Tips for the Trail – Lake Las Vegas Trail Runs – Xterra – 4-1-2011

By Rachel Cieslewicz

published in Xterra 4/1/2011

When we think of trail running, the vision of trees, mud, creeks and roots are most likely what comes to mind. Leave it to XTERRA to find the perfect trail run with a huge twist.

Rachel C VegasThe XTERRA Lake Las Vegas Trail Runs is proof that you don’t need trees, mud, creeks or roots to have a fabulous trail. The Lake Las Vegas race features an incredible desert setting, and it is one of my favorite races of the year. Yes, the race is a 30-minute drive away from the Las Vegas Strip. But no, this is not a theme trail with bright neon lights to lure you in. It is simply a slice of heaven. The 21-kilometer championship course starts in an oasis-like setting, then heads out to the desolate Southern Nevada desert.

Some people have described the course as “racing on the moon.” I suppose that can be true if the moon has an incredible race-start background inspired by Tuscany.  Imagine starting a race in an oasis – beautiful, perfectly-manicured landscape, water features, and Lake Las Vegas nearby. Be ready though, as the moon-like terrain takes over shortly after the start.

Be prepared for hard-packed sand, steep climbs that range from short to medium, and downhill sections that will make you want to raise your arms up and scream for joy while flying down.  For everyone racing the 10-kilometer or 5-kilometer shorter races, you will be lucky to have a bit toned down.

Here are some tips for the race.  Southern Nevada can be warm to hot in the spring.  For those like me who are coming from the cold, Vegas temperatures of 75 to 90 degrees can feel seething hot. During the week before the race, be sure to hydrate. Not just with water, make certain your electrolyte levels are high. Take in foods and beverages with good amounts of potassium, chloride, magnesium, and sodium. This way you will have adequate stores to avoid any muscle cramps. Consume good fats and proteins early in the week to make sure your body is recovered from training. Choose lower glycemic carbohydrates to give you steady energy for your race.  Too many sugars leading up to the race can give an energy spike and then crash.

For race day, again make sure you are hydrated, consume calories early in the morning that agree with your racing belly, and take with you any calories you need on the run. I find that racing with a simple gel flask in hand works great for me as I can take small amounts of calories throughout the race to keep my energy steady.  Of course XTERRA will have aid stations for water and Gatorade to help us with hydration.  Wear light colored clothing, good stable footwear, and – my personal favorite preference — at least 2 XTERRA tattoos!

At the race start, I have a rule for myself of heading out slower than I think I need to. With adrenaline rushing and the general excitement, I know that a super fast sprint at the start is going to end with a not so happy ending. Perhaps have a goal of racing progressively faster throughout your race and you will have a great event.

As for the course, XTERRA loves to surprise us with fresh courses each year, or at least twists to the year before, so while I don’t know the exact course, I do know the desert. I grew up running through the Mojave Desert very close to this race.  Yes, this desert can seem desolate, but little peaks of Lake Las Vegas, low growing plants, and skittering lizards remind us it is alive and well.

The challenging thing about the desert is while many parts of the course could be smooth, there will most likely be lots of rocky sections, big dry cracks in the soil that are perfect for catching toes, and hills that in combination with the heat may leave you drained. As always, I advocate light quick steps. Think of running tall with a lean from the ankles to stay out of your hips.  This way you can easily maneuver through any rock gardens or technical areas.  For the uphill, quick short steps combined with breath will lead you to the top in no time. On the downhill, let the knees bend to absorb shock and keep you over your center of gravity. Look ahead where you want to go. Your feet will follow.  This is key to having walking legs post race so you can enjoy the remainder of your Vegas weekend.

I am really looking forward to this race. If you’ve been on the fence about it, jump over, get to Las Vegas and enjoy the best spring race vacation ever.  XTERRA style, of course!

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 Trail Runs last year, and placed fifth at the 2010 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship in 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 atrcanyon1@gmail.com  or visit her website atwww.newageathlete.comor follow her onwww.twitter.com/newageathlete.