This year’s XTERRA Myrtle Beach generated local news coverage because many of its 100 competitors came from out of state, and as far away as Ireland. Seasoned competitors, such as 2016 XTERRA Southeast Regional Champ Caleb Baity, XTERRA Pan Am Champ Margo Pitts, and 2016 Mr. XTERRA Marcus Barton stood on the line with newcomers like Kara Slick, who came in 16th in the women’s race and felt grateful for the help and support along the way to her first XTERRA finish.
Slick is a runner and spin instructor and didn't even own a mountain bike until three days before the race when her fiance bought them each one.
"I saw an XTERRA video on YouTube about a year ago and thought that it would be really fun and something very different from road races," said Slick. "I had forgotten all about XTERRA until I was looking for a race for last weekend and thought, what the heck. I'm so glad we did it. I had such a great time and I felt like a kid again."
The race was also the first XTERRA for 16-year old Jake Higgins, who has been running since he was eight. He completed the race with his father, Jon, and surprised them both with his 27th place finish, despite a difficult swim.
“I had a hard time getting my breathing right,” said Jake, who is a standout 800 meter runner and teaches surf lessons on school vacations. "But I had a blast on the bike."
Jon Higgins, who has been mountain biking for years, was 11th overall. “I gave Jake a mountain bike when he was six or seven and he was like, ‘All right, let’s go,’” said Jon. “It feels great to be able to bond with my son like this. We are going to do as many more XTERRAs as we can.”
"XTERRA Myrtle Beach is one of those races that everyone looks at and imagines is going to be a walk in the park," wrote men's champ Caleb Baity on his blog after the race. "They think to themselves, 'It’s at the beach on flat land, how hard could it really be?' But every time I go to ride at the Hulk I am surprised at how much of a punch they are able to pack in a very quick seven miles of trails."
The race was held in the Horry County Bike and Run Park, which is widely considered to have the best mountain biking trails in the area. Nicknamed "the Hulk" because of its similarity to Universal Studios' Hulk Roller Coaster, the single track trails twist, turn, and climb 12 steep hill before they drop.
As racers climbed down from their water taxi into the Intercoastal Waterway under a grey morning sky, they looked chilly but ready.
Featuring one of the most unique starts in the XTERRA series, competitors are taxied out 1000 meters and then swim back to shore to avoid pushing against the tide the entire way. After the swim, athletes run up a brand new, steep flight of stairs to get to the 14-mile mountain biking course, and finally, the 5-mile run.
In the men’s race, Caleb Baity finished in 1:45:34, less than two minutes ahead of Dwayne Dixon’s 1:47:09. Marcus Barton finished just behind him in 1:47:49. Dixon and Barton were also second and third in last year’s race.
The women’s champ, Amy Carver, finished in 2:01:34, about three minutes ahead of Margo Pitts, who finished in 2:04:47. Kate Horton was third in 2:05:48.