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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

There is No Map in Hell

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How would YOU like to do TWO marathons with over 16,000 feet of climbing, EVERY day for a week?

Ever since Dan Kimball dragged me into doing OtillO and Rockman, he’s gotten me involved in 50K trail runs and thinking about other crazy adventures. So, with that said, I’ve picked up books here and there about other folks taking on really crazy challenges.

Back in 1986, a guy by the name of Joss Naylor ran all 214 Wainright fells (a fancy Norse term for mountain) in the Lake District of the United Kingdom.  He accomplished this 300 miles (or so) in 7 days and 1 hour.  Everyone thought it was a record that would never be broken.  Enter Steve Birkinshaw.  His book, There is No Map in Hell, recounts his attempt to break this record, complete with how he prepared, how the attempt went and gives you insight to what some would call a crazy mind.

I had only one question for Steve.

Marcus: If you were to change anything, what would you do differently in planning a Wainwrights challenge again?

Steve: Looking back at my run around 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

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

Tougher than a woodpecker’s lips – USAT Off-road National Championships

When putting together the race calendar for this year, I attempted to figure out what my “big” races would be. My original plans were to race as part of Team USA in the Netherlands at the ITU Off-road Triathlon World Championships as my first big race. My second would be racing the road equivalent in London (ITU Triathlon World Championships).

After digging into the off-road race, I discovered that the bulk of the race would be racing on the beach or on sand dunes. To me, that didn’t sound like much fun, especially given the price. Where I REALLY wanted to race was at ITU Offroad Triathlon Worlds in Germany for 2014. Giving up the Netherlands race in 2013, however, meant I would also be giving up a spot on the team. Soooo, that meant I would have to re-qualify for 2014. I set off to figure out how since, in the past, the qualification had been fuzzy at best.

I discovered that this year, USA Triathlon would be holding their inaugural Off-Road National Championship in Grand Prairie, Texas, which would be the qualifier for Germany 2014. The problem? It was the same weekend as London (road triathlon worlds). So if I REALLY wanted to go to Germany, I’d have to also give up racing in London. After a quick calculation of the costs to fly to London, accommodations and a brief discussion with Mr. England himself, Peter Lilly, I decided to forego it as well.

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After racing a fun XTERRA season, joining the 325 club (grin) and qualifying for XTERRA Worlds, I set my sites (and training) on USAT Off-road Nats. Training went well despite a few injuries and setbacks. I felt good, but still worried that I was unprepared going into the race.

Alba and I showed up a few days in advance to unwind from work and life while allowing some ample time on the course and acclimating to the heat. Indeed, the course was flat as a pancake and despite two creek crossings and some sand to contend with, it was a non-technical course.

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Race morning, the transition area was abuzz with locals, out-of-towners and a mix of XTERRA athletes.  Lots of familiar faces such as Charlotte Mahan, May-Li Cuypers, Darrel McHugh, Victor Mason, and power couple, Steve and Melanie Etherton (to name only a few).  It was good to see old friends and to make a few new ones.

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Mandatory pre-race briefing led right up to the start of the race, so there was no time for swim warmup. Bummer. We started off with a 600 meter swim.  Even though it was a short swim, my swim felt “flat”, but I knew with the hot water and the upcoming hot bike, I didn’t want to overdo it.  I may have been a bit over-cautious as my swim was waaaaay slower than I wanted it to be: 11 minutes, 12 seconds which was 20th fastest. Ugh.

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Coming out of the water with a herd of folks already in transition, I knew I had to make up time. I wasted as little time in transition as possible: 35 seconds (5th fastest).

Since the bike course was flat and non-technical, the goal was to hammer it as hard as possible while still remaining upright in the turns. There was one small creek crossing, one larger one and a couple of bridges. Other than that, it was flat and sandy. Final bike time: 52:29, 10th fastest.

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Coming into second transition, there was a pack of 4 of us coming in at the same time. I noticed a couple of guys in my division, so again, the goal was to get in and get out asap. Racked the bike, ditched the helmet and put on my running shoes. T2 time: 22 seconds, 4th fastest.

The run was more of the same sort of trails as we had just biked. Most of it was shaded with a couple of open spots where it felt like the surface of the sun. I managed to pass two more guys in my division to put me into first. I couldn’t catch the other 4 guys ahead of me (that weren’t in my division) and I finished up 26 seconds behind 4th place. Final run time: 16:25, 6th fastest.

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I finished 5th overall and 1st in my division and the first old guy over 40 (Masters) securing a National Champion title and a spot on Team USA.

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Going into this race, I expected it to be a lot “easier” given that it was flat and non-technical. Boy was I wrong. The effort expended may not have been horrendous climbs or gnarly, technical single-track, but it still was a tough race. You had to race hard to gain or maintain your position. Since there were no climbs, there also wasn’t any downhills to recover. This meant a sustained, hard effort for the duration of the race. It was a tough one for sure.

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I am REALLY looking forward to being on Team USA for the 2014 ITU Cross (Off-road) Triathlon World Championships. It’ll be my fourth year on the team, and if all goes well, my third ITU World Championships participation.  In 2014, they will be held in the small border town of Zittau, Germany. While cross triathlon normally consists of a 1km swim, 25km mountain bike and 6-8km cross-country run, Zittau has proposed a 1.5km (1 mile) swim, 36km (22 mile) mountain bike, 9km (5 mile) trail run course through the mountains.  Sounds like my kind of race.

Some stats for this race:

Race: USAT Off-road Triathlon National Championships
Location: Grand Prairie, TX
Date: September 15, 2013
Distances: 600m Swim / 14 mile mountain bike / 2.5 mile trail run
Result: 1st Male Masters, 1st in Division, 5th Overall
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Racing Ralph and Rocket Ron Tires, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals.

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Super special thanks goes out to Alan Tyson and team at Architect Sports and Physical Therapy for patching me up and making sure that despite injuries I could still perform at this tough event.

And of course I couldn’t have done it without Alba being my all-around sherpa and chasing me around on the course to be my personal photographer.  If it wasn’t for her, you’d be reading text without any cool pics.  :-)

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