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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 falling in place, although Amy was having a few issues with her arms and legs.

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After everyone filed down to the boat dock for the swim, we had a briefing and two waves of swimmers.  I thought it was a pretty neat idea.  They asked folks during registration whether they wanted to be in a “competitive” wave or not.  Surprisingly, this resulted in two waves of almost completely equal numbers.

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As we came back into the dock, I avoided the sunken trees since I knew where they were from the Catawba SwimRun race.

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I managed to get out of the water and run the long, 500-meter-ish run to transition, coming into T1 in 9th place.  I met friends Donny Forsyth and Yaro Middaugh at the bike racks as we all scrambled to get out of transition in a hurry.  I was concentrating so hard on getting out ahead of them that I pulled a complete rookie move and started running out with my bike while still wearing my swim speed suit.

“Are you going to ride your bike in that speed suit?” Yaro asked?
”Oh crap!” I exclaimed, laying down my bike and ripping off the speed suit.
”I’m here for you, buddy.” Yaro continued.

Boy, that could have been an absolute terrible bike ride, wearing a swim speed suit in that heat.  Coming out of transition in 6th place, Yaro and I dove into the trailhead together and proceeded to catch the other folks.  I managed to make it up to 2nd place within the first couple of miles and maintained it throughout the duration of the bike.  There were a couple of times that I spotted Rob Ricard through the switchbacks or through the trees, but I just couldn’t seem to catch him.  When we got to the “East Main” trail (we call it “East Pain”), the last 6 miles of the bike, I caught up with Patrick Clark.  “Are you in the lead?” I asked.  “No. I must have took a wrong turn somewhere, you beat me out of the water.” he said as I passed him.  We chatted a bit as I slowly pulled away, still trying to catch Rob.

After coming into T2 and having a MUCH better transition than my 10+ second goof-up in the first one, I headed out on the steamy, hot as you-know-what run.  On the way out of transition, friends told me that Rob had a 3 minute lead.  Damn it, man… that’s one helluva lead to close.  I’m not gonna lie, it messed with my head a bit.  I’ve had some pretty darn good runs on the “Academy trail” that makes up most of the run.  It’s hilly, punchy, twisty, technical and just a tough run.  It suits my strengths and I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve had some really, really good runs out there.

But this day, I just didn’t have it.  I’m not sure if I pushed too hard on the bike trying to catch Rob or if it was just so damn hot.  Who knows?  All I know is that I found myself walking… a lot.  Patrick caught up to me.  “You OK?” he asked as he passed me while I was walking.  “Just taking a break and grabbing a drink.” I replied, sipping on my water bottle.  I looked back and caught a glimpse of Caleb.  It only took him a minute or two before he was right behind me.  “What the hell are you doing letting me catch you?” he asked.  “I just don’t have it today.” I replied.  We ran out into the open area underneath the power lines and the sun just seemed to zap me even more, both mentally and physically.  I ran/walked up the big hill and made it back into the woods.  There had to be at least a 10 degree difference.  My hat’s off to the folks manning the waterstop out in the sun.

I regained my composure and ran all the way back fighting cramps the rest of the way and came in fourth place.  As I came across the finishline, both of my arms immediately cramped.  Frustrated with the cramping and my run, I just threw my bottle and hat to the ground and sought out shade to lay down.  As soon as I laid down, both legs started cramping on me.  I’m sure it was a funny sight to see me rolling around on the ground.  Jimmy, the race director, came over and handed me some fluids which I welcomed and stood up to try and work them out by walking in circles.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

The leaders and the race director stood around discussing some of the markings trying to figure out where folks would have gone off course.  Since Caleb and I train there almost daily, we knew the course without even needing markings.  We decided to go for a quick spin, because Patrick wanted to know where he missed a turn.  After riding the “Figure 8” trail, we realized the markings about 15 feet into the trailhead where the trails split was one of the problem areas.  Patrick, unfortunately, voluntarily DQ’d.  I think it sucks, too, as he is a fast-as-hell runner (fastest split of the day) and it would have made for some good racing.

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Despite the heat, my sub-par performance on the run and some course marking issues for others, I had a blast and they all did as well.  I’m REALLY looking forward to next year to get some vengeance on that run course!  I’ll also be working with the RD in any way I can to help shore up the markings.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

Congrats to Amy Carver on ANOTHER overall female win!  Girl, you’re ripping it up out there.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

Also congrats to Paul Geist on finishing his first (and hopefully not last) XTERRA.  We had quite a few new folks among the ranks.  I hope to see you all at more races.  Welcome to the family!

