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Gray, Moreno Win XTERRA Trail Run World Championship

Author : Press Release
PhotoCredit : XTERRA

Dani Moreno on the finish line

Joe Gray and Dani Moreno captured the 10th annual XTERRA Trail Run World Championship at Kualoa Ranch this morning.

Gray, from Colorado Springs, Colorado, finished the grueling half-marathon course in 1:18:26, less than one-minute ahead of runner-up Sage Canaday from Boulder, Colorado. Andy Wacker - also from Boulder - was third in 1:22:20. Both Gray and Wacker completed the tough course at a sub-six minute mile pace.

In the women's race, Dani Moreno of Santa Barbara, California, won the women's race in 1:39:22, a little over a minute ahead of runner up, Giselle Slotboom of the Netherlands (currently training in Salt Lake City, Utah), who finished in 1:40:30. Teyler Adelsberger from Columbia, Missouri, was third in 1:43:46.

The women's favorite, Polina Carlson, pulled out of the race before the second mile after she turned her ankle.

Men's Race

The men’s race started out quickly with Gray and Wacker taking the lead by the first mile. They were trailed by Lucas Updike, from Eugene Oregon, Sage Canaday, and Antonio Goncalves, from Piau, Brazil. Updike is a steeplechaser currently training for a spot on the 2020 U.S. Olympic team and Goncalves is the champion of the XTERRA Brazil Trail Run Series.

“Andy and I went back and forth with each other for the first two to three miles,” said Gray, who has now won his third XTERRA Trail Run World title. “I felt really good and like I was in better shape than last year. The new part of the course that was added was tough because I couldn’t tell how I was doing compared to last year, but ultimately, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting out there and challenging yourself, and that’s what I was trying to do.”

At about the third mile, Gray pulled ahead and held his lead until the finish chute. He raced the hills in his trademark style – legs pumping, shoulders relaxed, and the only show of effort, a slight tilt of the head.

Canaday trailed Gray and Wacker until the steep climb at mile nine. “Oh it was tough,” admitted Canaday, who in 2008 was the youngest runner at the Olympic Marathon Trials. “Joe Gray and Andy Wacker are phenomenal athletes. It was a battle.”

On the hill, Canaday saw Wacker coming back to him and made his move. “I made a move on the steepest section and then tried to open up on the really technical, muddy, downhill section.”

Wacker tried to hang but said, “When Sage passed me, I tried to go with him, but he was fine, and I was seeing stars, basically.”

Still, even fatigued, these runners were moving extremely quickly, hitting 5:30 miles on the single track and sub-five minute miles on the downhills. “It was great. I loved the downhills because I could just let it rip,” said Wacker.

Like Gray, Wacker has a unique running style and uses his arms to both balance and propel him downhill, succumbing to gravity. Also, like Gray, Wacker wasn’t a huge fan of the muddy, technical downhill grade after the summit.

“I think everyone feels the same way when you’re barely staying upright and holding onto trees and anything else you can.”

Gray’s first stop after receiving his crown of ti leaves was the medical tent, where he needed to have a piece of a tree removed from his finger.

Canaday, on the other hand, reveled in the mud. “I really opened up on the muddy section. That was one of my favorite sections, actually. The course was super challenging. Spectacular views and really green forests the whole way. It was a tough lactate threshold type of effort kind of all out from the start.”

Gray, who wrestled with a bit of a knee injury from July until October agreed.

“It was a blessing to have the opportunity to get out there and train. I think you can do a lot of great things if you just stay motivated and dedicated to your craft. I just needed the opportunity”

Women's Race

In the women’s race, Dani Moreno set a blistering pace and went after Carlson as soon as the cannon went off. After Carlson had to stop because of her injury, Moreno kept pushing and was joined by Giselle Slotboom, who also placed second at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship, behind Lesley Paterson.

“I wanted to play to my strengths so first off, I wanted to push the climbs,” said Moreno, who primarily runs trails in the 15-30K range. “My plan was to be conservative for the first five miles and then work on the climb, but that just did not happen. I was so nervous I just took off.”

After her burst of speed which dropped most competitors, Moreno settled in and began to enjoy the race. Because no one was ahead of her, she tried to pass the men in front of her.

