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Rainy Dogs and Drafting-XTERRA Hickory Knob

XTERRA Hickory Knob always seems to fight with mother nature.  Last year it was a layer of pollen so thick on the trail it crunched.  The year before, we had brutal rain, freezing water and just all-around cold.  This year, although it wasn’t cold, she gave us more rain.  It had rained quite a bit leading up to the race, so much so that although it was warm and sunny the day before, the park rangers and race director made the call to limit the bike portion to the roads in order to prevent trail damage.  Besides, who wanted to clean up a mountain bike that would have surely ended up looking like this:


The mere prospect of racing on the road, using a mountain bike (XTERRA rules) didn’t appeal to many, but we all respected the decision to respect the trails.  It was probably less appealing when we woke up to rain on race day.  In the end, we all had a blast of a time and many commented on the fun nature of a draft-legal mountain bike race on the pavement.


The field was small, filled with die-hards that decided not to take up race director Andy on his offer for a deferment to 2016.  Instead, we all lined up in the cold water (mid 60s) and waited for the very informal “3, 2, 1, GO!”  The swim course was two 400 meter laps with a short, muddy jaunt around a cone on the shore.


Everyone seemed to handle the cold water pretty well and XTERRA newbie, Katharine Welling was the first out of the water, followed very closely by James Haycraft.


Above: Katherine Welling.  Below: James Haycraft


Welling commented, “Going into the race, I had no expectations as I’ve never done an XTERRA and have not been in a wetsuit since 2010. Of course the weather and the course changes were not what anyone wanted. Aside from some chilly water, the swim was great, and getting out of my wetsuit was by far the most difficult challenge of the day.”

Haycraft echo’d the disappointment in the weather, “Despite being quite sad that the race didn’t get to hit the trails for the bike, I felt like everybody made the best out of a sub-optimal situation. I got out of T1 first and had a 10s gap on a pack but after a mile or two I decided to sit up and join them.”  That pack included none other than yours truly and my fellow Timex Factory Teammate, Dan Kimball along with Sebastian Binnemann.  We caught up to James and by the time we hit the main road, it was stacked up Dan, me, Sebastian and James.

As we raced down the road, we took turns taking the lead, all trying to actually see where we were going.  The rain, combined with spray from the mountain bike tires, made it nearly impossible.  If you had glasses, they were completely covered.  If you didn’t, you had to squint and really hard blinking constantly to keep your eyes clear.  I was leading the pack at the first turnaround and when we took off after it, I relinquished the lead.  It wasn’t a mile or so later that the pack surged and pulled away from me.  I kept catching up but the pack kept surging until they were out of my reach.  I decided to ride alone and save my legs for the run.

Sebastian recalls the initial pack and surging, “Starting the bike straight up the hill kept the heart rate nice and high. After about 5 min on the bike, a group of 6 or 7 of us [created the lead pack].”  Having road racing experience paid off for Haycraft and Binnemann as they continued the strategy throughout the bike leg and came into T2 together.  “I definitely didn’t want to get off the bike with everyone, so when I saw a gap behind me I attacked and tried to go with James Haycraft and another guy in our little group. The attack didn’t fully work as two of the guys behind me were able to stay on. After that we had a few more attacks but generally kept the speed up to let no one else latch back on,” Binnemann continued.

Another XTERRA newbie had road racing experience as well as she hit the roads on her mountain bike.  Representing Live IT Xtreme, newcomer to the wonderful world of XTERRA, Leyla Porteous recalls the race.  It’s been years since she’s ridden a mountain bike and only had a couple of rides prior to Hickory Knob. “Somehow I’ve been lured to the dark side, and competed at Hickory Knob.” commented Leyla.  She continued, “I was actually feeling pretty good about the bike leg. However the weather gods weren’t ready for me to hit the trails on the bike just yet, so I was going to get to utilize my road biking skills for this one – but on a mountain bike of course. The bike course was a simple out and back on the park roads and I just tried to keep my normal high cadence and not blow up on the hills.”

