This week actually brought with it several races and some testing. Well, racing is testing. Testing is racing. Racing is also training. Unfortunately training is just training.
That's all I got.
On Wednesday evening I headed up to Charlotte Motor Speedway to do another 10 mile time trial around the left-turn only course. I successfully got my race finished before they started pulling riders due to an impending lightning and thunderstorm. In between heading up there and eating Five Guys I managed to set the second overall fastest time in an almost-identical-to-last-time of 20:32.8 (compared to 20:32.2 of last month). Conditions "felt" slower, however, so I was not displeased. I paced it extremely well and was happy with my effort level.
Where it gets TRULY interesting, however, is when you compare watts/kg produced during the time to the time itself. I will have to solicit help to calculate my "virtual" coefficient of drag but I averaged 2 more watts to go point six seconds slower. The differences between the two races other than the variables that cannot be controlled (weather, course traffic) were that in race #2 I did not wear shoe covers but I DID have a new helmet (which tested faster in the A2 Wind Tunnel back several months ago). So I can only surmise that conditions were slower.
On Friday afternoon I embarked on my second driving adventure of the week (#1 being the adventure of trying to get north out of Charlotte on any interstate between the hours of 4pm and 7pm) by heading down I-85 to Clemson, South Carolina for my second XTERRA race. My goal was to leave early enough (taking the afternoon off work and NOT getting paid, womp womp) to drive down and pick up my packet while doing a little course recon on the trails. I knew this course was advertised as being more technical than Tsali (which is basically wide open and "easy") with a good, strong mix of climbing (not really any descending actually). So I knew, barring accident, that it would set up well for my skill-set. Or at least well-enough to not worry overly.
Unfortunately, traffic was so bad I did not get to packet pickup until 5pm and I did not wish to go ride an hour on unfamiliar trails after 6pm in the middle of nowhere (this race venue truly was in the middle of nowhere). So I went to the hotel and watched several episodes of "The Wire," which I can't seem to get enough of lately.
I set my alarm pretty early for an 8am start and ended up making it to the race site just after 6pm, leaving me plenty of time to set up and warm up in all three sports.
The race was a 1000 meter swim (I was pretty skeptical of the distance when looking out at the swim course but I realized I was comparing it to a 1500 meter swim, which is a horse of a different color, in hindsight), an 11 mile bike, and a "4" mile run. No timing chips so T1 was combined into the swim time and T2 was combined into the bike time (i.e. the split was taken as you exited transition).
Swim + T1 - 15:42
I had seen a TMS-IOS team member prowling around the race site before the start and based on racing him once or twice I knew he was a good swimmer so my plan was to take the swim out pretty aggressively. True to my word, I took the first 200 meters at basically an all-out effort (or for those of you who care about semantics, I took it "all out" only in the context of knowing there was still 800 meters to go after that). I had a straight shot to the first buoy (counter clockwise triangle) and upon making the first turn took a quick glance over the shoulder to see where the chasers were situated. I had created a good gap so from there to the second buoy I just tried to maintain threshold pace (this was difficult as the initial 200 meters had created somewhat of a backlog of complaints in the shoulder/lung area). Around the second buoy I took another glance and noticed my gap had increased so I put my head down and finished the swim strong, running up the gravel path and entering transition area. I put on gloves, helmet, socks and shoes so I don't imagine this was an especially speedy transition but I was leaving when the next racer was entering so I hoped that was enough.
Bike + T2 - 51:43
The bike began with a rolling uphill fire road before getting into some twisty turny stuff. At the end I looked back to see if I could see any chasers and fortunately I did not see anybody behind me. The course climbed over the next couple of miles and would vary between open fire roads with significant climbing to twisty single track winding around and through creeks, valleys, etc. It was actually a really fun course, much more so than Tsali. I really felt like I was mountain biking this time. I was having some trouble on the technical stuff; the trail was not very "flowy" and it was difficult to get up any speed. This was no fault of the course; this was primarily the fault of my own skill (or lack thereof). When you are technically proficient you carry speed on difficult courses much better.
Anyway, I eventually made my way back to transition and hopped off the bike with nary a person in sight (other than all the spectators).
Run - 24:12
I managed to put on my game face and shoes on in quick succession and headed out for what I knew would be a challenging run based on traipsing along the first .5 miles during my warm up pre-race. As you can see in the hyperlink embedded in the word "run" above this paragraph: it was no joke.
The end-game of the run is that if they had given out an award for "Most Timid Runner" I would almost certainly have earned it with the way I was running the trails. I resolved to push the sections I felt capable of pushing (the open flat/rolling fire roads) and that worked out well but unfortunately for me there was less than half a mile of that type of surface. Womp womp. Oh well. There were some walking climbs (straight up) and some trotting climbs and there were basically lots of climbs. I finally slogged my way up and down enough of them and ended up crossing the finish line in first. Yippee!
Another fun week in the books. Just the way it should be...