20 May 2014

The Double: XTERRA Southeast

When my coach Derick, at Durata Training, and I came up with my race schedule at the beginning of the season we decided that I would race the Rev3 Series along side the XTERRA series.  To maximize the potential for Rev3 that meant that I would race on back-to-back days, XTERRA Southeast Championship on Saturday and the Rev3 Knoxville Championship on Sunday.  I had raced back to back before in 2006 with the Tri Cal Pacific Grove Triathlon and LA Triathlon and last year in the BE Series race and knew the pain, suffering and logistics of racing twice in a weekend.  What was different was the length and challenging courses that these races had.  XTERRA SE is a 0.9mile swim, 20mile mountain bike and 6mile run and Rev3 is a rather odd 1.2mile swim, 40.1mile bike and 9.8mile run.  It would be a tough weekend no matter if the conditions were perfect, what was an immeasurable help was having, my love Bri along my side to go through the absolute craziness with me.  She went above and beyond in being my Sherpa, support crew, cheering squad, coordinator and chauffer from the start of the first race until the car was packed the final time.  I can’t thank Craig Evans enough as well for his support through the weekend, for not just the use of his car for the trip, airport shuttling, and awesome crawfish dinner to close out the trip but for his friendship and unselfishness to always help me and anyone else improve and learning how to ride his XTERRA course even through we are competing against each other.

XTERRA Southeast Champs
Race Equipment, Setup & Nutrition
Clothing- 2XU Custom Compression Long Distance Tri Shorts
                2XU Custom Long Distance Tri Singlet
Swim - 2XU Race Goggles
            2XU X:3 Project X Wetsuit
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 25psi
           Rudy Project Windmax Helmet
           Rudy Project Noyz Fluo Sunglasses
Run - Colorado Running Company Trailroc 245
Nutrition - First Endurance Off-Road Nutrition Plan

Photo bombing Chris Jeffery after the first lap of the swim.
After two days of perfect temperatures and dry conditions it was an unexpected dark stormy morning to which we woke and with a light rain completely changing the conditions of the course.  The magic XTERRA thermometer measured “64 degrees” presenting a wetsuit swim, thankfully this year I was prepared for it unlike last year.  Though I needed to race each race as if each were the only one that weekend there were certainly ways I could try to conserve as much energy as possible as well and the first step was successfully accomplished in the swim.  As soon as the cannon blasted I jumped straight on to the feet of Dan Hugo, Craig, Mauricio Mendez, Flora Duffy, Sean Bechtel and drafted through the entire swim in the lead pack and into transition.

Perfect position photo bombing Craig as we hit the Oak Mtn Trails
On the bike I found my target position right on Craig’s wheel right as we hit the trail and the only focus was to keep the master right in front of me through the ride.  Though the wet conditions did make the roots and rocks slick and the wood bridges like ice there is one constant in how you ride the trails at Oak Mountain, you attack them and that is exactly how I took to the course.  Craig was on a singular mission to catch Dan who what ahead and riding like his bike was on rails, I was following as close as possible but he slowly crept away.  I was superbly confident in my riding and continued to rip along 
Blood Rock photo bomb of Josiah
better than ever hoping to distance myself from the young stud Mauricio, Brad Weiss and Josiah.  At the base of the jeep road climb I was super encouraged to hear that I was only 60 seconds down from Craig and Dan, the closest I had been to the front of the race at that point ever and charged the climb harder than ever. On the climb the darkness closed in and the skies opened up for a good 10 minutes.  On the rolling section along the top Josiah and Brad had caught up and latched straight on to Josiah’s wheel over to the descent of Blood Rock.  With the slick conditions it is best to keep a short 
Ripping Blood Rock to stay with Josiah.
distance between you and the rider in front of you incase of mistake and you need to adjust and get around.  I had a small bobble but stayed on my

bike, Brad was too close got jammed and had to put a foot down and there was a gap between us.  I descended like a mad man closing the small gap to Josiah at the base of Johnson's Mountain.  On one of the wood bridges I don’t even know what happened but my wheels went straight out from under me and hit the deck.  I remounted my chain and got going a bit shaken, Brad was right back up to me.  It took a bit to get my wits about me and start to ride hard again after sliding out but I had to stay with it as Brad took the opportunity and jumped ahead.  Through the last section of the course I was able to attack the course but stayed relaxed and closed the gap to Brad and we hit transition together, we had lost about 2.5min to Craig, Josiah was 1 minute up and Dan was about 40 seconds up.

SRM Powerfile of XTERRA Southeast Championships

On the run I had Dan in sight and the legs were flying along well and reeled him in the first mile.  About two miles in Brad passed but stuck fast about ten seconds behind for the next few miles, using him as a carrot to pull me along.  I knew I wasn’t safe as Mauricio’s speed on the run is unmatched by anyone and I didn’t have any idea of how far behind he was.  With about a quarter mile to go I heard the dreaded light quick footsteps and he cruised past me, it was a bit crushing.  I cruised in able to see that he nearly caught Brad as well in the finishing straight, crossing the line in 5th only 12 seconds out of 3rd place.
Congratulating Mauricio after a close finish, this kid is the real deal, so young and talented, sky's the limit.

