This is my third race of this crazy hot summer and my first where the outcome made a difference to anything but my ego.  I came into this race with a slight chance of getting enough points to qualify for XTERRA USA Championships in my hometown of Ogden, Utah where I had a miserable race in 2006.  My hope was to finish on the podium in my age group where I felt that I would gain enough points to finish in the top 10 of the region and get the invite.  Beyond that, it was A’s birthday and I wanted to do well to give her something to cheer while she suffered in the heat waiting for me.

The trip started on Saturday at midday when we made the longish drive from ATX to Navasota (Where??) and I immediately headed for the race course to check it out and pre-ride it.  My big mistake in the last XTERRA was not pre-riding the course and I made so many mistakes because of it.  This time around I wanted to do 1-2 laps or less than 45min of riding to get a feel for the course and how my tires hooked up.  With super low profile Stans Raven tires, a loose or really soft course is a very bad mixture.  I found this course to be mixed between some relative smooth and firm ground and some super soft, power sucking, sandy sections that my tires just sorted mashed through.  After my first lap, I was pretty sure that I needed to change my front tire to a more aggressive knob pattern and planned to make the change that evening.

I didn’t do a second lap as the first took me 35min and so with some memory of the course and a good mental model on how to approach it in the race in my mind, we headed to College Station to clean up and grab dinner before getting my ride ready for the race.

I awoke 15min before my alarm was due to go off the next morning, and that was good because I got a little lost on the way to Starbucks…After deciding to eat on the drive, we made our way back to the race course and once there, got the tires topped off (31lb in the back  and 28lb in the front) and then set up shop in transition.  That done, we relaxed and waited until I could get body marked and equipped with my timing chip.  I got in a good 10min run on the run course to get the blood flowing, then got my swim kit on (no wetsuit once again) and hit the man made fresh water lake.  I did a nice 15min swim with some accelerations to warm up before getting out for the race brief.  Mike Carter, who is a great guy and super fast racer is a funny man and makes the race briefing more enjoyable.  That done, it was a minute or two to wait for the gun.

I dove in on the front of my wave and hit the first 100 strokes or so hard, then settled in some towards the first turn.  I wanted to focus on keeping my turnover high with a good body position and reasonably rotation, while trying to aggressively draft where possible.  I found that for the first half I really could not find any feet but felt pretty good and was in the good rhythm by the far turn around in the 800m loop.  On the way back, one of the masters from the wave behind us (1min) caught me and I jumped on his feet for a 100m or so before he pulled away from me.  I saw a few other red caps and thought that I must be having a less than average swim, but tried to not to dwell on that possibility and focused on really drilling into to T1.

T1 was not smooth as I got my race belt caught between my fork and tire and it took me 30-45sec to get myself untangled, but I kept cool and just got moving as quick as I could.  My approach to the bike was to take the sandy turns in slow and accelerate out, especially in the early stages where I would likely not be quite technically sound as I would after some time in the saddle.  I passed a few guys right off the bat, and then a few more over the first lap.  Coming into the end of the first lap, I felt there must still be 15 or more guys ahead of me (because of my swim) and thought it would be a tall order to move up the field at that point.

I had asked A before to set out a water bottle and a Gatorade bottle on feed area and I stopped briefly to get a drink, but found the seal on the Gatorade almost impossible to remove in my high HR stressful situation and only got a sip of it and the water before tossing it aside and chasing the guy who passed me while I was standing still.

After catching that guy, I rode solo for most of the second lap until I was passed by a guy who was really flying.  I stayed about 30-45sec behind him to T2, but could not believe someone passed me (never ever should happen in the latter part of the bike!).  Coming into T2, I was smooth and efficient and got out pretty quickly, nearly knocking my head on the low bar that crossed the run exit.  Once on the run, I hit the first aid station to get in the water/Gatorade combo and was a bit too focused on that project that I ran off course, only to be saved by some kids who shouted at me.  From there I began to tinker with my watch to get it on the right screen and transitioned to running (never did either…), and found myself turning right where I was supposed to go left.

After a bit of rancor at myself for losing focus and getting back on the correct course, I found the run course to follow a path that became so twisty and technical in the trees that I almost could not run.  It was like some kind of mouse maze and seemed like forever that I was twisting, hopping and side stepping before I exited to a long hill up and over to the 2nd aid station and the loop around the lake.  Running around the lake was all about trying to find solid ground without zigzagging too much.  Coming out of T2 I was told that I was 30sec behind the leader (which was a shock for sure) and coming out of the trees I passed the guy who I thought was the leader, and from there I just tried to hold a good hard pace to keep him from coming back to me.  I went into the second lap of the run feeling ok, but suffering some from the fatigue and the heat.  I managed the trees better on the second go around and passed a girl who somehow was ahead of me (still not sure what race she was in).  After a miserable trip around the lake, I came back to the finish line and saw a guy ahead of me that I though must be just finishing his first lap, but he turned to the finish and was the actual overall winner!  I could not believe that I was only 30sec behind the winner and I didn’t even know to chase!   Good day overall, and it met my goals, now its time to focus on XTERRA USA.

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