Sunday, September 26, 2004

2004 Xterra USA Championship

The 2004 Xterra USA Championship was help on September 26th, 2004 in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. The USA Championship is an invite only race for people that participated in the point series races throughout the country. I was lucky enough to qualify (5th in the mid atlantic) and get an opportunity to race against the top professional and amateurs off-road triathletes in the country. The distances are a 1 mile swim, 22 miles mountain bike, and a 6 mile trail run.

Getting there...
Stacey and I were staying in Tahoe Vista, CA a few miles away from Incline Village, NV, where the race would take place, in a dive that would serve as homebase for the next few days. I got there on the Thursday before the race to take in some sights and relax from the stressful traveling scene. Maybe it is just me but traveling sucks more and more...luckily the destinations are better and better ;-). Thankfully my bike made it through ok, others, like Tucker, had their bikes lost. Stacey was the absolute best, she helped me out with everything imaginable and made this entire trip incredible.

For those who have not been out to this part of the country, it is INSANELY gorgeous. So beautiful, in fact, it makes me wonder why the hell I live in a place such as Washington DC. I quickly realize that there is probably not much of a market for my skills and resign myself (currently) to only visiting places like this.

Friday morning I put my bike together and head down to the race site to register and try to get in either a bike or a swim. I'm kind of intimidated at the altitude (6500+) and the feet (2000+) of vertical climbing on the bike, so I figure it is best to risk tiring my legs a bit and taking a preride just to get the jitters out. I also wanted to have a chance to take some pictures of what is supposed to be one of the most scenic mountain bike trails in the country, the Flume Trail. I tag along with a few guys from Colorado. One turns out to be Jimmy Archer, a professional Xterra dude, and a top US racer. Him and his friends were real cool guys and waited up for me at various points. I felt like the country boy that gets to see the New York City skyline for the first time in a movie...except the exact opposite. The whole ride I cannot believe how lucky I am to be out here...

Not wanting to waste my legs trying to keep up with these guys, I take it real slow. Stopping to take a bunch of pictures also helps quite a bit.

The ride is gorgeous, and it is a good thing I checked it out early. If I had tried to take in the sights during the race I would have plummeted a few thousand feet off the edge, the trail was that narrow, but it was also that beautiful. I took me about 2:50 to do the whole 21 miles and I stopped a ton. This gave some confidence that I could finish the race with a reasonable bike split. I was hoping for somewhere around 2:00->2:15

Saturday morning began wonderfully. I slept in and my legs did not feel tried at all...well besides the complete lack of oxygen in the air. I headed down the the lake to preswim a lap. I put on my full wetsuit and go into the water and HOLY CRAP!!!!!! is it cold. 54 degrees to be exact. Since I will be swimming it early in the morning and it will only be colder I figure I need to suck it up and get a lap in, so I just dive under the water and go for it. Luckily I was entirely numb by the first buoy. I would guess that I was in 60 feet of water, and I could see the bottom clear as day. The water was incredibly crystal clear and a deep deep deeeeeeeeep blue. Entirely gorgeous and it did not taste like crap either. The only thing I remember after finishing the lap is that I'm dizzy as hell...I guess the lack of oxygen will do that to you. I'd better get used to it.

Later that day, Stacey and I went to Squaw Valley and ate lunch at High Camp on top of the mountain with IN-CRED-I-BLE views. After this we headed down to Emerald Bay [see picture below] for more visual insanity (thanks Satter). The evening ended with a dinner at a local Italian joint...yeah go figure, the eye-talian getting his pasta on....oh well.....just like a cop eating a donut eh?

Race Day
The morning came, and I had another good nights sleep. Looks like a few races may have been all I needed to get the jitters out and treat these days like just another day training. Like every morning so far it was COLD AS HELL!!!! I mean real cold, like lower 40s cold...and I had to swim in a freezing lake. This face says it all. Oh yeah, did I mention it was friggin cold? Anyway, time to suck it up...I did not travel all this way and work this hard since January to be a little baby because of some weather.

In case anyone forgot, the water was cold. However, since the air temperature was so cold the water actually felt much warmer than days past. After a good warm up, I put on my wetsuit and headed down to the water. I can not believe I am actually here and the race is about to cool.

The Big Kahuna does a pre race announcement and there is nothing left but to wait for the ceremonial cannon to set us off into the unknown of ourselves both mentally and physically. This is a seriously big event, helicopters with cameras hover above, jetskis and divers with cameras, every professional that considers xterra a day at the office...this is it...AND I'm here. I'm trying not to be overwhelmed because as I figure I have upwards of 4 hours (my goal) of tough work ahead of me. BOOM!!!! goes the cannon and off we go...

