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Stocking Stuffers for Athletes

Have a loved-one that is a triathlete or biker? Still scrambling for some stocking stuffer ideas? To the untrained eye, these may seem a bit cheesy, but trust me, if you want to get them something that they’ll actually need and use, then think about these. Not only are they practical and show that you’ve put some thought into their love of sport, but it’ll add a few snickers on Christmas morning. You can find most of these at your local bike, running or other sports-oriented store. (Throughout, I’m referring to this person as “him”, but can be very well a “her”).

Salted Caramel

1. Anything GU – Most athletes are in need of nutrition and can always use more. So stuff a few gels, a package of Chomps or maybe a tube (or two) of GU Brew Electrolyte tablets into their stocking. The electrolyte tablets bring electrolytes to water without extra calories and something I use EVERY ride. Sometimes, seasonal gel flavors like Peppermint Stick and Mint Chocolate can be found. Peanut Butter flavor is a favorite around here. On our New Year’s Day run, we break out with Jet Blackberry on mini, powdered donuts. Now THAT’s one good jelly donut. www.GUEnergy.com


2. Get Grippy – If they’re a biker, ESPECIALLY a mountain-biker, then get them a pair of ESI Grips for their handlebars. They’re the most comfortable grips on the planet. So much so, that I ride without gloves (unless it’s cold). They come in a variety of thickness, but I prefer the “Chunky” ones. On most regular handlebar grips, manufacturers put logos, tread patterns and all other kinds of crap that just make them damn uncomfortable. That junk belongs on tires, not handlebar grips. The whole idea of putting something on your handlebars is to 1: improve your grip and 2: keep your hands comfortable. Forget other grips that don’t put these two things FIRST. And if they’re hung up on having their “lock-on” grips, never fear, I used to as well. But the only grips that slip are the poorly made ones. ESI’s grips have their priorities straight and theses puppies won’t move once installed. So get them this gift and they’ll love you for it. www.ESIgrips.com


3. Seal it up – For the mountain bikers in the bunch, there’s a good chance your loved-one is riding on tubeless mountain bike tires. If so, this is a great stocking stuffer. If not, this may motivate them to take advantage of swapping to tubeless and experience all the benefits. For you, if you’re not a mountain biker, this will score major points that you happen to know something about tubeless tires and the need to use sealant. This stuff seals up the tires making it possible to hold air without a tube. The best part is it also acts as an automatic seal should they get a puncture on the trail. Don’t settle for that sealant with some guys name on it. Instead, go with the orange stuff made from NASA technology. One 8 ounce bottle is good for a set of tires, but if you go with the 4 ounce bottle, get two. I’d recommend getting the first bottle with the injector. FYI, I’ll be riding a product review on this soon. www.OrangeSealCycling.com


4. Crankbrothers Multitool – You can’t get more handy or practical than a multitool. Necessary for trail-side or road-side repair of bike foul ups and tends to work better than a MacGyver twig and rock combo. Crankbrothers has many to choose from at different price ranges. My favorite is the mutli-17 tool since it comes with a chain tool. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. www.crankbrothers.com


5. Co2 cartridges – If he’s a biker of any sort, having extra Co2 cartridges handy will ensure he has a way to fix a flat. It may take a little bit of snooping to figure out if he needs the threaded or non-threaded type. Just check his current stash (usually in his seat bag or where he keeps the rest of his stuff). If you can’t figure it out, go with threaded. If it’s the wrong type, he can easily swap it out with the right ones at his favorite shop. Go with either 16oz or 20oz. www.GenuineInnovations.com or your local bike shop.


6. Socks – Yep, you heard right. The same gift we used to dread getting when we were kids is a cool gift now. Well, they’re cool if you get the right socks. As long as they are for riding, then you can’t go wrong. There’s many to choose from out there, but the best ones come from DeFeet, Sock Guy, Sugoi, and Pearl Izumi to name a few. You score extra points (and laughs) if you get some with a cool saying or picture on them. Can’t settle on the funny ones? Go a little more practical with wool socks (great this time of year) or Sugoi Compression socks which aid in recovery after a long ride.


7. Yankz Shoe Laces – If you have a runner or triathlete that you’re buying for, chances are that they may already be using these handy laces that allow them to get into and out of the shoes without untying. Even if they already have them, they can use an extra pair for when they buy another set of shoes. www.yankz.com

If you’re in the Charlotte, NC area, be sure to come check out our 8th Annual New Year’s Day Almost Noon Almost 10k Unorganized Group Trail Run


Epic in Arkansas – XTERRA Epic Iron Mountain Race

I had so much to do and so little time to do it.  Doesn’t that seem so typical when you’re flying out of town?  In my case, I was traveling to race the XTERRA Epic Iron Mountain race so it meant not only packing my suitcase, but also packing my bike.  I always try to find that fine line of packing up just enough supplies so I have contingencies covered, but without taking too much.  Somehow, I think I still overdo it.


