This weekend was a celebration of dirt on two continents. The FedHealth XTERRA Grabouw Trail Run in South Africa was part of a two-day race festival that included XTERRA off-road triathlons, kids race, and 12K and 6K trail runs.
In Texas, Lonestar runners celebrated the opening of the XTERRA Texas Trail Run Series with XTERRA Pedernales, about 40 miles west of Austin.
Calitz, Van Niekerk Win XTERRA South Africa 12K
AJ Calitz and Lijan Van Niekerk ran away with the titles at Sunday’s XTERRA South Africa 12K Trail Run in Grabouw. Calitz finished the challenging course in 48:06 with runner up Mohale Mokotla a few minutes back in 51:13. Francois Burger was third in 51:35.
Van Niekerk was the women’s winner with her time of 57:14. Chantel Nienaber was behind her in 58:52 while Daneil Feldmann was third in 59:36.
Located in the Western Cape of South Africa, on top of Sir Lowry’s Pass, Grabouw is a mountain paradise for XTERRA adventurists. The course is a tough combination of rough jeep roads, winding single track, sand, and a deep-water crossing.
The day also included a 6K trail run, which Eduan Burger won in 29:17. Close behind – and second overall – was the women’s champ, Christine Schleifer, who won in 29:38.
Josh Messina was the men’s runner up in 33 minutes flat while Mitch Ferreira was third in 34:36. Linel Engelbrecht was second for the women in 37:15 while Stephanie Derr was close behind in 37:23.
View XTERRA South Africa results at results.finishtime.co.za.
Douherty, Hiebert Win XTERRA Pedernales 25K
Frank Douherty, 26, from Houston and Amy Hiebert, 40, from Cypress won the 25K at the XTERRA Texas Trail Run season opener at Pedernales Falls State Park on Saturday, February 24th.
Douherty finished the course in 1:58:57. His closest competitor was Nathan Bishop, 38, who was runner up with a time of 2:16:09. Xavier Perez, 24, was third in 2:22:51.
Hiebert finished the race in 2:36:24, about two minutes in front of runner up Cate Miller, 30, who finished in 2:38:44. Egli Shelley, 45, was third in 2:53:24.
In the 10K trail run, Jordan Winar, 33, won with a time of 44:30, while his friend and fellow XTERRA triathlete Shawn Bohrer, 36, was behind him in 45:14. Cody Sandquist, 34, was third in 48:01.
Melissa Mckinney, 33, won for the women in 53:43 with Heidi Zuber, 59, just about a minute back in 54:33. Wendy Gaertner, 56, was third in 56:47.
Race director, Joel Grimmett admitted that the finish times were deceptive because the course had to be changed at the last minute because of mud, making the 10K slightly longer and the 25K race more of a 27K. Additionally, runners had to navigate slippery, wet limestone on an already difficult course.
However, as usual, XTERRA athletes rose to the occasion and embraced the challenges.
“Having rained most of the week, I was afraid the course would be a muddy mess, but it wasn’t bad,” said Shawn Bohrer, who placed second in the 10K trail run. “The run was actually great. Jordan let me enter the single track first and I thought maybe I could set the pace and keep him behind me, but he wasn’t fooled and he passed me. I thought maybe he would bonk, and in the meantime I would give my best. But the course had a long straight stretch along a fence line, with some gradual hills that only occasionally obscured my view of Jordan increasing his lead.”
“Shawn and I both started the race at a fast six minute pace and quickly realized by mile two that it wasn’t sustainable on the wet, puddle-filled trails,” said Winar, the 10K champ. “Luckily the rain held off for the race and we only got muddy below the belt.”
Winar said he was inspired by Carter Maloy, who is only eight and was running in his first XTERRA trail run with his dad, Hunter. Carter runs with the Track Houston youth running club during cross-country and track season and enjoys hitting the trails with his dad in the off-season.
“The run was incredible,” said Hunter Maloy. “Carter and I had a great time out on the course. When we finished he said, ‘Dad, running that trail made me feel like a character in a video game!’”