I hop into the water near the back of the pack, not wanting to get trampled, and keeping in mind that this is a collection of the best swimmers in the sport. Water is cold and it takes your breath away...and the thing about racing at altitude (did I mention it was 6500 feet above sea level) is that once you lose your breath it is hard to catch it again. Anyway, I battle through the swim, the Febbraro (TM) swim seems to be a thing of the past..thankfully. I'm still slow as shit, but that is fine by me. I keep a steady pace and make my first lap in 15 minutes...exactly where I wanted to be. Blow a kiss to Stacey (while dizzy and wobbling) and hop back in the water, right next to Tucker (who took great pictures). I'm numb and the water is crystal clear and I just focus on strokes and getting good breaths and before I know it is over...except that the entire crowd is gone. Yup, at the end of the pack again. 233 of 272 out of the water. Time of 36:52. Roughly where I expected, but not as good as I had hoped.

I get back to transition and hop on my bike with a lot of time to make up. I want to finish in the top half of the race and in under 4 hours so I had better make good time on the bike. Not two miles out of T1 and I realize I made one of the biggest mistakes in the book. I have 2+ hours of hard mountain biking ahead of me and I forgot to bring any hint of food with energy bars, no GU...nothing except the water on my back and a bottle of gatorade...oh well I'd better make it last because no one has any spares for sure.

We get to the trail and here comes the first climb..all 1600 vertical feet of it for the next 40 minutes. The trails are made entirely of sand, and that only makes it harder. I pick my way through the crowds, past the amazing tutu, and try to stay aerobic and save my legs. I'm leaning heavy on the gatorade for calories because the last thing I can afford to do is bonk on the top of this mountain.

Eventually the climb is over and we are rewarded with the gorgeous Flume Trail from earlier. The only problem is that there is NO opportunity to pass people and I am stuck behind some people I'd rather not be. Eventually I get past them, carefully, and need to plummet to my demise. The beauty quickly ends past Marlette Lake with another long set of climbs...these are shorter but more steep and painful as you are already toast from the first climb.

I finally get to the top and let out a yell that I can only credit to my simian ancestors (monkey strong), now for an incredible downhill. I boom down the descent with confidence (from my preride) and I pass a ton of people that are falling on the sandy turns and switchbacks that break your rhythm. I turn a corner and get the most incredible view of Lake Tahoe as the sun is shining off it and I stopped racing for a second and took in the view and remembered, again, how lucky I felt to be here. This is pretty much as good as it gets, if you like doing what I do. As good as it gets.

I come booking down off the mountain and into T2. All I can think of is getting something to eat. my stomach has been growling for 45 minutes and I rack my bike and tear into 2 GUs (Surprisingly Mmmmmm). I throw on my running gear and head out onto what is sure to be a torturous run. A quick glance at my watch shows that I finished in 2:15, 138/272 and @ 2:50 overall, as long as I don't blow it on the run I can beat my goal of 4 hours.

I head out in search of my legs, and find them surprisingly fast. I'm in pretty bad shape though. I'm on the verge of cramping and I feel like I'm just stumbling forward perpetually, but somehow I keep passing people. Everyone is in pain, you can see it written on all of our faces.

Thankfully the run course is pretty flat. There are logs and boulders to jump, a few bridges to cross and some short steep hills but flat....and have a long time to think when you are out there. You get so far beyond the fact that your legs hurt, or that you head feel as if it is engulfed in flames....and it really cuts to the essence of your being. You are exhausted and looking for something to keep you going and it is times like this, that I feel, define who you are.

There is every opportunity to make an excuse and slow down, these is every chance to walk when you can still run (unless you are honestly hurt), but if you are lucky you don't let any of those things enter your mind. You try to fill your thoughts and you mind wanders. I think about how lucky I am to have friends and family that have supported me and my sometimes idiotic quests. My mind wanders further to those that I wish were with me, most notably my cousin Lisa that lost a long hard battle with cancer. All of these people and all of these experiences power me in times like this. Each step I take is a piece of them, because I could not be here if it were not for them. Success, much like racing, is the journey, not a destination. The race is just a (sometimes painful) celebration of all things leading up to it, and I would not trade any of what I have done in the past year.

These thoughts that consumed me, have also powered me, and when I look up the finish line is right in front of me. I don't quite know what I did on the way there, but I was jumping and cheering and must have looked incredibly spastic. I have not wanted to cross a finish line so much in my life and it was just as incredible as I imagined it would be nearly a year ago.

I ran a 49:50 10k (81/272) for a finish time of 3:42:07 and 140/272 overall and I could not be any happier.

