August 29, 2008

XTERRA - The Run

At last, part three of the seemingly never ending XTERRA saga. I have to milk it because it will be my one and only triathlon this year. I was going to do the Ogden Valley Tri in September but the stars are not aligning with my wallet. As in, I don't want to drop the money since I'll be riding the 24 Hours of Moab in October and the entry fee for that is staggering enough, and none of these race promoters offer any sort of lubrication when sodomizing you for race entry fees.

I digress...

T2 was much faster than T1. I was in and out in about a minute and a half. Let me tell you about this run. It sucks ass. Yep. Sucks round cottage-cheesy old man ass. Think Michael Douglas' ass when he's givin' what's her name the ol' Rated R in Basic Instinct and that about covers it. The run is exposed, steep and just not a very nice way to transition from the bike as the hills start immediately.

But I was feeling much better than last year at this point as I was able to forgo the last hell climb on the bike and was actually running. Then, out of nowhere, someone throws a body check into me from behind. A blond lady then goes streaking past and I am just about ready to launch into a tirade about how much goddamn trail she needs to run on because we're like, on the frigging ROAD with PLENTY of room to pass without nearly knocking my shit to the ground.

It was Melanie McQuaid, three-time XTERRA World Champion. And she was winning.

So I let her slide. I figured that she had some money to gain if she won. Plus she's purty. So I told her to kill it. Which she did. I doubt she heard me because she might have been out of earshot by the time I could fill my lungs with enough oxygen to speak. I approached her about the incident after the race, which was fun and we had a couple of laughs. She was very apologetic. I assured her that it was cool and I understand that her job is to win races and told her that my job is to give people a hard time.

I'm really not an "oooooohhhh, wow that person is famous" type. No autographs, thank you, I don't want any. We're all people, some of us are just famous. I have to admit that Melanie has always impressed me with her athleticism, but she was also a very nice, approachable person.

Not long after McQuaid beat me down, I was passed by another woman pro, Shonny Vanlandingham. Shonny is a successful ex mountain bike pro that made the jump to XTERRA full-time this year and has done well. This wasn't the first time Shonny has passed me by. She did once several years ago about 4 am at the 24 Hours of Moab.

So the run is an uphill slog. Then there are about two minutes in the trees that is mostly flat. Then back up two hills. On the last hill I saw ex-fellow blogger Iron Benny pushing to the top. Yep, this is the same guy whose lats I was wishing I could hold onto and have him carry me around the swim course. He's got to be at least 6' 5" and his legs are as long as I am tall. I got within about 10 seconds of him on the hill and then he was gooooonnnnnnne on the downhill. My little stumps could not keep up with his strides.

And then it was all over.

Total run time: 24:42
Total race time: 2:08:46
Position: 10th ((I think) 30-34 age group

I'm pleased. Looking back, my times were okay, except the swim which was abysmal (no pun intended). But my goal this year was just to survive the swim. The bike felt good but the time was slow due mainly to my position coming out of T1. My run was hurt a little by the work on the bike. But I think it was the constant surging that wore me out. If I could have had a nice, consistent ride, both the bike and the run would have been better.

I have next year to look forward to now. I will definitely work on my swimming. It isn't so much strength at this point as much as it is technique. I need to get on my bike at least once more a week. My run is evolving. I am still transitioning from a heel striker to having a more efficient mid foot strike. It takes time, I do not want injuries.

Next year I may do the full distance again. Or I may just do the sport and try and beat two hours. As I progress in my sporting life, I am finding I like shorter events better than longer, more endurance-focused events. I like the explosiveness and intensity more than the feeling I am just plodding along, saving my strength for the next hours. I think an Iron-distance race is in me, just to say I've done it and fill the desire. But I think shorter events are for me.

Which brings me to cyclocross season. It starts around the end of September. 45 minutes of VO2 max pleasure. Yes, a hypoxic journey over dirt on skinny tires. Can't wait.

August 26, 2008

XTERRA - The Bike

At long last I was able to get on my bike. And I had a lot of work to do to bring back the swim champs.