The steed was behind on some sorely needed maintenance, which was one of the many things I had to get done the day before my flight. (Yes, I know my workbench is a complete mess).  One such piece of needed maintenance were servicing of my brakes.  I had shipped the brakes off to the good folks at Formula for service and had just gotten them back.  When I opened the nicely packed box, in addition to the brakes, I found some goodies inside.  Thanks, guys!


WP_20141014_019 1

I also stopped by TrySports to get some new Schwalbe tires mounted along with picking up a few last minute items.


I was successful at getting everything packed up and off to bed at a decent hour.  Sort of.  The next morning, my plane left late enough that I could squeeze in a partial swim with my masters group before heading to the airport.

Upon arriving in Little Rock, I headed straight for the bike shop to grab a few things I didn’t want to take on the plane (Co2, some OrangeSeal, etc).  I found Spokes bike shop which wasn’t too far out of my way and so I popped in.  It’s a cool shop carrying a good selection, but best of all, they have a coffee bar, which I was in sore need of after the plane trip.

After some conversing with the guys, I ended up putting my bike together there.  Supporting the local shop, I paid for some time on one of their maintenance stands and setup my workspace in the beautiful weather out back.


It was a good thing I did so, because in the process of assembling my bike, I managed to take the freshly serviced Formula brakes out of the box, and using my own personal talent, sheared a mounting bolt off when attaching the master cylinder to the handlebars.  Not only did this render the rear brakes as unusable, but since the gear shifter mounts to the brakes, I was dead in the water.  The guys at Spokes tried their best to help get the bolt out, but we weren’t successful.  Instead, they helped me out by loaning me a used brake setup they had lying around.  This was a HUGE favor, because If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have been able to race.

My intentions of getting a preride and run in upon arrival were greatly challenged by this little snafu.  After several hours of us dinking around with the brakes, I managed to get to the trailhead much later than planned, but still arrived at the transition area with some excellent riding weather.


I raced this particular race two years ago and since then, the trail gnomes have been very, very busy.  All of the areas of the previous race course that I didn’t like were not included in this year’s race.  Furthermore, it had been replaced with a ton more of sweet, flowy, fun, technical, bermed, awesome single track.  Someone’s been busy building some nice trails out there!


As my ride went on, the sun started going down pretty quickly.  I was having so much fun that I didn’t really notice until I took this picture.  The camera had a hard time focusing and as you can see, it was getting pretty damn dark in the woods.


By the time I finished, I couldn’t see the trail and was surprised I made it out of the last couple of miles.  When I arrived back to the transition area, it looked like this:


Race Morning

Good friends, Owen and Sunny Workman from Al-a-bam-y, shared a cabin with us, so on race morning, Owen and I scooted down to the transition area to get setup.  We were sure we’d be the first ones there, but we were beat by May-Li Cuypers, another great friend and rider.  We chatted with her for a bit while setting up our spots.



The swim was an elongated triangle course of 750 meters, of which we would have to do two laps.  The entrance and exit was at a boat ramp and the transition area setup in the parking lot.  This allowed for an easy exit and no dirty feet to contend with in transition.  The water was cold enough that it was wetsuit legal and I was glad to have the buoyancy and slipperiness of my Synergy wetsuit again.


When we started, I took off in a brisk pace to stick with the lead pack.  By the time we rounded the first turn, 3 of us had pulled away and swam single file with me in the rear.  At times, I was touching the feet of the second place guy, so I pulled off to the side of him.  We swam side by side for most of the first lap.  On the second, we all picked up the pace a little and got back into a single file line with the leader pulling away a bit.  We finished the swim in that same order with me in third place.


Swim time: 25:35


My first transition went flawless with the exception of me knocking my bike over.  I’ve never actually done that before and it was a silly mistake.  It cost me about an extra 10-20 seconds to get my bike underneath the rack and clear without knocking everyone else’s over.  However, the little lever that rings my bike bell came off and went flying across transition.  I still managed to get out ahead of everyone, putting me into the lead of the race.

Transition time: 85 seconds


The bike course was two laps of a 15 mile course.  It had a decent amount of climbing and course variety.  There were some technical sections, a few rock gardens, loose stuff you need be careful on and even some fast, flowy sections you can really let loose.