The post race party was also a blast.

Who knows if I'll be here next year, but I sure hope so. (with more time to take in the sights)

My season is now officially over and I'm looking forward to some relaxation before I refocus for next year. All year I have written these almost compulsively, not sure why I was doing it, or if anyone really cares. But in thinking, I actually do have a reason. If 2 years can take me from nearly a pack a day smoker with a terrible habit of sitting on the couch, drinking beer, watching TV, and packing on the pounds like it was my job, to racing in an invite-only national championship race, I think you can get out there and do something you've only dreamed of as well.

Go get it.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

2004 Charlottesville Off Road Traithlon

The first annual Charlottesville Off Road Traithlon was held in Walnut Creek Park, Charlottesville VA, about 10 miles south of town. This was my 4th triathlon of the season. The distances were 3/4 mile swim, 11.5 mile mountain bike, and a 4 mile trail run.

Setting the stage...
Before I started training this season I decided to write down some goals so I had something to shoot for. Amongst other smaller thing, my main goal for this season was to qualify for the USA Championship held in Lake Tahoe, NV. From the Mid Atlantic region they take the top 8 point getters in the 25-29 age group. For each race if you place in the top 10 of your age group you get a set amount of points based on your place of 1st thru 10th. Heading into this race I was 9th and I needed to put up a good race because all of my competition would be there racing too, so for me this was pivotal race. Personally, I was just happy to be racing for a spot at all...that it was still a possiblity

Day Before
Stacey and I struggled to get out of the DC area, thanks to the clogged traffic arteries, hoping to get down there for a little preride. No such luck though, guess I'd race this one blind, as I have never ridden there. Got to the KOA and met John to head into C-ville for some pre race pizza. We got some great pie down on the downtown mall with about 4,000,000 high schoolers and headed back to camp to get some rest. Surprisingly it was not raining, hey I guess there is a first time for everything.

The next morning we got up around 6 or so, this was also the first pre race night that I was actually able to get a good nights sleep. That means something *has* to go wrong during the race...only time will tell.

Swim (22:30)
Usual pre race jitters as I line up for the swim. My mind starts to drift...hoping the 200 people around me are not peeing in the water...then I slap back into race mode and hope that they wont be swimming all over me. I'm in the front and center (again) and seemed primed for another Febbraro (TM) swim.

The horn blows and off we go. I get a good start and am swimming surprisingly straight for the buoy. I keep waiting for the masses to crush me and make me gasp for air but miraculously that does not happen. We round the first buoy and I feel pretty confident. I'm not swimming that fast, but I'm keeping a good pace. I drop in behind some people for a draft (makes it easier to swim) and follow them for the first lap. I come out of the water and my watch says 11 minutes. Very happy with that, although incredibly disoriented. Going from swimming to running (or biking) does that. A quick run across the beach and back in for another lap. Very uneventful, tried picking up my pace as best I could, but I wanted to save my juice for the rest of the race.

Get out of the water, AMAZED that it went so well, throw on my shoes and run up to the transition, hop on the bike and beat about 30 people out of the transition. I would guess that I'm in the top 40 or so. I'll have to make up some usual.

Bike (1:15)
I get on the bike and start hauling. It's a little chilly all soaking wet, but that goes away real fast. It's getting real hot out. A lot of these trails are tight narrow singletrack so there is not too much room for passing and there are plenty of people ahead of me. I'm keeping a good pace though

For the first 30 minutes I am basically picking people off one by one when I get the smallest chance, but the going is slow. I basically had to go off the trail and through the brush to get around people. There were times that a few people crashed on front of me and I was lucky enough to scoot by them all without getting tangled up. I finally get past the big crowd and off into the trails where I was generally alone for almost then entire bike.

This course is BEAUTIFUL. It is a great day, and in the woods the trails are challenging and perfect. There is a little bit of everything. Big log piles, long climbs, fast decents, rocks, twisy tight corners, and everything is going great. I try not to think about it because I don't want to jinx myself. I was very in the moment loving the riding, feeling great (although a little tired) and kept telling my self to pick up the pace. I come steaming into transition totally pumped because not only did I have a good ride, no crashes, no mechanicals, and felt great, but it was totally fun too. Reminded me of being a little kid again riding my BMX in the woods across the street, jumping any friends that would lay down behind the ramps (we were total idiots). Suffice it to say, it was really incredible and I was so happy to be out there.

I have a super fast transition, chug some Gatorade and off on the run. It is real hot and I'm worried about overheating. I hear someone yell 18th place and I get real excited and head out for 4 grueling miles of running.

