Tuesday, May 22, 2007

XTERRA West - 7th

Heartrate Monitors Can’t Rate Heart

Heartrate monitors can’t rate heart! I have that on some shirts I made, and when you race XTERRA, that’s the theme. If you wear a heartrate monitor, you’ll see numbers so high, you’ll wonder if it’s even possible to get your heartrate that high without cardiac arrest! But when you’re tired, you have to dig, no matter what the monitor says. Nothing will tell you what you’re capable of except you, when you reach the late stages of an XTERRA, or any tough race for that matter. That takes heart, and no monitor can tell you if you’ve got it left in your tank.

This past weekend I finished 7th at the XTERRA West Championships in Temecula, CA for my best finish ever at an XTERRA Championship event, and a great rebound from my disappointment at Wildflower.

I was hosting American stud-swimmer Craig Evans, who flew in from Tennessee to start his first full season on the pro circuit. Some people may wonder why or how I could host another pro, but Craig is such a great guy, he and I get along great and are always trying to help each to get better. Also, with my focus placed firmly on Ironman racing, and my disappointment from Wildflower still lingering, my attitude going into this race was all about fun!

XTERRA is where I first burst onto the triathlon scene, when I finished 9th overall as an age-grouper at the XTERRA West Championships in Big Bear in 2004, beating most of the pro field and some big names. So this was a return to my roots, and enjoying the off-road racing.

My new deal with Kuota was modified to a road triathlon deal, when they couldn’t get me a mountain bike in time, so B+L Bike and Sports hooked me up with an amazing machine, the Cannondale Rush. I couldn’t believe this bike! Honestly, I’ve never really been a full suspension fan, but I AM NOW A CONVERT! I don’t think I’ll ever ride a hardtail again, if I continue to ride full-suspensions as good as this one was! This thing was like soft butter down the descents, allowing me to never touch the brakes and just let the bike do its thing.

Race morning I arrived with my wife Orlanda, Craig and good friend JT. There was some cloud cover and even cool temps for the start of the Sport race, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t last. Sure enough, it didn’t.

I was able to catch some friends and clients I coach racing the Sport race, and see them off. They did outstanding, with 3 of them finishing on the podium in their age groups, (three 2nds), and one finishing 5th. I was thrilled!

I set-up the transition spot for myself, next to Conrad Stoltz, and we chatted a bit, sharing a few pre-race laughs and I was definitely on the relaxed side. My wife kept telling me, “You’re going to do so well today,” and each time I just smiled, as it was exactly what I needed to hear.

I did a light jog and then headed for the water to finish my warm-up. Unlike past years here, it was a mass start and wetsuits were legal for the pros. This meant big crowds, and it would be time to “Get Amongst It!” as my Navy Seal boys say.

I stood on the shore next to Craig and Conrad, and felt the power of the starting cannon hit my body before my ears could even hear it. It was mayhem for awhile, as I went straight to Craig’s feet. A few meters later I suffered a strong elbow to the left eye. The blow was so hard, it knocked my left goggle up, pulling my eyelid closed. I couldn’t even see out of it! I was a little worried I might lose my contact lens. I also breathe on my left side, and keep my right goggle underwater. With the visibility of the water being so poor, this meant I couldn’t see anything!

I thought about stopping and trying to fix it quickly, but the risk of missing the front pack was just too great, and I figured with the short run out of the water between the two laps, I could fix it there. That just meant having to swim with one eye for about 700 more meters!

With each stroke, I am getting beat around but trying to find the right spot, and realizing quickly that I am in the lead pack! Craig and Conrad are right in front of me, as is Seth Wealing, with Andrew Noble at my side and even my local swim training partner and friend, Marc Giulianotti. Marc is a great swimmer, and kicks my butt in the pool, so I knew I was having a great swim.

We reach the shore to finish lap 1, and I’m in 4th, but Craig, Conrad and Seth have put in a couple seconds gap as I’m trying to fix my goggle during the little shore run. Luckily some of the guys from the pack step in to close the gap, and we dive into the water to start the second lap. I felt great when I stood up and got on shore, and when I dove in, but then it hit me! WOW, I’m a little tired here!

I knew what I had to do, just find some feet and hope the pack would stay together, as I tried to regain my composure and rhythm in the draft. It’s clear as we reach the far buoy that the pack has been established, and no one will try to break away individually. Now it’s just how much time will the pack put on the chasers?

We finish the swim and I look back, I can’t believe the gap we have! It’s HUGE! I can only see a few stragglers back to the far buoy, so there is no organized chase pack. That’s bad news for anyone trying to chase us!

I run into transition and the crowd is fired up to see local guys like Marc and I in the mix. I smack Craig in the butt as he’s bending over to take off his wetsuit, and I’m running by. Conrad gives me almost a look of shock to see me right next to him in T1.

