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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 started to thin out as we rounded the first of three buoys.  After rounding the last buoy and heading for the shore, I felt that my pace was good, but had a few folks ahead of me.  I think I managed to get out of the water in 6th or 7th place and headed for the transition area to try and pass a few of them.

Coming out of the water, I tried my best to take off like superman, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get more than a few inches off the ground. (Actually, I was just unzipping my wetsuit)

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Photo: Alba Barton

I knew that a bunch of other fast bikers, such as Caleb Baity were not far behind and would be gunning for me.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Also in the race was Peter Lilly and Charlotte Mahan.  Peter always does a dance number coming into T1

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

I grabbed my bike off of the rack and took off out of T1. I was pretty upset because someone removed my wad of bottle rockets that I had duct taped under my seat.  I was going to attempt a rocket assist takeoff that I saw back during an air show from my Air Force days.  The Navy boys always showed off the procedure and I figured, “What the hell, I’ll give it a shot.”

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But, since someone removed them, I had to resort to just using my legs.  Oh well, I guess it was for the best since there was so much pine straw around.

As we headed out of T1, I was in third place behind Kevin Jett and Michael Loutzenheiser.  One of them had issues in the first mile.  I’m not sure if it was a crash, a mechanical, or both, but he was trailside working on his bike.  As I passed, I asked him if he was ok.  He said he needed a multi-tool, but I didn’t have one with me (only a tube and co2).  I apologized and kept on trucking.  A short time later I made another pass and gained the lead.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

It’s rare I get to truly experience the thrill of being chased.  Usually it’s a combo of chasing someone AND being chased, but at this point in the race, the feeling was 100% “get your butt moving, they’re coming for you.”  I felt like a gazelle being chased by a bunch of cheetahs and that at any point one of them would pounce from around the corner and take me down.

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As I got closer to T2, I kept catching a glimpse of someone through the switchbacks and twisty trail behind me.  Every now and then I would catch the sound of their rear hub whirring down the trail.  As I was finishing up my transition in T2, Josh Shaffer came in and threw his bike on the rack next to mine.  We exchanged winded pleasantries and I took off running out of T2 and the chase was back on.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

I didn’t know who else was behind Josh, but knowing fellow XTERRA Ambassador, Caleb and his fast bike splits, I knew he couldn’t be far behind.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

I knew if I could just turn out a good run split, I might be able to hold them off.  With each passing mile, I fully expected to see Caleb, Yaro or Josh to come up behind me and give me that virtual tap on the shoulder, but it never happened.  Coming into the finish I was elated to have stayed in front of some of the stiffest competition on the circuit.

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Photo: Shannon Kimoto

The final placement of the top 4 were (from right to left), me, Yaro Middaugh, Josh Shaffer and Caleb Baity.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Yaro coming into the finish strong
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Photo: Alba Barton

Josh coming in just ahead of Caleb

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Photo: Alba Barton

First overall female goes out to the super fast Christine Grant.  Great job!!

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Photo: Nozomi Shinoda-Wade

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Photo: Alba Barton

After the race we had fun times getting some awesome schwag from the folks at Gone Riding.  I sat on the can to contemplate life.

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Photo: Alba Barton

I must have been doing something right, as I was joined by Caleb and Jenna Hoover.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

It was great to see a lot of the “regulars” aka my XTERRA family at the race.  If you don’t know these folks, walk up to them and say hi.  They’re the biggest bunch of fun (and fast) clowns around.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Especially these two: Peter Lilly and Charlotte Mahan.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

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Photo: Me

After some great Mexican food and many, many laughs, we all parted our separate ways, with a promised gathering at the next race.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

If you’re not familiar with XTERRA, you’re missing out.  Not only is it TOUGH, but you’ll meet some of the best people on the planet.  I met Jonathan Woodford, a first-time XTERRA racer, in the transition area after the race.  We talked at length about his race and he mentioned that it was a lot tougher than he had anticipated.  He added that it was a blast and he was looking forward to his next one.  Lastly, he mentioned how friendly everyone was and how he hadn’t experienced that before.  Time and time again I’ve seen people make the switch over from other sports or from the pavement to XTERRA and they find the most laid back, fun-loving and unpretentious crowd around.  What are you waiting for?  I think Jim Dandro’s calf is a poster pic of how tough XTERRA can be, but the people’s hearts and attitudes are anything but.