Run (31:55)
The run started like all the rest, trying to find my legs and focusing on my breathing. That is the thing with running at this point in a triathlon. You feel like you are going really slow because your legs still think they are biking, but actually the only way I can tell how fast I'm running is by my breathing.

Very uneventful at the start except trying to not get tired, I pass mile one @ 6:15. That is super fast for me on the trails, but like I said, you are almost always running faster than you think. I have the side-stitch cramp alert so I try to maintain my pace and not go balls out because if I cramp in this heat I'll be dead. Every water station I pass is drink one, grab two and pour then over my head, and even that wasn't enough to keep me cool

I finally start to see some people in the distance and I laser in on them. I start reeling in 2 guys and when I pass it is so fast that I feel like I am sprinting past them. Same thing happens with the next guy, I must be fooling myself but I guess I'm running real fast. Mile 2 13:45

I go down a hill and over a log and I go to hop over a root and SPLAT! I trip over a root and slide along the ground on my chest for a good 10 feet. I get up in a panic and start running again, I was totally surprised, shocked, and still a bit dazed. I keep running thankful that I was not broken or bleeding, but feeling dumb. The guy I just passed would have defintely laughed at me if he wasn't so tired.

I pass a few more people on the long climb up out of the park and finally get to the road. I pass mile 3 but am too tired to look at my watch. The road winds down the hills to the finish, nearly all down hill, about 3/4 of a mile, but in DIRECT SUNLIGHT, and it is HOT. Super hot. My head actually feels like it is on fire. All I can focus on is the finish and hopefully qualifying for nationals. My legs start getting real heavy and every step my body feel like it is burning. About 1/4 mile to the finish and I stop running for the finish line. I am now actually running to get to the lake so I can jump in and cool off.

I see the finish and no one I can pass and no one to catch me but I can't slow down, must get to the I near the line raise my hands triumphantly. I did not even realize I was doing it. No.....I did not win....but I crossed the line again, and had a great race. Days like today make this stuff so addicting.

I finished in 2:11:43. That was good enough for12th overall out of about 200, 2nd in my age group (best finish to date), and most importantly I finished 5th in the mid atlantic. Qualified for nationals, and I will be out in Tahoe racing on September 26th. I can't believe I did it.

I jump in the lake to cool off, and I think about the day and the race and I've never been so happy. I wish everyone could feel like this.

See you in Tahoe.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Schiff Scout Triathlon

Well here goes again. I returned to the site of my very first triathlon, in Long Island New York for the Schiff Scout Mountain Bike Traithlon, an Xterra Points Series race, on August 22nd 2004. 1/2 mile swim, 10 mile mountain bike, 3 mile trail run. Eventhough last year was wildly successful for me, I was hoping to do even better, and this would be a good test of how far I had progressed in a year. Last year I finished in 1:36:52, this year I was gunning for 1:20-1:25.

This year my sister Gina and her friend Eve decided to do it with me, and just like everything else Gina does, once she decides to do it, the race does not stand a chance. Her race report will probalby sound much like mine from last year. Never swam in our lives until we decided to do our first tri. It is all about putting yourself in a situation where you are forced to learn something entirely new and foreign and watch your body/mind adapt. It is quite incredible and I'm sure Gina would agree.

We went to preride the course the day before, hoping to beat the rain. It was a humid gross day in the 80s. The rain is supposed to bring cooler weather. We get a swim in, so that Gina and her friend Eve understand that it is no big deal and that they can easily do it, same with the bike. Hey, even Stacey got her first mountain bike ride ever in. The trails are nice and smooth. Not many hills and not very technical. But it is fast. Hopefully the rain wont make it a slimy mess.

After the bike I decide to ride the run course to get a taste of those nasty hills that demoralized me last year. Only this time the sky is begging to open up on me, so instead of paying attention to the trails I am flying to not get soaking wet, and I barely beat the rain. Too bad I could not remember a single thing about the run course.

Race Day
The rain came (and came and came) and went, and left the morning incredibly perfect and chilly like last year. Low 60s, no humidity. We get there early and setup our transitions and warm up. I can feel the anxiousness building, I just want to get it over with already. Kinda not looking forward to the swim after EMS.

Swim (~13 minutes)
I slide into my wetsuit and go into the water to warm up, things feel good, except my goggles wont stop fogging up and the sun is rising directly behind the buoys. I can see this is going to be a great swim. But all I want to do is beat my time of 19 minutes from last year and not be one of the last out of the water. After relieving myself in my wetsuit a few times, (gross I know) we get ready to start the race. Wanting to test myself I move front and center, determined to outswim everyone. I'm smaaaaaaaart.....