Big shout out goes to Jake Watkins who suffered heat issues on the run.  He decided to take a nose dive into some shrubs off the side of the trail to rest a bit.  Actually, he doesn’t remember much of that, but he spent the next few days in the hospital recovering.  I think he just wanted to be pampered a while.  In all seriousness, glad you’re doing much better, bud.  Marty Powers, you’re the man for helping Jake!

On another note, good luck to all my peeps out there racing XTERRA Beaver Creek tomorrow!

Race: XTERRA Whitewater
Location: Charlotte, NC
Date: 2016 July 8, 2017
Distances: 1000m Swim / 14.5 mile mountain bike / 4 mile trail run
Result: 3rd 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

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 all 214 Wainwright fells it is amazing how many things went well.

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Initially the key thing was selecting a good route. Looking at the map of all 214 Wainwright fells and picking the route with both the least distance and climb was a major task but an enjoyable one. I spent many happy hours plotting various routes before I was satisfied I had picked the best route. After that the key job was trying to get together my support team. Jane Saul looked after all the logistics, and I had about fifty other people helping out on the fells and at the road support points. I sorted out who was doing which section with me as much as I could before I started, but once I was on the move Jane had to sort out all the many, inevitable changes to the plan.

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For me as I was going round, I felt the following things were a success:

  • The campervans and the support runners were in the correct place to meet me at the end of every section. It was great to be able to rely upon this as I was usually in desperate need by the time I arrived at each stop.
  • There were at least two support runners with me on every section, who were carrying essential supplies and also kept up my morale.
  • I did not miss any peaks and went to the correct Wainwright summit on each one.
  • I was never lost, and in total I lost less than thirty minutes in six days and thirteen hours, from taking the less than optimal lines.
  • Whatever food or drink I wanted was always available. This included gels, bars and ‘normal’ food.
  • I always had dry, clean clothes and shoes to wear. I’d change at every support point; being able to have fresh socks so often was so crucial to my comfort.
  • I had a quick wash at the end of every stage and stopped at three friends’ houses for showers on the way round.
  • I had regular massages and work on my feet to help prevent injury.
  • I was always (or at least I think I was) grateful and thanked my support team and never got cross with anyone even when I was incredibly tired and desperate.
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So what would I do differently? The short answer is very little. The thing that lost me most time was the blisters on my feet and tendonitis at the front of one leg above the ankle. At every support point from the third day onwards the dressings on my blisters were removed, Nurse Mel treated them and then put on some more dressing. This meant that instead of a stop of twenty minutes I was often taking up to an hour. My running speed was also slightly slower because of the pain of running on the blisters. However, the hour-long stop meant I was eating a lot of food at the support points. As Billy Bland said when he reviewed the book, ‘I actually think Steve’s blisters might have been a blessing, as they caused him to slow and rest and stopped him running himself into the ground’. Similarly the tendonitis slowed me down but was kept under control with massage treatment from Jim and Phil Davies.

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So could I have done anything differently, to avoid the blisters and tendonitis? I am not sure I could have. Beforehand I was very worried about blisters – although I have never had bad blisters before – as I knew they could prevent me from finishing the Wainwrights. So I made sure I had twenty pairs of new Berghaus running socks and various different shoes, and I knew the sock and shoe combinations did not cause any rubbing. I also changed my shoes and socks at every support point. But because of the heat and humidity and the twenty-hour days on my feet, blisters started causing me problems from the third day onwards. So would different socks, different shoes or pre-emptive taping of my feet have helped? I do not know and I will never know. I would need to do three twenty-hour days in similar weather conditions over similar terrain trying different things and see if I got any blisters…!

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Another thing that caused me issues was being violently sick towards the end of day one. I think this was caused by the amount I needed to drink because of the heat and humidity I was running in on that day. I was sweating profusely, but the sweat was just dripping off me rather than evaporating and keeping me cool. I think I drank about ten litres of liquid in the twelve hours before I was sick. In hindsight, I probably should have gone slightly slower and then I wouldn’t have sweated so much and so not needed to drink as much, and so perhaps not been sick. In the moment I was really keen to stay on schedule, whereas I now know that I could easily have taken a little more time from my schedule and picked it up later. However, the fact that I was sick did not really make that much difference, as by the morning of the second day my stomach was back to normal and hardly caused me any problems for the rest of the week.

