I packed a day before so I really had nothing to do in the evening. I went to bed after setting my alarm for 3:30am however at a rather late hour around 11pm. A few hour later I woke for my wife asking me what time it is? Have you missed your flight? I said of course not without a hesitation while reaching down to my phone to check the time. I was 5:10am, 10 minutes after departure time. While I murmured a few cursings in multiple languages I even heard the jet engine roaring just above our house. Did I mention we only live a short, 3 minute drive to the airport. I have on many occasions in the past walked and even ran the distance from our house to the terminal. This time I could blame it on the alarm but in reality I was the one whi very likely snoozed the clock a few times before falling back asleep. Snoozing the alarm has become a trademark for me. About a zillion times in the past few months I went to bed setting my alarm so I could go to the masters swim practice. About a zillion times I snoozed and found the ever-working excuse that a good sleep worth more than an early morning workout.
Luckily for me we had some airline points that I could use towards a later, one-way flight to Richmond. Though this one landed me in Richmond at 1am after multiple delays during the 3 connecting flights. Not ideal but at least I was on the east coast.
On Thursday I rode 1 loop of the bike course then ran a few miles on the Belle Island. I biked on Friday then swam with the Middaughs only to top off the day with a run along the entire run course. I tried to keep everything (HR, effort level) under control but nontheless it was another 2 hour day of workouts. Saturday was finally an easy day with just a ride on the course and a swim in the river. Again I was still near the 2 hour mark by the end of the day.
Working out this much is definitely not something I like to do before bigger races but I felt that getting to know the course with all of its tricky roots, rock gardens, creek crossings, big ass boulders along the course, slick bridges and so on would give me that psychological advantage. Sure, its not an advantage over my fellow competitors as they come across similar courses more frequently than this North Dakota boy.
After all this preparation the whole race was already gone before the dreaded bike course even started. The river swim was way harder than I thought it would be. From the beginning it was like being in a whirlpool then it just got worse when we jumped back in the river from Belle Island to swim the second half of the course. There all the course marshalls were yelling at us to swim towards the bridge so we may have a chance making it around the buoy on the other side of the river. Well I fought and fought and fought a little more and when I thought I will just let the current take me down where I would get crushed by some waterfalls I somehow made it through. Of course by then I had to swim against the current to get around that damned buoy bur at least I was still in the race. I tried to swim smartly for the last quarter mile of the course and headed to the shrubs upstream the swim exit thinking I will then catch land where I was supposed to. The swim resulted in a rather big deficit off the leaders so I ran as fast I could back to transition and before long I was on the bike.
...to be continued....
I already knew that this bike course won't make my top 10 list. It's more technical than my current skills level can handle at race-pace. Despite that I went out really hard over the bridge but then got stuck behind some guys at the beginning of the trails. I was yoyoing off of them until I was able to finally pull away. Managed the first lap without a crash but definitely slower than my competition. I was sad to see one of the main amateur title contender, Grayson Keppler, on the side of the road being treated by some EMT's. Turns out he was too fast going into a turn, crashed, rode another few hundred yards and up the stairs and rocks before pulling out at the next aid station. Without him in the race I was still unsure where I stood in the race. The second lap started off bad. I had to stop 2 times to get my front skewer adjusted. My front skewer kept loosening and I wasn't sure it'd stay in to hold my wheel. If only I knew i would be OK I could have saved 30+ seconds that would later earn me an extra spot in the overall race. Going into T2 I heard the announcer saying something about the first age-groupers so I was relieved that I wasn't too far off. I went out fast from transition and quickly passed a couple of guys. Then I saw this guy ahead of me by 100-150 yards who was also passing age groupers. I settled into a decent pace thinking I will catch him later on the service road on the out-and-back section of the course. Well, I didn't. Turned out he was rather fast on the stairs, and ran fast on the technical section, too, through the dry river. I made a final surge on the bridge back to mainland and kept increased the pace to what felt like a 3min/km pace but he still ended up finishing 17 seconds ahead of me. And he took the #1 spot in the age group rankings. His name is: Rob Ricard. I better remember.
I do believe though that with a better-executed swim and the technical issues with my bike I could have taken 1st place.
This race was definitely something to learn from.
Next up is the XTERRA Pipestem Creek in Jamestown, ND.