Tips from the Pros
By Michelle Cabalse
We smuggled a bunch of XTERRA pro athletes to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific for the first XTERRA University at Molokai Ranch, Hawaii.
Students got to run, ride and swim with the pros on the ranch's 100-plus miles of trail, soft-sand beaches and rolling surf. For three days they sharpened their skills, and ended the camp with the Molokai XTERRA Challenge. Pros and amateurs alike took on the high surf, uphill mountain bike and blazing-hot trail run.
The University gave students a rare opportunity to compete side-by-side with the likes of Michael Tobin, Kerstin Weule, Jody Mielke (Purcell), Lorraine Barrows, Pat Brown, Kerry Classen, Mike Pigg and Jenny Tobin. Students walked away with loads of valuable secrets, some of which we're passing on to you in this article. They’re simple, but based on experience, and they're easy!
Sharpen your mountain biking skills.
Learn to ride through loose rock, equalize breaks on descents and find lines in tough terrain. Practice every week. You'll save precious time on race day and get more enjoyment from the race.
Get gear happy.
Learn basic bike repair and maintenance. Your repair skills are as important as your biking, running and swimming skills. During the race, carry tools and a tire repair kit in a hydration backpack, under-seat carrier or shirt pocket.
Piggy back your bike.
Some sections of the XTERRA course are simply not rideable. Carry your bike through difficult sections. You'll never be penalized and a crash will cost you time and possibly injury. Many pros put plumber's insulation under the seat, so the metal won't dig into their shoulders.
Get on the trails and ride.
You can put hundreds of miles on your road bike's odometer, but that won't prepare you for an XTERRA ride. The terrain puts you in another realm of physical challenges that take time and experience to improve. Start with five-mile trail rides a few times a week and build up to twenty miles.
Get on the trails and run.
A common mistake new XTERRA athletes make is training for the race as if it's a triathlon. Trails are more challenging than smooth pavement. It's tough to establish a rhythm when you have to dive under low branches and leap over fallen trees. And make sure there's plenty of hills along the way!
Master swimming techniques.
Sighting a buoy through a field of 400 swimmers can be tough. Elbows and knees whirl around you, making it tough to see. Practice swimming in a pool with your head above water to sight objects outside the pool. Practice open water swims with a group to acclimate yourself to competing with other swimmers close by. Learn to run in shallow water and dolphin dive to make your land-to-water transition faster. Keep swim goggles secure during dives by tightening and then tucking straps under your cap.
Practice the XTERRA shuffle.
The XTERRA course usually includes a short sprint, about 100 yards, between the first and second swim loops. Practice the transition until your body gets used to the shift from upper-body to lower-body demand. Practice running on the beach, too since nearly every XTERRA includes a sand sprint.
Practice your transitions.
Think of transition as a sport and practice it as you would swimming, biking or running. Place your gear in the order you will use it at T1. Biking jerseys placed face-down with the torso rolled up; sun glasses placed inside your helmet; socks inside your shoes. Carefully select where you place your gear. Bikes often fall and competitors can accidentally kick your gear out of place. Also pay close attention to the order in which you dress. It's a shame to lose time on a great swim split, because you put your helmet and glasses on before your jersey.
Two other time-saving tips: baby powder in your shoes makes them easier to put on; fasten your gloves to your handlebar and put them on as you ride.
Build an XTERRA Kit.
Here are some suggestions for having a great race:
Wear shades or clear glasses to protect eyes during rides and crashes.
Put baby powder in your shoes, gloves and socks so they go on easier.
Consider using a hydration backpack and fill it with water or a sports drink. It's difficult to pull a bottle out of a cage while riding rough trail.
Store carbohydrate gels in pockets, seat packs or tape them to the top of handlebars for easy, tear-away access during the race.
Get a comfortable pair of biking gloves, chamoise shorts and a biking shirt made with breathable material. Helmets are required.
Fasten gloves to the handlebar ends and put them on as you start the ride.
Use Slime ® tubes or kevlar linings to protect tires from punctures and "snake bites."
Bring a smile… if everything goes right, you may be the first.
Michelle Cournoyer is the editor of XTERRA Beat, The TRIBE NEWS, xterraplanet and is a great athlete in her own right.
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