Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Xterra USA Championship

Xterra Nationals was this past weekend. This has been my A race for the whole year and I was very anxiously awaiting it. What made this year great was that not only was I going to race, but also some of my closest friends and training partners were going to, especially my wife. I dragged her all around the east coast racing this year having fun and collecting points, and she had such a great year that she qualified as well. So rolling out there was me, stacey, eric (my coach), jenn (stacey's coach), vergil, scud, frasketi, rich mcafee, and about 5 or 6 of my mates from the Nevada Passage. The time spent with everyone was fantastic and this year was a total blast, but lets not forget that I was here to race, so I'll get to that, but first.....

The Bikes
This race takes place in one of the most beautiful places in the world, Lake Tahoe. However traveling there means packing up your bike and either taking it on the plane (hassle and can be expensive depending on which way the wind is blowing) or shipping it. After the debacle at had at the world championships 2 years ago (bike barely made it, thanks American Airlines) I decided to ship it. UPS Ground, 1 week in advance, guaranteed delivery on 9/28 the Friday before the race. To make a long story short, UPS screwed me, stacey, and jenn over, no bikes. No nothing, no help. I found out early (Tuesday) that at least one bike was going to be late, and no matter what I did, how often I called no matter what I offered to pay, they basically told me to go scratch my ass, there was nothing they can do. Much of my week was spent scrambling trying to line up rentals etc. Oh yeah, our wetsuits were in the bike cases too, so we had to find replacements there too (thanks eric & cheryl) That worked out fine, got the rentals and they were all good to go, so at least we were racing. Lets get to race...

Race morning was cold as a mutha! 28degrees when we woke, lake was around 55-58 degrees, but at least it was calm. Much of the morning was spent agonizing over how much warm clothes to put on for the bike ride. When you were finally in the sun it was warm...hot even, but in the shade it was freeeeeezing, and there were supposed to be up to 20mph gusts on the mountain. I decided to just go with tri-shorts and top under the wetsuit and see how I felt after the swim.

The swim was cold as you'd guess. I lined up to the left of the field and had a great start, clear water for most of the way to the first buoy and my stroke felt great. Once I made it around the first buoy it felt like someone let the air out of me and I felt very tired and weak. Me thinks the lack of glorious oxygen caught up to me and the rest of the first lap was spent trying to find a rhythm that never came. The second lap resulted in much of the same and as a result I had a very bad swim for what I had expected. This year my swimming had started coming together and I was hoping for something around 30 minutes. It was more like 36, so I had some work to do on the bike.

Into transition I actually felt pretty warm, but I took a few extra seconds to dry off and I put on a short sleeve jersey over my tri top and wore full finger gloves. This turned out to be nearly perfect. The only time I was cold was on the flume trail b/c it was in the shade, otherwise I was fine. The bike course is so great it is nearly indescribable... a 4 mile climb up tunnel creek road to the flume trail with incredible views of Lake Tahoe. To your left is the rock face of the mountain and to the right is a 1500 foot drop off the side of the mountain. Once past the flume trail you ride around Marlette Lake climb Hobart Road to the Tahoe Rim Trail. This is an incredible stretch of singletrack through alpine forests and rock gardens filled with switchbacks and drop offs. The lines on this trail are incredible and when the fun finally ends you are back on tunnel creek road bombing over a thousand feet back to transition.

I was determined to not let the rental bike slow me down, but I think I would be a fool to say it didn't. The rental was decent, it was 2005 Specialized Epic. It did weight 4 pounds more than my race bike and it kept shifting around the bottom bracket when going to the small chain ring and no matter what I did the seat kept slipping down over time until I realized I was riding low rider. Of course none of this happened on my preride. For what it was I rode it well I think. I was pretty gassed the whole ride and could not find that extra gear that I had had all year. I was getting pretty tired by the top and was just trying to limit the damage on the climbs waiting for the descent. Once at the top I let out a caveman yell to get rid of my frustration and I bombed the descents and made up a good bit of time. I was planning on riding 2:00 and wound up 2:09, so not bad considering. More work to do on the run to make up for the swim and bike.