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A bigger problem was that I really struggled to sleep on the first three nights. The first night I was planning on a two-hour sleep and then I planned on four hours’ sleep on nights two and three. But in those three nights the only deep sleep I had was the last two hours of the third night. The rest of the time I was lying down but awake, in quite a lot of pain as my knees throbbed. If I could have avoided this problem I would have been much more refreshed during the day and the sleep I had ‘banked’ would mean I would have needed less sleep later in the week. I had a very similar problem on the Dragon’s Back Race, so I was not really worried about it but just frustrated, as I knew more sleep would have helped me. I am not really sure what I could have done differently as I am not really sure what causes the problem. I think it is some sort of nerve pain with the source of the problem my lower back, so I have been doing more core-strengthening exercises since then.

When you are out running for twenty hours a day for seven days, however well prepared you are things will still go wrong. The important thing is to accept this and not get stressed when it happens, but to work out how to cope. This is when experience and a great support team helps, and for me meant I was successful in my ambition to break the record for running round all the Wainwright fells.

Marcus: Holy moly.  Whelp, folks.  If you want to know more about Steve’s adventures, check out one of the other blogs as part of Steve’s blog tour below or pickup the book.  You’ll be amazed.

 

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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 started to thin out as we rounded the first of three buoys.  After rounding the last buoy and heading for the shore, I felt that my pace was good, but had a few folks ahead of me.  I think I managed to get out of the water in 6th or 7th place and headed for the transition area to try and pass a few of them.

Coming out of the water, I tried my best to take off like superman, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get more than a few inches off the ground. (Actually, I was just unzipping my wetsuit)

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Photo: Alba Barton

I knew that a bunch of other fast bikers, such as Caleb Baity were not far behind and would be gunning for me.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Also in the race was Peter Lilly and Charlotte Mahan.  Peter always does a dance number coming into T1

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

I grabbed my bike off of the rack and took off out of T1. I was pretty upset because someone removed my wad of bottle rockets that I had duct taped under my seat.  I was going to attempt a rocket assist takeoff that I saw back during an air show from my Air Force days.  The Navy boys always showed off the procedure and I figured, “What the hell, I’ll give it a shot.”

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But, since someone removed them, I had to resort to just using my legs.  Oh well, I guess it was for the best since there was so much pine straw around.

As we headed out of T1, I was in third place behind Kevin Jett and Michael Loutzenheiser.  One of them had issues in the first mile.  I’m not sure if it was a crash, a mechanical, or both, but he was trailside working on his bike.  As I passed, I asked him if he was ok.  He said he needed a multi-tool, but I didn’t have one with me (only a tube and co2).  I apologized and kept on trucking.  A short time later I made another pass and gained the lead.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

It’s rare I get to truly experience the thrill of being chased.  Usually it’s a combo of chasing someone AND being chased, but at this point in the race, the feeling was 100% “get your butt moving, they’re coming for you.”  I felt like a gazelle being chased by a bunch of cheetahs and that at any point one of them would pounce from around the corner and take me down.

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As I got closer to T2, I kept catching a glimpse of someone through the switchbacks and twisty trail behind me.  Every now and then I would catch the sound of their rear hub whirring down the trail.  As I was finishing up my transition in T2, Josh Shaffer came in and threw his bike on the rack next to mine.  We exchanged winded pleasantries and I took off running out of T2 and the chase was back on.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

I didn’t know who else was behind Josh, but knowing fellow XTERRA Ambassador, Caleb and his fast bike splits, I knew he couldn’t be far behind.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

I knew if I could just turn out a good run split, I might be able to hold them off.  With each passing mile, I fully expected to see Caleb, Yaro or Josh to come up behind me and give me that virtual tap on the shoulder, but it never happened.  Coming into the finish I was elated to have stayed in front of some of the stiffest competition on the circuit.

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Photo: Shannon Kimoto

The final placement of the top 4 were (from right to left), me, Yaro Middaugh, Josh Shaffer and Caleb Baity.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Yaro coming into the finish strong
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Photo: Alba Barton

Josh coming in just ahead of Caleb

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Photo: Alba Barton

First overall female goes out to the super fast Christine Grant.  Great job!!