Katherine Welling recalls the bike leg like many other racers that didn’t have the advantage of a pack.  “I was not lucky enough to be one of the cyclist riding in a pack, so I pedaled solo and enjoyed the light rain,” says Welling.

I personally ended up in this predicament after the lead pack pulled away.  Passed by Travis Beam (owner of Live IT Xtreme) and Tyler Labelle, both of which tried to work with me, but I just didn’t have the biking legs to match these awesome riders today.  Was it my lack of bike training leading into the race?  Could it have been that extra cheese on the pizza the day before?  Was it the time trial I did on Wednesday?  Maybe it was because I didn’t shave my legs and arms like the road bike guys.  I didn’t know.


Whatever it was, I ended up coming out of T2 in 8th place with someone passing me shortly out of transition.  Glad to get off of the pavement and onto the trail, I felt better once in my element.  I managed to pick off three people once on the dirt with my grippy X-Talons.


Katharine Welling, after leading the swim and being first female for the duration of the bike agrees, “The run was great as we FINALLY got to go into the woods. The mud, the roots, the hills…it made my heart happy and reminded me why I wanted to do an off-road triathlon.”

When asked about competition on the run, Leyla Porteous stated, “I knew that the 3rd female (Tanya Houghton) wasn’t too far behind me.  I saw her on the bike leg coming into transition and then Travis gave me a shout across the trail that she was about a minute back.. That gave me some motivation to dig on the last lap and I hammered pretty hard on the road section hoping she wasn’t going to catch me.”

Like Katharine, once off of the bike, James maintained the lead.  Sebastian tried his best to catch him.  “Coming of the bike [at T2] it became clear quickly that the race is on between James and I. He had the better legs and towards the end of the run pulled further and further away. I lost about a minute to him,” says Binnemann.

James recalls, “I got out on the run quickly and paced well up the long hill to the trails where I opened up the gap a bit on him and the rest of the field during the two loops.  I crossed the line in the lead after a nice long downhill finish.”  You can find out more of the story at James’ personal racing blog.

Dan Kimball ran to a third place finish after riding and running with the lead pack during the entire race and had the fastest bike split of the day.  From what I hear, he also did quite a bit of the pulling out there.


Despite the rain and being on pavement for the bike, everyone seemed to have a good time.  “I actually had a lot more fun in the race than I expected,” said Binnemann.  The rain continued off and on throughout the race making for some wet racing conditions all-around.

Wrapping up the day enjoying a post-race brew with friends and fellow racers, Leyla Porteous even commented about the rain, “The light drizzle had continued so the trails where pretty slippery and muddy in sections making for some fun sections on the run. It was a great first XTERRA race and I’m looking forward to doing more races in the near future.”


Yup, Leyla.  You’re going to fit in nicely with the rest of the XTERRA family.  See you at Fort Yargo.  It’s a feisty race.

Final top three rounded out:

1. James Haycraft, Charlotte, NC
2. Sebastian Binnemann, Charlotte, NC
3. Dan Kimball, Fort Mill, SC

1. Katharine Welling, Spartanburg, SC
2. Leyla Porteous, Sherrlls Ford,NC
3. Tanya Zalansky Houghton, Charlotte, NC

I ended up in 6th overall and 1st place old guy.  Not too shabby, I guess.



Race: XTERRA Hickory Knob
Location: McCormick, SC
Date: March 22, 2015
Distances: 800m Swim / 16 mile mountain bike (on the road) / 5 mile trail run
Result: 1st Masters Male, 1st in division, 6th Overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Inov-8 X-Talon 190, Schwalbe Racing Ralph and Thunderburt Tires, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.


Whatever your athletic goal, there is a GU FOR IT.  Check out this awesome anthem video! For me, this video stirs feelings heading into the 2015 racing season.  Would love to hear what you think.


