XTERRA Cup #6 Little Rock Arkansas – Survival Of The Sweatiest

Shonny V ended my run towards an undefeated season with her well earned victory yesterday in Burns Park at the XTERRA South Central Cup in Arkansas.  In actual fact, I was not going to be able to sweep the entire series as I was always planning to miss one of the events but it still was looking possible to be undefeated up until halfway through the run yesterday.  Although I kept it together to hold onto second it was still somewhat déjà vu to Alabama 2008 as stupidly hot temperatures made the race one of heat managing attrition which I succumbed to like so many other athletes competing.  I was shocked to come off the bike with Seth Wealing and Brian Smith directly in front of me, two pro men that are normally light years ahead after the first two legs of the race, so weird race dynamics were evident.  With the temperature reading 100 degrees in the afternoon and the heat index registering a much higher temperature of closer to 106 degrees I think that was the hottest day I have ever experienced in my life.

I was lucky to have wonderful people to hang out with during the week.  Dan Lysk and his girlfriend Addie were incredible hosts.  I had lots of fun with the two of them as they are a couple I could absolutely see Ross and I hanging out with.  Dan owns Arkansas Cycling and Fitness in Little Rock and together with super mechanic Brandi (the best female mechanic ever!) got my Specialized Era race fit before the event.  I was lucky to have a guided tour of the course with Addie pre-race which helped me get familiar with the area and I also got a new boyfriend for the week.  Turd the cat stalked me, following my every move and cuddling at every opportunity this week.  Very cute.  I very much appreciated the help from both Dan and from Fred Phillips, the race organizer, putting on a fabulous event in a great venue and rolling out the Southern hospitality at every opportunity.  Orbea really profited from their sponsorship of the event with their athlete Shonny bringing home the title so congratulations to Tony and his team on some big success there!  It was a small contingent of MelRad racers this time around.. but Fred Smith and Todd Poole absolutely rocked it. 

I now have a pretty miserable track record for very hot races with stifling humidity.  Hawaii seems to be fine but East coast and the South not as good.  This history may have also created a crisis of confidence more than actual ability and Shonny won being altogether faster, tougher, harder and more motivated than I on the day.  I really have to give her 100% credit and admiration for being focused on the task, ignoring the uncontrollable elements and executing a winning race plan.  I, on the other hand, decided to focus on some bad luck, on past failures and the stupid thermometer all week long which I know did not improve my chances of taking the win. Read on for details… 

What I was all fussed about… 98 degrees in the MORNING?

Don’t get me wrong, I was messed up after the race and was not close to Shonny at the finish.  But I kind of wonder if there was anything else I could have done?  I probably wasn’t going to beat Shonny but maybe there was more fight there had there been more desire and general fired-upness.  I am not sure and that is what is bugging me leaving that event.  However, there is nothing like a little disappointment to feed the fire and I am certainly going to use this race as some added motivation for the next stop in Vermont in two weeks.   Conrad is probably jumping out of his skin in anticipation of Vermont given he was forced out of this event because of the nasty cut he sustained in Richmond but in his absence Josiah took the victory ahead of Nico Lebrun. 

My six day lead-up to this race was not perfect by any means.  I had a very average training session on Wednesday but then again it was high 90s and I am not sure how you can feel good in that heat.  Then Friday I managed to eat some funky chicken with my dinner and later puked it up.  Yuck, puker.  I am not sure that was as big of a disaster as it could have been since I felt better when it was out of my system and I was on a massive Saltstick and fluid binge before and after the chicken episode so I think I managed that as well as I could.  Stuff happens.  However, I think I might have thought too much about that, my crappy legs, the hot weather, poor me I hate the heat and having bad luck instead of saying “HTFU and get it done”.  I think I was more hoping and wishing I could get it done than just getting on with it and no more pity party.  Lesson learned.  Hope is useless.  Confidence is everything.  I almost lost in Vegas because of a lack of confidence in my ability and I did lose in Arkansas because I didn’t bring it on race day and there is a lineup of strong and talented girls with an opportunity to win every race.  This time it was Shonny. 