Flying into transition I was ready to get on my feet. My run has always saved a bad swim or bike for me and I was hoping it would do the same. The course was two 5k loops that were twisty and VERY flat. It was challenging to find a rhythm but at least there are no hills. For the first half mile I felt great and had a good stride and cadence. All of a sudden it felt like someone pulled the drain plug out of the tub and my energy was falling fast. About 1/2 way thru the first lap I realized that I was in borderline survival mode. I felt like I was shuffling my feet like a grandpa and I kept trying to focus on the moment instead of thinking about how much longer I had to run. When I finished the first lap I could not even believe I had one more to do and I had no idea how I was going to make it, but I kept on. I saw some friends (and a few rabbits to chase) on the second lap and that got me going. I got a 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th wind, but those only lasted for about 10 seconds. I was hoping to run a 42 and wound up with a 47.

My overall goal was 3:15 but come race day I was only able to manage a 3:32. Good enough for 17th in my AG of 35 and 122 overall of 315. This race was hard. Much harder than I remember from 3 years ago. I had improved my time by 10 minutes from 2004, but I was certainly hoping for much more. It would be easy to blame a bad race on the fact that I did not race on my bike but the fact remain that I raced a triathlon and the last time I checked you dont ride a bike to swim or to run. I felt like I had a decent race and I certainly gave it all I could. At no point did I feel like I stared myself in the mirror and gave up or slowed down, I just could not go any faster. I do however feel deeply dissatisfied and can't wait to get another shot at this course. Hopefully in 2008. Hopefully on my bike. Hopefully with all my friends again.

I would like for my wife to tell her own story, but I'm not sure she needs to bare her soul the way I do, but I'll give you a bit here. She raced a fantastic race, the course was brutal and she was on a rental. She finished in 5:06 for the longest day of her athletic life by far. She was exhausted and thrilled and I could not have been more proud of her. She was nervous about the swim which she handled with poise, she was worried about missing the bike cutoff, but came in with plenty of time to spare and tackled the run with incredible determination. This is the just the beginning for her as she has gotten stronger all year and I can't wait to see what next year has in store for her.

Sorry about the length, I would have made it more brief but I don't have much time, off to get a more recreational ride on the Flume and Tahoe Rim trail before we leave this beautiful place until next year.

UPDATE: Pics from the Tahoe Rim Trail, it was awesome.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Get your own measuring stick

Often I hear people say, I had a shitty race because I finished out of the top 10, or I was middle of the pack, etc. I suck, this and that. When I think about it, I feel that these people are saying this because they are judging their own performance in comparison to those around them that they are competing with. I don't think it is fair to do that. This applies to more than just racing. I'm not as rich as this guy b/c I dont have a 700 series, or wow look at that guy at the blackjack table betting $1000 per hand. We've all done it.

The only person that is fair for you to measure yourself against is yourself. Did YOU do all you could? Who cares what everyone else did. Did YOU give everything, did YOU make the sacrifices required to be where you want to be? In a race, just like like in life, you have absolutely no control over who the competition is. Anyone can show up on race day, and they just might beat you to that finish line, but that is not how you should judge yourself. So what if they beat you across the line, if you raced as hard and as fast as you could, and still did not beat them, what more could you have given?

Now you can be pissed at yourself for not giving everything you could have, but if you did don't kick yourself for not being the fastest. For all you know that guy at the blackjack table is playing with the last $1000 to his name, or the mortgage money for this month. I think it is perfectly legitimate to use faster folks as motivation to make you train harder, work smarter, and do better than you had last time, but your results need to be measured on their own merit in the context of you and your efforts

Go create your own yard stick for measuring yourself against and challenge yourself to beat the best YOU can do, everyone else is just a spectator in your journey.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Charlottesville Xterra

Saturday we went down to Charlottesville for the annual Xterra at Walnut Creek State Park. Got in a great preride with Eric. So good infact that we were tempted to do it twice, well, Eric wanted to go again, but I knew better. It would have been WAY more fun, but we would have paid for it on race day.

Race day saw long bathroom lines (AGAIN) and I did not get a good warm up at all. At the horn I took off towards the first buoy, had a decent line but got stuck behind a guy that liked to breast stroke. I wound up leading a chase pack around the course with the leaders off in the distance. I lost about 4 minutes to them by the time I got out of the water.