About 10 minutes before our race, Fred had kicked off another race, XTERRA Degray, and I caught the tail-end of their riders within the first couple of miles.  Throughout the bike course, I had to pass quite a few of them and they were all very polite and let me by when asked.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time racing.

On one of the climbs, I fought with my front derailleur which seemed to have a mind of its own, throwing my chain down into the little ring when I didn’t want it to.  In the middle of one of the climbs, it threw it into the small ring.  I attempted to shift back up into the big ring and in the process, threw the chain completely off.  I had to hop off my bike and manually put the chain back on, which is never fun in the middle of a climb since it’s harder to get rolling again.  Time wasted: at least 45 seconds.  (I’ll be switching the configuration over to 1×10 setup using a narrow/wide chain ring from Wolf Tooth.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works and will even be doing a product write up on it).


I was feeling pretty quick and smooth, for the most part, but it felt as if I had just a wee bit too much air in my tires.  It bugged me and I wondered if the temperature change may have increased the pressure given the cold temps in the morning when I inflated them vs. the temp during the race.  It bugged me so much mentally, that I made the bad, bad decision to stop in the middle of the race to let a little air out.  It wasn’t a problem until the entire valve stem core came out of my front tire when I attempted to open it.  The core shot to the ground.  In. The. Leaves.  I panicked.  With my finger over the hole to prevent any further air escaping, I frantically looked around for the valve core.  Looking down, I found the core between my feet.  Lucky, lucky, me.  I put it back in quickly and took back off.  Time wasted: 1:30.

I had to quickly get it out of my mind and start making a few adjustments to my riding style to counteract the low pressure in the front tire.  Yes, I wanted it lower, but not as low as it got by my little stunt.  I also had to quickly erase the frustration and just go with the flow.  Anger and frustration will suck the life out of your race.

Coming out of the first lap, I met Alba and Sunny in the feed zone.  The original plan was for me to start ringing my bike bell like crazy to give her a heads up that I was coming.  However, since my bell was broken due to my unfortunate accident in T1, I couldn’t ring it.  So I just started shouting, “Bling, bling!  Bling, bling!”  She looked up and scurried to get the bottle ready.  She passed me off another bottle of GU Roctane with a perfect handoff and zero time wasted.

I finished up the second lap with no issues other than a slightly slower pace than I would have liked.  Coming into T2, I was still the race leader, but knew my mistakes cost me dearly.

Bike time: 2:24:54


My second transition was a ton better than the first.  I didn’t take my shoes off on the bike since the tail end of the bike leg is on gravel.  I had noticed on my second lap that the heat caused it to get a little loose, and given my innate ability to crash, didn’t want to put on too much of a show for the onlookers.

Transition time: 28 seconds


The run course was a 3.3 mile lollipop trail loop which we had to run 3 times.  There was a short pavement run ending through the parking lot to mark the end of each lap before heading back onto the trail.  This equated to a 10ish mile run which started right off the bat with running straight uphill through a power line clearing.  It’s a real quad burner and since we had to do three laps of the 3.3 mile course, I opted to power walk it the first time in an effort to see how I’d feel.  It also allowed me to shake off the biking legs a little.


I hadn’t even gone about half of a mile when Andy Lee caught me.  I stuck out my hand for a smack and he slapped it on his way by.  I matched his pace for a short stint, but he gradually pulled away from me.  He was having a great run and we saw each other in passing throughout the laps.


My run was nowhere near what it needed to be, nor what I have ran in the past.  I’ve had a few issues lately that’s put a crimp in my run training and it showed for this race.  I guess it’s a definite area for improvement.


Run time: 1:16:46

I managed to squeak out a 2nd place overall at a tough event.  It’s a much different race to go out for 4+ hours as opposed to some of the shorter races I’ve done this year.


All-in-all, it was a great race and I had a blast of a time.  DLT Events always puts on a great race and I’d highly recommend any of their races. We capped off the evening with a great dinner with some great friends.


Congrats to May-Li for winning the overall women’s title.  She had an excellent race and looked ready for a couple more laps.

Major props goes out to my training partner and fellow Timex Factory Team teammate, Dan Kimball.  Since my racing calendar took a big turn after a crash and job change, my training needed to change with it.  I’ve been a member of the EPC Group Coaching program, but since my calendar changed, I needed to make modifications.  Dan sat down with me and hatched out a plan and strategy that was spot on.  Thanks, bud for helping me out with your wisdom.

XTERRA Epic Iron Mountain
Location: Arkadelphia, Arkansas
Date: October 18, 2014
Distances: 1 mile swim / 30 mile mountain bike / 10 mile trail run
Result: 2nd overall

Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Rocket Racing Ralph Tire, Schwalbe Thunderburt Tire, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Adrenaline Wetsuit, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.