New to the Family: Inov-8

As you know, all of my sponsorships have been for products that I love and trust FIRST before I sought sponsorship.  I don’t believe in blindly towing a sponsors line simply because they chose to sponsor me.  I’m not a pro, nor do I profess to be the fastest guy out there and, yes, I am afraid of other fast boys in North Carolina and elsewhere (some of you will get that pun). But, I do profess to be someone who has a love of training and even more of a love for racing.  So, during my efforts of training and racing, along with sharing my experiences and lessons I’ve learned with you, I seek out sponsors who believe in my abilities as an athlete and ambassador.

I’ve raced for quite a few years now and I’ve tried all sorts of shoes.  For the past couple of years, I’ve raced with products from Inov-8 after I got a taste of their shoes.  When Dan and I began considering racing ÖtillÖ as a team, we both agreed very quickly that we’d be racing in Inov-8 shoes.  With any sort of planning of such a daunting race, everything must be well thought out and tested.  We’re still trying out several different pair and haven’t settled on which ones will be our secret weapons, but you can pretty much bet on them coming in a box that looks like one of these:


Well, I’m happy to announce that Dan and I sought sponsorship with Inov-8 and we were honored when they said yes!  We promptly received the goodies above and we’re already breaking them in.  Expect some highlights and write-ups on some great gear in the very near future.  Every piece of gear they send me, I will be putting though the paces and will share detailed info about each of them with you.  Stay tuned!

10 Fitness Tips in 10 Days – Tip 10 – Never Give Up

This is one of the many reasons most people don’t stick to their New Years resolution of getting into shape.  Nothing is more demotivating than having to wait in line with 3 other people for a bench or a treadmill.  However, don’t let the high crowds in the gym end up being your downfall, instead use it as your motivation.


Gym attendance always spikes in January with New Years resolutions and then vastly tapers off in mid to late February.  If you can last thru the crowds, you’ll find that most gyms tend to thin out around the mid-February timeframe making your workouts more enjoyable and include less waiting.  It’s actually a comical joke among my “regular” gym buddies.  “Yup, just a few more weeks and things will be back to normal,” they say.  But don’t end up like one of those quitters they talk about!

Here are some additional reasons many people give up: (some of these are recaps of previous tips, which means they’re important)

1.  Gym too crowded – see above.

2.  I don’t know what to do. - Get help from a “regular”.  If you have a friend or relative who is a gym “regular”, solicit their help.  But be careful, make sure your friend or relative have proven results.  Nothing like the blind leading the blind.  Alternately, get assistance from a trained professional.  Many gyms offer trainer services.  Hire one.  They are probably less expensive than you think they are.  Want to give a triathlon a shot (it’s a great way to have both a goal and a carrot hanging out in front of you to keep training), then think about getting a coach.

One additional thing you can try is to do the research yourself.  I did and dug through a TON of books and articles to figure out what worked and what was just a fad.  In a previous tip I gave you some examples of what’s in my library.  It’s only a sampling of what I used as research.


3.  I don’t see results. - Folks, there are no miracle weight loss cures or magic pills that guarantee immediate or super fast results.  You have to work at it, and it will take time.  If you can commit 12 solid weeks to a proper (non-fad) diet and proper exercise, you will see results.  You cannot lose 50 pounds in a month.  However, health and fitness isn’t just a 12 week program.  If you want to keep off the weight that you lose, you must make permanent lifestyle changes.  If you think of a “diet” as something that you “go on”, you are already set up for failure.  With this assumption, you think that at some point you can “go off” the diet.  The minute you do, you will start regaining the weight you lost.  Once again, if you want to see results, it will take time, sometimes several months depending on your particular level of fitness.  If you want to see permanent results, you have to make permanent changes to your lifestyle.

4.  I lack motivation. – Find it.  Bikini by the summer?  Fit into a dress for a special occasion?  Want to lose a certain amount of weight before the next track day so you’ll be faster?  Want to finish a 5k run in under a certain amount of time?  Whatever your motivation is, take a picture of it and put it all around you.  Put it on your computer monitor at work, your mirror in your home bathroom, on the treadmill when you’re running, and on the dashboard of your car (not in front of the speedometer).