On the bike I had a great race once I was warmed up enough to get the preride cobwebs out. It took the better part of 15 minutes to find my legs, but once I did I was off. For some reason I think the terrain and climbing there really suits me b/c I had another great race on the bike. I was able to clean that sick steep rooty climb out of the creek bed for the first time. I even took some time to stop and give my friend Konrad a tube, CO2, and some tools, it was his 4th race in a row with a flat and I felt for him. Once on the run I was able to find my legs immediately and push really hard throughout.

All said and done I took over 6 minutes off my time from last year and got 5th overall. I had a great race and was really happy with how everything worked out. I just wish I could ride those trails a bit more often.

Stacey had another great performance. Last year she did the preride with me and did not have a good ride and as a result did not sign up for this race. However after a year of hitting the bike pretty hard and getting ridiculously better she tackled the course head on. She said she had a rough bike out there, probably due to the preride taking a bit out of her legs, but I think to get a full loop in before the actual race was good mentally. She finished with a smile and now we just hope she earned enough points to qualify for Tahoe. So proud of her.

Eric, Virgil, Mike Frasketi, Roger Masse and a few other friends all had great races too. Cville Xterra is my favorites stop on the point series tour, get out there and tri it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Time heals all wounds

Time is a funny thing. I slips away the harder you grasp at it, but if you don't pay attention it is gone just as fast. It also has a wonderful healing effect that dulls the really sharp pains of the past. I think that is usually for the better.

I will chose a non-tragic/saddening example. Approaching the fall always has me thinking of the big races within my grasp, the Xterra National and World Championship. Back in 2005 I raced the world championship in Maui, and I bonked spectacularly on the run. So bad, in fact, that I had some very serious concerns that I would not finish the race, how I had no idea how I would take my next step. After such a great race up to that part I was completely distraught and it left a very sour taste in my mouth for months that had me question why I even race.

Looking back on it two years later, the bonk didn't seem that bad, and I have a hard time comprehending that I was worried about finishing. Time made that serious pain dissipate in the passing months and years. As I get ready to do some final season races leading up to the national championship in Tahoe next month, I don't remember how bad those races hurt last year. I remember things like crossing the finish line in Charlottesville and being so overheated I needed to jump in the lake immediately, but looking back I don't feel like it was so bad.

This scrubbing of my memories is a very very good thing, especially when you continually throw yourself into the same races year after year. If the memories of those races were about the pain and not the accomplishment, then I'm not sure any of us would sign up, toe the line, and bury ourselves all over again.

It's time to get out there. Maybe this year it will hurt only as bad as my memories of past years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Weekend Thoughts

So on Saturday some friends were around and we went to Sushi Taro and the DC Improv for the last hurray of my 33rd birthday celebration week (great week). The comedians at the Improv had our whole group laughing our asses off, the shit was HILARIOUS. Patrice Oneal (no, not a hot chick) tore the place up with some crazy dirty stuff. I felt filthy leaving the place and like I was on an ab roller for an hour and a half. Oh and when eating at a sushi joint, definitely let the couple that lived in Japan for 3 years order for the whole table.

On Sunday we woke up and got our run on, then did a whole lot of nothing except took a huge massive 4 hour nap on the couch. You know, as I get older naps definitely get better. I need to work those into the routine more often.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Stop Waiting

So today it is hot. It;s been hot all week. Real hot. I hate August in Virginia hot. Hot where you sweat just being outside much less actually doing something active. Days like today (and the really cold winter days) you have to go into that suitcase of motivation you have stashed away for just such an occasion in order to get the job done. After a wonderfully brutal day biking I took yesterday off to recover and this morning was a track workout and it was hard to get moving.

It's like many things in life, sometimes you have to do the thing that you really don't want to do (or would rather not) to get to where you want to be. It can be something annoying like doing the dishes. Something daunting like finishing your basement. Or something that is just the first step to something better like updating your resume, or getting off the couch for that very first run.

Nobody is going to do these things for you, you NEED to do them yourself. And you know what? If someone WILL do them for you, they are not actually helping you because you are missing the opportunity to take charge, make something happen and build your own momentum. Life is all about momentum.

Whatever it is, stop waiting and making it happen, the hardest part is starting out.

