1000 meter swim/ 18 mile mountain bike/ 4.2 mile run
Well this was my first Xterra in almost 5-6 years. I am getting old, so I don’t remember. Conditions at Smith Lake were pretty hot, and since I was further south, was humid. I was fully prepared for the heat, but the humidity made the suck factor increase double. This was going to be fun!!
Well I decided to grab my packet the morning of the race, which turned out to be a pretty good idea. I got there just as they were setting up and checked in and grabbed my SWAG bag. Setting up for Xterra is a first come, first serve basis. So if you want a good spot in the transition area, you have to get there early. People were already setting up, and taking up a lot of real estate. I found me a good spot and set up. After setting up, I decided to loosen up with a 2 mile light run. This is when I first notice the humidity factor, and cut my warm up run short. Being prepared for this scenario, I dumped my half my camel back of Gatorade and made a little better watered down version and broke off a couple of sodium tabs in it. At which point I made my way to the water, taking note the best way to run from the lake to the transition. Warm-up swim brought on another surprise which I didn’t foresee. About 200 meters out I started running into huge beds of kelp or some vegetation. I decided to swim around to see if there was any clearing, but came to realize that we were going to have to just swim through it. I swam back for the starting line in hopes that this vegetation was just a short distance, and that it would clear.
With a field of only 115 people, I placed myself on the outside with the intention of just filing in after the first 100-200 meters. Waiting on the beach we were given the 30 sec, 15 sec, and 10 sec count down. At the sound of the gun, I immediately ran into the water and started dolphin diving until the water was deep enough to start swimming my 100 meters. This swim was challenging in more than 1 way. There was only 1 buoy out there, and it was the turnaround buoy, so this brought sighting to a new level, since you had to sight a buoy 400+ meters away. Good thing on my pre-swim I found a massive landmark to sight off of. About 200 meters in, without failure, came the vegetation. Trying to swim with a regular elongated stroke was not going to happen, so I modified my stroke, using a bent arm down the center of my body. I figured I would only have to do this for about 100 meters, and once again, I thought wrong. Pretty much the whole swim we were fighting the vegetation. Wasn’t sure if I was swimming or farming, but I did know that we all were going through this. After rounding the turnaround buoy, I then realized my next dilemma. There was only the ending buoy and I hadn’t picked a landmark for that. So I immediately went to treading water for 5 sec, to get me a land based landmark, after which I was able to track the finish line better. I went on to complete the swim, as well as enjoy the last 150-200 meters kelp free.
SWIM TIME- 19:58 1st in my age group and 17th overall
From the exit to the transition was about ¼ mile, with the first part being concrete stairs. I opted to not use the stairs and run up the grass side, which proved to be faster and less of a strain. Getting into transition, I first threw on my camelback, socks, then glasses and helmet. I grabbed my mountain bike and rolled out.
T1 Time- 2:00
First mile of the 18 mile mountain bike was on a dirt road leading to the trails. As I was about to get to the trail head, I see my buddy driving to the race site with his wife, son, Angie, and Kailyn. So I throw up a big wave, as I turned into the trail to go and have some fun. Course was basically flat but technical trail, lots of switch backs, TONS of loose sand(I brought the wrong tires for this course), but not much in the climbing or descending category. The loose sand played a huge roll in people’s times. This is where mountain bikers show their true skills, which I learned really fast I didn’t have much of. With all the loose sand you had to choose a good line to enter the turn, so as not to have your bike slide from underneath you. I did fairly well, but did dish my bike a good half a dozen times. Did get to see some of the top guys past me, and I can only wish to get that smooth. The trails had 3 sections, which were the beginners, advance, and expert. Beginner’s was flat, fast and lots of turns in the soft sand. The advance started getting into some small log jumps here and there, couple of climbing sections with root, and 2 jumps. I had no problem rocking the jumps, ascends and descents, but the loose sand did claim me a couple times. The expert section is probably where I made up some time, it had some pretty cool little climbs that you had to get over big roots and stuff while climbing, a couple of downhill sections that you could take fast, if you knew how, and a bunch of manmade log jumps. I will have to say that was my favorite section. After completing the 3 sections, you were brought back to the beginning trail head, and had to do it again. On the second lap, seems my camelback got clogged with something , but I was able to fix that by blowing a bunch of air into it, and hitting it with my hand. After all I needed all the hydration I could get as the humidity was starting to weigh down. After the 2nd lap, I got back on the dirt road and rode the mile back to the transition. As I was coming into transition, I saw my buddy, his wife, Angie, and Kailyn. I am pretty sure I heard Kailyn say Da da as I was passing, which made me laugh.
BIKE TIME- 1:33:36 7th in my age group and 35th overall
AVG SPD- 11.5 mph
As I came in, I did so in my usual fashion. My feet were out of my shoes, and I rode in the last 15-20 yards standing on 1 pedal, for a quick dismount and run into the transition. I got to my rack and didn’t see too many bike, so I thought to myself, I might actually be doing good. I quickly racked my bike, dropped my camel back, them my helmet, put on my shoes, grabbed my number and DC Tri visor, and ran for the exit.
T2 Time- 36 sec
Well as I exited the transition, I made a quick stop at what I called the buffet table, because I grabbed so much like it was a buffet line. Think my tally was 1 gatorades, 2 waters, and a gu(Which I think belong to someone), I drank the Gatorade, then half of 1 of the waters, and dumped the rest down the back of my neck and back. The beginning of the 4.2 mile run took us about a ½ mile in the opposite direction of the bike, on a dirt road, and then immediately dumped us onto trails. The trails were small but annoying doable rolling hills for about ¼ mile, and then the evil soft sand reared its ugly head. This put a whole new curve on the run, as well as the 2 major hills we had to run up. I was feeling great so I put on a good pace and held on best I could. The 1st and only water stop was 2 miles into the run. Which I thought was a little rough, with the heat and humidity, but hey it’s Xterra and it’s suppose to be hard. Once again I went through the water stop like I was at Golden Corral. I hit my Gu or at least the one I took from the 1st table, knocked it back with a cup of water and 2 cups down my neck and back. After the water stop I was running and saw the finish line, but the evil race director did that as a tease, because we immediately turn left back into the trails. I kept running and ran into some people that were still on the mountain bike, as our trails crisscrossed. I gave the advice to some that they may want to run with their camelbacks on. The second section of the run was in the same area as the expert mountain bike section, so it contained a little bit bigger grade of climbs and drops. Since I only weigh 125lbs, it was no problem. I then pop out onto a dirt road, and notice that I can now hear people cheering, which meant I was really close. I was able to muster up a little extra speed, and I ran it in to finish my 1st Xterra this year.
RUN TIME- 28:44 2nd in my age group 26th overall
AVG- 6:50 per mile
OVERALL- 2:25:39 3rd in my age group 19th overall
After riding this Xterra, I now know what I need to work on as far as my biking skills and speed, and I need to bring both sets of tires that way I can make sure I got the right tread for the job. Other than that I am looking forward to next month, and heading back to Richmond for the East Coast Championships. Maybe I won’t crash this time on the course, and have a better showing than last time.
Nice race report. I especially like how you remembered your transitions which are usually such a frantic few moments. I'll be in Richmond for the regional race so maybe I can introduce myself in person. Jay
Great job Mark! I'm sure you'll do even better in Richmond then you did at Smith Lake.