I figure I better write this while things are still somewhat fresh in my mind.
Even with the Maui course being the longest and most challenging of the year, things still seem to fly by and blur together. Upon finishing, one is quick to forget many of the details of what actually transpired over the last 3 ish hours. The finish line provides a relief from the pain that starts in your arms just after 9:05 Maui time, spreads to your legs throughout the day and eventually settles in your heart and mind. By the time the run starts, there is nothing left but the mental image you have created and what heart that you have left to push through the immense pain.
In my case, I look back and think of all the places I could have made up 45 seconds….hindsight sees a lot of opportunities.
My entire season was built with two races in mind. I wanted to win my Age group national championship and world championship. I knew if everything came together on race day, I had the ability, and had put the work in to accomplish both.
In september, I was able to tick off one of these boxes by grabbing the 30-34 AG National and Pan-Am championship as well as second amateur. With that kind of confidence I returned to Boulder with one goal left, to win worlds. While Colorado weather didn’t really cooperate as well as my right knee deciding to flair up and keep me off the bike a bit, I still came to Maui feeling fit and confident that I still had a fighting chance. The weather leading up to race day was rough, and I was forced to do my pre-ride on friday which would not normally be my preference as its a bit close to the race. Regardless, I felt great on race morning.
Swimming has been my achilles heal since I began xterra in 2014. I have knocked minutes off my swims, but I still typically come out a few minutes down on the fastest guys. In Maui this can make it tough if you swim slow, considering the large amounts of single track on the bike. I stood at waters edge with the mindset that I would attack the swim and no-one would keep me from latching onto that front line of swimmers. When the gun went off, I had a decent start, but got just slightly pinched off right away. This mistake cost me as I was stuck in a mess of people and couldn’t find a way out. The first buoy was also chaos because of this and I probably lost myself a good 15-20 seconds just trying not to get pushed under as I rounded the first turn. The swim back to shore and the shore run went well, I glanced at my watch and the first 850yards had me at 10:40 so I figured I would still pull it off in 22 minutes or less. Even though I had a clearer path to the second buoy, I somehow slowed up and ended my swim at 23 minutes and some change.
Normally I wouldn’t complain about this swim time, considering my previous times were in the 27 and 25 minute ranges, but the guy who beat me swam 19 and change. So did I lose it here?
The bike is the hardest bike course by far of any on the circuit. Its impossible to explain to someone who hasn’t done it, and it seems even I forget from year to year how difficult it is. I described it the other days as having multiple super-flagstaff walls all over it, then take aways some traction and add a lot of heat, humidity and scorching sun.
I attacked the first section known as the lower bowl fairly quick, passing as many people as possible as quick as possible. Once I hit the upper section which is 3.5 miles in, the competitors had thinned out and I was feeling pretty good. The big climbs came and went, I worked my way by a few more riders, and thinking back sat behind a few a bit to long. When I hit the last 5.5 miles of lower bowl single track, I was completely alone. I caught one more elite rider before transition but that was it, and I had a good feeling. When I ran into transition I couldn’t make out any bikes in the amateur transition area, but I knew that was probably not the case as I knew a couple guys who were better swimmers and I had not passed on the bike. Notably, Tate Haugen and Ryan Lewis who I had battled hard an nationals, had to be out front still.
The run is something you try not to thing about until you get there as it can make you ease up on the bike. Basically you run uphill, then down a little, then up forever, then down a little, then up a lot more, then down a little, then across a beach, then up…and its hot.
Its a death march and really does separate the men from the boys. Sure enough, I caught Ryan Lewis about 2 miles in and he was going backwards fast. I was running on the heals of one elite competitor and the top 35-39 age grouper for the majority of the course. At mile 3 we passed Tate and left him behind as well. All I knew was there was one age grouper right in front of me, but he was not in my age group. He clearly had a leg on me and I had made up my mind that I would just do my best to hang on as I wasn’t feeling all that spry myself at this point.
On the final hill, a volunteer yelled out that I was fourth amateur on the course. This was the first information I heard all day and at this point, I was only about a mile from the finish and there wasn’t much I could do to change the outcome. I charged the downhill, the beach run almost killed me, and got to once again run side by side with my wonderful wife lindsay up the grass to the finish line.
I got 2nd and actually 5th amateur.
Does it suck? yea it does, especially when I look at the 45 seconds I got beat by. I can think of so many places I could have charged harder on the bike to gain little advantages, moments when I coasted to get a little recovery, or when I was riding alone and maybe got a little complacent. If I could have just had a visual on the leader on the run, maybe it would have changed the game. I also know I can swim at least a minute faster which I will continue to work on over the winter. Regardless this was the outcome. I made huge improvements all across the board even with the setbacks leading up to the race. I made the podium and I have to be proud of that. My disappointment only comes from knowing what I was capable of.
My dilemma now is what do I do next year…Is racing amateur going to continue to motivate me? do I grab elite status and see where I stack up? First I will work to get the knee healthy, get some recovery and maybe come december I will start to make some decisions.
On a final note, I have to give it up to my competitors. This shows the depth of talent in the amateur field.
Thanks to all the people who came through to support me this year.
My wife Lindsay is my #1 supporter and always beats me on that Maui finish line sprint!
Sabrina Huffaker for being a great friend, and supporter for every event I take on.
Marcus Hille is the best in the business. The healing hands that keep me in one piece
Chaun Sims for supporting me in one of my biggest wins of the season at Xterra Beaver Creek
Alchemist for keeping me constantly supplied with the best riding gear
Breck Bike Guides for making sure I always get my hands on the absolute best equipment
Roka for supplying me the best wetsuit on the market for nationals
Lindsey Deneen for almost drowning me in the pool many many times
Russell and Kelly Herbert who basically put me on this journey
James and Heather Doran for their constant support year after year
Rife Hilgartner for being a great friend, training partner.
Whiting Leary for supporting the cause this year
Blair Murphy for teaching me not to swim “pretty”
There are so many more.
Also, Many more pictures to come..