That being said, anyone want to do my dishes?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Weekend & Birthday

So today I turn 33. Whoopdie do! Actually, I love it. Birthdays are great, even if I have had so many that I can't remember all (any) of them. I always manage to get some fun time in and today was no exception. Stupid early bike ride out to Gambrill State Park and the Frederick Watershed with Eric Sorensen, Jed Prentice, and Dave Wood. All told: 5 hours long, probably over 30 miles ridden, Ri-DICK-ulous amounts of rocks, roots, climbs, descents and other wonderfully brutal features. My hands, wrists, shoulders, back, and arse are sore as hell but dear lord was it worth it. Fun like that does not happen very often.

Also, raced this past weekend at Xterra Appalachia with the wife. Stacey had a great (but tough) race. She got 4th in her age group and quite possibly enough points to qualify for xterra nationals in Tahoe. I hope she makes it b/c we are going. I'm so proud of her, she continually reminds me that hard work pays off.

I had a great race, a good swim that kept me within striking distance of the leaders. A real solid bike ride that had me catch and pass all but one. Then a pretty grueling run that saw me catch the race leader at a poorly marked part of the course (we had no clue which way to go) to only lose contact in the final mile. I wound up 2nd overall and 1st in my age group. By FAR my best finish ever. Good times, good times.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Why I love racing

Why I love racing has changed quite a bit since I have started doing it. I originally loved it because it was something to help me lose some weight and get fit. I was also able to get better very easily with practice (I had a loooong way to go). Lately, though, after a few years of racing things can seem the same, races can become routine etc....if you let them.

One thing that is incredibly beautiful is the friendships you make over the years and through those friendships you broaden your horizons and do things you never considered. Whether you sign up for an Ironman b/c your best friend does or you try an Xterra b/c your buddies are always hounding you, there is always the next challenge. Always a new, different chance to redefine your boundaries.

Pushing like this certainly bleeds over into other aspects of your life, and if harnessed correctly can drive you to new heights professionally and personally. Never miss the opportunity to challenge yourself. Every year do at least one new thing that you never though you would, you'll be surprised at how your outlook on life can change and how you view yourself.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Nevada Passage 2007

Long time no talk. You see, I never made any promises about how often I would update this damned blog. Turns out not very often. That is not to say that I don't like writing...the pay is pretty good, oh wait, it sucks. It's just that the mood has to strike. Nothing worse than trying to force out a few hundred (ok, ok, ok THOUSAND) words when you are not feeling that funny at all. Well there is a time and place for everything I suppose, so here is my newest attempt at writing when not having the time to do it right, or the creativity to make you laugh, you have been warned.

How'd the hell did I get there?
Nevada Passage 2007 was a 4 stage "adventure" race across beautiful parts of western Nevada (that is pronounced Ne-vaaaaa-dah not Nev-ahhhhh-dah as I was corrected close to 1,237 times). It is put on by the Nevada Commission on Tourism as a way to promote tourism in Nevada and to get people to realize that it has more to offer than Vegas, gambling and brothels. I didn't believe it, but I was willing to be proven wrong.

I got invited to participate based on some close ties I have with the XTERRA Triathlon Series. (If you are new to this blog it is almost entirely what I write about). We are paired at random with someone of the opposite gender based on our profession, so I got matched with another "programmer". I have always hated that term, kinda like calling a highly trained chef a "cook", but I digress. I was teamed with the energetic and sweetest southern bell, Jackie Ryan. She is a very accomplished XTERRA athlete from Alabama. The rest of the group were from all over our great nation nearly all them are triathletes of some kind at some point and all of them were very talented.

Another cool aspect of the race is that it will be televised nationally (dunno what channels but sometime in August). So this is in effect a "reality" show that happens to be about Nevada and Racing. I figured that this is quite possibly my one chance at fame and glory so I was going to ham it up and see if can parlay this into my rightful position atop Hollywood (NO!!!, not in the porn industry). Ok. Well, I know I would not be a superstar, but I was determined to let the "personality" fly, um, because...I never, EVER do that. Heh.

I get to Vegas and the Hooter's Hotel and Casino (boys, we are NEVER staying there for one of our trips, that would be the worst decision since the seafood buffet...Coach, I'm looking at you) I get in at 1:30am, that is 4:30 am east coast time, when I normally wake up, so already I'm off to a great start.