Having your goal or motivation in front of you will keep this on your mind all the time.  Every time you decide to reach for that donut or to splurge at lunch, take a look at your motivation (or think about it).  Every time you start to put anything in your mouth, think to yourself, “Is this going to help me reach my goal?”.  Every time you hit the snooze button when trying to wake up and go to the gym think, “Is this extra 5 or 10 minutes of sleep going to help me reach my goal.”  Every time someone offers you a beer when watching the football game, think.  Every time your relative, wife, husband, whoever tries to demotivate you, think.

5.  My wife/husband/significant other doesn’t support me.  – This can take many forms.  They can sabotage you in many ways.  Not wanting to eat healthy, not wanting to workout with you, telling you your crazy, or whatever. Don’t buy it.  Once they start seeing results, they’ll come around.

6.  I can’t do this by myself. - Find someone.  This could be a professional trainer or your buddy next door.  Find someone that will be just as dedicated to it as you will (if not more) and be accountable to them.

You have to be strong in your convictions.  This is not going to be easy or quick.  It will be extremely hard and it will take a long time. I know this may seem contrary to the “quick fix” philosophies of the weight loss and fitness industry that you see so much on t.v.  But this is the truth.  With patience, dedication and most of all, discipline, you can achieve your goals.

Hope this helps…  Keep up the great work!  I’ll keep the tips coming over the next couple of weeks, but they may not be every day (I have to get my workouts in!), so keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to my blog (see below), Facebook, and Twitter feeds!!


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10 Fitness Tips in 10 Days – Tip 9 – Consistency is Key

Here’s where I struggle.  If you ask my training buddy, Dan the man, he’ll be quick to tell you that this is my biggest problem.  So what better way for me to face it head on than to offer it as a tip as to why it’s important and how I’m going to approach it.

Any level of success when it comes to fitness can be measured by how consistent the person was with their training.  Less consistent = less results.  Mildly consistent = mild results.  You get the picture.

Different people have different reasons for not being consistent.  Some are about being too busy, some are about traveling issues, others are just plain excuses.  Here’s how to fix them and the approach I take.

Create a Plan

If you are jumping into it day-by-day and thinking, I’ll do *something* today, without having a plan, you’ll come up short.  Even if you’re successful in dragging yourself (kicking and screaming) to the gym but have no idea what to do when you get there, not only will you look like a lost puppy wandering around, but you’ll also likely do things that won’t get you the best results.  You need to commit to your fitness by creating a plan and mapping your activities. This plan needs to be a a long term one with some real thought behind it.  If not, you may find that it is easier to to be inconsistent.


When thinking out the plan, there should be clear, concise, measureable and achievable goals.  If your goal is weight loss, as mentioned in Tip #5, plan on losing a couple of pounds a week.5, 10 or 15 pounds a week may not be achievable and only result in you being one of the New Year’s Resolution folks that come to the gym in January but are gone by March.

Also, by creating a plan, you’re well on your way to establishing a habit.  I’ve found that exercising at least three to four times per week gets me (or keeps me) in a rhythm.  You can establish the rhythm  by getting a gym membership, purchasing home exercise equipment, buying a bike, joining an exercise group, or getting a training buddy may be some of the things you want or need to work out with consistency.

When we first started, we would plan our workouts 4 weeks at a time.  There was a goal with each of the four weeks and each day was planned as part of this process.  This was done for a reason as your body begins to adapt after 4 weeks.  You gotta keep it guessing to constantly make advances, so changing things up every 4 weeks is ideal.  This will also help keep your interest level.  Need help putting together a plan?  Pick up a book similar to what I recommended in the previous tip, get a personal trainer or a coach to help.  Results take time and that only comes through consistency.  No, you can not get instantly fit unlike some of the ads out there.