There’s a really cool article on Arkansas Outside about the race.  Check it out.

Be a Warrior!


When this thing hits 88 mph–XTERRA Whitewater

XTERRA Whitewater happened so long ago that we needed Doc and Marty to break out the DeLorean to help me put the race report together.  So I dug through my closet and pulled out my Sony Walkman, some Huey Lewis from the tape box and hit play to help ease my nerves for reentry. Long story short, it was a successful trip and here’s how.


I had promised folks that I would write it up but between the day job, training schedule, racing and, of course, leaving some time in there for the family, I just let the days and weeks get away from me.  August and September are nothing but blurs. This lack of time was compounded by doing XTERRA Whitewater and XTERRA Panther Creek back-to-back.  My thought was that I’d have time to get it done in the hotel at Panther Creek, but it just didn’t happen.  Enough excuses.  Let’s hear about the trip.

Doc tossed me into the DeLorean and gave me a quick rundown of the clocks.  We set it for July and with a “Great Scott” he sent me on my way.  When I arrived, I realized that I hadn’t traveled back to July of 2014, but instead, July of 2009.  Also, for some reason, I hadn’t re-entered onto my neighborhood street in Waxhaw.  When I peered through the frosted windshield, I realized I was at Anne Springs in Fort Mill.  I stayed out of sight, trying not to let my past self catch a glimpse of me while I watched a race unfolding.  I realized that I had transported to the Fourth of July offroad triathlon that I helped create.


I had teamed up with Recon Fitness Adventures and my good friend Duke Speed to create a race that I always wanted to be an XTERRA.  I thought it was a great idea of having XTERRA race in my back yard so I set out to help in any way I could.  As that year progressed, we were well on our way of working out the deets with having one at the Whitewater Center. In the fall of that same year, Duke ended up moving out of town for work reasons.  He apologized but I completely understood, and if I were in his shoes, would have made the same choice.  There I was standing with a half-completed project making a decision to either step up or back out.  I chose to step up.

Sitting in the board room at the Whitewater Center, we devised what I consider to be one of the most unique and tough races on the XTERRA circuit.  When attempting to come up with where to do the swim, we settled with the idea of using two different bodies of water by incorporating both the Catawba River and the manmade features of the Whitewater Center.

xww poster

I hopped back into the DeLorean with the intent to get my original goal accomplished: a race report.  I tried my best to set the clocks and sped down highway 21 trying to get the thing up to 88mph as quickly as possible.  A couple of flashes of light later, I was bolted into the future.  During my drive from Fort Mill out to the Whitewater Center, I realized again that I hadn’t made it back to 2014.  Instead, I had only advanced forward to 2011.

xww goodiebags

For the first two years, I race directed the XTERRA Whitewater race and had a blast doing so.  I watched as racers came across the finish line with smiles on their faces, and although Alba and I were doing everything from spending hours packing goodie bags to running around like crazy on race day trying to make sure it went smoothly, we were smiling inside.  It was great to give back to our XTERRA family the same joy of racing that I had experienced.  At the end of 2011, for various reasons, I turned over the race to the Whitewater Center and they’ve been running it since.

Not wanting to unravel the very fabric of the space time continuum, I threw a few GU Gels and Chomps into the Mr. Fusion (packages and all) to fuel the DeLorean for another attempt to get back to the future.  I set the clocks and took off, finally arriving to July of 2014.  Finally, I can finish the race report.

Since taking it over, the Whitewater Center has made a few changes to the race.  The course has changed slightly since there are more trails out there now, but for the most part, it’s still the same, fun race.  Race Director, Adam Bratton has also thrown in other great improvements which takes it up even another notch.

Race Day

I showed up early to setup for transition, but it wasn’t open yet.  Having some time to kill, I helped out with race preparation with small things like breaking down empty boxes, putting together feather flags, or whatever Adam needed.  As soon as transition opened, I put my race cap back on and started my own prep.




The 1000 meter swim was a two-part swim which started as a triangular course in the Catawba River that involves swimming downstream, right hand turn with a long leg upstream, then a right hand turn to swim back to shore.  Even though you’re swimming upstream in the river, it’s not too bad as the flow during that time of morning is very low.  Duke Energy controls the dams both upstream and downstream for power generation, and in the early morning hours, they’re typically closed off.

