Thursday, October 31, 2013

Don't Call it a Comeback...please.

It has been over a decade since the last time I lined up to start an Xterra triathlon. My last time was 2002 in Maui for worlds. Back then I was a bottom level professional. My main income regarding racing was teaching Xterra University for the swim portion and maybe scraping a buck or two out of the series as a whole. I left the sport because of this coaching thing I do and moved into racing bikes, where I could train a little less and race a little more.

Fast forward to 2013. I turned 40 this year, one month after my friend and founder of APEX Coaching, Neal Henderson. Somewhere during the year, he decided we were going back to Maui this year. As many of you know, I have traveled a ton this year with the US National team to Open Water races and even to worlds. Training for a triathlon was hardly my goal. However, come September, it was obvious Neal was going, which meant I had no choice.

Race Day
We were lucky enough to be staying at an athlete's house that Neal coaches named Ellen Hart. Ellen is a multi-time age champion in Kona and an all around stud woman. The house was pretty sweet and it made our prep great. Let's see for prep we...drank some beer, rode around on scooters, snorkeled, cliff jumped, body surfed and drank a little more beer. I did ride the course, well half of it, a couple times and when race day rolled around with Neal and I ready to go.

I stood on the start line trying to remember how I ever did this as a "pro" the gun went off and we were in the water. Now, I hate the swims in triathlon. Most people are going way too fast at the start for their ability and fitness and it is a shit show of pulling, scratching, fighting, and spastisity. I was not going to be one of these people. I went out pretty conservatively and went far right to get away and take a line to the buoy that made some sense. I came out after lap one alright and picked it up a bit on the short second lap. I came out of the water and ran up to transition and checked quickly to see if Neal's bike was still there, it was. Now, I would not have been shocked if Neal beat me out, but it was probably good for my professional reputation that he did not.

On to the bike. Quite simply, the bike was hard, very hard. 20% grades and fast dirt descents marked the first 15 miles. Many many people went by me.  I had a simple goal here, stay on my bike. I firmly believe that the huge battle in racing on the dirt is your brain. Your brain screams that you are going too slow or that no one else is crashing or that you have to make up time and it leads to panic. When you panic, you make mistakes. In the words of Allen Krughoff, "crashing is slower than not crashing." So I kept moving patiently. When I got to the last 4 miles, where the course gets techy and hard, I was feeling pretty good. I passed some guys in that last bit and felt like I could push it and cruised into T2 feeling pretty good.

Out onto the run with one plan and only one plan, DON'T WALK. Easier said than done, with 20% grades here too there were parts that were a death march. I am not a fast runner, but I am a strong one. On the flats, I got passed by guys that can still rattle off 6 min miles. I cannot anymore, so I kept it moving there and ran every hill. I passed a lot of guys that way, many of them more than once. We'd get to the top and they would come cruising back by and on the next hill they would crack and the tortoise passed em back. It was a fun run course. Hard and hot, but very true to Xterra form. I hit the beach with 200 meters to go, grabbed a beer from my wife and ran through the line feeling pretty darn good. Especially after 3 hours and 24 minutes of racing.

I wasn't exactly racing "off the couch", but for a guy who has ridden his MTB twice this year and has been swimming about 1k a month for a couple years, I will take it. I have to admit that part of me thought, " If I train, I can do really well" and although it may be true, I am not interested in it. At least not right now. Maybe when I am 50.

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