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Yellow Snow in April–XTERRA Hickory Knob

When we showed up on Friday for a pre-ride and run of the XTERRA Hickory Knob course, it was vastly different weather than 2013.  Last year, at race time, it was raining, cold and water in the mid-50’s.  In that race, I didn’t warm up until I was in the showers after the race.

This year, it was sunny and mid 70’s before the race, but there was what appeared to be a fog cloud in the air.  You don’t have to be a weatherman to know that sunny and 70 is not typically when you have fog.  That’s because this cloud wasn’t fog after all, but instead a haze of pollen in the air.  The ground was covered in a layer of yellow as if it was a dusting of snow and you had nice little puffs of it with every step.

The trail was even worse and several times during my preride, I’d stop and look behind me to see the yellow cloud that I had stirred up resettle to the ground.  I’ve raced in dusty conditions, but this was definitely taking it a step farther.

During my Friday ride, I kept having issues with my front derailleur dropping my chain down to the small ring.  I’d push it back up only to have it drop back down in a quarter mile or so.  After getting it back to the room, I noticed that the cable housing was broken and needed to be replaced.  I had spare cable housing with me, but didn’t have any new ferrules, so I just reused the old ones.

Saturday, Alba and I went to the park to support Dan during his 50k race.  He had it all planned out and nutrition was easy since it was a multi-lap loop and could just take on what he needed after each lap.  Even though he didn’t NEED anyone there, I felt it was good to be there anyhow and to cheer him on.  He had an outstanding race and won first overall with a time of 4:01.

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A group of us met up for another pre-ride and run where I continued to have cable issues.  While waiting, I met numerous other racers and gave them directions on the course, answered questions and generally shot the breeze.  Really neat to meet a bunch of new folks to the sport.

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During our Saturday pre-ride, my use of used ferrules came back to bite me and one of them was sucked into my frame.  I began to run through all the scenarios in my head of where I would get replacement ones and what I’d have to do if I couldn’t get them.  I managed to find a shop, Chain Reaction Cycles, about an hour away that had the Niner-specific ferrules and caught them just before they closed.  They hooked me up and wouldn’t even take so much as a beer for payment.  By bedtime, I was back in business.

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The Swim

The swim wasn’t near as cold as it was the year before.  Heck, I actually think the temp (around 60) was quite comfortable.  It was a three lap, out and back, that was advertised as an 800, but after all estimations (from time and other experienced triathletes), we feel it was more like 1200.  On the first lap, my goggles fogged up nicely so when we came out of the water at the end of the lap, my intent was to pull them forward and just give them a lick each.  In my effort to do so, the straps popped off with a loud snap and I had to stop on the shore to fix them.  Time wasted.

The rest of the swim went pretty well with the exception of the last lap.  A group of swimmers were headed out on their last lap while I was in a group headed back in.  The outbound group drifted over into our oncoming traffic and I managed to hit, head on, with another swimmer.  Literally head on.  I sat up, seeing stars, and quickly realized what the heck was going on.  I lunged forward, shook it off and attempted to get back into a rhythm.

The longer swim didn’t work to my advantage against the better fishys, but it was still a good one and I felt pretty good.  Coming out of the water in 11th place, I had the most horrible time getting out of my wetsuit. Being one that takes pride in having very quick transitions and having done it many times before, the more I struggled with it, the more agitated I became.  Normally, I can shed it with a single yank of the cord, but for some reason, with how I had it setup, the velcro just didn’t want to give way.  Guess I need more practice to dust off the cobwebs.  What should have been a 30-40 second transition ended up being more than twice that.  I still managed to gain one spot in transition.

The Bike

Not much to report about the bike leg of the race as I had a fairly clean ride and only crashed once.  Even the crash wasn’t anything spectacular or super-technical, just me not paying attention and letting my pedal get caught on some rocks.  I ‘spose it had to happen, because it was the first race with my new bell and it wanted to get broken in correctly.  It gave out a nice ring when it was slammed across the rocks.

