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Two-fer Riding, Racing Ride and Seek, SwimRun Thanks

 

So you’re probably sitting around eating Thanksgiving leftovers, or you’re licking your wounds from you’re local Black Friday brawl while fighting for the latest Furby.  Either way, you got nothing better to do, so check out the latest update.

 

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Race With Your Inner GRRRR-XTERRA Tiger

Are you an Auburn fan or Alabama fan? Well, regardless of whether you yell “War Eagle!” or “Roll Tide!”, you can race an XTERRA near both of these colleges and their names reflect their alma maters. XTERRA Tiger takes place near Auburn whereas XTERRA Tide takes place near Tuscaloosa.

XTERRA Tiger is one of those races that I’ve attempted to make for the last two years but just cannot seem to work it into my schedule. Multiple things seem to come up both personally and professionally but needless to say, it hasn’t been doable. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to keep track of all the action, so this year, I had ultrarunner, XTERRA athlete and field reporter, Sunny Workman keeping me informed.

XTERRA Tiger is one of the earliest races on the circuit and in the southeast. Many come from all over to test the waters of how their training is progressing and to get that racing bug again. Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina were well-represented. With it being an early season race, the water temps are low and usually wetsuit legal. As the racers lined up in the water, the temp was still dropping from the day before. At breakfast it was 63, but at race start, it was 56.

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Owen Workman

The swim looked longer than the advertised 750 meters, but no one was sure if that was truly the case or if it was the typical “oh crap, this is the first race of the season” coming out. The skies were cloudy and it appeared as if it could Continue reading

Rainy Dogs and Drafting-XTERRA Hickory Knob

XTERRA Hickory Knob always seems to fight with mother nature.  Last year it was a layer of pollen so thick on the trail it crunched.  The year before, we had brutal rain, freezing water and just all-around cold.  This year, although it wasn’t cold, she gave us more rain.  It had rained quite a bit leading up to the race, so much so that although it was warm and sunny the day before, the park rangers and race director made the call to limit the bike portion to the roads in order to prevent trail damage.  Besides, who wanted to clean up a mountain bike that would have surely ended up looking like this:

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The mere prospect of racing on the road, using a mountain bike (XTERRA rules) didn’t appeal to many, but we all respected the decision to respect the trails.  It was probably less appealing when we woke up to rain on race day.  In the end, we all had a blast of a time and many commented on the fun nature of a draft-legal mountain bike race on the pavement.

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The field was small, filled with die-hards that decided not to take up race director Andy on his offer for a deferment to 2016.  Instead, we all lined up in the cold water (mid 60s) and waited for Continue reading

Almost Swept Away – XTERRA RVA

The race in Richmond, Virginia this year was not only the XTERRA East Championship but it was also the 2014 USAT Off-road National Championship.  This doubling up of championships doubled up the competition with new names and familiar ones.  Since it was a sort of special race, Alba even went so far as to shave the side of her noggin to clear a path for one of the XTERRA temporary tattoos along with a splash of red color.

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When tackling this great race, you always have to be prepared for change.  Weather this time of year can have vast effects on the trails and since it is a river swim, it can cause the swim to be either a “running swim” or it can make it a treacherous one with strong currents.  Last year, the race was changed to a duathlon since the area had so much rain, you’d have a hard time boating the river, much less swimming it.

Sure enough, this weekend wouldn’t be much different.  Due to the rain leading in, the current in the swim was very strong.  We zig-zagged our way across the river having to really compensate for the strong flow.  There were folks aiming straight for the buoys without compensating and found themselves Continue reading

Lots of Racing and Riding

So many updates, where do I start?

XTERRA Whitewater Clinic and Preride

First and foremost, we had a beautiful day for the XTERRA Whitewater Transition Clinic and Preride.  We had 10 athletes show up of varying levels of skill from all over.  “Representatives” from Charlotte, Greensboro and Myrtle Beach were present and accounted for to name a few.

We started a little late due some “cross pollination” of clinics.  Most of our attendees were intermingled with the Dirt Divas Skills Clinic by mistake.  I just happened to stop by and say high and we discovered the mixup.  After a quick roundup, we got started with the transition clinic. 

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We hit the trails to ride the 14 mile mountain bike course that would make up the bike leg of the race.  Whitewater Center Trail Guru, Lee Flythe and crew have been real busy out there building new trails and extending existing ones.  With a new mix of hand cut and machine cut trails recently added, the ride was fun and challenging.  If you missed out, I hope to see you all at the next clinic scheduled for June 22nd (you can RSVP here).  Thanks goes out to USNWC Events Manager and XTERRA Whitewater Race Director Adam Bratton.

