The 2014 XTERRA Tennessee Series kicks off with the XTERRA Rocky Top 10km and half-marathon trail runs in Bays Mountain Park in Kingsport, TN on Saturday. It’s the first of three races in the Volunteer State, which follows with the Power to the Tower races in April and the Bays Blaze runs in August. All three events are in the Kingsport area, and feature post-race festivities that co-series director Phil Horner describes as “beer, barbecue and banjos.” To register for a race, or learn more about the XTERRA Tennessee Trail Run Series, please visit www.fleetfeetkingsport.com or www.xterratrailrun.com.
While Tennessee is just getting started the Georgia Series is already into race No. 5-of-7 in the 2013-14 season with the XTERRA Victoria Bryant 5/10K in Royston, GA on Saturday. This weekend’s challenge takes runners into the woods of Northeast GA where the entire trail is about 4-5 feet wide and the running surface is smooth with minimal rocks and roots but plenty of hills. To register for a race in the Georgia Series or to learn more visit www.dirtyspokes.com.
In SoCal the annual XTERRA Crystal Cove 6km and 15km trail runs have been postponed due to rain. The course that traverses fire roads and single track trails in the El Moro area of Crystal Cove State Park (near Newport Beach, CA) have simply taken on too much water. The rescheduled date is February 23, 2014 and runners interested can register at trailrace.com/crystalcove.html
NEW! XTERRA STEAMBOAT SNOWSHOE SERIES
As the snow falls and temps in Colorado dip into single digits this week it seems an appropriate time to introduce the inaugural XTERRA Steamboat Snowshoe Series.
Todd Gollnick and his Get Fit Family Racing team co-owned by his wife - 5x Ironman Champion, Steamboat resident and mother of three - Heather Gollnick, is kick-starting a three-race series in their hometown this winter with the first race on January 25 at Catamount Ranch & Club in Steamboat Springs. Race number two is Feb. 22 at the Steamboast Ski Touring Center and the finale is March 22nd at Mt. Werner Ski Mountain.
All three events will feature a family friendly 1km walk/run and 5 and 10-kilometer competitive races. Those taking part in the 10K races will earn points and the highest scorer in each age group division at the end of the Series will earn free entry into XTERRA’s Trail Run National Championship at Snowbasin Resort in Utah in September.
Get Fit Family Racing serves athletes of all ages and abilities, enabling them to achieve their fitness goals in a stimulating, supportive and sociable environment.
“We are focused on the family and having fun while participating in and fostering a healthy lifestyle throughout the community of Steamboat Springs,” said Gollnick.
“We’re thrilled to have the Gollnick clan join the XTERRA Tribe and help us spread the Live More lifestyle from the dirt to the snow,” said XTERRA President Janet Clark. “Their passion for sport and family is contagious, they are really fun to be around, and you can count on them to produce some great events.”
To learn more and sign-up visit www.getfitfamilyracing.com.
SMYTH, BABKINA WIN XTERRA TRAIL RUN WORLDS
Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii - Patrick Smyth found his way in the sport of trail running, and Polina Babkina found her way at Kualoa Ranch. As a result, both ran away as the new champions of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
More than 2,000 runners from 12 countries and 36 states participated in the event on an "Aloha from Hawaii" postcard-type of day at Kualoa Ranch.
Smyth, who resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the overall winner, competing the 21-kilometer championship course in 1 hour, 16 minutes, 38 seconds. It was his first appearance at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in Hawaii, and it came just two months after he burst onto the trail running scene with a victory at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in his home state of Utah.
Babkina, who is originally from Russia but now resides in Honolulu, was the first overall female, with a time of 1:37:24. It was sweet redemption for Babkina, who was leading the race last year until she took a wrong turn and eventually finished third.
SEA WARRIORS SHINE AT KUALOA RANCH
Hawaii Pacific University is a NCAA Division II school located in the middle of Downtown Honolulu. Several members of the HPU cross country team put the school on the map of the trail running world with outstanding performances at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch.
“Our season finished two weeks ago, so they had the last two weeks off before this race,” HPU head coach Jorge Medina said. “It was nice to see that the team did really well, because this is a big race with good competition.”
Among the Sea Warriors faring well in the 21K championship race:
- Leandro Santillan (pictured) placed seventh overall and second in the men’s 20-24 age division.