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I didn’t have any issues with the Schwalbe Rocket Rons hooking up, even with the thick layer of pine straw.  Even though there were doing an outstanding job, there were a few spots that were so loose that no tire would have done well.  The Rons coupled with a little caution allowed me to stay upright.  Not being able to take the hands off the bars but in a few spots, I primarily used GU Roctane drink as my fuel during the bike.  When it came to passing and being passed, there was a little leapfrogging going on and even though I managed to gain a few spots, it wasn’t near as fast as my bike leg should have been.   I finished the bike leg in 8th place.  Looks like I’ve got some homework that needs to be done.

The Run

I knew going into the run in 8th place that if there was any chance of topping off the age group or getting on the overall podium, I had to pretty much run my arse off.  I had no idea who was ahead of me or how many were in my age group, but knew Dan was up there given the absence of his bike in T1.  Josh and Jason had both passed me on the bike and I could see someone on the road ahead of me, although I didn’t know who.  By the time I passed Alba, Kim and Meredith at the barn, just before we dove into the trail, I could see I was already reeling in at least one person.

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I moved up to 4th place on the run before exiting the trail and hitting the road back to the finish.  Josh was hot on my heels so I just kept increasing the pace on the road to try my best to hold him off.

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Overall, it was a great warmup race for the season, allowed me to check my fitness and to see where I need to make improvements.  Congrats to everyone that came out and it was great to see all of my XTERRA family.  I would have been able to spend more time with them, but a last minute bike shop run prevented it.  Hopefully I’ll get to spend more time with them at the next race.

 

Race: XTERRA Hickory Knob
Location: McCormick, SC
Date: April 8, 2014
Distances: 800m(1200m) Swim / 14 mile mountain bike / 5 mile trail run
Result: 1st Masters Male, 2nd in division, 4th Overall
Full Results
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Schwalbe Rocket Ron Tires, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Synergy Adrenaline Wetsuit, ESI Grips, Crank Brothers Candy 11 Pedals, First Endurance Multi-V.

Back in the Family

Have some great news!  For those of you that know me, back in 2008 I became part of the TrySports ambassador program.  This was a great relationship and I really felt as if I became part of family.  All of the staff at TrySports became good friends as did the other ambassadors.  I remained sponsored by them over the next 3 years or so and life was good.

Well, the great news is that I am back in the family and once again part of the TrySports team of ambassadors. 

TrySports

Those of you not familiar with the company, TrySports, unlike some other specialty running or triathlon stores, don’t just cater to experienced athletes.  I’ve been in some of those stores and I’ve seen beginners get looked down upon when they didn’t know the terminology or may have simple questions since they’re just starting out.

Instead, at TrySports, they foster an environment welcoming beginner and experienced athletes alike.  Their mission is to “inspire their members to stay fit and healthy and enjoy the aerobic activities of walking, running, swimming, cycling, fitness, yoga and triathlon.” In my experience, they do just that.  No matter what your current fitness goals are, they aim to help you in achieving them, and assist you as you develop new ones once you’ve succeeded.

Check out this awesome video to get a quick snapshot of what you’ll experience in their stores or hit up their website at http://www.TrySports.com.

We’ll be doing lots of good stuff together in the form of clinics, group rides/runs and more, so stay tuned!

Be a Warrior!

Marcus

Preseason woes

It’s been about a month or so since I updated you with what’s happening in my neck-o-the-woods.  This is not untypical of the off season and especially so with preseason when time becomes scarce and blog updates takes a back-burner. Sometimes all I can squeeze out is a quick update on my Facebook page. Most triathletes have spent the off season doing base training or getting in some long-awaited fun stuff as they take a break from anything really structured. In the preseason, race calendars are formed as races begin to publish their dates and structured training starts to get reshaped around those calendars. For me, it’s always a struggle to get back into the swing of things, but for this year, I’ve been thrown a few extra curve balls. Let’s just say it’s been reeeeeeal interesting around here.  Let’s get all of this junk out of the way now, before racing season hits.

