My race recap blogs have not been timely there year by any means, but here we finally are with the Mountain Championships re-cap. On a separate note, I did participate in the Loveland Lake to Lake Olympic road triathlon 2 or 3 weeks prior to this and I will (yes I will) provide a short blog on that very shortly.
Anyone in the Xterra world knows there are basically four major race in the U.S at this point in time. We have the southeast champs in Alabama, Mountain champs in Beaver Creek, Pan-Am Nationals in Ogden, and then of course the ultimate goal, World Champs in Maui. Each course is vastly different and to feel you came off one race with some sort of skill set that will propel you to the top in the next race is not realistic. My first impression on the Alabama course on paper was that it was to easy for me, that the bike didn’t have enough climbing, and I would simply not be able to separate myself. Clearly I underestimated the bike course, the heat, the humidity, and of course, the competition. While I was able to take my age group win, I did not prepare adequately for the conditions and suffered as bad as I ever have during an Xterra run. Nothing can replace the fitness and training required to compete at a certain level, but knowing and preparing for a particular environment and terrain is crucial in this type of racing.
Beaver Creek is the start of the mountain goat races. Its a harsh lesson in going uphill at altitude, and its the prologue for nationals and Maui which each boast a ton of climbing. All three of these races have roughly 3500 feet of elevation gain during the bike portion. The difference in the Mountain champs, is you get about 5 miles less to get that elevation covered. This is good and bad. Yes, its a short course, but it also means steeper longer climbs.
My day started at about 3 AM as I had opted to stay in boulder to get a good nights sleep. With Lindsay out of town for work, and her grandparents funeral, I was relying on my childhood friend Chaun and one of my biggest supporters and longtime Colorado friends, Sabrina. We all headed up I70 and arrived at the packet pickup around 6:15AM. Beaver Creek, like nationals, uses two different transitions. This could mean a lot of things, but in the case of these two races, its means we have more uphill than downhill as the second transition for both sits much higher than the first and are ironically both at ski resorts. We set up T2 fairly quickly following packet pickup, then drove down to set up T1 at the Avon lake.
I have been working so hard on my swim this year, as it has been my achilles heal since I started Xterra. My work up to this point has somewhat translated into faster swims, but my discomfort in open water, particularly in wetsuits has held me back. For this race, I had borrowed a new Roka Maverick x suit, which has a unique arm up build. Needless to say, this changed everything about my swim.
I started the swim near the front and actually grabbed onto the second group in the water. I was able to stay somewhat in contact with the leaders in the swim and all the while I was staying within my abilities. I never pushed myself into that panicked state which leads to hyperventilation and eventually a few seconds of treading water. I never actually felt I had hit my limit, which was a new experience for my in an open water swim. On my watch, I came out in 21:36, a huge PR and I was right there with the top amateur swimmers.
Here are two movies from the swim start. I will have to learn how to attach them better but this is what we have for now. Click the link
Transitions typically don’t get their own write up, unless of course the impact the race significantly. I exited the water, ran up the path to T1, had my wetsuit half stripped, goggles and cap off and was feeling great…I just had to find my bike. For some reason, my brain was sure I had put my bike in at least the second row. When I couldn’t find it there, I looked in the 3rd row. I continued to run from row to row looking for my bike or number and quickly creating a panic situation. At one point, I was sure someone had just straight up stolen my bike out of transition, clearly a more logical solution than it being in the front row…
After almost 2 minutes of running around (mostly just back and forth between the 2nd and 3rd row of racks), I made that risky decision to check the first row. Low and behold, there she was, in all her glory, my trusty steed! At that point, I had watched so many people come and go, that I had beat out of the swim, my HR was already red-lining from the panic, and as I mounted up and headed out for the ride, I was sure my race had gone right down the shitter.
The bike course does a quick loop around the lake on the bike path, then goes straight up a mountain side. After my eventful T1, I knew I had to basically leave my legs on the mountain. I don’t use metrics in races, but if I could guess, my HR hit threshold and never dropped a beat. I attacked every inch of the first 2000 ft climb, and by the top, I was all alone. The only person I saw on the bike after that first climb, was the female pro winner Lesley Patterson who I passed with about 5 miles remaining. When I hit T2, all I saw was the line of male pro bikes (they start a few minutes before us) and a whole lot of shoes, thats about the best sight you can see in this type of race.
I did this race 2 years prior, with a serious lack of fitness and and even larger lack of respect for the course. I paid dearly and I will never forget the pain of that run. I hadn’t seen it in 2 years, but I remembered it mostly just went up… I had no idea my gap to second, or if I had missed a bike in T2 and there was actually another amateur in head of me, but I knew I had to be really smart about my pacing on the run.
As I left transition, the legs felt heavy, but not as bad as I thought they would. I had saved nothing on the bike, I had not even thought about the run as tore my legs inside out on each pedal stroke. Fortunately, that is the way I train for these races, I don’t go ride easy, then run hard and hope it translates. The first couples miles if literally straight up hill, at one point it almost seems faster to walk, but I just maintained a reasonable exertion and made sure not to let my breathing get out of control. Your legs will feel immense pain the entire time, so its much easier to find that limit of your breathing and HR and pace yourself on that.
I somehow got through the climb, descended down towards transition to start the second half of the run course. This half has a much less punishing grade, but none the less it can bite you. At this point, I started to hang it out a bit. I knew I didn’t have to conserve anymore, as the last mile or so was all downhill. I could see Lesley Paterson coming in the last mile of the run, and I used her as my buffer. I knew she could pass me, but I also knew if I could keep her behind me, being the fantastic runner that she is, no-one was going to pass her. I was able to keep this lead all the way to the finish and maintain a 5 minute gap over the second amateur on course. I actually felt great in the final stretch and was able to celebrate a little bit.
All in all it was an amazing day, and another step toward the ultimate goal of winning a world championship. The build towards nationals on september 16th and worlds on october 29th is already happening as I write this.
Special thanks to my number one fan and incredibly supportive wife Lindsay! My support crew on the day Sabrina, and Chaun, could not have done it without you two! My amazing clothing Sponsor, Mr. Jeff Wu at Team Alchemist. Nick and Sydney up at Breck Bike Guides who make sure I always have the best bike. Last but not least the man of the hour, Mr Russell Herbert for lending me his 900 dollars wetsuit and making my day that much easier…although now I have to buy one..
Curious about my gear?
BMC 2017 Team Elite 01 large, XTR DI2 1×11, 36t front ring. Kappius Components 29er full wheel build, x-king tires, Alchemist triathlon kit, Catlike helmets, Oakley glasses, pearl izumi shoes (this is changing).