The 2013 XTERRA Florida Trail Run Series came to a close with a familiar finish last month. Eric Koenig and Jessica Wagner capped their perfect seasons by taking top honors at the XTERRA Claw Trail Run on April 28 at Lithia, Florida.
The XTERRA Florida Trail Run Series featured three races during the season, and Koenig and Wagner were the first overall runners at each race.
"I think the key to my success in the Florida trail series has been running relatively high mileage weeks, doing long and frequent runs on local and regional trails throughout the year, training on or near the trails where the races took place, having a lot of race experience, and confidence," Koenig said.
Wagner said of her success: "I think taking each run seriously by preparing my mind and body a few days before, running as hard as I could each day and I am very competitive!"
The Claw Trail Run featured more than 370 runners at Alafia State Park in Lithia, Florida. Koenig was the first overall finisher, completing the 10-mile course in 1 hour, 12 minutes, 3 seconds.
"We had great weather for the race - it was mid-60s to low-70s, crisp and sunny," Koenig said. "The course, on the other hand, was tough! About four to five miles of the course wound off-trail. It was definitely the most challenging 10 mile race I've done."
Koenig said the course offered several steep climbs and descents, and he fell on his chest during one of the steep downhills. Adding to the challenge, he said there were several sections of the course that traversed into overgrown brush, swamp forest, and fields of tall grass.
He took the lead after the first two miles of the course, and stayed in front the rest of the way. Todd Lytle took second with a time of 1:17:14, and Zvonko Smlatic was third in 1:18:32.
Wagner was the first overall female with a time of 1:25:55. No other women were even close, as Wagner finished more than 12 minutes ahead of the other top females.
"The course was amazing, fun and not very forgiving to say the least.. what a challenge!" she said. "There was not a dull moment in the course, and it was a beautiful morning for a run in the woods."
Just like Koenig, Wagner said she fell during the race and suffered cuts and bruises on her legs. She also finished the race with blisters on her feet.
"The stream crossing at the beginning felt great at the time, cooling me down," she said. "However, having wet shoes, I developed blisters on my arches and was in severe pain from about mile 3 until the end. I contemplated quitting several times, but I just had to finish and endure the pain since I had finished so well in the last two XTERRA races."