Ogden XTERRA – Learning Lessons

The Ogden XTERRA was pivotal in the series as a loss for me would mean Jamie Whitmore would gain a huge advantage going into the finals. Despite my efforts, which may not have been my best, I came up short. All things happen for a reason and I took away some valuable lessons from this event.

 

 

I took my time writing this report partly because I was driving home the long way through Yellowstone Park with little interest in anything internet at that time and partly because I wanted to try and be as objective as possible before beginning. Anyone who read the race report at www.triathletemag.com knows that I didn’t get the job done in Ogden. Period. That is super disappointing given I was feeling pretty great about my track record of performances under pressure. Were there good reasons? No. The fact was, despite all of the challenges I was facing, I had the opportunity to win that race and somewhere between start and finish managed to lose the focus I needed to get it done. The difference between the win and second was 1.2%. I am sure that despite my foot issues I could have erased my weakness on the run with my good swim and a fast bike split to take the win. But I didn’t and here is the story…

The weeks since Crested Butte have flown by. I had some great training and met some great friends along the way. I did a big loop from Gunnison to Boulder to Vail then Snowmass and the final race destination in Utah. I spent the week in Kaysville with our friends, the Telfords. It was wonderful to hang out with Tom, Liza, Aspen and Jackson although Tom seemed to think I was some kind of exotic bird that required a very strict diet of obscure foods and a sterilized environment… kind of like “bubble girl”. Ha! It didn’t take long for Liza to realize that I am much more laid back than originally expected. Suddenly I was a lot less maintenance than she had anticipated, thankfully!

The weather was very hot all week, topping 105 degrees on more than one occasion. I was excited because the course had elements of Maui in it and I expected it to be a good practice race for us all. Swimming in Pineview Reservoir that week was so nice as the water was a warm 74 degrees. After my training rides on the course I would take a dip regardless of whether a swim workout was on the schedule just because the water was so great. Riding on the course in training was a treat as well as the changes to the course only made it more fun. This venue in Ogden, Utah is one of the greatest.

Training that week was up and down for me, with Wednesday pretty awful but Friday promising. I think changing to my Maxxis Larson tires on Thursday was a good choice… the Oriflamme was just not hooking up like I needed it to in the loose sections on the course. I felt that my form was just getting better as the week went on. The only unknown was the run. I have been favoring my right foot for five weeks now. Something happened to it the week after Canadian mountain bike nationals and the pain was bad enough that I really have not trained since. It was very frustrating but I have always expected that at some point in my career I am going to deal with an injury. This is the year. I decided to control what I can (swim and bike fitness) and let go of what I can’t control (whether I can run or not). I did do some water runs and tried a few short run workouts to see about my progress. Unfortunately, in five weeks the pain did not get any better. So, I was going into Ogden planning to hurt but get through the run. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive of that last leg.

The morning of the race my friend Paul called us at 7am. Due to thunderstorms overnight the water temperature had dipped below 64 degrees and the race called for wetsuits. Although I was thankful of the warning, somehow I let this get under my skin. You see, I usually swim better WITHOUT a wetsuit. I was planning a full scale assault in the swim which I would back up on the bike to then not need to worry about the run. Front ending my race, if you will. When I was told it was wetsuit somehow I figured my race strategy was going to go sideways. Suddenly, my confidence took a hit.

It is funny how much of racing is in your head. I love the quote “If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are probably right.” Unfortunately, that morning, I wasn’t thinking what I needed to.

Despite everything Ross was saying, I was feeling sorry for myself because of my foot and couldn’t focus on the strengths I had… only my weakness. Ross told me to go mental in the swim, throw down on the bike and then just run it in. He was so right. That is the race I COULD have had.

I rode down to T1, threw on my Profile by Aquaman wetsuit, did a short warmup and before I knew it, was off. The start was HARD. Even at 5000 feet the initial sprint start of a swim race crushes me. I blew a little around the first buoy and needed to regroup to the next one. Luckily, I started fast enough that I remained with a strong group including Candy, Josiah, my friend Andrew and Mike Vine. They basically towed me the whole swim while I kicked back and enjoyed myself. I got out and for the first time, led the race straight out of transition!

On the bike I felt good. I planned to go hard and smooth in the first half of the race and mental in the second half. I rode the first descent really well and after that Brian Smith came by, cheering for me and telling me I was doing awesome. EVERYONE riding by was telling me how fast I was, how far back everyone else was and how the race was pretty much mine.