There isn't much to say about it. Nothing funny happened, no great stories to tell. It just rocked. The trail system the race follows has some of the best riding around and I am very familiar with it. Which means I knew that after about 20 minutes the doubletrack becomes singletrack and passing the swim champs becomes much more difficult.

So for that first 20 minutes. I. Drilled. It. As in 80-85% of my max heart rate. And it really didn't ever hurt. It felt great actually, and it shocked me a little because it isn't like I train anymore. I am lucky to ride twice a week.

I have no idea how many riders I passed but the number was high. I spent most of the trail off in the rocks and grass t0 get around people. Then came the singletrack and things ground right to a halt. Almost. It was very slow going. Riders would queue up behind slower riders and as the opportunity arose would pass. I must admit that people were pretty polite about being passed. I'm sorry if I pissed anyone off.

At the top of the climb, just above the lodge at Snowbasin, the trail split for the long course and short course. I was happy to be turning off instead of carrying on to the top of the mountain like last year.

Total bike time plus transition: 1:22:19

Next up: The Run.

August 21, 2008

XTERRA - The Swim

I took Kev's advice and lined up way to the right of the pack, close to the boats. When they said go, I didn't. I counted to ten and then jumped in to avoid the washing machine, after all I just want to finish the swim. The jitters were gone from my short warm-up swim and I took off.

And it was good. The weather was perfect. The water was perfect. It was just a great day. I swam my pace and never panicked, I thought I was getting tired on the way to the first marker, and thought about moving to a boat and just taking a break, but I told myself to stop being an asshat and just swim. I usually take breaks, but I do because I can, not because I need to. I feel safer when I'm not tiring. Today I kept plugging along.

Because I was so far to the right the kayakers had to help me with direction a couple of times as I was swimming straight out instead of towards the first marker, nerves more than anything I think. But before I was even to the first marker I was mixing in with other swimmers. And it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Granted, the back of the pack is where the non-combative swimmers hang out, but it wasn't nearly as hard to move through people as I thought it would be.

I swung wide of the first marker to avoid the washing machine and by now had some confidence going. Dare I say I had mo-men-tum? I was really doing it. Finally, after all of 2007 teaching myself to swim, then failing two tri swims, and dealing with those failures plus the anxiety of my fear of water for the past year, I was finally swimming in the middle of the damn lake.

And I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Rounding the second marker I picked up the pace a little bit. I was tiring, but not terribly. I was sighting good and swimming straight. Here is where I really got into the people. I'd find some feet to draft on but I was going faster than most people, remember, I was the last one in the water, and I wanted to get to shore and get on with it. Which I finally did.

And I wasn't even close to being the last one out of the water.

On the beach I turned, faced the lake and gave it the double-barreled middle fingers. Which I am sure left many people wondering who I hated in the lake. At the time, it was to the lake, saying I'd finally beat it. In retrospect, it wasn't the lake, I think I left a lot of fear in that water. I can't guarantee that I'll never get anxious about swimming again, But I now have a better idea of what I am capable of doing, and I don't need to be afraid anymore.

Into T1, I took a little too long. I washed my feet, put on socks, the Garmin 305, pulled my shirt on four times, etc. Probably only 3 minutes. Then my Dad was there. In transition. Talking to me. Not what I expected as I was in a damn big hurry! But he was able to get my bag and suit out for me. And I got the hell going. I had a lot of swim champs to pass.

Total time for the swim and T1: 21:47. Next: The Bike

August 20, 2008

Pre Race

Actually, the pre-race for this event started five minutes after the start of last years’ race. I just didn’t realize it at the time because I was busy backstroking and trying to calm myself in the middle of the lake and working to get back to a water depth that would allow me to stand up.

It mostly sucked.

This year the pre-race was even worse. The anxiety I felt while swimming last year, along with the bitter taste of failure, have been with me for the past 365 days. I know it has driven Wifey crazy to hear me either whining about it or attempting to self-diagnose why swimming in open water scares the pants off of me.

