You might expect an XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series Champ to be a serious runner. Or at least, someone who has been active all his life.
“I was never athletic in high school,” said Xavier Perez, 24, who just started running two years ago. “I was never into sports and never bothered joining anything. In college, I just went to school and hung out with my friends.”
The San Antonio IT professional said he only picked up running so he could drop a few pounds.
“Mainly, I was eating whatever I wanted in college. If it looked good, I ate it. But then I decided to get my health together. I focused on eating better and started running, just a mile or two at a time.”
Perez took charge of his health the old-fashioned way. He researched how many calories he needed to eat for someone of his height at his goal weight, and he began eating whole fruits and vegetables on a regular schedule.
“I wasn’t really hungry because I ate low calorie foods that filled me up. Lots of fruit. Now it’s easy because I have a routine. Usually in the morning, I’ll eat a small bowl of granola. I eat fish and rice for lunch and dinners are usually a lean protein and a vegetable.”
The first surprise for Perez was that he lost 60 pounds in about four months. The second surprise was how the running became a whole lot easier.
“Once I started to get in shape, running was really fun and I decided to enter a race.”
Perez’ first race XTERRA was at Pedernales in 2017. He finished fourth overall and first in his age group.
“I thought that maybe I’m actually pretty good at this and it’s not just a fluke,” said Perez. “I felt great about myself and I decided to start doing research on how to improve my speed and make my form more efficient.”
Perez takes two consecutive rest days each week to make sure his body recovers from his workouts. He still gets in between 35 and 45 miles a week with a long run, two 6-mile runs, and two days of hill repeats or speed workouts.
He remains old school in his techniques because it’s worked so well so far.
“Basically, I run as fast as I can for a good amount of time and see how long I can go,” said Perez of his workout days. “In my other runs, I focus on endurance and stamina.”
Most of his running occurs on trails and hills near his home or in local parks after work. He loves running under the Texas sun and is a diehard about the dirt.
“I’m not the biggest fan of road racing because of the pounding. The trails are beautiful, and I love just being in nature and keeping to myself. Road races are a lot bigger and more crowded, but in XTERRA, it’s just you.”
Perez also enjoys the challenges that Mother Nature doles out. “Road races are usually pretty straight. It gets boring when there’s nothing to dodge and no trees to jump over.”
Most recently, Perez finished third overall in the XTERRA Pedernales 25K, on a muddy course after a week of rain. He’s in a new age group this year (25-29), but he’s going after the XTERRA Regional Champ title yet again.
“My goal is to continue to improve and I’d love to be the regional champ again this year. I’m also going to try to see if I can win a race. We’ll just see how that goes. “
Photo courtesy of Samuel Beard