Xterra Blackwater (Milton, FL) - April 1, 2017
Traditionally, I start my triathlon season with a race in Knoxville. This season, I decided to roll south to warmer weather (and warmer water). Xterra Blackwater in Milton, Florida looked like a great way to start the season. A sprint distance Xterra race, it consisted of a 800m lake swim, 16 mile bike and a 3.75 mile trail run. I was a bit anxious to test out my fitness and also see how my left knee would hold up ( I've been fighting with a bit of Tendinosis for the last month or so) but also excited to get the season underway.
The Florida weather was everything I hoped it would be. The morning of the race, the water temp was hovering right at 76 degrees and the ambient temperature was in the high 60s. It was a perfect morning. I opted for the full sleeve wetsuit for two reasons... first and most importantly, it's the only one I brought. Second, it's supposed to be faster and I guess, thirdly it's more comfortable. I lined up near the front. The race was a mass start from the boat launch. I lined up near the front but somewhat conservatively. Definitely a mistake. I got held up BIG TIME on the swim start putting a sizable gap between myself and the leaders by the time I got free. I still managed to come out of the water in the top 10 overall and 2nd in the AG.
Swim Split: 11:11 (1:24/100yrd)
After a slightly longer T1 (due mostly to the added steps of the hydration pack and the clumsiness of MTB shoes) I was off on the bike. The bike was fun and fast. Focused on keeping smooth through the corners and maintaining as much momentum as possible. There was another athlete (not in my age group) who I came up on riding at a similar pace. We would end up trading positions a couple times. Another guy came up on us quick and asked for a pass. We let him by. He rode off into the sunset never to be seen again. Turns out, he passed me for 2nd in the AG which NORMALLY I would be annoyed with, but he beat me on the day by around 8 minutes so I don't feel too bad.
Bike Split: 46:01 (15.6mph)
T2 was smooth and quick. I was out of my shoes before hitting the chute and the flying dismount was flawless. Threw the pack off, put on my shoes, grabbed my belt and was off. The run course was mostly flat but much more traditional single track with rocks and rootsand some more technical trail features. Per the map it was a 3.75 mile lap but the Garmin only registered 3.4. The run felt good. I started out pushing the pace to see what I could hold. Around mile 3 or so I started to feel a bit of a pre cramp twinge in the left calf. I backed off slightly and maintained as high of a pace as I could. I knew there was someone not too far off behind me so I just tried to keep an ear out and listen to make sure they didn't get too close. I had a great run all in all and my knee didn't give me any issues during (or after) the race.
Run Split: 29:25 (7:51/mile) * Garmin registered a short course at 3.4 mi putting my pace in mid 8's which felt much more accurate.
Takeaways from the weekend:
I had a really great time at Xterra Blackwater. The race was extremely well run and all of the staff and volunteers did an exceptional job. I stuck around after the Xterra that morning and volunteered for the afternoon off road super sprint. It was great seeing all of the first time athletes in an off road triathlon setting. The family atmosphere of Xterra is something that I truly enjoy and one of the best things about the series in my opinion. I got to meet and hang out briefly with Yaro Middaugh who was an amazingly swell dude. In fact, everyone at the race from athletes to race staff were super friendly. The whole weekend was a great experience and a great way to kick off the 2017 season!