24 October 2012

USA Champs

The final tune up going into Worlds was almost 5 weeks ago unbelievably at XTERRA USA Champs in Ogden, UT.  With the two previous performances I was confident going in as I was progressing upward instead of having the opposite feeling last year going into the final month of the season.
The course is a lesson in energy management as there is 3000+ feet in elevation gain on the bike and less than 1500 feet of descent on the bike, very similar to Mountain Champs in Beaver Creek, and the run starts on a steep climb straight out of transition.  This course favored the climbing specialists and with all but Dan Hugo the rest of the top US series guys were there then add in Nico Lebrun, Sam Gardner, Chris Legh and Ben Allen and this was easily the deepest field to date.
The Mitch Crew at USA Champs, honored to be part of such an exceptional company!
My Parents, none of what I have done would have been possible without them. (Dad is multiple World Champ)
Last year Ben was not a threat as he was a great swimmer and runner but he could not ride well enough to be a factor, however that all changed last winter as everyone learned at the Asia Triple Crown XTERRA’s races this year.  The first goal was to swim much faster than last year and limit the gap he would get on the swim.  In a tactical move on my part I started way left of where the main group of pro’s were lined up, it was great because I had clear water immediately and didn’t have to fight for space.  I connected with the usual suspects at the first buoy and Ben was just a touch off the front.  We held him in check to about a 15-20 second gap through the whole swim and I had to push him out of the way in transition before grabbing my bike.

I left in pursuit and used the first couple of flat miles to get the legs in a good rhythm rather than try to blast out and catch Ben early.  Unlike Beaver Creek my legs were turning over and I felt smooth and fast as I headed up Wheeler Canyon.  At a few spots I could see Ben and he had gained a bit of time but was still right there.  About three quarters of the way up, Conrad came by and I was able to jump on his wheel and pace off of him.  I felt great sitting there, pushing just a bit more but was not in trouble of overdoing it.  Continuing up the trail after about a mile Josiah seemed to just magically appear in front of me he was going so fast and if Conrad had been another foot to his left he would have gone straight past us.
I sat behind them for a few more minutes, Josiah then made the move to the front right when I bobbled and hit my handlebar on a tree and it was just enough that I lost their wheels and was left behind.  Keeping the pace up and tried to keep them in sight but Josiah was a freight train on the move and it wasn’t long before they were out of sight.  I topped out at Green Pond and was a little over a minute down.  On the descent down Middle Fork I had to stop to pick up my EFS Liquid Shot but was riding strong and still was just a bit over a minute down at the second road crossing.  On the climb to Sardine Peak, I rode with Nico a bit before he glided away trying pace off of him as well.  As I neared the top of Sardine Peak my main competitor, David Henestrosa was slowly closing the gap to me and my only thought was hit the downhill first and build an advantage into transition and then to hold on for the run.  I manage to come into transition 90 seconds down from Nico and never heard David’s name behind called when I left transition so I thought there might be a chance.
SRM Power file from XTERRA USA Champs.
The first mile of the run is straight uphill, and is focused on keeping a quick cadence till I got to the flat and rolling trails in the woods to get the legs really rolling.  I felt great and was strong through the first half of the run a bit surprised to not hear anyone coming up on me but relishing in it as well that I was really going well.  I held strong and consistent and finished in fifth.

(L to R) Conrad, Ben, Josiah, Nico, Me XTERRA USA Champs Podium
It equaled my best performance at Nationals and I held fifth place in the US Series, only 4 points off of David and Craig Evans who tied for third.  It was a very tight close year and it feels great to be coming on strong at the end.  Bring on Worlds.
(L to R) Craig, Josiah, Conrad, David, Me - XTERRA US Series Podium

23 October 2012

T-5 to Worlds, XTERRA Canada Recap

In a what seems to be a blink of an eye the last two months have gone by in a bit of a flash.  World Champs are 5 days away and I have done two races since Mexico, I want to get caught up.

The first race was XTERRA Canada Champs over Labor Day weekend in Canmore, Alberta.  It is the entrance to the South Eastern Canadian Rockies, a favorite place of mine.  Last time I was in the region was 2001 after the ITU World Champs in Edmonton when I toured the Banff and Jasper Parks with my family and I was very happy to be back.  The race was held at the Nordic center which hosted the 1988 Winter Olympics and the trail system is spectacular.  Some good climbs but also great flowing single track and some fun technical trails that favor the savvy, but when it gets wet as it did with the overnight rain and snow really favors the local riders.

