Thursday, September 27, 2012

Xterra USA National Championship

A squint of the eyes, its blurred but it has pure intent written all over it, the alarm clock reads 3am! Rolling over trying to go back to sleep is what will benefit the body most but my mind wont have it. Instead I lie in bed trying to remain as silent as the night itself, not wanting to raise my heart rate nor use up the quaint amount of energy that could be the difference between a 30second faster swim or a minute saved on the bike and so I spend the next two hours frozen in time. A wiggle of toes and finger tips to reassure myself I am not dreaming. Its race morning and in almost 2hours time I will be up and about trying to stomach a nutrient rich breakfast which will serve as fuel for the epic day that lies before me.

 I go over different race scenarios making sure my plan A is solid, plan B  will come into play should something go wrong with Plan A, but having one scenario play out in mind is never enough. There are too many variables, the swim, the transitions, the bike, the run, nutrition, altitude will all be the factors of the day. Its hard to fathom how every choice I have made over the last 8months will show in this one iconic moment at Xterra National Championships

With the "rolodex" spinning, time goes quickly, im up now and eating my breakfast - steel cut oatmeal which I let soak in water the night before to make it soft for quick and easy cooking in the morning. A scoop of Vega One  , a spoon of almond butter, sliced banana, almond milk and my double shot Latte. It goes down SLOWLY even with the Butterflies about the mid section.

Driving to the race venue, I am reminded why I do these races. The meander through the Canyon roads paused in the moment by the "Giants" that now surround me, there shear greatness and beauty are overwhelming and breath taking, the natural springs catch the morning light that is now peaking over the shoulder of these "Giants" to reveal itself for the day ahead.

Its almost time to go, I leave the race horse and make my way to waters edge to start my warm up. The morning quickly freezing up my extremities,  I take the plunge into the 65F water and instantly lose my breath. The Pros along with the Amateurs are starting to pin themselves to the waters edge in anticipation for the canon to go. (no joke, they use a mini canon) This morning there will be several canons exploding. The Pros get a 20second head start on the Amateurs. The first canon goes and I start the count to myself...  20,19,18, ... 3,2,1. Its a frantic start with over 300 athletes with similar tasks, get around the 1500m swim course as fast as possible!. The water turns to a frenzy, like mass of fish on their last  feed before the winter, there is clawing, pulling, pushing, its a sprint to get ahead.


I set out fairly fast to avoid the masses and soon find some feet to settle into a rhythmic beat. I realize then there should be an effort to conserve some energy for the 18mile bike trek up the mountain as it contains 3500ft of vertical ascent. However I spot several blue and pink swim caps ahead and realize Im tailing the Pro field and with that I decide to push a little harder. Exiting the water 3mins down on the first Pro. 

The bike was literally a 18mile Time Trial up the mountain with about 3500ft of climbing. I set out on a comfortable tempo finding the wheel of another rider. I knew going up Wheeler Canyon I could pass him so I let him set the early pace. Coming out of water that is 66F and then hustling onto a bike into air temps probably a little close on 60F was like jumping into a refrigerator after a gym workout. Hands and feet are numb until we exit Wheeler Canyon and find some sun light. I had spoken to Pro Athlete Josiah Middaugh the day before the race and picked his mind on a few race day plans. The first thing that he said was dont worry about the cold temperatures you'll warm up quickly. I took his word for it although I found myself in disbelief half way up Wheeler Canyon when I couldn't feel my hands. My plan for the bike was to stay out of the "red zone" until I had hit the upper portion of the bike. That lead me with a good chance to  save some for the run where I had planned to leave it all on course. 

The run, put simply, is brutally awesome ( if there is such a thing)! Aside from the first half mile going straight up a winter ski slope with vertical climbing at 400 ft its more the down hill that one  needs to be paying attention. The loose rock, roots, embedded rocks  and small critters that cross the path its all enough to keep you on your toes. I fell to pieces on the run, having not run at altitude I suffered severe cramp from ingesting too much fluid lower down the mountain on the bike course. I pushed hard to limit my losses but with every thud I felt an immense pain in my stomach and heard the sound that your washing machine makes when you do the laundry(if you do your laundry). With my stomach churning and cramping I pushed on. The finish was  a spectacular moment in my life with the hard work from the previous 8 months finally paying diffidence, I crossed the line found a shady spot and lay there for a moment, taking it all in. The moment when you know you've accomplished something, I want more and i know how to get it, with some more hard work. I was unsure of my exact result at this time but I lay there in the shade on the cool bed of grass and hoped my effort for the day was enough to qualify for Maui. I  was elated to read the results to find I finished in 2nd place in the 25-29 age group which stamped my ticket. 

Post race pain, pleasure and emotion all at once. Xterra Nationals is not your ordinary Triathlon. Thank you to all who wished me well for this race. To my support, Cadence Cyclery, Elite Performance and Orange Seal Cycling for keeping me moving.

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