Another trip to good old Richmond, VA is marked by my semi annual visit to the medic tent … in fact, the medics welcomed me and reminisced about my antics in 2002 at this venue. That was first bout of heat exhaustion and unconsciousness where I took it as my first opportunity to puke on a sponsor when I ruined Kevin Tordoff’s shiny Saucony shoes. Carrie decided to steer clear of me this year. The end of the race involved Melanie toting the abominable snowman on her back for the last 3km of the run. Unfortunately, that was well after I had lost the race but insult to injury ensued with a turned ankle, some running road rash and probably some horrible photos of Melanie crumpling at the finish. I was pretty disappointed in general with my race in Richmond because again, my form just is not there and Jamie basically walloped me on the run. It was almost as ugly as Mickelson on the 18th hole. It is frustrating to me to have had this start to the season, when the plan was to be much faster now but what goes up must come down…. Maybe my timing will be all for the best when our big races are still to come. To fill everyone in on the math, with a win and two runner up finishes in the series, with two to go as long as I win one more of the races before Tahoe, the series is again going to come down to Tahoe. That was NOT the plan but Jamie has basically been racing better than I and she is now a wafer thin 10 points ahead of me in the overall series. Back at it again this season I guess, the Mel and Jamie battle. The race was still fun because the bike course is fabulous, my homestay with Jay Paul was killer and I had a great time riding with some of the local women on their Tuesday night mountain bike ride. Stay tuned for more…
Jay Paul is a local Richmond fellow with family roots dating back 200 years. He’s literally one of the good old boys of Richmond. He was our local contact hooking us up with a place to stay, a car, passes to the country club and an airport pickup. What more do you need? Well, he hooked me up with Bill Swanee who organized my Ride Like A Girl-Xterra Style clinic with a local women’s mountain bike group which was great fun. If ever he is looking for a personal assistant job he is so hired. He also raced on Sunday and did amazing, as did our female hostess, Kate, who qualified for Maui. Anyways, we were well looked after yet again, confirming our suspicions that the people in the south are the most hospitable anywhere. Ross and I arrived to an empty house on Monday night and Jay opened his house to Jim Vance as well, so the three of us had the run of the place for most of the week. During that time we managed to fix bikes, hit the country club, go to the YMCA to run on the treadmill, do a press conference, a photo shoot, a clinic, ride the whole course three times…. Yeah, it was hectic. I think I found the reason for my meltdown on Sunday. I am just not fit enough to recover from a hard race, run around like a chicken with my head cut off stressing out, then back it up with another great race.
Ben at 3 Sports in Richmond took care of the mess I had made of the Alma in Alabama so I was good to go early in the week for riding. He also organized some rollers which came in handy when the hurricane remnants hit Richmond and it poured rain on Wednesday… thanks guys! 3 Sports is an amazing multisport shop that does a lot in the Richmond area.
On Tuesday night I went riding with a great group of chicks. We pre-rode the North trail of the Xterra course including the brand new ramp leading away from the river that has extended the trail network off road since last year. It was incredible to see the engineering that went into the ramp. It was so great to hear from the girls that did the mountain bike race on Saturday that some of my tips were helpful for their races on Saturday. That is the best part of what I do, seeing other people get stoked on the sport! Saturday I hosted a clinic with Nico Lebrun, Justin Thomas and Candy Angle and we had a great group including some true beginners with questions that really helped us get perspective on where people are coming from when they come to this sport for the first time. Questions like: “Are you swimming breaststroke? That ramp is unrideable, right?” Some of these questions were coming from a beginner who was probably in his 50s… so no time like the present for you all out there to get started, right dad? It was inspiring for me to see these new people coming to the sport and for all of you who I did not see after the race, we’ll see you at the next one!
As for me, the morning of the race I did my usual spin down to the venue, set up transition and then sat in the shade trying not to melt in the sun. When we all lined up for the swim I was ready and stoked to finally have a good swim. Well, it was good up to the second buoy, as I swam on the top two girls’ feet until I overshot the buoy because of the current and lost them. So I found myself back in my usual position leading the next group. Out of the water, I put my shoes on, ran to transition and then blasted out in pursuit.
I caught Janae in the first piece of single track and was waiting for a good spot to get by. When I told her where I was going to go, she didn’t give me quite enough room and I think we locked bars and she came down on top of me. Ouch for me and my bike, lost my Gu2O bottle and bent my derailleur hangar. I pushed on trying to put some real estate between me and Jamie.
When we were heading down the straight stretch, I noticed some markers had changed since I pre-rode. I was sure the right way to go was straight but as I approached the stairs I saw Candy come out of the woods. So then I was torn… did I miss an arrow? Should I go back? I kept going but kept thinking, did I cut the course? Am I disqualified? I really struggled to focus but I decided to keep going, the whole time thinking, how am I going to defend myself? I didn’t mean to cheat….what do I do? Not a good way to attack the trails…
I caught Candy in the Forest Hill single track and laughed to myself when I said to her: “Candy, I need by please and I just took down Janae so we don’t want a repeat of that”. I am such a tough guy. I was riding smoothly, but worrying about being disqualified was distracting me. I had the opportunity to see that I had not cheated when we went through the straight stretch again and I saw I was right, Candy added the little single track beside the road by accident. Darn!! Shouldn’t have stressed but it was too late, focus on the last bit of the course.
I wasn’t very fast and I had a sneaking suspicion that was the case. You have to be so aggressive on that course and I knew I was not. Sure enough, I left T2 and heard Jamie coming in. Too close. So I just pushed myself as hard as I could but I was running like a hippo in waist deep water. I held her off about 2/3 of the way but then it was over. I had nothing and I couldn’t fake it. She passed me and I gave her the eye but that was it, no response. When we started crossing the river I turned my ankle (my legs were jelly and cramping and useless) and I folded like a cheap card table onto the rocks. I got up and kept going, telling myself you can’t fall apart less than 2km from the finish. It wasn’t pretty but I got it done. Even if I was wobbly, hyperventilating and dry heaving at the finish. Heat and humidity is such a wonderful combination. Apparently my Canadian compatriot Brent McMahon looked about the same coming in for his second place finish so I don’t feel so bad.
So, Jamie got me again, Candy was third again, Janae Deverell was fourth and Danelle Kabush rocked another podium with a fifth place finish. As much as I hate losing, I am so stoked to hang on for another second place because the rest of the field is definitely coming for us.
I have a six week break from Xterra which I am using to work on my mountain bike racing. I’m going to need it, my ankle is aching and my right leg is in a full Charlie horse which is being aggravated by the crappy 17 hour trip we are making from Richmond back to Victoria. This trip I have SUCKED at travel management. My next race is mountain bike nationals at Sun Peaks and then the Crankworks festival in Whistler. Hard training is on the menu for the next month. Hopefully the next block of races unfolds as it should…
Thanks to the wicked sponsor partners: Saucony, Nature’s Path, Orbea, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Maxxis, Profile Design, Titec, Fox Racing Shox, Aquaman Wetsuits, Limar Helmets, Fizik Saddles, GU Sports, Speedo Canada, CycleOps/Powertap, Computrainer, Powercranks, Precor and Rider’s Cycles.