Claiming Second at US Championships in Lake Tahoe, Nevada

Another Xterra US Championships Series has come and gone, and I am happy, but not satisfied, to report that I finished second overall for 2004, again. The positive side of the race was I finished the same as last year on the worst day ever, whereas last year I felt I had a fantastic day. The frustrating side is that I have still to win a race at altitude, and the fact these races are eluding me is definitely adding some fuel to my desire to win this series. However, I am going to have to wait another year on the series, but luckily have one, very important, race left this year, the Worlds. This weekend was eventful, however, so read on to hear about our rental car being stolen, me dropping back to third after moving from 8th to 2nd, and the fight to stay in runner up place on what I call a rough day at the office…

I spent more time at altitude than I normally do for this race, and really felt that it was going to make the difference. I had some good training in Boulder and went to Tahoe early enough to ride the course and relax before the race. Things looked good. The only thing left to do was get it done.

Saturday morning, a day before the race, I got my stuff together to go do my warmup preride and swim at about 8am, and Ross went to get the morning newspaper and realized our rental car was gone. So I called 911 to report it stolen, to realize that the local police had put a call into the rental agency because they weren’t used to seeing a car there, and they just wanted to see if it was abandoned. So instead of calling me on my cellphone to see what was up, the rental agency just sent a tow truck and towed our car to Reno! The frightening thing was we were lazy the night before and left our Shimano shoes and Giro helmets in the car…. no riding until that car came back. The only shining light was that had this happened one day later and I awoke on race morning with no shoes or helmet it would have been disastrous. As it were, it was just a giant headache, and too much phone and stress time trying to get it through to the rental agency that sending ANOTHER car was not going to work, we wanted our car before they turned around and rented it to someone else!

So the car did get returned in the late afternoon, and I managed to get a spin in and relax for a bit before going to the race dinner. I put my stuff together for the race (no stuff in the car) and went to bed early.

We woke up to a crispy cold morning – there was frost on the ground in the transition area and where it was shady was probably close to freezing. My hands were cold riding to the start. But no worries, got marked, got set up and headed to the beach for my warmup swim. Lots of people were wishing me the best and I just felt so good about having the opportunity to race this race in a position to win.

The start was hard, it is amazing how many people can swim the same speed for 350 yards. Bodies everywhere, smacking you in the head, grabbing feet, pushing you under, it was brutal. I hate swimming in a wetsuit and I felt like my arms were flailing ineffectively for 1500 meters and I was right… I swam really slow and was out far back somewhere between 6th and 8th. Running to transition I knew Jamie was ahead of me already so I was focussed on getting back in the race. I grabbed my K2 T-Nine Zed and was getting ready to go get the leaders, and I knew I was in trouble. My legs felt like pudding, and the power that I had tried so hard to work on at altitude was not there. I sat down to warm up, thinking it could be the cold, and waited for it to come around. It wasn’t happening. I was not going anywhere near potential. I still managed to catch Candy and Jamie by the top of Tunnel Creek Road, but I was never able to move past and keep going, and in fact, I let Candy by on the Flume Trail because she was going better than me, and it was everything I could do to stay with her.

While I rode with her on the Flume I started to regroup and thought about how I was going to get the best out of this race in a bad situation. I figured if I was going to go it would have to be on the hard hills out of Marlette Lake. I was guessing that Candy had more power than me and was going well on the flats, but that I would still be stronger in the hills, and so I distanced myself in the high mountain Tahoe Rim Trail. On the way down the mountain my seat bag opened and my tube, mulititool and levers all fell out, missing my spokes thankfully, just to add some stress on the day. Some good downhill on my Maxxis Larson TTs and I managed to come into transition with a gap on Candy, and 1:13 down from Jamie. Unfortunately, I made a mess of the bike to run transition and that gap increased to 2 minutes when I left the transition area.

So I went out onto the run, and gave it all I had… and it wasn’t much. In fact, the second lap Ross looked worried about me, and I was worried about me too, shufffling along. You would think my Saucony Fastwitches weighed about 20 lbs instead of as many grams… I was thinking I was in danger of being caught. Memories of my awful race in 2002 danced in my head where I was passed by two people on the run because of a body meltdown. But that didn’t happen, I made it in for second, Jamie first and Candy third. That sums up the series as well, with newcomers Janae Deverell of Colorado and Lynley Allison of New Zealand rounding out the series podium but swapping places on the podium for the day.

So although I didn’t get the series, as far as I know, I am undefeated at sea level since Canada Xterra in 2003. Maui is on the menu, and I am all about that race.

Thanks to my coach Houshang Amiri at Pacificsport National Cycling Center, my partner Ross for the fun trip to Tahoe, to Elise for hospitality, Tim and Michelle for kicking my ass training up to this day, and to all the ex E-town homies.. whatup! I would like to thank my sponsors Saucony USA, K2 Bicycles, Compex Technologies, Ford Cycling, Sundog Eyewear, Maxxis, Powerbar, Shimano, Giro, 661, Descente, Hypoxico, Orca, Arq, Deuter, Rider’s Cycles and Pacificsport.

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