Boulder’s Roberto Mandje placed 5th overall in a deep field in the 2013 XTERRA Trail World Championships held on November 24th on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

The XTERRA 21k championship course was held on Oahu’s Kuala Ranch, a 4,000-care working cattle ranch which also serves as the location for many films and tv shows including Jurassic Park, Godzilla, 50 First Dates, and tv’s Lost and Hawaii 5-0.

“The scenery of the course easily stands out as one of the main draws to the Kualoa course,” says Oregon’s Max King, who has won the race at Kualoa Ranch four times in his career. “Not only that, but it’s a challenging half marathon that still requires a good amount of speed training to do well. It’s got everything a good trail race should have.” (via competitor.com)

The XTERRA Trail Run World Championship is the culminating event of the XTERRA Trail Run Series, which is a collection of more than 70 adventurous, off-road trail runs of various distances around the world. Over 2,000 runners from around the world came to compete in the championships.

Mandje, like many runners new to the trail running circuit has an impressive history of track and road racing accomplishments. His includes racing the 1500m at the 2004 Olympics and racing all over the world including: racing all over New Zealand, racing the Steeplechase at the All African Games in Mozambique and racing in Equatorial Guinea in front of his Grandmother who had never seen him race before.

I was curious about his journey into trail running and his experience at the championships so I sent along a few questions.

Roberto at XTERRA Trail Champs

Photo via Roberto Mandje / Competitor, view more photos

When did you get into trail running and why?

I’ve always loved training in the woods and trails. Even back in High School, when I first moved to the U.S, my favorite season was Cross Country (and still is). I decided to focus on trail running at the end of 2012. Heading into 2013, my motivation was waining and I wanted to do something different than the usual road/track scene. I competed in the 2012 XTERRA Trail World Champs and really enjoyed the venue, atmosphere and camaraderie of the trail scene. This year, I decided to jump into more trail races and therefor found myself doing a several XTERRA events across the country.

This year’s winner Patrick Smyth also has a serious road and track resume running 28:33 for the 10k. Sage Canady who has also been dominating trail races also followed a similar path. Do you see this as a growing trend in trail racing?

Yes, I do. Trail running offers both athlete and sponsors a new venue/market. I think more and more top road/track athletes will venture to the trails over the coming years. I think this will make the trail scene even more competitive. I think it’s great to have a proven speedster like Smyth jump into the trail scene. I say the more the merrier. I’m also one of the new guys to the scene and still have heaps to learn, but the venues and courses definitely trump running around in circles on the track or pounding the pavement over and over again.

What other races did you race before heading to the championships.

I raced 7-8 times this year before the champs. I had wanted to race more but was hampered by slight illness, a plethora of weddings and lastly the unfortunate Colorado floods we had in Sept. The Championships were my first race since the very end of August. I got in a good amount of preparation beforehand and used a series of workouts (some which we filmed) in order to make up for the lack of racing.

What were your expectations going into this race?

Heading into the race I knew the big 3 would be Patrick Smyth, my good mate: Joseph Gray & lastly the master of XTERRA Trail Championships: Max King. My goal was to race more aggressively and run the tough hilly sections better than last year. I had hoped to beat one of those three and get myself into the top 3. That being said, I had planned on running well within myself and marshall my efforts. One thing I’ve learned in the past year, is that when you blow up on the trail it can be an ugly ugly death. The hills and technical terrain can be very unforgiving, something I didn’t want to experience.

Were there any surprises about the race/ location/competition you would like to share?

Even though I expected a fast start, I would say I was still surprised at how fast Joe, Smyth & King took off. Those lads took off and the rest of us were immediately left for dead to sort out the minor places. I have to say it was a bit demoralizing to have that happen within a couple hundred meters. That being said, it was also inspiring to be a part of that and I’ll surely be using that memory and sting to further fuel my training in 2014. To say I’m motivated would be a savage understatement.

You can read his race recap herehttp://robertomandje.com/blog/2013/12/4/hawaii-five-o-xterra-trail-world-championships

podium of top 5 at the XTERRA Trail Championships

Whats next?

I might race on the 14th locally at the Road Runners Club of America Colorado 12K Cross Country Championships (a mouthful!). I’m basically just training till early January, where I plan on taking about 7-10 days off and go on a honeymoon with my beautiful wife: Molly Mandje. After that, the plan is to put the head down and train for what I hope to be my best racing year yet. A few of my goals for 2014 include: IAAF World Half Marathon Championships, improve my trail racing pedigree, make my marathon debut sometime in the fall and lastly head back to XTERRA World Champs and improve on my time and hopefully place.

You are really good about mentioning sponsors in your social communications. Who are your current sponsors and how have your sponsors helped you in your quest?

Thanks, I truly believe in giving credit where credit is due. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to align myself with some great and supportive sponsors. My current sponsors include: Powerbar, Rudy Project, Svelte – Protein Shakes, Planitva, Colorado based: Point6 Socks, Boulder based: RecoFiT Compression, Acupuncturist: Toby Marchand and last but certainly not least, the best place to workout in all of Boulder: Rally Sports Health & Fitness.

Although it may seem like I’ve named a ton of sponsors, they each play a different but crucial role in my everyday training and competition. My sponsors support me in my quest through different methods. Some provide services (like acupuncture or gym time) while others provide supplies/gear to train and compete as well as financial assistance/bonuses/stipends. I could go on and on, so I’ll just link to a blog post I did a few months ago about the behind the scenes of sponsorship: http://robertomandje.com/blog/2013/6/12/behind-the-scenes

Bottom line, I’m eternally grateful for the the support I currently enjoy, and look forward to representing these great individual companies in 2014.

You post a lot of your workouts on your blog which include a lot of hills and faster repeats like 10x 1k. How do you feel these workouts helped you in preparing for XTERRA? What are you hoping the reader learns from following along?

I’ve always believed in open information. I feel that too many runners are secretive of their training. While I can understand the reasoning, I also think it can be detrimental to the growth of our sport. It’s tough to cultivate new and younger fans to our wonderful sport if you only show up to the races 2-4 times a year and then disappear the rest of the time to your training base. I’ve got nothing to hide and want to share my training. I think this humanizes us athletes more and helps endear us to the casual fan. When someone reads my blog or watches my videos, they get to see that I, just like them, hurt and suffer in my workouts. That’s the beauty of running. If you give it your all, it doesn’t matter if you’re running a 4 hour marathon or 2 hour, we all experience the same fears, pains, insecurities and most importantly, joys when we reach our goals.

I feel these and other workouts helped in my preparation for XTERRA. One such workout that I did, but we didn’t get to film, was 3 x Mount Sanitas Trail (the steep 2K ish long rout). I believe that workout -more than anything- mentally prepared me for any type of pain I would face in Hawaii. As such, I referenced that workout over and over in my head during the race when I got to difficult sections. The mental preparation is just as important -if not more- than the physical.

Again, I hope the readers learn that I’m just as human as they’re and I’ve got a personality. I don’t want to be a nameless/faceless athlete that shows up to races and leaves. I want people to know that I love what I do and more than anything I’m enjoying my journey and hoping to share it with as many people as are interested. There are no secrets here, just hard work coupled with a genuine interest in seeing just how much better I can be, year after year…

Follow more of Roberto’s training and adventures at RobertoMandje.com.

  • Nuria Mandje

    Great interview! Congrats to the magazine and the athlete!!!!! Keep up the good work. Your number one fan and supporter!!!!
    A very proud Mom!