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Riding Bikes and Stomping Grapes – ITU Multisport World Championships – Cross Triathlon

“Looking for a race report on speedylizard…” was the text I got from a friend.  It was proof, yet again, that I had been slackassing on getting a race report done for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships held in Penticton, Canada.  It was also a reminder that I have at least one person that reads my blog.  Well, I suppose I should throw it out there.  Heck, maybe even some of the folks who are racing tomorrow might be looking for something to read… to put them to sleep.

Alba and I got to Penticton, home of over 300 wineries, a day before our housemates, Jen and Phil Horstmann along with Chrissy and Chris Haloris.  Want a fun bunch of folks.  Nothing like sharing a house with some great XTERRA Family.  Of course, our view just absolutely sucked.

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Our AirBnB digs just happen to be sitting smack dab in the middle of a vineyard.  The owner even provided us with a couple of bottles from the winery that buys his grapes.

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Since we were there early, I decided to throw the bike together and get in a full preride of the course.  The first 3 or 4 miles of the course was on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, which as the name implies is a rails-to-trail with a gravel surface wide enough for, you guessed it, a train.  After that, it turns into steep, technical single-track, which I just loved.

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Unfortunately, my day was cut short just when the fun, descending section hit.  I fell victim to a flat tire and in classic Marcus fashion, I had forgotten my seat bag.  With no way of fixing the flat and needing to get to the Parade of Nations, I found myself running in bike shoes to the trail head which also happen to be several miles away.  A quick call to Alba for a rescue pickup and we made the parade with time to spare.

The next day, Alba dropped me off at the top of the climb and I was able to ride the downhill portion with good friends, Deanna McCurdy, Kristen Wade and Al Wade.  We had a blast of a time riding down and followed it up with some great apple slushies.

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Since we were in Penticton during the eclipse, our landlord, Grady, came over to show us a quick and handy way to view it using a spotting scope.  We just pointed it to the sun and let it focus on a piece of paper.  Pretty snazy.  We also attempted to set a world record to be the only folks within viewing distance of the eclipse to play horseshoes during the event.

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Fast forward to race day.  The day before we had to check-in our bikes and leave them overnight.  Everything with the ITU (International Triathlon Union) is all o-fish-y-al and all.  Heck, they even checked my bike for a motor.  I joked with them that I really needed one to keep up with the fast boys in my group, but they didn’t seem to find it too funny.  Anyhow, I got a great spot assigned to me near the end of the row.

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The race consisted of a 1500 meter, point-to-point swim in a horseshoe shape.  There was a set of flags and a very straight line scratched in the sand to which we had to toe the line.  Calvin Zaryski even got yelled at for having his toe ever so slightly over the line.  With a quick blow of the horn we wer off.  There were several waves of competitors going off like clockwork.  In addition to the pros, there was another wave of age-groupers ahead of us.  By the time we got to the mid-point of the swim, we were catching them.  I had found a good person to draft off of, but when we hit the wave of folks ahead of us, it became crowded very quick and I lost him.  I came out of the water feeling pretty good and ready to get on the bike.

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I had a very quick transition and managed to get out onto the bike without any issues, even passing a few people in the process.  After passing a couple of folks on the steep, paved section going up Vancouver avenue, I hit the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) trail.  One of the guys I passed on the way up made his way back in front of me and I hopped on his tail.  We stayed together pretty much throughout the climb, conversing and just having a good time.

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The technical descending was the most fun part with me doing the “wheeeee” like the little pig on the commercial.  I felt smooth and even managed to get a compliment thrown my way as I whizzed past one of the locals in his full face helmet and pads.

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Hitting the KVR on the way back, I hooked up with Jeff Neilson.  We chatted along the way and decided to fly down the steep paved section side-by-side once we got off of the KVR.  My watch recorded 42 miles per hour, which is pretty darn fast on a mountain bike (at least for me).  In my speedy downhill section, I completely forgot to get out of my shoes.  I had planned a barefoot dismount going into transition but found myself hopping off the bike with one foot out and one foot still in the shoe AND still clipped into the pedal.  Needless to say, I almost ended up crashing into one of the fence barriers as I stumbled one legged for a bit before I could get my foot unclipped.  I ran into transition with one shoe on and one shoe off.

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After a short jaunt on pavement, we dove into singletrack which was fairly non-technical, but hilly and along the bluffs of the lake.

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Once we ascended the bluffs, we were met with a few miles of running on an out-and-back section of the KVR trail.  I would have felt a lot better with all, technical single-track, but I made the best of it and tried to maintain a good pace.  I saw Calvin on his way in and gave him a high five, along with encouragement of everyone I came across.

