Monday, June 19, 2006

2006 Xterra East Coast Championship, Richmond VA

Getting There

Hey everyone, long time no write. I've missed you, hell, I've missed me. Months have gone by like I was standing still. Thankfully I have had an incredible time and shared these times with great people. Between weddings, wedding planning, training, work, etc. I'm amazed it is only June. And do you know what June means??? RACING SEASON!!!!

After a long winter with a good deal of time off I got back into training. I had myself some new training partners this winter, and all in all it was a good early season. I had a good showing at Odyssey, a beast of a race. Some of my best racing buds had a great race there too. It is absurd and painful, but wonderful to finish...I may write about it sometime, but for now I'm still in denial.

The Xterra East Coast Championship, in Richmond VA, was this past weekend. Richmond seems to trap heat in a bottle and open that jar just for this race. A week of incredibly beautiful weather turned quickly into a heat-fest just in time for our race. I'm not real good in the heat, but luckily it hurts many other people just as much.

This year, my incredible fiancee Stacey, was racing the sport race. We got into town early on Friday and caught up with my mom and friends for a night on the town. Early the next day we went on a preride, and there Stacey saw the course she was up against and was not too happy, but determined. The Richmond course is narrow, with lots of tight turns and quick up and downs. It can be difficult to ride when you're all alone, much less racing. We also swam the river too. It was not nearly as gross as in past years, but it is still the James river. An awesome dinner with some great friends at Edo's Squid the night before had me feeling pretty good. This is my 3rd year racing Richmond and I was hoping I could put a good race together an make some good improvements over past years races. This race brings out the best of the best so doing well is never easy.

Pre Race
Since Stacey's race started at 8am, I got to the race site really early. I just tried to help her for the first hour, and after watching her swim and the start of her bike leg I tried to get my game face on. It was nice that she was racing though since I spent most of my time thinking about how she was doing and where she was and less time thinking about how hot it was getting or seeing all the good racers setting up their gear. I took a spin on my bike and although my legs were not feeling great, I figured it was just the heat starting to set in and I prepared myself mentally for a long day.

I spent some alone time off in the shade just relaxing and hoping I would get to see Stacey finish. They started calling us down to the river so I had to go, but at least I got to see a picture of her finishing. I was bummed I could not be there to cheer her on.

Getting down to the water, I was not super nervous like usual, I was relatively calm and really just wanted the race to start so that I could stop thinking and start doing. BOOM!!!!! The cannon fires and off we go. Within 2 minutes I get punched in the face and my goggles are off my eyes. I manage to get them back on and try not tot lose the pack.

This year I told myself I wanted to take a calmer more cerebral approach to the swim. Instead of getting out there and swinging my arms wildly, getting tired and having a crappy swim, my goal was to find a set of feet and draft them. It was working pretty well, so well that was able to swim past a lot of people including the ones I was drafting. I kept looking around for my coach Eric. He started 2 minutes back in the "older" wave ;-) but he kicks such ass it was only a matter of time before he caught me. I was trying hard to beat him back to shore and to save myself the ridicule. He got caught me about 2/3 of the way through. Dammit.

Before I know it the swim is over and I'm *near* the front of the pack, unreal. I'm usually in superduper catch up mode when getting out of the water. Now I just have to keep it up.

I throw my shoes on and run into transition, getting to my bike in a frenzy. It is already smoking hot out and my water bottles and camelback are piss warm. Great. The beginning of the bike course has a lot of flat sections. I shift into my big ring to start hammering...umm, nope. I think my legs are somewhere in the river still. Defintely not feeling my freshest, but there is no time to worry about that now. I get through the Belle Island section pretty well, I'm pushing REALLY hard to get in front of people because the trails up ahead leave not much room for passing so I can either get it now, or pay for it later. Although, getting it now will surely make me pay for it later. This is about the time I start looking over my shoulder for Pierre to come powering past me, since I'm not feeling great I'm thinking it is only a matter of time.

Off into Buttermilk and Forest Hills, I'm working really hard but I'm riding well and slowly picking off people. It is very hard to get around some people. They seem to think it is a personal offense that you ride sections faster than them and even if you are waiting they refuse to give you room to squeeze by. I have to pull a few command decisions and really cut people off when I can. There is only so much time you give for someone to find a place for you to get by them befor eyou just have to take it. Back on these narrow trails I see some spectacular wrecks. I dont know what it was but people were crashing continually all over the place. Mr. Xterra himself, Tom Lyons, has the hugest yard sale I have ever seen (at top speed) and he just picks right up and keeps going. I'm trying to avoid all the wrecks and not have any myself. No such lick as I catch my foot on a rock and go flying over the bars. Nothing is broken on me or the bike, whew!

Going down the pedestrian bridge I see Eric and I'm hoping that I can reel him back in, but as soon as get on the long gravel road, my legs die again and he is nothing but a puff of dust in an instant. Off into Buttermilk Heights and over to the new (and great) North Trail. A whole lot of the same here, mentally dying to push harder but not having legs for much more than what I'm doing. I'm trying not to get passed but a few guys are getting me, a few in my age group too, now THAT sucks.

