Race day finally greeted us on another gorgeous morning in Maui and I was thankful that it felt cool and was hoping that all the heat acclimatization had paid off. I started with my customary shower and breakfast before doing my final prep for the day to come.
|Not a bad view to wake up to.|
I dialed the suspension on my Epic 29er toward the firm side accounting for the 3000 feet of climbing and the smoother trail than courses like Waco, Alabama and Richmond required. With the slightly looser conditions I went with a knobbier Schwalbe Rocket Ron at 24psi on the front and the new Specialized Fast Trak on the rear at 28psi for faster rolling but still great traction. This was not a course for the super slick tires.
|Letting it hang loose before the melee.|
|I know I am in there somewhere.|
|Ah shade, something the other course did not provide.|
|Constantly jockeying for position with others|
|The lush green of the new course|
|Trying to grab everything on my way out of T2|
The run is brutal, the first 3 miles are 90% uphill and it gets steeper towards the top before you get a nice decent back toward the beach. The immediate uphill makes it very hard to establish a comfortable stride or rhythm out of transition and I set out to use this time to get in as much fluid as I could. I was hoping that the legs would be there on the run more than the bike. I felt decent and my legs were turning over but the one guy I saw ahead still disappeared as the trail started to wind through the trees.
I was glad that I added a bit more 2Toms BlisterShield in my shoes as the heat was really making me sweat and I could feel my feet sliding around in my shoes. I chipped away on the uphill but was inevitably caught by Mike Vine and Tim DeBoom at about the 2.5 mile mark. I was very relieved to reach the top of the climb around a small pond and knew that a decent descent was not long off. I was very happy to have my Inov-8 X-Talon 212 on for the extra grip in the loose dirt as I twisted through the trees and was jumping up over rocks and trees on the way down.
There is a nasty little hill just after mile 5 that really saps the legs but I powered through knowing that it was almost all downhill to the finish. I was able to release the legs a bit on the descent down to the beach just as Ryan Ignatz was catching me. Just after he passed, super fan and friend, Kathy Tank yelled as I was crossing the river bed that Ryan and Lance (Armstrong) were just ahead. All I could think was that Lance was 42 seconds ahead at Nationals and I wasnʼt going to let him get me this time. The last 300 meters are brutal; first is 100m on the beach where I caught sight of Lance before a short flat section, then the last 150 meters uphill to the finish. That is the hardest I have finished a race being in that exhausted state, closing slowly I managed to catch Lance just at the base of the hill, thought better of saying anything as I went by, and just focused on making sure I could open a gap and not let anyone else catch me.
I crossed the line in 20th overall, 18th Pro. Unfortunately it was not the race I was hoping for or expecting. I came in with two goals. The first, a top 10 finish, which was going to be quite a feat with the most impressive field of athletes ever at the World Champs. The second was that I wanted to beat Lance Armstrong. Though I did achieve my second goal, it was not like how I wanted to cross it off.
What I am excited about is that I can walk away knowing that I was closer to the winner at Worlds than I had been in all the previous years speaking to how competitive the race was. Huge congrats to Dan Hugo who shows what it means to never give up and put in the performance of the day. He pushed everyone to their absolute limit, it is scary to think how good this guy is.
Here is a link to a highlight video of XTERRA World Champs
I am now on some down time letting the mind, body and soul loose and relax and get away from sport for a bit. Hope that you will all do the same until next year.