I followed up the clinic and pre-ride with a tough EPC Multisport brick workout that damn near kicked my butt.  I barely had enough energy to cut the grass when I got home, but I managed to get it done.  Exhausting but fun, fun day.

XTERRA Knoxville

On the racing front, the inaugural XTERRA Knoxville was held on Saturday with what was reported as some of the best single track out there.  “One of the toughest mountain bike courses I’ve ridden; fun dry but quite treacherous wet.” said Charlie Epperson, XTERRA Pro that came in second overall just behind fellow XTERRA Pro Takahiro Ogasawara (Oga) from Japan.  He continued, “I came into T-2 maybe 4 or 5 minutes down from Oga and a minute back from Josh. I felt great running and was able to make up some ground on Oga but not enough. I’m happy anytime I’m within a few minutes.”  Josh Schaffer came in third overall and was the top amateur at the race.  He also doubled as XTERRA security since he camped at the venue.

On the ladies front, XTERRA Pro, Mieko Carey was second overall out of the water and rode with Charlie for a good portion of the bike leg.  She won the female division with Andrea Ludwig and Lucia Colbert coming in 2nd and 3rd respectively.  Full Results

As with any first-year event, however, it wasn’t without its share of snafus.  Apparently, the trails lacked enough markings to keep everyone on track and racers got off course.  First-year XTERRA racer, Jheremy Zetans came to the rescue.  He saw what was happening and decided to terminate his own race to give a lending hand by directing racers back on course.  Talk about XTERRA spirit!

Charlie went on to provide a small tidbit of advice, “I know a couple of riders and runners got lost today. Always a disheartening experience. I’ve been there. My advice is to take the extra day to arrive early to ride and run and be able to race without that element of uncertainty.”

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Oga, Mieko and Charlie

XTERRA East Championships (aka XTERRA RVA)

Speaking of XTERRA Pros Charlie, Oga and Mieko, they will be teaming up in the first ever XTERRA Pro pre-race shoot-out in Richmond.  The pros will be split up into 3-person relay teams on a very short course highlighting aspects of this weekend’s XTERRA East Championship course (Jun 15).  It’ll be fast and furious action with the winners expected to knock it out in 15 minutes.  The teams that have been made up are very interesting to say the least.  You can check out who’s on what teams at the Pro Relay Team Shoot-out webpage.

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Even better, not only can you witness this in person, but the title sponsor, Luck Stone, will be broadcasting the event live so you can view online, complete with video and GPS tracking via their website at www.luckstone.com.  If you can break away from what you’re doing, THIS Thursday, at noon (Eastern time), you should definitely check this out.  I plan on being there in person (hopefully), so keep an eye on my Twitter and Facebook feed and I’ll try to give ya another avenue to keep up on the action (and some cool pics).

 

Be a Warrior!

Marcus

 

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Bama Born and Corn-Bread – XTERRA Southeast Championship

The XTERRA Southeast Championships in Pelham, Alabama will always hold a special place in my heart.  It’s partly due to the fact that it was the second triathlon I’d ever done (in 2007) and partly due to it being home.  I was born and raised in Alabama and although I haven’t lived there since graduating from high school, it will still always be home to me.

Even though Alba, the kids and I live in North Carolina, all of my extended family still lives in Bama.  It’s been that way for generations.  Heck, our family still lives on land that was settled by Bartons back in the 1800’s.

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I stayed with my parents and they tried their best to derail my good eating habits with pot roast, peas, butterbeans (with the ham), mashed potatoes and cornbread.

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I managed to get in quite a few rides and runs at Oak Mountain in preparation for the race.  The EPC Multisport Group Coaching for that week consisted of a few brick sessions as part of the race week taper.  During one of my brick sessions, after a lap of the course, I went for a lap of the run.  On the run course, when you get to the dam, you have to traverse a bridge that crosses the spillway.  The lead-in on the bridge is a hard left turn that in years past has been slippery, so I always try to focus on my footing.  One day, during my run, I looked down, focused on my footing and ran onto the bridge.  When I picked my head up, I saw a red tail hawk sitting on the railing at the end of the bridge. Upon approaching him, he flew off before I could get a photo.

This wouldn’t have been as freaky of an occurrence if it had only happened once, but the very next day, it happened again, in the same exact place, with him sitting in the same exact spot.  This time, I was armed with a camera and not only got a photo, but also captured a video of him.  The picture doesn’t do it justice, you HAVE to check out the video.

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That afternoon, I wanted to take my bike into Cahaba Cycles to have a new set of bearings pressed into the bottom bracket.  They’d needed replacing for while and I had put it off long enough.  Rather than take them a dirty bike to work on, I washed it up only to find this little problem during the process.

