New To XTERRA? Take These Tips From A World Champ
2015 XTERRA world champion Josiah Middaugh shares his 12 tips for getting to the finish line in one piece—and with a smile on your face.
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Racing off-road triathlon can be an intimidating experience! 2015 XTERRA world champion Josiah Middaugh shares his 12 tips for getting to the finish line in one piece—and with a smile on your face.
1. Keep fighting
XTERRA can be grueling. You can get kicked in the face and lose your goggles during the swim, crash or get a flat on the bike, roll your ankle or maybe even slip and crash into a log at full speed on the run. Despite all of this, you can still do well and possibly even reach your goal for the race. At the XTERRA World Championships last year I crashed on the bike twice and decided to take a log on with my chest in the run rather than jump over it like everyone else. That didn’t work by the way, but I did win the race. One of the most amazing things about XTERRA is that it is a battle and things rarely go as planned, but you never know what can happen if you don’t stop fighting!
2. Know the course
XTERRA is known for their epic courses that traverse all sorts of challenging terrain. No two courses are the same. Organizers do their very best to mark these courses in a way that is easy to follow so that each racer can focus on the race, but things happen. Someone may do an endo and take out an arrow, or an arrow or course tape may simply fall down despite an organizer’s best efforts. Your job is to know the course. Don’t train for months for a race and then show up on race day with no knowledge of the course and miss a turn. You will either end up disqualified or add a bunch of extra mileage and blow any chance of a good result.
3. Buy new goggles
I can’t believe how many people tell me they were swimming great, but their goggles fogged up and they couldn’t see where they were going. You are riding a $2,000-plus mountain bike. Spend $15 dollars so that you can see where you’re going in the swim!
4. Plan and scrap, but don’t panic
Know the course, race to your strengths, come up with a plan and rehearse it in your mind so that you are prepared for race day, but be ready to scrap it if things don’t go as planned. Just the process of coming up with your plan allows you to go over many different scenarios that could occur during the race. When something new is thrown at you in the race you will be much more equipped to handle it. Keep the pressure on but whatever you do, don’t panic!
5. Let ‘em by, but don’t let ‘em go
Everyone in an XTERRA is out there to perform their very best. If someone comes up behind you on the bike or run, let them go by. Obviously they are going faster than you and may be stronger or just know the course better. Think of it as an opportunity to actually move up yourself. Let them go by and see if you can stick with them. Perhaps they know the course and following them will actually allow you to move up.
6. Practice your race
Practice your race in training with as close to race conditions as possible. This includes gear! Everyone knows not to try anything new on race day, and if not, now you do! But what we often forget is to also make sure our race gear is ready to go. Try on your wetsuit, throw your race wheels on for a ride, wear your race shoes without socks, break out that new speed suit, and adjust your new goggles before race morning. If you build it into your training, it will happen. If not, you’ll probably have some sort of unwelcome surprise race morning.
RELATED VIDEO: Josiah Middaugh Gets First XTERRA World Title
7. Fuel early and often
You just finished wailing the water as hard as you could for 20-plus minutes in the swim and for some reason you are surprised your legs don’t seem to work right on the bike. Use this time to start fueling for the rest of your race. Do not get half way through the bike and decide it’s time to start fueling only to find your water bottle ejected during that last rocky section leaving you without hydration or nutrition for the entire swim and bike. Remember you want to take in 200-300 calories per hour. The bike is the easiest place to ensure this happens.
8. Anti-chafe lotion is your friend
If you’re familiar with triathlon, you know that you’ll more than likely end up a couple of spots where things just rubbed the wrong way. It may have been your neck from your wetsuit, heel or toes during the run, saddle sores on the bike, your armpits from your tri jersey, or maybe some super odd place you never would have thought could chafe. There’s nothing worse than having to take an extra rest day or two because you can’t sit on your bike or put your shoes on from chafing. Body glide and other anti-chafe lotions aren’t the key to a great race, but boy does it help, and it might just allow you to walk a little more normal to the post party and maybe even throw down a dance move or two.
9. Transitions are not a picnic
Get in and get out! This does not mean that you race through the transition area so fast you forget your helmet or race belt. You need to practice your transitions and be as efficient and fast as possible. You should know what you need from transition and have it laid out the same way every time so that it becomes automatic and you’re not scrambling to find items. Get rid of anything you do not need. It should not look like a convenience store shelf that you stand in front of reading labels trying to figure out what looks best for the next leg. They are actually free speed. Use it!
10. Stay focused
How many of you have ridden the most technical part of a mountain bike course completely clean only to trip over a rock or root that was in plain view during the run, or been in contact with a group in the swim or bike only to lose them at the very end costing you valuable seconds or even minutes? You lost focus. When you come up with your race plan and preview the course also think about what it will take to stay focused. Everyone is different, but you need to figure out when you often lose time and focus and build in reminders for yourself.
11. Stay calm and swim On
The swim is usually the leg where triathletes tend to panic. Come up with a strategy for your swim and practice it in open water with others whenever possible. If you are a slower swimmer do not start on the front line. Instead start back and on the outside to avoid the masses at the first buoy. Remember, just because the cannon goes off, that doesn’t mean you have to dive in and swim as hard as you can. Stop and breathe for three to five seconds and then dive in. Athletes often get so caught up in the moment that they sprint the first 200 of the swim as hard as they can, forget to breathe and swim the next 400 in panic mode trying to calm themselves down. If this is you, go out hard, but back it off quickly and concentrate on your breathing. If you do feel panic coming on, focus on getting a good breath and blowing bubbles at a steady rate. Don’t stop swimming because you will only get run over by everyone else behind you making your panic worse. Stay calm and swim on. Hopping in small local triathlons can be a good place to get some practice if you do not have a group to swim with.
12. Warm up
You need to warm up well for every XTERRA. The more you don’t feel like it, the more you probably need it. Many do all three disciplines for short durations in reverse order, some bike and then swim, others run and then swim and then there are those that do nothing but swing their arms. Get your heart elevated with a few minutes easy and a few short intervals in whichever discipline that gets you ready to do work. At the very least swim for six to 10 minutes with a few short bursts to get you ready for the start. Don’t stand there and swing your arms and expect to have a great race.
RELATED: Making The Leap To Off-Road Triathlon
Josiah Middaugh is the reigning XTERRA World Champion. He has a master’s degree in kinesiology and has been a certified personal trainer for 15 years (NSCA-CSCS). His brother Yaro also has a master’s degree and has been an active USAT certified coach for a decade. Read past training articles at Xterraplanet.com/training/middaugh-coaching-corner and learn more about the coaching programs at Middaughcoaching.com.