trail run worlds are many. First is about the people. I love teaching others all I know by example, writing trail running tips, as well as the opportunity to teach XTERRA University.  I love my ever growing XTERRA family and the grand reunion each big race ensures.  Many hugs and kisses are guaranteed.

I love the opportunity to swim in the ocean and run barefoot on the beach in December.  The tears that came to my eyes when watching Team X-T.R.E.M.E. run for wounded veterans, I will always remember.  The representation of the sacrifice these soldiers make for our country is very close to heart. They leave no man behind and do what it takes to protect our freedom.  I stayed at the race for hours beyond my finish time to watch them cross the line. These warriors finished over three hours behind me. They were together and strong. They ran in honor of those who could not. It left an incredibly powerful message imprinted in my heart.

And of course I love to race. I enjoy pushing my body. I love to learn what is inside my soul. With each opportunity I have to toe the line and run with a fierce joy, I bring from within myself, what only a championship race can bring out.  I enjoy the overall spirit of “Live More” with the collaboration of racers, family, friends, volunteers and TEAM Unlimited, the creators of XTERRA events.  This year I ran with my son in my heart, as he could not attend the race. I pray each day he will be returned home to me.

I am already planning for next year. For any who didn’t make it to Worlds this year, I challenge you to make the commitment to race in 2013.  It is a soul building experience that will ensure you leave with a full heart and a stronger sense of self than you came with.  You will remember for certain that there are many good amazing people and experiences with XTERRA.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her

Tips for the Trail – Tapering for Trail Run Worlds

By Rachel Cieslewicz

The 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is just over two weeks away! The most intense training in preparation for your race should be complete. Tapering for key events is important; it allows your body to be fully recovered from many miles of running, and the resulting breakdown of tissues.  When your body is given recovery from training, it builds itself back stronger than before.  When done appropriately, you will have your best race ever.  Many forget that there is more to tapering than just cutting back on mileage and intensity.

Rachel C SnowbasinIn order to achieve your ultimate form come race day, there are other key elements to rebuilding that are well worth the time commitment to your taper.  There are three in my mind that contribute the greatest to rest, recovery and feeling fantastic. They are proper sleep, complete nutrition and a positive mind.

Sleep is perhaps one of the most overlooked aspects of living a successful athletic lifestyle.  It is recommended that adults get 7-10 hours a night.  The benefits are tremendous.  Among the most important for your World Championship preparation is the fact that human growth hormone is produced while sleeping. This hormone is hugely responsible for restoring muscular, connective, and skeletal tissues.  Yes, we heal when we sleep.  In addition to body tissues being trained to a premium level, spending the next two weeks catching up on sleep will also enhance race day cognitive function, reaction times, and overall feeling fantastic! During the race, your well-slept athletic body will have the ability to push harder, as the ceiling of your perceived effort is lifted, allowing you to fly!

The ability to select quality nutrition is very important too. Endurance athletes have the tendency to choose simple carbohydrate foods. During training and racing, simple sugars such as Power Bar gels have their place. But the rest of the time complex carbs provide higher quality nutrients. Whole grains and green leafy vegetables will provide much better support for you than simple carbohydrates full of empty calories.

It is important to also pay attention to proteins. Choosing lean, quality proteins are vital for proper muscle repair.  My favorites are raw nuts, seeds and wild fish.  For runners, 1.4 to 1.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight is ideal.

An overlooked and/or often avoided nutrition component for endurance athletes is fat. Just as choosing proper carbohydrates, optimum fats are essential. Years of quality research have identified that omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in a 2:1 ratio will lead to optimum athletic performance.  It can be difficult and time consuming to figure out how to balance these. My favorite way to get these nutrients is by taking Udo’s oil  Udo’s is high quality and already in the perfect omega 3, 6 2:1 ratio and is certified organic. I do my best to consume 2-4 tablespoons of the oil a day in smoothies or on a salad. When I do this, I always start leaning out and feel amazing.  My endurance improves as does my strength and speed. I recover faster and notice I have less inflammation and sleep better.  It is one of my favorite supplements.

