Time passes so fast at times its hard to keep up. It seems like the my 1/2 marathon and Myrtle Beach were years away and just yesterday. OK, enough with the cliches, but seriously, this season has been a tornado in many ways, with its ups and downs, so I suppose it was fitting that the final race of the XTerra season would be the same, as I finished out the year in my home state of NY not far where I went to college, in Ithaca (NY).
The XTerra East Slippery Slope
As is so common in year’s past, it seemed that my overall race form began to slowly sink away after Richmond. There are a few reasons for this, some of which I’ll touch on in my XTerra training series, and others simply due to life. This year had a twist though, with the impending adoption of a new baby girl, which added its own stresses and excitement, least of which is the very real possibility it might not go through.
As has been the tradition since 2010, however, July harkened XTerra EX2 which featured a 1200 m swim, a rocky MTB course, and challenging 5 mile run with some tricky steep descents and hand over hand climb. Heading into the race I felt good about my training, but definitely a 1/2 a leg down from Richmond. To make matters a bit trickier, our birth mom was due right around race time.
Undaunted, my wife wished me luck and John D and I headed off to MD early Saturday. As in past years, I had a late afternoon clinic, so once we set-up camp we previewed the course and determined that it was indeed still rocky.
It seems that this year I was finally able to wrestle that monkey off my back and make some headway in my swim, and I was able to come out of the water in the top half of the field move up quickly in the bike. In truth, despite a solid ride, my time was well off my previous best from 2013, leaving with things to ponder for the off-season. Nonetheless, I was able to follow it up with a solid run to finish 6th or 7th overall, and 2nd in my age group, behind the dominant Daryl Weaver. With the race a wrap, though, I had some serious driving to get done, as I learned our daughter was born early that same morning. So John and I packed up made a bee line back to Richmond, where I quickly unloaded and drove on to Petersburg!
A season not quite over: sadness, joy, and a little frustration
With EX2 done, a new baby at home, and few races on the offer, I contemplated what my remaining options were. Not surprisingly, the first couple weeks after Ciara’s birth left me feeling sleepless and drained. I began contemplating another 1/2 marathon, some road tri’s, or maybe another XTerra. One option was an early August race that proved to early, so I was left considering either a Tennessee or New York race. Neither was conveniently located, but XTerra Syracuse offered a few other opportunities, like visiting old friends and working on a motocross training project. Between baby care, family visits, and work travel training was spotty at best through the remainder of July. I also had to bid farewell my old friend, Cali.
A feral cat that decided to let herself into my apartment more than 15 years ago, and then give birth to 4 kittens a few months later, Cali had seen a lot, including a month on her own while we were living on Cape Cod. We found her living in an unfinished house 2 miles away. Cali’s health had been declining for the last couple years, but she still loved to go out and sleep in the yard during the day. However, in late July, she stopped wanting to go out and was growing increasingly confused. End of life decisions are never easy…suffice it to say, I had a difficult time letting her go, but I’m glad I stayed with her until she fell asleep.
After returning from a short trip out to school to set-up my lab, I decided on hitting up XTerra Syracuse. With about 10 solid days of training and a bit more fat on me than in June, I headed up to NY for a few days. A short wetsuit swim was in order to get comfortable before the race. I also plugged in a short run, before my pre-ride Saturday. In hindsight, it might have been better to spend more time in the park, but without race signage, trying to follow a course is nearly impossible.
The course itself seemed a good mix of short swim, hilly MTB and challenging run. However, the swim, advertised as 1 k, was probably 500 m at most. Sure, this is better for me, but swimming a mere 10 min really was ridiculous, considering the time it took to get into my wetsuit; it seems no one knew about this ahead of time, either. The MTB course did feature some great climbing, but it turns out that much of the good single track was cut, presumably to attract less skilled riders. While I support bringing new athletes into the sport, the lack of technical aspects runs counter to XTerra. Then there was the run…
After a short, fast swim (I mean how much time could I lose?), I came out of the water in good position and made great progress on the MTB. As usual, my legs felt like bricks, but subjective feelings can mislead you into thinking you’re race is sub-par. During my pre-ride, my friend asked why I choose less than ideal lines; I pointed out that those are often the lines you are forced to take if you want to pass.
My 1st lap was a solid time, and I was able to continue to move forward on lap 2, coming into T2, I had moved into 3rd place. With two very fast runners, Daryl Weaver and Rob Ricard, up front, I knew that barring extreme circumstances my position was not likely to change. Sadly, leaving T2 I had no idea where to run. The race had no volunteers at the exit, and decided to use red arrows for both the run and kids race. To make matters worse, they had a chute of cones leading in the opposite direction of the run course. Things went from bad to worse from there. With another wrong turn, I came upon another athlete at mile 3 that I had passed on lap 1 of the bike. I continued on, but one more missed turn saw me finally come in to the finish area exceedingly frustrated and in 6th overall, losing nearly 6 min in the run.
If you’ve raced long enough then you’ve heard the mantra repeated that racers are responsible for knowing the course, and I generally agree. However, too often I have seen this “rule” as a convenient excuse for a poorly marked course. The fact is, fatigue often clouds judgement and many of us pay a good bit of money and travel long distances to race. It is often impractical or impossible to preview every aspect of the courses we race. Moreover, a few key marshals and some course tape blocking the wrong route can have a dramatic effect on guiding athletes. In hindsight, I could have gone out before the race to preview the run (signage was not up the day before, and the map would not have helped me), but I’ve never been on a run course as confusing as the Syracuse course was. Next time, I’ll assume the course is poorly marked.
Clearly, this was not the way I wanted to end the season, but you need to look at the bright side of things and the big picture. I made some good progress in my overall race performances, even if I lost my edge in the bike. I also need to make some more progress in the swim and run to be a bigger player in races, but that’s what the off-season is for! For now, I’ll be planning my off-season and playing with Ciara, who will no doubt be joining me on some runs this spring.
If you’d like to view my race files, click on the race results above. You can also follow me on Strava. Be sure to checkout my upcoming XTerra Training series this fall.
SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL MY SPONSORS:
Blue Ridge Outdoors Magazine @gooutandplay
SLS3 Custom Apparel @SLS3
Rudy Project @RudyProjectNA
Honey Stinger @HoneyStinger
Skratch Labs @SkatchLabs