The course at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, located in the southernmost part of the Appalachian Chain, is praised by competitors as being one of the most fun, fast, scenic and difficult on the XTERRA schedule.
It starts with a swim in the warm water of Double Oak Lake - two 750-meter laps separated by a short beach shuffle in-between.
From there the long, single-loop mountain bike course starts at about 500 feet elevation, twists, turns and rolls through the forest for seven miles the begins a gradual 700-foot climb to the summit. The descent is a fast, wild ride highlighted by the notorious "blood rock" section - a series of tricky to maneuver, uneven and jagged rocks.
The run is simply punishing, with four major climbs - each progressively steeper than the one before. In between the climbs are a series of weaving off-road trails that meander through forested sections that provide shade, if not relief, from the heat.
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