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Photo: Debra Jean Goodnight Dandro

Race: XTERRA Fort Yargo
Location: Winder, GA
Date: Apr 29, 2016
Distances: 1000m Swim / 10 mile mountain bike / 4.5 mile trail run
Result: 1st 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

GUforit in Cali

Recently I had an opportunity to go to California as part of the day-job. It’s great to get to work with a bunch of REALLY cool people and with some REALLY cool technology.  It also allows me to get to see some new trails and even do a little sight seeing during my off-hours.

Whenever traveling, it’s tough to get in the biking, but swimming, and especially running is no problema.  I found some cool places to run just outside of Santa Clara overlooking Silicon Valley (pay no attention to the ugly mug, but concentrate on the background).

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I even managed to squeeze in some time to head up to ol’ San Francisco.

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The best part about being in this area, however, was getting to pop in on my longest standing sponsor, GU Energy.  Any of you that know me also know that I seek out sponsorship of products I like, not the other way around.  I’ve had a few offers by sponsors of products that, to put it mildly, I just didn’t like. No thanks.  I have to be able to get behind it.

So, here I am, partnered up with GU since 2008.  So… when I had an opportunity to pop in, I was on it like white on rice.  Heck, after I reached out to Celia, my partner-in-crime at GU, she was ecstatic that I was in town and offered up a one-on-one tour of the facilities with MacKay Gibbs, Director of Manufacturing.

Before I could go back to see where and how the magic is made, I had to get suited up.  How do you like this getup (makes me look like a scientist, looking all official):

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Don’t laugh.  They take their quality control to another level.  After all, this is a food processing facility, so there’s standards that have to met (or in their case, exceeded).  I can’t show you any other pictures inside the facility because their processes, ingredients and other intellectual property are tightly held secrets.  There are many imitators, but there’s only one GU.  If you want to see a sampling of what I got to see first hand, check out this cool vid:

Speaking of quality control, I was absolutely amazed at how much goes into making sure the best possible product gets into your hands.  From the minute the raw ingredients hit their dock to the moment the finished product ships out, it is tested and inspected continuously throughout the process. The guys and gals I met making these products are true professionals that take pride in what they’re making, all while keeping an eagle eye on every packet that goes down the line.  As a bonus, I was handed a Chocolate Outrage packet right off the conveyer while it was still warm.

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I was also equally amazed at how GU cultivates a culture that consists of employees that like sports and racing as much as I do.  I didn’t get a picture of it, but there’s a huge board where employees write their goals, the races they’re doing and when they accomplish them it’s celebrated.  Another bulletin board had countless pictures of them participating in events and races.

My jaw dropped when I got to see their gym and bike storage.  Each employee is encouraged and incented to ride their bikes to work.  Not just a pat on the back incentive, but given extra days off once they accumulate a certain number of commute days.

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It was great to meet all of the staff that not only make great products, but have a real love for sports fueling that passion.

Want to know more about GU Energy and the products they make to fuel your passion?  Then head over to their website and check em out, or hit me up anytime. No matter what you do, there’s a #GUforit.

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

I’ll Tumble For Ya in the Woods–XTERRA Whitewater

It was slated to be a hot one and with the torrential downpour the night before, it was also a slick one.  Hot.  Steamy.  Slippery.  Take those ingredients and mix it with a hard course and you have yourself one tough-as-nails race.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

Showing up race morning, not only had it rained, but the winds had blown everything out of whack.  Cones were strewn, transition had taken a beating and pop-up tents were completely missing.  The folks at the Whitewater Center had their work cut out for them.  They quickly got things squared away and before you knew it, transition was beginning to fill up.

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Photo by Deb Dandro

I knew that Caleb and Dwayne would give me a run for my money to get on top of the podium, with Dwayne being favored for the win.  My only chance was my intimate knowledge of the trails, knowing just about every root and rock out there.  With that said, we saw 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

New Years, New Friends and Mud

For the 7th year in a row, we had our annual New Year’s Day Almost Noon Almost 10k Unorganized Group Trail Run.  After everyone arrived, even a few folks who still had race bibs on from the morning (literally running straight there from the race), we ended up with a total of of 22 runners.  I got to meet some great new people who I really hope to spend some more time with jumping, skipping and hopping the trails.

Before

We loaded up on goodies from GU Energy and headed out.

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The temp was per-fect-o and the trails in good shape even though there were a few Continue reading

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