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Once back onto single-track, we had to descend the bluffs to the lakes edge and run back towards the finish.  The beach was only 5-10 feet wide and many sections of it covered with brush and trees.  In some places you could go under or over the trees, but in others you were forced to run out into the lake to get around.  This was a BLAST and the kind of racing I really, really enjoy.

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After dumping back out on the pavement, I ran past one of the female pros and spotted two guys ahead of me.  I asked the pro if she thought I could reel them in and she responded with, “Of course you can.  Go get em!”  I picked up my pace to try and run them down.  I lost sight of them as we weaved in and out of the marina, shops and resturants and along the backside of the park.  It wasn’t until we turned left at the peach and onto the final stretch that I saw one.  I grabbed an American Flag handed by our team coach and tried to run him down.  As I sprinted past him, the crowd started cheering, giving away my sneak attack.  I should have held off a little longer before attacking, but since I was already pulling up beside him, he had enough time to pick the pace back up.  The crowd became louder and the announcer started, “Barton or Girard, who’s it gonna be?  Girard or Barton. Barton or Girard?  Sprint finish, who will come out on top?”  Needless to say, Evan had better legs than me at that point, so he beat me across the finish line.  I gave him a big hug and congratulated him on a fine sprint.

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I ended up being the top American in my division, coming in at 6th place behind some super fast boys.

All-in-all, I was very impressed with the course that was laid out for us.  I’ll be honest, going into it I didn’t have very high hopes.  There have been a couple of ITU Cross courses that were nothing more than a road tri on dirt. This course in Penticton ended up being, what I would consider, a good measure of an all-around athlete. It didn’t cater to an athlete that may be really good at one type of course or excels at one particular skill.  I think they did a great job!

Upon finishing, we were presented with a Penticton beanie which I LOVE.  One of the coolest race gifts ever.

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It was also wonderful to have our AirBnB hosts, Grady and Gail come out and cheer us on at the race.  They managed to cheer us from several spots on the course and even take some great pictures like this:

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The gang headed out for some good eats, but not before I had this (just) dessert, first.

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My bike just wanted to rest and enjoy the view before being packed up in its case for the trip home.

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Race: ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships
Location: Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
Date: August 23, 2017
Distances: 1000m Swim / 20 mile mountain bike / 5 mile trail run
Result: 6th in Division / 21st Overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane Gel and GU Roctane Drink Mix, American Classic Wide Lightning Wheels, Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tires, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V, Hawk Racing Bottom Bracket, Hawk Racing Pulleys.

Be a warrior!

Marcus

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Some Like It Hot – XTERRA Whitewater

Well, once again, I’ve fallen waaaay behind on my posts, so here goes a recap of XTERRA Whitewater.  I’m gonna try and recap some of the previous races for some of those Throwback Thursdays I keep seeing.  Some race directors, racers and friends are due their props and I aim to deliver.

Anyhow, since XTERRA Whitewater is in my backyard and the fact that I know the guy who created it, there was no way I was going to miss it.  Even though heat hath descended upon us with a vengeance, I was still going to get my butt out there and race.  Caleb and I showed up to the race site early (as always), but since I had to stop for ice, gas and a few Twinkies on the way to the race, he beat me to it.  He even gloated about it on the interwebs.

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So. the GU Crew WAS ready and we were itching to race, matching blue GU shirts and all.  We even had a bit of fun waiting for transition to open up

Folks started rolling in and the morning preparation seemed to be Continue reading

There is No Map in Hell

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How would YOU like to do TWO marathons with over 16,000 feet of climbing, EVERY day for a week?

Ever since Dan Kimball dragged me into doing OtillO and Rockman, he’s gotten me involved in 50K trail runs and thinking about other crazy adventures. So, with that said, I’ve picked up books here and there about other folks taking on really crazy challenges.

Back in 1986, a guy by the name of Joss Naylor ran all 214 Wainright fells (a fancy Norse term for mountain) in the Lake District of the United Kingdom.  He accomplished this 300 miles (or so) in 7 days and 1 hour.  Everyone thought it was a record that would never be broken.  Enter Steve Birkinshaw.  His book, There is No Map in Hell, recounts his attempt to break this record, complete with how he prepared, how the attempt went and gives you insight to what some would call a crazy mind.

I had only one question for Steve.

Marcus: If you were to change anything, what would you do differently in planning a Wainwrights challenge again?

Steve: Looking back at my run around Continue reading

Cheetahs and Gazelles – XTERRA Fort Yargo

It’s been a couple of years since I hit the one-cow town of Winder, Georgia to race XTERRA Fort Yargo.  With the change in the XTERRA points structure, I figured it’d be another good race to earn some points.  Race morning, the temp and weather were perfect for a fun day of racing.  There was a slight threat of rain, but not until later that afternoon.  As we gathered at the water’s edge, you could see the low-water effects leftover from the park draining the lake for maintenance purposes.  The shoreline extended way out and you could see trees that were normally submerged.