First day has us meet the press, practice throwing an Atlatl, and do our entrance interviews & get some much needed camera time. By this point, I know already that I'm going to have fun this week. People are not really opening up juuuust yet, but I can see the cracks in the armor, not to mention I already have verbal diarrhea so I was thinking it would not be too hard to crack some of these nuts open.

That night they throw a welcome dinner for everyone. There is a ton of support crew that goes into making this happen and it was good to hang and get to know a few of them. I'll just thank them now in case any of them are reading this.

For the rest of you that have made it this far, congrats and I'm sorry, it is about to get a whole lot longer. And you thought I TALKED a lot.

Stage One
This was a desert run (about an 8k I'd image) in Nevada's oldest state park, Valley of Fire. Words cannot accurately describe how incredible this place was. If you like to see nature at it's most creative, this is the place. The rock formations, vistas, and colors were IN-credible. It's is unquestionably worth a visit, even if you have to drag your sorry ass away from the craps table to do it. Just bring some water.

Speaking of water, it was dry in Nevada. Not just, "Wow everything is sand here" I mean dry like your entire head is chapped within a few hours of landing. Throat gets dry and raspy (right Linda ;-) ), chapped lips, crusty nostrils, eye boogers, the whole enchilada. Um...or maybe it is just me? Anyway, chapstick was my best friend all week, I always kept it with me for fear of death.

Our stage started with a 4 mile road run over rolling hills, at the 4 mile mark we headed off road through rock canyons and formations for a little over a mile to atlatl throw just before the finish. My teammate Jackie had a hamstring injury and was worried about it, and I am still recovering from an ankle explosion so I knew we would not be setting any course records. This run became one of pushing ourselves as hard as we could without aggravating any injuries.

At the horn we all head off up the first hill that was about a mile I would image. The string teams got a gap on us real early and immediately we were in 9th place, so I just wanted to try to keep some of the other teams in site and reel them in over the next 5+ miles. On the uphills I would go behind Jackie and push her up the hills to help out and on everything else I just let her find her rhythm. By mile 2 we had crawled into 6th place and the field got really stretched out after that.

Hanging a left we head into the sand and run through some really incredible rock formations as we make our way around towards the finish. I was on the lookout for rattlers, but luckily they knew to keep their distance. Italian Stallions normally win out in the old stallion/snake battle. As we get to the Atlatl we see the 5th place team (Journalists) just heading to the finish, so we figure if we can each hit the target (each hit get s 1:00 time bonus) that we can finish in 5th and not 6th. Jackie misses short, then I let out a battle cry and hurl my atlatl. Not only did I miss the target, but I think I took out a jet liner on it's way to Hawaii. I overshot the target so much that I was worried that I might have impaled someone that the finish line. Oh well, no time bonus, but Team Programmers storm to the line for a 6th place finish an no mention on the Nevada Passage daily race report :-)

After the race we ate some sandwiches and got to explore some of the nearby rock formations and views. It was completely incredible and gorgeous and everyone FINALLY opened up. There is something about finishing a race together. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is, but there is a bond formed between the competitors and after this stage everyone started to let loose and it was great to be in the middle of that.

Stage One: 6th place.

Stage Two
After stage one left the comfy confines of Vegas and headed to Beatty, NV at the mouth of Death Valley to stay at the glamorous Stagecoach Motel/Casino. Now I know it may sound like the middle of no where, but rest assured, the buffet was gloriously poured from pre WWII lead cans each night to make sure we were fuel'd up right for the competitions. The pool was ice cold and the beers were warm, so more or less we were good to go.

Our first night in Beatty was our only night to really throw down since the next day we were just riding dune buggies, not running, biking, or anything else physically exerting, so off we went. After a long soak in the pool & hot tub (I think we set a world record for most people in a hot tub, 243) and many cervesas, we were "ready" for dinner. Oh yeah, we also got subjected to Papa Kahuna's lovely boxer shorts bathing suit. Thanks Dave, we needed that just before dinner. Post dinner was countless hours hanging with our 2 best friends, Jack and Ginger. Now I I don't recall just how many I had, but it was more than I can count on one hand.

