Sunday, October 5, 2008

Xterra Nevada race report Am happy to report that after the doom and gloom weather report in the last post, we actually got a pretty decent day for the race. The one exception was the wind, which had the lake rolling into shore with 4-5 ft swells = a little too rough for the spotters in kayak's to feel like they can stay on top of the nearly 300 racers that would have been in the water flailing to get through the swim. So the Xterra folks cancelled the swim. Have to admit it alleviated some nervousness on my end. Ocean swimming is not in my arsenal, and I've body surfed on smaller waves than what we would have been swimming through in Tahoe. It would have been really tough.

So in lieu of the swim, we did a 1 mile run previous to the normal bike and run legs of the race. I hemmorage some time to the field in both the swim and run disciplines so it was a wash in regards to any advantage/disadvantage the change to the race created for me personally. The strong swimmers would have gained an unusually large gap on the field had they sent us out in the water, but there were limited grumblings about the swim being cancelled, no one argued that there was legitimate danger in sending a large group out in those conditions.

After lining up the field for the run start, briefing us on a few of the names to watch out for (including Shayna Powless, a 14 year old girl whom we were informed would smoke most of us on the race course, turned out to be an understatement) the Big Kahuna shot off the little canon and we were off. I settled into my pace fairly quickly and made sure I didn't give chase to the droves of people who had settled into faster paces, story of my run every race, smile. Only hiccup on the run came when I pulled my beanie off midway through and my Oakley's which were sitting on top of my head came off with it. Luckily I heard them hit the ground and stopped and ran back to get them, minimal effect on run time as I accelerated to get back into the same position I'd been in before the backtrack. I came into transition 1 in what I estimate to be about mid pack. Took a little time to put on an extra layer in anticipation of the winds and temperature on top of the mountain, grabbed the bike and was off on what would be a more difficult bike leg than I was prepared for.

There's about a mile or so of paved road before we start the climb up Tunnel Creek, a double track dirt road that took us up to the well know Flume trail. Lee introduced me to the Tunnel Creek section of the course on Thursday. It was loose and sandy. It was much better on Saturday due to a steady rain all Friday night. Still loose in sections, but dramatically better than it had been. It's a grunt of a climb that forced me into the small ring in some sections despite trying to stay in the middle ring as much as possible to force a little extra speed - a tactic I've had to embrace to keep up with my single speed friends. A strategy I question for this race in hindsight.

I managed to get around some people and went into the Flume section with a pretty wide open trail in front of me, the few riders I did pull in were gracious and made room to pass quickly - and I did the same for a few who came up on me. Couple of pile ups when the course headed back up hill before we came out at the lake, some technical rocky sections that caused people to stall out or fall off. I jumped off the bike and carried it up and around these lines of folks. It was here, as we exited the Flume trail and started to circle around Marlette lake, that I started to think I may have a tough go the rest of the way. The road around the lake is fairly flat, usually something I'd look forward to as a good place to push it hard and still feel like I'm enjoying a break from climbing. I tried to do that, but the push I had in me wasn't a hard one, the the break from climbing feeling was somewhere far away. A lot of the position I'd gained on the climb was given back as several riders came by me and dropped me fairly quickly. The effort to stay in the middle ring earlier became really noticable in my lower back on this flat section, it was getting really, really tight. I yo yo'd with a few riders for the remainder of the ascent to the top of the course, giving up position on the flats, getting it back on the climbs. I began asking where the top was about 2 miles before reaching it, trying to gauge whether I could afford to continue pushing the pace or if I needed to back off. The fatigue I was feeling was the type that makes you scared to back off - felt like I'd tighten up immediately if I did that, so I kept working. After a couple of false summits that almost cracked by body and came even closer to cracking my brain, I rode by a race staff dude who said "enjoy your descent" when I went by. I yelled back that I was pretty sure I would - he laughed.

Not the case. I'm a decent descender, partly cause I carry a few pounds more than necessary, and partly because I'm comfortable in quick reaction situations and don't mind carrying speed into rough sections of a trail. I really enjoy the rush and the mental sharpness that descending speeds and risks force on you. That sharpness wasn't there, and it became pretty clear in the technical rocky sections and switchbacks that the ascent had beat me up and the fatigue would have me a little delirious instead of sharp. I kept the wheels rolling, but it wasn't fast. I opened it up a little once I got back onto Tunnel Creek Rd., but still had to take it more cautiously than I'm capable of when my body is working well. High probability of a good crash/early end to the race if I had pushed it in the state I was in going down the mountain.

I tried to stretch a little on the bike once I got back to the pavement, and came back into transition pretty stiff and having had a few twinges of a cramp brewing in my right leg. You can't tell in the video, but when I bent over to change out my shoes, I wasn't sure I had enough left to stand back up straight. Did a repeat of running backwards for the Oakley's in the first leg by having to go back for my number belt coming out of the transition area, was thrilled to have to bend over again but it gave me the chance to get the spare tube out of my pocket, carrying it on the run may have blown me up, smile. I had only two thoughts for the next 30 minutes - keep turning the legs over, and - please don't cramp. Although borderline the entire run, with a few false flashes, the cramp never developed and I successfully got over the last hurdle of making it across the big log without falling into the creek in front of the crowd.

Annie and the kids were at the finish line cheering, I slowed down to see if the girls wanted to finish with me, they didn't, and finished the race in 3 hours and some seconds. I felt absolutely hammered, but pretty happy with how I'd managed myself while in the pain cave, I've crumbled at less intense fatigue in earlier races so this was a bit of an inner battle win for me. Finished 85th overall and 12 of 47 or so in my age group.

Video highlights include a prancing Xterra racer about 5 seconds in, a classic snot blow, and AnneMarie's no less classic "you got beat by a 14 year old girl" welcome at the finish line. Also, check out Lee's facial expression when he sees me at the finish line - also a classic. While only mentioned on the video, no actual footage - the highlight of the day had to be Nick's winning his age group in the Xterra 10k and Garrison finishing his first ever triathlon, not an easy one to take on the first time out - tough hombres!

Sidenotes - Conrad Stoltz had his new Specialized Epic on display Saturday, looked like a sweet piece of equipment, especially with those oval shaped chain rings.

My bike split was 2:18, roughly 45 minutes slower than Christoph Sauser who's a world class mountain biker. It's a testament to the quality of the pro field that Sauser's time would have been 4th fastest in the pro race, with the pro's going out after swimming a mile and Sauser going out fresh as part of a relay team.

Well, that's it for the year in regards to race schedule, will probably do a few cyclocross races through the rest of the fall/winter months, but have some specific ideas for winter training that I'm looking forward to working on. It's been a fun year.

1 comment:

Scooter & Emi said...

I might be crazy, but I love reading through your race descriptions! I'm all pumped to go to the gym now and push... but have to wait for another 2 1/2 hours... :) Maybe I'll reread the post right before I go, right? :)