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Photo: Nozomi Shinoda-Wade

The advertised swim distance was 750 meters, but looking at the buoys, I could tell it was a bit long for 750.  This was more than the normal, “Geez that looks a lot farther than 750” reaction that most folks have when looking at their first open water swim after spending the winter in the pool.  With at least a half-dozen open water swims under my belt already this year, along with a swimrun race, the usual, post-winter suprise had already been overcome.  I could definitely tell it was long.  I didn’t give it much thought beyond my first peering out at the buoys. Quickly dismissed, I got in ready to race.  After a short briefing, the ~100 person race was underway.

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Photo: Alba Barton

I managed, somehow, to stay out of the normal washing machine mess this race.  I didn’t feel like having any sort of punch fest this day, and I lucked out and found clean, calm water all the way to the first buoy.  The entire pack started out pretty fast but Continue reading

GUforit in Cali

Recently I had an opportunity to go to California as part of the day-job. It’s great to get to work with a bunch of REALLY cool people and with some REALLY cool technology.  It also allows me to get to see some new trails and even do a little sight seeing during my off-hours.

Whenever traveling, it’s tough to get in the biking, but swimming, and especially running is no problema.  I found some cool places to run just outside of Santa Clara overlooking Silicon Valley (pay no attention to the ugly mug, but concentrate on the background).

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I even managed to squeeze in some time to head up to ol’ San Francisco.

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The best part about being in this area, however, was getting to pop in on my longest standing sponsor, GU Energy.  Any of you that know me also know that I seek out sponsorship of products I like, not the other way around.  I’ve had a few offers by sponsors of products that, to put it mildly, I just didn’t like. No thanks.  I have to be able to get behind it.

So, here I am, partnered up with GU since 2008.  So… when I had an opportunity to pop in, I was on it like white on rice.  Heck, after I reached out to Celia, my partner-in-crime at GU, she was ecstatic that I was in town and offered up a one-on-one tour of the facilities with MacKay Gibbs, Director of Manufacturing.

Before I could go back to see where and how the magic is made, I had to get suited up.  How do you like this getup (makes me look like a scientist, looking all official):

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Don’t laugh.  They take their quality control to another level.  After all, this is a food processing facility, so there’s standards that have to met (or in their case, exceeded).  I can’t show you any other pictures inside the facility because their processes, ingredients and other intellectual property are tightly held secrets.  There are many imitators, but there’s only one GU.  If you want to see a sampling of what I got to see first hand, check out this cool vid:

Speaking of quality control, I was absolutely amazed at how much goes into making sure the best possible product gets into your hands.  From the minute the raw ingredients hit their dock to the moment the finished product ships out, it is tested and inspected continuously throughout the process. The guys and gals I met making these products are true professionals that take pride in what they’re making, all while keeping an eagle eye on every packet that goes down the line.  As a bonus, I was handed a Chocolate Outrage packet right off the conveyer while it was still warm.

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I was also equally amazed at how GU cultivates a culture that consists of employees that like sports and racing as much as I do.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but there’s a huge board where employees write their goals, the races they’re doing and when they accomplish them it’s celebrated.  Another bulletin board had countless pictures of them participating in events and races.

My jaw dropped when I got to see their gym and bike storage.  Each employee is encouraged and incented to ride their bikes to work.  Not just a pat on the back incentive, but given extra days off once they accumulate a certain number of commute days.

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It was great to meet all of the staff that not only make great products, but have a real love for sports fueling that passion.

Want to know more about GU Energy and the products they make to fuel your passion?  Then head over to their website and check em out, or hit me up anytime. No matter what you do, there’s a #GUforit.

Running Stuff from a Yoga Store? lululemon Product Review

That was my initial thought.  Back in 2005 or 2006 (if I recall the timeframe correctly), I’d heard of lululemon athletica and checked out some of their clothing when shopping for gifts, specifically, fitness clothing for my wife, Alba.  Back then, they sold predominately yoga clothing for ladies, or at least that’s how I remember.  So, when I won a gift certificate by winning a 5k in Birmingham, Alabama, I almost immediately dismissed it.  Honestly, I did.  Being one not to ignore a good deal on some free clothing, I said to myself, “What the heck?” and went to the store to check it out.

I met up with Alison Hoover, the Assistant Manager at the Summit Birmingham store where she gave me the run-down on the running gear.  I was very surprised to see some amazing pieces that were not limited to just yoga.  She had explained at the race that they had great running gear, and when checking it out at the store, I was amazed that it didn’t look like just your average pair of running shorts or shirts, but, instead, stuff that really had some thought put into it.  It’s apparent that this clothing was designed by athletes that were active in sport and not just big wigs sitting in a corporate office pushing paper around.  Alison helped me pick out some gear, I tried on several things and finally settled on the Metal Vent Tech Hoodie and the Surge Short 3.

