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Some Like It Hot – XTERRA Whitewater

Well, once again, I’ve fallen waaaay behind on my posts, so here goes a recap of XTERRA Whitewater.  I’m gonna try and recap some of the previous races for some of those Throwback Thursdays I keep seeing.  Some race directors, racers and friends are due their props and I aim to deliver.

Anyhow, since XTERRA Whitewater is in my backyard and the fact that I know the guy who created it, there was no way I was going to miss it.  Even though heat hath descended upon us with a vengeance, I was still going to get my butt out there and race.  Caleb and I showed up to the race site early (as always), but since I had to stop for ice, gas and a few Twinkies on the way to the race, he beat me to it.  He even gloated about it on the interwebs.

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So. the GU Crew WAS ready and we were itching to race, matching blue GU shirts and all.  We even had a bit of fun waiting for transition to open up

Folks started rolling in and the morning preparation seemed to be falling in place, although Amy was having a few issues with her arms and legs.

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After everyone filed down to the boat dock for the swim, we had a briefing and two waves of swimmers.  I thought it was a pretty neat idea.  They asked folks during registration whether they wanted to be in a “competitive” wave or not.  Surprisingly, this resulted in two waves of almost completely equal numbers.

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As we came back into the dock, I avoided the sunken trees since I knew where they were from the Catawba SwimRun race.

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I managed to get out of the water and run the long, 500-meter-ish run to transition, coming into T1 in 9th place.  I met friends Donny Forsyth and Yaro Middaugh at the bike racks as we all scrambled to get out of transition in a hurry.  I was concentrating so hard on getting out ahead of them that I pulled a complete rookie move and started running out with my bike while still wearing my swim speed suit.

“Are you going to ride your bike in that speed suit?” Yaro asked?
”Oh crap!” I exclaimed, laying down my bike and ripping off the speed suit.
”I’m here for you, buddy.” Yaro continued.

Boy, that could have been an absolute terrible bike ride, wearing a swim speed suit in that heat.  Coming out of transition in 6th place, Yaro and I dove into the trailhead together and proceeded to catch the other folks.  I managed to make it up to 2nd place within the first couple of miles and maintained it throughout the duration of the bike.  There were a couple of times that I spotted Rob Ricard through the switchbacks or through the trees, but I just couldn’t seem to catch him.  When we got to the “East Main” trail (we call it “East Pain”), the last 6 miles of the bike, I caught up with Patrick Clark.  “Are you in the lead?” I asked.  “No. I must have took a wrong turn somewhere, you beat me out of the water.” he said as I passed him.  We chatted a bit as I slowly pulled away, still trying to catch Rob.

After coming into T2 and having a MUCH better transition than my 10+ second goof-up in the first one, I headed out on the steamy, hot as you-know-what run.  On the way out of transition, friends told me that Rob had a 3 minute lead.  Damn it, man… that’s one helluva lead to close.  I’m not gonna lie, it messed with my head a bit.  I’ve had some pretty darn good runs on the “Academy trail” that makes up most of the run.  It’s hilly, punchy, twisty, technical and just a tough run.  It suits my strengths and I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve had some really, really good runs out there.

But this day, I just didn’t have it.  I’m not sure if I pushed too hard on the bike trying to catch Rob or if it was just so damn hot.  Who knows?  All I know is that I found myself walking… a lot.  Patrick caught up to me.  “You OK?” he asked as he passed me while I was walking.  “Just taking a break and grabbing a drink.” I replied, sipping on my water bottle.  I looked back and caught a glimpse of Caleb.  It only took him a minute or two before he was right behind me.  “What the hell are you doing letting me catch you?” he asked.  “I just don’t have it today.” I replied.  We ran out into the open area underneath the power lines and the sun just seemed to zap me even more, both mentally and physically.  I ran/walked up the big hill and made it back into the woods.  There had to be at least a 10 degree difference.  My hat’s off to the folks manning the waterstop out in the sun.

I regained my composure and ran all the way back fighting cramps the rest of the way and came in fourth place.  As I came across the finishline, both of my arms immediately cramped.  Frustrated with the cramping and my run, I just threw my bottle and hat to the ground and sought out shade to lay down.  As soon as I laid down, both legs started cramping on me.  I’m sure it was a funny sight to see me rolling around on the ground.  Jimmy, the race director, came over and handed me some fluids which I welcomed and stood up to try and work them out by walking in circles.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

The leaders and the race director stood around discussing some of the markings trying to figure out where folks would have gone off course.  Since Caleb and I train there almost daily, we knew the course without even needing markings.  We decided to go for a quick spin, because Patrick wanted to know where he missed a turn.  After riding the “Figure 8” trail, we realized the markings about 15 feet into the trailhead where the trails split was one of the problem areas.  Patrick, unfortunately, voluntarily DQ’d.  I think it sucks, too, as he is a fast-as-hell runner (fastest split of the day) and it would have made for some good racing.