It was a chilly 3 lap swim in a small gravel pond, a little unexpectedly I lead through the entire swim and on to the bike.  At the end of the second lap it became more of a game of frogger as I was beginning to lap the slower swimmers and just tried to avoid them as I finished up the final lap.
Amazing views from the swim course
Leading after lap 1.
Leading the swim out in my 2XU V:2 suit
(Jordan Bryden Photo)

Before the race everyone was discussing how much clothing they might put on in transition to stay warm.  For me I don’t mind the cold as I know that I will warm up.  I made a decision early that I would be fine in just my tri suit as the sun was out and it was beginning to warm up.  
Knowing that Mike Vine would be charging behind and that this was his home course he had a big advantage and with the wet conditions things really fell in his favor.  I tried to power the uphills knowing that on the tight trails he would be quicker.  Through the first lap I made a number of mistakes not hitting the right lines and sliding around on the roots.  One mistake was costly as i slide on a root then caught traction and it send me flying into a tree, after gathering and getting back on the trail I took off again, after the race when I cleaned my bike I learned I cracked my frame when the rear of the bike hit the tree as I sliding around.
 Slowly as the lap progressed I got a bit better riding in the wet but knew I was not as smooth or fast as Mike was going.  I finished the first lap and headed out on the second and Mike was just 20 seconds back after I had a 2+ minute lead out of the water.  I tried to stay with him, knowing that if I could follow his line I could be much faster but he got away on a steeper uphill and my hope was to keep him close enough that I might be able to catch him on the run.  The second lap was vastly different from the first, it was incredible how much the trail had dried out and I was not sliding around nearly as much and felt much better and faster riding and it showed that after loosing over two min to Mike on the first lap I was less than 90 seconds down at the end of the bike.
SRM File from XTERRA Canada-Two lap bike with ride up from lake to the laps

My confidence in my run after Mexico had increased and I headed out fast thinking that Mike was catchable.  The legs were moving and I really felt like I was flying over the twisting terrain.  On a short out and back section I expected to see at least a glimpse of Mike in that area but it was not the case.  No sight or sound of him and it was a bit discouraging.  There was a longer out and back section at the start-finish of the loop but didn’t see him anywhere along there as well.  I had to keep pushing as a guy I formerly raced on the road was a fast runner and could be charging from behind.  The second lap was a bit tougher, I tripped throwing my rhythm off and took me bit to get the legs flowing again.  I held strong through the rest of the run and finished second for the second straight race.

13 August 2012

Viva Mexico (Part Deux)

After the awesome experience last year of heading south of the border to Tapalpa I knew I wanted to come back.  A small mountain town about one and a half hours outside of Guadalajara you escape the tourist trap cities of Cancun, Cabo, etc.  The cobbled streets and town square are a serene setting for the race and being a point to point it might be the only net downhill bike course on the XTERRA calendar.  The swim at Valle de Lago about 5k from Tapalpa is a private lake that hovers around the wetsuit legal limit.  Doing a bit of research going in learned that it had been a wet year and that the bike course was going to be muddier than last year and leading up to the race there were a couple storms on Thursday leading into the Saturday race.  A good portion of the  professional field all headed out for a group pre-ride of the course and we all got amply muddy by then end of it.
Before we hit the mud.
 Ending in town we did get to enjoy some spoils of some homemade ice cream for those that wanted to partake before riding home.  I treated 5 of us for $35 pesos, about $3 US and the size was about the same as a single scoop at a normal creamery in a waffle cone.

Ice Cream Fix!
The next day we traveled back in to town and after cruising a loop of the run course ate at Paulino’s and indulged in a couple of chard tamales.  Thankfully the rain stayed away though the skies threatened for most of it to deepen the puddles more.

Even with all the rain the water temperature stayed at 21 C and was a non-wetsuit swim for the pro field but wetsuit for the amateur field, welcome news to some and not so accommodating to other pros.  Due to a delay from the kids race that morning the elite wave and the 2nd wave were grouped together thus making for a bumpy beginning to the swim.  The buoyed age groupers in their wetsuits were able to swim a bit faster than  normal and with their spirited sprint off the line I had to push the beginning of the swim for a bit longer than I really wanted to get to clean water but after the age groupers died off a group of four of us were left chasing Irving Perez for the two loop swim.  Unlike Mountain champs a few weeks ago the body felt good, smooth fast stroke and was cutting through the water.  I set the pace for the group and lead through the two lap swim exiting about a minute fifteen down from Perez.

