20 June 2011

Racing Downtown

Heading back east is always an experience to race in, it is almost guaranteed to be humid and will likely be hot as well and I was hoping that my attempt to prepare of the heat would pay off.  When I stepped off the plane though I knew that nothing could prepare me if it stayed like it was, 100 degrees and humidity in the 90's.  The only saving grace was that according to the always accurate weathermen it was going to get cooler as race day approached, fingers crossed.  In the first couple days I spent most of it drenched in my own sweat even when I was standing still.  Craig of course got a great laugh out of this because every time he looked at me I was dripping in to my own puddle.  Thankfully Will Kelsay, Shelby Katz and I were able to get out of the heat and was very conveniently staying just off of the bike course thanks to Jon and Patti.  It was great to be able connect back with Jon after riding together in the Springs in March.  Patti destroyed her age group in the 21k on Saturday by 18 minutes, and Shelby was going to use it as a long run until she got stung by a few yellow jackets and just decided to do the 21k and not add on an additional 9k afterwards still finishing mid pack of her AG with a nice stop to change socks with Will.

2XU Compression Tri Singlet and Short
Chatting before the start (blue cap on left is me)
Thankfully nice cool temperatures greeted us on Sunday morning, it was great to be able to ride from the house down to transition for a good warm up.  The nice warm water was great for another non-wetsuit swim, and I got to break in my new  2XU Compression race kit as well.
The swim in Richmond is interesting, it is a bit short because for the constraints of the river but there are plenty of times where you can run and you regularly hit rocks as you swim along but the XTERRA crew did a great job of getting things cleaned up and managed to lengthen the swim as well so it was a bit more fair as well.  I thought I had read the river correctly with the current before the start but I realized quickly that I needed to start further upstream and really use the current to carry me towards the first buoy.  Dan read it perfectly starting further upstream and hit things perfectly to the first buoy and had a small gap on us.  I managed to be just off their feet as we hit Belle Isle for a nice 50m jaunt across before diving back in for the second leg of the swim.  With the warm water I struggled a bit to go hard but managed to pull things back as we neared the end of the swim.  Just before we exited though a kayaker decided that we didn't know where we were going and forced me off of my path to exit in a different location than originally intended.  I punched it a bit out of the water to make sure I was still into transition on Craig, Conrad and Dan's heels.
Craig and I headed up to the road chasing Dan and Conrad.  Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
 We road up on to the highway to get over to the single-track for a two loop bike and Conrad powered away from us, Dan did his best to chase and Craig and I sat in behind for the long bike.
Heading toward the road, Craig, Dan and Conrad are just ahead. Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
Into the forest I sat behind Craig knowing that he was better at the tight technical trails and I could gain by staying on his wheel.  I bobbled a bit not shifting to a lower gear before a hike a bike section and couldn't close the gap that opened when I struggled to push the large gear to get going.
Across the concrete bridge solidly in 4th, Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
The big issue that we then ran into was that there was a shorter sport race that started ahead of us and immediately we started catching the slower athletes on the bike.  It made the bike interesting for sure but it was frustrating because we were racing for a paycheck while they were out racing maybe their first tri and they were having to get off their bikes to allow us to pass.  By the end of the first lap for us we passed 85-90% of the field after starting thirty minutes behind them and swimming a longer course.  I felt bad for the sport course athletes because we did not intend to but ruined their race in some respects.
Getting a fresh bottle for the second lap.  Photo Courtesy of Will Kelsay
 We had about 2 miles or so of clear trails as we started the second lap before we then started to run into the tail end of the Championship race who were on their first lap while we were on our second.  The further we got into our second lap we were passing more and more racers who were more competitive and reluctant to let us by until they knew that we are the pro men coming through.  I was very happy to be running the Ergon GS1 grips as not to hook any trees or fellow racers through the course.
I came into transition a minute thirty down on Craig, but Dan and Conrad were out of reach being five and seven minutes up respectably.  I did the smart thing this week and grabbed my bag of ice from the cooler this time and hit the run.  I got Craig in my sights as we hit the bridge and then the flood wall and reeled him in just before the Mayan Staircase.
About to hit the staircase after catching Craig. Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
Reaching the top trying to open up the gap on Craig.
After getting over the top my legs started to struggle a bit, I managed a decent pace but it was definitely slowed compared to before climbing the stairs.  I didn't have any time checks to know how far the speedy Nico Lebrun was behind but hit the Dry Way and found a nice route through.  I debated but decided to get a time check from Shelby and at first things were fine and Nico wasn't visible.  Three seconds later she tells me he's thirty seconds back.  I keep it moving but he passes halfway through Belle Isle.  As we are in the last mile over the pedestrian bridge across the river I notice that the gap he opened is getting smaller and smaller and I am pulling him back in, I surge as much as I can in the closing mile, it just isn't quite enough.  I fall 8 seconds short and finish in 4th.  It was a little tough because I was 9 seconds off of the podium last year so to come up just short again, you really think about where you might have been able to find 8 seconds.  It is still a solid finish to a great year thus far.

