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An OK Weekend-Part I-Red River Xterra

April 27, 2009

img_1001It was pretty good weekend as I ventured north of the Red River into Sooner country for the Red River Xterra on Saturday and Red River shootout on Sunday. Saturday’s race would be my first triathlon of the year. A half day off work Friday provided me ample time to make the roughly 292 mile jaunt up I-35 to Lake Murray State Park near Ardmore, get a pre-ride in on my singlespeed, setup camp, eat dinner, and hang out with teammates Richard Suggs, Lupe Herndandez, and Bill Nelson before getting a good night’s sleep in the breezy, cool Oklahoma night.

This was the first year for this Xterra and things did not go on without a hitch. It was an odd start time of high noon, which not only meant we’d be racing into the heat of the day, but also have a kink in our eating schedule as a normal breakfast would be fine, but no lunch. It wasn’t a big deal to me since I train and eat for any kind of condition that might present itself, but for some it was an issue. Admittedly, the heat would play a factor for me.

The 1000 meter swim was shortend to 500m because a strong southest wind was causing 2′-3′ swells with white tips. I’d

Crazy swim! Awesome shot by Karmabiker

Crazy swim! Awesome shot by Karmabiker

never swam in such conditions, still being somewhat of a rookie to triathlons, but wasn’t afraid to take them on with all I had. I was expecting and hoping to have staggered starts for the age groups since my age group is usually one of the first to go, and I could get a jump on a lot of the faster swimmers and not have to pass them on the trail. I’m not a super fast swimmer (yet), but I am one of the fastest mountain bikers at these events, so you imagine my frustation by having to pass 30+ people on the trail that beat me on the swim. No such luck though as the gun went off and all 100 athletes entered the intimidating conditions.

It didn’t take me long to see why the race officials decided to shorten the swim course. This was one hell of a swim. As if it wasn’t hard enough navigating the wind and waves, the mass start created a ton of traffic. I was getting kicked, slashed, and splashed at any which way you can imagine. I refused to let fear set in, though, and carried onward. My swim time was better than I thought it would be at 9:14, but it still positioned me about 37th out of T1 (transition 1. this course had 2 transition areas since the lake was so far away from the trailhead).

Next up was where the real fun began: the MTB singletrack! The course was not superbly marked and a lot of folks took the wrong turn at the first fork, myself included. Well, it didn’t take long to figure out we were going the wrong way because it spit us out at T2, obviously not the right spot. We hit the brakes and headed back to the fork, this time taking the right way. I lost a few more spots and maybe 35 seconds but didn’t let it get to me. From here, I began working on my masterpiece. One by one I picked off riders like a well trained sniper. Most everyone was courteous and allowed me to pass the super tight and twisty singletrack with ease. The more I moved up, the longer it took to reach the next rider because they were getting faster. The increased speed also made it harder to pass safely.

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I was really working the trail that day. I knew this leg would be my strength, and I had to do as much damage as possible. I was pushing my bike, tires, legs, and reflexes to the limit. It was a beautiful thing. Sadly, My work of art came to a very violent end when one of the top riders I caught up to did not want to let me pass. I was hot on his tail, waiting for an opening in the trail to pass him whether he liked it or not, and then bam. He took a technical descent a little faster than he could handle and the trail ate him and his bike for lunch. Unfortunately, his bike ate me for lunch too, and I had quite an acrobatic launch off of my machine.

The collision resulted in a blunt blow to my left knee and right big toe. I was slow to get up, but did not see any bones sticking out or huge gaping holes, and aside from a thrown chain, my bike made it out ok too, so I hopped back on and slowly got moving again under extremely painful pedal strokes. The pain was enough to consider not doing the run, but that decision could wait until I made it to T2, about another mile and half. I don’t get ticked off very often, but I tell ya, when other people’s ignorance causes me great stress I get furious. That rider got away from me and ended up 1 spot ahead in the results. He had done his damage, but I had done mine. In between T1 and T2 I went from 37th to about 4th. Had the course been the advertised 16 miles and not the actual 12 (another hitch in the inaugural edition) , I honestly feel I could’ve been the first one into T2. I might also have not got caught behind the crash rider and not have gotten hurt, but hindsight is 50/50. The bike leg was what it was and I was on to the run, my pain overcome by enough adrenaline and lactic acid at this point that to carry on.

Trail run, Photo by Karmabiker

Trail run, Photo by Karmabiker

They say that triathlons are a runner’s sport, usually because the swims are short enough to not have a huge influence on overall finish, and because people are more evenly matched on bikes (unless it’s mountain biking, as I have found out). I do find the statement to be true though. With my swimming now up to par, running is now the weakest link. I just did not have things going for me in the run. Bum knee and toe, it was now super warm and humid, the course was close to 5 miles instead of the advertised 4 (yet another hitch), there was only 1 water station the whole run (another hitch), and I was sporting my new Mizuno Wave Universe II shoes. These are basically track shoes meant for running track or short road races. They are super light, but also super flimsy and offer no support whatsoever and minimal cushion. I knew this going into the race, and actually wanted these qualities in a running shoe to supplement the POSE style of running I’ve been working on, but I had not accounted for the sloppy form I would have following such a hard bike. Some direct hits to rocks on both the sides and bottom, and an ankle roll did not make matters any better.

It was rough out there. But I kept doing the only thing a Caveman knows to do: I kept going. I had to slow and take a few walk breaks occasionally, but you know, sans shoe selection, everyone else out there had the same conditions to deal with as I did. I actually passed up two runners (non age group), but sadly got passed by two other runners who were in my age group. I was in much better position than I had known, and I had given it up.img_1012

When we hit the last stretch of jeep trail (about 1k left), I could see the guy who took me out in the bike leg up ahead. I was dying, walking a fine between maximum threshhold and just over maximum threshhold. The runner up ahead provided me with some motivation to hold a strong steady pace, but two runners about 50 yards back proved to provide even more! I had to keep telling myself “mental toughness” over and over. I didn’t catch that fellow ahead of me, but I did hold off the men behind me. The effort was good enough for 6th overall-out of 97 entrants. Technically, I finished 4th in the 25-29 men age group, but since the #2 and #3 men were both in my age group and earned overall trophies, they got pulled from age group awards. That left #5 overall in first place 25-29, and yours truly in 2nd (4 of the top 6 overall were M 25-29) . Hardware. Sweet!. A silver cowbell to add to the trophy collection!

Following the race was some massive food and fluid replenishment, stretching, a little foam rolling, and damage assessment. The knee was very swollen and tender and knew it would be the limiter for tomorrow.

img_0991img_0990

The big toe? Well, the crash had put a hole in my mountain bike shoe (not easy to do), a hole through my sock, and had pulled back my toenail. This the about the 4th time that left knee has taken major trauma and the third time that toenail has been pulled back. Why it only happens to each body part respectively is beyond me. But at any rate, they both hurt, and doubt set in on whether I would race Sunday morning.

Dinner that night with teammates and neighbors was mighty fine. The weather was wonderful, the food tasty, and the conversation enlightening. I little bit of literature from Louis L’Amour and I was out like a rock.

to be continued…

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