Wednesday, May 1, 2013

XTERRA Jersey Devil: Back for the third time

XTERRA: way cooler than an Ironman M-dot tattoo. I'll let you, the reader, decide if 1) The tattoo is real 2) The scratch next to the logo is actually supposed to be part of the XTERRA appeal and thus considered part of the tattoo
Love love love this race, probably even more so now that I moved out of the northeast. I love me some XTERRA, but this is the one XTERRA that non-MTBers can get away with, as it's really just more of a slowed down, bike-heavy tri rather than a true mountain bike course...normally I would absolutely love that, but training lately has not been exactly focused on this. Instead, I've been working exceptionally hard on my swim, my run, and my surge-and-recover style of cycling, rather than a more steady state effort because of my draft-legal focus early this year. I also went into the race on pretty much dead legs. I've gone into races not fully tapered before, but never like this. In the week preceeding the race, I ran two separate 5k races, did a track workout, had two hard interval sessions on the bike, and, well swam like hell. My legs were throbbing the whole 6 hour drive up from Virginia, almost as much as my head from getting upset by the lack of blinkers exhibited by Delmarva drivers....
Nevertheless, I decided I was going to use this more as a workout. I normally do a hard bike-run brick workout the weekend before a big "A" race, so this would basically be that for the Richmond Elite Development Race, but even include a swim.  So anyway, I headed up to my parents' house in Columbus after work on Friday and stayed there, where one of my biggest fans was waiting for me:
This is the look of the friendliest cat ever...until he decides he is pissed off and hates you and bites. This is why I'm never getting anything more than a fish as a pet
After a quick chat and BS session at my shop of choice, Bicycle-Pro in Bordentown, I headed down to the race site to play around and do my ride a lap and run thing before going to my uncle's house about 15 minutes away, where I stayed the night.
Come race morning, it was glorious not to have to wake up at some ungodly hour. By virtue of being close to the race site and the 9 am start, I woke up later than I normally do for work, so I was fully functional. A bit chilly on race morning, but I knew it'd warm up quickly. I actually almost forgot a race belt (used to the no bib numbers in DL racing), but fortunately mi madre sometimes dabbles in triathlatizing, so she had probably 14 belts that I'd pawned off on her over the last year. She was proud to help me out. So then I warmed up, waited around a little awkwardly with mom and dad, which of course led to one of these lovely photos of Dad and me (which of course Mom pointed out that we never have any awkward pre-race photos of me in a wetsuit and cap):
I swear you can *almost* see my race mustache. Bailey would prefer that you not see it, and she would also prefer it not be there. #dealtwithit
So the start happened, and I was being I guess a little smug about XTERRAists and their swim ability, because I actually was towards the back of the front pack near the first turn buoy, but then I just started picking people off. I probably could and should have started off faster, but I suppose it wasn't really necessary. By the end of lap one of the swim, I was somewhere second or third in the swim, and I spent the whole second lap trying to surge to get back on the feet of the lead swimmer. I ended up coming out of the water just on his feet, but I officially had the fastest swim split (YIPEE I THINK THAT'S A FIRST!!!) because I decided to say screw it and do the 1/4ish mile run barefoot while the other guy put on run shoes.
I'm gonna say I was sighting on this breath which is why my stroke and head positioning look horrendous. I'm glad I've gotten the "swimmer mouth" thing going for me at least.
Leaving the little amphitheater beach area. What's alarming is that line of people in the background is just starting the second lap...
I actually thought I was going to pass out in T1. I've noticed that wetsuit swims with long run-ups that once I stop, I get a little dizzy, like my body wants to keep moving or something. Normally this is a non-issue because I just have to put helmet on and go, but I had to stand still to put my mountain bike shoes on. I can't rig them up on the pedals. I wanted nothing more than to sit down to do this, but I felt like wearing an ITU trisuit and doing that would just make me look like a fool and be judged horribly by the spectators...I still probably did look like a fool, especially because the other guy got out onto the bike course first. I chased early and caught him and we did a little swaparoo off and on (drafting is legal in XTERRA, but usually doesn't make a whole lot of a difference), but I definitely did more of the work because he seemed a bit weaker. We maintained an out-of-sight gap until probably halfway through the lap, when we hit a really narrow, soft trench section. I led the first main section of it, trying to continue to drive the pace and drop him if need be, but that didn't happen and I thought we were ok. I was hoping some other swimmers would get in the way of the good mountain bikers and slow them down. We exited the narrow trench onto another wide stretch of trail and I figured since I hadn't dropped him on the most technical piece of trail yet, I may as well let him share in the work load (sharing is caring, after all...caring about winning, that is) Well, right as we entered the next little trench, he and I both lost momentum on a super soft sandy patch and had to run our bikes a little bit, which is when the couple of real bikers caught us. There was nowhere to go for about 1/2 mi, so at that point us two little swimmers are just burning ourselves up stupidly while the real bikers are sitting in catching their breath waiting for the wide part of the trail=recipe for getting our asses handed to us. We finally got out and the other two guys were like bullets speeding out. I stuck with them for a little while, but lost contact somewhere near the end of the first lap. I spent a good while in 3rd, until I got picked up every now and again, then I'd lose contact once the trail hit its one super-narrow section, or a really bumpy/soft section, etc. I ended up coming off the bike in 6th I believe, but 7th was right on me.
Holy quads Batman! Mine still aren't as good as Bailey's.
Yes, this picture is very similar, but it shows the Element brethren of triathletes, particularly XTERRAists.

