Tuesday, November 5, 2013

2013 Season Summary Part III

Last post finished off with a couple downer races in a row. Lackluster finishes at Xterra West Championships and 70.3 St. George left me questioning my fitness and preparation. I took a bit of a mid-season break and re-focused, determined to finish out the season strong.

In July, I headed up to Running Springs, CA for Xterra Snow Valley. This is a race I tend to do well at and I already had enough points to secure an invite to Xterra National Championships. With the pressure of qualifying off my shoulders, I was free to push the envelope a bit.

Longer course this year, but I was up for it. The run course there is burly and I knew doing a full 10k on the side of a mountain would hurt...it did.

The swim pace to the first buoy was INSANE with super-swimmer Tom Monica leading it out. I felt like I struggled a bit in the water, specifically with sighting. Not a great swim, but a manageable gap to "the front". On to the bike and time to do work.

Legs loaded up a bit on the bike  from a big training week going in. Lots of people gassed in the latter stages from the longer course. I inherited the lead for my AG when the leader flatted, but I had no idea.

Hit the run just trying to run steady the whole way and be smart, not go too hard too early and crack.

I suffered a lot on the run here. My hamstrings kept trying to cramp on me and the legs just felt dead. Saw a couple perennial "fast" guys come around me as well as Chris Clarke, who caught me even after fixing his flat. Dammit. A win would have been great, but 2nd place was pretty sweet after a couple crummy races. 

 After Snow Valley, I headed up to Xterra Lake Tahoe. This is the old Championships Course that I LOVE: amazingly scenic venue and a steep, technical bike course. Brother Steve lives nearby and decided to race with me. Bonus.

I didn't write anything down on my training log, so it's hard to remember exactly how things went. I remember having a decent swim, but not great. I felt like I rode the bike course VERY well. I made lots of passes up the initial climb while still keeping my effort in check. I topped out the climb and hit the Flume Trail (techy single track) feeling pretty good. Somewhere on the Flume trail, I rode clear of the main group and into the gap between the front of the race. I rode the last of the climbs fairly well, but struggled a bit on the very last climb up to the top of the Rim Trail.

I ate up the techy downhill in typical brap-tastic fashion and hit the run a bit fatigued. I'm picking up on a theme here...

The run in Tahoe isn't steep, but it's constantly up, down and twisty such that getting into a rhythm is difficult. The legs were hating me at this point, but I sucked it up and finished it out.

I didn't feel like I had a great race, so imagine my surprise when I checked the results and saw that I picked up the win in my AG. Woop!

 Even a blind squirrel gets a nut once in a while! Fortunately, none of the top guys in my region showed up to the race and I snuck into 2nd in the points rankings. Woo hoo! After two solid races, I had momentum building into National Championships. I couldn't help but get excited at my prospects in Ogden.

September finally arrived and Holly and I headed up to Ogden, UT for Xterra National Championships. I felt rested, but the 13-hour drive definitely took something out of me. Still, we got into town on Thursday with the race on Saturday, so I thought there would be plenty of time for me to recover and put in a solid race.

Friday morning, we went out to the reservoir so I could check out the start and the water.

Almost perfect water temps and you can see how glassy the water is. Win.

I grabbed a snack and we drove the 20 mins up the hill to Snowbasin for a quick course recon. Utah in the fall? Yes, please! This photo does not do the area any justice, incredibly scenic venue. Holly went out for a run and convinced me I should look at the first climb on the run. I'm glad I did: it's STEEP! We packed up and headed back to the hotel so I could rest up for tomorrow.

Race morning came and I woke up not ready to go, but a bit tired. Race logistics are challenging due to the point-to-point format (not my favorite) and set-up took a lot of time and energy. Still, I got set up, marked and ready to go. 

The canon goes off and it's mass start chaos. The water is super choppy from all the swimmers and from the camera helicopter. It felt like I wasted a lot of energy trying to get clear water or trying to get a breath. The swim seemed to go on forever and the crowd never seemed to thin out like it does at most races. I hit the boat ramp, glanced at my watch and saw that it read 38 mins...for a 1.5k. Wha??? I spotted the same people I usually come out of the water with and figured the course was miss-marked. I learned after the race that a buoy broke loose and floated away; some racers with GPS had the swim at 1.5 MILES. Oops.

 Nothing to do, but roll with it. Onto the bike and my heart rate is JACKED. Going up the first climb and it feels like I'm moving in slow motion; almost going backward. I tried to hang on wheels, but the power just wasn't there.

I recovered, a bit, on the short downhill (bike course has a net UPhill) and hoped the legs would come around on the climb to Sardine Peak....nope. Seriously gassed way before the top and my stomach is cramping horribly. Finally at the top and I'm starting to get an altitude or dehydration headache. Great.What's worse is I can't descend like I to want because my stomach hurts too much. To add insult to injury, my chain over-shifted into my spokes about 1 mile from T2 forcing me to stop and work it out; easily costing me a few minutes.

I seriously thought about pulling the plug at T2. I was trashed and my stomach hurt as bad as it did in St George. The only thing that got me out was that I had spent too much time and money to give up here and walking 10k would "only" take 2 hours or so. Might as well slog it out.

Lots of walking, a little jogging here and there, but mostly just managing my stomach pain. It's a shame, because the run course looked fun! I really wanted to run more of it, but my stupid stomach wouldn't let me. I was feeling pretty down on myself until I caught Anthony Snoble, who's always near the front of the race. Seems like everyone has a bad race from time-to-time and he said something to his friend that helped me feel a bit better: "I'm not going to beat myself up over one bad race." I felt a little better after that.

Family photo! Brother Steve nabbed a Nationals invite thanks to a solid race at Tahoe. Racing with friends and family makes it way more fun!

As much as I whine and moan when races go sideways, I'm still incredibly lucky to do what I do and I love every horrible minute of it. Looking back, I can call 2013 a breakthrough season; I managed 2nd in my AG points for Xterra, got on the podium at 4/7 races and even pulled down an AG win. I think I've got a bead on the stomach thing and I've made some diet changes that seem to be helping a lot. It may or may not be related, but I came down with a massive cold the Monday after Nationals. It's hard to say if I was sick before and fighting it or if I caught it in the day after the race.

The good news is that I'm in a great position going into 2014. Better news is that 2013 isn't done yet. Not quite...