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Apparently, during a previous rebuild of this wheel (after I wrapped it around a tree), there was an all-important, teeny weeny, washer left out.  This little washer normally helps to disperse the pressure, but in it’s absence, it slowly allowed the spoke to pull through.  I’ll spare you the gory details, but this little problem resulted in American Classic over-nighting a new rim to the shop and a last minute rebuild. It was quite the expensive endeavor.  I didn’t have to bribe the mechanics with beer, but I gave Brian a six-pack anyhow for doing such a great job.  Now, I just have to hunt down the guy that previously built the wheel and visit him with a sock full of potatoes.

Race Day

For this race, I totally goofed and didn’t properly plan my pre-race breakfast.  In all the hustle and bustle the day prior, I totally forgot to hit the store.  Needless to say, on the way to Oak Mountain, I had to stop in at Waffle House for a breakfast of champions.  I grabbed it to go and on my way out I bid good morning to some of the XTERRA crew going in.

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The race venue and transition area was a beautiful sight and there’s nothing like it to get butterflies in your stomach stirring in anticipation.  Oh wait.  Maybe that’s the Waffle House I felt.

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Rain began to fall, even though it was not forecasted to do so (or at least the percentage was low) but thankfully, it let up just before the race started.  The week leading into the race, there was a lot of banter on the XTERRA Southeast Athletes Facebook group as to whether the swim would be wetsuit legal or not.  Generally, folks were giving Casey Fannin a hard time since he loves wetsuit swims (insert sarcasm here).  The weather combination of low night temps and rain caused the water temp to dip below the legal bar.  My friends at Synergy sent me a skin suit in prep for this race, but I got to wear the wetsuit instead.

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The pros got a two minute head start before the rest of the racers received the starting canon.  The two-lap, 750 meter swim (1500 total) went fairly well for me since I found clear water early.  My goggles fogged up quite a bit and I had to stop briefly after the second buoy to lick them.  During the second lap, I managed to catch up to the backend of a chase pack.  My goal of swimming just hard enough to do well, but not so hard as to overheat in the wetsuit, seemed to work ok.

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Photo: Pax Talosi

Coming into transition, most of the bikes were still there, so I knew I had finished my swim in a pretty decent place.  Best that I could tell, there were twenty or so championship racers ahead of me.  All of the sprint racers were still out on the course, so their bikes were absent.

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The bike course was slippery from the morning’s rain and there were people crashing right and left.  There was lots of traffic in the first couple of miles, many times with racers stacked up in a train 5 or 6 deep.  For the most part, everyone was nice and yielded when asked for a pass.

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Photo: XTERRA

I caught up with Darren Cox somewhere near the pump track.  He had crashed hard and was still attempting to get his wits back.  Shortly after catching up, the skies went eerily dark, so much so that we had a hard time seeing the trail.  We could have used some headlights for sure.  Next thing we knew it started pouring rain and did so for close to the next 30 minutes.  My riding style and strategy had to be modified a bit to account for the wet conditions.

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Photo: XTERRA

Darren and I stayed together throughout most of the race, leapfrogging as we went, taking turns leading.  Once we made it up the long fire road climb, complete with loose rocks and small boulders, we caught up to Frank Fernandez-Posse, another racer in my age division.  As we continued to climb, we passed Frank and kept on trucking.  I thought it’d be the last I’d see him but he proved me wrong as he whizzed past me with a whoosh and a blur on the descent into Blood Rock.  He was hauling!   Darren and I continued our leap frogging, trying to catch back up to Frank and just before Rattlesnake Ridge, I looked at my Timex to see where we were time-wise.  It was then I decided to hop up front and pick up the pace.  By the time we finished the bike, the sun had come out and blue skies prevailed.  

For nutrition, I stuck with my tried and true GU Roctane drink with an extra electrolyte punch by adding a GU Electrolyte tablet.  I didn’t want to carry two bottles and since there was a bottle hand-up before the climb, I figured I could take in the extra fluid there.  It worked flawless except for the fact I dropped the bottle when I grabbed it from the volunteer and had to come to a screeching halt.

The bike held up well despite the muddy conditions.  After the race, I noticed the only clean part of my bike was the ESI Grips which work well in ANY conditions, even muddy ones like this race.  The Schwalbe Rocket Rons with snakeskin held up well for me without any punctures.  They hooked up well in the sketchy turns despite the loose rock and mud.