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Despite the heat, my sub-par performance on the run and some course marking issues for others, I had a blast and they all did as well.  I’m REALLY looking forward to next year to get some vengeance on that run course!  I’ll also be working with the RD in any way I can to help shore up the markings.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

Congrats to Amy Carver on ANOTHER overall female win!  Girl, you’re ripping it up out there.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

Also congrats to Paul Geist on finishing his first (and hopefully not last) XTERRA.  We had quite a few new folks among the ranks.  I hope to see you all at more races.  Welcome to the family!

Big shout out goes to Jake Watkins who suffered heat issues on the run.  He decided to take a nose dive into some shrubs off the side of the trail to rest a bit.  Actually, he doesn’t remember much of that, but he spent the next few days in the hospital recovering.  I think he just wanted to be pampered a while.  In all seriousness, glad you’re doing much better, bud.  Marty Powers, you’re the man for helping Jake!

On another note, good luck to all my peeps out there racing XTERRA Beaver Creek tomorrow!

Race: XTERRA Whitewater
Location: Charlotte, NC
Date: 2016 July 8, 2017
Distances: 1000m Swim / 14.5 mile mountain bike / 4 mile trail run
Result: 3rd Overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane Gel and GU Roctane Drink Mix, American Classic Wide Lightning Wheels, Schwalbe Racing Ralph Tires, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V, Hawk Racing Bottom Bracket, Hawk Racing Pulleys.

Be a warrior!

Marcus

Cheetahs and Gazelles – XTERRA Fort Yargo

It’s been a couple of years since I hit the one-cow town of Winder, Georgia to race XTERRA Fort Yargo.  With the change in the XTERRA points structure, I figured it’d be another good race to earn some points.  Race morning, the temp and weather were perfect for a fun day of racing.  There was a slight threat of rain, but not until later that afternoon.  As we gathered at the water’s edge, you could see the low-water effects leftover from the park draining the lake for maintenance purposes.  The shoreline extended way out and you could see trees that were normally submerged.

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Photo: Nozomi Shinoda-Wade

The advertised swim distance was 750 meters, but looking at the buoys, I could tell it was a bit long for 750.  This was more than the normal, “Geez that looks a lot farther than 750” reaction that most folks have when looking at their first open water swim after spending the winter in the pool.  With at least a half-dozen open water swims under my belt already this year, along with a swimrun race, the usual, post-winter suprise had already been overcome.  I could definitely tell it was long.  I didn’t give it much thought beyond my first peering out at the buoys. Quickly dismissed, I got in ready to race.  After a short briefing, the ~100 person race was underway.

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Photo: Alba Barton

I managed, somehow, to stay out of the normal washing machine mess this race.  I didn’t feel like having any sort of punch fest this day, and I lucked out and found clean, calm water all the way to the first buoy.  The entire pack started out pretty fast but Continue reading

New XTERRA Point System – Good or Bad?

If you haven’t heard by now, XTERRA revamped the points system for it’s various tours across the globe.  I started writing a post about the new points system and before I knew it, the post was pages long, complete with a history lesson in the old rankings system.  I came to my senses and realized you probably didn’t want to read that much and would prefer I just get to the meat of the matter.  Well, here’s the meat.  Believe it or not, this is the short version.

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First, Kahuna Dave explained it very well in a short news release, but I want to cover a few points from an athlete’s perspective.  Keep in mind that this is my opinion and for the purposes of this post, I am focusing on amateur athletes.  Let’s start with the “WHY”.

Simplify: The old point system had some cool aspects to it.  It made for an interesting race season and you definitely needed to put some strategy into it.  But, that’s also its downfall.  It was complicated (more about that later).

Standardize: The point system we had here in the U.S. for the America tour differed from the other tours around the globe.  This was AMPLIFIED with the introduction to the Pan America Tour for 2016.  You had two points series with differing rules which encompassed some of the same races.  Having the same rules makes it easier for folks that want to compete in multiple tours.

More competition: This reason is not the quickest and easiest to explain.  Some of you may even argue with me on this one, but when the rubber meets the dirt, it results in more competition.  Allow me to explain by getting into the “HOW”.

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What HASN’T changed is the basic premise behind the points system, within the America tour, is to become a regional champion within your respective age group.  The other tours aren’t broken down into regions, so each age group encompasses the entire tour.  So for the purposes of explanation, we’ll just say “champion”.  You still race against others within your age group and in order for you to become a champion, you have to end the season with the most points in your age group.  That part hasn’t changed.  Becoming a champion is also one way to qualify for the XTERRA World Championships.  That’s still the same as well.

The other part that HASN’T changed is how points are awarded.  Some races have the designation of a “Gold” race while others have a designation of “Silver”.  Gold races have a 100 point value, so if you win your age group at a gold race you will receive 100 points.  Silver races have a 75 point value if you win.  From there, it goes down in points as your placement goes down and points are awarded down to 15th place.

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In the past, under old rules, you only counted your top 4 races.  This means that you could race as much as you wanted, but only the top four counted towards the points.  Another old rule was that if you raced more than one Gold race, you could only count one of them at the 100 point value.  For example, if you won your age group at one Gold race and three Silver races, you’d max out at 325 points (100+75+75+75).  That’s the most you could earn.  Period.

