19 April 2014

XTERRA West Championship

Race Equipment, Setup & Nutrition
Bike - Pro Cycling SW Epic, Rotor 3D+ SRM w/38-27 Q-Rings
           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

After a sub par performance at XTERRA Costa Rica, I was looking to turn thing around at XTERRA West Champs at Lake Las Vegas.  My confidence in my ability to race well has been pretty low since I hadn't been translating the all of the great training I had been doing after buckling down and really nailing ten solid weeks of training in Tucson over the winter.  West Champs was just as much proving to myself that I could put together a very solid race and make myself really dig deep and suffer as it was to place well in the first race of the XTERRA US Tour.  On top of that the race was also the qualifier for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship in Germany in August and there were a number of guys gunning to get a spot on the team.
The lack of any real technical aspect to the bike course, there isn't a real need to ride it to much and I chose to keep the trip as short as possible flying in Saturday, after a quick lap of the two lap bike just got confirmation that it was a bit loose, but enough people had ridden it that a "trail" had formed and you just followed along.  One of the crazier bits about this race is the water, XTERRA reported the water temp on Wednesday at 8am (race time) at 54 degrees, I jumped in Saturday afternoon and it was easily right around 70 degrees with warmer and colder pockets around the course.  It seemed highly possible that it would be a non-wetsuit swim however race morning arrived and as is typical for the lake the water cooled down and was right around 60 degrees when the gun sounded.
It was a cramped start and I was bottled in to the pack from the beginning as Craig, Dan and Mauricio got away and opened up a 25 second gap through the first lap as managed to reach the head of the chase pack as we started lap two.
Beach run between the two lap swim, 2XU X:3 wetsuit was phenomenal.
Leading the chase pack straight and fast, I closed the gap down to 10 seconds to the trio ahead as we entered T1.  My 2XU X:3 wetsuit slid straight off and I was on the bike in the mix with Dan and Craig. 
Unfortunately I didn't get into my shoes cleanly and lost their wheel as we headed toward the dirt.  On the first climb everything was clicking well, the legs were spinning and I passed Craig as Dan and Mauricio kept a steady distance ahead.  On the next climb Brad Weiss was flying up the hills and I knew I needed to keep in close contact as I would have better power on the flats.  Through the remainder of the first lap Brad, Craig and I stretched and closed like and accordion depending on if we were climbing or on the flats.  Mauricio was always just in the distance but we were closing the gap down after he lost contact with Dan who was flying away from all of us.  As we began the second lap Brad took off and shortly there after Josiah flew by without any notice and there was no chance of catching his wheel.  I soldiered on keeping Mauricio in sight, after Brad and Josiah blew by him, with Craig chasing hard and yo-yoing off of my wheel.  I nailed the line on the rocky river bed and with Mauricio running it I was right on his wheel when he remounted.
Riverbed, it is all about pump and flow, let the bike move beneath you, Lee Like's Bikes Kung Fu
There was a bit more stretching of the elastic band between Mauricio and I before the last bit of "single-track" along the edge of the lake where in the soft loose conditions that I am very familiar with riding in Colorado Springs and Tucson, I finally got by the very speedy youngster.
The "single track" section at lakes edge, Mauricio Mendez holding strong and Craig not far behind.
In a surprise sighting Dan was sidelined dealing with fixing mechanical issues and Mauricio, Craig and I stayed together through the end of the lap and all entered transition together.
XTERRA West Champs SRM PC7 File
We were fighting for 3rd behind Josiah and Brad ahead but in all reality Craig and I were fighting for 4th as Mauricio had everyone out classed that day on the run.  I made a effort to stay with him but it was not going to happen.  It was a great confidence boost though that the gap was very slow in opening up and for the first 2 miles I could used Mauricio as a carrot up ahead and after loosing 5 minutes to him in Costa Rica on a shorter course I only lagged by a little over 2 minutes here.  I had battle through the run with Craig nipping at my heels, he would gain a bit of ground on the hills and I would stretch things out slightly on the downhills and flats.  I don't think we were every more than 20 seconds apart the entire race but managed to hold him at bay to take 4th.
4th Suzie & I, 2nd Emma & Brad, 1st Flora and Josiah, 3rd Shonny & Mauricio, 5th Chantell & Craig
Regardless of place it was exactly the type of race I needed to have, proving to myself that I could race, and I could suffer and be in the mix.  I know that I will need to endure more pain and suffering to continue to move in my desired direction but it just feels good to put it all together.  Next up are a couple of road tri's back to St. Anthony's then on to St. Croix for a half ironman.

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.