The horn blows and off we go, me too. Things are going great, I don't feel anoyone around me really, but then I start to get a little tired and slow a bit. Well here comes the rest of world swimming on top of me making for another Febbraro (TM) Swim. I start to drink a bit of delicious lake water, and lose my breath a bit. Then I need to tread water, and can't get much of a breast stroke going much less take a breath of air and everyone starts getting further and further away. I decide to dunk my head and just got for it, and slowly I get my rhythm back. Now if I could only get that rhythm all swim I'd be fine.

I finish my first lap and see 6:15 on the clock. WOW! way faster than I thought. I wave to my family and go out for another lap. Feeling good with no problems, but a little tired from going out too hard in the beiginning. I get in behind someone and draft them most of the way to conserve energy. I get out of the water and the clock says 13:30. Hells yeah! About 6 minutes faster then last year.

I get down to put my shoes on for the run to T1 and who sits down next to me? That's right, the guy from last year who I offered lake water to so he could clean off his feet and he drank it. BAH-haahahaha! Well this year, I used tap water just in case, but he leans over and thanks me for the tip from last year becuase he has his own bottle of water. I run up to T1 past my dad and stepmonster (hi real fast) then get into the racks. Unlike last year there were bikes everywhere, SWEET, this year I was not too far behind, I'd estimate maybe 30th or so out of the water. Hop on the bike and time to make up for the Febbraro (TM) swim.

Bike (~45 minutes)
Still soaking wet I take off on the bike, and it is friggin freezing. But I just charge on because there are a few people around me and all I want to do is pass them. I start flying, and to be honest the bike ride is a total blur, I was at my limit the whole time, the spot just before you legs feel like they are burning, any harder and I'll start getting tired, and slower...and well....screw slower.

All I know is that I focused very hard on not using my brakes at all, just keeping my momentum and passing as many as I could. After the first lap my dad yells that I'm in 14th place (holy crap!!!!) and I can still see people around me, bad thing is the people I'm passing now are people that I am lapping on the bike so I have no idea who I'm actually passing anymore. No matter, I just keep going hard and figure it'll all be sorted out on the run.

I fly into T2 and throw my shoes on, and off I am. My fastest transition yet, now I need to find my legs.

Run (~20 minutes)
I take off on the run and just focus on breathing, there is someone right on my heels but I drop him pretty quick. I just focus on my breathing (trying to not pant like a dog) and hope that my legs stop feeling so rubbery, at least that feeling is getting familiar. I look down at the 1 mile mark and realize that I ran it in about 6:15, super fast for me. Maybe I can keep it up, hopefully I wont get tired.

Now come the roller coaster hills that kicked my arse last year. Some straight up walls of dirt that slow you to a crawl, then you come flying down the other side faster than you legs can move. I finally see someone in the distance and I focus on reeling him in. I come up on Jay Hachadoorian. This guy is one hell of an athlete. He just raced out in Big Bear the weekend before, got into a sick wreck, and has over 60 stiches in his arm and a sprained wrist and who knows what else, and he was still killing the field. After a few minutes I pull even with him, gasp some word of encouragement and take off. The one thing I am realizing about these races is if you can catch up to someone on the run and pass them, there is really no fear of them finding some mysterious fountain of energy. Everyone is well blasted at this point, at their red line.

After about a mile more, the run takes us into the lake, that's right INTO the lake for about 50 feet or so. Just like Richmond, my feet now weigh 50 lbs each...soggy, sopping wet and all I want is for the race to be over, every step is a torture. Just up ahead I can see another runner, and I know there is about 1/2 mile left so I pick up my pace as best I can. My legs are on fire now and I feel my thighs starting to cramp, but I'm so close now. I finally reel him in and pass him and now all I want to see if the finish line, just around the corner and there is it!!!

Head down, trying to not think of my legs I go for it and finally cross the finish line, 1:25:18, nearly 12 minutes better than last year. I finish in 3rd place for my age group (30-34, getting old) and 12th place overall. The crazy thing is that as soon as I cross the finish line I am not even tired anymore, it was amazing. My thoughts immeidately turn to my sister, I hope she is doing well.

Stacey meets me at the finish line (woohoo!) and tells me that my sister is still on the bike so we run over there to cheer her on, and off she goes on the run. She doesn't even look tired...amazing. Gina finishes in 1:54:50, 6th in her age group (censored). Fantastic for her first triathlon ever. Mother of four, wife, business owner, trainer, marathon triathlete. Ironman is defintely in her future.

Yet again another great day, another challenge met and this time shared with my sister who has been, still is, and always will be my inspriation. Now what's better than that?

