Epic in Arkansas – XTERRA Epic Iron Mountain Race

I had so much to do and so little time to do it.  Doesn’t that seem so typical when you’re flying out of town?  In my case, I was traveling to race the XTERRA Epic Iron Mountain race so it meant not only packing my suitcase, but also packing my bike.  I always try to find that fine line of packing up just enough supplies so I have contingencies covered, but without taking too much.  Somehow, I think I still overdo it.


The steed was behind on some sorely needed maintenance, which was one of the many things I had to get done the day before my flight. (Yes, I know my workbench is a complete mess).  One such piece of needed maintenance were servicing of my brakes.  I had shipped the brakes off to the good folks at Formula for service and had just gotten them back.  When I opened the nicely packed box, in addition to the brakes, I found some goodies inside.  Thanks, guys!


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I also stopped by TrySports to get some new Schwalbe tires mounted along with picking up a few last minute items.


I was successful at getting everything packed up and off to bed at a decent hour.  Sort of.  The next morning, my plane left late enough that I could squeeze in a partial swim with my masters group before heading to the airport.

Upon arriving in Little Rock, I headed straight for the bike shop to grab a few things I didn’t want to take on the plane (Co2, some OrangeSeal, etc).  I found Spokes bike shop which wasn’t too far out of my way and so I popped in.  It’s a cool shop carrying a good selection, but best of all, they have a coffee bar, which I was in sore need of after the plane trip.

After some conversing with the guys, I ended up putting my bike together there.  Supporting the local shop, I paid for some time on one of their maintenance stands and setup my workspace in the beautiful weather out back.


It was a good thing I did so, because in the process of assembling my bike, I managed to take the freshly serviced Formula brakes out of the box, and using my own personal talent, sheared a mounting bolt off when attaching the master cylinder to the handlebars.  Not only did this render the rear brakes as unusable, but since the gear shifter mounts to the brakes, I was dead in the water.  The guys at Spokes tried their best to help get the bolt out, but we weren’t successful.  Instead, they helped me out by loaning me a used brake setup they had lying around.  This was a HUGE favor, because If it wasn’t for them, I probably wouldn’t have been able to race.

My intentions of getting a preride and run in upon arrival were greatly challenged by this little snafu.  After several hours of us dinking around with the brakes, I managed to get to the trailhead much later than planned, but still arrived at the transition area with some excellent riding weather.


I raced this particular race two years ago and since then, the trail gnomes have been very, very busy.  All of the areas of the previous race course that I didn’t like were not included in this year’s race.  Furthermore, it had been replaced with a ton more of sweet, flowy, fun, technical, bermed, awesome single track.  Someone’s been busy building some nice trails out there!


As my ride went on, the sun started going down pretty quickly.  I was having so much fun that I didn’t really notice until I took this picture.  The camera had a hard time focusing and as you can see, it was getting pretty damn dark in the woods.


By the time I finished, I couldn’t see the trail and was surprised I made it out of the last couple of miles.  When I arrived back to the transition area, it looked like this:


Race Morning

Good friends, Owen and Sunny Workman from Al-a-bam-y, shared a cabin with us, so on race morning, Owen and I scooted down to the transition area to get setup.  We were sure we’d be the first ones there, but we were beat by May-Li Cuypers, another great friend and rider.  We chatted with her for a bit while setting up our spots.



The swim was an elongated triangle course of 750 meters, of which we would have to do two laps.  The entrance and exit was at a boat ramp and the transition area setup in the parking lot.  This allowed for an easy exit and no dirty feet to contend with in transition.  The water was cold enough that it was wetsuit legal and I was glad to have the buoyancy and slipperiness of my Synergy wetsuit again.


When we started, I took off in a brisk pace to stick with the lead pack.  By the time we rounded the first turn, 3 of us had pulled away and swam single file with me in the rear.  At times, I was touching the feet of the second place guy, so I pulled off to the side of him.  We swam side by side for most of the first lap.  On the second, we all picked up the pace a little and got back into a single file line with the leader pulling away a bit.  We finished the swim in that same order with me in third place.


Swim time: 25:35


My first transition went flawless with the exception of me knocking my bike over.  I’ve never actually done that before and it was a silly mistake.  It cost me about an extra 10-20 seconds to get my bike underneath the rack and clear without knocking everyone else’s over.  However, the little lever that rings my bike bell came off and went flying across transition.  I still managed to get out ahead of everyone, putting me into the lead of the race.

Transition time: 85 seconds


The bike course was two laps of a 15 mile course.  It had a decent amount of climbing and course variety.  There were some technical sections, a few rock gardens, loose stuff you need be careful on and even some fast, flowy sections you can really let loose.

About 10 minutes before our race, Fred had kicked off another race, XTERRA Degray, and I caught the tail-end of their riders within the first couple of miles.  Throughout the bike course, I had to pass quite a few of them and they were all very polite and let me by when asked.  Everyone seemed to be having a great time racing.