I hauled into transition and took off with Francisco “Paco” Serrano.  We had raced against each other when I was doing the ITU Olympic road triathlons but after switching to XTERRA it had been a number of years since I we had squared off.  Out of transition he jumped on the bike and his rear tire had leaked down and had to fill it with air.  There were two thoughts in my mind, this is a chance to get a lead and take advantage of it, the second was crap, having a partner out there on the course especially the second half of the course to work with would be great and we could push each other.  I certainly wasn’t going to wait around and pushed off to get as big a lead as I could.  I powered through the first couple miles of the course and caught Perez at the top of the first downhill and left him behind.  Once on the long climb I settle into a hard but comfortable rhythm and progressed along.  About half way up at the top of an extended steep section Paco caught back up and we traded leads back and forth on the way up pushing the pace.  Just before the last kick to the top my chain dropped on the front and he took off as I had to stop and replace it on the ring, when that happened he had the same thought I had when he had to air up his tire I learned later.  I charged back up to him at the peak of the climb and we started the decent together.  With all the rain it was a very tricky descent with all the mud, ruts and puddles that you couldn’t tell how deep they were.  Paco hit a very slick section and got thrown off balance and I took over the lead as he regained control of his bike and clipped back in.  I led for a while sliding through the corners
and trying to control the bike on an uncontrollable surface.  I made a mistake going through a puddle and slowed down, Paco took advantage and seized the lead.  I made a couple more mistakes not taking the right line through a few puddles but slowly caught back up to him by the base of the downhill.  We weaved through a few of the race crew that were on ATV and took off on the dirt road down to the town trading leads back and forth avoiding cattle, horses  and large muddy puddles but were inevitable covered in mud.  The last stream crossing a bit more than a mile from the end of the bike that was much deeper than when we pre-rode and I had to dismount but it helped get a little cleaner.  Once in town we had to deal with a stream of cars heading the opposite direction on narrow streets.  I was taking my feet from my shoes on the cobbled road and the shoe unclipped and fell to the ground as I tried to put my foot on top, a quick stop to grab the shoe allowed Paco to take the lead and I ran into transition seconds behind. (Check back for race video of the bike)
SRM powerfile from XTERRA Mexico, see the net downhill course!

We were off in a flash on the run charging though the entire population of the town that was there watching the race.  As we flew along trying to pick the fastest line, ending up on opposite sidewalks till a left hand turn took us uphill for the next 1.5km.  Paco slowly opened up a gap of about 30 seconds by the peak of the climb, but as we hit the downhill my legs started to really turn over and I slowly stated to decrease his lead.  Once the descent got more technical and steeper I used it to my advantage and really started to close down on him.  At 4k he went straight instead of left, with a quick breath  yelled at him, alerting him to his mistake and bombed down the steepest sidewalk you could run down regaining the lead.  This was an opportunity I couldn’t squabble and pushed as hard as I could back into the town square.  I knew the basics of going through the square from racing the year before but there are always small changes and there was a big one as I bounded down the steps as the run course went straight through the race expo, weaving around transition, jumping a rock inches from the crowd taking off for the second lap.  I knew I had opened up a decent gap as I started the hill but knew I had to at least crest the top with him to have a chance.  I had one change on a tight switch back section to see that he had closed the gap down but still held a ten-second advantage
over the top.  One the gradual down at the top of the climb the legs were not quite as open as the first lap but I continued to push.  At 8k I could hear footsteps behind and in a breath he was by me and I had nothing to respond, only hope was to keep it manageable enough to catch him on the steep section of the downhill.  At the top of the steep technical section my heal hit a sharp stone and that was it, I could not run normally and finished 23 seconds behind Paco.
I had not been in a back and forth race in a long time and we both fought extremely hard overcoming little issues throughout the race.  After spinning home and getting to put our feet up it was all about getting the bikes cleaned and packed before we headed back into town for the awards celebration.
This is definitely a race to put on the calendar to attend, the entire town is out watching you, it gets a bit crazy and less controlled than at the races in the US but it is all part of the fun.  Did I mention it is probably the only net downhill XTERRA on the whole circuit?
More Photos from Mexico can be seen in my Picasa Web Album Mexico 2012

Nitty Gritty Details:
Clothing: 2XU Elite Trisuit

Swim: 2XU Comp goggles and 2Toms SportsShield.