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Post-race bike cleanup

Coming into transition, I was right behind one of the female pros and Frank.  I transitioned as quickly as I could and ended up passing quite a few folks in the process before taking  off onto the run course.  I guess I must have passed Frank in transition, as I didn’t see him on the road section that makes up the beginning of the run. 

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Jack Cartwright, another racer in my age group, passed me during the initial quarter-mile of the run and slowly pulled away.  I was hoping that maybe there was a chance that he would slow down, thinking that he was taking off too fast initially, but I would be proven wrong.  He’s just a fast runner!  Not knowing who is on their first lap or second, I decided to not take any chances and pass as many folks as I could, especially on my second lap.  I tried to catch Jack, but I just couldn’t run him down.

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Photo: Deena Strangia

Overall, I think it was a successful race.  I ended up 2nd in my age group, 7th overall amateur and I earned my XTERRA World Championships slot.  I truly wanted to finish on top of the podium like I did last year, but it just didn’t happen.  Anyone who knows me probably also knows that I’ve dissected the race and my efforts nine billion ways to determine where to improve.  I have a couple of ideas and will be putting them into practice over the next couple of weeks.

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As always, it was great to see all of my XTERRA family again, including my fellow XTERRA Ambassadors and to hang out at the Workman’s post-race picnic.  Not only did Little Man get to ride his bike all around the race venue on Friday and Saturday, but he even took part in a little swim.

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Kettle bell swings with Little Man, notice the XTERRA tat on his leg ;-)

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Post-race picnic
Photo: Deanna Walsh McCurdy
 

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Race: XTERRA Southeast Championships
Location: Pelham, AL
Date: May 17, 2014
Distances: 1.5k Swim / 30k mountain bike / 10k trail run
Result: 2nd in division, 7th Overall Amateur
Full Results
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 & Jesslyn Barton.  :-)

Be a Warrior!

Marcus

 

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Hulk is not afraid. Hulk SMASH! – XTERRA Myrtle Beach

XTERRA Myrtle Beach appears to have been a big success, at least that’s what I could tell from afar.  I was all signed up and excited to do this race, especially since we’d made a trip down a few weeks ago to pre-ride and run at the Horry County Bike and Run Park, aka "The Hulk".   However, a last minute decision dictated that I wouldn’t be able to make the trip, so instead, I spent the last several days texting, emailing and calling all of my XTERRA family to get the scoop.  At least I could live vicariously through them.  Here are the details from talking to folks.

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One very interesting story behind the race is the challenge that race director, Andy Kennedy dreamed up called the “XTERRA Ultimate Endurance Challenge”.  This was a challenge to race the Hickory Knob 50k Trail run on Saturday, April 5; the XTERRA Hickory Knob Tri on Sunday, April 6; the Myrtle Beach 50k on Saturday, May 3; and the XTERRA Myrtle Beach Tri on Sunday, May 4.  Yep, you read that correctly:  two weekends of 50k runs followed by XTERRA triathlons.

Dan Kimball took just such a challenge. “I wasn’t even sure I could do it when I signed up, but once I signed up, I was committed,” he said.  Dan not only tried, but succeeded in doing all four races, and did so with great success winning the Ultimate Endurance Challenge.  He won first overall in both 50k races, and 2nd overall at the XTERRA Hickory Knob triathlon.

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Dan Kimball dominating the Myrtle Beach 50k

He admits it definitely wasn’t a cake walk and that along with months of physical training preparation, it also took mental fortitude.  “After doing the Myrtle Beach 50k, I just wanted to go home.  I was sore, tired and dehydrated.  I really didn’t think that I could complete the [triathlon] race the next day, but it just goes to show that your mind can overcome the physical,” Dan stated.  He led the triathlon for most of the bike leg and held onto second place until the last mile or so of the run.  Dan continued, “Having ran the 50k the day before, I just couldn’t sprint it in with the others.”  Sprint finish or not, Dan finished 5th overall at the XTERRA Myrtle Beach triathlon, pretty high in the field of fierce competitors, despite having won the 50k the day prior.

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Dan Kimball just ahead of Dominik Van der Veen

Other racers had their own mental challenges during the XTERRA Myrtle Beach triathlon.  “I crashed on the first whoopee during the bike and broke my seat and sunglasses,” says Patrick Clark who went on to finish 2nd overall.  “It was frustrating but it motivated me enough to have a good run,” he added.  Patrick went on to say, “Considering the challenges, I think it was more than a pretty good day for me.  The only frustrating part was how close I was to an overall win. Without the crash I might not have had the drive to run as hard.  It’s what makes this sport so great.”

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Patrick Clark followed closely by local, Brad Stone.