I struggled a little with the wetsuit at my ankle, then was off, about 8th place out of transition. We started up a road climb this year, and I could see everyone lined up - Conrad, Noble, Craig, Kerry Klassen, Marc and Dan Hugo of South Africa, and no sign of Wealing, who had taken a wrong turn early of T1 and was now behind me. I was able to get Marc to work with me and take some pulls as we crested the climb and began the ride to the loop. I hit the fire road and was alone, as I tried my best to chase Craig’s group.

Once on the climb, I could see Conrad, and the string of us back to me, as I sat in 5th. On this initial climb I was caught by Mike Vine, Seth Wealing and Greg Krause. I would hold 8th until late in the first lap when Josiah Midduagh would catch me. I tried to go with him, but it was clear my Ironman training was making me suffer when I would go past my lactate threshold very far. This was a common theme, and I expected it, but the fact the race was so long, (nearly 3 hours), I knew it would play back to my advantage of strength.

My race would suffer its first potential disaster when I got to the bottom of the first descent and realized somewhere along it I lost one of my bottles with about 300 calories in it! Luckily for me, the aid station was just around the corner and I got everything I could from it to make up for the loss of the bottle. It would later prove to be a great adjustment!

Soldiering on, I would catch back Wealing, who was having bike issues, and Craig who had given Wealing his CO2’s, only to need them himself a few hundred yards later, when his front wheel burped on an off-camber section.

I slowed down and tossed my CO2 pack to Craig, and then worked to try and hold off a hard-charging Brian Smith. By this time, I’m noticing my back is getting very tight from having to dig the front wheel on the steep climbs, and I’m not alone with the back tension. Brian is trying to stretch out his back as well on the fire road, as we trade a few pulls.

Brian would begin to pull away from me on the climb, and I would also be caught by Tyler Johnson and Rom Akerson, (who beat me in Panama). I would chase the two of them trying to keep them in contact, and would see them leaving T2 as I came rolling in.

In T2, my wife Orlanda is screaming at me to get moving, and that I’m in 10th. I start telling her how the race is going as I’m putting on my shoes and things. Some people couldn’t believe how I was just talking, and it became clear to me, I’m not that tired! Suddenly, I’ve got a little bit more confidence!

As I leave T2, I see Brian Astell, and know he will give a strong chase.

I start the run up the big initial climb, to see Tyler and Rom have a good gap, as does Greg Krause. I just push the climb steady, and back into a rhythm at the top. I continue this pace-setting for the first few miles, and realize I’m gaining on all three of them! I catch Rom on the first lap, and I begin to ask myself how tired am I really? “Not that tired,” I say! All this time, I look back, and Astell is also holding ground against me! I better keep pushing!

I continue to push, knowing that my strength will show thru soon, especially on the 2nd lap. Sure enough, I catch Krause and Tyler and make a big move to see if there is anyone else I can get, and make sure I put a gap on Tyler!

I come into the finish area and I’ve got a big smile on my face. I would get 7th, my best finish ever at an XTERRA Championship event, and only 64 seconds from Brian in 5th. I also recorded one of the fastest run splits of the day, knowing that things are on good form for Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

Later I would watch my clients finish and enjoy in their successes as well:

Kevin Breedlove – 2nd, Men 25-29 Sport
Daniel Tuggle – 2nd, Men 35-39 Sport
Rob Wells – 5th, Men 35-39 Sport
Kristen Craine – 2nd, Women 30-35, Sport
James Walsh – 3rd, Men 25-29, 3rd amateur overall, with a crash!
Christiane Reetz – 1st, Women 40-44 – Qualified for World Championships!
Nicole Lippert – 1st, Mixed relay, Swim and run leg!
Tom Ryan – 23rd, Men 35-39, crash
Eric Palmer – 21st, Men 30-34, broken chain
Jon Tumilson – DNF, broken chain and crash

If you didn’t get the chance to race this event, but wondered what it was like, check out this video:

All in all, a great weekend for me, personally and professionally, and exactly what I needed as I head into my last big block of training for Ironman Coeur d’Alene.

See you at the start line, and don’t forget your heart!


PS - Special thanks to Osamu Chiba for the action photos. The bar photos are myself with Rob, a client, and Craig with my boy/client JT, all of us celebrating afterwards.


Michael said...

Crazy what 'having fun' will do for you!

Won my first race of the year. I smoked the Single Speed class and would have actually finished 2nd overall out of everyone (minus the expert/semi-expert class) based on time.


Casey said...

"Awesome Job Mate"

You finally saw the light on the Duel S eh? Wish I could have been around, but life got in the way.....talk to ya soon.

Kristen Craine said...

good work jim and thanks for the recap...being my first race it's all pretty much a blur...cant remember much of anything...except getting my MEDAL baby. thanks for the indirect training via Robert Earl Racing...im hooked!! Kristen

bsk said...

dude, update your freakin' blog...

ps: pro's should be blogggging all the time... :-)

Craig Zelent said...

Jim, congrats on a great Xterra! Let's both rock the world at Ironman CDA!
Craig Zelent