Getting back into transition there is a bunch of waving to my friends that are there to cheer me on. This helps me out and give a boost that I hope will last for the entire run, heh, yeah right.

Getting out on the run course and it is all exposed, mostly pavement or gravel road and all in full 10,000 degree sun. The heat is sapping what strength I have left. I brought a water bottle with me and at each mile I stop at the water stop and fill it up with cold water. In between the stop I am pouring the water all over me to try to cool down.

I'm trying to maintain a steady pace but the going is really rough. I was broken down to simply counting the steps between water stops just trying to make it to the next one. Mentally I'm damaged, it was brutal, I'm used to having a strong run off the bike, but this year as my bike has gotten much better, while my run has paid the price.

I'm getting past by a few people (again, some in my age group) I figure that any chance I had at a good strong race are out the door. I'm searching myself for something to keep me going and to give me strength. I feel like I'm in dream where no matter how fast I try to run my legs wont move. (I dont know about you, but I have this type of dream regularly)

As I get to the river bed and start bouldering yet another guy in my age group passes me. I told myself that it is now or never, stick on this guys heels no matter the cost, find something, anything, anywhere to get it. I was hanging on by a thread for a mile or so, about 10 minutes. All I could do was stare at the 30 inked on the leg in front of me. Trying to match step for step and focusing on not letting it get out of my sight. As we reach the last hill on Belle Island my legs are begging and screaming for me to stop and then something happened.

It felt like I broke free. I started gaining on the guy in front of me, then I passed him and was reeling in the next guy. Somehow after 5 miles my legs finally found me and I just pushed it as hard as I could. Once across the foot bridge I dropped the guys I had just past and was all alone to the finish line. 2:36:48, good enough for 6th of 57 in my age group (the most competitive) and 41st overall out of nearly 300.

It was incredibly gratifying to be lost mentally for so much of the race and to finally find a piece of myself towards the end after all of the suffering and be able to finish it strong. Our perceptions of ourselves and our accomplishments are not often what they seem to be, and it is amazing how you can actually do really well despite feeling so bad.

Post Race
Stacey and I had a great time in Richmond, many thanks go out to Miguel Hagan & The Fowlers

Congrats to Roger, Pierre, Jenn, Pete, Jo Marie, Liza, and Chas for kicking ass as well. It is so much fun to race with a huge group of friends. Sorry if I missed anyone.

Specific congrats to Eric Sorensen & Kathy Coutinho. Eric won his age group and was the 6th overall amateur after over 2 years of not racing due to injury, what a comeback!!! Kathy, also with over a year off (due to gorgeous little Valerie) came back with a vengence winning her age group and being the 2nd amateur woman overall. They both qualified for the world championship and really showed everyone what they were made of.

And finally congrats to my LADY!!!!!! Stacey showed a new side of herself yet again by tackling a super hard Richmond course as her first real triathlon ever. Between the mass start, open water swim, a challenging 9 miles of mountain biking, THEN running 3 miles after all of that. She really knocked me off my feet yet again. Way to go babe, many great things are to come.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

2006 Odyssey Off Road Triathlon

Here is my bullet highlighted list of Odyssey 2006. The race was awesome, epic, and brutal all at the same time. I had my best finish ever, 4th overall. A great day with awesome friends.

* Camping, no rain.
* Nervous as hell
* Super cold water
* Swim pulling left into the trees
* Blurry vision out of the water for a while
* Climb up, up, up.
* Pass Konrad who is having a rough day
* Hauling ass, twisted ankle.
* Fastest run split of the whole race
* Hike #1
* Here comes Roger...
* Rough ridge, no juice, bonking and hurting
* Different racing up front, all alone and I feel chased.
* Hike #2, dying, dying, dying
* Is that pierre? All I hear is him right around the corner
* Elation corssing the line
* Collapse

That is all I'm capable of writing. This race is best experienced and is often too painful to relive, come race it with me, it will make a new person out of you.

Monday, February 6, 2006

Xterra on TV

The Xterra World Championship was on TV yesterday. That;s right, Super Bowl Sunday. Yeah, it was on at noon while the rest of the world was sleeping, or making food, or getting ready for a super bowl party, but I'll bet I knew where every xterraist in the USA was yesterday.

It was great to see our sport in TV, major network, nationwide. I am a huuuge hater of commercials (who isn't) but it was great to see commercials about things important to me. When was the last time YOU saw a mountainbike commercial on TV...for that matter when was the last time you saw ANY bike commercial on TV. You dont. Well except yesterday from noon to 1pm.

I have the last 3 years of world championships with the coveted "Save until I delete" status on my Tivo. Anyone who wants to see is welcome to come by...bring beer, or get your copy here.

See you on the trails.