29 July 2011

Taking what the Mountain will give you, Xterra Mountain Champs

Well time to tell how racing with the #1 plate went after the hubbub of getting it and what comes along with it.  It was interesting to say the least just picking up my packet, I would get asked what number I was and humbly I would barely murmur "one".  A sort of stunned volunteer would grab the packet and well wishes which I gladly accepted, not sure if they were expecting someone else or just that number has certain connotations but I was happy to get through the line non the less.  I got a bit of heckling from Trey all in good fun and it helped loosen the mood as everyone got caught up after not racing each other for a month.
T2 set up and ready Inov-8 X-Talon with 2Toms Blister Shield set to hopefully blaze the run course.
 I didn't have that great of confidence coming into the race, I hadn't had a decent workout in over a week and was feeling tired and run down.  In the last few days coming into the race I discussed it with my coaches and we lightened the load so that I was active but recovering and trying to recharge the batteries.  I did feel better on Friday on my last shuttle run of the bike course, where we drove all the way to the peak of the course and rode the downhills, and easy flat sections with minimal climbing.

It was still a very strong field for the race even if you subtract out Conrad and Dan and I knew that I would need to use every bit of my advantage swimming in my 2XU V:2 wetsuit for the swim.  Unfortunately the arms never got moving and I was not able to stay on Seth and Chris' feet like normal and I exited about 1min back from them hoping that the legs were going to be there for the bike.

I jumped out on the bike quickly strapped into my Sidi Terra's and tried to conservatively take off after Seth.  Over the first 4 miles I slowly gained on him but could never quite real him in.  Once we reach a 1 mile road section I couldn't keep pace with Josiah after he had passed and I just focused on trying to keep them in sight over the top of the climb.
4 Miles in Josiah resting for a bit before blowing by and earning what was his.
Though I couldn't keep pace with Seth and Josiah, I was holding off Nico and managed to keep him at bay for longer than ever on the course, I managed to keep his gap small.  In what really shouldn't have been a surprise but was was having Brian Smith blow by as we peaked out over Beano's cabin, we rocketed through Allie's Way and then plummeted down the Corkscrew into T2.          
Ripping down Corkscrew with my Ergon HX2 gloves and GX2 grips

Brian and I exited about 5 seconds back from Nico but I knew immediately that the run was going to be a tough one, there were 4 guys who could all easily put down the best run split of the day and then me.  I could only think that I had to push and hold on, you never know what can happen but if one falters you have to be there to take advantage.  It wasn't to be though as Josiah responded to the hometown pressure and took the title, Seth fought gallantly to finish just back in 2nd.  Brian continued to blaze though with the fastest run split and caught Nico for 3rd.  I managed to keep running and hold on for 5th, with Brad Zoller showing his cycling improvement breathing down my neck as I crossed the line.  Though I didn't feel great coming into the race I walked away satisfied at the result knowing that it easily could have gone much worse.  I don't know that even if I had felt ready to rock that I would have managed to hold off any of the top 4 with how on fire they were that day.
With the regional championships over it sets up a very close race in the XTERRA America Tour Series between Nico in 3rd and myself in 4th.  With a few months to prep and build toward USA Champs in Ogden I have a lot of work to do as the course is more suited toward him.  Without the challenges of the races what fun would this be though.

Mtn Podium: Emma, Myself, Seth, Brian, Kelley, Sara, Nico, with Champions Shonny V and Josiah in front.

15 July 2011


XTERRA Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek are tomorrow, and leading into the race I have had a bunch of thoughts going through my head.  It is common to have little issues add little bits of pressure to what can already be a some what stressful time.  Here is small list of a few of the common little pressures that are there almost every race:
  • Feeling that you are under or over trained
  • Feel a little niggle of an old injury
  • Having a little sniffle or sneeze
  • Personal expectations
  • Expectations that friends and family have
  • It your equipment in good shape so you will not have a mechanical issue.
There are also the occasional pressures that trump the little things:
  • Racing in your hometown or at your Regional Championship
  • Racing in front of a large group of friends and/or family
  • Racing the big ones; National and World Championships
Then there are the more rare pressures that come along, as much as you try not to think about them, they are always there, these pressures are different for everyone.  For me at XTERRA Mountain Champs this is something entirely new

Race ready! Thanks to 2XU, Pro Cycling, Rotor, SRM, Ergon, Sidi, Effetto Mariposa

