The VERY Dirty Duathlon at the Xterra Midwest Championships

Ah, Wisconsin, America’s Dairyland full of cows and corn fields.  There are a few features of Wisconsin that stuck with me.  First, everyone runs and cycles without a shirt (usually a good thing).  Ice cream is not quite rich enough so in Wisconsin they prefer to freeze custard to up the ante (could be a good thing depending on how much you partake in the shirtlessness).  They have something called the Duck Blind where for $20 you get all you can eat brats and free beer while you watch a minor league baseball game (only very fun people take their beer seriously, these are the folks in Wisconsin) and finally, you can buy 40 different foods on a stick at the State Fair (an amazing statistic, I can’t even think of 40 things to stick on a stick).  The highway speed limits suit the elderly and handicapped and state troopers are located at every mile marker to enforce them which I will get back to later in this report. As for the race, the Midwest Championships has bitten me twice now… good form two years in a row and two races that really did not go my way.  I am really stoked with how I handled the race today given the circumstance.  As they say, I “got ‘er done” and pulled in second place in a race that was somewhat miserable but still fun in a demented sort of way. 

Mother Nature was out on a rampage on Sunday.  A big show of thunder and lightning started shortly before GO-TIME so I just knew we wouldn’t be swimming .  I always say the swim really doesn’t make much difference in Xterra and this race further drove the point home when the swim was completely cancelled.  So while we stood in the rain freezing our booties off because no one had any clothes for the weather (we all ended up in garbage bags huddling under the tents) the Team Unlimited crew set out to mark a 2 mile course to create a long Le Mans style start for us to run to our bikes (you can hardly call it a leg of the race since the run was so short….)


I nearly missed the start after the 45 minute delay but I ran hard to the start line when I saw everyone crouched down ready to go.  We had a 2 minute head start on the amateur wave.  The plan was to let no one go, particularly not Jamie, unless I was getting absolutely shelled.  I think Jamie’s plan was the same since we ran shoulder to shoulder with Danelle Kabush (fun fact:  Danelle was a 1500m specialist in college so she can throw down on the run).  It was a very comfortable pace for me so I am guessing it was the same for Jamie.  We had gapped the rest of the field so the Jamie/Mel battle started in earnest heading out of T1.  I left first and jetted out the paved bike path to the trails.

Ok, our turning point in the race happened actually before the event itself… about 45 minutes before in fact.  I had been on the course after it rained on Thursday morning and I found that the mud was slick but I still had some traction.  I had two options for tires.  First was a skinny semi slick (Maxxis Wormdrive 1.9) and second choice was a fatter low knob (Maxxis Crossmark 2.0).  Both were in transition on two sets of identical XTR wheels.  Pivotal decision that morning as the skies opened up – do I ride the tires I practice with on Thursday?  I figured that the semi slick was going to be nuts out there despite the fact it would be fast on the road sections so I chose the Crossmark 2.0.  Jamie had the 1.8 semislick option on her bike and I laughed at that.  I thought that with my option I would be able to ride the climbs.  Bad plan.  By the time we got to the course no tire had traction.  A skinny tire that cut through the mud would help you hold a line and a fattie would send you off the trail into the woods.  Guess who rode which?  When Jamie blew by me on the road section I had no idea what was coming but I noted that the semis were a heck of a lot faster than my tires on the pavement.   I didn’t realize the size of error I had made until I attacked her on the single track.  I made a good gap and felt pretty confident of my technical skills until I flew into one of the first hard corners up to the road and laid it down so hard I broke my bottle cage and blasted my left leg.  I got up and going before she caught me but while I got reoriented she was on my wheel again.  So the next single track section I tried attacking again only to crash, unclip, hit trees and basically hurt myself while she calmly stayed a safe distance behind me to not get involved with my self-mutilation.  You could NOT go fast on the course.  NO fitness was required, only patience and maybe some good bike handling or a good tire choice.  I think Jamie had me on both, better tire choice and better patience hence better handling. 