After a short, 500 meter (or so) run up to the manmade Whitewater Center holding pond, there’s a short 200 meter swim across the pond to the transition area.  The Synergy Syn-Skin definitely helped keep me smooth through the water. Good thing, it helped to make up a little time as my swim skills, not being where they needed to be.  With every second counting, I came out of the water in 9th place.


I transitioned quickly with what I would consider a fairly textbook transition, just as I had demonstrated in the clinics I presented.  I got out of transition in 34 seconds, grabbing the top spot for fastest T1.



The 14 mile mountain bike course can simply be explained with saying it’s a blast.  You get a little bit of everything.  From technical, hand cut, switchbacks to machine-cut flowy, to hard punchy climbs, this trail system has it all.  Most of the trails were built and maintained by the Tarheel Trailblazers before the Whitewater Center was built.  Since it’s creation, the Whitewater Center has taken on maintenance and building responsibility under the careful, crafty and skilled direction of Lee Flythe.  Having both a BMX and mountain biking background, Lee puts together some great trails and features.

Most of the trails at the Whitewater Center have some pretty cool names.  I headed out onto Figure 8 and tried to pass as many people as I could as quickly as I could.  By the time I came out of Figure 8, I was in 2nd place.  I saw Peter Lilly at the start of the Point climb.  “He’s got a minute forty on you, Marcus,” Peter exclaimed.  “Thanks, Pete!” I replied.  Throughout the Point Trail, I didn’t see him in the switchbacks.  It wasn’t until we were down by the river that I caught a glimpse of Greg Schott.  Due to a few issues of me running off the trail and almost crashing, I didn’t catch him until Goat Hill.  I passed him on the gas line climb and headed down the old downhill course using my brakes as little as possible.


Even though it had rained the night before and on race day, the Schwalbe Tires hooked up despite the muddy conditions. I managed to keep up a good pace and steady speed with no issues with two exceptions.  On the descent of Weigh Station, I decided to try a different line over the big roots and rocks.  At one point I just knew I was going down, but managed to stay upright.  A similar instance happened in the bottom of Toilet Bowl on a wet, rooty climb.  I had to step off and almost fell over in the process.  Thankfully I didn’t as it would have been into a patch of poison ivy.

Coming into transition, I sucked down my last bit of GU Roctane Brew and finished the bike with the fastest bike split and in 1st place.  I came into T2 smoothly but ran right past my rack.  I literally skidded to a barefoot stop and had to backtrack to my rack.  Not textbook at all.  I still managed to get out of T2 in 30 seconds, but it was the 3rd fastest.


Running 5 miles after a tough, hard effort on the bike was a chore.  Luckily, the first mile or so of it is flat and on a gravel road, so it allowed me to shake off the bike legs and get into a running rhythm.  I’ve never really liked the East Main trail from a running perspective because of all the switchbacks and punchy climbs.  It’s just darn tough to get into a running rhythm.  On the other hand, it adds to the challenge of the race, so from that perspective, it’s great.


I was expecting to see someone catching me on the run, so I kept my eyes peeled.  The one person I was truly expecting to see was Mr. Speedy Pants himself and good friend, Bjorn Erik Norman.  He did have the blazingly fastest run split of the day, but I had enough of a lead on the bike that I didn’t see him.   I kept the legs turning and finished the race in 1st overall.  It was a surprise to me and was a bit bittersweet to win a race that I created.  I guess with a lot of training and a lot of luck, it can be pulled off.


XTERRA Whitewater
Location: Charlotte, North Carolina
Date: July 19, 2014
Distances: 1000 meter swim / 14 mile mountain bike / 5 mile trail run
Result: 1st overall
Full Results
Products used: TrySports Tri kit, GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Rocket Ron Tire, Schwalbe Thunderburt Tire, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Syn-Skin, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.

Alba and Sunny braved the rain to bring you guys awesome pics and to cheer on the racers.  I was so happy to have her at the race.  :)

WP_20140719_010  WP_20140719_011


Be a Warrior!


Turkey, turkey, turkey, deer! – XTERRA Panther Creek

As my alarm went off, I literally rolled out of bed, forcing myself awake way earlier than I wanted.  Having went to bed only 3 hours before, due to a late night at work, I stumbled, hunchbacked with eyes half open, into the bathroom.  I had promised my friend, Mike Smith, that I would meet him at his house, about 45 minutes away, for a 4ish hour ride to Panther Creek State Park in Morristown, Tennessee.

