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O’NEAL CONQUERS XTERRA UTAH

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The water was cold and the fall colors were in full bloom. Guam’s Cameron O’Neal shares his experience on the XTerra USA Championship in Utah. (courtesy photo)

By Cameron O’Neal

So, where would the best place be for an athlete training at sea level to compete?  At 7500 feet in the mountains of Utah, of course.  Well, that may not be the best place, but it is where the Xterra USA Championship race was held on September 22, 2012.  I had the honor of making the journey to Ogden, Utah to compete.  Having qualified by my finish placement in our very own Xterra Guam race, I went into it feeling quite unprepared for that kind of altitude, to say the least.

The event consists of a 1500m swim, 28k mountain bike and finishes with a grueling 10k trail run.

Race morning greeted the competitors with a very chilling outside air temperature of 37ºF.  The water temperature was cold enough for the athletes to wear wetsuits, which was a warm welcome for this tropical island competitor.

The gun started the race promptly at 9 am as 330 of the best Xterra athletes started their day.  The air at that altitude is quite thin and I quickly learned that I needed to find some “open water” away from all the thrashing arms/legs to find my rhythm and become comfortable.

A strong current gave the athletes a good challenge and I was able to exit the swim in around 70th place overall and looking forward to the bike leg.  Numb hands and feet made transition into biking mode a little more difficult as I struggled to get into my cycling shoes and get my gloves on.  After getting that situated, I settled in for the 14-mile climb to the top of the mountain.

The mountains of Ogden, Utah was the site of the XTerra USA Championships. (courtesy photo)

I had to constantly remind myself that it was a race, because around every curve there were spectacular mountain views that would take your breath away along with all the changing colors of the leaves.

It was quite the ride.

http://iconnectasia.com/iconnectguam/As I made my way to the top and prepared for the four-mile descent to the transition area, I made sure to soak up all the scenery that was on offer.  I came off the bike behind where I had hoped to be, but had no complaints as I completely enjoyed the ride (and avoided all crashes).

Starting the run, I wanted to make up as much ground as possible since my run training has gone quite well in recent weeks.  I started the 4.5 mile climb on a solid pace and once again found myself completely immersed in the surrounding views/colors of the mountains and trees.  I was able to stay focused and pushed hard on the final 1.5 mile steep descent to the finish to be 133rd overall and 16th out of 36 in my age group in 3:28:08.

There were two other Guam athletes that made the trip to Utah as well.  Charlie Epperson and Ben Dillon (recently moved to Pensacola, FL) also competed in the USA Championship and had great races as well.  Ben flew through the course with a speedy time of 3:11:22 for 82nd overall and Charlie finished in 3:29:35 for 137th overall.  We had a great experience and want to express how much fun the Xterra races are.  If you are interested in our local Guam race, please visit www.xterraguam.com and we’ll see you on the trails!

GUAM CONNECTION: Charlie Epperson, Cam O’Neal and Ben Dillon all participated in the Utah event. (courtesy photo)

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