Well, it would be an understatement to say I am underwhelmed with my opening of the season. I would have expected to have felt better in my races at the end of this last five weeks than I have. In particular, I am disappointed with my runs that left me off the top step. Given my focus on running, that was not what I had hoped for and really indicated how power on the bike wins these types of races and how my power on the bike was sorely lacking. This past weekend in Richmond was a short drag race (2h race time is the shortest race ever) with me, Renata and Shonny coming off the bike together and me getting absolutely horsewhipped by their attacks on the bike and fading in the heat on the run. Not a good feeling to have in your legs. The start of this year has been unfamiliar territory given I have been the strongest or at least equally strong to any girl on the bike in this sport for as long as I can remember. However, I did things different for a reason and still am committed to my plan for this year. If I did things the same I would have most likely gone to Maui with similar form and that has not been good enough to win for three years. No thanks.
Both Renata and Shonny took turns whalloping me in Alabama and Richmond and it was groundhog day on both race mornings with stupidly hot and humid weather, flat and twisty race courses, and stifling hot runs. I decided to try out my new Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29er in Richmond so it would have a real world test scenario and although it certainly didn’t cost me any time, I think pilot error impeded any gains in time. More due to unfamiliarity with the drivetrain and climbing on big wheels I think. I found I was either over or under-geared for a lot of the course which cost me time I gained with my momentum.
I also rocked a new S-works helmet and new S-works mountain bike shoes which allowed on the bike shoe on/offs in transition that made an already fast transition even faster. I loved riding that 29er bike and look forward to more 29er research in the future. Thank you to Ben at 3 Sports in Richmond for inviting me to a nice evening of Q&A at the posh new store, for building and primping my late arriving bicycle and for helping me pack my ten tons of stuff that I needed to haul back to Canada. You are a star!
I think the lack of cycling training in the early season has really shown in this early part of the year. With Maui still four months away and that race representing a much different kind of racing I am still sure I am not having a bad season. Although Shonny and Renata have started the year much stronger than I, I did have a win in different weather on different kind of course, so I think I have just been outraced in the Southeastern humidity. Texas, Alabama and Richmond were all very similar bike courses with identical weather conditions. It is clear that I was weaker than I would like in those conditions but perhaps if we had different conditions the start of the season would have been different. I don’t know the answer to that but I do know that my running is actually quite good so the outcomes of these races are misleading as to where my form is. No question that some work has to be done though. Congratulations to both those girls on really putting on the show. At least I have been a part of the show, despite not having the starring role.
Last season at this point I had four races and four wins. This year I have done five races, scored one win, two seconds and two thirds. However, I went on to start coming second and third later in the year in 2009 and knowing there is a gap in my training I have a chance to fill I am confident that once I address it I can cash in what I have put in the bank earlier this year. I guess only time will tell if different approach is going to work out this year. I know that if I look at all three sports individually I am much, much better at swimming and running than last year and behind where I was cycling. I knew that before I started this five week trip. It hasn’t all come together… yet. But it will.
So I want to thank Mark, Dianne and Jay for making all the off the race course time in Alabama and Richmond absolutely killer. Thanks to Mark for opening a bottle of Opus with me. That was killer! Having friends in Alabama who like wine is pretty cool… you guys have to come to Sonoma. Thanks to Jay for offering random historical facts even when tested with difficult questions. For instance, I asked Jay why there were so many cement pineapples on the old mansions gate posts and fences. Without skipping a beat, Jay told me that in early colonial England, the pineapple was a sign of hospitality. So there you go. I really enjoyed the hospitality in Richmond and Birmingham and even if this was a slightly less successful season opener it has been all podium and solid. I look forward to building from here.
Big shout outs to my team for really performing well in these races. Emma has really established herself as “the next to step up” essentially solidifying fourth in the series with two more fourth places in the pro field, outsplitting me on the run at BOTH events, I might add. Fred won the OVERALL amateur event in Richmond, Jo won her age group in Alabama, and Meiling was second in her age group in Alabama. Marcus rocked some vastly improved bike splits and has been really improving every race.
I start the BC Bike Race on Saturday. Sticking to my plan, this second half of the season (and really we aren’t even halfway through the season yet..although the main part of the US XTERRA series is done until Nationals) is all about finding my bike legs and capitalizing on my run. Seven days of 60-70km of riding per day in sweet BC singletrack is a good place to start. I think I will make up for any hours on the bike lacking in almost one week! Wow… should be an exciting, beautiful and memorable challenge. Too all my fellow racers.. see ya on Saturday! I will have something special from Shimano to show off… stay tuned.