Lickety Split – XTERRA Tsali

Argh.  XTERRA Tsali. Yet another great race I had to miss out on.  Again, I had full intentions on racing this one, but last-minute decisions and obstacles prevented it from happening. 

So what does any good XTERRA athlete do?  He uses his “"networkin’ skills”" to keep track of what’s going on instead.

“You get news fast!” said Josh Shaffer after I congratulated him on 5th place overall, 1st place age group finish and fastest bike split for the race.  I sent him a message at 9:59am for having a good race.  I had gotten word of preliminary results and it was full of both new and old names.

My original plan was to carpool with my friend, Dan Kimball and share a room, get a good brick session in on Saturday and an awesome race in on Sunday.  I gave Dan the bad news on Wednesday before that I wasn’t going to make it.  Dan was nice enough to give me a call right after he finished to give me the low-down.

Photo by Rob Strangia

A new pro to the XTERRA ranks, Charlie Epperson from Guam had won the race.  “It was a great race and the conditions were perfect for us to race fast today. I knew how important it was to have a solid run and go into the final bike leg in the lead.” Charlie said, speaking on the unique swim-run-bike format of XTERRA Tsali.  He continued, “The second and third place finishers were fast runners so I only had a minute lead heading out on the bike. On the bike my focus was clean riding and maintaining a pace that would require a super bike split to catch me.”

Photo by Charlie Epperson

Charlie kept it clean and finished 1st overall ahead of road triathlon pro, James Haycraft and his compadré, Sebastian Binnemann, both from Charlotte, North Carolina.  James was first out of the water with a blazing fast 8:07 swim, but was passed by Charlie about half way through the run.  “About half-way through the run I saw someone across the cove coming towards me FAST.  It took him another couple of minutes but eventually he came up to me and passed me on a downhill like I was standing STILL.” James stated.  Although a very experienced road triathlete, this was his first XTERRA. 

I chatted with James at Inside Out Sports where he works a few weeks before Tsali and he was excited to give it a shot.  What’s his afterthoughts?  “XTERRA is a LOT of fun.  The atmosphere is VERY different than road triathlons.  At least, based on this one singular event I have done, anyway. People generally seem to be a lot more laid back and the atmosphere is a LOT less tense,” he stated on his blog.  Check out his excellent race report.  As for the atmosphere, I’m here to tell ya James, they’re ALL that way.  (big grin)

In third place was Sebastian Binnemann.  If that name sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because he finished first overall in last year’s XTERRA Whitewater race. 


On the women’s side, Jessie Johnson of Athens, Georgia took top spot followed by Misty Becerra and Rebecca Falls.  Misty had a great swim and was the second person out of the water right behind James.  She held onto the lead throughout the run.  “I didn’t know how I would feel about the swim-run-bike format but the run felt great!” she said.  Misty added, “I tried to let guys pass best I could. Jessie (1st female) passed me I think around 7 miles. I have a love/hate relationship with the hard last 4 miles of climbing then fast down hill miles.  They were awesome!”

Rebecca had similar accolades for the different format.  “This was the second year that my Dad and I came to Tsali to race the XTERRA. Last year’s race was my first ever XTERRA, so it was nice to be able to come back and race on the same course again (without a thunderstorm this time). I also used to work in the Nantahala Outdoor Center bike shop, so Tsali feels like a home course to me. Since I come from a cycling background, I like the layout of this race–get the run over with before the bike!”

For the Falls family, XTERRA racing is truly a family affair.  Rebecca got involved with off road triathlons through her Dad, Gary Falls, who started racing XTERRAs last season as well. Rebecca’s parents live in Alabama while she lives in Asheville, NC.  “The races are, more than anything else, a nice occasion to see them and get to do something together that we both really enjoy,” says Rebecca.  She continued, “Dad had a great race, taking about 25 minutes off his total time from last year, so we were both pleased with our results, and proud of our fellow Tuscaloosa friend Susanne Rives who also came up to race.”

Photo by James Haycraft

As for Charlie Epperson, many are wondering, “He’s from Guam?”  Yep.  “Traveling all the way from Guam (my home) it is a pretty cool treat to win a race close enough to allow my parents to drive over from Tennessee to watch and cheer me on,” Charlie stated.  Next up for him?  XTERRA Knoxville.


Full XTERRA Tsali Results


See you next year at XTERRA Tsali.

Be a Warrior!