- Fermin Villagran placed ninth overall and third in the men’s 20-24 age division.
- Davey Cagle placed sixth in the men’s 20-24 age division.
- Assistant coach Craig Kandler placed seventh in the men’s 20-24 age division.
- Corey Jennings placed eighth in the men’s 20-24 age division.
- Jamie Neal placed fourth in the women’s 20-24 age division.
- Mary Botsford placed seventh in the women’s 20-24 division.
Another member of the team, Jorge Mendez, was the overall winner of the 10K race. Also worth noting, the overall women’s champion of the 21K championship race, Polina Babkina, is a former member of the HPU cross country team and is now a graduate student at the school.
The HPU runners also served as volunteers with the registration process for the event in the days leading up to the race.
NANAIKAPONO ELEMENTARY STUDENTS EXPERIENCE XTERRA
Perhaps the feel-good story of the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship came in the 5K race. A group of 17 students from Nanaikapono Elementary School on the island of Oahu participated in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship for the first time as part of an after-school program to lead healthier lifestyles.
Kevin Eiker and Karen Finnerty, teachers at the school in Nanakuli on the island of Oahu, incorporated running into the program at the start of the school year, and they targeted the race at Kualoa Ranch as one of their goals.
“It was probably the most amazing experience these kids have ever had in their lives,” Eiker said. “One girl won a medal for her age-group and she was practically in tears because she had never won anything before in her life. All the kids wore their XTERRA (race) shirts to school the next day and they were like the stars of the school.”
Many of the students come from under-priveleged homes in Nanakuli on the island of Oahu, so they received a grant to buy new shoes for the race. Their story was chronicled in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper during the week of the race, and it made them a recognizable group during the race.
“There were so many people who were coming up to us and saying ‘Go Nanakuli!’ ” Eiker said. “It really made the kids feel good about themselves and pushed them … they all finished the race and they are even more into running now. They keep asking when the next race is going to be.”
TEAM 2 END AIDS RUNS STRONG AGAIN
Among the 2,000 runners in this year’s field was a group of 45 from TEAM 2 END AIDS – or T2 for short – which is an endurance event training program based in Southern California.
T2 members enter races around the country in an effort to raise funds and awareness for AIDS Project Los Angeles. The 45 runners from T2 who participated in the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship raised a combined total of $173,000.
“TEAM TO END AIDS is made up of individuals and smaller groups who train together and raise funds to fight AIDS,” said Kerry Quakenbush, the Director of Endurance Events for T2. “Having diversity is always a plus, but it is truly a TEAM effort. We reach our goals as a result of the hard work and dedication of each and every one of our runners.”
Of the 45 runners on the team this year, only two had previous experience running at Kualoa Ranch. “Practically everyone was new,” Quakenbush said. “In short, they loved the entire experience, and many have already said they will be back in 2014.”
He added that the setting at Kualoa Ranch and the “Live More” spirit of the event are strong draws. “The scenery is beautiful, the run is quite challenging, and the spirit of both XTERRA and Hawaii are so inviting,” he said. “The entire XTERRA staff is friendly and hospitable, which is a great fit for T2.”
As fate would have it, Quakenbush was one of the grand prize winners of the raffle drawing at the awards ceremony, and now has even more incentive to return in 2014 - he won a two-night stay at an Outrigger Maui hotel.
STARTING THE WRONG WAY
It was an inauspicious start with a familiar finish for Keith Rieger.
For those who have seen the highlight video of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, it is evident – and curious – that one runner is heading the wrong way as the start cannon goes off. That was Rieger, who happens to be an elite runner and simply mis-timed the start of the race.
He was apologetic after the race, saying: “I felt so bad that I may have messed up the race, the TV coverage and photos.”
“I felt foolish, especially since I pride myself on a methodical pre-race routine,” he added. “I even wrote a chapter on it in my book (Optimized Runner).”
Rieger, who resides in Surprise, Arizona, said he went to get a last second drink of water before the start, and was about five meters away from the starting line when the cannon went off. He made a quick turnaround as the mass of runners headed toward him, and allowed some of the elite runners to get in front of him before he joined the rest of the pack.
“Fortunately, I did not seem to hinder anyone,” he said.
It did not hinder his own race, either, as Rieger placed 14th overall and first in the men’s 45-49 age division. It was his third consecutive age-group title at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship.
