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Slippery When Wet – SwimRunNC Report

Whew. Yep, it’s that time of year again.  Race season is winding down and 4th quarter at work is ramping up.  The end of the race season is usually filled with “A” races which means after-work training takes precedence over everything, including blogging.  I usually only have time for a Facebook or Instagram post, but that’s about it.  With work, ramping up, it usually means more travel and getting work done after-hours because travel time is not always productive time.  Now that the post-season break is here, I have some time for blogging (or blerhging as Rich calls it).  With that said, let’s get started with a SwimRunNC report-a-rooo.

Some of my regular readers (all 4 of them) might be wondering why I’m doing a report on SwimRunNC before I do one on the Virginia race, since I raced that one first.  Dunno.  Let’s just do em in reverse order, so be on the lookout for that one soon.

Caleb and I raced SwimRunNC last year and had a BLAST.  We battled it out in the last 100 meters (or so) of the race to win the 3rd place overall spot.  It was a tough battle, but we squeaked it out.  This year, we went into the race with hopes of doing just as good, or better.  We showed up to the pre-race briefing hosted by Jeff Beckelhimer, Jan Kriska and Herbert Krabel and attended by a ton of fast racers at the Green Heron Alehouse.

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We were presented with our racing jersey which had a number that gave us some big shoes to fill.  We headed out to get some eats and I ended up at Jan’s brewery, Thirsty Souls Community Brewing.  Their Octoberfest celebration was in full swing, complete with German outfits.  I couldn’t help but to snap a pic with Jan, his two beautiful beer maidens, wife Maria and daughter Paulina.  GREAT beer on tap!

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We arrived race morning and did the usual warmup and pre-race stuff and before you knew it, we were lined up under the beautiful, WOODEN start/finish arch.  With a countdown, we were off!

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With the mass start, there was a lot of jockying for position as we ran down the gravel road headed towards single track trail, averaging a sub-6:00 pace most of the way. Once on the single track, your options for passing are limited and you almost have to go off-trail to get around.  We wanted to be up near the front and had already planned on when/where it would be OK to pass.  In one such area, we decided to pass during a creek crossing.  In true Marcus fashion, I ended up on tripping in the water and going down briefly.  I managed to keep my face out of the water, but still ended up landing kneecap first into a boulder.  Within the first mile or two, we moved up to the lead and ran hard to extend the gap.

The first portion of the race involved a 4 mile (or so) technical run up (1000 feet) to the Hanging Rock Lake, with a quick run through Window Falls.  The race organizers included using the Window Falls as part of the course with several hand-over-hand climbs up the falls and over.

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We made it to the water’s edge ready for a dip in the lake where the temp was in the upper 50’s.  We hopped in and proceeded with two “laps” of a 500 meter swim and a short dip across the cove near the dam.

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Photo by Kim Baity

At the end of each lap, you have to traverse the spillway just below the dam.  This proves to be a bit of a challenge as you scale down the bank and over a very large, car-sized boulder.

On our second trip around, I almost went back into the lake for a third swim.  Between Jan and Caleb, they got me pointed in the right direction which was up to Moore’s Wall.  I’m not sure what I was thinking, but I had my goggles on and was ready to go.  Instead, we headed for Moore’s Wall.

From the dam, the top of Moore’s Wall is another two miles of running, but with another 850 feet of climbing up over 600 steps.  These “steps” are mostly rocks that have varying heights from a few inches to over two feet.  Also, they’re not evenly spaced apart, so it’s quite a challenge to get into any sort of rhythm.

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Once at the top of Moore’s Wall, we paused for a quick picture and then headed out for our quick, technical scoot back to the lake.

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When I say “technical”, this is the most technical section of the course.  For the two mile descent, you are met with jagged rock, after jagged rock.  Having sure-footing and strong ankles is key to being able to go fast through this section.  Since it had been raining and foggy all morning, they were all wet and slick.  One wrong step could end with a heavy penalty, especially if you like your front teeth.

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Once back at the bottom, we had to do the same two “laps” around the lake.  Again, the cold water was welcomed as we jumped back in for another short, 500 meter swim.

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Descending from the lake was the same trail/course that we ran up with the exception of Window Falls, descending the steps next to the falls instead.  Once back down to the Dan River, we had to run alongside the river for a short distance before meeting up with race staff at the water entry.  We dove in and began the last 800 meters of the race swimming downstream.

The Dan River is very shallow. Some spots are swimmable while others you have to stand up and wade/run.  It is also strewn with underwater rock croppings and boulders, so you have to “feel” your way through the river as you swim.  At one point, I rolled over on my back to spot where Caleb was and to warn him of an upcoming boulder just below the surface.  I glanced at my watch and noticed that we were only 3 hours into the race.  I quickly realized that we had a shot at beating the course record.  Caleb looked up at me and I pointed to my watch.  “We can beat the course record!  Let’s get it!” I yelled back to him and rolled back over to begin swimming again.  Once we hit a sandbar, I stood up, looked back at Caleb and again stated we could beat the course record.  We both took off running.

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We made our way to the stair exit just behind the Green Heron Alehouse and with a quick run up the steps, ran across the finish line.

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Photo by Kim Baity

We ended up breaking the course record with a finishing time of 3:06:28.  We had all but dismissed our chances of breaking it and it was a total surprise when we were in the Dan River and determined it was possible.  We were just too pre-occupied with being chased.

Our friends, Jim Fisher and Michael Harlow from Richmond, Virginia, came in second and the third place team was Jade Costen and Tim Starets.

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Here’s the winning male, female and mixed teams.  For the female team, it’s Kristen Jeno and Jennifer Ledford.  For the mixed team, it’s Amy Krakauer and Marcus Carson.

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SwimRunNC is one of the events I was really looking forward to this year.  We had such a good time last year, but this year Jeff, Jan and Herbert stepped it up another notch.  Their combined passion for this sport and this event is unsurpassed. They are equally passionate about the venue, purchasing a mobile firefighting apparatus for the park with the proceeds.

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You could really tell that they tried hard to improve every aspect of an already great race.  Some things were easily noticeable like the beautiful start/finish arch, while other small details, although not as immediately apparent, were not overlooked.  Trophies and swag were improved upon as was the after-race food and drink.  Another improvement was an increase in fresh, crisp Benjamins for the top three teams in each class.

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We really, really love the laid-back, unpretentious, non-elitist atmosphere of swimrun and this race proves that even further.  If you have thought about giving a swimrun a try, if you’re tired of pounding the pavement, if you’re ready for something fun and different, you should definitely give this race a shot.  Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and smiles were abound.  Why would you want to go to a race where the racers are all so serious?

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Unless otherwise specified, these great photos came from Brian Fancher photography.  Brian and his son took AWESOME photos.

If you want more information on the race itself, head over to the SwimRun NC website, which has good info, but the BEST information is continually posted on the SwimRun NC Facebook page.

Race Recap: Swimrun NC
Location: Hanging Rock State Park, NC
Date: October 29, 2017
Distances: 11 runs, 9 swims, 14 miles of running, 2 miles of swimming
Result: 1st Overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane, First Endurance Multi-V.

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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

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

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

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