Xterra West Championship Race Report

So the race was a total disaster. I've been pretty down about it - not gonna lie. I hate using any type of excuses, but I did have quite a bit going against me for this race. I could just say I had a bad race, suck it up and move on - but I think when certain things can justify a poor performance, it's important to pay attention to what you did wrong in a race whether it be preparation, race strategy or mechanical issues so that when you race again, you can do your best to avoid the things that slowed you down or didn't allow you to race at your true potential. In this case - I think my two biggest mistakes were:

1. Jumping in a full distance/tough Xterra race after only having one triathlon (sprint) under my belt.
2. Not getting open water swim practice in.

Now Xterra was definitely as tough as I imagined it to be. After doing Xterra Mission Gorge Trail run about a year ago, it opened my mind to what real hills are and Xterra gives you plenty of them on the bike and run. Here's my detailed report of the race: (sorry for lack of photos-I didn't have my camera women!)

View from my room
 I took Friday off and headed up solo to Lake Las Vegas in the morning. I got up there in about 4.5 hours and got settled in at my room in the nice MonteLago Village Resort. The room was crazy nice and I was pretty bummed I couldn't enjoy it with Amy. My room sat 100 meters from the start/finish/transition -so it was an ideal location viewing the lake. After checking in, I headed out to go over the bike course. I had no idea of what to expect--just a lot of fire roads and a lot of climbing. The terrain was very loose and sketchy at the bottom of some of the descents which made for tricky braking - which I found out the hard way. After only about 20 mins into my pre-ride I went down pretty hard on my ribs/right side. I got up a little shaken up, bleeding everywhere -but the pain actually felt good and it felt good to kinda get that out of the way and made me pretty pumped to race. I finished the first loop in about 47 mins -just chillin and figured at race pace I would probably finish around 1:30ish for the bike portion...That night I hit up the Irish Pub, grabbed a Dogfish Head 60 min IPA (couldn't believe they had it out there in Henderson, NV!) and some meatloaf and iced my ribs when I got back to the hotel -they swelled up a bit and I was hoping it wasn't going to effect my swim.
2010 Xterra World Champions
The next day I just relaxed, checked out the Xterra University clinic put on by Conrad Stoltz and Shonny Vanlandingham and listened to the pre-race briefing. It started to rain and I went out and ran a portion of the run course. I guess they changed it up from previous years and added some ridiculous climbs that even Conrad and Shonny said they would be power walking up. Overall I felt prepared, my legs felt good - the swelling on my ribs went down and couldn't wait to get to the starting line for my first tri of the season -something I've been craving to do since I crossed the finish line in my first tri last September.

Everyone starting to set up for transition
My race started at 8:30 - I woke up at 5:30 - ate a big bowl of oatmeal, a banana, a Powerbar and just sipped on some Heed up until my race. I went down and set up transition and got my body marking taken care of. #100, sweet lucky number! I was very calm and relaxed and even wrote it on my hand like I used to do when I ran competitively. It's just a constant reminder to stay relaxed before and during the race which is when your body performs at its best. At 7:30 I put in some short tempo efforts on the bike, broke a little sweat on a very cold morning - threw my bike back in transition and went back to my room to stretch a little and get my wetsuit on.

Swim start just underneath the bridge
 The Swim (1500 meters or .96 miles):
The pro's went off at 8:30 sharp, with 39 and under a short 3 minutes behind them. I got in the water for the first time at about 8:20 and was shocked at how cold the water was. It felt a lot like the ocean a week ago and it took my breath away! I spent some time blowing out air underwater to try and acclimate my lungs/face to the water (a tip from Triathlete magazine) and swam out about 150 meters to try and warm up. My form felt good and I was ready to go. As soon as I turned around to head to the start, the cannon went off for the pros and the announcer yelled that our race starts in 3 minutes!" I kinda panicked and sprinted to the start (which was a deep water start underneath the bridge). As soon as I got there I was huffing and puffing and then the gun went off for our race..Crap! This was the beginning of the end for me. My Heart rate was sky high from sprinting there and with the excitement of the start of the race and the kicking/elbowing at the start, I was unable to get into any type of rhythm. I started breathing every other stroke which I haven't done since my first tri --I was just trying to get my breathing under control! Every time I tried to breath bilateral, I came up gasping for air. At this point I just dealt with breathing every other stroke which totally ruined all of the training/technique and form that I had been practicing for the past 6 months. I couldn't get myself to rotate properly, my 2 beat kick which I felt I had perfected was out of whack and I felt extremely uncomfortable in a wet suit. My arms felt tired and were burning after the first 400 meters! I made my way to the first buoy (ran right into it of course), made a right -swam to the next buoy which was about 150 meters away (yup, ran into this one too...) and then started my way back. At this point the yellow caps (Ages 40+) started passing me and I knew I was in trouble. I usually swim like an arrow ---I even practice swimming in the pool with my eyes closed to make sure that I swim straight --but with me breathing from the same side, I was zig-zagging all over the course - I tried to sight here and there, but I was just very inexperienced in the open water and it cost me big time. After time trialing a 26 minute 1500 meters a week ago I got out of the water in 37:13.

T1: I ran to my transition area pretty dizzy and out of it. I was already cramping from the swim and had trouble getting my suit off because of the cramps. Holy crap, am I this much out of shape!!!?? The thing is, I expended a ton of energy in that swim and it was taking its toll on me before I even started the bike. I have no idea what my T1 time was but I can tell you that it was probably very slow.