First, many of you know my black truck as we’ve used it as a meeting spot at trail heads and get-togethers, shared goodies eaten from the tailgate and it’s hauled many bikes to group rides. Unfortunately, you won’t be seeing my signature black Toyota truck at the trails anymore.  She’s been put out to pasture.  My daughter, better half and grandson, Johonious Maximus Arailius (not his real name) went for a spin, all in the name of a good cause (to take some outgrown and unused baby clothes to a needy mom).  Without getting into the details, they ended up in a bad wreck on I-485.  Someone must have been watching over them that day, because noone involved was seriously injured.  Alba got a busted rib and seriously bruised sternum, but outside of that, everyone is fine.  Big thanks to the man upstairs.  Wear your seatbelts, y’all.

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Second big wrench thrown into the preseason training was snowmageddon x 2.  The second wave was a bit more interesting and a bunch more snow than the first.  No, we didn’t freak out about bread and milk, and no, we weren’t completely stranded despite the 6 inches of accumulation we received, which is nothing compared to what we used to get when we lived in Nebraska and Wisconsin, but around here with the lack of equipment, it shuts everything down. On top of bringing the town to a screeching halt, it most certainly causes trails to be closed a lot longer than just rain. I usually like venturing out in the white stuff, however, I couldn’t even go out and enjoy it with the Little Man.  All I could do is take pictures before he went out, since I was in no shape to do so, which brings me to my next point…

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Someone or something unleashed a plague like no other within my house.  I usually do a good job being anal about keeping my distance, hands washed and everything I touch sanitized when someone else in my house is sick. My family gets a big kick out of how much of a germaphobe I can be, especially a week or so out from a race.  Little Man gets the brunt of it as I won’t even go near him when he’s sick.  I know it’s a good thing he gets sick as a kid, as it sets him up with a good immune system, but I don’t want any part of it.

Well, somehow, my usual efforts failed because I caught what he had which knocked me and Alba out for 4 solid days.  Heck, I’m still not right.  Fever, heavy, HEAVY chest congestion, coughing up all kinds of nasty brown stuff, nasal passages that can’t seem to make up their mind about being clogged or spewing, you name it.  Let’s just say that getting in any sort of a workout has been a bear.  With that said, Saturday I was finally able to do something and got in one of Cody’s superfantastic trainer workouts from last weeks program.  Not 100%, but it felt great to do something.

I’m just glad that we’ve gotten a bunch of bad ju-ju out of the way.  Hopefully the race season will give me some good karma in return.

Upcoming?  After a full year of racing and riding on my ESI Grips, it’s time for a new pair.  I’ve become the master at clipping trees hard enough to yank out my bar ends.  It’s bound to do wear and tear on the grips.  If you taunt me enough, I’ll do up a video writeup and throw out a few installation tips/tricks.  I’ll also be giving you my two cents on Orange Seal tire sealant.  It ought to be a fun one.  Stay tuned.

Be a Warrior

Marcus

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

Christmas Eve at Crowders

If you didn’t join us at the 4th Annual Christmas Eve at Crowders, you missed out.  As part of the Carolina Trail Runner and Mountain Bike Meetup Group, we’ve gotten together every year for a little fun trail run.

This year we started out at the park office and ran the Crowder’s trail to the steps.  After a quick run up the many, many stairs, we took a little break at the top to enjoy the views.

Our descent back was via the Rocktop trail which consists of some pretty gnarly, jagged rocks and a little bit of hand-over-hand rock climbing.  Not a steady run by any means, but we had the opportunity to see some great scenery.

After the run, we all partook of hot chocolate, cookies, sausage balls and tons of goodies brought by everyone.  We were even joined by the Salty the Yeti himself and he brought along a few of his friends.

All-in-all, a great time had by all.  Want to join in on the fun?  We’ll be doing a repeat (sort of) at the 7th Annual New Year’s Day Almost Noon Almost 10k Unorganized Group Trail Run.  Maybe the Salty the Yeti will join us again.

