09 February 2013 By Rachel’s

Tips for the Trail – Preparing for XTERRA Nationals – Xterra – 7-29-2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 7/29/2011

Late summer is an exciting time for endurance athletes.  Many of us have built a solid base of training and racing miles by this time of the year.  What it means to “fly” is a concept loved and lived, as we put our finely-tuned bodies to the test.  Locally, we know who our competition is and where our strengths and weaknesses lie. But where do we stand on a national level? The XTERRA Trail Run National Championship is the perfect opportunity to find out!

This year, the XTERRA Trail Run Nationals is being held at the Snowbasin Resort near Ogden, Utah, for the first time in the event’s history and is open to runners of all ages and skill levels. Registration is available at

With that said, there are a few things you should know about Snowbasin to make your trip a success.  Utah has a dry climate, meaning very little, if any, humidity. That is not to say it doesn’t rain!  September is an interesting month. The odds are that it will be a crisp cool morning, easing into a gorgeous warm fall day. But ¦ it could be a sweltering 90 degrees at race start. Or perhaps 30 degrees and snowing. Welcome to northern Utah!  I suggest bringing at least a set of gloves, a hat, and jacket, just in case.  Come well rested and hydrated, especially if you are coming up in elevation.

The XTERRA Trail Run Nationals are just shy of two months out, which is perfect timing for one more build up to race day.  To prepare for this race, take a snap shot of your fitness, motivation, and health.  How do you feel? What are your energy levels like? Do you have the drive to do what it takes to find your best athletic potential at nationals? If needed, take one week easy.  Then spend the next five weeks thinking quality. For many of us, mileage is already up to an adequate level. Snowbasin, Utah, is at elevation, but it is not a crazy high level.  The challenge is that is it is one of our amazing epic ski resorts that make Utah famous.  Terrain can vary, but expect some sustained steep, rocky climbs, twisty single track, and tricky rock gardens. Here are some workouts to get you ready for race day.

For speed work on the track, try doing a build-up/build-down set. Start with a 400, then a 600, 800, 1200, 800, 600, 400.  Between each interval either wait until your heart rate goes back down while actively recovering or give a set 60 seconds between each.  Shoot for a 10k pace. This will help you get used to staying strong through varying distances which is perfect for trail running dynamics.

For your hill workout, each week do longer more sustained climbs focusing on great form and staying with your breath.  Start with five intervals at a 7-12 percent grade, 2-3 minutes each. Jog or walk back down to recover before beginning the next.  Each week increase interval length by 30 seconds.  This way when you come to my town to play, you will feel right at home!

What goes up must come down. While I don’t know the course for sure, I’m willing to bet that the finish will be a fast rocky downhill sprint to glory. To avoid a nosedive across the finish line, or a post race gift of two weeks of wrecked aching quads, work on downhill running as well.

Here are some things to remember when running downhill.  First, think short quick steps. This way if you slip or slide you will already be on your way to your other foot and will not fall. Run with flow. If you stiffen your legs or fight the gravity, you will not be walking well the next day! Instead bend your knees, stay over your center of mass, and engage your core. Finally, look where you want to go. If you look straight down at your feet, you will most likely fall. Look ahead at where you want to go and allow your feet to do their thing. They know what to do.

At the end of all of that, make sure to taper a week to 10 days out from race day as you’ll want to be ready and rested for one of the best trail running experiences you will ever have.  I can’t wait. Countdown is on!

To learn more about the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, please visit

Rachel Cieslewicz is an elite runner and triathlete based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She won the women’s division of the XTERRA Lake Las Vegas and Santa Cruz half-marathons this year, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship last December at Kualoa Ranch, Hawaii. She is a talented sports massage therapist, Pilates and yoga instructor and is a certified running form 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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