Bike (18.6 miles):
As soon as I got on my bike and made my way up a little switchback hill I cramped up again right in front of a bunch of spectators...I can see them thinking to themselves..."Holy crap, this guy is going to struggle out there.." They were right! I just cruised for the first mile which was on pavement, I took in a gel and a bunch of Heed to try and subside the cramping. What's the deal with cramps! I never had this problem running! Age!!?? I started feeling better as we made our way onto the dirt. I started passing a bunch of people right away and luckily most of the course was fire roads so there was plenty of room to pass. There was a ton of climbing and my 30lb bike started taking its toll on me on the first lap. For some of the hills I had to shift to the lowest gear (easiest) possible just to get up. I handled the technical sections well and never had to hike-a-bike at any point except for a dry river bed crossing that had ridiculous rock formations -I think everyone dismounted for this section. I flew on the downhills, trying to make up all the precious time I lost. Then when I made my way to the first single track section I hit an embankment going pretty fast which did something to my front brake. I heard some serious rubbing going on and I stopped for a bit to try and bend it back into place, but with no luck. Looks like I'll be riding the 2nd lap with no help from my bike. It was pretty bad. When I stopped pedaling, I would automatically slow down. The 2nd lap I just tried to pass as many people as I could and get through it. Then on a rough downhill section, I hit it pretty hard -nailed my line but my bike didn't agree. I now started hearing some weird buzzing noise coming from my rear. Still have no idea what I did, but let's just say The Mistress doesn't ride the same anymore. I realize now why people buy the $2500+ bikes for these races. My $800 F5 is just a "Trail" bike -which pretty much means a souped up commuter bike. The Vegas course pretty much destroyed my bike. I did what I could on the bike and finished with a 1:44 split. Pretty much the same pace I pre-rode the course in...sad, but considering my mechanical fails - I guess I can't expect much more out of it.

T2: My transition went OK, I went sock less for the bike and decided to do the same for the run. I wore my flats since my new Avia Stoltz tore my feat up a few weeks ago. Just threw on my race belt and visor and headed out.

Run (10k or 6.2 miles):
I didn't wear my Garmin but my legs felt pretty good right away and I started hammering and passing a lot of people in my AG. At this point I had no idea where I was in my AG, but the fact that I was still passing women in the 15-19 AG - I knew I blew the race in the swim and the bike killed me even more. Still, I wanted a respectful run and after 2 miles I was feeling good and then we hit the crazy hills...My cramps instantly came back. This time both hammys and both quads. Brutal. I shuffled up some of the hills and power walked most of them. Every time I tried to run, they would cramp up again. I found that if I just locked my knees I could shuffle up kinda -Looked so ridiculous! I kinda laughed to myself because me and my buddy Eric always joke about why we put ourselves through so much agony with all of our responsibilities...."Dude, I am a 32 year old man, with a wife, two kids a full time job and a mortgage... -that guy that beat you is 28, still lives with his parents and is trying to make the big time.. Kinda funny because you actually see a lot of that. I finally crested the last hill and made my way back to the transition area. My legs felt great on the flat and on that last 2 miles I could tell I was hitting sub 6 minute pace...but there was no hope---I was bummed. I was passing 50 year olds, 16 year old girls and boys...it was depressing. I finished my run in 47:59 which is like 7:45 pace...shows you how brutal that run course was. As soon as I saw the clock coming in I saw 3hrs + and it just confirmed my nightmare of a race.

Finishing time: 3:09:55, 15th in my AG and 107 overall. Terrible!

After the race, I rushed up -showered and checked out of my room with 2 minutes to spare. As I was packing my car - I sat in my seat for a second and literally passed out with all of my gear, bike and stuff scattered around my car. I was out for like 30 mins! Weird...it was almost like a drinking type of pass out. Crazy, I burned a lot of calories out there but after the little cat nap I felt better and ready to drive home.

I learned a lot from the race and although I was really down afterwards -it gave me a chance to re-evaluate my season on my long drive in traffic home. So there's going to be some changes:

1. I won't be doing the Xterra circuit this year. This race was a good chance for me to see where I was at and it showed me a few things. I have a lot of work to do in the water and I need a new bike. I didn't spend a weekend away from family and spend all of that money to get 15th in my AG. When I do these races, I want to do them right and I need a better bike to be competitive (amongst other things). So for the rest of the season I'll jump in some local road tri's and see how I like those. I'll probably still jump into Xterra Snow Valley (which is local) but other than that -instead of traveling everywhere to these Xterra races, I'll save the money - pay off some debt and save up for a bike so I can do this right.

2. Time to join a tri club and get in regular open water swimming
3. Join a masters program

My wife helped me put things into perspective since this was only the 2nd triathlon I've ever done, I'm still very new and although I'm learning quickly, experience is the best way to learn. I don't want to leave the impression that I didn't enjoy Xterra -cause that's not the case, I love having fun in the dirt. But I also want to explore what the roads have to offer too and see how I fair--that's what 2011 is all about.

Sorry for the long-drawn out post and lack of pictures. When Xterra releases all of the photos, I'll post them. It's time to relax a bit this week and get ready for the Ragnar Relay this weekend, I'm excited!


jameson said...

keep your head up dude... xterra is whole different beast than road tri's. spending 3 years travelling all over and racing Xterra was awesome and it took me a while to get it nailed. if you want/need any help or advice when it comes to training and racing xterra let me know.

James Adams said...

Thanks dude, the race kinda pissed me off (in a good way) but I do need some help ---I'll message you on FB soon

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