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So how does this equal more competition?  The downside to only counting the top 4 races meant that someone could “lock up” the regional title early in the year, effectively shutting out anyone else from having a shot at the title.  Under the new rules, the most points wins.  Race as much as you want, and ALL points count.  Furthermore, there’s no cap on the Gold races.  In the U.S. there are currently only two Gold races.  Race them both, and if you win your age group (at both), you get 200 points.  By not limiting the number of races that count, this effectively puts more people in the running to become champions and keeps the competition going all season long.  If you think about it, the premise is that anyone can get to the top.  It’s not just about the fastest anymore.  Granted, being a fast racer will definitely help, but you also have to be loyal.  If the fastest racer only does 4 races, but someone who’s not far behind him does 6 races, guess who might come out on top.

Some folks are quick to say that this favors the ones with the deepest wallets, meaning, as long as you shell out enough cash to race a ton of races, you don’t have to be fast.  I can see how some may perceive it that way, especially if you are on a very limited budget.  While this definitely has different implications for pros, who are racing for dough, for amateurs, it’s really just about a title and Maui slots.  They would go on further to say that it doesn’t guarantee the fastest athletes get those Maui slots and go to Worlds.  This is just not true.  Maui slots are awarded at Gold races for the fastest athletes and overseas this is also true for Silver races, so you still have a chance at Maui without winning the champion spot.  And, at the end of the day, the fastest athletes will be crowned World Champs.

I really think this is a good thing.  Although I liked being able to pick the races I wanted, knowing it only took 4 really good races to secure a champ spot, having it be unlimited points adds another level of interest to the points series and puts anyone in the running.  Now, time for a new strategy.

See you on the trails.  As always, continue to be a Warrior!

Marcus

SwimRun in North Cackylacky USA

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this..” was the only quote that came to mind going into the SwimRun NC race.  Despite my best efforts to be prepared, with previewing the course, training pretty consistent and everything else I could do, it only took a sprinkling of real life to get in the way and attempt to derail things.  Life can be funny that way, throwing you curve balls and all.  Heck, sometimes it can be downright cruel.

Right after the SwimRun VA race in Richmond, VA, I headed home to be with Mom as she went into surgery.  I won’t go into too much detail, but I HAD to be there, because it’s family.  You know how that goes.  Even though sleeping in a hospital chair off and on over the next 10 days (not to mention all the driving) and the stress of worry put up a huge brick wall approaching the final days before the race, I don’t regret it for a millisecond.  Quality time was spent with all of my family, and frankly, sometimes that has to take a precedence over everything else.

So, as we all gathered at the Green Heron Ale House for the race briefing, the butterflies began to start.  There was nothing I could do now but give it my best shot.

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SwimRunNC, if you read their website, was the brainchild of Jan Kriska and Jeff Beckelhimer.  Although this is true, Herbert Krabel had his paws in on it, too.  With those three minds together

Continue reading

SwimRun Connects Nature to the Concrete Jungle

One of the primary premises behind the sport of swimrun is connecting the athletes with nature.  If you ask Michael Lemmel, race director of OtillO, he’ll be quick to tell you that it’s about the athletes moving through nature and becoming one with it.  I’d have to agree with him.

So, when it comes to having a swimrun race, most folks wouldn’t think of having one right in the middle of a large city like Richmond and if I hadn’t raced XTERRAs in Richmond before, I would probably have thought the same thing.  When I stumbled across that there would be the SwimRunVA race held on some of the same trails of the XTERRA, it took me all of about 2 seconds to make a decision.  I had to do this race.

I reached out to Jim Fisher, local Richmond athlete and an XTERRA friend of mine to see if he was interested in teaming up for the race.  Being an avid racer and lover of adventure, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.  As the race approached, I received bad news that Jim tore some of those important tendons around his knee and would need surgery.  Of course, this knocked him out of the race, for sure.  After some further searching and pleading with folks on social media for someone as crazy as us, Keith Schumann, another XTERRA athlete stepped up.  With zero time training together we found ourselves at the start line before you knew it.

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The race course looks a little something like this:

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I’ll spare you the turn-by-turn details, but it was 6 separate swims and 7 runs totaling 3.37 miles of swimming and 15 miles of running.  We started the race at Continue reading

Adapt and Overcome – USAT OffRoad National Championships

One of the beauties of racing an XTERRA race is the fact that anything can change on a moments notice.  The majority of XTERRA racers just go with the flow and make the most of it while citing it as a fun aspect of this sport.  The same goes for the majority of XTERRA race directors.  Case in point:

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I couldn’t have put it better myself.  More about the course changes in a bit.

Before the rains, the course was in beautiful shape.  Racers began showing up about mid-week in order to get some time on the course.  I had the opportunity and managed to snap a few photos in the process.

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As you can see it’s a fairly rocky course with loose pea-sized gravel over Continue reading

Hulk Got Some Upgrades XTERRA Myrtle Beach

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.

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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 Continue reading