 I kept thinking I needed a gap because I wasn’t sure I could out run her, so I kept trying to get away.  Only later will I reassess this decision.  I ended up flying over the bars into the river at one point when she finally rode by and asked if I was okay.  I said yes but really I wasn’t, I was going MENTAL with frustration.  So she was right in front of me as we continued through the second lap of the bike course which I was not shutting down fast enough.  So I decided enough was enough, PULL IT TOGETHER MCQUAID and I pinned it to shut down the gap when KABLAMMO!  Mel ate sh$#$%t.  I don’t even really know what happened but I saw and felt the devastation.  Everything… bike, head, helmet, body was pretty messed up.   I got back on and soft pedaled through the final section of the course trying to decide if I could finish the race.  As I rode onto the bike path Candy Angle caught me and rode by.  I got on her wheel and just hung out for a while trying to decide if I could finish the race.  She didn’t really bug me to pull through or anything which I thank her for because I probably would have started crying if she yelled at me.  I decided to run 200 meters and see how it went before I pulled the pin on the race. 

We got to T2, Jamie a whopping 1:45 in front of me (gone) and Candy about 10 seconds up.  I put my head down to catch Candy and then just tried to continue that pace.  By the 1 mile mark Candy wasn’t there and I decided I wasn’t going to have suffered through that horrible crashfest of a bike course to then not have points for this race.  I could see Jamie up ahead and tried hard to run her down.  I wasn’t done yet.  I was pretty fast on the straight road sections on the run but I overshot a corner on the run as well and went down (of course I crashed again.. that was the day I was having) so I ended up taking the trail sections a bit slower to try and preserve second on the day.

 By the end of the race we all looked like we had been dipped in liquid manure… so attractive!  At first I was pretty grumpy about the whole day and frustrated at myself.  But after some reflection I realized there were some great points about the race.  First is, I crashed (and I don’t mean little crashes, I laid it all out in a full block yard sale a number of times) and stayed on task throughout the whole ordeal.  I was also excited that even with the crashing I had out split Jamie on the second run.  All that panicking on the bike for a gap…. For what?  My lack of confidence in my running ultimately cost me this race because due to my impatience I ended up with a sorely beaten body and bike which ultimately determined the race.  But I finally got my run where it needs to be and when we actually swim and ride our bikes hard, look out.  Who needs a gap on the run? 

I spent today hanging out in Madison, Wisconsin with my Canadian homies Chris and David.  I also podcasted with a fit looking dude named Simply Stu (Kahuna, it was only a podcast and coffee, Stu didn’t get a 25 meter sprint race in the pool… but I did invite him to the Melanie Powertap training camp in February 2007….).  Now I am flying to Salt Lake City to meet my new Utah training partner Tom.  Two weeks of clean living and hard training.  It is the World Championships Performance Preparation Plan for Ogden.  If you back me in a corner to save the series, look out.  There is a new level of suffering I can endure, as evidenced in Keystone last year.  Ogden is 2000 feet lower, but still altitude so I will be there for the next 13 days getting ready for the race with the Utah triathlon crew. 

 Until then, thanks for reading and thanks to the Wisconsin state trooper for giving us a well deserved fine… clearly 81 miles/hour is an INSANE speed in an all wheel drive car in perfect sunny weather with no traffic on the FREEWAY… WHAT were you thinking, Chris?  If anyone has a job out west for a Doctor of Geology and Microbiology, Chris needs to go on the lam to avoid that massive fine in Wisconsin…. Anybody? 

Thanks go to Saucony, the new Type A actually stayed on my foot in the muddy mess that was the race course and pulled in an all time best run performance.  To Orbea, who have phoned ahead to fully overhaul the Alma in Salt Lake City (many bikes are going to need TLC after Milwaukee).  To Nature’s Path… my Optimum Power oatmeal made it all the way through the hour delay and then some.  To Sundog eyewear for unfoggy glasses that unfortunately were covered in goop.  To Shimano for unfailing XTR shifting performance, Maxxis for great tires I chose not to use (haha), Gu for yummy drink and gels that taste good with mud in them, Profile Design for light cages that survive everything but the full weight of me and my bike against a rock at full speed, Titec for carbon components that can withstand the full force of Mel and bike on rock,  Fox Racing Shox for the Terralogic magic fork, Aquaman Wetsuits (not necessary this time around, I guess), Limar helmets (thank you for keeping me lucid), Fizik Saddles, Speedo Canada, CycleOps/Powertap, Computrainer, Powercranks, Precor and Rider’s Cycles.  I can’t do it without all of you.


More adventures to come… ciao to you all!

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