Saturday, August 16, 2008

Xterra Mountain Championship Results

2nd place age group
5th place overall amateur

One word summary of results: Pleased
One word summary of how I feel: Wrecked

To set the table for the race replay, it's important to let you know my travel schedule. Initially, I was set to arrive in Ogden on Thursday in order to have plenty of time to pre-ride, register etc. As I am in experimentation mode, I decided to sample a "racing at altitude" recommendation made by Trevor Glavin . Basically it goes like this: Fly in as close as possible to the race time. Get the race done within 18hrs of arrival. So, I switched my ticket and did this. It has been a whirlwind, let me tell you.
5:30 - I flew out of Phoenix
8:00 - Landed in Utah around 8:00 (lost an hour in transit)
8:30 - Rented my car and got my bags
8:45 - Stopped by Subway for a super nutritious pre-race meal (yeah right)
9:15 - Arrived in Ogden
9:30 - Put my bike together by 9:30 (turbo) in the hotel parking lot.
9:45 - Realized I was at the wrong hotel and then went to the correct hotel.
9:50 - Met up with the crew from Cody Waite's EPC Multisport team
10:00 - Watched Dara Torres smoke the 50m prelims at the Olympics
11:00pm - Head in the fold out bed
5:00am - Head out of bed
5:30 - IHOP for another healthy meal
6:30 - Race venue for packet pick-up

Wow. I am tired just writing/reading this. did the altitude thing work?? I will say that I didn't necessarily notice altitude all that much, but I am raced much differently this go around. I knew there was a glass ceiling that if exceeded would blow my race. I know, no explicit answer, I think it worked. Will I do it for Nationals at Tahoe? I don't know. It is all about the value equation, right?

Slightly better performance - stress from frantic travel - not being able to pre-ride the course = ?

Alright, onto the race. The 1500m, 2 lap swim was at Pineview Reservoir at the base of Snow Basin Ski Resort. Water temp was 71 degrees. Wetsuits were "optional" for amateurs. Pros were in "no wetsuit" mode. The pro water temp cut-off is 68. Not sure where this rule came from. I opted to NOT wear a wetsuit. Am I crazy? Well, I hate to drop another equation on you, but check this out.

My 2XU Super Elite Endurance race suit, although not really a true speed suit, in my opinion, is pretty fast. Is it faster than my Zoot Zenith wetsuit? All else being equal the wetsuit is "faster." But, I have not swam in my wetsuit since June. The wetsuit, although it's as good as it gets, is still not as flexible as speed suit and leads to muscle fatigue. Also, at altitude, breathing comes at a premium and a tight wetsuit might hinder freedom of the inhale/exhale action. So, I love open water swimming and had my mind made up to not wear a wetsuit before I showed up. After a quick survey of the shoreline pre-race, I was probably the one of the only amateurs without a wetsuit on.

The gun sounding set the flurry in motion. My strategy was to "chill" and ease into the swim. I've been working on some specific aspects of my stroke (and brain) to make this work. Right away, I noticed I was not executing my strategy, but was quickly able to adjust. My brain power during a race is getting much better. All-in-all, the first 300m or so was brutal. there were over 300 athletes in this race all charging full steam for one lone buoy in the middle of the lake's cove. Bedlam. I typically don't get beat down during swim starts, but today was different. I can't remember the sequence, but I definitely got a swift blow to my throat followed by my goggles being ripped off my face from the other side. I had to stop for a second. Super dangerous as one could get malled. I quickly fixed the problem and, actually, the incident enhanced my focus. It didn't piss me off or get my adrenaline going, I kind of laughed and thought to myself, "this sport is supposed to hard." I settled into a nice pace early on and not once found feet to draft off of. I was constantly looking ahead to the next person or next group to catch up to. I certainly negative split the thing and finished roughly 3min faster than last year.

Key takeaways: My swim training is dialed. 4x swims per week, longer distance intervals and more open water swimming paid big dividends. Looking towards Tahoe, I will keep similar training in motion while spending more time in my wetsuit (Lake Tahoe is pretty much always 56 degrees).

Once on the bike, I used the first stretch of road to get de-funked from the water before hitting the trails for the upcoming 3500ft of climbing. With the exception of two very fast pros (both top-10 at worlds last year), I was doing all of the passing. I would settle in, check-in with my body, then pick it up some more. I more or less eased into the bike too. My goal was to get in a good spot prior to a long stretch of single track where passing would be difficult. The middle section of the course was twisty single track that trended upwards. While I didn't loose focus in this section, I think I was not very efficient and lost time. I kept passing people, but I did get passed by one other pro biggest competition in my age group, Luke Jay. I stayed with Luke for a while, but slowly but surely lost ground. A big no-no on a course where you can't see too far ahead; out of sight out of mind. I kept riding my own pace thinking I would run him down. Looking at the times, I wasn't close. Luke had a great day. Congrats to him.

The bike course was different from the 2007 edition and lost a bit of climbing that once took us way up near the top of Snow Basin. This year, the supplement was a serious of serious steep, loose climbs followed by some really fun, twisty, rocky single track that was a little up and a little down. On the steep stuff, I was in my smallest chain ring combination and just tried to spin up the climbs without grinding to a stop or blowing up my legs. The other fun stuff was a bit concerning (along with other downhill sections of the course) because I had -0- rear brake the entire race. Bummer, but not the end of the world. I had to be a little more cautious than normal. Some disc brake issue...not sure what yet though.

Key takeaways: My long gradual hill climbing power was solid, but my ability to pace on varied terrain left a bit to be desired. My muscle endurance and endurance in general were good and I appreciated the long Mt Lemon days. Tahoe has a number of good climbs, but does have some sections in the middle where I need to be able to switch from "climb" mode to "roller/technical" mode while maintaining pace. Training will need to be modified, not in intensity or duration, to include more hard stuff on varied terrain.

Onto the run. Uphill grind to start with. My strategy was to ease into this too (see a theme?). Once topping out, I opened up my legs and started to put down a good pace. Not blistering as I would have liked, but fairly fast. The course has a bunch of different sections from tree covered single track to rocky trail exposed on the side of the mountain that required fast feet. Fun. I passed a couple of people, but no one of consequence. Looking back, I had more in the tank and should have really hammered more.

Key takeaways: I will have to look at race times before really knowing how I performed, but I need to be fully aware and confident that I can run people down. There are three legs to this sport of triathlon, all of which can be significant factors to determining the winner. Tahoe is basically a flat run course with a number of little twists, creek crossings etc. Leg turnover and a high top end speed will be critical. I have already been hitting the track for top end speed and I feel it is working to this end, but I think my training will need to include some longer really fast runs.