Bike: Pro Cycling Specialized S-Works Epic 29, 2.1" Ground Control @ 24.5 psi on the front and 2.0" Fastrak at 29psi on the rear, Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant 80ml in each wheel, SRM Rotor 3D+ crank 40-27 Q-Rings, Sidi Terra, Ergon HX2 glove and GS1 GripRudy Project Windmax helmet and Rudy Project Noyz Racing with ImpactX Red Photochromic lenz.
Bike Nutrition: 2-20oz bottles of First Endurance EFS Lemon Lime and 1 gel.

Run: Colorado Running Company Inov-8 F-lite 195 with 2Toms BlisterShield and Rudy Project Ryzer w/ImpactX Red Photochromic lenz

23 July 2012

Flat in the Mountains

The courses are very different for the remainder of the year, much less of the twists and turns through the tight trees in Alabama and Richmond and on to thousands of feet of climbing in the thin air of Colorado and Utah.  Mountain Champs in Beaver Creek is the first test before ramping things up for USA Champs and Worlds in Maui to close the season out.

I have had great results at Mountain Champs through the years and headed in with a plan to go at least one step higher this year.  The swim was two loops in Nottingham Lake in Avon, I started strong to get out of the riff-raff then settled in to a good pace not wanting to push to hard since we were swimming at an elevation of 7500 feet.  Once I settled in I was not going as hard as I wanted but couldn’t push any harder and an odd thing as well is I felt that I couldn’t breath.  I stayed on the feet of Craig and Conrad through the first lap and felt a bit better toward the end and tried to take the lead only to have Craig surge back in front.  I had nothing to respond and slid back into his draft for the second lap and exited just behind.

Chasing the sea level guy out of the water, hmmm means one thing, Craig is on fire! (XTERRA)
Pacing Henestrosa up to the road. (XTERRA)
Through the trees sucking wind (XTERRA)
Descent to Finish (STG)
I jumped on Conrad’s wheel as he went by and noticed it was not nearly as hard as normal to sit there as normal and was thinking that the legs were feeling good.  Once we started the long slog up hill, that is when I noticed, that Conrad was taking the first section of the climb easier and was gradually increasing his effort up the climb.  I settled into my own rhythm still having a problem breathing and just tired to minimize my losses.  Normally a long distance road guy, Ben Hoffman, slowly crept up on to my wheel and we rode together for a bit before he also spun away from me and Josiah followed not long after.  I just tried to keep the two in sight as we continued to gain elevation as David Henestrosa was the next to be on my wheel.  He stayed behind until we reached the road section and then burst ahead and I didn’t have the legs to follow him and was then sitting in 5th.  Just as I neared the top of the climb Cody caught me but was able to put a gap on him on the descent into the Arrowhead switch backs.  On the traverse back across the mountain his legs were stronger and stormed back by and there was little I could do to stay with him.  I got a side stitch as well which is something I have not dealt with in a long time that hampered my ability to be in a good position on the bike.  It slowly went away as I used the downhills as much to my advantage as I could and was able to close to within 10-15sec of Cody as we headed out on the run.
SRM Powerfile from XTERRA Mountain Champs

Headed to the steep section (STG)
The legs felt good starting out and was able to get the legs to turn over starting the climb and I felt like I might be able to make it a battle on the run with Cody.  Through a tight switchback section on the run he seemed to disappear and my focus was then on holding my position.  I struggled up the steeper section of the run but was able to get the legs to turn over whenever there it was a more gradual grade.  On the road decent to the half way point I just couldn’t open up as the side stitch returned and Ryan Ignatz flew by.  I pushed on but it was a loosing battle as the fleet footed Brian Smith cruised by as well.  I continued to struggle up the hills and then was able to open things up on the downhills as I crossed the line in eighth.  It was a barely an improvement upon my 9th at the ITU Cross Worlds/XTERRA Southeast race two months ago but a few points are better than none.
In to the Finish (STG)

With two and a half months till USA Champs there is a lot to be worked out and get the things that aren’t clicking worked out so I can be firing on all cylinders.   I am in a tight battle in the points series with Craig, David and Will for the 3rd - 6th spots.  I have made some adjustments to my schedule for the remainder of the year and this will be an all XTERRA year as I will not be doing any of the road triathlons as originally planned.  I will be back racing in about 3 weeks for XTERRA Mexico and hope I will be able to perform at the level I am fully capable of that will be followed up with XTERRA Canada.