The next day Stage Two took place on the sand dunes of the Amargosa Desert. We rode 30 horsepower dune buggies on a makeshift figure 8 race course. It was a relay with the fastest combined team time winning. One teammate was sent off to drive the course and when they came to a complete stop in the pit, the second teammate was sent off. There were 2 buggies, one yellow (the fast one) and one red (the slow one).

Our practice runs were hilarious with many people not making fast enough up the dunes to clear the flags setup as gates. It took a bit of time for everyone to realize that there was nothing special about the course, you slammed the gas pedal to the floor and did not lift it up until you were done, real simple, but easier said than done.

Times were coming in fast, the yellow buggies roughly in about 1:07 and the red one at about 1:12. Jackie went first for our team in the yellow as I sat in waiting in the red buggie, hooting and hollering. She had a great start and was cruising the course as well as could be expected, as she rounded the 2nd flag I was some long distance fishtailing happening and I was hoping that would not effect her run at the 3rd flag. As she disappeared behind the column of the finish line chute and obscured from my view I watched as the crowd let out a groan of disappointment. Alas my teammate was stuck and did not clear the 3rd flag. That foiled our plans for world domination but somehow we eeked out a 9th place finish. Dropping us to 9th overall.

Afterward we got to watch a lot of the crew take runs on the course, most of them not faring as well as the racers. I guess it was not as easy as it looked. It was fun as hell hauling ass on those buggies, my only regret is that we did not get more time to play. We got one practice lap and one race that, that was it. So all told, 5 hours out in the sand, 2 minutes of which we were riding in the buggies. Oh well, at least I got an Adonis-like tan, er, burn.

After dune buggying around we got to visit the Ghost town of Rhyolite, home to the world famous Goldwell Open Air Museum. Lots of crazy art just hanging out in a very inhospitable desert. High temps are claimed to reach 125 degrees in the summer. At least Lady Desert's curtains matched her drapes and she wont get any tan lines.

After the dunes and the ghost town we were ready for more cold pool, warm beer, and buffet. A little Blackjack took place before an early night. Where the hell in the world can you find a $2 minimum blackjack table? At the Stagecoach casino that's where. I played for 2+ hours with $20 and left with that same $20 in my hand....unheard of.

(ok, I know, I need to cut it short...I'm doing my best)

Stage Three
We head out to the Alkali Lake Bed outside of Goldfield and Tonopah. It is a dried up lake bed where were were to do our bike relay. The catch was that the bike relay was on 3-speed Electra Rally Sport Cruisers (no link, stupid flash site).

It should come to no surprise that here in the desert in a dried up lake bed that it was dry. Real dry. My throat was chapped within in minutes of stepping off our bus. In fact, it was so dry my throat is getting dry just writing about it. We were given about 30 minutes or so to toll around on the bikes, fit them to ourselves, work on transition strategy, etc. Of course we spent no time strategizing, just goofing off. It was mroe fun that way anyway.

The relay race had the following format. Twelve 1.3 mile loops on a one million-year-old, bright white, hard-packed, sun-cracked and crusty dried up lake bed. The first 3 laps were done by my teammate, then 3 by my, then 3 by her, and finally 3 by me. In between the 3 lap sessions there was a 100 foot long transition area where you were to hand off the bike b/w teammates. Luckily Jackie and I had roughly the same length legs so we did not have to worry about switching the seat height on hand off.

At the horn Jackie was off and rode a smoking fast first 3 laps. We were well positioned although in 6th place at the first transition. The hand off was a bit shaky but then off I went. The first thign I realized when trying to go really fast on a bike that was not meant to go fast was....holy $@#t this is hard. My legs felt dead and I was not clipped into my pedals like I'm used to. During my 2nd lap Dave Ruby caught up to me and we decided to work together to try to reel in those ahead of us. We climbed up 2 places and after a fast transition Jackie was off for the next leg.

She rode another great 3 laps while I wept, wheezed, panted and coughed on the sidelines. Coming into the final transition she kept us in 5th place. Once out on the course the wind picked up fiercely. I would guess they were whipping at 20-30mph and it made the course BRUTAL. Just into my 2nd lap John Madden caught me. No, not that John Madden. Not having much gas left in the tank I decided I was going to draft him for as long as possible, so as he came by I grabbed onto his wheel. It was obvious after freeloading for a lap through the awful wind that he did not want me drafting him anymore. He started to slow down dramatically and swerve back and forth then surge trying to drop me, but like the little bastard that I am, I held on tight and would not let him go. This went on forever, I was definitely giggling at one point.

