XTERRA Jersey Devil Race Report
By Bob Horn
Photo courtesy: www.tanyacoffey.com
After months of planning and preparation, the day of the 1st Annual XTERRA Jersey Devil had finally arrived. The Joseph A. Citta Scout Reservation in Barnegat, NJ, served as the perfect host venue, with its beautiful fresh water lake and interconnecting trail system to Wells Mills Park and Amity Acres Girl Scout Camp. The stage was set for a picture perfect day of Off-Road Triathlon racing, as mother-nature provided a beautiful spring day, with sunny blue skies and temperatures in the 60s.
About 104 individuals started the race, and 2 Relay teams, a solid turn-out for an XTERRA race. The XTERRA Jersey Devil is part of the XTERRA American Tour Points Series, where amateur athletes can earn points in their respective Age Groups toward gaining an invitation to the XTERRA USA Championship in Utah. So, many athletes were looking to get a head start on the competition, and to get the season started right, with a good point tally.
The race started with a ½ mile lake swim. Racers completed 2 loops of a roughly ¼ mile clockwise swim course. Up until a week before the race many racers were concerned with the chance of a cold lake temperature on race day. However, with air temps hitting the 80s the week leading up to the race, the lake warmed up considerably and race day water temps were in the low 60s, which was perfect for a full sleeve wetsuit, or even a sleeveless. With that said, of course the 1st swimmer out of the water was none other than local lifeguard legend, Matt Nunnally, who DID NOT even wear a wetsuit. Matt was followed closely behind by a number of strong swimmers and the race was officially underway.
Racers then had a strategic decision to make, as there was a ¼ mile run back to the Transition from the lake. Do you 1) Take your wetsuit off by the lake, and put on your bike shoes, and run to T1, OR 2) Put on some shoes and then wait to do the normal T1 routine, after the ¼ mile run? The decisions varied from athlete to athlete, and you can see based on the T1 times who chose to do what.
Once athletes did reach T1, it was on to the 12.8 mile Mountain Bike leg, 2 X 6.4 mile loops. Athletes headed out of the Scout Reservation and into the interconnecting trails of Wells Mills Park. The trail terrain consisted of sandy covered pine needles and lots of room for passing, a few little bridge crossings, and a couple log bridges, but all in all a very friendly bike course for just ripping on. Of course it wouldn't be XTERRA without getting a little dirty. At the roughly 4 ½ mile mark on the bike course, racers had to navigate a deep puddle. If you take a look at the race pictures (they will be available shortly for viewing via a link on the race website, visit www.xterrajerseydevil.com, and look for "Race Day Photos" on the sidebar), it is easy to see who went through and who walked around. And just to make sure everyone got dirty, there was another water hazard about a ½ mile further on the course.
The Classic Pine Barren terrain resulted in some very fast bike splits. This was where eventual winner, Paul Fronhofer, would make his move to the lead. Paul, the overall winner of the XTERRA Sky High last year, looked to be clearing all the obstacles with ease and absolutely crushing the bike course. He was pushed by the likes of a number of top XTERRA regulars, such as Drew Hess and David Booth, and local favorite Tim Chambrovich, making his XTERRA debut.
Meanwhile in the Overall Women's battle, Valerie Hardin, XTERRA Age Group Regional Champion, was using a strong bike leg of her own to take the lead in the Women's Race. She used her expertise on the bike to overtake eventual 2nd and 3rd place finishers, Amanda Frost and Meredith Jones.
Athletes had to come back through the Scout Camp and get their bike numbers marked at the 1st Loop checkpoint before heading out on the 2nd bike loop. All indications were the 2nd bike loop was even faster, as 100 athletes smoothing out the sandy trail conditions made the Pine Barren trails even faster for Lap 2. When racers started coming in from the 2nd Loop, Paul Fronhofer looked to have the lead well in hand, finishing the bike leg in 53:44, the fastest of the day.
The race is never over until it's over in an XTERRA race, as you never know what the run course can throw at you, and the XTERRA Jersey Devil 3.5 mile run course was designed to throw a lot at you. The run course used the trail system of the Scout Camp, Amity Acres Camp, and some newly cut trails around the lake. Trails varied from some open straight-aways, to a lot of twists and turns, to dodging over and under downed trees. One racer described it best, "The run course was really a ton of fun - I felt more like a running back weaving through tacklers than a triathlete." With that said I think athletes were pleasantly surprised at the technicality of the run, given the fast non-technical nature of the bike course.
When it was all said and done, the run splits of the top 3 were all within 40 seconds of each other and not much change occurred in the standings. Paul Fronhofer, from Argyle, NY, crossed the finish line in 1st Place, using his exceptional bike leg to win in 1:31: 20. In 2nd Place was Drew Hess, from New Haven, CT, who had a great overall race, to come in at 1:33:59. 3rd Place went to, Jersey Shore Tri Club member, Tim Chambrovich, in his 1st XTERRA race.
On the run in the women's race, much of the same happened. Valeria Hardin, from Doylestown, PA, took top honors in 1:49:58. She was followed closely behind by Amanda Frost, who came out from Columbiana, OH. 3rd Place went to Meredith Jones, from Chadds Ford, PA,
Upon finishing the race, athletes took part in a great post race atmosphere indicative of most XTERRA races, with lots of war stories from the race, a lot of great raffle prize give-aways, and the handing out of one of a kind hand-made XTERRA Jersey Devil awards.
The race could not have been possible without all of the help from the great group of XTERRA Jersey Devil volunteers. And a special shout out to Boy Scout Troop 204, who were a big hit at the course water stop and as course marshals. Many race sponsors also helped to make the event a success, donating some great raffle prizes and items for the goody bags. All in all, it was a fantastic way to bring the community together and support a number of good causes. The proceeds from the race will benefit the Joseph A. Citta Scout Reservation/Jersey Shore Boy Scout Council, Wells Mills Park/Ocean County Park System, and Amity Acres/Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore.
The Citta Scout Reservation was so pleased and impressed with the event, that they have already asked for a date for 2012, so let the planning for the 2nd XTERRA Jersey Devil begin.
Thanks to all who supported, raced, and/or volunteered, to make the 1st Annual XTERRA Jersey Devil a success, and I look forward to seeing more of you out there in 2012.
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