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.


Peter Warner said...

You're still THE MAN! Nice write up. Nice to see you keep a positive outlook regardless of the bike shipping challenges, although in a strange way it sounds like you found some good motivation for next year! Look forward to good off season.


BrownieMTB said...

Had a blast out there with you guys. You ROCK, Frank! Vive the ODC! :)

Eric Sorensen said...

Whether we had great races or horrible races, we spent a weekend in an amazing place with awesome friends. You down with ODC?

Tyler said...

Sorry to hear about the bike troubles Frank!!

Good job finishing it on the rental and Congrats to Stacey for her awesome finish! You both are an inspiration.

Vergil said...


You somehow have the ability to make people smile even when they are in a bad mood, and I love you for it. I know Tahoe was not exactly the race you wanted, but I am stoked for you and want to be there to watch you improve.

Stacey- You kick ass and I am so happy for you and the race you had!