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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

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.

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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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