“But then I started having a little bit too much fun,” admitted Moreno, “It was so beautiful I just wanted to take a picture. That’s when Giselle caught me, and I told myself, ‘Oh no, you’ve got to race.'”

Like Canaday, Moreno pulled ahead in the mud. “I closed the gap to Dani on the uphill, and we were both sliding and slipping in the mud, but as soon as we came out of the mud, she just hauled and was like fifty meters ahead of me in two seconds,” said Slotboom.

Teylar Adelsberger, who graduated in May from the University of Missouri, does not have a lot of trail experience, but she has run a 17:06 5K on the track. She is an ambassador for Strong Runner Chicks, which was created by Megan Flanagan, who placed 12th in today’s race.

“When I saw that Megan was doing XTERRA Worlds, it looked like so much fun I wanted to do it too,” said Adelsberger.

Malia Crouse, who finished fourth in 1:43:55 asked Adelsberger if she was now hooked on XTERRA.

“I don’t know,” said Adelsberger. “It was tough. I read the course description and it talked about the ‘March of Death,’ so there were multiple times when I thought, OK, I’m on it right now. And then I kept going and though, maybe I’m on it right now? Then I got there and I was like, nope, this one’s it.”

Local Hawaii Runners Excel

Malia Crouse, who was fourth in 1:43:55, was the first Hawaii female finisher. Crouse lives in Makawao on Maui and finished just nine seconds behind Adelsberger.

“I wish I had just 25 more yards,” said Crouse, who is training for the Honolulu Marathon next weekend. “But I had so much fun and I feel really strong and ready for the race next weekend.”

Patrick Stover, who lives on the Big Island, was the first Hawaiian for the men and seventh overall in 1:42:40. He is currently training for the HURT 100 in January, with fellow Kona resident and two-time Ironman Champ, Bree Wee.

“This week was a training block, so I didn’t taper for XTERRA Worlds,” said Stover. “But I always like to come out and see what I can do.”

Wee finished tenth in the women’s place but was on the trails today for the experience.

“I don’t know what place I finished,” said Wee. “Maybe 100th? All I know is that I won the award for the muddiest.”

Stover agreed. “As I was running today, I said to myself, ‘Right here, this is where Bree is going to fall.'”

Wee, who is an extremely strong ultra runner, is training for the HURT 100, as is Kaaawa resident, Sergio Florian, who finished 16th in the men’s race, which is back from last year’s ninth place finish. But this year, Florian is going for endurance rather than speed. He recently completed a 12-hour training run, beginning at 11pm at night and finishing before noon so he could spend time with his family.

Kiley Momohara of Kapaa, Hawaii on Kauai was eighth in the 25-29 age group. He recently won his age group at the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Run in October on Maui, where he was cheering for his friend Jacob Pembrook.

Momohara lived on Oahu five years ago and wanted to do the race at Kualoa Ranch and take his first shot at the half marathon. Until now, he’s just been jumping into trail races when he can, but says that next year he will be planning a lot more.

“I see that I’m climbing up that ladder and I have my head screwed on more now and I know what I want to do. I want to put my head down and see how fit I can get.”

Most of his races will be on the trails.

“XTERRA is more of my scene. I like going uphill.”

Momohara also loves the freedom he finds on the trails.

“I love the mountains and it takes me away from real life. It’s easy to get caught up in it – we live in a money hungry world. It’s good to calm the mind and relax for a second and relax and hear nothing but nature.”

His approach was echoed by 12-year old Hannah Letzger, from Park City, Utah, who won her 10-14 age group at the XTERRA Trail Run National Championship in Ogden in September. After today, she can add the title of “World Champ.”

Letzger first entered a 5K with her dad when she was about six years old.

“I just loved it and was surprisingly fast,” said Letzger. “Then we started doing a few 5Ks and then we started doing 10Ks and then we started doing 15Ks and then we tried a half marathon and then I tried a marathon. I just keep getting bigger.”

She ran the race with her coach Jax Mariash, who motivated Letzger by talking about things and people they were grateful for.

“We decided who we were grateful for every mile,” said Letzger. “I wasn’t thinking that I was hot and I was running and I was tired, I was thinking that it was so fun that I got to be out there.”

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