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Austin Xterra

August 24, 2009

3853413792_cd57faff31In hindsight, things could have been a lot worse-but they could have been a lot better too. With a busted toe that I could barely walk on until Thursday, I wasn’t even sure I’d have the courage to start this race Sunday morning.  Dear old Mom, brother, and niece Lexi also decided to pay me a visit on short notice this past weekend and I didn’t want to give them the cold shoulder for yet “another race”. Their company was very well enjoyed, and didn’t affect the race in any way except one: I drank a lot of beer with them. True, I preach that beer is in no way, form, or fashion part of the Paleo diet, and as Mom whole heartedly pointed out Sunday, she didn’t encourage me to drink any beer (although I’m sure my brother did) I made the conscious decision on my own to let loose and let the good times roll. After all, I had nothing to prove or gain this race. No Nationals qualifying spot on the line, not even an improved season standing to garner. I only get to see family a few times a year. Plus it’s tough to stay motivated when you’re injured. Plus beer just taste really good sometimes…

We started the weekend early Friday with some 3 o’clock beers at Wahoos before heading over to Mellow Johnny’s for packet pickup and a few more beers. Then on to my casa for some grilling, some company from the neighbors, and whole lot more beer. Beer is no longer a regular part of my diet and I just can’t handle alcohol like I used to. A slight headache Saturday morning should’ve told me to take it easy on the Shiner later that day, but I broke yet another cardinal Caveman rule and allowed sensation to overcome common sense.  Shortly after we arrived at Emma Long Park, setup camp, and went swimming, the beer starting flowing, as did the ultra intense Texas sun-not a good combo. Before long, it was 105 degrees and while our lowly little oak tree was providing shade, it wasn’t doing much else to keep us cool, so we decided to make a trip back into civilization to cool down. We found “coolth” in the form of Amy’s Ice Cream. Dairy is a big no no in the Paleo diet as well, but if I was already breaking with routine I might as well do it right, right? So along came a Sweet Cream shake. Mmmm. I’m not gonna lie, shakes and Blue Bell ice cream are two things I really do miss since going to the paleo diet. Having given them up, though, I can’t necassarily tolerate them well either, especially a big serving. It didn’t leave me feeling sick, just a little weird.

Back to camp and things had cooled off a little. Brother got the steaks and veggie ka-bobs cooking on the grill. Well, where I come from you can’t have “grilling”, “steaks”, and “man” in the same sentence without having “beer”, so out comes the brew, until the sun goes down and we all crash from overconsumption of meat, beer, and Texas heat.

Waking up early for an 8am start was not my idea of fun, but I toed the line anyways. A lot folks weren’t sure if I’d be there that day. There were mixed reactions when I showed up with a race # on, anything from “glad you could make it, how’s that toe?” to “WTF! so-and-so said you weren’t coming, now I have to race you?” I was so parched from my weekend of debauchery and hadn’t been awake long enough to take in a good amount of water that I actually started drinking water from the lake while we were waiting for the swim start. Horn goes off and the race is on. The first 500m lap felt ok, but I could definitely tell I was dragging but today. Get up on the beach, run out on to the dock, jump back in, start the second lap, except I was too winded from the run and had to back paddle a few seconds to catch my breath.

2nd 500m loop just hurt. It seemed I was getting slower and slower. Waves that started 3-5 min back were catching me. Traffic wasn’t too bad, but for whatever reason made sighting difficult. At least my sloppy form was allowing me to drink a bit more water from the lake. The final 100m seemed to go on forever, but I finally made my way to the beach and up to T1.

Big Tex and I get to rolling the bike course. It didn’t take long for me to figure out something was wrong. The first few miles are a gradual climb to the main loop. In my head I wanted to attack this course with the same veracity as I did Camp Eagle. My body would have none of it though. Heart rate and breathing were absolutely spiked. Short of stopping on the trail and waiting, I couldn’t recover. This first 3-4 miles of the course goes through an archery range and is usually off limits to bikers.  I had never ridden it before but hadn’t heard anything bad about it from people that have. I grossly underestimated the effort it would take to get through it.

I had set Big Tex up with a solid build for this race. Big tires and robust wheels. Emma Long is not a course where you want to second guess your equipment. I didn’t really consider it to be a course with much climbing, therefore weight wasn’t much of an issue, but the archery range proved me wrong. At least what the bike lacked in climbing performance, it made up for in technical capability. I was able to get back into a rhythm after reaching the motocross (MX) loop. Big Tex made mince meat out of this extremely technical and demanding trail. As usual, I clawed and gnawed my way up the ranks, somewhere around 50th up to 7th place. I caught up with Shonny V. near the end of the MX loop. She had double flatted and was in need of air, so I dropped her my pump and kept going. I was sad to leave the MX loop and get back on the archery trail to return to the finish. It had a slightly different cutoff from the in direction that took us up one hill that I would normally be able to ride. My heart rate was again spiked and I recall barely having the strength to push my bike up it. Other than Breckenridge and 24 hours of Rocky Hill, I can’t recall a moment where my body had so rebelled against my will. It was almost another moment of defeat like I had at Breckenridge earlier this summer.

My competitive spirit prevailed though, and and it was a quick jaunt from there back to T2 where there were only a handful of racked bikes and a few people in sight heading out for the run. It was far from my best bike effort and didn’t meet my goal of a top bike split, but on a day like today, 7th fastest time on two wheels would have to do.

Even though I had runners in sight before heading up the steep cliff, I didn’t have the strength or confidence to run them down. In fact, I ended up conceding the first place age group win to Joey Guajardo (pictured with me above) in the run. When he passed me, I didn’t realize he was in my age group, and that I was in the lead, so I let him slowly slip away. I wish I hadn’t. The first half of the run had a lot of climbing and found me walking a lot more than I was accustomed to. A high heart rate was still plaguing me. Much like my bike felt sluggish on the ride, I chose to wear the heaviest trail running shoes I have so as to protect my injured toe.  I never run in those shoes and the extra weight/padding had a substantial effect on my pose stride. I did strike that foot on rocks a few times, and the extra traction was nice, especially on the last scuffle back down the cliff side, so it was probably the wise choice. Despite what I felt to be a horrible run, I only lost 1 spot and held on for 8th overall and 2nd in age group.

The race left me pretty banged up, no to mention mentally drained. I left it all out there, and given the promising performance at Camp Eagle, it was hard to be pleased with my effort. But then I go back and think of the few days and attitude leading up to this race and realize I didn’t even deserve that! So, given the conditions, I’m proud of my effort and can use this race as a learning example. Sadly, this wraps up my first full Xterra season. Not a bad one, I might add. Several top 10 overalls and several podiums for the age group. Swimming and running have shown strong consistent improvement, and there’s even lots of room for improvement on the bike. I can’t wait til next year’s Xterra season kicks off! Thanks for Reading. YOU guys are the best.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2009 8:18 pm

    You are one hell of a cyclist I would kill for your ability good job out there.

    Joey G.

  2. PattyB permalink
    August 24, 2009 9:16 pm

    Nice report Greg. Very trying weekend indeed for you.

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