22 April 2013 By Rachel’s

Tips for the Trail – Oak Mountain Trail Runs: Choosing Your Race Distance – XTERRA – 4-19-2013

By Rachel Cieslewicz

Published in XTERRA April 19, 2013

Oak Mountain State Park, May 18-19, is incredibly important if you are an XTERRA athlete!  The beautiful 50,000-acre park in Pelham, Alabama, plays host for the Southeast Championship triathlon race on May 18, followed by the XTERRA Oak Mountain Trail Runs on May 19. This event truly offers something for everyone, with a variety of distances to choose from. There are four different run distance options to be exact – 42K, 20K, 10K or 5K.  With so many choices for running, how do you choose?  This all depends on your current training and goals.  Read on for my tips to select your ideal distance!

Oak Mountain Running DuoThe 42K distance is long.  It is also known as a marathon in the roadie world!  The off-road version of course being all the more fun as you run with nature’s nuances filled with trees, hills, rocks, and muddy possibilities. If you are a seasoned trail runner and know you can run strong for at least two-thirds of the distance feeling good and happy, the long course will make for a fantastic day on the trails.

The 20K is perfect for transitioning from longer road events. It is also a fabulous distance if you are ready for more when the 10K is no longer enough. I love this distance. I can push hard and find out what I am made of. The bonus is recovery comes much faster so I can be out racing in full force again soon! The 20K race is also the classic distance for the XTERRA National and World Championships.

Racing the 42K or 20K will definitely earn you a swim in the lake post race. On top of that, a win in your age group in either the 20K or 42K events, will earn your free entry into the not-to-be-missed, XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch in Hawaii!

My top tips for going long are to wake up race day rested, while paying careful attention to fuel and hydration.  For the rest part, consider a classic taper. Two weeks out from your race, complete your final long run.  From that point forward, start cutting back mileage while keeping intensity up.  My favorite way to go into an event at the end of a taper cycle is to take two days before my race, off. Then the day before, I run easy for 40 minutes with 5X15 second wind sprints towards the last part of the run. It is a great way to settle nerves and turn my fast legs on!

As with any important event, especially when you are going after a technical and hilly-yes there are significant climbs-course, nutrition is important.  Make certain to consume quality food you know works for your body leading up to race day.  The last couple of days before your race ensure your hydration and electrolyte stores are perfectly tuned by sipping 1-3 servings of your favorite sports drink or coconut water each of the days. The amount depends on your total mineral and salt intake, potential weather conditions, and your typical sweat rate.  You can get this dialed by working with a nutritionist or practicing during long runs leading up to the race!

For calories during the race, XTERRA will have many aid stations, but if you are like me, you may want to carry race calories with you to ensure the perfect nutrition for your body. This way you can focus on running fast instead of worrying about what you need at an aid station.

The 10K and 5K options are ideal events if you are just getting your season going or coming back from an injury and working to get mileage up. Either distance is fantastic for trail runners new to the scene, or fast heroes, who think running even 30 minutes is crazy, but the significant other, or your mother, has guilt tripped you to join in the fun. Just be aware, you will leave excitedly hooked while scheming for the next trail race!

My top tips for shorter distances are to remember to enjoy the moment and race smart.  I have raced since I was in high school. The races I loved the most were the ones I smiled the most. Some I won and some I did not.  A happy heart always leads to my personal best for the day.  Fortunately XTERRA always creates 1,000 reasons to smile and laugh on race day!

Regardless of distance, always remember to start out slower than you think you need to. We generally have 30-60 seconds of anaerobic (all out effort) in us. When we use that, it takes a while to recover. If you sprint off the start line, what are you planning to do for the remaining 30-60 minutes? Start slower! Then one-third of your race in, increase your pace. For the final one-third of your race pick it up even more. Finally, when you know you are within a minute of your finish line, it is time for your sprint!  XTERRA always has a camera guy at the finish line. The reward for running a smart race is you will have a faster finishing time. You will also love your post race shot much more with a joyful finish smile!

With a trail run race date of May 19, you have plenty of time to prepare.  Enjoy the journey and be ready to “Live More,”  at one of the top 25 trail run scenes in the nation.


Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in St. George, Utah. She is a past winner of several XTERRA Trail Run events, including the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Run, and placed ninth overall in the women’s field at the 2012 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor, and is a certified running form and endurance coach. She can be reached  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her


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I will always remember waking up at the age of 12 to the pain I saw in so many while simultaneously realizing how lucky I was to feel fantastic.

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