By the way you can follow Salty the Yeti and his adventures on his Twitter feed.

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Last Minute Stocking Stuffers for Athletes 2013

Have a loved-one that is a triathlete or biker?  Still scrambling for some stocking stuffer ideas?  To the untrained eye, these may seem a bit cheesy, but trust me, if you want to get them something that they’ll actually need and use, then think about these.  Not only are they practical and show that you’ve put some thought into their love of sport, but it’ll add a few snickers on Christmas morning.  You can find most of these at your local bike, running or other sports-oriented store.  (Throughout, I’m referring to this person as “him”, but can be very well a “her”).

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1.  Anything GU – Most athletes are in need of nutrition and can always use more.  So stuff a few gels, a package of Chomps or maybe a tube (or two) of GU Brew Electrolyte tablets into their stocking.  The electrolyte tablets bring electrolytes to water without extra calories and something I use EVERY ride.  There’s even seasonal gel flavors like Peppermint Stick and Mint Chocolate.  Peanut Butter flavor is a favorite around here.  On our New Year’s Day run, we break out with Jet Blackberry on mini, powdered donuts.  Now THAT’s one good jelly donut.  www.GUEnergy.com

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2. 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, but I prefer the “Chunky” ones.  On most regular handlebar grips, manufacturers put 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

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3. 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.OrangeSealCycling.com

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4.  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

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5.  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.

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6. 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 Sugoi, Pearl Izumi, DeFeet and  Sock Guy.  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 wool socks (great this time of year) or Sugoi Compression socks which aid in recovery after a long ride.

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7. Yankz 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.  www.yankz.com

If you’re in the Charlotte, NC area, be sure to come check out our 7th Annual New Year’s Day Almost Noon Almost 10k Unorganized Group Trail Run

-Marcus

One Beast of a Race

Well, it was bound to happen.  Someone finally talked me into doing one of the Spartan races.  I kept it under wraps for the most part, because honestly, even though I was signed up, I wasn’t quite sure how it was going to work out with doing the XTERRA World Championships.  The race chosen was the Spartan Carolinas Beast on November 9th.  Even though this was two weeks after Worlds, I had already planned on being in Maui for two weeks.  Alba and I needed the getaway and I needed the downtime from training and racing.

I purposefully didn’t do ANYTHING structured the week after Worlds and I knew that would be contradictory with going into a 13 mile trail run that also consisted of 20+ obstacles.  Adding insult to injury (pun intended) was my fat, thick, swollen, painful, yet-to-be healed ring finger that I dislocated after a short trip over the handlebars in Pisgah.  Here’s a pic of it about a week out from the Spartan.

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Although racing an XTERRA is doable with such an injury, doing an obstacle course that involves rope climbing, wall climbing, carrying 90 pound blocks of concrete and the like, is not so doable.  Like most last minute decisions I have been known for, I didn’t make the final decision until the morning of the race.  Matter of fact, Alba and I had to get up at 4:30 to be at the race in time and I waited until about half-way there to make the final decision.  We debated it back and forth until finally we said “screw it” and decided to give it a shot.  If halfway through the race, my hand started giving me problems, I’d throw in the towel and walk away, still gratified that I at least gave it a shot.

Fast forward to race start, I did a bit of warmup and dynamic stretching before jumping the 7 foot wall blocking the race start chute.  After a quick handshake/impromptu introduction to Hunter McIntyre, the race started with what was described to me as typical Spartan fanfare.  Here’s a video Alba took of the race start.

I was surprised that we had obstacles right out of the gate.  Three deep trenches of muddy, cold water.  The air temp was a brisk 34 degrees Fahrenheit when we started and I am sure the water wasn’t much warmer.  This was followed by over-under obstacles which I got through pretty quickly and I settled into 7th place overall.  I could see Hunter up ahead in first setting a good pace and I seemed Continue reading

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