22 October 2011

Ramblings heading into XTERRA Worlds

It isn't often the desire to actually sit a write a bit happens but on the eve of the biggest race of the year funny things happen when your trying to stay off your feet.  In the month from Nationals to Worlds a lot can happen, the hope is that it is all good  After a good performance last year minus one little issue on the run a lot of the prep was duplicated for this year and then fine tuned.  Prepping for the heat has always been a fun task and things were done in a similar method; dressing in as many layers as was reasonable to build and hold heat in without getting too drenched that on the decent everything would freeze.  Brick workouts in conjunction with the Fall Series Cross Country races are a fun and fast way to get in a great workout.  The fun part is that when everybody else is dressed in shorts and a singlet or no top for the nice 70 degree day, I look like the ice age is at hand with 2XU compression tights, long sleeve, shorts and singlet and toque on.

Monument Valley Race, flat fast and 3/4 of a mile run upstream just for a bit of a change.

Bear Creek Race: Rolling hills with a rope assisted vertical climb at the end, leading the kids race.

The runs were preceded by a couple hours on the mountain bike in thermal bib tights and base layers under cycling jackets and skull caps just to simulate things as best as possible.  There were plenty of strange looks but none of it mattered, that's the prep that needed to be done.  I added a few sauna sessions as well, 20-30min each day in a temp ranging from 200-230 degrees, for the week leading up.

In the few days that I have been able to be out on Maui I have gotten to get out on both the bike and run courses which we were not able to do in the past when the race was down in Makena.  Coming in no one was that excited from what we saw from the videos and pictures but after getting out there the new course is a great improvement over the old.  The swim has the potential to be very challenging depending on the surf, with possible 3 foot swells in the morning which will definitely change things up.  The mountain bike is still very physically challenging with 3k feet of climbing and though it is not necessarily technical compared to Whistler, Alabama or Richmond you do need to have some mountain bike skills.  The first and last 2+ miles of the course are on some great twisty single track and depending on conditions it could really change things on how packed or loose the corners get.  The run will be brutal, straight out of transition we head uphill, there are a few small breaks where you can get your stride back but until you hit 3.5miles you will be suffering.  The downhill is a perfect grade so you can really fly, ducking, diving and hurdling logs and trees.  It twists and turn up and down the hillside but it is shaded for much of the course and I am grateful for that.  There is still the classic beach run for about 200 meters but it is much shorter than the old course before a punishing last kicker of a climb to the finish in the last 300 meters.
It is now a waiting game 17hrs out from the race, getting the last bits dialed in and set up.  A huge thank you to 2XU, Pro Cycling, SRM, Rotor USA, Sidi, Ergon, Effetto Mariposa, Colorado Running Company, 2Toms, Inov-8 and First Endurance for all the support this year you guys are the best out there and I couldn't have gotten here with out your help.  I believe in their product and support they provide 100% and thank you for believing in me.  Thank you to all my friends that have supported me through the years, your faith, belief and encouragement and understanding when I couldn't join you for that night out helped me get to this point.  Last but definitely not least thank you to my family, you have been my best supporters from the beginning always believing in me and supporting me through it all, I couldn't have taken one step along this path with out you.  Best of luck to all the racers tomorrow time to lay it all down.