Tapering your body properly from training will absolutely prepare your body, mind, and spirit ready to fly come race day.  During a taper, one interesting thing that can happen is for your strong mind to start to wonder if you’ve done enough training. Are you rested enough, are you going to have a great race?  Instead of inquiring, be positive. Make the decision that you are about to have your most amazing race, and write it down.

You are ready for your best race ever. Why? You’ve spent an entire year preparing. You do all you can to be your greatest on race day, all while balancing life.  One of the best ways to keep a positive mindset is to remember that you are about to be a part of the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.  Special things happen at XTERRA events. You have the opportunity to be a part of this year’s magic. I’ll see you in Hawaii, December 2.

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her

Tips for the Trail – Training for Trail Run Worlds in a Cold Climate

By Rachel Cieslewicz

Rachel Cieslewicz, an elite runner from Salt Lake City, Utah, will be competing in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship next month for the third consecutive year. She placed fifth overall last year in the women’s division. A week after that, she placed eighth overall in the women’s division at the Honolulu Marathon.

Here, Cieslewicz offers some advice for runners currently training in cold climates who are planning to compete in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship:

Explaining you have to go to paradise to race will leave those at home cold with envy.

Ensuring your World Championship race creates the greatest memories takes some preparation.  Many of us living in colder climates will receive a huge shock leaving snow and frigid temperatures to race at the scorching hot and humid Kualoa Ranch. You will be hot and you will sweat. Even though the XTERRA Worlds is on an island, don’t think sea level. Sure, you never even reach 1,000 feet in elevation, but expect lots of climbing and crazy descents all while inhaling liquid air.

Difficult terrain with the added heat will leave your legs burning, but it will also leave a warm imprint on your heart.  It may take a week, or a month, to forget how grueling it was and to remember only the warmth in the heart part, but soon all you will think about is the aloha —  LOVE!

Even if you think you know what you need for a typical 21k race, Hawaii and its incredible island energy is going to give you a race like you never dreamed! The main factors to think about to run happy and fast in the sauna are hydration, terrain, and adaptation.

Hydration by now should be dialed for you from your race season. But especially if the weather has turned cold in your town, going from super cold to super hot will shock your body. Be certain race week to drink lots of water and take in good electrolytes. My favorite way to do this by far is young coconut water.  It truly is Mother Nature’s perfect electrolyte drink as it is filled with fabulous amounts of potassium, natural sodium, and other electrolytes.  If you don’t like the idea of natural, then definitely find your way of taking in electrolytes pre-race as it will bring you to the start line hydrated. All you will have to think about is topping it off as you fly through the valleys and pray to the Hawaiian Gods for mercy on the climbs.

The terrain is truly unique in Hawaii. In its own Hawaiian way, the 21k course is one of the most epic you may ever experience.  Sometimes you will feel miles from any ocean as you run up barren passes. In addition, all in one race you will be treated to cow pastures (watch out for fresh pies!), slippery single track, crazy rock gardens, wicked climbs, and familiar sights of famous movie sets.  At home, practice courses with as much variety in terrain as possible. Also challenge yourself to running hard hills in the beginning, keeping a high tempo for the mid part, and then pushing hills once again near the finish. This will help you replicate some of the challenges you’ll face.

I have a secret for living in the cold and adapting to heat.  I practice yoga. Typically my favorite is Ashtanga. But for the past few years I have raced in Hawaii, I’ve traded in my classical style yoga for Bikram two to four times a week for the two months leading to the race.  Bikram and other forms of hot yoga equate to the perfect recipe for an athlete preparing to race their best in Hawaii.  The whole session is done in a room set at 100 degrees with 100 percent humidity. It is rigorous, forces you to learn to breathe properly while exerting copious amounts of energy, and it lasts 90 minutes which is long enough to help your body adapt to working hard in extreme hot conditions.  Plus you get the added benefits of a great detox, no appetite for Thanksgiving pleasures, and increased flexibility.

While preparing to go race in paradise, it is also important to consider travel and time zone changes.  A general rule of thumb is to show up to the race 1 day per time zone early. I live four hours different from Hawaii. My plan is to show up three to four days early so I can adjust and catch up on my sleep in order to feel refreshed come race day.  Complete your travel plans now as Worlds are right in the mix of Thanksgiving and other holiday travel craziness. This way, all you have to do when it is time to fly is show up and chill out.