Just Short of My Richmond Repeat

How painful to your heart is being passed in the final kilometers of a triathlon… I had sworn off being passed in the run this winter by training my BUTT off in the run, but managed to sabotage my own race this week after coming back from Europe. I felt pretty good as soon as I got in, and was psyched to do some training to kickstart the system and get ready for Richmond but I think I kickstarted too much, because my good feeling off the plane turned into a blown feeling by the time of the race, and my horrible run was the result. I practiced the bike course too much, and the run course too little.. I was caught and passed at the infamous boulder hopping section (flashback to 2002 when Anke passed me there while I was going unconscious from heatstroke). No heatstroke for me, it wasn’t THAT hot, but a pass that I couldn’t counter meant I lost the race by a tiny margin. It is frustrating to think of all of the little mistakes I made during the race that had they not been made, maybe I wouldn’t have finished the race with a deficit. However, the bigger issue was I made the rookie mistake of being so nervous about a race that I thought I needed to do more to get ready, rather than less, and paid for it. Still, even though Jamie had a better day, it was a good race, Jamie and I were both top 20 overall on the day, which is definitely respectable, and we continue our deathgrip on the US Championships series as we are tied in first, with a sizeable lead over third. The best thing about this week, however, was the message from my Italian friends, so please check out the photos in “Other Photos” so you can see just how amazing those people are!! And then, carry on to the story….

This year I flew into Washington, DC from Italy, rented a car, and drove to my buddy Kathy Coutinho?s house to stay for a few days. I missed my Italian family, but Kathy is a sure remedy. Kathy has the attitude that everyone should aspire to, she is ALWAYS smiling or laughing, she is an awesome chiropractor with her own practice (that is doing great, because as I said, she knows her stuff), has a great husband, the cutest 7 month old daughter, a nice dog, a cool bike, is super fit, and rides technical like the girls on the North Shore of Vancouver. She is like the Washington version of my good friend Day who has the mirror image life in Victoria (always happy, chiropractor, wicked but wacky husband Bill, beautiful daughter Gwynnie, dog, house, etc?) We went riding in her local trails and she schooled me jumping over these massive logs. I was impressed but not that surprised, I mean, she learned in Victoria so OF COURSE she is good :).

Anyhow, when I arrived, only my clothing bag accompanied me. My bike wasn’t there and according to British Airways, they did not have any idea of where it was. Oh my, not what I wanted to hear, especially since about 300 bikes were getting on the plane in Cagliari to go to assorted locations around the globe. So the first day I sent some emails around and was so happy that upon hearing the news, the guys at Orbea were mobilizing for a worst case scenario and the problem would be taken care of. This is the kind of sponsors you want? stuff from Shimano available, new Scape frame to be sent, Profile components to be sent from home. I would have a bike no matter what. Plus, I had flown with my pedals, bike shoes, run shoes and helmet, so I was able to borrow Kathy’s bike for midweek training.

Likely because everything was going to be taken care of, my bike arrived the next day. So I took it out for a spin to make sure it worked, then did a Wednesday night mountain bike race put on by the Potomac Velo Club. Totally fun, with some fast up and coming girls to challenge me along with the expert men. Danelle Kabush, my travel partner, also arrived that night, and her bike arrived but her bag did not! Unfortunately, this became a pretty major headache for her the whole week.

So Thursday morning we drive from Washington to Richmond, and a one point five hour drive turned into a four hour nightmare of crawling down 95 South. It completely sucked. So much for my Thursday ride on the course! The right thing to do would have been to chill out, but, determined to stick to my schedule, I went out on the course until it was too dark to ride. Dumb! I managed to only get in half of the course.

We were staying with a nice fireman named Brian who let us crash his cute little house. Two racing chicks in a single guy?s house for four days, imagine the poor guy dealing with all the race food, the thousands of shoes, etc.  He was a good sport. He also was very helpful in getting Danelle sorted out since her bag still hadn’t arrived, two days later. So while they were driving all over town to find rotors, running shoes, and some clothes, I was busy overtraining for the weekend.