WHY DO PHOTOGRAPHERS ALWAYS CAPTURE ME WITH MY HANDS ON THE BRAKES?!?!?!!? Seriously, I look like a big sissy because almost every picture I have on the bikes where it's close enough to tell, I am usually either braking or downshifting and it's quite obvious. Maybe I should do that less. Damnit.
So I went out on the run and quickly got passed, and found I just had NOTHING in my legs at this point. I was beginning to regret the whole burning my legs up staying with the big-time bikers. I was having fun playing around in the woods, but I just couldn't seem to go fast. I got passed early, then I rolled my ankle and freaked out a bit. I took it a little slower after that to get my ankle's strength back and make sure I didn't totally screw it up, but I never was able to fully get going. I just found myself incredibly tired. This course wasn't a question of foot speed so much as just your overall energy because it's very much a scramble. There's a lot of tree and branch dodging and sometimes it's just "oh hey there's a red arrow on that tree I'm running that way." But that's what makes it fun and different from pounding away on flat, black asphalt at exactly the same stride length and speed. At one point I tripped and fell and considered taking a nap, but decided that I'd probably get stepped on and that the finish line was a better place for a nap because it wasn't shaded, so I might have a shot at getting a tan, so I kept going.
At this point I'm thinking "hell, I can probably swim faster in that lake faster than I'm running alongside it"
Who stole my spine and replaced it with a piece of rebar? That really wasn't nice.
So I finished, barely, in 9th place and first in my age group, a bit slower than last year, although the times are kind of a wash. The swim course seemed a little faster overall (less duck diving due to the lake being full this year), the bike was definitely slower courtesy of Hurricane Sandy's reupholstering of the Jersey Pine Barrens carpet (sand), and the run was a little squishier, but not the 2 minutes slower I was than last year...I just sucked on the run big time this year.
Anyway, I learned my lesson: entering races completely fatigued is fine, but you can't have any expectations at all. It's a little demoralizing and probably not good for somebody with my type of run mood swings ("I'm fast!" next day: "Damnit I'm slow") but for some it works. I'm glad I did it though, because I was able to race near home so mis padres and my grandmother could come watch, and I got that last brick in before Richmond.
Who doesn't like getting a growler and Jersey Shore "craft beer" that is basically Miller Lite with a little less panther piss? Also, if you are wondering about the rainbow unicorn potentially violating open container laws t-shirt, yes, that is the official shop t-shirt for Norfolk Bicycle Works. I'm as serious as my white frame, neon-blue lens glasses lead you to believe.

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