But Damn, I’m Sore

Here’s where consistency is really important. If you go for a run for five miles on one day and avoid exercising for the next three days will only leave you feeling sore. If you workout in sporadic spurts, you’ll end up sore, or worse, injured.  For best results, you will want to gradually build up to higher and longer levels of cardiovascular strength, flexibility and strength training. A gradual increase will allow your muscles, tendons and ligaments a chance to adjust to the strains and challenges of a fitness regimen.

Get the Mental Boost

Feel like giving your co-worker a throat punch?  Sounds like you could use a way of reducing stress.  Consistent workouts not only helps to get that crap out of your system, but it also gives you a positive boost by releasing endorphins that enhance your mood. Don’t believe me?  Then get your but to exercising and find out.

Once you’ve worked out for a few weeks, you’ll find any break in your workouts, not only will you find your mood get groggy, but you’ll generally feel tired as well.

Sticking to regular exercise and getting into a regimen will keep you feeling up-and-up both physically and mentally. So stop with the excuses and get consistent.


See you tomorrow for tip 10!


About: 10 Fitness Tips in 10 Days is designed for me to share my experiences with you to help you lose weight (if necessary), get into shape and improve your fitness (always necessary).  I am, by no means, an expert, nutritionist, or doctor.  Instead, I am simply another normal person, such as yourself, that didn’t want to figure it out with trial/error on my own.  Instead, I gathered great information from successful athletes, coaches and other professionals.  Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program or making any changes to your diet.

10 Fitness Tips in 10 Days – Tip 8 – Targeting Your Love Handles

This tip brought to you by a question that originated from the pictures of Tip #1.  Someone asked, “I tried everything to make them [love handles] fade, but nothing works. Do you have any tips?”

Any successful weight loss regime will consist of diet and exercise. As for the diet, you have to get rid of the junk and start eating right (see Tip #6).

As for exercise, the trick that Alba (see below) and I used during our initial weight loss and over the subsequent years (before I got into racing) was a combination of both weight training and cardio. We did 3 days of very focused strength training per week along with 3 or 4 days of cardio (20-40 minutes per day) on opposite days from our weight training. The 7th day was a day of rest. (I can give you more specifics about the workouts, you only have to ask).


Once I started racing, my exercising took a turn towards very focused activities that were geared towards the races, making me stronger in each of the sports along with specific timing of the events.

Since the person asked about particular exercises to target love handles (or anyone thinking about other problem areas), let me touch on that subject. Contrary to popular belief (and exercise equipment ads on late night t.v.), there is NO way to focus on one part of the body when it comes to fat loss. The human body just doesn’t work that way. Although you can build up a certain muscle by targeting that specific muscle, you can not target a particular part of the body when it comes to burning fat.


In general it seems the last area to lose fat for a particular person is the first area to gain it. Gender also plays a role. Men tend to store fat on the abdominal region (hence the term beer gut and love handles) whereas women accumulate it around the hips and thighs. Heck, in my short time off from training over the holidays, my abdominal region has already started to show this problem.  Time to get back to work!!

Training either of these areas exclusively (attempting to reduce fat in only that specific area) in the hope of losing fat, in that area, simply does not work. Fat instead is lost evenly, because that’s how your body uses it. When burning fat, your body uses the fat stores throughout the body to provide energy to burn. It’s a bit more complicated, but basically that’s how it works.

Another misconception is targeted weight training. A lot of guys will work arms and chest one day, while working back and shoulders another. Although this is great if your goal is to build mass, and it does aid in recovery, it is not the correct approach if your goal is to lose weight.  If your goal is fat loss, training every body-part with equal intensity coupled with aerobic/cardio training remains the most effective means of losing fat. Initially, on weight training days, I did not focus on only one area per workout. All of my weight training days consists of a full-body workout. After I had obtained the goal of losing the weight, then my goal changed to strength and muscle mass which at the time, changed the way I structured my workouts.