Thanks to Stumbling Toward Greatness (STG) and XTERRA for the photos
Nitty Gritty Details:
Clothing: 2XU Compression Tri Singlet, 2XU Compression Tri Short

Swim: 2XU Velocity V:2 Westsuit  2XU Comp goggles and 2Toms SportsShield.

Bike: Pro Cycling Specialized S-Works Epic 29, 2.0" Fastrak @ 24.5 psi on the front and 1.95" Renegade at 29psi on the rear, Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant 80ml in each wheel, SRM Rotor 3D+ crank 40-27 Q-Rings, Sidi Terra, Ergon HX2 glove and GS1 GripRudy Project Windmax helmet and Rudy Project Noyz Fluo Pink w/Lazer Blue Lens.
Bike Nutrition: 2-20oz bottles of First Endurance EFS Grape and 2 gels.

Run: Colorado Running Company Inov-8 X-Talon 212 with 2Toms BlisterShield and Rudy Project Noyz Fluo Pink w/Lazer Blue Lens

10 July 2012

Quick and dirty XTERRA East

Well XTERRA East Champs were a few weeks ago and here is a quick and dirty recap of the race.  Thankfully we did not have the complete cluster of riding through 90% of the field like last year, XTERRA finally listened, or rather learned by their mistake of not listening to us last year.
Setting up transition and getting pumped.  (Jesse Peters/Backlight Photography)
It was an earlier start time but I will take that any day when the heat is on!  The swim was the best it could be for swimming in a mid town river, it was the clearest I have ever seen, which could be good or bad depending on your point of view.  It was easy to see all the rocks and trees and random trash in the water, the water level was perfect so we weren't scraping over rocks.  As has been custom, Conrad and I swam together and trailed Craig by about 45 seconds.
Exiting the water at Belle Isle with Conrad for the mid swim jog. (Jesse Peters/Backlight Photography)
I hammer the long run to transition threw on the GPS tracker (hopefully you watched the race unfold live and enjoyed it) and put a small gap the big man which was very necessary since I bobbled getting my shoes on but managed to jump in his draft on the road section that lead into the singletrack.  It is a sight to see trying to follow Conrad on the trails, some innovative lines that just make you think and wonder if there is anything he hadn't tried.  I held as best I could but the power he put down would blow me to smithereens half way through the first lap if I tried to follow him and just tried to use him as best I could to get up to Craig.  I did get Craig in sight but after having a problem getting in my pedal after a dismount run up section I lost the chance as he took off with Conrad.

Stepped run up, after a quick culvert ride.  (Jesse Peters/Backlight Photography)
I tried to stay smooth through the Forest Hill section of the course but I was not comfortable riding through the corners and felt like I was constantly stopping and going.  Then on a small drop I had ridden well in pre ride I hit a faster than planned and the front tire turned out from under me and down I went down with the saddle catching the loose bits in the process.  I got back up but I had to ride easy for the next few minutes from the intense pain in my crotch.  Josiah was flying and passed me while I was soft pedaling and gave him room so that he could easily pass on the trail.  Slowly the pain subsided and I managed to pick up the pace just enough to go through what I would call the Mardi Gras section of the trail.  An intense cheering section had set up on a short rock climb that was a huge boost and helped to bring a smile over the pain of all that had happened and I just wanted to get back to this section of the course as fast as possible.

Some idea of what was going on, hill billy-redneck-mardi gras!  It rocked! (Jesse Peters/Backlight Photography)

I pressed on trying to keep Josiah in sight as much as possible but he slowly disappeared.  I hit the aid station and noticed I had lost my bottle in the crash and was thankful for Chris to be there with my second bottle as with the temperature climbing it would have been a very long day without my EFS.  I hit the last section of the first lap and Josiah was off the trail with a mechanical.  The only thing I could think was sorry but you have to take advantage of every opportunity presented and I charged ahead since he was just fixing things and not injured.