Friday, July 23, 2004

EMS Off Road Triathlon

July 18th 2004, Rocky Gap State Park, Flintstone MD

More of the same garbage involving laughing, suffering, and racing....sorry it is so long but I did not have time to make it shorter.


We drove up to Rocky Gap on Saturday afternoon to get some pre riding in and do some camping to relax before the race. I find it best to travel the day before as it removes any travel stress immediately before the race, hell, it is hard enough to stay relaxed as is, so anything that helps. Stacey, Timmmay (James) and myself got there about 2pm and setup tents and such. John, Rob, and Dave arrive about 3pm. We get all our gear setup and hit the trail for some pre-riding. Luckily, this time, no mechanical failures or flats pre race. Course is real nice and very rocky for some sections of it....explains the name Rocky Gap.

Pre ride was done, course seems fine, nothing too hard, not too long, should be a pretty fast course. We get back to camp and Timmaaaay keep us amused with all sort of horrors from his time as an EMT on Key West. Nothing like chowing down some pre race carbs from Chef John of mac & cheese, tuna and peppers while listening to stories of high speed highway motorcycle accidents, and snorklers trying to chew on boat propellers. Makes for an interesting night and great dreams. Oh yeah, and I'm sure Stacey loved allll of the race stories, we just don't shut up at all.

However, in keeping with my string of good camping luck.......yup....Rain, of course. At least it held out until we were asleep this time. But man did it pour...all night...allllll...niiiiiiight. All I could think of was how this will make the rocks and roots nice and slippery. More on that in a minute.

Next morning early rise, pack my gear and head down to the race site. Thankfully this time my bike was not screwed up pre race, lady luck is smiling. I warm up in reverse order then setup my gear and down a powerbar. Jim Harman (runs EX2) gives us the usual pre race brief/pep talk and sends us off to the starting gate.


After being herded like cattle into the holding pen (to make sure all that go in the water, come out....very important part of the process, eddie) they start the race. It is a few hundred yard run to my nemesis, the water. This running has all my blood pumping into my legs + the adrenaline...I'm ready to explode!!! We hit the water and start swimming...water is a bit chilly, and my body reorganizes my bloodstream up to my arms to swim. Only problem is, somehow my brain gets lost in the mix. I just can't get a decent breathing rhythm, not to mention I'm getting swum over, kicked, etc. Someday I'll figure this triathlon swim thing out, but it does not look like any time soon.

Half way through the first lap and my goggles completely fog up. I must thank Rob for the anti fog goo that he generously offered to lube my goggles up with. "This stuff works great", he says, HA! I think he was trying to get an advantage ;-)

Somehow I find my rhythm and finish the first lap, now for a long run and jump back into the water. Man am I tired...I know I should not be this tired, but I still have a couple hours of racing ahead of me so I decide to not think about it. If only it were REALLY that easy. Time flies and next thing I know I am climbing out of the water. I hear someone yell "TIMMAAAYYYY!!!" Just so happen that James is right behind me. Yeah, real great...I got in the water a ways ahead of him and he's right on my tail...thus ends another trademark Febbraro swim . Can't wait until that damned trademark expires.

I get into the transition and put all my gear on. Rob taught me a little trick about rolling up my socks so they are easier to put on wet feet. Ok, maybe he wasn't trying to slow me down. I get out in about a minute or so, pretty quick, you can actually get better at this stuff,


So I take off on the bike. After a regretfully typical swim, I have lots of people to catch up to, and I know it. So I just start hauling ass. There was only one section of climbing so I knew I could take it fast and not worry too much about blowing up. I start passing lots of people that are having trouble on the slick roots and rocks. Now it is not that I am having the easiest time with it, but I'm just not too afraid to fall down or slip, crash, endo, etc.

I get to the a section of road and we head over a dam. On the other end is a wooden bridge, and one of the incredible volunteers says very clearly, "Be careful, bridge is slick!!!" Now, of course I hear her, but I'm far behind and I need to catch up so I don't slow down. I hit the bridge, then HIT the bridge. (Slutty, just like that time we wrecked after the hurricane on the GW parkway, but not like you hit the marble ;-) My bike slides out from under me and I go down like a sack of bricks, slide for a bit (yay, more road rash) then in one motion jump back up on my bike and keep riding, hoping nothing is broken, bike or otherwise. So far so good.

I now come into the only real technical section of the bike. Fire road, but with big loose rocks everywhere. People are going pretty slow, they are obviously smarter then me, but I don't care too much as all I want to do is pass them. Bikers are falling down all over the place, but I stay off the back of my seat stay off the breaks and focus on picking good lines. I roll past everyone in front of me and out to the road where I big gear it and haul ass, I get to the end of the first lap and the guy tells me I'm in 24th. I wasn't quite sure of what he was saying, but it finally sank in and made me try harder.

