XTERRA Trail Run Champ Ben Auerbach’s Tips for the Kapalua Trail

XTERRA Kapalua Trail Run Champ Ben Auerbach won the Hula Grill XTERRA 5k four times. He ran for Duke University and Claremont McKenna College and competed in the 800 meter run and 4×400 meter relay nationally and internationally.

Ben still competes and is a personal trainer. His company, One Fitness, provides transformational wellness experiences for individuals and groups on the island of Maui, Hawaii.

We recently caught up with Ben before the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Run on October 28th so he could give us some tips for the race, the best way to run the course, and how to prepare in the days before. 


Q. How can runners best prepare for the XTERRA Kapalua Trail Runs?
A. Hydrate all week! The weather for the race has often been hot and muggy or rainy and muddy. You never know what you are going to get, but you can prepare for the unexpected by drinking water all week and making sure you have the proper gear, like trail shoes with lugs to grip the terrain and keep you from slipping or rolling an ankle.

Q. Take us through the first hill on the Hula Grill XTERRA 5K course.
A. XTERRA courses are always challenging and unique and the Kapalua course is no different.There’s never a place on the course that you can open your stride except for the last 100 meters, and even then, it’s uneven.

You go straight uphill for the first three quarters of a mile. At the top, it’s flat and rolling but through winding terrain. That first hill is really challenging and you do need to hold some stuff back. If you are going to blaze up that hill, you are going to die. So pace yourself and have a consistent cadence.

The other piece of that first section is that it turns into single track after about a quarter mile, so if you get stuck behind some slower runners, you’re just kind of stuck. If you are a serious runner, find a good spot on the starting line or start near the front. I always feel silly because I line up in the front with all the kids who run as fast as they possibly can for 100 meters, but otherwise I would be stuck behind people.

Q. What can athletes expect for the rest of the course? 
A. Once you get through the flat rolling section about a mile in, that’s the place where you can find your stride a bit and you’re recovering from the uphill.

And then it turns into really really steep downhill really fast. So that section is very steep and there’s roots and branches you have to go under. Make sure you have good grip on your shoes and that your form accommodates the steepness of the downhill.

The next hill is a pretty steep 300 meter concrete hill, which I love because I love going uphill. And that’s a chance to pass some people if you are feeling good.

From there, it’s a nice downhill on single track dirt section for about three quarters of a mile. Then you run through another creek bed before DT Fleming Beach and you have to gear yourself up for a 300 meter run on sand. So get light on your feet there and make sure you have something in the tank for that.

After the sand you have about 100 meters to the finish line and that’s it.

Q. Why do you recommend pre-running the course?
A. The Kapalua Trail Runs are hard. One of my best years, I was in shape to run a 15 flat 5K  and it took me 18:50 to run the Hula Grill 5K. And that was the course record.

The course is already mowed and marked and if you run the course ahead of time, you can get a sense of where you need to watch your footing, how to pace yourself, and where you can make up time.

Additionally, it’s great psychologically to pre-run the course. Not only will you feel prepared, but  visualizing the course in your head in the days leading up to the race can improve your chances for success and give you more confidence.

Q. Will you be running this year? 
A. I haven’t decided yet. But I have clients running it, so even if I don’t run I’ll be there, cheering everyone on.

Q. What’s next for you?
A. I’m training for a mile on the track this spring. I’d love to do the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship, but I’ll be in California this year. Next year!

The Duke’s Beach House XTERRA 10K, Hula Grill XTERRA 5K and Leilani’s XTERRA 3.3K races are open to one-and-all (the 3.3km is open for walkers too!). We recommend registering early to secure a spot – www.xterra.com/trail run.

Registration for Leilani’s XTERRA 3.3K is free for kids 8-12 (no t-shirt for children). Parents must register their children for any of the races. Paul Mitchell stylists will be there cutting hair in exchange for a donation to the Challenged Athlete Foundation.

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