This weekend's race adventure starts on Friday. My plan was to drive to Charlotte on Friday, head to the U.S. National Whitewater Center (the race venue) and get in a little test ride before heading back to camp. I found a little campground on the internet that was about 10 minutes from the race venue. Well, while driving, I decided to go the campground first and get checked in, then go to venue. I arrived at the campground, it was ... quaint. It seemed that there were more than a few permanent residents. Eh, it was only one night... it would be fine. I went to the office and the nice lady showed me to my spot. It was very close to the office... which I was thankful for. At that point, I decided it was hot and I didn't feel like riding. Since packet pickup wasn't until 5 and it was presently 1. I had several hours to killand I had a couple movies loaded on the laptop so I just sat in the car in the shade and watched a movie. Not a bad afternoon, actually. After the flick I was ready to head to packet pickup... right after a naturebreak. I made my way to the bathrooms and upon opening the door I found two toilets, no stalls and lots of nasty. I immediately turned around and went back to the car. Nature break could wait until I got to the race site. Packet pickup went swiftly and I took a quick walk down to the swim start to get an idea how long the run would be to transition. It was about .3 miles to the swim start and the path was very small ... very sharp gravel. Shoes would be a must. After wandering about the Whitewater Center for an hour or so I headed back to the car to figure out dinner. I wanted pasta. There was an italian restaurant not too far away, winner winner! On the way to the restaurant, I passed a Hampton Inn. It was a very nice looking place and close to the race venue.... hmmm. The thought of having a real toilet for my morning paperwork...and a nice bed...and A/C took over and I pulled in to the parking lot. I sauntered in and asked the nice lady if they had a room available. They did. I was giddy. She also handed me a list of restaurants that delivered to the hotel. YES! I was sold. I got my room key and loaded my stuff into the room. I then called the campground and told them I wouldn't be coming back. The only place that delivered pasta was Dominos and my desire to not leave was very high. Dominos it was. Food delivered, I settled in and enjoyed my tasty pasta. After dinner, I got my race gear prepped and got ready for bed.
Wow, that was long and we're not even to race day yet. Everyone still with me? Great! On to raceday!
My alarm went off at 5:08 am. I rolled out of bed, and got my kit on. Breakfast was 2 cherry pop tarts and a bottle of my Infinit Preload Mix. I was very pleased with the performance of the toilet in my room. It was clean and comfortable for the prerace paperwork. Paperwork done, I got the car loaded, checked out and headed to race. Transition opened at 6:30 and I staked out an end rack about halfway down. Got all my stuff ready to go and then the wait was on. I talked to some friends, stretched and sipped on water until time to head to swim start. The race director kept us out of the river until the safety briefing 15 minutes prior to race start. They split the race into two swim waves: competitive and recreational. I was in the competitive wave. I liked this setup a lot. It kept the slower swimmers together and let the faster athletes have a bit cleaner water. Swim course was 1000m-ish in the Catawba River with the longest stretch going upstream. Again, I liked this. It favored stronger swimmers, of which I am one. Anyway, after briefing, we got a few minutes to jump in a warmup. A few minutes later we got the call to come back even with the dock for start. We treaded water for another couple minutes before the countdown started. 3... 2... 1... GO! I had a good start. I found some clean water and just settled in. Swim seemed to take for ever, especially going upstream, but was otherwise uninteresting. Coming back in, there was a tree in the way. That annoyed me. RD had a buoy marking it, but the buoy didn't mark the end so I got a branch in the chest. I cussed a bit as I came out of the water and grabbed my shoes for the run to transition.
Into T1, I pulled off my running shoes and put on my bike shoes. Sunglasses on, headband on, helmet on, I grabbed bike and was off for a 14 mile ride. Into the woods I was immediately greeted with some pretty technical terrain. I was thinking "this is cool, nice to have a little technicality" I would, however, eat those words shortly. This would end up being one of the most technically challenging courses I've raced on. There were plently of rocks, roots, and bridges to deal with along with some pretty steep whoops and some switchback climbs. It really kept me on my toes... litterally. I dabbed a lot. (A dab, for those of you not up on hip mountain bike lingo, is when you put your foot down when going over a trail feature) It got to the point where I was seriously getting annoyed at myself. Now, I'm a pretty good mountain biker but today I just didn't have it. I wasn't comfortable on the bike. I never felt smooth and in control. I felt like I was just muscling the bike around instead of letting it flow along the trail. There were a couple sections of the trail that weren't very well marked. I made a brief wrong turn before figuring it out and getting back on course. This angered me. After more crappy riding, I made it back to the transition area. I have never been so ready to be off the bike.
I was hoping that the 6.5k run would be a little less technical and would avoid some of the more exposed sections since the heat was becoming an issue. It wasn't and it didn't. I started the run strong but faded quickly. By mile 3 I was cooked. I had nothing left. I think it was combined heat and training load for the week prior but I bonked hard. I just kept telling myself to move. I had no idea what position I was in but I new I had to just keep pushing. I never cramped which was quite pleasing so all I had to deal with was just making sure my legs kept turning over. I walked a couple of hills and ran when I could but mostly it was a jog. Still, though, I moved forward. The meters ticked off slowly but surely and I finally crossed the line. It was a very tough day. A very humbling day for me on the bike but a very satisfying day after finishing. The venue was spectacular and the race staff were very good. I finished 18th overall and 2nd place in my age division. After such a grueling day, I'm very happy to come away with the podium spot and the points. I'm still sitting 3rd in the points but my gap to second has closed down to just 8 points. With 3 more races to go I'm still in with a shot of taking second and maybe even first. We'll see how it goes. Up next: XTERRA Dino S. Indiana.
TOTAL RACE TIME: 2:44:36