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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.


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.


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.


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


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.

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.


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.

Photo by Deb Dandro

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

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!


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.

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.

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

Last Minute Stocking Stuffers for Athletes

By now you may be scrambling to find gifts for your friend or better half.  If that person is a runner, triathlete or biker, maybe I can give you a few ideas. To the untrained eye, these may seem a bit cheesy, but trust me, if you want to get them something that they need and will actually use, then think about these. Not only are they practical and show that you’ve put some thought into their love of sport, but may even add a few snickers on Christmas morning. You can find most of these at your local running or other sports-oriented store and maybe even online. I’m a firm believer of supporting local shops, so definitely try them first.  (Throughout, I’m referring to your athlete as “him”, but can be very well a “her”).


1. Anything GU – Most athletes are in need of nutrition and can always use more. So stuff a few Stroopwafels, a few gels, a package of chews or maybe a tube (or two) of GU Drink Tabs into their stocking. The electrolyte tablets bring electrolytes to water with minimal calories (only 10) and something I use EVERY ride and on runs when I carry fluids. If you don’t know what a stroopwafel is, check out this video.  You can even get creative with the nutrition.  On our New Year’s Day run, we break out with Jet Blackberry gel on mini, powdered donuts. Now THAT’s one good jelly donut. www.GUEnergy.com



2. Give them Warmth – If your runner or biker likes training in cold weather, then you cannot go wrong with arm warmers. These gems are great because they can be taken off and stowed easily during those long workouts when you start of in the cold, but the temperature rises as your workout progresses.  These are especially a favorite with ultra runners and even bikers.  Be picky with your choice and don’t go for just any arm warmer.  These arm warmers from Orange Mud are made from bamboo.  Why a bamboo arm warmer? From a sustainability perspective it’s a crazy fast growing plant that requires very little water and no pesticides to “grow like a weed”. When you chop down a bamboo plant, it doesn’t need replanting, rather it simply regrows for continual harvest. The plant is also fantastic for erosion control, and also feeding pandas. Yes, pandas. www.orangemud.com



3. Elastic Shoe Laces – If you have a runner or triathlete that you’re buying for, chances are that they may already be using these handy laces that allow them to get into and out of the shoes without untying. Even if they already have them, they can use an extra pair for when they buy another set of shoes. Not only do you relieve yourself from the hassle of tying, but as you run, especially long runs, your feet tend to swell.  These beauties will stretch as your feet swell, keeping your shoes comfortable but snug.  www.locklaces.com


4. Socks – Yep, you heard right. The same gift we used to dread getting when we were kids is a cool gift now. Well, they’re cool if you get the right socks. As long as they are for riding, then you can’t go wrong. There’s many to choose from out there, but the best ones come from DeFeet, Sock Guy, Sugoi, and Pearl Izumi to name a few. You score extra points (and laughs) if you get some with a cool saying or picture on them. Can’t settle on the funny ones? Go a little more practical with Merino wool socks from Orange Mud (great this time of year) or compression socks which aid in recovery after a long workout. Want to go with a completely American made sock? Then check out Farm to Feet.



5. Get Grippy – If they’re a biker, ESPECIALLY a mountain-biker, then get them a pair of ESI Grips for their handlebars. They’re the most comfortable grips on the planet. So much so, that I ride without gloves (unless it’s cold). They come in a variety of thickness and colors, but I prefer the “Chunky” ones. On most regular handlebar grips, manufacturers put raised logos, tread patterns and all other kinds of crap that just make them damn uncomfortable. That junk belongs on tires, not handlebar grips. The whole idea of putting something on your handlebars is to 1: improve your grip and 2: keep your hands comfortable. Forget other grips that don’t put these two things FIRST. And if they’re hung up on having their “lock-on” grips, never fear, I used to as well. But the only grips that slip are the poorly made ones. ESI’s grips have their priorities straight and theses puppies won’t move once installed. So get them this gift and they’ll love you for it. www.ESIgrips.com



6. Seal it up – For the mountain bikers in the bunch, there’s a good chance your loved-one is riding on tubeless mountain bike tires. If so, this is a great stocking stuffer. If not, this may motivate them to take advantage of swapping to tubeless and experience all the benefits. For you, if you’re not a mountain biker, this will score major points that you happen to know something about tubeless tires and the need to use sealant. This stuff seals up the tires making it possible to hold air without a tube. The best part is it also acts as an automatic seal should they get a puncture on the trail. Don’t settle for that sealant with some guys name on it. Instead, go with the orange stuff made from NASA technology. One 8 ounce bottle is good for a set of tires, but if you go with the 4 ounce bottle, get two. I’d recommend getting the first bottle with the injector. FYI, I’ll be riding a product review on this soon. www.OrangeSeal.com


7. Crankbrothers Multitool – You can’t get more handy or practical than a multitool. Necessary for trail-side or road-side repair of bike foul ups and tends to work better than a MacGyver twig and rock combo. Crankbrothers has many to choose from at different price ranges. My favorite is the mutli-17 tool since it comes with a chain tool. It even comes with a lifetime warranty. www.crankbrothers.com



8. Co2 cartridges – If he’s a biker of any sort, having extra Co2 cartridges handy will ensure he has a way to fix a flat. It may take a little bit of snooping to figure out if he needs the threaded or non-threaded type. Just check his current stash (usually in his seat bag or where he keeps the rest of his stuff). If you can’t figure it out, go with threaded. If it’s the wrong type, he can easily swap it out with the right ones at his favorite shop. Go with either 16oz or 20oz. www.GenuineInnovations.com or your local bike shop.


If you found this list helpful, please vote for me in the #RunUltraBlogger awards (please scroll all the way down to complete the vote).


If you’re in the Charlotte, NC area, be sure to come check out our 10th Annual New Year’s Day Almost Noon Almost 10k Unorganized Group Trail Run


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.

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.

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

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:


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.


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.

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

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.



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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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."

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.


“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.


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!”

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!”

volunteers XTERRAmen
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!