I am quite certain that having my race end in unconsciousness within yards of the finish line is the worst ever DNF. Losing the World Championships being passed within meters of the line is still easier than a DNF. This is a hard one to process for me. Why? Where did I go wrong?
It is ironic that I tweeted this the night before the race:
T-1 days = “The ultimate is not to win, but to reach within the depths of your capabilities and to compete against yourself.” Billy Mills
Certainly that is exactly what I did on race day. I went out to war to find out how hard, how fast and how strong I could be. I gave it everything and in the end Lesley Paterson proved the strongest on the day. Of course in hindsight I wonder what I might have changed to have things turn out different. I had created a big gap… what if I had slowed more at aid stations, what if and what if?? At the end of it all, aside from addressing hydration with more vigor, I really wouldn’t change a thing with my race execution. I was the strongest I have been in a long time, I raced brilliantly for 99% of the day and I found my limit to my performance. On that day there was only less to give, not more, and that is the best way to be satisfied with your race, your career, or anything in your life. If you always give it absolutely 100% you really can never have any regrets. That approach will only bring you experiences and performances that remind you that you were really living and performing at your maximum potential.
I remember my race on Sunday up to about 2 miles of the run to go. The run was 3.5 miles up and 2.5 miles down. I believe at some point on the descent things went haywire. Here is the race according to the XTERRA twitter feed and my recollection.
Erin Densham is followed by Canadian and 3- time XTERRA Champion Melanie McQuaid #XTERRA #XTERRAmaui
This was one of the better swims I have had at Worlds in a very long time. Erin Densham is an incredibly decorated ITU athlete with 2008 Olympic credentials and World Champion stripes in the Under-23 category. She is a huge young talent and I am hoping that her first taste of XTERRA has her hooked for life. Having her at the race was so exciting and motivating. Swimming beside her to the first buoy sent my confidence skyrocketing. What an awesome start I had beside all of the superstar men: Conrad, Olivier, Ben Allen, Ivan Rana, Frodeno, Llanos. It was like a cool ITU men’s race start and I jumped right in it. Then I was drowned at the first buoy and ended up swimming to a 1:45 deficit on Densham after T1 which is still fantastic. I was out with Marion Lorblanchet who beat me by a minute last year and Lesley was just behind the two of us.
Bike mile 4: Lead women Erin Densham followed by Melanie McQuaid 1 min back and Marion Lorblanchet of France at 1:40 back.
I started the bike very conservatively. Knowing that the early miles were very steep and bound to be congested I focused less on the annoying pileups that inevitably happen as the race sorts itself out in the early miles and let my legs open up and start feeling good. My Fate was the perfect bike for these steep climbs and although some of the men would put more power in than I, I would take back any gaps over the top. There was a strong group forming around me.
Mile 6 Women’s Bike: McQuaid in first 1:45 over Densham with Marion Lorblanchet 2 minutes behind.
Once I saw Densham I did not want her to have an opportunity to get on my wheel so I picked the pace up as soon as I caught her. I was also starting to feel good and decided it was the time to start really hammering. I was intent on staying in the group of men that were riding around me as it was motivating to have a wheel to follow. Riding Shimano XTR 2×10 with a 38/26 chainring was a very good decision. I would alternate big/little ring all of the time. Riding Pisgah Stage Race made this entire bike course seem easy. I was feeling good. I had lost one of my two electrolyte bottles though. I believe this is the fatal flaw in my race. The cage on my seatpost has proven 100% ineffective regardless of what kind of cage I put on there. With a hardtail the bottle would either bounce out or the cage would break on me at US Nationals and Canadian Nationals. Why did I think the stupid thing would work here? I guess I thought a steel cage would hold but I was wrong. I only had one bottle of electrolytes and then drank only one bottle of water and a bit after. Not enough. #fail
Women’s Bike 15: McQuaid in first followed Lesley Paterson 5 minutes back. Carina Wasle in 3rd and Erin Densham 4th.
At mile 13 I started to dig in. I knew these were crucial miles where I could really start making time. I think I have developed some solid endurance on the bike this season and I saw that it was easier for me to stay with some of the men in the last 8 miles than at any other time in the race despite some attacks and shuffling in the group. I was feeling really good and motivated from here to transition. I rode in with Thomas Vonach, Jason Michilak, Cal Zaryski and others. Unfortunately Thomas was too fast to follow on the run but I did have another fellow to follow who I couldn’t identify.
The last mile of the bike. We all look like cinnamon powdered donuts. 🙂
Run Mile 3 for Women: Melanie McQuaid holds her lead with Lesley Paterson running into second position. Followed… fb.me/1gI70qQMJ
I went out onto the run feeling like I still had good legs. I left transition with a little 5 oz bottle of Powerbar electrolyte drink and Saltstick tabs in it and planned to rocket to the top of the race. The hardest part of the run by far was the first 3.5 miles, after which it rolled back down the hill to the finish.. with a short hill right after 5 miles and at the finish line. I knew if I got to the top with any kind of a gap the race was mine. I was actually climbing well on the run but was certainly wondering whether I was going hard enough or too hard. I had an awesome run time trial before I left Victoria but this run was different and I didn’t have a lot of feedback in the first half of the run.
Paterson and Lorblanchet about 3:35 back.
