Alba and I scooted down to Jaw-Ja to hit up the XTERRA Fort Yargo race. Being one of my favorite, early season races, the trails at Fort Yargo are always fun, as is the chance to hang with my XTERRA family.
This year, we decided to do something a bit different and camp within the park. The weather was perfect and with only a chance of rain on Friday, we figured it would be worth the risk. I wanted to do a little course previewin’ on Friday, and since it did look like rain for the afternoon, we chose to head down Thursday night. Knowing that we wouldn’t make it there before the park office closed, we generally took our lolly-gaggin time getting down there since the park gate didn’t close until 10.
Taking our sweet time, we stopped periodically to eat, stretch our legs, and do a little shopping at Wal-Mart for last-minute camping needs. I must say, only at Wal-Mart can you spot a kid in full-on Spiderman pajamas, complete with Spidey mask drawn on his face with a Sharpie.
As we rolled into the park, completely oblivious to the time, Alba pointed out that the clock stated 10:04. Being someone who is slightly obsessive, I know my clock in the truck is accurate. So we were surprised, to our advantage, that the gate was still open. No sooner did I hop out of the truck at the park office, that I hear the “beep, beep, beep” of the gate automatically closing behind me. I’m thankful to the park rangers for either not being obsessive with their gate clock and/or giving a 4 minute grace period.
We settled into our campsite, trying our best to be quiet for the other campers since we were rolling in so late. As my head hit the pillow, I breathed a sigh of contentment as I dozed off.
Wraaaaaaaaaaaaap Wraaaaaaaaaaaaaap. (or however you explain a train horn in text). It would be the sound we would hear every two hours. All. Night. Long. Luckily, we were a mile or two away from the railroad tracks, but given the thin walls and my light sleeping, we heard every train that rolled by and every plane that flew overhead. Luckily, the next morning, I woke to a beautiful campsite that made it all melt away.
We were situated out on a point where we had water on three sides and some great views. Fishermen were already on the calm, peaceful lake soaking in the serenity.
After a waddle to the bathroom, a few quick phone calls to Jheremy Zetans (fellow EPC Athlete), I commenced to wrenching on the bike for a pre-ride. I really wanted to just hang out at the campsite, but there was “buidness” to be done.
After our pre-ride and some long convos with fellow athletes that were showing up for packet pickup, we hooked up with some of the XTERRA fam for dinner, where many states were represented and talks about shenanigans were had. There were long waits for tables so not everyone ate together. Frank, Charlotte and Jheremy couldn’t join us and they were missed.
That night, we were spared with only two trains and one plane. The next morning, we showed up at transition during pre-dawn hours where Alba and I took a moment to sit on a picnic table and enjoy a crescent moon along with Venus. At least I think it was Venus.
Before we knew it, the race was off and the usual washing machine madness commenced. The swim seemed a bit long this year and everyone’s times seemed to back it up with a +2 minutes or so across the board.
I came out of the no swimming, swimming area with a good 15 folks ahead of me. Not expecting to be that far back, I knew I had my work cut out for me to make up the positions.
I managed to get out onto the bike and was in 10th position in no time. I made it up to 6th at one point, but Mark Rudder and Sam Chalk passed me during the back half. I commented to Sam (27) that there was a rule against passing old guys like me (44) as he went by. All-in-all, not my best bike leg of a race, but certainly not my worst. I came into transition with someone hot on my tail, but at the time I wasn’t quite sure who.
Heading out onto the run, I met up with Frank Fernandez Posse at the first water stop. As we ran through the stop, he gave some words of encouragement as I passed him. Mark Rudder wasn’t far ahead and I squeezed past him, paying forward the encouragement where he picked up the pace and hung with me for several miles. On the back half of the race, the trail opened up to a power line where I could see 4 folks ahead of me and having rid myself of the sluggish biking legs, I picked up the pace in an attempt to pick off as many of them as I could.
I’m not sure what special effects Pax put on that photo, but it sure makes me look like a fully bearded, hairy, dirty sasquatch. :-)
It wasn’t long before I passed Sam Chalk, Rob Strangia and Darren Cox, all looking very strong and fast on the run. Trying to do the placement math in my head, I came to the conclusion that I was third overall. On the final descent, I could see Josh Schaffer ahead. I seemed to be closing in and as we crossed the foot bridge over the lake and into the final stretch, a bystander said, “He’s in third, you can catch him.” Damnit, my math was off. I kept closing the gap, but didn’t have enough mileage left to get the job done. Josh finished 14 seconds ahead of me. Congrats, Josh!
I finished 4th overall but it was still good for an age group win.
Big congrats to Charlotte Mahan for another incredible race. She even gave some wisdom and motivation to some of the younger mountain bike racers that were beginning to show up for the following day’s race.
We hung around for a while and “closed the place down” before we parted our separate ways. Can’t wait to see you guys at the next one.
Race: XTERRA Fort Yargo
Location: Winder, GA
Date: April 8, 2014
Distances: 750m Swim / 10.5 mile mountain bike / 5 mile trail run
Result: 1st in division, 4th Overall
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Rocket Ron Tires, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Adrenaline Wetsuit, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.
Unless otherwise specified, photos by Alba Barton. :-)