Been a while since my last blog, as Mel has reminded me, so I guess the recent hat trick seems the best place to start as any….
Coming into 2011, I was pretty excited about the way my training and racing had progressed over the last few seasons. A solid winter strength program and some quality time in the saddle had me feeling really fit early on. But after a nasty stomach bug hit right before my first race of the season in Waco and then some hellish work travel that took me half way around the world, I was starting to get a little worried about the next month’s racing schedule. Three races in four weekends and there was no telling where I’d be in terms of fitness.
First up Pelham and the Southeast Regional Championships…one that I really, really wanted to win…was still struggling with a minor foot ailment courtesy of some pesky root or rock or gremlin that snagged me in Waco in the midst of a massively dehydrated suffer shuffle run split, but otherwise was feeling okay…race day was perfect, dry and hot. A couple of last minute scratches to the start list certainly helped me out, but I was super stoked to pull into the lead position halfway through the bike leg. After a couple of minor mechanicals that cost me a couple minutes, I ended up riding Casey Fannin’s wheel through a lot of the twisty singletrack on the back half of the course. Being his home course, it’s great to watch him rip through that stuff and made for a really fun ride… The run course change was a great addition I think. It’s still a tough run no doubt, but taking a couple of those crushing hills out and adding in some fast trails at the end sets it up for a great finish. Was able to coast it home for an overall amateur win!
The next week was a bit of recovery and then off to Bermuda for a work trip turned bike camp…got to spend 5 days getting crushed on the roads of Bermuda by the local roadies led by their fearless leader and all around good guy Greg Hopkins, owner of Winner’s Edge Bike Shop. These guys can really lay it down when the want to. This was great for my fitness and also allowed me to rest my foot a bit more.
Got back home and had a couple of days to gear up for Xterra Tsali, a small local(ish) race just over the border in North Carolina on some really fun and fast fast singeltrack. This was more of a sprint race, with an 800m swim in a cool lake, followed by a 5 mile run, and then finishing on a screaming fast 10 mile bike loop. Was out of the water and on the trails in first, followed by a few guys that were right on my heels. First race where we hit the run on the second leg, and I very nearly blew myself up trying to lose the guys behind me. By mile 3 I had put almost 2 minutes on them and just kept adding until I got to the bike and had finished the 5 miles in under 29 minutes. Must have been the Avi Bolts…Got to ride wide open with no one in sight and really enjoy those trails on the bike leg, but as it was only 10 miles, the wild ride was over in a mere 46 minutes. Got some interesting swag: raspberry sparkling malt beverage, a 26” tube for my 29er and a T-shirt for a local bike shop that didn’t even mention xterra…oh well, it’s not about the prizes, but the racing and camaraderie.
Final stop on the month’s tour was Richmond, 12-year home to the East Regional Championship…this is really a great race. Right in the heart of downtown Richmond and incredible fan support all the way through, complete with costumes and cow bells. Went with two changes for this race, no socks, and no gloves…sock decision was a good one, the Avi Bolts pretty much felt like socks and had no issues with blisters at all…no gloves, not so much…but we’ll get back to that. Swim start is always interesting, trying to jockey for space on the concrete pillar and figure out where to launch from. Watching Mel and a few other pros move way upstream and use the current to their advantage, I made a last minute move up there to follow. Had a decent swim and came out in 5th place. and about a minute back I managed to pick off the other 4 guys on lap one and was riding in first again. All was well, and then the humidity took hold and the hands got a bit slick. Twice in a row on a pass, I managed to let the hands slip and go endo into the woods…last time catching a pretty big lump on my back and an arm full of briars…second lap was kind of a fiasco, having to go through so many other sport racers and the back end of the championship pack…but then off on the run holding first and feeling really good. Hydration was spot on and I was able to run a hard pace, but not having to chase let me doll out the effort in control. Crossed the line with another overall amateur title and only 15 seconds away from the cheese…!
Hitting multiple races in a short stretch really makes you realize what a great group the Xterra community is. It is infectious for sure and makes all the rest of life’s issues seem less significant for a little while. Got to spend some quality time with my coach Mel and met some new MelRad teammates, as well as catching up with good friends on the tour….big props also to Audie Smith and Greg Swersky, 50 somethings and fellow Knoxvillians that made the rounds with me to the races and always finish with a smile…. always good to have drinking company on the drive home!
Now for the humble pie I spoke of….July 4th was to be spent with family in Breckenridge CO. Got married there in 2003 and was really excited to be back for my daughter’s first birthday and to take on the Firecracker 50, a 54 mile mtn bike race that climbs and descends over 10,000ft each…and the lowest elevation on the course was 9600 ft…yikes. You know you are in Colorado when women, on single speeds, pass you up on the climbs and aren’t even out of breath. Seriously, there are more elite athletes there than most of the southern states combined. A really great race to be a part of out there and always good to get it handed to you once in a while to remember there is always a lot to work on.
Next up is my first ever mtn bike stage race in the unforgiving mountains of Pisgah National Forest at the end of September….probably worth a blog whether I finish the race or go up in flames, so stay tuned. This was to be a short blog, so keep the wheels turning and for now…focker out.