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I was super-excited to give them a try and had planned on running in them within a couple of days.  The only stipulation that I had when receiving the free gear was that I needed to provide them with honest product feedback.

I thought that was a good trade.

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Unfortunately, me getting a chance to run in the gear was delayed since I started having issues with my calf.  To my dismay, this delay lasted almost a month.  In the meantime, I did some research on the company, checked out their Continue reading

New XTERRA Point System – Good or Bad?

If you haven’t heard by now, XTERRA revamped the points system for it’s various tours across the globe.  I started writing a post about the new points system and before I knew it, the post was pages long, complete with a history lesson in the old rankings system.  I came to my senses and realized you probably didn’t want to read that much and would prefer I just get to the meat of the matter.  Well, here’s the meat.  Believe it or not, this is the short version.

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First, Kahuna Dave explained it very well in a short news release, but I want to cover a few points from an athlete’s perspective.  Keep in mind that this is my opinion and for the purposes of this post, I am focusing on amateur athletes.  Let’s start with the “WHY”.

Simplify: The old point system had some cool aspects to it.  It made for an interesting race season and you definitely needed to put some strategy into it.  But, that’s also its downfall.  It was complicated (more about that later).

Standardize: The point system we had here in the U.S. for the America tour differed from the other tours around the globe.  This was AMPLIFIED with the introduction to the Pan America Tour for 2016.  You had two points series with differing rules which encompassed some of the same races.  Having the same rules makes it easier for folks that want to compete in multiple tours.

More competition: This reason is not the quickest and easiest to explain.  Some of you may even argue with me on this one, but when the rubber meets the dirt, it results in more competition.  Allow me to explain by getting into the “HOW”.

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What HASN’T changed is the basic premise behind the points system, within the America tour, is to become a regional champion within your respective age group.  The other tours aren’t broken down into regions, so each age group encompasses the entire tour.  So for the purposes of explanation, we’ll just say “champion”.  You still race against others within your age group and in order for you to become a champion, you have to end the season with the most points in your age group.  That part hasn’t changed.  Becoming a champion is also one way to qualify for the XTERRA World Championships.  That’s still the same as well.

The other part that HASN’T changed is how points are awarded.  Some races have the designation of a “Gold” race while others have a designation of “Silver”.  Gold races have a 100 point value, so if you win your age group at a gold race you will receive 100 points.  Silver races have a 75 point value if you win.  From there, it goes down in points as your placement goes down and points are awarded down to 15th place.

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In the past, under old rules, you only counted your top 4 races.  This means that you could race as much as you wanted, but only the top four counted towards the points.  Another old rule was that if you raced more than one Gold race, you could only count one of them at the 100 point value.  For example, if you won your age group at one Gold race and three Silver races, you’d max out at 325 points (100+75+75+75).  That’s the most you could earn.  Period.

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So how does this equal more competition?  The downside to only counting the top 4 races meant that someone could “lock up” the regional title early in the year, effectively shutting out anyone else from having a shot at the title.  Under the new rules, the most points wins.  Race as much as you want, and ALL points count.  Furthermore, there’s no cap on the Gold races.  In the U.S. there are currently only two Gold races.  Race them both, and if you win your age group (at both), you get 200 points.  By not limiting the number of races that count, this effectively puts more people in the running to become champions and keeps the competition going all season long.  If you think about it, the premise is that anyone can get to the top.  It’s not just about the fastest anymore.  Granted, being a fast racer will definitely help, but you also have to be loyal.  If the fastest racer only does 4 races, but someone who’s not far behind him does 6 races, guess who might come out on top.

Some folks are quick to say that this favors the ones with the deepest wallets, meaning, as long as you shell out enough cash to race a ton of races, you don’t have to be fast.  I can see how some may perceive it that way, especially if you are on a very limited budget.  While this definitely has different implications for pros, who are racing for dough, for amateurs, it’s really just about a title and Maui slots.  They would go on further to say that it doesn’t guarantee the fastest athletes get those Maui slots and go to Worlds.  This is just not true.  Maui slots are awarded at Gold races for the fastest athletes and overseas this is also true for Silver races, so you still have a chance at Maui without winning the champion spot.  And, at the end of the day, the fastest athletes will be crowned World Champs.

I really think this is a good thing.  Although I liked being able to pick the races I wanted, knowing it only took 4 really good races to secure a champ spot, having it be unlimited points adds another level of interest to the points series and puts anyone in the running.  Now, time for a new strategy.

See you on the trails.  As always, continue to be a Warrior!

Marcus