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Photo: Nozomi Shinoda-Wade

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Photo: Alba Barton

After the race we had fun times getting some awesome schwag from the folks at Gone Riding.  I sat on the can to contemplate life.

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Photo: Alba Barton

I must have been doing something right, as I was joined by Caleb and Jenna Hoover.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

It was great to see a lot of the “regulars” aka my XTERRA family at the race.  If you don’t know these folks, walk up to them and say hi.  They’re the biggest bunch of fun (and fast) clowns around.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Especially these two: Peter Lilly and Charlotte Mahan.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

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Photo: Me

After some great Mexican food and many, many laughs, we all parted our separate ways, with a promised gathering at the next race.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

If you’re not familiar with XTERRA, you’re missing out.  Not only is it TOUGH, but you’ll meet some of the best people on the planet.  I met Jonathan Woodford, a first-time XTERRA racer, in the transition area after the race.  We talked at length about his race and he mentioned that it was a lot tougher than he had anticipated.  He added that it was a blast and he was looking forward to his next one.  Lastly, he mentioned how friendly everyone was and how he hadn’t experienced that before.  Time and time again I’ve seen people make the switch over from other sports or from the pavement to XTERRA and they find the most laid back, fun-loving and unpretentious crowd around.  What are you waiting for?  I think Jim Dandro’s calf is a poster pic of how tough XTERRA can be, but the people’s hearts and attitudes are anything but.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Race: XTERRA Fort Yargo
Location: Winder, GA
Date: Apr 29, 2016
Distances: 1000m Swim / 10 mile mountain bike / 4.5 mile trail run
Result: 1st 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

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

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers for Athletes

By now you may be scrambling to find gifts for your friend or better half.  If that person is a runner, triathlete or biker, maybe I can give you a few ideas. To the untrained eye, these may seem a bit cheesy, but trust me, if you want to get them something that they need and will actually use, then think about these. Not only are they practical and show that you’ve put some thought into their love of sport, but may even add a few snickers on Christmas morning. You can find most of these at your local running or other sports-oriented store and maybe even online. I’m a firm believer of supporting local shops, so definitely try them first.  (Throughout, I’m referring to your athlete as “him”, but can be very well a “her”).

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1. Anything GU – Most athletes are in need of nutrition and can always use more. So stuff a few Stroopwafels, a few gels, a package of chews or maybe a tube (or two) of GU Drink Tabs into their stocking. The electrolyte tablets bring electrolytes to water with minimal calories (only 10) and something I use EVERY ride and on runs when I carry fluids. If you don’t know what a stroopwafel is, check out this video.  You can even get creative with the nutrition.  On our New Year’s Day run, we break out with Jet Blackberry gel on mini, powdered donuts. Now THAT’s one good jelly donut. www.GUEnergy.com

 

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2. Give them Warmth – If your runner or biker likes training in cold weather, then you cannot go wrong with arm warmers. These gems are great because they can be taken off and stowed easily during those long workouts when you start of in the cold, but the temperature rises as your workout progresses.  These are especially a favorite with ultra runners and even bikers.  Be picky with your choice and don’t go for just any arm warmer.  These arm warmers from Orange Mud are made from bamboo.  Why a bamboo arm warmer? From a sustainability perspective it’s a crazy fast growing plant that requires very little water and no pesticides to “grow like a weed”. When you chop down a bamboo plant, it doesn’t need replanting, rather it simply regrows for continual harvest. The plant is also fantastic for erosion control, and also feeding pandas. Yes, pandas. www.orangemud.com

 

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3. Elastic 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. Not only do you relieve yourself from the hassle of tying, but as you run, especially long runs, your feet tend to swell.  These beauties will stretch as your feet swell, keeping your shoes comfortable but snug.  www.locklaces.com

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4. 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 Merino wool socks from Orange Mud (great this time of year) or compression socks which aid in recovery after a long workout. Want to go with a completely American made sock? Then check out Farm to Feet.

 

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5. 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 and colors, but I prefer the “Chunky” ones. On most regular handlebar grips, manufacturers put raised 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

 

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6. 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.OrangeSeal.com

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7. 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

 

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8. 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.

 

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

-Marcus