This is a long overdue write-up. We were transferring hosts for the website and it took a bit longer than expected. In the long run this will make things much smoother to keep it updated from my end.
On to the race. I must preface this by saying, there are very few photographs as This was a solo venture. Xterra has quite possibly the worst race photographer situation I have ever seen, so yea…
I’ve never been to Alabama and I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect. It didn’t disappoint. From the minute I got off the plane, everyone I dealt with was just incredibly kind! From the help desk lady at the airport, to the rental car woman, to the hotel receptionist and finally the incredible team at Cahaba Cycles that went out of their way to fix my damaged steed. TSA felt the need to unwrap my bike which did bode well for a few delicate parts. Long story short, the Thursday I arrived was a bit of a nightmare as I spent the whole day chasing parts, and getting the bike put back together. By the time things seemed ridable, it was already evening. Thankfully for these great people, this would allow me to still get out on friday as well as compete the following day.
My hotel/garage was a bit of a dive and with the already uncomfortable temperature and humidity, the concrete bed and constant ruckus right outside my door did not help with sleep. I would say this is the least sleep I had ever gotten prior to a race besides the Belgium trip.
Friday was an awesome day! I got out early, ripped a lap of the bike course which on paper looked fairly easy, but I soon came to realize would be a challenge in its own way. It was mostly single track, very twisty and covered in roots and rocks and all kinds of things to break your momentum. The preride was fun, but I knew there was only one double track climb where passes would be easy and crucial. With two miles to go on my pre-ride, I hit a rock weird and threw my chain off the outside of my front chain ring. For some dumb reason, I pedaled an extra stroke and wedged the chain under the chain arm which resulted in a super bent chain. I was able to limp it back to the parking lot and once again Cahaba cycles came to the rescue.
Before heading into town to grab a chain, I swam one very enjoyable lap of the swim course and ran for about 10 minutes easy. Everything felt really good and minus the small bike mishap, I felt ready.
Sleep was minimal, and I always get up early as I prefer to eat my big meal about 3 hours before start. I got to T1 about 90 minutes before start and got everything set up. I am notorious for not getting enough swim warmup in before they haul us out of the water so I wanted to be sure I had plenty of time to get the muscle opened up. As usual we do marking, cap pickup, and all that fun stuff. Something interesting to note, the day before I swam a lap of the course in just a bathing suit and it was incredible comfortable. I was sure there was no way it would be a wetsuit swim and I really didn’t want it to be at that point. Somehow the water temp measured 77 degrees about 30 minutes before start, being 1 degree below the wetsuit cutoff. After a few phone conversations which people I trusted, I opted out of the wetsuit and went with a speed suit. The temperature was just to great and being a bigger guy, I didn’t want to come out of the water boiling hot and already sweating.
As the race kicked off, I realized I definitely made the correct choice. The water was warm, and I still put together a respectable swim, coming out of the water first in my age group. Yes I lost some time to the other top age groupers, but the bike was next..
The bike was awesome! I felt great, I definitely lost some time to the other top age groupers in the first 5 miles as it was very difficult to pass on the single track. I was making huge efforts and basically forcing my way past people and then immediately having to slow back up for someone else. I did what I could and at about mile 5 when we hit the double track I laid the hammer down. By the time I hit the down hill single track to blood rock a little past the halfway point, I was all alone. I think I passed maybe 2 or 3 more people before T2, but the pack had definitely thinned. When I hit T2 I was amongst the top 5 amateurs and had passed a number of pro’s on the bike. That would change soon..
The run was a death march. The temperature had climbed to the mid to high 90’s and the humidity was like breathing water. I do enough water breathing during the swim, why must I do the same for the run? The whole run felt slow motion. I was doing everything I could to keep my pace in the 7:45 range, but it kept spiking all over the place. Every time I would push just a little, the response would be a huge spike in heart rate and a sudden feeling the legs may just give out. Being a two lap course, sometimes makes it even worse. You know where you are, but you also know all the nonsense you have to do yet again. While the run was tough on a lot of people, I did give up a number of spots to other age groupers as well as a couple pro’s that I had passed on the bike. I was able to keep it moving and finish with a win in my 30-34 age group and punch my ticket to Maui. It was a great ending to a weekend that started on a bit of a rough note.
The take away:
While a win is a win, the competition in my age group was less than stellar. My swim was decent, my bike was good and could have been great if I got out of the water a little sooner, and my run was shit. The weather shock didn’t help but more importantly, I need to build on my run off the bike. I knew my run wasn’t up to par yet, but I really confirmed it when I ran a 48 min 10k.
I told myself I wasn’t heading back to Maui again unless I put myself in the best possible position to win my age group. I feel like this is that year. The build up will include a number of mountain bike races as well as a run at nationals.
None of this would have been possible without the support of Alchemist www.teamalchemist.com and Breck Bike Guides www.cyclebreck.com. Also, the people I am privileged to train with, a few incredible individual sponsors, and of course my incredible wife Lindsay!