The person pointed out that I lost my love handles from the before and after photos, but if you look carefully, the fat was burned evenly over the entire body, not just the love handles. Look at how fat my head was. geeez.  Heck, I even had to have my wedding band re-sized because my fingers were no longer sausages.  We’re talking 3 sizes.

One more thing. Diet pills, fat burners, supplements that promise fat loss, especially those that claim they can target specific areas are stating nothing more than lies. If you look at ANY ad for these types of products, you will find a disclaimer that also states “When used in conjunction with a proper diet and exercise program.” Well, duh. Change the way you eat, add exercise and save the money on the rip-offs. I didn’t use them and you don’t need them.

See you tomorrow for Tip number 9.


About: 10 Fitness Tips in 10 Days is designed for me to share my experiences with you to help you lose weight (if necessary), get into shape and improve your fitness (always necessary).  I am, by no means, an expert, nutritionist, or doctor.  Instead, I am simply another normal person, such as yourself, that didn’t want to figure it out with trial/error on my own.  Instead, I gathered great information from successful athletes, coaches and other professionals.  Always consult your doctor before starting any exercise program or making any changes to your diet.

10 Fitness Tips in 10 Days – Tip 7 – Pick Them Up and Put Them Down

This one will be filed under the “well- DUH!” category
Tip Number 7 is….  EXERCISE
You MUST exercise in addition to eating right to lose weight.  If you think your magic pill you see advertised on TV will allow you to lose weight without exercise….  think again.
What I am offering here is a *healthy* way to lose weight and it does not make use of drugs, fat burners, fad diets or the like.  For all intense purposes, your “magic pill” is exercise.
A good exercise program that will maximize weightloss includes BOTH strength training *and* cardio.  You could do either and lose weight, but if you want *maximum* results, you should do both.  I’m not saying that you need to get buff like Governor Arnold.  Some moderate strength training coupled with cardio will give you the best results.
Yesterday, a friend of mine, Théoden Janes posted a link to 10 Common Myths About Working Out.  In this list, they mention that a common myth is that you burn more calories with cardio than you do with strength training.  As the article mentions that with “strength training allows calories to burn for longer after the workout.”  So, again, if you want maximum results, you should be doing both cardio and strength training.
I’ve also heard many people say that they plan on losing weight *before* they start strength training.  This is a backwards approach.  Start your strength training *to* lose weight.  If you are unsure of what to do in the gym, there are plenty of books out there that can help.  If you don’t want to tackle it alone, get a personal trainer at your local gym to help.
Here are a couple of book recommendations:
Cover Model Workout – Novice to Intermediate – It should be noted that this book is not in print anymore, but it is the one that Alba and I used back during our initial trek and is what we followed to lose the bulk of our weight and to get fit.  If you can get it, you’ll find it is a great book that uses full-body workouts to maximize your time in the gym (or at home) working out.  It also includes a comprehensive cardio plan in addition to the strength training.  The author also does an outstanding job explaining proper eating habits.
Home Workout Bible – Novice to Intermediate – Great book if you want to workout at home and stay away from the gym scene.  Personally, I feel that you NEED to go to the gym eventually in order to gain access to leg presses and cable machines that can take you to the next level.
Book of Muscle – Intermediate to Advanced – This book can be a bit daunting to the Novice.  The workouts are a bit longer and a little more complex.  Also, it can be a bit overwhelming with all the information about the different muscle groups.  However, there in lies the benefit.  If you’re ready for the “next step”, everything you wanted to learn about muscle is included.  One downfall: this book does not elaborate on cardio which is needed for additional weightloss.
But don’t just get stuck on one of these books.  The key thing is to get started on a strength training program of some sort that doesn’t just have you wandering around the gym wondering what to do.  There are too many lost puppies in the gym this time of year as it is.  You should be going to the gym with a purpose and a plan of knowing what you need to do when you get there.
I’d love to hear your comments and questions.  Just hit the comment section below.
See you tomorrow for Tip Number 8!

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