02 April 2014

RR: XTERRA Costa Rica

Race Equipment, Setup & Nutrition
           Effetto Mariposa Sealant in Fast Trak 2.2 Tires, Front 22psi, Rear 26psi
           Rudy Project Windmax Helmet
Run - Colorado Running Company Inov-8 Trailroc 245
          2XU Run Visor
                 -Hot conditions picked up 3rd bottle of EFS at aid station

One way to kick off the season is with a nice destination race, it generally involves warmer weather, sun and sand and XTERRA Costa Rica certainly delivered on all fronts.  The race was held on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast at the beautiful Reserva Conchal, a resort area with a private wildlife preserve.
It was a beach start on Playa Conchal, before diving into the nice cool waters, which were an apparent jellyfish preserve.  I was quickly on to the feet of Leonardo Chacon and was comfortable in my position and effort.  At the first buoy, there was a small group of four in front and I thought I was at the tail end of the group but when I did a quick sight for the next buoy a seemingly massive gap opened up and I was left sprinting again to catch up.  Without the draft of the group is when the jellyfish became more and more apparent.  We are not talking about just a few here and there had to be thousands in the waters that morning.  You were lucky to take a stroke without hitting one, it was much more common to grab, brush or stick your hand straight into one.  If you have ever raced the Pacific Grove Triathlon with its Kelp Crawl, replace the kelp with jellyfish and that is what the swim was like, it will remain to be seen if XTERRA Costa Rica will have the Jellyfish Crawl swim each year.   At the end of the first lap there was a group of three up front then a gap the guy that had allowed the gap to open then took off then me.  I closed the gap down to him on the way to the first buoy and we swam together trying to close the gap to the front group.  On the way back into the beach, the jellyfish seemingly all gathered together and it was like swimming through a ball pit at a playground at times.
Rom Akerson, Me, Leonardo Chacon at the start.
I entered transition as Craig Evans and Leonardo Chacon were exiting and very snappily was chasing after.  The loose sand road made it difficult to put the gloves and shoes on while riding.  When we hit an open beach area and had to dismount and run across the soft sand I fastened the last shoe.  I struggled in the sand and tried to mount too early only to have to get back off and run a bit further.  Thankfully the temperatures were still cool and it was still pretty shaded early on the bike but I knew that it was vital to continuously get in my First Endurance EFS so I wouldn’t experience a melt down later on.  Once of the sand I was focused on trying to get glimpses of the guys ahead as we started the ride-able part of the first climb.  I knew Mauricio Mendez was not far head but the nature of the winding course made getting glimpses of people very hard.  I did spot him when we hit the first hike-a-bike.  Each hike would spike my heart rate and I would try to recover as quickly as possible on the short descents.  I rode cleanly through the one small technical step section and then elected to dismount for the entire very loose, narrow stepped path back down to the ocean for a quick ride on some hard packed sand before heading back on to a rolling dirt road section.  Josiah caught me and I tried to stay
Josiah and I pre-riding (Photo J. Andres Vargas - More XTERRA Costa Rica Photos)
Leo Chacon on one of the hike-a-bike sections (Photo J.Andres Vargas)
with him but just didn’t quite have it as he slowly got away.  He had helped pulled Rom Akerson up to me as well and we went back and forth before I started opening up a gap on him.  The race organizers allowed us to have a personal bottle at the aid station and it was perfect to help get a fresh cold bottle of First Endurance EFS as the course was much more exposed and the temperatures were much warmer than at the start.  On a fairly short lollipop section of the course is where I started to struggle especially with four hike-a-bike sections.  The first one was the worst it was at least 200 meters long and over a 60-degree slope at the top.  Rom caught me and we stayed together on the descent but on the next 3 hiking sections he opened up a wider and wider gap.  I was very thankful to get off of that loop and back to riding. Sebastian Neef caught me on the road and we worked together heading into the last soft dirt section of the course before transition.  We closed down the gap to Rom and caught him at the base of the last hike a bike.   I could not stay with them running the bikes and they opened up a small gap at T2.
XTERRA Costa Rica SRM power file - Note Hike-a-Bike sections, uphill with no power (green line)
I headed on the run with two bottles of ice in my hands, and a bag of ice in my shorts to help against the heat.  The bottles were excellent as I could grab a drink as the ice melted along with the remaining EFS Liquid Shot from the bike.  I charged the first hill on the run and the tricky footed descent to get to the reserve where we ran two loops on twisty path with howler monkeys and birds in the trees all around.  The first loop seemed to take forever and the second lap went by very quickly, unfortunately I was not closing down on anyone ahead on the long road and loose sandy section back into the finish.
Trying to stay cool with two bottles of ice on the run (Photo XTERRA - Kahuna)

I crossed the line in 7th definitely disappointed with my placing.  It was the strongest field of the three XTERRA World Tour races that weekend, but I felt like I lost a couple of places because of all the hike-a-bike sections on the course.  That is part of what off road triathlon is though; the course is just as much something you are battling as the other athletes.  Only a couple weeks of work before the US XTERRA Series begins, we are all in in Vegas.
Post race ice bath with 5th place podium and race day birthday boy Craig Evans, always good times with him at races. 

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