XTERRA Couch to Trail – Scout it Out!

Next Level Endurance

By Mimi Stockton of Next Level Endurance, 5x Age Group XTERRA World Champ

XTERRA is known for their epic courses that traverse all sorts of demanding terrain. Unlike their asphalt cousins, no two off-road triathlons are the same, which makes every swim, run, and bike course unique and challenging.

Consider XTERRA Oak Mountain, with its fast and wild ride highlighted by the notorious “blood rock” section; or the tight, twisty urban rollercoaster that is XTERRA St. Louis; or the nail biting, cliff-hugging trails of XTERRA Southern Indiana; or, of course, the sugarcane singletrack, mud, log jumping, and unending climbs of the XTERRA World Championship course on Maui.

With so many differences at every turn, it’s important to ride and run (and even swim) the course routes at least once before the race.  Scout it Out!  Ideally, you can do this one or two days before the race, not the morning of!

For the swim, get a feel for the water temperature and practice sighting. Unique to XTERRA, a lot of the swims are two loops with a short run in between.  Be sure to check out the area and plan where you want to enter and exit the water.

For the bike, taking the right line down a steep descent or properly rounding a corner with soft sand can make the difference between staying upright or going down.  Also, while organizers do their very best to mark the courses in a way that is easy to follow (blue arrows for bike, red arrows for run) things still happen.  Someone could endo and take out an arrow, a cow could eat it, or a mischievous park user could toss it into the bushes or even worse, point it in the wrong direction!  Your job is to know the course, and you don’t want to train for months for a race only to show up on race day with no knowledge of the course and miss a turn.

The same can be said for the run course.  Some people think, “I don’t have to check-out the run course because there will be plenty of people to follow.”  Perhaps, but what if you come to a fork in the road with an arrow that is upside down?  It’s also important to know the course so you can pace yourself.   I’ll use the old Richmond course as an example.  All the hard stuff was in the second half of the run, including a nearly vertical wall, a long rock-hoping section and a hilly island loop.  But the beginning was flat, and it was easy to take off too quickly out of transition only to struggle over the second half.  Having this intel beforehand will make you less anxious on the day of the race. You demand a lot from your body during the race so being able to remind yourself of what lies ahead and how you will handle it allows you to keep mentally focused.

Bottom line: know the course, race to your strengths, come up with a plan, and rehearse it in your mind the day before so that you are prepared for race day.  Just the mental process of coming up with a plan allows you to go over many different scenarios that could occur during the race.  Then, if something new is thrown at you in the race, you will be much more equipped to handle it.

The XTERRA Couch to XTERRA training series is presented by SheriAnne Little and five-time XTERRA age group world champion Mimi Stockton of Next Level Endurance. Their new 12-week “Couch-to-XTERRA” training program is designed to do just that, get aspiring athletes off the couch, into training, and to the start line of an XTERRA.