At four miles this race seemed to be well under my control and when any of the guys would pass me they told me I still had a large gap, was totally good and just to let it rip downhill. With rolling largely downhill travel, albeit with one steep and nasty uphill I would have thought myself capable of holding off even the fleet footed Lesley given gravity was my friend. I knew I needed a gap to beat Lesley as I was positive she would beat me but my estimations would have put her out of contention when I was told she was at minimum 5 minutes back off the bike. She was actually more than 6.
Lesley Paterson has run herself to within 1:20 behind McQuaid after mile 5
Disaster is unfolding. No recollection of any of this. Gravity and instinct were likely propelling me forward.
Wow! Paterson just passed McQuaid nearing the beach
It was hard to go back and read that.
I saw some video of me staggering through the creek section just before the sand. It looks like I can’t see where the trail goes and I am having trouble balancing. I made it across the sand as I was told that with the help of some friends cheering me I made it to the grassy lawn in front of the Ritz where I faced a short run uphill to the finish line. I was told that I staggered, took a few wobbly steps, grabbed the fencing and tried to get myself to the line. I also was told I refused medical attention and jumped out of the golf cart they were trying to use to get me to the line. I am proud of myself to even know what the right thing to do is when I am completely out of it – FINISH!! However, I was incapable of finishing. I had found my limits on that day.
Maybe, like the honey badger, I just needed a nap and then I would come back to crushing it?
“What looks like a loss may be the very event which is subsequently responsible for helping to produce the major achievement of your life” – Srully Blotnick
I have nothing but the utmost respect for Lesley, Marion and Helen our women’s top 3 on the day. Lesley’s performance was outstanding and her run was phenomenal. She is a great and worthy champion. Big congratulations to Canadians Danelle Kabush for 5th place and Brandi Heisterman for her 9th place at her first World Championship and congrats to Cal Zaryski for another 40-44 Age Group World title to add to his collection. Canada was the second largest delegation to the XTERRA World Championship this year and I am so proud that was the case. Way to go team and congratulations to the folks behind XTERRA Canada as you are very much the reason why that is the case.
I would also like to congratulate the MelRad racers for being the champions that they are. Not everyone had the best day but they were the most classy, sportsmanlike and fun group of people I could ever have the pleasure to spend time with. Kate Button (www.twitter.com/katelynbutton) went from 46th overall and 50 minutes behind the women’s winner in 2010 (her first ever season of triathlon) to 20th overall woman, 2nd in her age group and 30 minutes back her second year. Awesome. Jo Markham was also a superstar with a 3rd in her age group with Kate (25-29) and Fred Smith (www.twitter.com/knoxmtb) was 2nd in his age group (35-59) and 8th overall amateur male. Three podiums is incredible and those are awesome and inspirational performances. The whole team (other than myself) finished the race despite Keri’s broken chain and some first timers at the Worlds so that, all in all, is more than I could ever ask for in a group of athletes I work with. You guys were and continue to amaze and inspire me. Thank you! And thank you too Dee Thatcher our fearless leader who kept us all in line all weekend. You are so great!
Although I fell short of one goal, I want to thank all of my sponsors for their contributions to my otherwise excellent 2011 season which was highlighted by an ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship title, another USA Pro Series Overall Championship title, 3 more Regional Championship titles, the Canadian National Championship title (I am undefeated on my home turf… when can we have Worlds there?) and another USA Championship win. I also won some fun races too like the Pisgah Stage race, the silly Tour de Suds and I took a second and a third place at Ironman 70.3. It has been a really, really great year and I am thankful for all of it.
Thank you Shimano, AVIA, Nathan, the entire @iamSpecialized team, Maxxis, Sundog Eyewear, Powerbar, Profile Design, Titec, Champion System, CycleOps, USANA, ESI grips, Justin’s Nut Butter, and Genuine Innovations. I am proud to have you on my team and know that every time I toe the line I have an advantage on my competition because you are with me.
Thank you to Markus Blumensaat, RMT at Left Coast Health, Paul McIntyre at Broadmead Orthopedic Physiotherapy and Day Deans-Buchan, chiro at Cedar Hill Sports therapy for their contributions to my health. Thanks to the guys at Procity Racing for their contributions to my bike’s health and Donnie and Dave at Maui Cyclery for all the pre-Worlds panic avoidance. Thanks to Aaron Altura for being my Maui mafia. Thanks to Neil Harvey for my awesome swim and Houshang Amiri at the Pacific Cycling Center for his cycling training group that I couldn’t get up to speed without. Thanks to Clint for the awesome open water sessions! Thank you to my training partners Erinne, Annie, Jamie, Mical, Regan, Sunday boys, Marilyn, Jen, Fred, Buttons, Shawn, Steve-o, Ryder, Ben, the Shootout, Jasper, Mike, Palmer, Woodie, Jonny, Bill, Ross and all the other people I have spent some time hanging out or training with this season. Thanks to Scott Vannan, Maia and Tammy for the hilarious and incredibly beneficial Pilates: Deconstructed sessions that are now indispensable. Thank you to all of my incredible homestays this year. Thank you to all of the race directors including Team Unlimited, the TR3 people, Pisgah Stage Race, WTC, the Phoenix Tri Club and more who put together such amazing events and thank you to all of the volunteers at those events. I will always try to pay it forward. You guys helped me get here and I love you so much for it.
And lastly, thank you to the XTERRA family for offering me a life full of friendships and experiences that are beyond amazing. I love this sport more than anything and hope that I can try to push the boundaries, expectations and level of the sport in the coming years. Next season is like a chapter I am so excited to start to read in a really good book. Only I can decide what is written. See you next year.