Coming into the final turn my "plan" was to hold tight around the corner and try to out sprint him to the finish. I did not have much left in my legs but hopefully neither did he. As he let out a final surge to drop me he got about a 5 foot gap. Just as I was closing that gap up comes a minivan driven by the camera crew to watch us in action. The combination of the minivan and the wind blew up an immense dust cloud that made me cough up a lung and lose my draft. John easily beat me to the finish, we would have to settle for 5th place on the say, and only climbed up to 8th overall.

It was fun as hell out on those cruisers in the middle of the desert. It was also by far our most strenuous day physically of the entire passage. We would all sleep well that night.

Afterwards we had a 5 hour bus ride up to Reno, but not before stopping at the one place that would make the entire trip worth it. The Glory Hole. Now in the western parts apparently a "glory hole" is a mine, and the largest silver mine in Nevada was dubbed THE Glory Hole. Well, where I come from there are no mines (at least none that I know of) so a glory hole is something else entirely. I think I may still be laughing. Yes, I am still 8 years old mentally.

4,378 glory hole jokes later we arrived in "The Biggest Little City In The World" Reno and our final stop in the 2007 Nevada Passage.

Stage Four
Our 4th stage would take place on Mount Rose just outside for Reno. The stage required us to ski for 45 minutes UP the mountain (more on that in a minute) then downhill ski through a set of gates to the finish. You had to cross the finish line together with your teammate. Now, back to skiing UP a mountain. I had never heard of this before, but apparently it is called alpine touring and uses a special binding called a Randonnee binding.

Being from the south, my teammate had never skied before in her life, so we took this opportunity to see if she could learn REALLY fast. After about 5 minutes it was pretty obvious that at best she would not be able to get down the mountain in any decent amount of time, and at worst could hurt herself in the process, so we made a strategic plan that once up top she would just throw her skis over her shoulder and literally run down the mountain.

The race started with a 1/4 mile run (in ski boots) to the first transition area. This was awful. Not only was it impossible, but it also hurt. turns out that it was just as fast to walk as it was to "pretend" to run, but for the camera's sake I kept pretending. Once we got our skins on we started our slog up the mountain and let me tell you, it was fantastic. Now some people will call me "slow" but I love climbing on a mountain bike, I dont know what it is, it hurts and it not even close to easy, but it is so much fun. The same can be said for this. The views were incredible, the workout was tough, and annoyed everyone around me b/c I would not shut up the whole time up the mountain. Oh well.

The top came far too soon, and now it was time to lock in our bindings and head down the mountain to finish off this journey across Nevada. Since Jackie was running down I took off and got some good skiing in. I even stopped to make a few snow angels and enjoy the scenery. The Pilot team in front of us had another non-skier, Steve from Mississippi. (Those dang southerners just can't ski). Turns out that between him falling all over the mountain and Jackie running, that she actually caught him and passed him briefly. Once he saw Jackie's stroke of genius, he took off his skis too and beat us to the finish. it was a great stage and now HAVE to do alpine touring more often. For the day we finished 9th and held on to our 8th overall position (out of 10)

Later that night we had our awards dinner and time again to tear up the town. Kahuna gave out sheriff's badges and nicknames to all the competitors, and generally kept us laughing for the entire night. After dinner I joined Kahuna and many more of the Nevada Passage crew at the craps table where he literally talked the dice into submission, most of us winning quite a lot of money in the process. The dice LOVE him...as well they should.

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The week that was spent tooling around Nevada was a truly incredible experience. I had the opportunity to make some great new friends and experience some very different things that I would have otherwise had no opportunity to enjoy. It also gave me many many hours to say highly inappropriate things in front of TV cameras and (for a short time) people that I did not know at all. I will most likely never get the chance to do something like this again (I wont stop trying though), it was incredibly unique, the people that I got to know were marvelous. I have countless memories that I will fondly remember, and I am certainly better off in this world having done it.

I suggest you try it.