Opposite of the run up, the rock garden decent into the stream and back through the culvert. (Jesse Peters/Backlight Photo)
I was getting a little more comfortable on the second lap but my riding was still suffering after the crash.  Was smoother through the small drop and didn't crash this lap as I slowly heard someone coming back up on me.  I assumed it was Josiah and thought it was after he passed only to realize that it was actually Will Kelsay that was tearing it up on the bike.  I sucked on to his wheel, Josiah caught up a bit after and we three rode together from the Nickel Bridge to the aid station.  On the North Side trail I pushed too hard in a corner and washed the front tire out scraping up my forearm and sending a bit of a rattle through my confidence again.  Picking myself up once again I knew that with a good run I could battle my way back into it and pushed it in to transition.

SRM Powerfile from the XTERRA East Championship
I was about 45 seconds down from Josiah and Will heading out on the run and put my head down and found my stride.  Slowly I chipped away at the gap to Will through the first couple miles leading into the Mayan Ruins and got to within 10-15 seconds of him at the steps.  As we headed down the long gravel road to the turn around I started to get the familiar overheating feeling and was looking for shade and water where ever I could find it.  Through the exposed dry river bed and on Belle Isle Will slowly slipped away and I crossed the line in 5th.

XTERRA East Champs Podium (Jesse Peters/Backlight Photography)
Next up XTERRA Mountain Champs in Beaver Creek, many changes to the style of racing through the rest of the year.

Photos Courtesy of Jesse Peters XTERRA East 2012 Photos

Nitty Gritty Details:
Clothing: 2XU Compression Tri Singlet, 2XU Compression Tri Short

Swim: 2XU Comp goggles and 2Toms SportsShield.

Bike: Pro Cycling Specialized S-Works Epic 29, 2.2” Fastrak @ 25psi on the front and 2.0” at 29psi on the rear, Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant 80ml in each wheel, SRM Rotor 3D+ crank 40-27 Q- Rings, Sidi Terra, Ergon HX2 glove and GS1 GripRudy Project Windmax helmet w/large visor and Rudy Project Noyz w/ImpactX Photochromic clear lens.
Bike Nutrition: 2-20oz bottles of First Endurance EFS Orange and 2 gels.

Run: Colorado Running Company Inov-8 X-Talon 212 with 2Toms BlisterShield and Rudy Project Noyz w/ImpactX Photochromic clear lens

31 May 2012

ITU Cross Tri Worlds/XTERRA SE Champs

It had been a month since Vegas but the days flew by and before I knew it I was on my way back to Alabama for what is more commonly know as the XTERRA Southeast Championship but this year had and extra designation as the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship.  Instead of just racing for XTERRA points in the US Tour we would be racing as part of our country team.  I earned an automatic spot being the third US finisher at XTERRA USA Champs last year.  The majority of the normal XTERRA cast was there as well but there were extra additions from other countries.  The ITU designation also changes the way the race is organized and the course for the professionals.  Normally pro’s and age groupers all start in a big bunch and we all race the same course, but we were racing ITU style so the amateur men and women had separate start times in the morning and finished racing then the pro women would start and the pro men would follow their finish.  The course was also designed to be a spectator friendly affair with multiple loops over all three disciplines and Oak Mountain State Park is a near perfect venue for this race.

I started off on somewhat of a wrong foot by forgetting to pack my pedals in with my stuff.  After a few texts and calls I located a pair I could borrow for the first couple days pre-riding from Conrad since we use the same one, the Look Quartz.  A fellow US Elite team member Kim Baugh went and picked my pedals up at my house and brought them with her since she was traveling down a day later.  This is really what sets XTERRA apart from any other triathlon, we are a family and every athlete is always ready to help each other.

It took a bit of convincing but my mom and dad came down to the race as well, dad was racing of course and mom was the ever present support and spectator.  My dad had a fantastic race won in a sprint finish by two-seconds and now has an ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship to accompany the XTERRA World Championship he won in 2010.  It was then on me to represent the family that afternoon in my race.