My original plan was to beg Mike to let me sleep on the trip up in an effort to get caught up on sleep.  With a pre-ride of the course planned for later that day and a subsequent race the next morning, I needed all the rest I could get.  Armed with coffee and lots of great conversation, the trip was over before I knew it and didn’t feel like I needed the sleep.  We pre-rode the course, went for a quick run and swim.  In the process, we came across 4 wild turkeys along with a half-dozen or so baby turkeys.  They didn’t seem the least bit worried about us and took their time getting off the trail.  It was surreal.  That evening, we met up with good friends, Owen, Sunny, Mia, John, Jheremy, Mark and Rachael to name but a few.

Race morning started off with the usual pre-race routines.  We got to transition early and managed to get some good spots and all setup with time to spare.  We all piled in the water and waited for the pre-race briefing to start the race.  I was a bit nervous with racing back-to-back after last week’s XTERRA Whitewater race as I wasn’t sure if my body had fully recovered.


With a countdown and a blow of the horn, the race was off.  I managed to sprint out with the lead pack of swimmers and ahead of the chaos.  It was one of the cleanest starts I’ve had to date.  The swim was setup in a triangular course of 400 meters of which we had to do two laps.  After the race, we all agreed that, even looking at some GPS watches, that the swim was a little long.


By the time we hit the third buoy to end my swim and head for the shore, I had settled into 8th or 9th place.  I tried my best to not “salute” my recovery stroke like Cheryl, our Masters coach teases me about, but as you can see by the picture below, I allowed the bad habit to show up.


Ah, that’s better.


I finished up the swim in 8th place in 11:49.  Running into transition, I completely goofed up on my T1.  A while back, good friend Charlotte Mahan, gave me a gift of a red transition mat that I could lay on the ground to put my stuff on.  I had used it for the last couple of races, but for this race, I decided to forego it’s use since the transition area was on pavement.  Having the habit of looking for that mat, I ran straight to the rack with the red mat and familiar bike shoes.  I stripped off my Synergy Syn-Skin and dropped my goggles and cap.  As I started to put on the shoes, I realized I was standing at Mike’s rack.  Realizing my mistake before I put the shoes on, I hopped over one rack and completed my transition.  My transition time could have easily been under a minute, but instead, it ended up being 1:03.

I dove into the trail from what I thought was around 5th place or so, having passed a few people in transition.  Within the first quarter of a mile I caught up to the first rider and at about the half-mile point the next rider.  As I finished off the first mile or so, just before crossing the paved road, one of my water bottles ejected like a rocket off into the woods.  I’ve dropped bottles plenty of times and had heard of them “ejecting” but in all my years, I had never witnessed the way this thing took off.  For a split second, I thought about leaving it.  In that same split second, I realized the importance of the fluid intake and I came to a skidding halt.

I laid my bike down at trailside and bounced off the trail like a gazelle trying my best to dodge the poison ivy as I went.  Twenty or so feet off of the trail, I retrieved the getaway bottle and bounced back to my bike.  I’m not sure how much time it wasted, but in a race where every second counts, it was too much.

It took me a while to catch up to the two leaders, who were riding in tandem.  When I passed the second place racer, he confirmed the person in front of him was the leader and I thanked him while picking up the pace a little.  Once in the lead, I tried to keep it fast and smooth.  The roots were slick from the morning’s rain and they all seemed to be off-camber or sideways in the trail.  Every time I hit one, it would kick my bike to one side or the other, but the Schwalbe tires kept the grip on.  I was surprised yet again by the performance of the Thunderburt in wet conditions.  Roots and rocks weren’t the only obstacles.  During the bike leg of the race, I managed to almost get run over by a deer crossing the trail.  This not only happened once, but TWICE.  The weirdest part was, it was on opposite sides of the course and about a half-hour apart.  I guess they were coordinating attacks and trying to do so when my guard was down.  Despite the natural obstacles, both plant and animal, I kept it upright (luckily) and finished the bike at 1:09:12, the fastest split of the day.

T2 was a much smoother transition.  Having made the silly mistake in T1, I really focused on making sure I went to the right rack in T2 while also trying to be as quick as possible.  21 seconds.

At about the first half-mile point, where the run turns from single-track to open fire road, I looked back and didn’t see anyone.  I floated down the fire road along a straightaway, turning back to look once more just before the road turned.  Staring me down and running for me was Josh Schaffer.  We’ve duked it out before at other races and this year, leapfrogging who won between us, so I knew I was within his reach.  I picked up the pace the best I could and tried to widen the gap between the two of us (and anyone else in the chase).  I managed to squeak out a good run (29:47) and maintained the lead for an overall win.  Thanks, Josh for pushing me.  :)


(left to right) Josh Schaffer, Marcus Barton, Erik Nielson

Afterwards a bunch of the XTERRA family piled into a fast food joint for good (bad) food and some great stories with great friends.