I have worn #1 bib at races in the past, but they are smaller local races and I am more proud of it than anything else because there is a good chance I won the race the previous year.  This is different, this is one of the major XTERRA championships through the year.  Other racers and spectators see number 1 and they have expectations, technically their expectations shouldn't affect you but they are still there.  I did get some help getting this number by a few guys not showing up to races, but you still have to race well enough to be in that position and it is something I continually go back to, I have had my best year yet in Xterra finishing in the top five in in 4 of the 5 races thus far, and getting my first top 3.  The goal is to have this number be a routine thing, I can only hope that as Phil Liggett says about the yellow jersey in the Tour De France, that having bib 1, give you wings.
A big reason behind the improvement is just being healthy and being able to put in the most solid off-season of training if a few years.  The support from 2XU for race, training and wetsuits, Pro Cycling for the Specialized Epic 29er to race this year.  Rotor has helped me trick the bike out with super light and strong cranks, stems and seatposts on both road and mountain bikes.  To complement the mountain bike I am riding the Rotor 3D+ SRM crank with 53/39 chain rings on the road bike.  The SRM has been key to improving my bike strength this year, there is no better or more accurate PowerMeter out there.  I have the best cycling shoes in the world to power both bikes with my Sidi's and especially the Terra's which are the only Xterra specific shoe on the market currently.  I stay super comfortable as well with Ergon Grips and cycling gloves and stay flat free thanks to Effetto Mariposa's Caffelatex and keep things tight thanks to the torque wrench.  The Colorado Running Company has kept me running for years in the right shoes and have introduced me to some great products over the years, namely 2Toms for their Blister Shield and Sports Shield which keep me blister and chafe free in the nastiest conditions.
I can't thank you guys enough for the support and help getting me to where I have worked so hard to reach today.  Saturday it is game on and I will put all the best weapons to work with one goal, to keep that #1 bib where it deserves to be in any race.

11 July 2011

Capitol Racing

After XTERRA East Champs in Richmond I stayed out east for the Washington DC tri the following week.  Christine Jeffrey and I stayed at Patti and Jon for a few days continuing to train in Richmond.  Jon helped us out getting us in to the Univ. of Richmond pool a couple times and Jon and I had a good road ride as well before we ventured off to Fredericksburg.  My hometown bud and college roommate TJ let Chris and I borrow his van to get around which we thought looked like a stalker or pedophile van but couldn’t have done without making to transport out bikes and bad around in.  We stayed with fellow Xterra racer Suzie Snyder and Chris in Fredericksburg for a few days and she showed us the spots to train and had a great time kicking back.  Then late on Friday we swapped cars again with TJ to his Jetta just managing to load all our crap in it and headed up to DC.  It was great to get to DC and get to spend the next few days with my cousin Megan who also opened up her house to us going into DC.  I was great to get to spend so much time with friends and family during the week between the races.  All of you made the week so much fun and your help and support made the trip so much easier.
I did the DC Tri as part of the 5150 series in my attempt to qualify for the 5150 Championship at the Hy-Vee Triathlon later this year.  I didn’t have a great race in Miami so I needed to knock out a good one in DC to have a chance to qualify when I did my third race at Boulder Peak a few weeks down the road.  I also relished in the idea of racing in DC, I had been once before and we did a quick driving tour of DC but didn’t really get to see the city.

All set and ready to go
The swim was in the Potomac it was a clean swim not battling with other athletes and it was easy to know exactly where you were in the swim with some of the largest buoys I have seen marking every 100 meters of the swim.  Though the seams were sharp as I skinned myself on one of them.  I exited about 1:30 back of the leader and not to far down from the main group.
The 5150 organizers don’t believe in flow through transition where everyone runs the same distance through transition getting their bike.  So because my name is Rakita I had to run farther than Bales to get to my bike or if your a race favorite you get special close treatment as well being towards the end of the rack.  Sometimes it is the little things that make a difference in whether you decide you will return to the race the next year or not.

Regardless I was still racing and grabbed my bike and took off on to the course.  This was the first race with my SRM Rotor 3D+ crank and I monitored it to make sure I didn’t go to hard out of the gate which I think I have done in the past and I pay for it later.  I locked into my power as we rounded the Washington Monument and headed down Constitution Ave with the Capitol directly in front of us.
Locked and loaded.
The light rain make the corners a bit dicey.

A quick U-turn and we then headed out coming with in a couple blocks of the White House and then headed through the George Washington University campus before crossing back and forth 4 times on out and back sections in front of the Lincoln Memorial and the Kennedy Center.  I locked in with a group of 4 other guys and we traded off leads for the two lap bike.  We did a good job of staying out of trouble as we saw a couple of guys get pulled over for drafting violations.  We lost a bit of time to the front group up the road but was hoping that I would have the same legs as I did in Richmond and be able to cruise up a few spots on the run.

Thinking this is going to be a long day.
Slowly making my way past Washington Monument

After a quick transition our group headed out and I was in trouble, my legs felt like lead weights and I couldn’t get my turnover going at all.  I was thankful for the overcast sky otherwise things could have gone down hill even quicker if the sun had really been beating down.  I tried to dial into a decent pace but it just wasn’t there.  Downhills didn’t help get things going, I was just stuck and one pace and it was slow.  I lost a few spots and ended in 18th.  Again much lower than what I was hoping for and it certainly wasn’t going to help my prospects of getting the needed points to qualify for Hy-Vee.
After I got home I sat down with my coach and we looked at things and decided that it wouldn’t be worth it to race the third qualifier at Boulder Peak and to just focus on Xterra Mountain Champs which were the weekend after Boulder.

After the race though Chris and I packed things up and then after a nice dinner we headed back down town with Megan as our chauffeur and got some great night pics of some of the monuments.
Capitol looming over the finishline.
Looking back across the National Mall at the Capitol.
Jefferson Memorial

Lincoln Lit Up

Vietnam Memorial
Korean Memorial
Washington Monument with the 50 flags around the base
World War II Memorial with the Lincoln Memorial in the back ground.
For more pictures go to my web album here: Washington DC