OK, so XTERRA Tsali is a little... different. Coming out of the water, you put on your running shoes and then run 4.5 miles to your bike. After which, you ride 11 miles and finish the race on your bike. So yes, you swim, then run, THEN bike. It's strange. I had no idea what to expect. I've never been on any of the trails at Tsali, nor have I ever competed in an event set up that way. I didn't practice it before hand or train for it in any way. I just showed up and hoped for the best. Curious as to how it all went? Well, read on dear Reader to find out!
The original plan was to camp for this race. That plan changed earlier in the week after torrents of rain fuelled by a tropical storm looked to ruin our weekend. Thankfully, the rains came earlier than expected and weren't as bad as expected BUT I had already booked a hotel room so Wife and I just enjoyed a night at the Sleep Inn before the race. If I'm honest, I'm glad we did. Camping is fun but a good nights sleep in a bed makes for a better race.
I woke up to my alarm at 5:30am. The race started at 8am but we had a 20min drive to the venue and had to get packed up since we weren't coming back to the hotel after the race. Breakfast consisted of 2 cherry Pop Tarts and a bottle of sports drink. After breakfast, we got loaded up and were off.
We arrived at the race site, got parked and unloaded. I got my bike racked and then enjoyed catching up with friends and getting ready to race. I headed down to the lake around 7:45 and got in to warm up. Water temp was near 80 when measured but felt a little cooler than that. It was still quite nice. After a brief warmup, I made my way back to the shore and, after listening to the pre race briefing, got ready to go. While sitting and shivering waiting on the start, I was chatting with some other racers about how the swim looked a bit long. It seemed the buoys were floating a bit. Apparently the race director noticed too and the rescue squad boat motored out and attempted to fix them. Still, I kind of assumed we'd be chasing buoys all morning. Anyway, about 8:15 the race finally kicked off. I had a good swim. I went out pretty fast and found some relatively clean water with only a few people around me. There wasn't really a lead pack but a couple dudes that just took off and were way out front. After coming around the third and final buoy I could swear that I saw a whole pack of people ahead of me that SHOULDN'T have been ahead of me. I guess in my head they cut the course and missed the final buoy (it was kind of hidden) but in retrospect it was just an optical illusion because in the results I came out where I should have. It did make me swim faster though! In the end, the 800yd swim ended up at close to 1000 by my watch. Pace was solid at a 1:41/100.
Out of the water, I ran over to my old bath mat transition area. I dried off my feet, slipped on my shoes, picked up the wad of stuff containg my race belt, hand bottle (filled with water) and my headband and took off down the trail. While slipping my race belt over my head, BOTH of my gels came out of their little pouches. I was slightly concerned about losing my nutrition but even though I got a little behind, in the end, it didn't really affect me adversly. The run was uneventful other than that. I tried to maintain a solid tempo pace so as not to overcook it and suffer on the bike. Other than mile 2 (which I think was ALL uphill) I stayed in the low 9's and dipped into the 8's occasionally. The trails were slick so I didn't take any chances and really watched where I put my feet. The run was a little shorter than advertised and I came into the finish chute for the first time around a little over 37 minutes with a 9:12/mi avg pace (per Garmin)
Though T2 was a little weird I executed it pretty well and was soon out on the bike. I new I was behind on the nutrition so I made it a priority to get several large drinks from my bottle early on. Otherwise, my watch went off every 10 minutes which would remind me to drink. The bike was advertised at 11 miles. It was a fast course. It would have been faster if it was dry. There were some stout climbs to negotiate, however there was always a good downhill reward. By the lake there was some nice moderately technical sections to clear but nothing crazy. I only dabbed once when I slipped on switchback (conveniently this happened right before a steep kicker....) then had to dismount to clear a fallen tree once also. Other than that, it was a clean ride. I finished the bike in 55:17 with an 11.3 mph avg speed. Solid. Total race time was 1:50:44 per my Garmin. I finished the day with another age group win and just missed the top 10 overall with 11th. It was an interesting race. Doing the run before the bike was fun but not something I would want to do more than once a year but having the wife there to cheer me on always makes racing more fun.
Thanks, as always, goes out to my wife, my coach, my team and my sponsors. Your support means everything to me and I couldn't do it without you!!