XTERRA Panther Creek
Location: Morristown, Tennessee
Date: July 27, 2014
Distances: 800 meter swim / 15.4 mile mountain bike / 4.5 mile trail run
Result: 1st overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Rocket Ron Tire, Schwalbe Thunderburt Tire, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Syn-Skin, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.


Be a Warrior!




Too bushed to write

I had full intentions of writing race report for XTERRA Whitewater, but I was too bushed when I got home from a long day at the office.  I’ll get it posted as soon as I can.

For those of you that haven’t heard, it ended up being a pretty good race.  My training is improving and things luckily fell into place to allow me to finish first overall.  I say luckily, as I am a firm believer that sometimes luck has a lot to do with it, sort of like the fact that I was extremely lucky I kept things upright on some very slick, red clay trails.

I’ll give you the full lowdown in a day or two when I get a bit more time to put together a proper report.  In the meantime, check out the results.

XTERRA Whitewater Finish


XTERRA Whitewater Trail Run Race THIS WEEKEND

It’s not too late to get in on this awesome race, folks. 


XTERRA Whitewater Trail Run Race -  Jul 12th

Next to Last Race for
Carolina Trail Run Series & XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series

(only two races left)

THIS SATURDAY is the XTERRA Whitewater Trail Run! This race is in TWO series: Carolina Trail Run Series and the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series.  The race features trail running events on the beautiful trails of the US National Whitewater Center along the banks of the Catawba River in Charlotte, NC. 

Race distances in Saturday’s race include both 3.5 mile and 7.5 mile options.  These will prove to be fast, fun races on the flowy single track of the Whitewater Center.  The course is slightly different than last year thanks to some AWESOME new trails that the folks out at the Whitewater Center have been working on. 
VITALLY important: If you are competing in the Carolina Trail Run Series, you MUST race 4 of the 5 races to be eligible for series awards.  For more information on the rules/awards, visit the Carolina Trail Run Series website.

For more the XTERRA North Carolina Trail Run Series, your series-end awards will be sent by XTERRA.

For more information including registration, directions, & more, Click Here.

Almost Swept Away – XTERRA RVA

The race in Richmond, Virginia this year was not only the XTERRA East Championship but it was also the 2014 USAT Off-road National Championship.  This doubling up of championships doubled up the competition with new names and familiar ones.  Since it was a sort of special race, Alba even went so far as to shave the side of her noggin to clear a path for one of the XTERRA temporary tattoos along with a splash of red color.


When tackling this great race, you always have to be prepared for change.  Weather this time of year can have vast effects on the trails and since it is a river swim, it can cause the swim to be either a “running swim” or it can make it a treacherous one with strong currents.  Last year, the race was changed to a duathlon since the area had so much rain, you’d have a hard time boating the river, much less swimming it.

Sure enough, this weekend wouldn’t be much different.  Due to the rain leading in, the current in the swim was very strong.  We zig-zagged our way across the river having to really compensate for the strong flow.  There were folks aiming straight for the buoys without compensating and found themselves having to swim more than necessary with a bit of extra effort as they had to turn upstream.  I took an overly compensated swim, staying as far upstream as I could while also aiming upstream when crossing.  It seemed to work well as I hit every one of the buoys on the mark.  I still felt a little sluggish with my swim, however, having to sight more than I’d like, getting me out of form. Swim: 22:17

I transitioned quickly to the bike and headed out (T1: 00:50) The bike course is a two-lapper and with the pros starting their race about 45 minutes ahead of us, I happened to catch up with Shonny Vanlandingham just as she was beginning her second lap.  Darren Cox was also with us and the three of us would play tag for the bulk of our first lap.  There was a TON of traffic to deal with from the previous wave of racers, but we all were polite as the three of us passed as many folks as we could. We were chatting back and forth and Shonny was encouraging folks in front of her.  Very cool.


The locals showed up once again at the slick rock section, whooping and hollerin’, drinking, playing loud music and even cooking meat on a grill.  I’m not quite sure how they got the grill down there, but I am certain they weren’t hungry.


As we came up to the Stairway to Heaven, a section that allows you to ascend from the canal level up to a neighborhood, I was still on Shonny’s tail.  We went up the zig zag ramp, into the switchback rock garden and into the neighborhood.  On the way up, Darren had to step off causing us to pass him.

At the top, there was a feed zone complete with bottle swaps where I grabbed a bottle.  In the process of doing so, I lost track of Shonny for a second, but picked her up ahead.  I jumped up front, Darren right behind and Shonny on his rear.  We had a pretty fun little peloton through the neighborhood as we dove back into singletrack.  We caught up with more traffic and it wasn’t long before I lost track of both of them.

