Sunday, April 27, 2008

Desert Smack Down: AZ Xtreme

Arizona Xtreme Race Report (4/26)
Thursday (4/24) I took two midterms, the last of which I finished at 4:30 PM. I went home to clean my race bike and fix the shifting, which has been acting funny since Xterra REAL. I swear, every time I ride in muddy conditions my bike is never the same.

Turns out one of the bearings in my rear shifter is toast and causing the problem. I was able to put it together and it works, but hangs up in the mi-range gearing. I may not have the time to fix it for Xterra West Championships and I seriously hope it holds together. Considering the mechanical I had last year on that course, racing with a questionable shifter makes me very uneasy; like waiting for a bomb to go off.

Friday morning I'm loading the truck and telling my roomie I'll be out of town and my cat should be fine, here's a blank check for the vet in case something happens and he says he's leaving for the weekend too. Crap. Quick call to the g/f and she'll come down to make sure he doesn't hurt himself...which he will do if left alone. Cat's fall off things and my Monster is no exception....and my g/f is the coolest woman on the face of the planet for doing that. She's so friggin' awesome it never ceases to amaze me. Anyway.

So cat taken care of and I'm on the way; 5 hours and 400n miles later I'm in Mesa, AZ and looking for a parking pass for the Tonto National Forest. I manage to find one at a super-sketchy grocery store. Luckily the drunk, homeless guy buying his "40" next to me was a happy drunk and not the mean, belligerent type.

Race morning: Up at 4:30, drove 45 minutes to the middle of nowhere and found the race site, sort of. Separate T1, T2, parking and swim start locations meant I drove to each one about twice before I got all my stuff squared away. New events are so much FUN (insert sarcasm)!

Deep water start. Sweet! Announcer: 3...2...1...GO!!! Great start but missed the front pack, AGAIN! Did my best to stay strong and find "good feet" to draft off. No such luck drafting, but I hit a funky sand bar near the shore, was able to "Dolphin" for a bit and made up some ground on people. Though the rocks chewed my feet up a little. Ouch.

Onto the bike and STRAIGHT UP a few short, rocky, hike a bike sections: heart rate thoroughly pegged. Working the climbs, reeling people in left and right; hit the top part that traverses the "mesa" and it's miles of 4 foot whoop de doos with 6' of sand in the low spots. A deep, deep sandy section where I bogged down and had to walk until I found firm ground to ride on; I was not alone in doing so. A bit of a downhill section, hard right onto the pavement and a masochistic pavement climb to T2. Harsh.

Off the bike, into the running shoes and it's just hot. Out of T2 and straight up super-steep switchbacks; and by that I mean BRUTAL, stair-stepping, quad-burning switchbacks littered with horse sh!t. Good times. I'm trying to get a rhythm going and find a good stride, but it's just too busy. Up, down, left, right, dodging rocks and cactus and all the time the heat is just searing and oppressive. I'd drink a few gulps at the aid stations and dump the rest on my head to cool down: the temperature difference between the air and the ice-water being served was enough to stimulate my diving reflex: so cold it took my breath away...not kidding.

FINALLY someone says "Almost there!"

I reply "Someone said that a mile ago!"

He says "It's only like, 400 yards."

Awesome. I turn on what little power I have left to make sure I don't get "punked" at the line by someone in my baffles and make a wrong turn...CRAP! Back on course and only lost one position. Luckily he's not in my AG so no big loss. Total time: 2:25:40

Overall, a solid performance considering my track record of sucking in the heat.

Good stuff:

Didn't wear a watch or HRM and paced well just going off of "feel": went hard and backed off only when I had to. Nailed my nutrition and transitions and threw down everything I had. Starting to really trust my fitness and this race was a good momentum builder going into Xterra West Championships in 3 weeks (YIKES!).

Bad Stuff:

Tactically poor swim, still struggling to "run fast" off the bike, still working on pre-race prep: dehydrated and nauseated the night before from driving 5 hours the day before the race...scared the crap out of me.

Results: 6th in my AG and 33rd overall. Big thanks to James Walsh, Trevor Glavin, Damian Gonzales and Brain Grasky for staying home :D

Edit: Pro Men and Women were removed from the overall results and Men and Women overalls are being shown as separate results. This makes me the 29th male amateur, though I technically was the 33rd person to cross the finish line. Seems silly to split hairs like that. Additionally, the top 3 racers in each gender category were removed from AG results to spread the trophies around. Though I'm listed in 6th, I will be given points for 7th place since Tom O'Brian wound up top 3 overall. Yeah, my age group is FAST.

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