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?