Monday, July 20, 2015

XTERRA Whitewater Triathlon

I can't lie, I've been pretty excited about this race for a while now. There are several reasons for this unbridled race excitement:

1) Home course advantage (huge in XTERRA)
2) Sleeping in own bed (huge in general)

Ok I lied I could only come up with two. BUT, those are two huge reasons to be excited for a race! While training for Louisville hasn't really gotten crazy or anything yet, I have been putting in some good long rides on the tri bike and some good road running and as a consequence my mountain bike and trail shoes have gotten somewhat sparing  use over the past month or so. That being said, I was excited to break them out and go for broke.

This is a pretty unique race (unique even for XTERRA) in that it has a two part swim. We would complete ~800m in the Catawba River (800m is generous) and then run probably 1/3 of a mile uphill and into the Whitewater pond area to swim a final "200m."

From there we would hop on our bikes and basically ride the Whitewater Center in order, from Figure 8 through all of North Main then into the South section of trails doing all add-ons (Carpet, Goat, Powerline, Wedge, Weigh Station, Toilet Bowl) and then completing the Lake Loop before heading into the "connector trail" that we normally start on when simply riding out at the WWC to get us back to transition area.

For the run we would loop back around the gravel path and head over onto East Main. This loop is probably the least frequented loop at the WWC. It's tough, choppy, hilly, and generally considered pretty difficult. Most of the mtb'ers don't even really admit to liking it all that much.  We would get to run it instead, which - in my head - sounded like a better proposition than riding it.

The dynamic battle of America (Caamano and myself) vs. Germany (Sebastian) would play out over the course of 2+ hours. We all arrived at the WWC sometime around 6:30 to a nice, sunny day that was already warming up relatively rapidly. It was going to be a scorcher, but luckily for us trail triathlons frequently take place in the - wait for it - shade! The great thing about trees, ya know?

I was a bit nervous as I had changed my rear tire that week to my "race" tire and it did not seem to be holding a great seal. The one risk of tubeless is that you can never be 100% positive that a seal is good until you are 100% positive that the seal is good. But other than that I was fired up to lay down some heat on some trails!

Swim 1000m - 15:11.8 (1st)

The swim was doubly unique in both its structure (2 swims) and the 1st swim itself. It was a very, very tight triangle. We all lined up in a rough line with the edge of the flatwater dock but some people lined up across the entire width of the river (maybe 50 yards). I was not sure of their reasoning for this, as they were basically in "line" with the second leg of the swim upriver.  I was a bit nervous about their ability to not hit oncoming swimmers that had made the turn ahead of them but, be that as it may, I couldn't do much about it other than look out for them once I had made the turn.

The gun sounded and everyone started out quite expeditiously. My goal was to either be first or in the top 3 around the first buoy to avoid what was sure to be extremely heavy congestion due to the turn being so tight. With that in mind, I kept the pace high and by the time I got to the first buoy I was clear to turn with no one beside me.

I kept my head up for a bit making sure oncoming swimmers weren't going to collide with me (because obviously it wouldn't be ME colliding with them...haha. jk, sorta) then put my head down and aimed back upriver.  I couldn't see the second buoy because they were so small but I knew if I headed straight along the bank I would eventually see it.

Along this section I looked back occasionally and saw my gap had grown over a couple of people in a group and I made the final turn knowing I'd get to the dock solo.

I clambered up the stairs after sifting through the silty bottomed river and put on my shoes for the run up to the pond area. I took this pretty easy as I figured gassing it then diving back in to swim might lead to some extreme discomfort...

I saw my gap was about 20-30 seconds as I got back in the water and swam to the swim exit. I encountered some underwater features that I wasn't ready for so that kind of scared me a little bit, but I made it to the end and climbed the rocky exit unscathed and ready for the bike.

T1 - 0:57

I struggled a bit to get my gloves on but otherwise had a decent enough transition.  The second group (led by Sebastian) was getting to their bikes as I was grabbing mine to head out onto the trails.

Bike 23k - 1:08:08.0 (1st)

Dropping into Figure 8 I knew my game plan needed to be "out of sight out of mind" as on the trails it is both quite easy to be "out of sight" but due to the twisty turny nature of the course I would always be somewhat visible in certain sections.  This makes it MUCH easier to close gaps when you have a tangible reminder of the person in front of you.

I tried to be steady and smooth (which means fast) as I made my way through the familiar trails. I did notice, however, that my rear tire felt kind of mushy and wallowy, for lack of better descriptions. I didn't realize how mushy until, at the top of the climb out of Figure 8 (and just after Marcus had told me I had about a 30 second gap) going around a downhill right turn my rear tire slid badly and I wiped out. I recovered quite quickly and got back going again without losing any real time but this was a potent reminder that something was off with my rear tire.

I had some CO2 so I knew if it got real bad I could hop off and fill up the tire but this would cost me time and space on the trails. So I resolved to just be a little more careful.

I made my way through all of the rest of the trails without incident and got to the Lake Loop before catching a glimpse of a yellow helmet behind me on the long "fire road" section.  I knew this wasn't Sebastian so I was made a bit nervous by this stranger. I think I put a little more time into him on the Lake Loop and arrived at T2 without a 30ish second lead on second place.

Thanks Marcus for the photos, splits and encouragement!

T2 - 0:29.2

Nothing to see here, carry on!

Run 8k - 39:59.4 (5th, 1st in results not legit)

Heading out onto the run along the gravel path that runs alongside the whitewater channels was rough as it had definitely warmed up while we gallivanting through the forest.

I was hoping to have a good run and managed to stay pretty motivated into the East Main section. Unfortunately, there were a few nice climbs prior to getting to the trail and right once you entered the trail that curbed my enthusiasm a bit.

I made my way through the trails and got to about mile 2 before Justin caught me and passed me rather expeditiously. I lost a lot of excitement at that point and walked a couple of times on hills to try and get my heart rate down a bit.  Coming back out of the trails I walked up that horrific hill but then ran the rest of the way to the finish.

I usually don't talk about the run much because I can hardly remember any of it, specifically! This time was no different...

OA - 2:04:46 (2nd)

Crossing the line in second was a welcome relief and I immediately sought water and shade.  Sebastian arrived shortly thereafter and Caamano came through soon as well. A good, hot day of work for the three of us and everyone else out there!

I was, admittedly, disappointed to not win but Justin had a great race and returned the favor from XTERRA Pelham a couple of months ago where we both won our AG (25-29 and me 30-34) but I came out ahead on time.

Now we begin to get into real IM training and if I said I was really excited about that I'd be lying to you! But, I signed up for the race so it's time to get for serious!

1 comment:

BriTriGuy said...

Hey James, it's a little late but nice job on 2nd.

I'm going to be in town this year and signed up for the race. How technical is the course? Rocky/rooted switchbacks or downhills? Rock gardens? Drops?

I haven't been mounting biking too much lately and just trying to figure out if I should brush up on anything.