Spring has sprung in the States and XTERRA athletes in the Midwest Region are ready to race after a long, cold winter.
2018 XTERRA Regional Champ, Dan Ballheimer (35-39), was experiencing a particularly chilly day where the temperature hovered in the single digits.
“It’s been a brutal winter,” he admitted. “Not just cold but freezing cold and really wet and the trails are in bad shape. I’ve been spending a lot of time inside on the trainer.”
Luckily, the seasons change quickly in the Midwest, and by the first XTERRA race of 2019 – XTERRA Illinois Wilds on June 9th – spring will likely be in its glory. With six XTERRAs on the schedule, the XTERRA Midwest Region has plenty to choose from, with races from Chicago to St. Louis.
The Midwest Region is one of the largest geographical areas, and yet, like all regions, the athletes are a tightly-knit bunch and often take advantage of the amazing state park race locations to camp, cook out, and enjoy some fantastic company.
Illinois Wilds is truly a wild event held in Wildlife Prairie Park. During the race, athletes will see wolves, bison, elk, and bears. Located just outside Peoria, the 1800 acre zoological park gives native species plenty of room to roam. Luckily, the bison aren’t allowed on the trails, which include a hearty mix of single and doubletrack. The race includes an 800-meter open water swim, a 15-mile mountain bike ride, and a four-mile run through Wildlife Prairie Park.
XTERRA athlete Brandon Wyant just registered for the race and plans on racing at XTERRA DINO North and XTERRA Ionia as well. DINO North in 2017 was Wyant’s first race ever, and this year, he’s gunning for an XTERRA Regional Champ title.
“I wish XTERRA Illinois Wilds were sooner, but I’m excited the season is almost here,” said Wyant. “This winter I’ve been focusing on structure and increasing my swimming and running volume and speed. I’ve also been spending time on strength training. I am trying to run and ride outside as much as I can, but have found myself on Zwift or the treadmill more than I would like because of the weather.”
As in all the regions, the XTERRA Midwesterners are happy with the new points system, which uses an athlete’s top three races to determine the XTERRA Regional Champs for each age group.
“I think it’s going to make the races more competitive,” said Wyant, “And we will all be stronger and fresher on race day if we aren’t trying to do as many races as we can, which includes a lot of travel if you live in the Midwest. Training with a family and a job is already a huge task.”
Like many in the XTERRA Tribe, Wyant works more than 50 hours a week and often trains at four in the morning to fit it all in.
After the kick-off at XTERRA Illinois Wilds, XTERRA heads to North Liberty, Indiana on July 13th for XTERRA DINO North. Held in the beloved Potato Creek State Park, this is the closest XTERRA to Chicago. It has the added benefit of being ideal for beginners while the fast and flowy trails enable experienced off-roaders to test their skills under speed. The 15-mile mountain bike ride will be preceded by a fun half-mile lake swim and followed by a 7K trail run with two challenging hills.
The night before XTERRA DINO North, don’t miss the XTERRA Racing Clinic, hosted by 2018 Ms. XTERRA Kristen Wade, Al Wade, and 2018 XTERRA Regional Champ, Chrissy Halioris. All three coaches work closely with XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson and sports psychologist Simon Marshall, the founders of Braveheart Coaching. The clinic will be held on Friday, July 12th at 7pm in the XTERRA DINO North transition area.
On July 21st, XTERRA heads even further north to Ionia, Michigan for XTERRA Ionia. The sixth annual race schedule also includes a trail run and duathlon for those people in your life who do one or two sports but not all three. This year, the course will feature additional single track and will be slightly longer to include a half-mile swim, a 14-mile mountain bike ride, and a 3.4-mile run.
If you are racing in Ionia, look for five-time XTERRA Age Group World Champ, eight-time XTERRA Regional Champ, and Couch to Trail contributor Mimi Stockton, who is a longtime member of the XTERRA Midwest Tribe. An excellent coach, Stockton is always willing to provide tips for the trails.
In August, XTERRA dashes back down to Indiana for XTERRA DINO South on August 3rd, which is held in Versailles State Park, on one of Indiana’s best trail systems. The highlight of XTERRA DINO South is the spectacular mountain bike course, but the five-mile run course is also a worthy challenge. After the 1K lake swim and 13-mile bike segment, the run takes off with a steep climb in the first mile. The middle miles offer a bit of a breather, and the race ends with a raucous downhill mile into the finish chute.
As with XTERRA DINO North, the Braveheart Chicago Coaching group will be holding another XTERRA Racing Clinic at 7pm the night before the race in the transition zone.
On August 11th, XTERRA St. Louis returns to the Missouri Ozarks. Last year, the rugged mountain bike course received rave reviews for its technical challenges and breathtaking lake views. This year, the 14-mile mountain bike course will include a few more climbs and descents and the out-and-back 4.5-mile run from the beach is full of hills. Mike Barro, the XTERRA St. Louis race director, is also a successful XTERRA athlete and qualified for the XTERRA World Championship last year.
“XTERRA St. Louis is still my baby,” he said. “Last year’s response was so overwhelmingly positive that I’m more motivated than ever to make this the best off-road event in the Midwest.”
The final race of the 2019 XTERRA Midwest season will actually count towards 2020 points. XTERRA Fort Custer in Augusta, Michigan on September 29th is always a wonderful opportunity to celebrate both the end – and the beginning – of XTERRA Season with gorgeous fall colors. Because you will most likely be incredibly fit after a season of racing, XTERRA Fort Custer is a chance to invest in the following year by putting some points in the bank.
Like the athletes, we are looking forward to June and the start of the XTERRA Midwest races. Mother Nature can be particularly brutal to these XTERRA Tribe members, and we love their positive attitude and the way they always rise to whatever challenge lies before them.
The 2019 XTERRA America Tour features more than 30 races from coast-to-coast broken down into eight regions: the Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, South Central, and the West.
Find the details on how the series works and sign-up for an adventure today at xterraplanet.com.