"DOUBLE" CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR YOUNG AND OLD
The list of runners who win an XTERRA Trail Run National Championship and an XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in the same year is a short and elite one. It requires winning a race in Utah in September, then winning again in Hawaii two months later.
Runners from the youngest and oldest age divisions at the 2013 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship joined the list.
Korey Shively (#15), a 13-year-old eighth-grade student from Madison, Alabama, won the male 10-14 division at Kualoa Ranch, two months after winning the same division at Snowbasin Resort, Utah. “I really don’t know which one was harder,” Shively said. “We had to run in the elevation at Utah, and this one was hot. They were both tough.”
On the other end of the spectrum, the oldest runners in the field also completed historic “doubles” in 2013.
Jesus Romero from Snellville, Georgia, captured the men’s 75-79 division in both the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship at Utah, and the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch. At 75, he was the oldest runner in the 21K field at Kualoa Ranch.
“I’m retired and my wife is retired, so when we had a chance to go to Utah, we said why not try it?” Romero said. “And then I won in Utah, and that gave me a chance to come here to Hawaii, and so we said again, why not try it?”
In the women’s 70-74 division, Amy Galbraith from Venice, California, also ended 2013 as both an XTERRA National and World Champion. This was her first world title, to go along with four national titles.
Two elite runners from Utah also completed a double XTERRA Trail Run championship in 2013. Patrick Smyth captured the men’s 25-29 title at both the XTERRA Trail Run National and World Championship events; Nathan Peters did the same in the men’s 20-24 division.
“XTERRA puts on some amazing events at some amazing locations, and obviously, Snowbasin and here in Hawaii are two of the big ones,” Peters said. “For me to do this well in my first year at both those events against this level of competition is really an honor.”
NEW ZEALAND TEEN BREAKS INTO TOP 10
Prior to 2013, no runner under the age of 20 had ever finished among the top 40 overall – let alone the top 10 – at the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. Matthew Battley from Auckland, New Zealand, changed that in a hurry.
Battley, who turned 19 in August, finished an impressive eighth place overall at the 2013 race at Kualoa Ranch.
“When I ran at the New Zealand National Championships, I saw the ad for this race and thought it looked really cool,” he said. “I knew this would be my last year in this (15-19) division, so I thought I might have a chance to take that.”
Battley, who is a college student in New Zealand, completed the 21K course in 1:29:57, which was more than 16 minutes ahead of his closest competition in the 15-19 division. Instead, he kept pace with the elite runners in the field.
“This is a fantastic course,” he said. “It’s probably less technical than what I’m used to in New Zealand, but look at this place … it’s incredible. I loved it.”
His father, Mark Battley, placed seventh in the men’s 45-49 division, and came in around 40 minutes after Matthew. “It’s been a great trip,” Mark said.
ALASKA RUNNER DEFENDS TITLE
Roger Kemppel has a unique way of training for the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship. He lives in Anchorage, Alaska, so he has spent the past few weeks running on the snow in bundles of clothing.
“It was minus-5 degrees with a little bit of snow when we left,” he said with a laugh. “The amazing thing about coming here to Hawaii is that it’s even warm here at night.”
The extreme climate change had little effect on his trail running skills, as Kemppel won the men’s 70-74 division for the second consecutive year. His time of 2:29:06 was almost 20 minutes ahead of the other runners in his division.
“It’s hard to think about how hot it is on the course when you look out and you can see the ocean and all the beautiful views,” he said.
Kemppel and three of his running buddies from Alaska made the trip to Hawaii for the second consecutive year. “We had such a great time last year, we wanted to come back,” he said.
ANOTHER WORLD CHAMP IN THE GONZALES FAMILY
Just imagine what the childhood races must have been like with the Gonzales family of Colorado. Lisa Gonzales-Gile won the women’s 55-59 division of the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, beating her competition by more than 10 minutes.
“This is my first time here, my first time doing this race, and it’s been unbelievable,” she said. “I’m a flight attendant and I’m just on a layover right now, so to be able to do this race and get a first-place medal … it’s amazing.”
Her victory came a month after her younger sister, Anne Gonzales, claimed the women’s 50-54 division of the XTERRA World Championship off-road triathlon on Maui.
“I’m not nearly as good as she is,” Lisa said. “That’s why I’m so happy with this. I’m going to call her and tell her all about it.”
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