XTERRA Canada Nationals aka XTERRA Whistler aka best damn trails anywhere

By Marcus Barton

I love, love, love, the outstanding, awesome, excellent, bombtastic, sweet, superb, wonderful, fabulous, magnificent, beautiful, and technical trails at Whistler!

Thank you, Melanie, for talking me into this race.

Anyone who has seen my Facebook page has already seen the tons of pictures that we took during this trip.  For those of you that haven’t, I’ll share a smidgen of them here.

After a long flight from the east coast to west, we hooked up with teammate Tim Holland and took the drive up from Seattle to Whistler.  What was supposed to be a 4ish hour drive turned into 6 or so with all of the traffic.  There was great debate if we should have flown into Vancouver instead.

The next morning, Tim, Dan, Danny and I headed out to the trails to get a quick preview of the course.  For the race, it would be a two-lap bike and pseudo-two-lap run.  Our initial plans were to ride one lap of the bike and run one lap of the run course as a preview.  As soon as we arrived at the trailhead, we met up with Conrad Stoltz who was on his second lap.  We all dove into the trailhead and started the first climb.  I tried my best to stick to Conrad’s wheel as he easily climbed up the hill (of course).  He waited at the top of each climb for me to catch up after which we bombed down the descents.  This happened two or three times through the first section of the course before dumping out onto pavement.  What a blast.

Side-by-side, we rode up the road chatting about the course, the venue and the upcoming race.  Before diving into the single-track again, Conrad stated he would ride the second lap non-stop since he stopped at each technical section on the first lap.  We decided in our best interests (reserving our legs) and not to hold Conrad back, that it would be best if he went on without us.  In a cloud of dust, Conrad sped up the next climb.

Rather than create a lengthy, lengthy post, let me just say that this is THE most technical XTERRA course I have raced to date.  Conrad, in his blog post, said it best, “For sure the hairiest, most scary, most technical XTERRA course I’ve seen.  I walked some of the most hectic sections to check them out, then get on the bike, motivate and attack. Felt the rush of adrenaline, realized I forgot to breathe. What a rush. The riding here is in a class of its own”.  ‘Nuf said.  Couldn’t have said it better myself.  So instead of rehashing, here’s a few pics.  Click on them for larger versions.

View XTERRA Canada Pre-ride

After our fun preride, we realized that we didn’t have time for the preview of the run course.  Instead, we headed back to the Nita Lake Lodge to attend the Q&A with the pros and the pre-race briefing.  We listened in as questions were answered by Conrad Stoltz, our own Melanie McQuaid, Danielle Kabush and Mike Vine.  It was a great session and many tips were thrown out to the crowd of athletes.  If you’re ever attending one of the championship races, you should definitely make it a point to attend one of these Q&A’s.  I pick up something from every one of them, regardless of how many I sit through.

On to Race Day

Photo by Alba Barton

Race morning, it was a balmy 45 degrees.  Heading to the race start, we found a bit of fog and chilly air while we setup for transition.

DSC_0614   DSC_0607

Since I couldn’t take any C02 or Big Air on the plane, Alexia hooked me up with one of her cans of Big Air.  When you buy Big Air in the store, it comes in a green can.  Genuine Innovations hooked our team up with special cans, blue for the guys and pink for the girls.  You guessed it.  I rocked one of Alexia’s pink cans!  Both Tim and I had tire-related issues on the pre-ride, so the Big Air he was carrying came in quite handy to get us riding quickly.  We donned the Profile Design Gold Cell wetsuits and headed for the water.

23830094-IMG_3000   DSC_0692 DSC_0688

In classic XTERRA fashion, the swim consisted of two, 750 meter laps with a short beach run between.

DSC_0716   DSC_0744a

The bike leg was, again, a BLAST.  There were some great climbs, technical, rocky drops and rooty downhills.  And just to make things even more interesting, they threw in some ladder bridges to boot.  One minute, you’re doing a technical, climb, and the next, you’re going around a man-made switchback consisting of a u-shaped ladder bridge with a 10 foot drop on one side.  A two-lap course, we were able to hit all of the great terrain twice, totalling around 13 miles.

23830095-IMG_3224 23830096-IMG_3265 23830097-Whistler283

The run course was equally as fun.  Again, a multi-lap course totalling about 5 miles, it was a great, technical challenge.  Throw in a few more bridges, log hops and a grueling climb that you had to climb TWICE and you have XTERRA Canada.  Finish up the race with about 2k of road running, through a neighborhood and you finish up at the Nita Lake lodge.

23830098-IMG_3374 DSC_0808

L-R: Marcus Barton, Alexia Droz, Melanie McQuaid & Tim Holland

My age group (40-44) was the largest age group in the race, filled with some very talented folks and a speckling of guys who used to race pro.  The top 3 guys in our age group finished ahead of pro men and I managed to keep an 8th place in the division at 2:56.  Full Results.

Knowing that we would want to hit more trails, we all stayed an extra couple of days to take in more hiking and biking.  Alba and I went to the top of Whistler Mountain, saw a bear and went to Rainbow Falls.  We also went to Southside Diner and had a burger with fried egg and bacon.  The poutine was excellent, too.

DSC_0846 DSC_0510 DSC_0874 IMG_0110

Check out even more pictures in this album.  ALSO, check out the highlight video.

Be a Warrior!