In for the 2nd Lap (Kevin Cox/Getty Images/ITU)
All I knew going in was that it would be very warm and everything I did took that into account in trying to stay cool before the start of the race.  I used an ice vest to help keep the core temperature down before we lined up and dove in to Double Oak Lake for the two lap swim.  I started strong knowing that there were some very fast swimmers in the field and it would really help if I could latch on to their feet and get pulled through the swim.  They were a bit to quick and I was just off the back of them and exited the water in 7th, about a minute down from the leader and 20 seconds off of the main lead pack.
Hanging tough w/Stoltz (Justin Poland Pic)

After a frantic transition I was off on the bike with Conrad on my heels and he jumped ahead just before the dirt, perfect position to follow him and hopefully get pulled along.  I got into a groove which is critical on the tight and windy course through the trees, which also make it a course where you don't want bar ends and so the Ergon GS1 grips were on the bike in place of the GS2.  I managed to stay with Conrad for a bit but his power was too much to try to hold on to and I fell back a bit and settled into my pace.  With the tight course the main concern was passing since there were very few spots where it was available and safe to do.  I got through three people on the wider sections of the course and was unscathed so far.  I came up on a Mexican athlete that was having mechanical problems but he would not move from the trail, and I had to go off the trail to pass him.  Note to other racers if you are having an issue don’t impede or interfere with the others in the race.  Once I was clear I was able to set my own rhythm and tempo focused on catching the last guy I knew I could, Richard Stannard as I would need an unfortunate incident to happen to Craig or Conrad if I were to see them again in the race.
Pounding out the road section with Stannard (Kevin Cox/Getty Images/ITU)
Trying to put the hurt on. (XTERRA Photo)
More and more corners (Justin Poland Pic)
I picked up a new bottle of First Endurance EFS at the end of the lap and charged off and by the end of the second lap caught Stannard and charged head grabbing a last bottle of EFS as we hit the last lap.  We traded pulls on the road but I knew I would want to be head going on the single track and lead through the first section.  Stannard pulled a cheeky little move jumping ahead going across the dam and I was forced to follow as passing was very difficult, but thankful that it helped by pulling me through a slightly more aerobic section of the course.  When we hit the “peak” of the course and bike handling became more important than aerobic ability I attempted a couple passes then finally called out a spot and got by.  The fatigue was starting to set in from the twists and turn and having to stay focused and I made a bobble or two but started to gap Stannard.  Nearing the end of the course I really pushed on a section where you could choose to stay high on a bridge or go low.  I had chosen low each time and did so again but ended up further left on the trail than normal and a sapling appeared out of no where and I was tossed to the ground.  No time to lose jumped back up and on the bike only to have to get back off, put the chain on, while Stannard re-passed me and then hauled off after him.  We entered transition together, and in a mad rush collided with Chris Legh, who appeared out of no where behind us and headed off on the run.
Looks like I am running at least (Justin Poland Pic)

Immediately I felt the crash as my hip was a bit sore and tried to sort things out.  Legh and Stannard easily cruised away as I struggled to get the legs going.  Through the first lap of the run the legs struggled as it seemed the field was slowly catching up and I couldn’t do much to stay with anyone that went by.  I slipped back to eighth by the end of the first lap and it was hard to mentally to keep progressing at that point.  I played mental games through the second lap to move quicker but the legs just would not turnover going up hill, but I was able to open things up a bit on the downhills.  I soldiered across the line in 9th, immediately wanting more.

I took a moment to get out of my funk of not performing how I am capable and found the guy that I knew would put a smile on my face because of his performance.  Craig Evans had an inspirational race taking 2nd to Conrad (taking his 6th off-road World Title).  He did what very few could do staying with Conrad for the majority of the bike turning himself inside out to stick on his wheel.  Then having an amazing run closing the gap down on the first lap of the run.  His celebration across the line I could hear from the other side of the lake and that is something that put a bit of a spring in my step for the rest of the race.  His performance here and Dan Hugo’s performance at the XTERRA World Champs last year are races I wish I could have watched more than been in for the gutsy performances for laying it all down and making the races that they were.  It is back to work for me to try to get it all sorted and work on having a performance I might be proud of like their performances.

Nitty Gritty Details:
Clothing: USA Triathlon ITU Competition Uniform

Swim: 2XU Comp goggles and 2Toms SportsShield.

Bike: Pro Cycling Specialized Epic Expert Carbon 29er w/Fastraks, 2.2” @ 20psi on the front and 2.0” at 24psi on the rear, Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex sealant 80ml in each wheel, Sidi Terra, Ergon HX2 glove and GS1 GripRudy Project Windmax helmet w/large visor and Rudy Project Noyz w/ImpactX Photochromic clear lens.
Bike Nutrition: 3-20oz bottles of First Endurance EFS Orange and 2 gels.

Run: Colorado Running Company Inov-8 X-Talon 212 with 2Toms BlisterShield and Rudy Project Noyz w/ImpactX Photochromic clear lens