Xterra Southeast Championship - Oak Mountain
One year ago I left XTERRA Oak Mountain completely dejected. I made several costly mistakes that ended up causing me to fall from a solid 2nd place in the 30-34 year old age group to 5th in the last meters of the run. It was gut wrenching. It also drove me to race smarter the rest of the season and, in the end, I stood on the top step of the age group podiums for pretty much every XTERRA race I entered for the rest of the season. Now, with a new coach, a new outlook on training and more racing experience it was time to take on Oak Mountain again. Things went, well, better this time around.
I woke up on race morning feeling good. I had done a short opener brick the day before and the legs were feeling good. I had commandeered the Podium Team Camper for the weekend which was SUPER nice. I had a 5 minute drive around the park to transition so I didn’t have to rush at all. I went through the morning routine of Cherry Pop Tarts and, after finishing up the pre race paperwork, I headed to transition.
It was a beautiful morning, slightly overcast and very comfortable ambient temperature. I got a good rack spot next to my pal Caleb. As I was setting my gear out, it was like a family reunion. It was great catching up with all my XTERRA family but soon it was time to move down to the water.
The sprint race went off first, followed by the Pro women and men, then it was my wave. On the cannon we were off on the two lap swim. I felt like the swim went pretty well. I didn’t get lost and pace was ok for first non-wetsuit swim of the year. I came out of the water in a pretty solid 3rd place AG with a 29:32.
I had a good run up to T1 and, after a quick transition I headed out on the bike. Now, last year I had a great bike but I made a couple of mistakes. I definitely over cooked the bike last year so first things first, I wanted to make sure that I kept my effort in check. Secondly, I didn’t get enough nutrition last year so my other goal was to get 2 full bottles of Inifinit in while on the bike. As the bike progressed I felt very strong. The long climb on the back side of the park went well, I didn’t crash and I got all my nutrition in. Goals: accomplished! As I came back into T2 I had a beautiful flying dismount before racking the bike, installing shoes, grabbing my handful of run gear and heading out. Bike time: 1:44:11.
The name of the game on the run was to not cramp. I was keeping my pace manageable in the mid 8’s right where I wanted. I could feel that I was in pretty decent shape but my gut was a bit sloshy. I think a little less liquid and a stronger mix would have been a little better plan on the bike. The sloshy gut made me not want to gel up like I planned at the start of lap 2. I paid the price for that around 4.5ish miles into the run. By mile 5 I was reduced to a jog but I was still running. I held off the cramps save for one little twinge in my left hammie but I was able to run it out and finished pretty strong. Run time was 57:41.
I was afraid to look at the results. I knew I had managed my race much better than previously but I knew I had been passed by one guy in my age group on the run. I cautiously looked at my finish card. 3rd place AG with a total time of 3:11:24. I cut around 5 minutes off my bike from last year and around 12 minutes off my run. I had a great race and even though I made a slight mistake on the run nutrition I made HUGE improvements from last year and earned a podium spot. With the podium, I also punched my ticket to the World Championships in Maui for the second time. Huge shoutouts, as always, to my team, coach Lana, sponsors and (of course) my wife! Next up: Springbrook Sprint, then XTERRA Knoxville!
I know this isn’t my most entertaining report but hey, they can’t all be masterpieces.
The Battle of Springbrook
I was not ready for Springbrook. I was not ready in several key ways. Number one, I had two pretty intense workouts on Saturday and Sunday leading up to the race on Monday. Number two, I was just not in the mindset for a hard race. I guess, for some reason, I had discounted the caliber of athlete that would show up to this race. I was, mistakenly, expecting a small to medium sized field of mainly first timers and weekend warriors. While there was a large number of those athletes there, there was also a large contingent of VERY fast athletes there also. I knew from the moment I walked into transition that it was going to be a fast, painful day.
I lined up somewhere around 5th or 6th ish for the time trial swim start. It was a 200 yd swim so I was expecting around a 3 minute swim. After a quick race briefing, the line started moving. I stepped up and on the word, I jumped in and started swimming. I felt good for most of the swim but, as always, I was slow on the turns. I can’t manage to flip turn and get under the ropes. In fact, my turns in a pool race are usually quite a mess. On the turn at 150 I popped up and there was someone right there. I let him go. He was a younger kid and, in my head, I figured I would catch him and make short work of him on the bike. As I neared the last wall, I felt someone right beside me. Getting out of the pool I realized it was (Podium Racing’s Own) Ashley Powell. We jogged into T1. The kid from the swim was racked next to me and was just grabbing his bike as I ran in. I had a pretty good T1 and headed out. Swim time: 3:02 (pretty much dead to plan).
The bike course was quite technical with several turns and hills right out of transition. This made catching him much more difficult than I anticipated. That, and he was a hell of a cyclist! I was impressed by how well this kid was riding. He was powering up the climbs and riding comfortably on his clip on aero bars on the flats. Finally, once the road opened up to a bit of a rolling straight, I made the pass and stuck it. Earlier in the bike he and I had gotten passed by two other racers (one of whom had just come 2nd in a 70.3 the previous day). Not going to lie, this sort of got in my head. I knew, however, that these guys were not only super fast on the bike but that even if I held them off on the bike they are faster than me on the run right now so it wasn’t a big deal. Still, I don’t like being passed on the bike. Anyway, back to the narrative. After making the pass on the kid I focused on keeping the other two dudes in sight. Bike Split: 23:23 with avg speed around 22mph (felt like I should have been faster here but just wasn’t there.)
I came back into T2 about 30 seconds back from those guys. T2 was quick. I opted for a hat since it was raining and I didn’t want water in my face. I hit the run at around a 6:15 pace. That didn’t last. Before too long, we turned onto the greenway and the course went immediately uphill. I knew the younger dude was hot on my heels so I just tried to keep the pressure on as the course climbed and then get the speed where I could on the downs. Eventually he dropped off a bit. I still tried to keep pressure on because with the TT start I knew he started at least 5 or 10 seconds back so I would need that much in the bank to keep my spot. At one point though, the course made a very confusing turn and it took me by surprise. I couldn’t tell whether to go left or right. I wasted a few precious seconds trying to figure it out. Eventually I saw Ashley coming up on me and managed to yell “which way”. She pointed left. I ran left. It wasn’t far to the line now and we made the final turn toward the finish. I crossed with her just a few seconds back. Run Split: 20:05, avg pace 7:15 (again, would have liked that to have been a little faster).
After the dust settled I had come in 6th overall. 5 seconds behind Ashley but 20 seconds ahead of my young rival. I did manage to bring home another age group win but it was a very hard fought day. There were a LOT of really fast athletes there and I do love to challenge myself by racing against this caliber of competition. No rest for me though as this will be a short week before I’m back on the XTERRA circuit for XTERRA Knoxville this weekend.