On one of the climbs, I fought with my front derailleur which seemed to have a mind of its own, throwing my chain down into the little ring when I didn’t want it to.  In the middle of one of the climbs, it threw it into the small ring.  I attempted to shift back up into the big ring and in the process, threw the chain completely off.  I had to hop off my bike and manually put the chain back on, which is never fun in the middle of a climb since it’s harder to get rolling again.  Time wasted: at least 45 seconds.  (I’ll be switching the configuration over to 1×10 setup using a narrow/wide chain ring from Wolf Tooth.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works and will even be doing a product write up on it).


I was feeling pretty quick and smooth, for the most part, but it felt as if I had just a wee bit too much air in my tires.  It bugged me and I wondered if the temperature change may have increased the pressure given the cold temps in the morning when I inflated them vs. the temp during the race.  It bugged me so much mentally, that I made the bad, bad decision to stop in the middle of the race to let a little air out.  It wasn’t a problem until the entire valve stem core came out of my front tire when I attempted to open it.  The core shot to the ground.  In. The. Leaves.  I panicked.  With my finger over the hole to prevent any further air escaping, I frantically looked around for the valve core.  Looking down, I found the core between my feet.  Lucky, lucky, me.  I put it back in quickly and took back off.  Time wasted: 1:30.

I had to quickly get it out of my mind and start making a few adjustments to my riding style to counteract the low pressure in the front tire.  Yes, I wanted it lower, but not as low as it got by my little stunt.  I also had to quickly erase the frustration and just go with the flow.  Anger and frustration will suck the life out of your race.

Coming out of the first lap, I met Alba and Sunny in the feed zone.  The original plan was for me to start ringing my bike bell like crazy to give her a heads up that I was coming.  However, since my bell was broken due to my unfortunate accident in T1, I couldn’t ring it.  So I just started shouting, “Bling, bling!  Bling, bling!”  She looked up and scurried to get the bottle ready.  She passed me off another bottle of GU Roctane with a perfect handoff and zero time wasted.

I finished up the second lap with no issues other than a slightly slower pace than I would have liked.  Coming into T2, I was still the race leader, but knew my mistakes cost me dearly.

Bike time: 2:24:54


My second transition was a ton better than the first.  I didn’t take my shoes off on the bike since the tail end of the bike leg is on gravel.  I had noticed on my second lap that the heat caused it to get a little loose, and given my innate ability to crash, didn’t want to put on too much of a show for the onlookers.

Transition time: 28 seconds


The run course was a 3.3 mile lollipop trail loop which we had to run 3 times.  There was a short pavement run ending through the parking lot to mark the end of each lap before heading back onto the trail.  This equated to a 10ish mile run which started right off the bat with running straight uphill through a power line clearing.  It’s a real quad burner and since we had to do three laps of the 3.3 mile course, I opted to power walk it the first time in an effort to see how I’d feel.  It also allowed me to shake off the biking legs a little.


I hadn’t even gone about half of a mile when Andy Lee caught me.  I stuck out my hand for a smack and he slapped it on his way by.  I matched his pace for a short stint, but he gradually pulled away from me.  He was having a great run and we saw each other in passing throughout the laps.


My run was nowhere near what it needed to be, nor what I have ran in the past.  I’ve had a few issues lately that’s put a crimp in my run training and it showed for this race.  I guess it’s a definite area for improvement.


Run time: 1:16:46

I managed to squeak out a 2nd place overall at a tough event.  It’s a much different race to go out for 4+ hours as opposed to some of the shorter races I’ve done this year.


All-in-all, it was a great race and I had a blast of a time.  DLT Events always puts on a great race and I’d highly recommend any of their races. We capped off the evening with a great dinner with some great friends.


Congrats to May-Li for winning the overall women’s title.  She had an excellent race and looked ready for a couple more laps.

Major props goes out to my training partner and fellow Timex Factory Team teammate, Dan Kimball.  Since my racing calendar took a big turn after a crash and job change, my training needed to change with it.  I’ve been a member of the EPC Group Coaching program, but since my calendar changed, I needed to make modifications.  Dan sat down with me and hatched out a plan and strategy that was spot on.  Thanks, bud for helping me out with your wisdom.

XTERRA Epic Iron Mountain
Location: Arkadelphia, Arkansas
Date: October 18, 2014
Distances: 1 mile swim / 30 mile mountain bike / 10 mile trail run
Result: 2nd overall

Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tire, Schwalbe Thunderburt Tire, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Adrenaline Wetsuit, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.

There’s a really cool article on Arkansas Outside about the race.  Check it out.

Be a Warrior!


One comment

  1. These are great pics of you on the course, my complements to the photographer along with the athlete! Congratulations on a great race in spite of all the recent distractions.

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