On March 30th the XTERRA Southeast Region racing season gets underway at XTERRA Miami, the first of eight races across Florida, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee this year.
Leading the charge into 2019 is non-other than SE Region ringleader Marcus Barton. The husband, father, grandfather, and all-around great guy juggles a day job and a thousand other things in addition to his training, but still manages to organize rides and introduce new athletes to the off-road.
“I have a bunch of friends that will be new to XTERRA this year, so I've been trying to help them out,” said Barton. “They are experienced road triathletes and they're excited to take on the dirt.”
Barton is also shooting to reclaim his XTERRA Southeast Region Title, which is awarded to athletes who score the most points in their age group by the end of the season.
“I missed out on the XTERRA Regional Champ title last year since Darrel McHugh and Jason Childre put in phenomenal seasons,” said Barton. “Those boys raced their hearts out. Since the points system changed this year to counting just your best three vs. every race, I'm working on a strategy to get it back. The season for us in the Southeast is a long one with races throughout the spring and summer, so there's plenty to choose from.”
Barton admitted that he usually doesn’t train much in the off-season, but this year is different.
“I've tried to stay fairly active and train consistently,” he said. “I've even fit in a few races here and there. It's been tough to fit it all in, but I've set priorities and let the unimportant stuff fall by the wayside such as TV watching, football games, and the like. I'd rather be doing than watching. Also, when I am traveling for work, I take my gear and bike with me. I try to squeeze the training into the early hours or after work like most weekend warriors.”
The season opener at Oleta River State Park in Miami features the classic combination of a half-mile swim, 10-mile mountain bike, and a five-mile run. Two weeks later, the Southeast series heads north for XTERRA Myrtle Beach in South Carolina on April 14th. Now in its sixth year, XTERRA Myrtle Beach begins with a boat ride to the start of a current-assisted swim in the Intracoastal Waterway. The bike course is also a Tribe favorite with its twisting and technical single track. On April 27th, SE athletes get to ride more amazing trails at XTERRA Fort Yargo in Georgia.
Jim Dandro, who won the XTERRA SE 50-54 title last year and went on to race in Maui at the XTERRA World Championship, said his goal is to defend the crown.
“My biking is getting stronger, but I know I need to improve my running endurance and speed,” said Dandro. “Maybe this means less brewery runs and more track speed work. To keep the title, I'm going to need three wins and I have my eyes set on Miami, then onto Myrtle Beach.”
Like Barton, Dandro is expanding the XTERRA Tribe.
“I always love XTERRA Myrtle Beach and this will be another special year as I bring a new first timer Mich Garrison-Mattos from Charlotte to join the XTERRA Tribe. She's already addicted and surrounded by a ton of talent like Marcus Barton, Caleb Baity, Amy Carver, Paul Geist, Jen Barthel, Lee Greene, Danny Pagan and Ornela Rivera. With a group like this in Charlotte someone is always signing up for a race and inviting the group to join. So, we have to train year-round and be ready for the next race. It's not a bad life.”
Sue Finney, the 2018 XTERRA Regional Champ for the 35-39 age group won last year at XTERRA Knoxville and Fort Yargo. Like Dandro, she competed at the XTERRA World Championship but took a nasty spill and broke her wrist during the race.
“I wasn’t able to train during the off season as I usually do,” she said. “So, this year I’m focusing less on getting on the podium and more on soaking up the fun. Training for Maui last year I had to road ride more than mountain bike and I spent hours hitting intervals in the pool. I don’t regret any of the training I did for Maui last year because I’ve always wanted to commit to something big and achieve it. But this year my gym is growing and my kids are getting older. I’m going to engage more by meeting new people, doing more open water swims, and mountain biking new trails with friends and my kiddos.”
Finney also added that she’s looking forward to seeing her friends at XTERRA races in and around Knoxville. And because she’s so competitive, she is still in it to win it.
On May 18th, the SE region rolls into championship racing at Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama with an event that features some of the best elite off-roaders in the world. Last year, 2018 XTERRA World Champ, Rom Akerson, XTERRA World Champ Josiah Middaugh, XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ Kieran McPherson, and XTERRA Uruguay Champ, Karsten Madsen tore it up on the dirt, followed close behind by XTERRA’s top amateur athletes. The award-winning trails in Shelby County are some of the most beautiful and technical trails in the world.
Additionally, XTERRA Oak Mountain offers Maui qualifying spots to the top amateurs in each division, and 100-point scale scoring for those chasing regional titles.
Last year’s 25-29 winner Caleb Baity, one of the most promising age groupers in the nation, says he is looking forward to getting even faster in 2019. He is working with XTERRA elite Karsten Madsen from Canada and spent a lot of time in the pool this winter.
“I’ve been training hard and am excited about this season and all the races it holds,” said Baity. “It was a little tricky at first getting a scheduled training plan that didn't take away from family or work time but Karsten has been great at working with me and making sure that it all fits together well without being overwhelming. I'm super excited about what this year holds and can't wait for the first race of the season.”
After XTERRA Oak Mountain, the season heats up with XTERRA Knoxville and Tsali in June and XTERRA Panther Creek in July. The Knoxville race on June 2nd takes place at Ijams Nature Center, which you would swear was way out in the middle of nowhere and not just two miles from downtown Knoxville.
On June 23rd, Tsali takes competitors into the mountains of Western North Carolina. The following month, XTERRA trades the cool mountain temps for a sultry course at XTERRA Panther Creek on July 28th. Winding through the State Park near Cherokee Lake, Panther Creek participants will encounter plenty of rocks, roots, and climbing to test their grit.
That same weekend, XTERRA JAX premiers at Katherine Abby Hanna Park in Jacksonville, Florida, bringing the XTERRA Southeast Tour full circle.
All-in-all, the 2019 XTERRA America Tour features more than 30 races from coast-to-coast broken down into eight regions: the Atlantic, Midwest, Mountain, Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, South Central, and the West.
Find the details on how the series works and sign-up for an adventure today at xterraplanet.com.