The second lap was pretty uneventful, I downed a GU for some needed juice on the run and I came into T2 in 19th place. I threw off all my gear and put on my shoes. Less than 30 seconds I would say, my best transition ever. Time to find my legs. I'm at about 1:25, so it looks like I'll be a little over two hours, right on schedule.


I start the run with a really good pace, it usually takes me at least a mile or two to find my legs, so I just focus on my breathing to make sure I'm not panting like a dog. The first bit is on roads and it gives me a chance to settle into a rhythm. Once we hit the trails it gets tough. My legs are really heavy, but as long as it is not uphill I can keep a good pace. The uphills are a bit faster than a crawl, but it is a run, not a walk, so I pretend. I wind up passing about five people, mostly on the uphills so I figure I'm in 15th.

We head a couple of hundred feet down into a ravine along a trail, or so they call it. It is all big rocks with arrows pointing which way to go. The rain had made these really slick..nasty even. I try going down at a good pace, but I hear someone behind me and they're getting I pick up my pace...and promptly slip on a rock and crash down on my side, giving myself a nasty charlie horse that stick with me for the rest of the race.

Once at the bottom of the ravine we cross a sketchy bridge, it's slick but I've learned my lesson. The guy behind me is right on me now, but I'm determined not to let him pass me. We now need to climb up a couple hundred feet out of the bottom to get back to the road. Not really possible to run, it is more like bouldering, so I scramble up as fast as I can (read: painfully slow) and I put some time on the guy behind me.

We round the corner and I can see where the road ends where we head back down towards the lake to the finish line and I look over my shoulder. The guy that was on me in the ravine, is falling further behind, but someone else is passing him and coming fast. I give it everything I have and figure I have a mile and half left and want to hold him off. No such luck, he hauls past me and is going fast, I give him a slap on the back and some sort of half gasping compliment and now need to hold on for a bit less than a mile. It's hurting pretty bad now, but I'm almost there. I can't see anything anymore, except the finish line, so focus and just make it.

YES!!!!!!! Finish finally, and somehow all the pain goes away. Rob and David are already there (great race guys) and I collapse on the grass for some much needed rest.

My time was 2:12:58.
16th overall, 4th in 25-29.

Shower up, packup the camping gear, and head back for some food and the awards ceremony. Rob got 2nd in his age group, and John finished his first triathlon ever...woohoo!!!!! I did not get any awards, but it's rewarding enough to finish strong and get another race number to put on the shelf. Until next time...

Thursday, July 22, 2004

First Blog

This is my first blog attempt. I have always hated these things, and now I have the distinct pleasure of hatin' on myself......I'd have it no other way....

Sunday, June 13, 2004

XTERRA East Coast Championship

Hey race fans,

Sunday June 13th marked the running of the XTERRA East Coast Championship Off Road Triathlon (what a mouthful). It took place in Richmond, VA. Before I get into the details of the pain..uh..I mean race I wanted to thank everyone involved in me going to Richmond for showing us suuuuch a good time, putting us up, and coming out to support their friend through specific tortures. Seeing faces you know, and hearing them cheer for you is incredible, and has such an impact. It gives you a boost of energy, reminds you to lighten up, and most of all makes you smile.

The weather was PERFECT. The hot humid days broke with all of Friday's rain, and it was a perfect April day in Mid June.

So I pre-rode the course on the Saturday before with my friend James. It drains real well. It rained like hell on Friday, but it was a non issue for the vast majority of the course...except for the swim, but I'll get to that later. Pre-ride and things are going real well, not going to hard, except on the downhills, then all of a sudden... PSSSSSSSSSFFFFFFFTTTTTT. Flat, front tire flat no less. Fix it and get on with it, but now my brain is racing. How to make sure this does not happen during the race. Things like this can make you tenative, so I throw a few extra PSI in the tires just in case. Sunday morning with about 15 minutes until race time I decide to take the bike out for a spin and make sure all is shifting ok...or not ok as it were. Apparantly my Saturday ride not only included a flat tire but also a stepping on of the front derailleur. My shifting is terrible, I can only use the middle and small chain ring and the middle rubs so much that it makes a deafening noise. No time to fix, must start swimming, I'll deal with it later.

