Yeah, I said it! After more there three decades and three sports, I was finally able to bring it all together in one race…the one race that really mattered. Up until about a week before the race I knew I needed a good race and luck. What I got a week out was anything but good luck. I injured my ribs in a crash and had a massive allergic skin reaction to something. I felt so down the Sunday before I nearly stayed home. Fortunately, I reminded myself that not starting was the only guaranteed way to fail. So I packed and headed south.
As I said in my earlier blog, I felt bad all week. It was so hot and I couldn’t seem to find any rhythm, so I rested all day Thursday, then got in an early pre-ride Friday, where I felt better. However, in the hours before the race on Saturday I felt awful. I was cold, I was hot and sweating. My legs felt like garbage. And yet, I stuck with the plan, got my transition set-up and covered myself in menthol Lactigo. Man that made me feel better. At least until I previewed the swim course.
Swimming is not my strong suit, and looking up and down the river (we had to swim half the course upstream) I was thinking it looked longer than 1500 m; in reality, the course was a whopping 1.2 miles! That simply didn’t bode well, but I had plenty of time to warm-up and I used it to get my head in the game. Feeling fair at the start, my game plan was to start fast to establish a position then settle in. Remarkably, I felt like I was having a solid swim, despite noting I was losing considerable ground to the leaders. As I made my way upstream, I surged a bit and closed the gap on several others, then settled back in before the final turn. Then I hit another surge before eyeing the shoreline as I watched biker after biker ride onto the course; that’s not a good feeling when you realize you’ve got at least 5 more min of swimming! However, I spotted one rider with a red and white jersey and I said, “ok, he’s near the leaders, so if I catch him, I know I made up a lot of ground.” With the final meters of the swim closing, I collected my thoughts and got out of the water.
Unlike seemingly everyone else, I stow my gloves under my swim cap because the run to transition is typically long (about 200 m here), so that’s a lot of time to get them on. I also put all my gear on in transition so when I hit the bike I can pass a lot of people; remember folks, this is Xterra and MTB shoes are easy to run in. Once on the bike, I noted that my legs felt like shit, which is not uncommon because you’ve barely used them in more than 30 min, so I kept a steady hard pace up the paved climb and surged to pass two riders before the single track. From there I started to pick off riders and find some rhythm…until I crashed. It was a tricky descent that I had little trouble with, but I had let my mind drift to shifting gears not finding my line and I clipped a tree. Back up quickly, I felt some sharp pain in my knee and hoped it would fade quickly, which it did (more on that knee later).
As I worked my way through the first lap, I was finding my time would be much better than earlier rides, but I never found a clear trail rhythm, often fighting the trail more than cooperating. However, nearing the end of the first lap I caught and passed a large rider wearing a very distinctive red jersey with white side panels. Sensing an omen, I kept on my tempo and entered the second with one rider in hot pursuit. I let him pass, but he subsequently yielded again, only to pass me 30 min later, before stopping for a drink and then passing me one final time 10 min later. I noted he bore one water bottle and no hydration pack, which seemed foolhardy with the temps in the 90’s; in contrast, I froze everything I could to alleviate the heat. By the end of the 2nd lap, the only riders left to pass were riders completing their first lap, so I settled back a bit to stretch and prep for the run.
I opted for a slower transition to be sure I was comfortable on the run, which included grabbing my ice sock and doing a brisk walk out of transition before setting off for round 1 of Jacobs Ladder. Sure and steady wins the race, and once at the top I found a very good rhythm on the run. I just cruised through the first lap, picking off 3 more runners ahead and headed into lap 2 knowing I was in for a good finish. Lap 2 saw me pick up the pace to catch one more with a 5th in site. But with a last burst I could only close to within 5 sec. As for that knee, as soon as I crossed the line I realized that it really did still hurt.
It took a couple hours for the results to sort out, and thinking I had just finished a great and satisfying 2nd in age group, I was surprised when I wasn’t called up to the podium…until they made the announcement for the 2018 National Champion. BOOM! The final results bumped everyone up a sport, putting me 5th overall with my first National Championship. But I couldn’t have gotten here with the support of my wife Chelsea, who held down the fort on so many days so I could train, as well as my mom, and of course great current and former sponsors.
19 years Rudy Project – checkout the new Protera MTB helmet (picture below)
15 years Honey Stinger
After nearly 8 months of shoulder rehab and preparation with a single-minded goal of a top-10 overall and podium in the 40+, I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve been completely content. It re-emphasized to me how important setting goals are, the importance the off-season and a consistent training plan are, as well. However, the biggest lesson I learned is that is simply DOES NOT matter how you feel! I’ve thrown away too many races because I worried about how I was feeling, and that’s bullshit. At the end of the day, if you underperform and finish, and you felt bad, maybe you fell short because you let it happen. You don’t have to be cliche and just believe, but you do need to focus and persist!
After I wrapped up the awards, I headed straight back to Richmond, sleeping a bit at a rest area, arriving back in Richmond about 24 hrs later. My knee injury proved to be a bit worse than suspected, but I’ve got some rest to do, so we’ll see how it goes in a few days.
USAT Off-Road Nationals by the numbers:
85o at the start with a water temp of 92o.
Swim: ~1900 m @ 33 spm, and 700 kcal; incidentally, I posted perhaps my fastest race swim ever.
MTB: ~18 miles, 210 W (NP), 843 W Max @ 155 bpm AvHR and 1067 kJ; interestingly, aerobic decoupling was 5.6%
Run: 10 k, 225 W (NP) @ 165 AvHR and Avg cadence of 166 spm; aerobic decoupling was -1.1%
Total time: ~3:13
~2400 kcals burned
Race fuel included:
2 L of Matcha Green Tea + Lemons Skratch Labs exercise hydration mix – ~100 g total carb
1 Honey Stinger Snack bars – 10 g
1 Honey Stinger chews pack – 40 g
2 Gels – 40 g