Anyway, on with the story…

I took Friday off and got pretty much everything squared away. I wandered downtown and registered, nothing like doing it at the last minute. I even polished the Titus with Pledge to give it a nice shine and an orangey smell that might be soothing. The only hitches I was experiencing were these constant bouts with panic. I’d think about being clear out there, so far from shore and my stomach would lurch into my throat and my neck and ears would burn. Not to take anything away from those with an official diagnosis, but I think I was having post-traumatic stress from the panic of last year.

I started taking Xanax. It must have been expired because the shit did. Not. Work. Or if it did I can only imagine how much worse my anxiety could have been.
I had bags packed and everything laid out by 10:00 pm and was in bed by 10:30. But I didn’t really fall asleep until about 2:30. I don’t think it was the anxiety though. I think it was the large iced coffee I had drunk earlier.

Then I was awake at 4:30. And the panic kicked in again. And I took another Xanax.
I tried to gag down some cereal but that wasn’t working so I switched to Ensure. Liquid calories were about all I could get down. I did manage the morning movement, which is always a fear, needing to go when racing just sucks.

Load the truck and out the door about 6:45. I drove to T2 at Snowbasin and set up my run. Left the truck there and rode the bike down to the beach, thinking it would burn up some anxiety. It didn’t. But it was better than sitting on the shuttle bus and did allow me a little warm-up. I only thought about purposely crashing to avoid swimming a couple of times. But the whole way down, I kept telling myself it was a perfect day. Bright, sunny, not too warm. NO WIND. Puuurrrrrfect.

I arrived about 8:45, 15 minutes before the long-course start. I got my bike set up and put on the wetsuit, just trying to maintain what composure I had left. I found another cut in the calf of the suit. XTERRA brand suits must use the most fragile neoprene on the goddamn planet! Suited-up, I made my way down to the beach, and I noticed the first buoy was a solid 400 meters away, well over halfway across the lake. This was turning out to be a sick joke. Then I saw my friend Kevin. As we were talking and he was doing everything except bitch slapping and shaking to encourage me, the starting cannon went off to start the long course race.
I nearly shit myself when I saw the people go in the water and was right on the verge of a grand mal panic attack. I seriously thought about walking up to the parking lot, waiting for the sport-distance finishers to come in, and just riding and running with them. Fortunately, Kevin made a good point: stay to the right side, away from the people and near the boats. He knew I could do the distance. Then I saw fellow bloggers Nytro and Iron Benny. They also had some words of encouragement.

I made my way to the water’s edge and eased in. I started swimming to loosen up and I could not put my face in the water. I remember saying to myself that I wasn’t going to get it done like this and took the plunge. The water felt great. Perfect. I swam down the bank and back to the group. An old dude told me that we were about to start.

Next time: The Swim

August 16, 2008


I came.

I saw.

I nearly had a grand mal panic attack.


On a perfect day for racing, I made it, and the fruit of redemption is sweet.

I think tonight will be the best night of sleep I've had in weeks.

Race reports to follow. Yep, plural. Not going to have a marathon post like I had with the Ogden Marathon. I'll break it down into smaller, chewey bits for you to enjoy.

August 13, 2008

Tour of Utah

Just in case anyone cares about professional road cycling, the Tour of Utah starts today. It is a 5 day stage race. The important thing here is that tomorrow it is within spitting distance from my workplace.

I'm going. I can ride my bike to one of the King of the Mountain locations, which happens to be one of my favorite climbs, in about 35 minutes. Plus it's just a long lunch hour to go.

And I didn't pre-register for XTERRA. But I have Friday to do it. The weather looks to be cooperating perfectly, actually the drop in temps could cool off the water. Still on the fence.

August 11, 2008

In Case You Were Wondering

No, I still have not registered for XTERRA.

Talk about dragging things out. I got the weather report for Saturday, the day of the race. It calls for a high of 95 and sunny. Last year there was a deluge the night before and it was cloudy the morning of the race. The water was cold and dark. So that appears to have abated for this year. But last year was going to be a non-wetsuit swim because the water temps were pushing 80. I'd hate to not be able to wear the suit.