Heading into the second lap, the traffic had thinned out quite a bit.  Matter of fact, diving back into Buttermilk, I found myself alone.  I cleared all the obstacles cleanly with the exception of one root cropping we all had trouble with, even causing me to completely drop my chain.  It took me what felt like an eternity to get it back on.  I continued riding, only coming across the occasional person for most of the lap.  It wasn’t until ascending the Stairway to Heaven again that I started catching up with a lot of other riders still on their first lap. Bike: 1:38:24

Transition pre-race

After another decent transition (T2: 00:51), I headed out on the run which consisted of about 3 miles of flat, non-technical followed by about 3 miles of technical and single track.  I caught a couple of runners early on but continually saw a pack of three runners which looked out of reach.  This sight continued until we dove into single track where it appeared that I was closing the gap.  Sure enough, once we hit the dryway, a section of the James River that we run across during normal water height, I passed the 3 runners.


I scooted across the dryway as quickly as I could, catching a glimpse of the elusive Trey Garmin who tends to pop up on various parts of XTERRA courses with his third eye, a camera that gets some great shots of racers in action  Getting onto Belle Isle, I passed a couple of sprint racers throwing out some encouragement on the way.

Once I made it back to the road, I could see Jim Fisher up ahead, but just a bit out of reach.  I picked up the pace a little just in case someone was coming up from behind and crossed the tape at 2:45:58, for a run time of 43:36.  That put me second in the division and 10th overall amateur.  I was a little disappointed that Darryl “Speedy Gonzalez” Weaver took the top spot, but was very pleased that I had a clean, fast race that was a ton of fun.

Comparing times with some fast boys


I know a lot of you hear me on Facebook and here in my blog talk a lot about my XTERRA family.  Some of you understand, while others think it’s kind of kooky and weird.  Others, once they experience it, finally understand.  I’ve done all sorts of racing such as road triathlons, road biking, road running, trail running, obstacle course racing and many others.  No matter what other things I’ve tried, nothing compares to the camaraderie of XTERRA.

My personal example is prior to the race, I was having all sorts of shifting issues.  Ghost shifting, dropped chains, you name it.  I was fortunate enough to be in the same hotel as Pax Tolosi, mechanic extraordinaire and all around Sherpa for Beta Wronska. We were all going on a preride of the course and I discovered a slight problem.


Pax dropped what he was doing and came over to give me a hand.  We completely recabled my bike (internal routing), changed a chain ring and put on a new rear derailleur, all within MINUTES.  Throughout the race, my bike shifted flawlessly except for one dropped chain which was caused by a stick getting wedged in there.


But don’t just take my word for it, instead listen to this account.  Avery Nelson came into Richmond excited to race and like many racers, he decided to take a preride of the course on Saturday.  Here’s his tale as he explains it:

“At the end of my preride Saturday I cracked a carbon wheel and went to my fellow XTERRA athletes for some last minute help so that I could race on Sunday.  Man am I thankful for social media. Within an hour of posting on the XTERRA Southeast Athletes Facebook Group. I had multiple offers for spare wheels (which unfortunately didn’t match my setup) and a singlespeed loaner.  Things started to look up to where I would at least be able to race.  Not only did Doug Cubbage offer to let me ride his single speed, he also contacted Sean with Coqui Cyclery and asked him to help me out.  By the next morning at 6am there was a brand new Stans wheel built for me (a complete stranger) and loaned to me for the race. Unfortunately the hub didn’t match up and I started to sweat.  About that time, Sean (who I just met 10 minutes ago) offered to let me ride his brand new personal bike.  I was able to race to a 2nd place finish in my age and had the most fun out of any event I have competed in.  I already knew that XTERRA athletes were a tight group, but never did I expect the generosity I received from everyone this weekend.  Thanks to Doug, Sean, and everyone else that reached out to help this weekend. You wouldn’t find these type of people in any other sport!”

I wholeheartedly agree.  This is but only one of many, many stories at any XTERRA race.  I challenge you to find it at any other race.

Even the kids love the misting tent.


2014 USAT Off-Road National Championships / XTERRA East Championships
Location: Richmond, VA
Date: June 15, 2014
Distances: 1350m Swim / 30k mountain bike / 10k trail run
Result: 2nd in division, 10th Overall Amateur
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Rocket Ron Tire, Schwalbe Thunderburt Tire, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Adrenaline Wetsuit, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.


Come join me THIS Sunday for a preview of the XTERRA Whitewater course and a transition clinic.  Here’s the details.

Be a Warrior!





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