XTERRA U.: Getting Ready for the Big Test

The day before our XTERRA off-road triathlons, I attended a couple of XTERRA University clinics. Our professors were the best pros around. I had the opportunity to meet three-time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid as well as Conrad Stoltz, Seth Wealing, Jenny Smith, Candy Angle and Andrew Noble.

Here we were within a few feet of the folks I’m used to reading about in Triathlon, listening to on those Get Your Geek On and Simply Stu podcasts, or seeing on TV. Yup, I felt like a total groupie.

Under the cool shade of the Paul Mitchell tent, we had the chance to participate in very informal Q&A sessions. I wanted to ask, “Conrad, are you single?” but it came out as “So, how do you manage to control your bike in that deep sand?”

After pre-riding the course, there were places on that Temecula course that reminded me of skiing in Killington, Vermont. I can snowplow with skis, no problem. I had no idea how to control my bike in sand several inches deep. This panel of pros warned me to keep my hands off my front brake, so my front wheel wouldn’t dig in and throw me off balance.

They clearly had genuine concern for all us as they blurted out more tips:

“Don’t try any new equipment on a race day.” I cringed when I heard that one since I had new race tires on my bike, and they hadn’t arrived in time for me to test them out.

“You’ll want to keep to the right in order to let others pass you. That’s the general mountain bike racing etiquette.” Mel told us.

Jenny added, “If you need to pass someone, let them know that you’re coming up on them by calling out 'left.'”

“Otherwise, some folks might hear you coming up on them, and move the wrong way in an attempt to get out of your way,” Seth added.

They also spoke about tires and tire pressure. Most of the group rides with their tires at 28-33 psi.

“At the aid stations, when they hand you a cup, you can fold it by squeezing it with your fingers to make it easier to drink,” Conrad told us, “Just make sure you put your finger over the top hole, so you don’t get water up your nose.” Now, how did he know I was such a klutz? Did I remember that the next day, exhausted after climbing the first peaks? No. I laughed. Shoot, he warned me.

Candy and Andy, the married, XTERRA dream team who consistently place in the top three at XTERRA races around the world, conducted the swim clinic.

They informed us that there was a little bit of a current in Vail Lake. Since my experience with swimming in a lake was limited to last year’s race and wading up to my waist at Girl Scout camp, this was news to me.

In a pamphlet, they recommend using Pam spray as a lubricant for your wetsuit to make that T1 easier and faster. I was tempted to try this but then I wondered if the time saved there would be negated by days of applying Noxema on a sizzling sunburn later. (Has anyone out there tried using Pam spray before?)

Lastly, after visiting Candy and Andy’s web site, I had to ask her about one of the dry land drills pictured there. She gave me a demo of using a broomstick (or a rod), holding it with your elbows bent at a 90-degree angle to start, and then swimming. “The purpose of this drill is to get used to the feel of having your elbows higher,” she explain, “This drill helps build that muscle memory.”

Andy added that they use a series of dry land drills that they learned while in New Zealand. (Something I’m sure I’ll be Googling in the coming weeks. Anything to help my swim!)

If you happen to have an XTERRA race coming up, I highly recommend these free clinics. I’m so impressed not only by these pros’ athletic ability, but their down-to-earth, caring nature. It was just the ticket for those pre-race jitters.


Thank you for directing so many new readers to my blog this week!


It means a lot that you stopped by. I'm sorry I didn't post more this week. It's amazing how I can barely sleep before a race, and be ready for bed by dinner for three days after a race. I will post more often. I promise. Until then, if you need a fix, check out March's post, "Mental Training or Just Plain Mental."