All the rain has made the river rise and the current pick up so the course was changed. The previous day I had witnessed a not so good swimmer (much like myself) take a sample of the river. For every one stroke forward he swam, he went abotu 2 or 3 feet downstream. Sure made me nervous, and I guess the race organizers too. Instead of swimming across the river to Belle Island, running across the island and swimming back to the swim/bike transtion (T1), we had to start on Belle Island, swim 2 laps, then run about a mile back to T1 over the suspension bridge.

The Swim
The swim was in the "majestic" James River in downtown Richmond. Phrase most overheard... "You're going to SWIM in it? Hope you dont have any open cuts." It was brown and muddy, and if I remember correctly did not taste all that well, but who has time to think of that? Even though we started in stages, the swim was total mayhem. Between getting swum over, kicked, slapped, pushed, or any other number of ways to be tortured in the water, it was amazing that I got through it at all. The river was never very deep, and at most points you could stand if you really wanted to, but this is a swim right? No walking for me. Except over the rocks. Yeah, that's right, under the water, sometimes only a few inches under the water were rocks that snuck up on your head, and chest, and knees, and feet. Between bouldering and swimming I managed to get out of the water in about 19 minutes, not bad considering wetsuits were not allowed. Now I had to put my shoes on and run a mile back to T1 over the suspension bridge, but at least this time it was not swaying.

The Bike
Get on my bike at about 27 minutes and start riding..then I remember, oh crap, my shifting is all messed up. So now what do I spend my time worrying about? The fact that my legs feel like jelly, or that my bike can't shift very well? I decide to stop thinking all together and start my ride. With so many people and narrow singletrack to ride, I run into countless carnage on the trail. People stopped all over the place, stopping to walk over log piles, stopping to walk up hills (right in the good line I might add), stopping, stopping, stopping. I did my best to get around those that I could. I need to become a better swimmer so that I am ahead of the majority once the bike comes around. One saving grace was that as the pros would lap us most people were respectful and moved out of their way. so I could tuck in behind them and get around the know...until the pros dropped me like a bad habit.

At the end of the first lap, I go down over a little rock garden and cruise into a corner when I hear a loud !!!PING!!!!. I thought, "That was a funny sound, kinda like aluminum snapping."..and keep riding. I'm shifting fine and the frame feels ok so hopefully it was someone else that made that noise. I swoop around another corner and my seat twists, as I slow down to see what is up, my seat drops and bottoms out. Turns out I broke my seat collar, somehow, someway. I've found that the Richmond XTERRA trails have a way of breaking bikes in a strange way. (Just ask Eric who snapped his about weird breaks). So now I dont have much shifting left and my seat is as low as it will go, but at least I can still sit on it.

I start the second loop and power through what I can, I'm standing alot and my legs are getting tired. Generally not a big deal, but with a 6 mile run ahead I'm getting worried. I finally make it back on to the highway which makes for an easy ride back to T2. Still no big ring and a low rider seat so I pimped into T2 after a 1:30 bike. Not bad considering all that was wrong. So far I'm on pace. I thought that I would finish between 2:30 and 3:00 and here I am at just about 2:00 with 6 miles left to run. Piece of cake...hahaha.

The Run
Once the run started, the sun decided to show itself. I think it was it's cruel way of beating me into submission because it went from a relatively cool day to africa hot, or at least that is how my head felt. First water stop I drink a cup and throw one over my head, this ritual continutes until the finish line. About 2 miles into it I finally got my legs, somewhere along the flood wall. Then comes the Mayan Ruins, I get up those slowly as I feel the spring leave my legs rather abruptly. The run goes along more roads, then into some singletrack sidestepping mud puddles as my legs slowly get heavier. I still have a good pace but that is about to change. Next we run across the "dry" bed of the James that leads us up to Belle Island. Dry is mostly a joke because with the river running high we are running through shin deep water at times. My already heavy legs now have the added tonnage of waterlogged shoes. It is starting to get painful. Up the ladder and onto Belle Island, through some more trails, get lost not once but twice due to deliria and slightly confusing trail markings. Finally I can see the footbridge which means that the finish line is only a mile away. Once on the footbridge that is when the cramps start setting in, thankfully not a leg cramp, but a side stitch thingy that hurts all the same. I look around and no one is coming up from behind so I just coast into the finish line and can't wait to stop moving. Someone greets me at the line and asks me some questions, but I can't understand anything right especially English, all I know is that I am done and I hit my goal time. Run was 48 minutes for a grant total of 2:47:27. 28th out of over 70 in my age group.

Post Race
Same as always, good food, great stories, wonderful people, and incredible satisfaction in knowing that once again I put myself up to the test, mentally and physically. Although I'm not the fastest on the course (and never will be) when I cross that finish line having survived and loved every minute of it, it sure feels like I won the race. Am I wrong?