Craig/Jessica (5th), Nico/Suzie (3rd), Shonny/Conrad (1st), Melanie/Dan (2nd), Chris/Me (4th), Photo XTERRA

11 June 2011

Moving on to Bama

A few short days after Santa Cruz I was off again this time to the pro’s favorite course but least favorable weather for me at least, Xterra Southeast Champs in Pelham, Alabama.  The course is fantastic with some incredible flowing singletrack, a fast road descent into a technical rocky descent to the infamous Blood Rock section then the loose rock decent into more tight singletrack.  The run had a major overhaul from the original thankfully taking out the ‘death hills’ and adding great rolling singletrack.  The only issue I have is always the hot, humid conditions that are ever present when we race in 'bama.
Another reason we love coming back is the southern hospitality we receive from the great athletic community that exists in the area.  Jerry Ryan has hosted as many as 14 of us at once, though I think we all determined that was a few to many.  Jerry is an incredible host, providing a great pre race BBQ, some great stories and what we have coined as Jerryisms.  You really feel like a family going to the race and we love coming back.
The weather was as expected and I tried to adjust as best as I could for the heat and humidity but it really is a process I need to start a month out.  The cooler than normal conditions in Colorado made it hard to get ready for as well.  Before the race on behalf of the pro field I gave Dave “Big Kahuna” Nichols, Xterra World Tour director, a digital thermometer to measure the water temp after the fiasco that was Waco’s wetsuit swim that shouldn’t have been.  Though we knew that it wouldn’t be this is for all the times in the future when the water might be a questionable temp.  The water was warm enough for no wetsuits so I was in my 2XU Super Elite Suit but cool enough so that we wouldn’t over heat.  Craig bolted off the front with the rest of us scrambling to jump on his feet since it was a true swim.  Jumping in for the second lap Craig had about 15sec and Seth was about 5sec in front, through the second lap Chris and I tried to work together a bit but couldn’t close it down much as we headed out on the bike.
Jumping in for the 2nd lap, Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
Conrad decided to throw some effort at the swim and was out on my feet so I jumped on his wheel as we hit the trails.  I was staying with him but in the process of passing Seth he got away and I was left trying to get by.  After a few miles Dan caught up and then we were finally able to get by Seth.  In the tight twist tree I elected for the Ergon GS1 grips and on the more technical section gapped Seth as we headed out to the main climb.  
Headed up on of the smaller climbs on the course, Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
About 3/4 of the way up Seth caught back up and I stuck to his wheel till we reached the top.  We worked together a little bit and hit the singletrack into Blood Rock I rode it cleanly and hit the next downhill, passed Seth after he had flatted.  I continued trying to stay steady as the temperature climbed and I worked on getting as many fluids in as possible which is hard on this course.  Towards the end Josiah caught up and we headed into transition together.
Heading in towards transition with Josiah hot being me and Kahuna looking on, Photo Courtesy of XTERRA
 I made a little mistake as we headed on the run, I had ice in a cooler but forgot to grab it and considered turning around after I had left transition to go back and get it.  Once we were out on the road I knew I should have grabbed it, I wasn’t going to run with Josiah and should have spend the time to get the ice to help keep me cool.  It was a sufferfest through the run and I just tried to get in as many fluids as possible to prevent further dehydration but it was too late.  I managed to just keep moving but it was not pretty, Nico passed me about 3 miles in and Cody went by at about 4 miles and I was just trying to hang on to the last money spot and managed to limp home in 7th.  Overall I did swim well and rode the best I ever had on the course but I need to prep for the heat better.  You can’t race your best every week so it was just one to learn more lessons from.
Cody, Craig, Josiah, Dan, Patrick, Nico and myself completely spend from the heat after the race, Photo Courtesy of XTERRA

