By Cameron O’Neal
Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama was the site for the Xterra Southeast Regional Championship held on May 18th. With a beautiful lake and miles of pristine, well maintained single track mountain bike trails it is the perfect venue to host an Xterra. The event consisted of a 1.5 km lake swim, 30 km mountain bike and finished with a 10km trail run. Two of Guam’s triathletes – Charlie Epperson and myself – and former member of the Guam Triathlon Federation, Ben Dillon, had the opportunity to compete in the event. This is the second year the three of us have committed to a race and had a Guam reunion. Last year, we competed in the Xterra USA National Championship in Ogden, Utah.
The morning started with low clouds and bouts of heavy rain that only served to dampen the trails and add to the anxiousness of the 170 athletes gathered to race. At 8:30 a.m., the cannon fired starting the Championship race and the Guam reunion battle had begun!
I exited the lake first in 23:04 with Charlie about 40 seconds behind. Although Ben was third out of the water, he made up ground quickly on the twisty, technical and now very wet trails of the mountain bike leg, posting the fastest bike split of us three in 1:33:16.
Charlie also had a great bike leg and entered the second transition ready to run. I, however, had trouble on a couple of the very slick wooden bridges and was caught up in two pile up crashes with other riders that slowed me a bit. Charlie blasted out onto the run course in search of Ben and had the fastest run of the three in 39:32.
In the end though, Ben had enough time to hold off Charlie and I to win his second straight Guam reunion race in 2:42:13 finishing 28th overall and 3rd in his division. Charlie was second (2:47:03 for 39th overall/6th age group)and they both earned a drink to be paid for by me (2:56:38 for 59th overall/ 10th age group) on their standing bet for the “slowest run split buys” deal. I jokingly wanted to change the bet to be based on swim splits, but that is a future discussion. This time, I gladly paid the tab and enjoyed the chance to catch up with great friends for a little off road competition.
For anyone interested in this type of exciting and fun off road racing, we have our very own Xterra race on Guam held every March. Please visit www.xterraguam.com for more info or www.xterraplanet.com for a complete listing of the worldwide races.
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