Fortunately I can wait until Friday to register. I'll know if it is wetsuit legal then also. Or maybe I'll register today. I am such a chicken shit.

I'm waiting to hear from the last two riders about the 24 Hours of Moab. I'll pretty much go along if they are in. So far I have one confirmed, two sheep, and these two yahoos. I'll send a text and should know by my next post. I have to admit, I like this race. The night laps can be miserable, I mean they are at night and the desert gets cold, but it is a good time.

I've been thinking about cyclocross lately, too. It's time to bring the cross bike to work and start substituting lunch runs for rides. Usually I'll warm up for 10 minutes and then drill it or do intervals for 30, and cool down for 5. A couple of times a week does wonders for the fitness.

I should start painting the family room this week. Can't wait. Might take my mind off racing though.

August 8, 2008

The Mile

I swam a mile in the pool this morning, non-the hell-stop. 66 lengths in a 25 yard pool. 33 laps. This was a first for me. I must admit, I'm pretty proud of myself. Especially since during the course of the workout, my stamina wasn't the toughest thing I had to overcome. It was the mind numbing back and forth of it. Fortunately, I was aided by the goal of getting through the mile. That is really what kept me going.

But I still have not registered to race XTERRA. And I may not.

I went riding last night at Snowbasin. I borrowed a new Trek Fuel Ex from The Bike Shoppe to thrash and see if it is something I want to invest in. Can't say it was, beause it rained and we ended up pushing completely mud-clogged bikes a couple of miles back to the road so I really only rode for about 40 minutes.

That mud sucked some ass, let me assure you.

AND I got NAILED by yet another biting insect. This time in the neck, and not 10 seconds into the ride. It is an itchy bitchy today.

So the bike was different to ride. It has about 1.5" more suspension travel than my current bike, a Titus Racer-X, a taller bottom bracket height and a slacker steering angle. The taller ride height and slacker angle made it more of a leaner rather than a turner, but was cool because it was much more stable going fast in a straight line and through corners. The stability was a plus, but I did miss the "twitchiness" of my Titus. I'll think about it, but I don't know that I'm ready to move away from a race bike just yet.

I was eating at McDonald's yesterday and I had a thought. I said "Self, you need to treat your body like a temple." Self replied "What do you mean? You do treat your body like a temple. A temple that is occasionally overrun by rampaging Visigoths."

There you have it. Time to rebuild the temple.

August 4, 2008


As much as I despise making a payment to a cellular phone company, I really need a new phone. Of course when you get a new phone, they nail you with a multiple year contract to get said phone at a realistic price.

What's a guy to do?

As much as I despise the aforementioned phone and contracts, I've been thinking about one of those fancy-schmancy iphones, or the equivalent. Something that I can put reminders in and may actually benefit me by letting me know when something important is coming up. Like a birthday, sorry Dad!

The "big" news is that my epididymitis-ed testicle is approaching normal size and not nearly as tender as it was last week. It's back to being the leathery, tobaccey-chewin' nut of yore, always ready to lend a hand or shout an insult to someone that needs to be taken down a notch. Always writin' checks his nut-ass can't cash he is... Actually, after motorcycling in this morning, there was a little discomfort so I thought I'd give running a couple more days.

I've been doing some open water swimming lately. It's been going well. I got in a little more than a mile last Friday. I need some rest breaks and am not breaking any records, but I feel pretty good. I hit the pool this morning and ripped off a 1000 yard set with no problems. Funny thing is, as I type this and think about swimming, I am more comfortable when I am in the water than when I think about it.

That is an insight into my head. I'm a bit strange.

The decision I have to make this week is about my nemesis, XTERRA. I have to register by Sunday night. If I race I'll be doing the short course because I really haven't been "training." That's a mere 750 meters in the lake. I know I can do it because I've been doing it. But that first five minutes in the water gets me every time. I'm not scared so much of the water right now, I'm scared of failing another swim.

Ahhhhh... decisions.