10 June 2011

Lets get caught up shall we

Its been a busy month since ITU Cross World Champs in Spain, after a weekend at home it was back to the road for the next Xterra.  It was a return to northern California for Pacific Champs in Santa Cruz.  Leading into the race the weather was great, warm temps the course was dry and a bit loose, however a strong rain storm overnight change the course so it was a bit wet and slippery and chilled things down greatly.  It was a split transition so after setting up T2, we jumped on the bikes and rode over to T1 for a brisk warm up along the coastline.  Thankfully I brought my 2XU Cycle jacket to keep me toasty on the way over.
Pre-Ride to Transition, Photo Conrad Stoltz
The swim was as to be expected a chilly mid 50’s two lap affair through some decent chop to help break things up.  The chop made it hard to stay on the feet in front of you but I managed to find my usual spot behind Seth and Chris through the first lap.  During the run between laps I jumped to the front and pushed hard to see if I could gap things out a bit more and held strong till we rounded the final turn buoy and Seth jumped back in front.
Chris J, Seth W and myself in 2XU V:2 headed for 2nd lap, Dan H is just getting out of the water, Photo XTERRA
Seth and I headed out on the bike and charged along the first 5 mile section all along the road working together to try to keep the gap we had built out of the swim unaware of how close anyone was behind. 

Seth and I starting the first section of the bike, Photo XTERRA
Dan Hugo caught us just before hitting the dirt and that is when I felt my legs go.  I felt like I was riding a flat tire but it was not being able to put together great training for the last month with all the racing and traveling.  I tired to ride solid and consistent, after a few more miles Conrad powered up to me and I rode hard till we reached a point where he could pass.
Cranking over the top of the first climb, the Ergon GX2 Leichtbau Carbon grips perfect choice, PHOTO XTERRA
After finally peaking out over the top we reached one of two good sections of fun singletrack through the redwoods.  The dirt section consisted of three sections, sunny long bumpy, rocky undefined singletrack and road climbs to soft tacky sweet singletrack where it was almost dark from the redwoods over head to a slick, wet dirt road descent where there was no traction and you were just sliding though the corners.
Hitting the descent into the Redwoods staying stable with my Sidi Terra's, Photo Nils Nilsen
I lost one more place to Josiah along the second stepped road climb and lost a bit more time on the descent after sliding out and hitting the deck on the road back down to T2.
I started the run and immediately saw Craig and Trevor Glavin coming up the hill in to T2.  It gave me a bit of worry since Trevor had just rocked Ironman St. George the weekend before and was crushing it here.  Thankfully the legs responded and I was able to stay steady through the run.  Along the way is was inspiring to see Jamie Whitmore out racing again after her battle with cancer and then having twins.  Having her out helped boost me knowing that this is nothing compared to what she went through with cancer.
Headed along a short section of beach, Photo Nils Nilsen
There was a bit of fun on the few quick sections of trail, dropping down to a small beach section then along the cliff edge trail back up.  It was then a long flat run through farm fields back toward the finish.  I held Craig and Trevor off and finished with another solid 5th place.