21 October 2011

The Lance Factor

There are always many story lines going in to USA Champs each year and this year was no different,.  For the guys would Conrad dominate like last year, was Nico peaking perfectly, was Dan going to take the top step, would Josiah bring the US title home.  For the ladies, would anybody be able to challenge Melanie, would Shonny’s will and faith overcome her injury, would Leslie speed back?  Though all the headlines and stories are more than justified at being the headline going in, there is one that topped all; Lance Armstrong was going to race XTERRA USA Champs.  That news changed the race, the feel, the tactics, the scope and the amount of interest.  It was impossible to ignore as much as much as someone might try to and focus on what they needed to but when Lance attends things change.
My main focus was singular, I wanted to move up in the over US Series, I had only one option in which to do that, I needed to beat Nico and have at least one person in between us.  Now not impossible it was a very tough task indeed.  I have only taken Nico down once at the West Champs in Vegas, otherwise he ran me down in Waco, Alabama, and Richmond, and caught me on the bike in Beaver Creek but I was getting closer and closer to him.  The course played into his favor with a lot of climbing, minimal descending and minimal technical.
As expected it was a wetsuit swim, and with no wind the only chop we would be dealing with would be from the boats towing the photojournalists around.  The swim was interesting in that it the field really split in two there was a group massed to the left and the there was group massed 50 yards to the right, then a bit further right was Ben Allen.  When the gun went Ben was gone and the two groups merged a the first buoy and I aligned myself on Seth’s feet and on Lance’s side through the first lap.  After turning at he first buoy on the second lap through, Seth lost sight of the next buoy and Lance was leading and was veering way right.  I elected to take a chance and take the straighter line and see if I could end up in front.  When we hit the final turn buoy, I had managed to gain a body length and was pulling the pack back home.  As we headed for home there was a kayak in the direct line and knowing I didn’t want to veer left or right just yelled as I sighted for him to move and drag the amateur racer that was holding on to the kayak with him.  Thankfully he did, as we got closer we were mixing in with the slower age group swimmers finishing their first lap and I tried to use them to knock the guys behind me off my feet by noticing the ones the were drifting one direction or another and just  making my way past.  Unfortunately Seth went left and took the group with him and avoid the chaos and we exited the water in a group.
The sprint for the bikes.
I knew that time would be precious and shot quickly straight through T1 and was off on the bike only to bumble getting into my shoes on the bike.  I settled into my pace and Dan went flying by.  I was a judgement call I had to make early but I knew what lie ahead, and chasing Dan was not the best plan.  Within a mile of starting the ascent of Wheeler Canyon, Ben was now and after thought and complete focus was on trying to keep myself in second.  It was short lived as I heard wheels roll up from behind, Lance had caught up and was sitting on my wheel.  It remained that way for about a half mile before he passed, then noticed that Conrad was sitting on his wheel.  That was a first and all I could think was where was the photographer and camera man to have proof that they sat on my wheel for a while.  I managed to stick with them for about a mile before deciding that it was best to let them go and stick to my pace.  As we continued on to some true single track I focused on my goal of staying ahead of Nico.
After Josiah passed I knew that Nico was likely not far behind and sure enough just before hitting the middle descent he did just that.  I stuck with him but after we hit the start of the second climb he got away and I knew the only way I was going to catch him was a flat or a major blow up.  It was very different climbing up to Snowbasin, normally there are a few people at the road crossings and and at connecting trails that are close to parking lots, this year the number of people tripled out on the course.  There was one reason, everyone wanted a picture of Lance, in the middle of the race I was very tempted to say to people that they could cheer for people other than Lance when they remained silent as we rode by.  Conrad echoed this at the finish saying it was very weird not getting cheered for everything was for Lance.
As I continued up the climb getting time splits I figured that I was pacing myself as best as possible and the others had gone to hard in the beginning as the gaps were slower to open and I was managing well as we hit T2.
In the end I crossed the line 42 seconds behind finishing in 6th, after starting the run 2min 30 seconds down.  I was closer than any second place finisher in the Tour de France had ever been.  As for my primary goal, well it was unobtainable today, Nico won so there was no chance to jump over him in the series but I had my best season to date finishing in 4th in the series.  Now there is just one race remaining, Xterra World Championships in Kapalua, Maui, T-2 days to go. 

14 October 2011

Racing or Fun Eh?

