XTERRA Ambassador Eric Barton had an inkling he could break the course record at the XTERRA Big Elk Half Marathon Trail Run on June 10th in Elkton, Maryland.
"But the only thing that got me under that 1:26 mark was that at each water station, I focused on looking strong and just enjoying myself."
Barton finished in 1:25:56. Taylor Shoulders was second in 1:34:43 and Iain Banks was third in 1:38:19.
"This was a different race than any other," admitted Barton. "This was the first year I've been able to train specifically for this event. It's my favorite race of the year and I was honored to represent XTERRA."
Barton took the lead from the start, knowing that both Shoulders and Banks have been running strong this season."I wanted to put a gap between them from the start, but they both stayed with me for almost three miles," said Barton.
Barton admitted to starting out quickly and said he began to feel tired at the three mile mark. "That makes for a tough ten miles," he said, "But I kept remembering all of the work I put in and kept telling my legs to go faster."
Iain Banks, who suffered a stomach bug at the beginning of the week, met his goal of winning his 40-44 age group last Saturday.
"XTERRA Big Elk was an adventure!" said Banks. "Eric Barton went off in search of his fourth win in a row, and we wouldn't see him until the finish. I went out purposely slower than usual and settled into fourth behind Taylor, who has been a regular in the series."
The bulk of the elevation gains were made in the first half of the race. Shoulders pulled into second at the halfway mark, and by mile eight, Banks clawed his way into third.
Banks is training for the XTERRA Ex2 on July 9th, so he capped off his weekend by competing in a mountain bike race the next day.
In the women's race, Shannon Cebron came through in 1:59:37 and Michelle Ankenbrand was right behind her in 2:00:09. Christine Reiner was third in 2:01:55.
In the XTERRA Big Elk Marathon, XTERRA Ambassador Laura Lunardi was the women's champ in 3:56:55. Jacob Sinn was the men's champ in 3:44:09.
"This was a tough race for me this year," admitted Lunardi. "I didn't feel well and had a lot of stomach cramping, which made for a long morning on the trails."
Lunardi has won all of the XTERRA trail runs she has entered this year. Additionally, she competes in about six to eight Spartan races a year. She runs about 55-75 miles a week and fits in additional HIIT sessions and strength training.
While Lunardi runs on roads most mornings out of convenience, trails are her first love. "The XTERRA Big Elk course was great. It was a perfect mix of single track, wooded trails, and grassy meadows."
Iain Banks agrees. "XTERRA Big Elk is the best in the series. Put it on your calendar for 2018."
View the complete results at www.XTERRAAtlantic.com