Patrick finished only seconds behind Josh Schaffer who not only won XTERRA Myrtle Beach, but also placed 3rd overall just one week prior at XTERRA Fort Yargo.

“This is the third XTERRA that I have competed this year and I have been having a great time!  The Myrtle Beach race is new to the series this year and I was excited about seeing the venue for the first time.  One of my good friends, Chris Hollingsworth, a local triathlete and training buddy, was one of the volunteers so I knew that the race was in good hands,” stated Josh Schaffer.  He added, “I was also looking forward to seeing my new XTERRA friends that I have met doing these races.  Everyone is very friendly and we are all having a great time regardless of our abilities and motivation.”

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Josh Schaffer tackling the bike course

On the bike, under the pressure of racing, things can sometimes get a little weird.  “The trails loop around each other and I started to feel like I was in a house of mirrors. I would see other riders on other parts of the trail and couldn’t tell if I was chasing them or being chased,” said Josh who realized late in the race that he was having a better race than he expected.  “I didn’t even know I was in the lead until the turn-around point on the run,” he stated.  The race was truly a battle with the lead pack fighting it out in the last miles of the run.  Josh added, “I was feeling it and knew at that point it was my race to lose, so I was trying to keep the pain high and my speed up.”

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Winning the overall female title was XTERRA veteran, Tanya Houghton.

"I went into the race with a bit of fatigue from IM training last week, but I am happy with the results, " said Tanya Houghton who finished first overall female.  Tanya continued, "I felt stronger on the bike in this race, which is closer to the top times than I usually am, so my run ended up suffering a bit."

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Candace Zipf keeping the heat on

Tanya came out of the water together with the other two top female finishers Candace Zipf and Jamie Burton who finished 2nd and 3rd overall female respectively.  Tanya added, "We pulled out of transition at the same time and raced to the trailhead.  We were going so fast that we went right by it.  I swung my tail around and got in first."  Candace dropped in the trail second with Jamie hot on her tail.  Candace kept the pressure on Tanya throughout most of the bike leg.  "The trail design allows you to see who was on your tail often.  She (Candace) stuck with me for a while but about 3/4 through the first lap, I couldn’t see her anymore.  She made me push real hard to lose her, " Tanya stated.

Candace Zipf not only finished 2nd overall female in the triathlon, but did so after racing the 20k trail run the day before.  She not only won the female division in the race, but was the first overall finisher.

Both races took place in the famed Horry County Bike and Run Park, aka The Hulk, which was created in the summer of 2012.  For a two year old trail system, it has come a long way for a short single track mountain bike trail in Myrtle Beach thanks to the Waccamaw Trail Blazers.  Along with the Trail Blazers, the trail underwent tons of volunteer work including last-minute trail maintenance and all course marking for the race by volunteers from the Myrtle Beach Triathlon Club.   Not only did they use typical arrows and tape, but even went hard core by adding wooden stakes and rope to keep the racers on course.

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“The course was extremely well-marked and all of the volunteers were outstanding.  Thanks to their hard work and support, both the 50k and triathlon were great races.” stated Dan Kimball.

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Local racer, Brad Stone commented, “For an inaugural event, it went extremely well. Very fast, fun course! What a blast!  It was impossible to make a wrong turn. The trail markings, volunteers, and transition area were superb! You won’t want to miss this one next year!”

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Local, Wade Davis with Ali Arasta hot on his tail

The park has an interesting history which you can read about at  http://mbtriclub.org/hulk/.  “I did my first off road race at HK a few years ago. I fell in love with the sport and wanted to help set one up here,” said Pete Politis of the Myrtle Beach Tri Club. He added, “We had about 15 members volunteering today and about 10 racing.  Our club has several members on the trail building committee. We have been preparing for this race for over 2 years. We are looking forward to next year!”

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From left to right: Hugh Myrick (7th), Darren Cox (4th), Patrick Clark (2nd), Dominik Van der Veen (3rd), Jason Baldwin (8th), Eric Hammond (9th), Dan Kimball (5th), and Josh Schaffer (1st)

Well, it truly sounds like I missed an awesome racing weekend.  I registered for this race early but couldn’t make it.  Looks like I have to add this one to my racing calendar again next year.  In the meantime, if you find yourself traveling to the Myrtle Beach area, be sure to take your bike and look up the Waccamaw Trail Blazers and Myrtle Beach Triathlon Club.  They’re an extremely welcoming bunch and can make sure you have some fun stuff to do.

BIG thanks to Sherry Stone for most of these photos!!

Full results:

Trail run results: http://www.actioncarolina.com/xt14runs.html
Triathlon results: http://www.actioncarolina.com/xt14tri.html

Be a Warrior!

Marcus

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