I am a bit behind so here is a quick update on XTERRA Canada, expect another one very soon for XTERRA USA Champs

One of the most anticipated races of the year is XTERRA Canada, as a racer it is very hard to beat the riding in Whistler, BC.  It is definitely some of the most challenging riding around as well as some of the most fun.  It is very hard to label any one place as having the best riding in the world because as each location; Moab, Fruita, Whistler, Crested Butte, Pelham, each offer their own unique challenges.  This is why XTERRA is an awesome sport because each venue is entirely different, and the number of variables that can change from race to race is much greater than what a traditional road triathlon offers.  The thing that really sets Whistler and BC riding apart is their dedication to developing one of the most amazing trail systems in the world, easily the best I have ever been on.  When a community can come together and work with the local government on a specific task anything is possible and Whistler is a shining example.
The weekend started with a quick flight to Seattle and through the graciousness of my former roommate Haven, loaned me his car to use for the weekend since things popped up and wasn’t able to make the trip with me.  Once I arrived I put the bike together and headed out to pre ride the course with Will, Josiah and Cody.  The course was almost 100% brand new this year and was going to offer a whole new set of challenges, all I was hoping was that it would be as good as last year and it far exceeded.  Cal and the XTERRA Canada crew had local Trevor Hopkins put together a course that is a clear favorite for the most technical and most physically demanding XTERRA course worldwide.

Out of the chill and on to fun.
The chilly early morning made using the 2XU V:2 wetsuit necessary to stay warm, I started out quick and settled in knowing it was likely to be a bit of a longer day than normal with a technical bike and challenging run to come.  I pulled Conrad though the first 3/4 of the swim before managing a small gap over the last few hundred meters.  Exiting the water about 1 minute down from super swimmer Ben Allen with Seth close on his heels.
Down one of the many bridges in River Runs Through It
It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning getting into my Sidi Terra’s and Ergon HX1 gloves due to the switchbacks on the hill immediately out of transition but once I got things set, I gripped down on the Ergon GX2 and charged along to close the gap to the leaders.
Umm?  Focused but duhh...
Within the first hill I had one of the lead 3 in my sights and caught him at the top of the climb.  I was expecting Conrad to come charging by but increasingly more time had past and never heard his wheels rolling up on me.  I hit the first downhill and struggled, I had been nailing the pre-rides but was just off my game.  I was pushing to much and not riding smooth, and on this course smooth was fast, trying to push and go fast was not.  I eventually caught Ben on a short rocky section and then Seth a short time later when he had to stop to put air in his wheel.  A short time later I heard wheels come up behind, Josiah was flying and I did my best to try to get on his wheel and try to get the flow of the course and ride smooth.  He slowly got away as we finished the first lap of the bike.  Charging up the hill on the second lap Mike Vine caught me, I did my best to try to stay with him but he was to strong.  I did manage to relax a bit on the second lap and started to ride smoother through the first section but was still fighting things a bit.  The other athletes that we started to lap were very gracious in letting us go by but the fatigue of the course was getting to me and I was making small mistakes again as I finished up the bike.
Flying though the beauty of BC riding
Actually looks like I was running.
Once on the run I had only one goal and that was to hold my position, I hoped I had put enough of a gap on Seth to hold him off.  I knew the run would be challenging knowing that we were running the bike course from the previous year but it was one of those courses that just never seemed to stop.  The climbing was relentless and the technicality of the running was beyond what I had imagined.  The course got harder and harder because as I got more tired I couldn’t take the quick steps and bounce and balance around on the rocks.  I managed to hold my own for what I think was about 5k but Seth was much quicker today and I had to concede to him.  I semi stumbled home in fourth.

Podium: Me 4th, Seth 3rd, Josiah 1st, Mike 2nd, Kelly 5th.
I did manage to put together a decent race considering I had gotten sick the week before but I don’t think that really affected things.  Looking at the good and bad, I did feel much better in the water than I had in a while but I did lose a good chunk of time to the leaders.  I rode pretty strongly but I think I  over did the pre-riding and was a bit flat on race day and well technically I just sucked which was especially frustrating when I had nailed things on the pre-ride.  On the run I was solid for the first half then things started to come undone.  I don’t think I had gotten the necessary nutrition in on the bike which was hard to do and with the longer race I started to pay for it in the end.  Lessons were learned that will be applied for the next race, XTERRA USA Championships.