It was my best effort and performance at the Southeast Championship and went to show how the smallest things can really change the outcome and sometimes those small things are out of your control.
2014 XTERRA Southeast Championship Men's Podium
Race report is on the way from the Rev3 Knoxville Championship.

08 May 2014

St. Croix 70.3

Race Equipment, Setup and Nutrition
Swim – 2XU Swim Skin
50ml of Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex Tubular tires at 100psi.
Run – Colorado Running Company Inov-8 Road X-Treme 208
            RudyProject Noyz Fluo Sunglasses
            FirstEndurance Visor
                             -Enduro Bites Dark Chocolate and Espresso Bar
                             -Hot conditions 2 iced bottle in hand starting run

The St. Croix Triathlon is one of a few triathlons that are definite bucket list races.  In its 31st year it has been a race that I have thought about doing but with the typical hot and humid conditions it is a race that I try to avoid, however with it being more about strength and less about speed it did suit that aspect to me more than other courses.  One benefit I had on my side is that with racing St. Anthony’s the week before I had been in similar conditions for a bit of time heading in and was hopefully that I had acclimated some to the climate before the race.  There were a number of other guys that made a similar trip combining St. Anthony’s and St. Croix and it would be great matching up against them again over different conditions and hopefully make some strides.

Diving in to the coolest conditions of the day.
I was thankful for the early start in the warm clear waters of Christiansted Harbor, it is a unique start you have to swim about 200m over to a small cay, for the on beach start at the Hotel on the Cay, I lined up again in a similar position near Tim O’Donnell and Josh Amberger who I knew would be the guys to follow on the swim.  As with St. Anthony’s a similar scenario played out, I was right with them and on their feet to the first buoy then the field all collapsed on itself at the first turn 150 meters off shore and the melee ensued of trying to find clear water behind fast feet.  When everyone found their place a group of 4 had gotten away and I was mixed near the lead of the chase pack.  It was slightly choppy and the group was moving all over the place until we reached the far turn buoy.   On that way back in to shore we were swimming with the chop, my stroke came together and about halfway back in I led the group back into T1.  I had no idea of whom I was swimming with, I just hoped that I would have some strong guys to “work with” on the bike and was in a great place seeing Greg Bennett, Richie Cunningham and Ruedi Wild donning their helmets at my side.

Bringing it in off the bike.
Since we were 45 seconds down on the lead group the only way to catch them would be to work with these guys and so it was able to get settled in right away on the bike and not have to go chasing like mad as I did in St. Anthony’s.  I led the chase through the first six miles before the other guys came around and I settled into a good legal position to take advantage of the group.  The unfortunate part was that I was behind guys that were a bit lacking in their bike handling skills and we were going around some corners painfully slow for me.  Once on the road out to the infamous Beast I carried momentum on a particular twisty section and hit the front again trying to take advantage of my strengths on the more technical areas.  
Headed into T2
I was riding very comfortably but still trying to push the pace and I seemed to be setting a good pace, as the other guys didn’t come around me.   The Beast is 7/10ths of a mile long, climbs 600 feet, averages 14% with a low of 5.5% and the steepest pitch is 26% if you take the tightest line around one of the switchbacks.  As I headed up slowly one by one the four other guys rode on.  I am not exactly sure why but the legs just wouldn’t produce the power with the gearing I had on the steep slopes and thus when I peaked out over the top I then had to start the mad chase to regroup.  The descent back down is a bit technical and I managed to close things down a bit with the corners but I needed more.  At the top of the Beast you are 21 miles in and nowhere near done, I kept the group in check about 20-30 seconds ahead and hammered on.  I focused on my nutrition, as I knew that as the run came it would be critical to be hydrated and ready to go.  Every 15min I focused on taking in some calories and liquid, alternating between First Endurance EFS drink or water and one of the squares from the Enduro Bites bar.  After about 22 miles the chase had taken a toll and the elastic finally snapped and I lost sight of the group.  Over the final twelve miles I caught Ben Collins who was having some issues only to lose the spot gained to Tom Lowe who was keeping the pressure on the pedals better than I did.
SRM Powerfile from St. Croix 70.3-Pretty easy to pick out the Beast
Once into T2 I knew it was about staying as cool as possible and going hard but being a bit conservative on the run.  I took a bit more time in transition to don my visor and Rudy Project Noyz with the darkest lenses I have, the photolaser racing red, to make things as dark as possible, and grabbed two bottles of ice in a small cooler at my spot.  The legs were not particularly snappy heading out but I was moving all right and with the conditions as they were anything is always possible to move up.  The aid stations, spectators and volunteers along the course were incredible and kept the motivation high even with no one insight ahead.  I finally got a glimpse of one of the other guys about 4 miles in and had reeled him in by the 5 mile mark.  I was very grateful for race director Tom Guthrie having an aid station on the course every kilometer.  It seemed like dropped the equivalent of a 10 lb bag of ice down my 2XU compression tri shorts through out the run but I was up for anything to stay cool.  On the second lap of the run there were a lot of athletes starting their first lap and I used them as dangling carrots in front of me to keep my pace up.  Between 7 and 8 miles one of the other pro’s caught me and I didn’t have any response and focused on my own plodding.  The feet kept moving but they slowed quite a bit on the hills through the Buccaneer Resort.  With about a mile left another pro came up along side and I put in a good effort to stay with him and managed to stay there for about 30 seconds before he notice I locked on to him and put in another surge.  I had nothing left and started to crack.  I didn’t know it at the time but he was just finishing his first lap and I was staggering towards the finish.  In the last half mile I started to get tingling in my fingers and the legs really started to waver but I just managed to get across the line and out of the way before the women’s winner crossed.  The legs were no longer functional and the guys at the line helped me to the med tent and I got an IV to start the recovery.
Headed out on the run, that slowly slowed to a crawl.

