One of the beauties that makes XTERRA so much fun is the change. How boring would it be to go do that same road triathlon, with the same boring course, that never, ever changed? Again. And again. And again. One thing that keeps me coming back to XTERRA, year after year, is the fact that some races are constantly evolving. Take XTERRA Myrtle Beach for example. The first year it was held, the swim course was a rectangular course in the intercostal waterway. This meant that if the tide was on the move, you’d be fighting it on one of the sides of that rectangle.
Rear from left: Danny Pagan, Pete Dizon, Ornela Vazquez Rivera, Jim Dandro
Front from left: Caleb Baity, Marcus Barton
The next year it was a one-way swim. Last year, I raced Myrtle Beach for the first time and I thought the trails were a blast. I wrote about them last year, so I won’t rehash that over again, but the run was a flat, out-and-back, 5ish miler on a hot, dusty, dirt road. Yeah, there was a section of trail at the end, but it was not much of a reprieve for the amount of time you spent out in the open sun on that dirt road.
This year, the boys and girls down in Myrtle Beach, with the leadership of Pete Politus, completely revamped the run course. When I say “completely”, I mean they built all new trails, adding on to the Horry County Bike and Run Park, making the 5 mile run almost completely off-road. It went from this:
More squiggly means more gooderer.
After some warmup running and shooting lasers out of my ear, it was time to start the race.
Like last year, the race started with a multi-boat ride down the intercostal waterway to the start. The water was a balmy 68ish degrees, so we were all dressed up like seals.
Once at the start, everyone hopped in to get warmed up and then with a countdown by Pete, we were off on our 1000 meter swim.
Since Dan Kimball and I have done several swimrun races, we stuck together in the swim. At first, I tried drafting off of him, but we had someone climbing all over us, bear hugging, grabbing legs and all sorts of craziness. I broke off to his left in order to get away from the crazy person that was intent on groping us. As soon as I broke away, my left goggle began to fill up with water. Even though I’ve swam one-eyed before, which usually isn’t a problem, this time my right goggle was also beginning to fog over. I couldn’t see anything but the faint outlines of the water way and a big glare since we were swimming into the sun. One thing I could make out was Dan’s swimcap, so I just stuck next to him and used him as my guide. As we got closer to the end of the swim, I could also begin to see the outline of the only buoy in the race, which was used to mark the water exit. I sighted once and then swam straight for it but when I went to take my next look, I raised my head out of the water only to smack it head on, face first. I made my way around it and headed for the boat ramp looking through one full goggle and one fogged one.
Once I reached the ramp, as I usually do at the end of the swim, I planned on not standing up until both hands touched bottom. My first hand touched and I took another stroke, but before my second one could touch, Dan, already standing at this point, reached under my armpit and yanked me straight up like a ragdoll. “Let’s go!” he exclaimed. Apparently, I was headed straight for a big rock. Swim complete 14:14.
T1 went flawless with the exception of almost busting my arse on my slippery wetsuit when stepping out of it. Fastest transition of the day at 42 seconds (a little slow for me).
I made it out of transition in 3rd place overall, caught up to the second place guy fairly early in the first lap and made my pass. The chase for Dwayne Dixon from Raleigh, NC was on like Donkey Kong. I made the prediction last week that he would be a contender and I was right. I’ve swam with him before and knowing he’d be a speedboat, I was certain he’d be up front. I could see him through the switchbacks, blazing through the trails, but it was hard to tell if I was gaining on him or losing.
Dwayne later explained, “[The] bike was fun and fast. [It was] a little nerve wracking at times with everyone chasing me down turn by turn.”
I kept pumping and pedaling with every glimpse to try and catch him. Good friend, Margo Pitts, was there cheering us on and was nice enough to give me splits. With her info, I knew I kept getting closer to him every time I passed by her, so at least I was gaining ground.
I seemed to be doing well in catching up on most of the course with the exception of one area of the course called “Crop Circles”. It was twisty and the turns were tight. Sara King from Raleigh, NC agreed, “I had some trouble carrying speed in some of those serpentine sections but it was fun to see everyone else along the way. There were [also] some very fast sections.”
