Friday, June 06, 2008

Deuces Wild Xterra

The Deuces Wild Xterra in Show Low, Arizona has become a standard stop on my race schedule. Show Low is about a 3hr drive from Phoenix, is usually a couple of degrees cooler, set among the pines and is at 6,500 feet elevation. What's not to love? A great break from the desert. The Xterra that was on Sunday was just one part of a triathlon weekend filled with a half ironman, olympic distance race and a huge raffle ($30,000 worth of schwag) that were all put on by Trisports.

The timing of this race couldn't have been better as it fit nicely into my peak/race phase of training, one week prior to the upcoming South East Championship in Birmingham, Alabama (where I am right now) and the East Championship in Richmond, Virginia the following week. More on training later.

We cruised up to Show Low on Saturday morning and headed straight for the race course for a pre-ride. I headed out for an hour spin and Mandy headed out for trail run. Finishers of the the road tri's were still coming in and the tri-atmosphere made for an exciting time (read this as "I think its' cool to ride around a road tri on a mountain bike...oh, the looks!). The big feature of the bike course was a 4.5 mile climb with the last portion being over some loose, baby-doll head sized rocks. I only pre-rode up to this section then turned around and headed for home. No need to do anything more. The weeks training was brutal and I wanted/needed to go easy.

Back at the parking lot, I caught up with my coach, Brian Grasky and talked over the course, how I was feeling and some race strategies. He still has the course record, so he knew what to say. After a quick swim in the 60 degree lake and registering, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R.

For dinner, we headed up to Pinetop, a short 15min drive away, for a sweet home cooked dinner with a Phoenix Xterra bud, Jonathan Sellwood (thanks Man!). It was hard to beat the killer grub and sitting on the back porch at a killer lakeside house. Perfect scenario the night before a race.

I've been riding for ~15min and swimming for ~10min as my warm-up this year. The short bike seems to help my legs get engaged when the bike leg hits. So, I road to the race course early in AM to set up transition and get ready for a 7AM start. I'll beat the heat any day, so earlier the better for me. I've feel I've finally figured out how to relax leading up to a race and am now really enjoying the entire triathlon race process, race morning being part of this. Familiar faces, good short conversations and the ability to focus on performance vs focus on the competition.

An 800m swim should be easy, right? Well, it kind of was, but it sure felt a lot harder at 6,500 ft with a cold wetsuit (cold = more stiff = more tired muscles). Not much else to say other than the swim went ok and I was glad when it was over. I came in out of the water in 12th but was able to leave transition in around 7th.

This race, and actually the past year, has been about the bike. It finally clicked. These things were pulsing through my mind, "ride the bike like a bike race", "make me legs shake" and "don't even think about the run, it will take care of itself." This is what I did and started to pick off riders one-by-one. I moved into the race lead at the top of the and never looked back. I knew I was doing the bike right and it felt good. Finally...all the hard training actually being used in the race. About time.

I came into T2 with 2nd place about 45 seconds behind me, but didn't stop to see who it was. I knew the run course was fast and that I was feeling ok. It took me a little while to get my legs going, but after a mile or so, I was on cruise control. The course had a couple of long stretches and an out-and-back that served as good places to see how the competition was one in site. I knew I was going to win. 1st overall win at an Xterra with an ok swim, a good bike and an ok run. I'll take it! I am not really sharing exactly how much of a breakthrough race this was for me, but let's just say, "HUGE!"

Now, on to the East Coast for some serious racing. Alabama and Virginia for Xterra Regionals. It's peak time, what I've been training for the past 6mths. Only one result will be acceptable.