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Riding Bikes and Stomping Grapes – ITU Multisport World Championships – Cross Triathlon

“Looking for a race report on speedylizard…” was the text I got from a friend.  It was proof, yet again, that I had been slackassing on getting a race report done for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships held in Penticton, Canada.  It was also a reminder that I have at least one person that reads my blog.  Well, I suppose I should throw it out there.  Heck, maybe even some of the folks who are racing tomorrow might be looking for something to read… to put them to sleep.

Alba and I got to Penticton, home of over 300 wineries, a day before our housemates, Jen and Phil Horstmann along with Chrissy and Chris Haloris.  Want a fun bunch of folks.  Nothing like sharing a house with some great XTERRA Family.  Of course, our view just absolutely sucked.

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Our AirBnB digs just happen to be sitting smack dab in the middle of a vineyard.  The owner even provided us with a couple of bottles from the winery that buys his grapes.

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Since we were there early, I decided to throw the bike together and get in a full preride of the course.  The first 3 or 4 miles of the course was on the Kettle Valley Rail Trail, which as the name implies is a rails-to-trail with a gravel surface wide enough for, you guessed it, a train.  After that, it turns into steep, technical single-track, which I just loved.

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Unfortunately, my day was cut short just when the fun, descending section hit.  I fell victim to a flat tire and in classic Marcus fashion, I had forgotten my seat bag.  With no way of fixing the flat and needing to get to the Parade of Nations, I found myself running in bike shoes to the trail head which also happen to be several miles away.  A quick call to Alba for a rescue pickup and we made the parade with time to spare.

The next day, Alba dropped me off at the top of the climb and I was able to ride the downhill portion with good friends, Deanna McCurdy, Kristen Wade and Al Wade.  We had a blast of a time riding down and followed it up with some great apple slushies.

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Since we were in Penticton during the eclipse, our landlord, Grady, came over to show us a quick and handy way to view it using a spotting scope.  We just pointed it to the sun and let it focus on a piece of paper.  Pretty snazy.  We also attempted to set a world record to be the only folks within viewing distance of the eclipse to play horseshoes during the event.

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Fast forward to race day.  The day before we had to check-in our bikes and leave them overnight.  Everything with the ITU (International Triathlon Union) is all o-fish-y-al and all.  Heck, they even checked my bike for a motor.  I joked with them that I really needed one to keep up with the fast boys in my group, but they didn’t seem to find it too funny.  Anyhow, I got a great spot assigned to me near the end of the row.

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The race consisted of a 1500 meter, point-to-point swim in a horseshoe shape.  There were flags and a very straight line scratched in the sand to which we had to toe the line.  Calvin Zaryski even got yelled at for having his toe ever so slightly over the line.  With a quick blow of the horn we were off.  Like clockwork, there were several waves of competitors going off, one right behind the other.  In addition to the pros, there was another wave of age-groupers ahead of us.  By the time we got to the mid-point of the swim, we were catching the previous wave.  Early in the swim, I found a good person swimming slightly faster and I chose to draft, but when we hit the wave of folks ahead of us, it became crowded very quickly causing me to lose him.  I came out of the water feeling pretty good and ready to get on the bike.

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I had a very quick transition and managed to get out onto the bike without any issues, even passing a few people in the process.  After passing a couple of folks on the steep, paved section going up Vancouver avenue, I hit the Kettle Valley Rail (KVR) trail.  One of the guys I passed on the way up made his way back in front of me and I hopped on his tail.  We stayed together pretty much throughout the climb, conversing and just having a good time.

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The technical descending was the most fun part with me doing the “wheeeee” like the little pig on the commercial.  I felt smooth and even managed to get a compliment thrown my way as I whizzed past one of the locals in his full face helmet and pads.

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Hitting the KVR on the way back, I hooked up with Jeff Neilson.  We chatted along the way and decided to fly down the steep paved section side-by-side once we got off of the KVR.  My watch recorded 42 miles per hour, which is pretty darn fast on a mountain bike (at least for me).  In my speedy downhill section, I completely forgot to get out of my shoes.  I had planned a barefoot dismount going into transition but found myself hopping off the bike with one foot out and one foot still in the shoe AND still clipped into the pedal.  Needless to say, I almost ended up crashing into one of the fence barriers as I stumbled one legged for a bit before I could get my foot unclipped.  I ran into transition with one shoe on and one shoe off.  Total rookie move.

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After a short jaunt on pavement, we dove into singletrack which was fairly non-technical, but hilly and along the bluffs of the lake.

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Once we ascended the bluffs, we were met with a few miles of running on an out-and-back section of the KVR trail.  I would have felt a lot better with all, technical single-track, but I made the best of it and tried to maintain a good pace.  I saw Calvin on his way in and gave him a high five, along with encouragement of everyone I came across.

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Once back onto single-track, we had to descend the bluffs to the lakes edge and run back towards the finish.  The beach was only 5-10 feet wide and many sections of it covered with brush and trees.  In some places you could go under or over the trees, but in others you were forced to run out into the lake to get around.  This was a BLAST and the kind of racing I really, really enjoy.

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After dumping back out on the pavement, I ran past one of the female pros and spotted two guys ahead of me.  I asked the pro if she thought I could reel them in and she responded with, “Of course you can.  Go get em!”  I picked up my pace to try and run them down.  I lost sight of them as we weaved in and out of the marina, shops and resturants and along the backside of the park.  It wasn’t until we turned left at the peach and onto the final stretch that I saw one.  I grabbed an American Flag handed by our team coach and tried to run him down.  As I sprinted past him, the crowd started cheering, giving away my sneak attack.  I should have held off a little longer before attacking, but since I was already pulling up beside him, he had enough time to pick the pace back up.  The crowd became louder and the announcer started, “Barton or Girard, who’s it gonna be?  Girard or Barton. Barton or Girard?  Sprint finish, who will come out on top?”  Needless to say, Evan had better legs than me at that point, so he beat me across the finish line.  I gave him a big hug and congratulated him on a fine sprint.

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I ended up being the top American in my division, coming in at 6th place behind some super fast boys.

All-in-all, I was very impressed with the course that was laid out for us.  I’ll be honest, going into it I didn’t have very high hopes.  There have been a couple of ITU Cross courses that were nothing more than a road tri on dirt. This course in Penticton ended up being, what I would consider, a good measure of an all-around athlete. It didn’t cater to an athlete that may be really good at one type of course or excels at one particular skill.  I think they did a great job!

Upon finishing, we were presented with a Penticton beanie which I LOVE.  One of the coolest race gifts ever.

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It was also wonderful to have our AirBnB hosts, Grady and Gail come out and cheer us on at the race.  They managed to cheer us from several spots on the course and even take some great pictures like this:

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The gang headed out for some good eats, but not before I had this (just) dessert, first.  Yep, that’s strawberry layered cake on top of a strawberry milkshake.  They told me it was zero-calorie and I took their word for it.

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My bike just wanted to rest and enjoy the view before being packed up in its case for the trip home.

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Race: ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships
Location: Penticton, British Columbia, Canada
Date: August 23, 2017
Distances: 1000m Swim / 20 mile mountain bike / 5 mile trail run
Result: 6th in Division (top American) / 21st 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

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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 Continue reading

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

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