The race started with a one lap swim in Victory Lake, which is an elbow on the Arkansas River used for waterskiing.  There is a tiny bit of flow in the lake so it actually was not as murky as the water in Richmond last week but it was hot.  I would say without exaggeration that the water was 90 degrees.  If you have never swam in that perhaps you could try setting up an endless pool in a hot tub.  So since you cannot regulate heat at all in hot water all of us were blowing to bits within 20 minutes of the race start.  Of course, I was dropped and moved at a glacial pace swimming myself the entire way.  I had Mike Vine within ten strokes of me and I couldn’t get across because I just could NOT go fast.  I have never had my heart rate coming down starting to ride before.  Running from the water to my bike was one of the hardest moments of the whole race. 

When I went onto the bike I was enjoying myself because the course was nearly all under the trees on fun, windy fast single track.  It really is a fun race course for an XTERRA.  The pros were much faster than some of the amateur competitors so unfortunately we were overlapping a large number of people at the back end of the field.  Given we were going so much faster it didn’t take long to get by but it certainly wasn’t ideal to be constantly decelerating and accelerating through the field.  That is one of the consequences of the two lap bike course.  I personally like two lap races because it is more interesting for anyone watching but the overlap isn’t ideal.  For two lap races I think we need much longer race courses, not races where I am doing 34 minute laps and the men are well under 30 minutes.  Regardless, my legs were not great and I was riding well below capacity.  I rode the downhills well, cornered well and was fairly fluid but I wasn’t punchy or fast.  I knew that but really I am not sure I had adjusted my suffer-ometer correctly before this race.  It was a little too low.

So the bike was done quickly and I found myself transitioning with Brian Smith and Seth Wealing.  They dropped me instantly going out onto the run as I tried to get into a decent rhythm but I was wondering what was going on as I had ridden the bike course totally alone, with no pro men aside from Brian Smith catching me the entire race.  To be honest, I was more wondering WHEN rather that IF Shonny was going to get me so of course I was caught.  That is not how I am normally racing.  I just felt so terrible and sure enough, halfway through she caught and passed me and I didn’t really fight back.  I just tried to drink lots and finish on my feet, which I did shortly before being carted to medical barfing.  I love barfing in humid races it seems, either that or passing out and then barfing.  I also spend more of my fair share of time in the med tent after these kinds of races.  I was unconscious in Richmond my first year there and pretty much every hot year in Richmond and Alabama I visit our fine medical professionals post race.  Brent demonstrated how much it sucks when dehydration and crazy heat squash you last year at the New York City Triathlon and I have certainly been there and done that.  The humidity crushes me and I get so so sick from it.  It is weird because the humidity in Hawaii doesn’t have the same affect on me.  I think there might be more wind in Hawaii or something.   Regardless, I have yet to figure out really hot, humid races in the South and on the East coast.

We ran the length of this ridge.. a pretty spectacular venue

We ran up this goat path to get to the top of the ridge

Josiah had a great race taking first despite some serious knee issues that have totally nixed all of his run training.  Nico Lebrun was strong in second and Dan Hugo held on for third.  In our race, Jenny took third, Rebecca Dussault had her best finish in fourth and Christine Jeffrey took fifth after snapping a chain on the bike.  The gaps were larger than normal all over the race because of complete meltdowns by everyone.  I am sure no one expected the race to be that hot this early in the year. 

So now I get a week or two off before I go to Sugarbush, Vermont for the next US Cup event.  I am looking forward to a fun ski mountain venue (at LOW altitude) and another new travel experience.  I am also really looking forward to HOME!  Right now I am stuck in DIA and it seems the cheerleading squads that were competing at the University of Arkansas (there was a competition at the facility housing the pool so each day I saw thousands of teenaged cheerleaders in matching tank tops and scrunchies) are now doing encore performances at McDonalds.  Holden, you would have loved this!

Thanks for reading and thank you to all of my sponsors for getting me through this crazy, hectic schedule successfully!  Until next time… Mel out.

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