After having a great time completing the Pocahontas Run and Ride, my Speed Sherpa teammate asked me if I also wanted to register for XTERRA Myrtle Beach. This was definitely not in my 2018 race plan, and the event was only in three weeks. But I was feeling great after Pocahontas, so I did some quick Google searching about the XTERRA Myrtle Beach to see how long the three segments were listed and to figure out how long of a drive it would take to get there. Luckily1, I had already requested an extended weekend from work so I had plenty of time to get myself ready and drive down to South Carolina on Thursday.
It may have been a little excessive to drive down on a Thursday when race day was actually on Sunday, but I remembered how much I enjoyed taking things easy for Ironman Louisville by arriving early and getting used to the area. We finally arrived late Thursday night, had a quick bite to eat (and learned that CHEETOS® and DORITOS® are acceptable toppings for burgers) then returned to our rooms in the nearby hotel. Friday and Saturday were pretty much identical by doing several laps on the MTB course, getting ourselves familiar with the never ending twists and turns to race as fast as possible without any mistakes (or crashes).
Finally, Race day morning arrived and I was feeling great. My bike and rack pack was prepped and ready to go, and the only thing we need to do is packet pickup and get our stuff ready in transition for a great race day.
The swim was in the Intracoastal Waterway2, which I greatly appreciated as it protected us from the pounding waves of the Atlantic Ocean. The previous two days I scouted the waterway and had some concerns on how fast the current was moving the water. If there was even a chance of missing the steps that led you back to transition, you could be in big trouble of never finishing as it looked impossible to swim upstream. What I didn’t take into account was the time that I was scouting the waterway, was late morning while the actual swim start time was shortly after sunrise. Fortunately the current is MUCH milder (and in the opposite direction) due to the tides. Transition closed just after 7:30, with the race brief concluding shortly afterwards, all race participants boarded several boats to drive upstream 1000 meters so we can begin our race (and take advantage of the current).
We started much later than desired as the Coast guard didn’t provide enough security and stop the boat traffic (1 yacht and 1 sailboat). However, once the path was clear everyone jumped in the water to begin their day. The swim start was a giant mass “GO” where everyone started at the same time! You had to make sure you aligned yourself behind the two “start” buoys and there was a quick countdown from 10.
I wanted to focus on form. For the past couple of months I’ve been improving my speed not because I’m now a stronger swimmer, it’s because I have really focused on form. Last week when my local pool switch from a 25 yard setup to their sprint 50 meter setup, I reverted back to my old style of swimming and my swim coached called me out. To have a good swim, I had to focus on form.
I felt really good for the first 1/2, but still fighting the open water panic that sometimes creeps into my head. As I was getting close to the bridge (thus those steps to get out), I began to panic as I couldn’t see the steps. The bridge’s shadow made it very difficult to see that I was near the end and I couldn’t remember if there was only one bridge… or two! Had I mentally become unaware on the boat ride to the starting line that I wasn’t even close to finishing? Fortunately I wasn’t the lead swimmer (like I ever have to worry about that) and was able to follow the crowd to find the steps and climb my way to transition. As I go to the top I heard the race coordinator call out “thirty”. I was the 30th individual to finish the swim of all race participants.
Strava Swim Activity
The first transition was slow. I was very concerned about getting dehydrated like my last XTERRA race in Charlottesville, so I had packed EVERYTHING. FULL hydration pack with waffle, gel, banana, peanut butter (which I loved during Ironman Louisville), along with my short MTB gloves, and other “necessary” items to ride. If I had higher confidence on my ability to survive on the Mountain Bike (MTB), I would drop a lot of that crap and be much lighter.
The MTB course was the Horry County Bike and Run Park, also know as “The Hulk”. This course is so much FUN! I know some purist enjoy a minimalist approach to their single track trails, but having a well manicured trail to race through is greatly appreciated. There were a lot of sections that had become soft sand over the years, but those spots were protected by carpet so you don’t have to worry about your front wheel pushing out from underneath. There were a couple of climbs that I had to make sure I was in the right gear, but for most of the race I was able to use my “big ring” on my 2x10 Scott Scale 930.
It is amazing how well this course was designed as it felt like you had different sections to navigate. There were open “beach” sections where vegetation was sparse, some climbing sections with amazing steep drops where it felt you were going up and down some small mountain sides, and a dense tropical(ish) section that had you cut back and forth. The course is just over 7 miles, and you had to complete two loops. I don’t agree with the “difficult” classification… I would consider this as easy to moderate, and perfect for anyone beginning to do XTERRA races.
Strava Ride Activity
After finish the bike I had a fast transition to start my run. We exited the park to find ourselves in another tropical(ish) section that had tighter switchbacks than the bike section. After about a mile I found myself down a sandy road heading toward the lollipop section where we had to complete two loops before returning back to the finish line. Up until the loops, the run was completely flat. There was one steep incline in the loops that set some people back, but I remembered my training to shorten my steps and pick up my cadence to make climbing uphill easier during a race.
After the first mile I kept a steady pace of sub 8:00 min/mi which is exactly what I thought I was able achieve. The turns in the tropical section definitely slowed me down, but I was able to find my legs for one last push to sprint towards the finish line. That is when you see the BEST local FINISH LINE target… an inflatable HULK!
Strava Run Activity
Post Race Thoughts
XTERRA Myrtle Beach was a blast! The race participants were focused but laid back so there wasn’t any mean glares/stares sizing up each other’s competition. As mentioned above the Horry County Bike and Run Park was well groomed for race day, much to the thanks of the race coordinator as they were doing the final touches on Saturday removing any soft sand in the corners, security plenty of signs so you wouldn’t get lost on the course, and had added additional carpet to ensure there wouldn’t be any damage from all the racers whipping around the turns. I feel better than ever on the mountain bike (although still not really a top competitor), and I cannot wait for XTERRA Charlottesville, VA that is happening in four weeks.
- Overall: Placed 32nd out of 101 (top 32%).
- Gender: Placed 30th out of 77 (top 39%).
- Male 40-44: Placed 7th of 16
Among the Male 40-44 category:
- Swim: Ranked 6th
- Bike: Ranked 7th
- Run: Ranked 7th
|EVENT Sprint||1km Swim||T1||14.5 Mile Bike||T2||5 Mile Run||Total|
Or unlucky depending on your point of view. I had something else already planned but that event fell apart only a week prior, so I had nothing scheduled for the weekend. ↩
Interesting fact that our boat captain mentioned, the Intracoastal Waterway was created for safe transportation of goods. There are a lot of interesting elements on the WikiPedia link which is why I linked it in the article. ↩
Goal Times were a SWAG. No idea about how swimming w/ a current would push me, no idea how fast I would ride the MTB, and got lucky that the “5 mile” trail was really 4.76 miles. ↩