When we hit T2, Dwayne was still in first place overall and I was still in second with a bike time of 1:04:16, the second fastest bike time in the race. The fastest bike split was accomplished by one of my training buddies, Caleb Baity.
As I arrived at my bike rack, I caught a glimpse of Dwayne running out of transition. I scurried through transition as quick as I could and ended up with the second fastest time: 29 seconds
Running up the hill, I saw him rounding the bend on his way out and Caleb coming into transition in third place overall. Look out 20-24 age group, Caleb is a machine.
I also caught a glimpse of Daryl Weaver of Lititz, PA headed into T2. CRAP! He was coming for us all.
The winding aspect of the Black Snake trail, which made up the beginning of the run, made it even tougher for me to spot Dwayne. I saw him a couple of times, but again, couldn’t tell if he was increasing the gap or not. Once we hit the short gravel road section, I could visibly tell he was opening it up as he pulled away in the distance.
Since I knew this was his first XTERRA, I was fairly certain he would take advantage of the road to put on the afterburners. Sure enough, that’s what he did. He confirmed it later by saying, “Trail running is not my forte but enjoyed the run none the less.”
Shortly after starting the two-lap lollypop loop, Daryl came up, passed by and I reached out for a handshake. He obliged. I wouldn’t see him again until we were back out on the gravel road where I could see he had overtaken Dwayne and they were both headed into the Black Snake trail. I wouldn’t catch either one of them and would finish in 3rd overall, with a run time of 33:59, once again securing my accurate prediction as being true.
The race was tight with the leaders. Darryl Weaver won it with about 30 seconds over Dwayne and I was exactly 60 seconds behind him. The women’s race was led by Sophie Evans of Cary, NC. Second place was secured by Sarah King from Raleigh with Genia Rosenblum from Richmond, VA in third. I guess the RTP area is overflowing with fast ladies.
The top five for men were:
From left: Caleb Baity (5th), Darryl Weaver (1st), Dwayne Dixon (2nd), Marcus Barton (3rd), Josh Loren (4th)
Daryl, who drove from Lititz, PA gave kudos to the race, “This was the first year for me racing at Myrtle Beach. It was an 11 hour drive but it was worth the drive. [I] loved the one-way, straight swim. Fun bike course and the new run course was good for me.” You bet it was good for him, he had the fastest split of the day. He continued, “The promoters do a great job putting on the race and good competition made me work for the win.”
Sophie Evans was as surprised as I was the first year I did this race, stating, “Not what I expected in Myrtle Beach. A lot of fun riding packed in a small area.” Sara King also gave kudos for the course. Although the newly cut trails used on the run haven’t formed into single track yet, she liked what she saw stating, “Although I was hoping for more true single track on the run but overall it was a great course with a lot of topography for the coastal plain.”
If you haven’t given an XTERRA race a try, you should. I promise that you won’t get bored. The nature of racing off-road will make sure of that. But don’t take my word for it, instead, listen to what Dwayne Dixon, an accomplished road triathlete had to say, “I’ve been doing triathlons for 6 years and this is by far the most fun I’ve had in a race. I’m hooked and looking forward to the season ahead.” He continued, “The atmosphere at XTERRA is unlike any other. Everyone is super cool and very friendly. This was my first XTERRA and I’ve already met some great people and exceptional athletes.”
There you have it folks. Come on out and join in on the fun and the (ahem) re-hydration!
Be a Warrior!
Race: XTERRA Myrtle Beach
Location: Myrtle Beach, SC
Date: Apr 24, 2016
Distances: 1000m Swim / 14 mile mountain bike / 5 mile trail run
Result: 3rd Overall
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Inov-8 Terraclaw 220, American Classic MTB Race Wheels, Schwalbe Racing Ralph and Thunderburt Tires, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.
Special thanks to Katie Wirth, Margo Pitts, Pete Politus, and Sara King for the awesome photos including this one featuring some of the Rabid Muffin Monkeys.