We did have a nice dinner at the Virginia Country Club with Brian’s buddy Jay and his girlfriend Kate, and they told us some of Richmond’s history. Richmond has deep roots in Confederacy, and is full of monuments and memorials dating to the Civil War. The James River, where we were swimming, was where ships would come in. Hard to believe given that the swim was in about half a meter of water (obviously they weren?t coming that far upriver!). The water was also the temperature of a bath tub. The swim course had been changed this year and now was about 1000m, with a maze of buoys and cones to navigate. It was better, I think, than in the past, when we spent more time running on Belle Island than actually swimming in the river.

The change that deserves the most note is the bike course. Over the past year TONS of work has been done by residents of Richmond to build a new trail network on the opposite side of the river from Belle Island, so since this was done, we now had a whole new loop to add to this race, which meant no more overlapping other competitors. It was awesome! Whenever I rode the loop I just had a huge smile on my face because it was such a fun combination of fun whoops, fast sections, cool bridges, little logs? a very fun course that was accessible to anyone, but became more and more technical the faster you rode it. This is an absolutely perfect course for an Xterra because it challenges beginners and advanced riders appropriately?. Bill Swan, who was instrumental in building one of the sections, has promised to race next year? so we have to hold him to it! Without very much climbing, it is a very difficult course to put very much time on anyone, unless they are less talented technically. So I didn?t expect giant gains on Jamie the same as were available in Italy on the bike.

So here is the story of the race. I lined up with the fast people for the swim, determined to not swim alone. When the whistle went off (the gun didn?t fire) I started as fast as I could, and was instantly dropped by the people around me. No problem, I swam as hard as I could to the first buoy when I realized I was with Candy Angle. Cool! I was going well, since she normally gets out first? So I continued on her feet until we got to the next buoy, when I accidentally started turning right, when I needed to go straight. That meant I was dropped off of her feet, and alone again. DOH, precious seconds!!! No problem.. got out of the water about 15 seconds or so back, ran to transition (with Jamie right behind me) got on the bike and hauled ass to the singletrack.

I caught Candy before the first piece of single track, Jess Harrison on the sandstone section and from there on led the race. I wanted as much time as possible, so I tried my hardest to be very aggressive and accelerate quickly to maintain my speed. Unforturnately, the first loop was not so good and I was making far too many errors, my legs felt crappy and I was not riding cleanly. I took a particularly bad line and ended up dropping one of my water bottles? and I REALLY wanted that Powerbar Endurance electrolyte drink! The second lap got better as I relaxed a little, but I went the wrong way on one of the corners and lots more precious seconds. I went into T2 in first, but I had no idea what kind of lead I had.

I ran as hard as I could, and right away knew I was in trouble. Even though I chose Saucony Fastwich racing flats, my legs felt like cement bricks. My mouth was dry and my stomach was cramping hard, sure signs I was horribly dehydrated. I had no one around me, no one passing me, but I knew I wasn?t running fast enough. I just put one leg in front of the other as fast as I could, and when I reached the boulder section I tried to look as far forward as I could. Then disaster struck.

With no one around me, I had no one to follow through this tricky river crossing where you need to leap from rock to rock over bits of water. I was tired, hot, a bit dizzy with my heart rate in the high 190s, and I was totally, totally confused. So I took some of the worst lines possible. Instantly, my lead was lost. Jamie bee lined that section and put so much time on me, so quickly, that although I could run after her, the damage was done. I pushed myself as hard as I could but I couldn?t close the gap and that is where the race was won.

Good for Jamie, bummer for me, but now we are tied for the lead in the series as I go home to prepare for the next stop in Milwaukee. Danelle finally got her bag, at 4am this MORNING? the day AFTER the race!! Thanks so much for nothing, Air Canada. I think the stress of having none of her stuff was just no good for her, and she didn?t have her best performance? so she?ll be looking for vengeance in Milwaukee. Thanks to everyone in the Richmond and Washington area for all their cheering and well wishes, I look forward to coming back next year to see the new additions to the trails!

Happy training, mel

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