I crossed the line in 10th against a very strong field of athletes, my confidence is continuing to build as I am putting together races better and better and I have gained a lot of strength from them.  It will be a very big challenge in two weeks but also nice to be playing on the dirt at XTERRA Southeast Championship I will then head to Knoxville immediately afterwards with some, actually a lot, of help from Bri and race in the Rev3 Championship the following day.

Thanks to Michelle Vaughn for all the race pics and support throughout the weekend.

01 May 2014

RR: St. Anthony's Triathlon

Race Equipment, Setup and Nutrition
Swim – 2XU Swim Skin
Bike – Pro Cycling Custom Build Shiv Pro Rotor 3D+ SRM, 53/39 Aero Q-Rings,
            Effetto Mariposa Caffelatex in tubular tires at 110psi.
Run – Colorado Running Company Inov-8 Road X-Treme 208
            RudyProject Noyz Fluo Sunglasses
            FirstEndurance Visor
                           Warm conditions had iced bottle to hold and drink at start of run.

Back on the road in more ways than one for St. Anthony’s Triathlon in St. Petersburg Florida to start a two-race trip that would then follow with the classic St. Croix Half Ironman this weekend.  St. A’s is always one of the largest and most competitive Olympic distance non-drafting tri’s in the world and the field is always stacked.
Site of the early morning prep thanks to Nils Nilsen for all the photos N2PHOTOSERVICES.COM 
Feeling fast in the new 2XU Swim Skin
The swim in this race is crucial as with the flat course on the bike a pack forms and it is a legal “non-drafting” bike then a fast flat run.  I positioned myself near Tim O’Donnell who will be in St. Croix too, and started well and stayed with him for the first bit before everyone decided they wanted to be in the same place in the water and it turned in to a big washing machine for a bit.  I fought hard for the first straight and was right at the tail end of the front pack.  The water got rougher as we headed away from shore but I managed to stay tucked right on the tail end of the pack as it spread out.  On the last straight headed to shore if felt like I was on a treadmill going nowhere and I lost a bit of contact with the group.  I exited about 10-15 seconds off of the group and had have a speedy T1.
Hammering about a mile in trying to catch the front pack.
I jumped on the bike sort of got my feet in my shoes and hammered across the cobbled road trying to regain contact with the group.  I rode the first 5 miles before settling that I was not going to be able to catch them and finally strapped my shoes down and pressed on.  I rode hard but knew I was losing time to the pack of 17 ahead that even though they were riding in a legal non-drafting position you were still getting draft.  With the heat and humidity I had to stay hydrated and focused on getting down my bottle of First Endurance EFS drink and EFS Liquid Shot.
Headed to the golf course loop.
In a loop around a golf course a small group that was about 15sec back out of the swim caught up and I mixed in with them trying to ride in a non-drafting position.  It is crazy how much easier it is when I was a few people back from the front of the group to maintain the same speed.  We cruised back to T2 having lost about 90 seconds to the lead group and sped off on the run.
N2Photo capturing me in full flight headed back to T2
2014 St. Anthony's SRM Powerfile
The group I was with were all very quick runners and I was off the back shortly, I felt like I was running well and maintaining a good fast pace but didn’t have the same speed they did.  I maintained a good consistent pace through the run and got some nice confidence in seeing how late it took before I started seeing people come the other direction.  After the turnaround I got to see the massive gap to the next athlete and could have shut it down but you never know what might happen ahead and I could still use this race as a good workout to help build, strength and speed and adapt to the head and humidity and racing hard.  I came across the line in 25th, a couple places better, a few minutes faster and closer to the winner than last year.  It was a nice confidence boost for racing in St. Croix this weekend and I look forward to mixing it up on a very challenging course.