Then I rode through the lap point where we head into the final climb. It was there I started thinking. I guess I saw transition and since I planned my “last assault” in that section I started getting ahead of myself. I started doing MATH! Emma Burt would think that is really cool since she is a math whiz but it wasn’t complicated problems I was doing, it was calculations based on what I thought Jamie was doing. Unfortunately, this meant I focused on HER race rather than mine. All that thinking meant my legs stopped pushing as hard. I remember thinking so many times “NOT GOING HARD ENOUGH… TOO EASY THERE”. Obviously that was true. I gave away over two minutes in less than 40 which is completely ridiculous unless you have a mechanical or blow, neither of which was the case for me. So we ended up riding into transition together.

Then it was over. I was sure I couldn’t run (which was probably also NOT the case but your mind is a powerful thing) and I was so mad at myself for not riding well I couldn’t focus on running anyways so I had another sub par anchor leg for me. Second place on the day when I know I could have done so much more. This means Jamie has the luxury of coming third at Nationals and still winning the series. It was pretty amazing to see the podium in Ogden… essentially a who’s who of American mountain biking joined the party as Jenny Smith (who is a Kiwi and now an XTERRA honch but who also is a wicked mountain biker) took third, Dara Marks Marino (a former teammate on Ford who is a former top NORBA girl) fourth and Shonny Vanlandingham (a present NORBA superstar) rounded out the “mountain bike star” podium. Interesting development in XTERRA.

So what have we learned? I say often, don’t evaluate your race until it is over. I made the mistake of evaluating my bike leg before I actually even had it finished and gave up the race. Not good. Race each leg as hard as you can, pay no attention to anyone else and get it done. Decide whether it is good or bad later. The second thing I learned? I don’t have to be 100% prepared to win. I used to use my perfect training with my perfect plan of being perfect before races to have UBER-confidence in my ability to win. This last race proved to me (even though I didn’t win) that I didn’t need 100% to win. Maybe even at 85% I could have got it done. I surprised myself with the swim, which would have made up for the run with my normal ability on the bike. I can be confident even when things aren’t all going my way.

This year has been amazing again results wise.. to get another year of top 2 finishes while the rest of the field is getting better and better is fantastic. I am proud of that. I also think Jamie is really going well this year and that is helping to keep things competitive in North America so we can both be ready at Worlds. For me, if anything could go wrong this year, it has. I was ready for a challenging year and here I have it. I think that once I put to rest these niggling problems I can get back to winning form. I don’t think the work I have done in the run this season has been for nothing, although if you look at my run splits this year you may start to wonder . I believe my swimming is perfect proof of this: I did TONS of swimming this year and it is only just now starting to show. I think my run is going to join the party right when I need it the most. At the very least, these disappointments have clarified for me that I still have a passion for this sport and really, the goal is to get the best out of myself. When I don’t perform to my best on a given day, I am disappointed. I don’t like being disappointed in myself so don’t expect a repeat of that performance.

I would like to send a shout out to my friend Scott at BMC. How many athletes can chat with their “boss” about the race frankly and actually have a full on discussion about training with him or her? Scott, you rule for being a huge supporter not only in a business sense but also in performance. I think BMC is amazing for how committed they are to having cutting edge technology that gives me and edge equipment –wise but also the fact they are also athletes themselves makes such a difference. 2007 has been my most challenging season to find my form and yet, I am still runner up in the series with a win in the bank. This is absolutely because I have a team of sponsors, including BMC and my friends at Nature’s Path. I could not ask for better title sponsors. These people cheer for me and honestly want to see me perform my best. BIG hugs to you guys! I don’t know how many athletes feel they can still win with an injury but I did and it is because of you.

My second shout out goes to Alan, John and Anita at USANA. When I was in Utah I got to tour the USANA facility and see what goes into those bottles of vitamins that I have at home. USANA tests all the raw materials, then QCs all down the line to ensure uniformity in quantity and quality in all of their products. None of this is required of a supplement company since they fall under the “foods” category. Most vitamins you buy do none of the double checks you would expect of something that in your mind would be like a drug but in the eyes of the FDA, is a food. Food does not have the same manufacturing standards of drugs which explains why so many athletes are testing positive when taking supplements. USANA not only tests all of their products for quality they also send supplements to a WADA accredited lab to be double-checked that an athlete would not test positive and then supplies these tested vitamins to athletes – like me. USANA is the only vitamin company doing this. So now that I am in need of calcium to heal my foot I can be 100% confident that the products I am getting from USANA are 100% what they say they are. USANA also makes a beautiful skin care line so they have my back, keeping me looking healthy both inside and out. Thank you so, so much! These guys were so hoping I would repeat the Utah win but I know that what I learned this year is going to make me even stronger when I return next year.

Next up is the Canadian Off Road Triathlon Nationals in Vancouver!

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