This has been an interesting and very surprising recent few weeks. I have raced three times over four weeks to kick off my 2013 race season (proudly wearing my Team BSR colors!) and there were many question marks going into this season (primarily around my Achilles).
First up was the XTERRA Camp Eagle where I have never raced nor visited and found it to be a long journey and a decent bike and run course. Race day brought some fierce northerly winds and super cold temps, which were quite a shock. The swim on the other hand was just non-sensible. It was split into two out and back sections and the first was not deep enough to swim in parts forcing people to walk, while the second sector was fine and I just wonder why we didn’t do two loops of the good sector. Anyway, I had a decent swim and came out in the top 15 feeling good.
The bike course was somewhat technical, and it was good that I pre-rode it on the day prior, as I was able to ride more aggressively without added risk. My overall riding was good, and a surprise considering I had only been on my MTB twice in the 6 months since Maui. I passed all but the two racers on the bike and came into T2 in 3rd place. The run was a real question and my goal was to go really easy to keep the pressure off my Achilles. As no one was in sight (or chasing it seemed) I had no pressure to go hard and ran so easy that when I got to the finish line, I wondered if I had actually participated in a race.
Finishing in 1st AG, 3rd overall was a surprise and a great way to start the XTERRA season.
Next up, two weeks later, was the Texas 70.3 in Galveston and doing this race was a last minute decision (I had to see how my Achilles held up in Camp Eagle). I came into this race with almost no goals (only two) and absolutely no expectations or thoughts on Vegas or the podium. My two goals were to ride at 230-240 watts and then run a 6:45/mile pace (if it felt comfortable). The swim started a bit rough but thinned out somewhat quickly, until it clogged up again as I caught waves that had gone off before mine (I was in the 10th wave). I focused on just trying to swim strong, long with a nice turnover and kept the buoy line near me to avoid swimming off course, adding extra distance. I came out of the water under 32min, which was ok, but not great.
I did not dwell on that too long as my big concerns lied ahead. Getting out of T1 was a bit of journey as I went towards the bike out, but was turned around to go back to the bike exit path. After I did finally exit, I got settled and then began to blow past rider after rider, which continued for two hours and fifteen minutes. I felt good on the bike and averaged almost 26mph on 237 watts on the way out, and just under 25mph on 241 watts on the way back. The wind was a bit of cross/head coming back and knocked the speed down a bit. I surprisingly was able to push a bit harder on the way back, which was encouraging from a pacing standpoint. Coming into T2, I noticed the course went across an airfield rather than back into the resort via the normal roads, and that was a bit disconcerting due to wide expanse of the airfield (with only a few cones to suggest the path), and the general state of the airfield surface (not great).
Coming into T2, I made it out with a bit less drama and fairly quickly found my cadence. I immediately came behind a pro that was running just about the pace I wanted (a bit quicker to start) and so I paced off him over the first couple of miles (then dropped him as he fell apart). In the second mile my quads began to cramp along with my hamstrings and I had to bear down, increase my cadence and convince myself to stay calm. Those issues past within a half mile and from there I just clicked off a 6:40ish mile all the way to the finish. In mile 11, I had my first thought of how the day was going overall, and I was quite shocked to think I was on my way to 4:20ish finish. The last mile and a half were tough as I began to feel the day and had to grind it out some. As I came around the bend into the final chute, I saw a racer ahead of me and decided not to take a chance on him being in my AG, and kicked past him with a vengeance, crossing the line with arms held high, and spirits higher.
I knew at the finish, that I had delivered a great day of racing execution and was thrilled that my Achilles held together. I did not quite expect to finish 2nd AG and 22nd OA (Amateurs)
A week later I found my self in sunny Las Vegas where the XTERRA West Championships were being held. We arrived on Wednesday and on Thursday rode and ran on the course, and I found myself getting shellacked by Noah, whom is a good athlete, but generally weaker than me in both disciplines. I felt that the weekend was going to be long day as my legs were just not recovering quick enough to allow for a competitive day. With that realization, I relaxed and tried to enjoy hanging out with Noah (and fighting to get my iPhone to work). On race morning, I felt good but with the late start (10:30), I wondered if my fueling efforts would suffice so I had a few snacks after my normal breakfast.
The swim started out quite rough and I felt quite good, so it was not too bothersome and I pushed ahead and had a nice path straight to the first turn buoy. From there it was quite easy swimming and I really enjoyed the sensations as I made my way back to the near end before the turn to the swim exit. I noticed that I was enjoying the swim so much, that getting out and hurting on the bike and run did not sound like a good idea. T2 was not blazing quick as I had a lot of stones stuck to my wet feet when I tried to put on my socks and shoes.
Out on the bike, the course uses a paved road for the first mile or so (climbing) and I was able to get my gloves on and body sorted on the bike before the trails. The bike course in Vegas was not one to write home about as it only had a few technical areas and was generally a low elevation lumpy fire track. The hills were steep, but short and overall the 2500ft of climbing is far less than Utah or Maui. I did not blow past people on this course, but was steadily passing people. I did not think I was going well until I passed Bryce Phinney in the latter part of the bike course. Bryce usually beats me in these races so it was a surprise to go past him and drop him.
Coming into T2, I was tired but motivated to push my Achilles to see what I could do. Within the first mile or so, my body became a bit of a wreck with tons of muscle cramps hitting one after another. From there I just tried to hold my cadence and keep moving. I passed quite a few people and came to group of pros walking up a very steep hill, and decided to make a bit of a statement running up it instead to walking with them. I was good on the uphill parts, but could not open up and accelerate on the descents due the cramping issues. In the last mile two guys came past me and I could not go with them as my quads and hamstrings were near seizing.
At the finish, I noticed there weren’t too many amateurs around and wondered just how my day went. I figured it had gone better than expected, but had no clue that I won my AG, finished 4th amateur and was 12th OA.
What a block of racing. Hopefully my Achilles won’t go backwards and that I can get stronger as I build towards IM CDA.
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