Last weekend I raced the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in Pelham, Alabama. This race doubled as the XTERRA Southeast Championship race as well. Having raced the course numerous times before, besides it being close to family, going into it, I was really looking forward to racing it.
I headed down the Wednesday before the race to get in some quality time on the course. I ended up hooking up with good friend, and previous teammate, Fred Smith (nice pink bottle you have there in that pic, Fred). With brand, spanking new Ikon meats from Maxxis on my steed, we hit Oak mountain for one lap of the bike course, taking our time, and chatting the whole way. We discussed everything from kids, to course lines, to nutrition. We took it easy, enjoyed each other’s company and the beautiful trails. Afterwards, we went for an easy swim where we spoke briefly to Josiah Middaugh. Completing our swim, I bid adieu to Fred and went for a easy lap of the run course.
Dan and I spent more time on the course Thursday and Friday. On Friday, I was having a few minor issues with the shifting that I just couldn’t get dialed in, so I decided to stop by Cahaba Cycles, the local bike shop, to have them take a look. Prior to doing so, Dan, Jarrod and I went to grab some fajitas at a local Mexican joint. Having enjoyed lunch, I headed to the bike shop where they worked their magic.
Once the bike repairs were complete, I jumped back in the truck and pointed it to the airport to pickup Alba. That’s when the rumbling commenced. I’ve been known to eat in just about any condition. It’s not uncommon to get all kinds of mud, dirt and other goop on your water bottles during rides. I’ve always drank from them with no issues, even when riding horse trails. I’ve stuck plenty of GU gel packets into my mouth that were completely covered in all kinds of nastiness (from dirty rides or runs), closed my teeth and used them to not only rake out the gel from the packet, but also scrape whatever is on the exterior into my gut as well. Some of it may have come from the trails, some of it from my hands. It didn’t matter. Mmmmm gel with extra “vitamins and minerals”. Mmmmm extra cruchiness.
So when the rumbling in my stomach started on the way to the airport, I started thinking. Was it because I was shaking so many hands at the course when greeting old friends? I had seen lots of people and XTERRA family I hadn’t seen in a while. Did I catch something? Was it the food I ate at the Mexican joint? After all, it was only about an hour and after eating, maybe a little more. I couldn’t figure it out, but whatever it was, I didn’t like it.
After rushing back to the hotel (I barely made it), I spent (on and off) two out of the next 4 hours on the can. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say it was a mass jettison of any excess fluid I had in my body. This prompted an emergency text to Cody soliciting any tips on what to do. Next step was a bee line for the nearest drug store where I picked up: three quarts of Pedialyte, one box of Immodium and two gallons of water. I just couldn’t afford to go into the race the next day in a dehydrated state.
The next morning, the same symptoms continued. I continued to put in fluid faster and in greater amount than I was losing. I know the body doesn’t quite work that simple and that correct hydration takes days and days, not minutes. Given my situation, I just had to do whatever I could to mitigate the problem.
The race started with one big wave of age-group males. I found clear water and didn’t have too much washing machine action to deal with until we hit the first buoy. I didn’t feel as fast as I would have liked, but knew just to give it a steady effort considering what had happened going into the race. After the first lap, I was feeling pretty decent and decided to pick up the pace a little on the second go-round.
Finishing up the swim, I exited the water and executed what I would consider a flawless transition. No issues with shoes, helmet, or anything. I was sure to put on my helmet before touching my bike as I had a ITU official eyeing me like a hawk ready to dish out a time penalty. I headed out on the bike with game plan in mind and began execution. It was cool to hear the cheers of Alba, Dan’s crew, my Dad, my brother, Mike and his son, Taylor.
About 200 yards into the trail, on a 180 degree switchback, I managed to get caught up on a root and went flying over the handlebars. It all happened in a blink of my eye and I found myself laying flat on my back thinking, “What the hell?”. I pounced up, hopped back on, and took off. Everything was fine until I realized the nose of my saddle was pointing to the moon.
I tried sitting on it hard and hitting it with my fist while riding down the trail. “Maybe I can just ride it like this,” I thought. I tried it for the next three or four miles and realized it just wasn’t going to work. On the first fire road, I grabbed a handful of brake and slid to a stop while dismounting in one leap. While banging on it with my fist, Mark Rudder came whizzing past me. DAMNIT. I turned the bike over, seat on the ground, picked it up over my head and with one swoop, WHAM, hit it on the ground. The seatpost gave out a loud POP and I flip it over to inspect. Looked good, so I took off in pursuit.
Riding hard, I passed as many folks as I could and to make up for any lost time. Both the crash and the repair took precious minutes that I wanted to recoup. I made good time until we got to the top of the climb. On the initial descent, headed towards blood rock, I slowed to take in some nutrition. Here’s where Ali Arasta caught up with me just as we dove into the entrance of blood rock together.
I am always concerned with running into traffic at this technical section of the course, because it can be the cause of bottlenecks. Plus, since I like to haul ass down the other side, I always prefer not to have anyone in front of me. Ali seemed to be handling it just fine until he caught up with someone in the 45-49 age group just poking along.
Just as we started to enter into the rocky section of Blood Rock, I started yelling, “Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Don’t stop!” I knew Ali wouldn’t, but I didn’t want the guy in front of him to hold us up. Just as we approached the last drop, what happens? He stopped. It caused both Ali and I to get messed up and I had to put a foot down to push off like a 6 year old on a scooter bike.
After we got moving again, the guy continued to poke along down the hill. He was going at a decent clip, just not as fast as Ali and I wanted. We were both asking him to yield, but he wouldn’t have any part of it. Within a minute or two, Ali yells back to me, “Marcus, am I getting a flat?” Sure enough, his rear tire was slowly oozing down. “Yep. Sorry, man. That sucks. Do you need anything?” I replied. He stated he had everything he needed and pulled over to let me pass.
For the rest of the downhill, I continued pestering the guy to let me pass. It was as if he was completely ignoring me or not hearing me. I continued to get louder and louder just in case it was the latter. Finally, I stated that I was going to take it if he wasn’t going to give it. He finally pulled over. As I passed, he exclaimed he didn’t hear me.
The rest of the bike leg was fairly uneventful with the exception of dropping my chain once during a rough downhill section. All-in-all, I probably lost 5 or 6 minutes (or so) on the bike from crashing, mechanicals or un-yielding traffic (thanks to everyone else who was sportsman like to yield, heck I had to a couple of times). Hey, that’s just racing.
T2 went equally as well as T1 and I felt pretty good coming off of the bike. I grabbed my stuff and took off on the first lap (of two) on the run. It didn’t take long for me to get rid of the bike legs and establish what felt like a fast, but sustainable pace.
On the second lap, I had a guy right on my tail. I figured out that he was using me to pace as he was not making any attempt to pass. I eventually pulled away from him and found myself alone.
On the second lap, Tom Rosencrantz hung with me for a while before eventually passing me. He would go on to finish about 25 seconds ahead of me. I passed numerous folks in my age group on the run, including Louis Pienaar from South Africa with only about a mile left to go.
I came across the finish line in 12th division place (10th American) with a time of 2:30:44 (clock below shows start time of the U23 race which started ahead of us).
Dan finished 3rd in his division with a time of 2:25:02. Not bad for the CentiMark-Tailwinds team.
It was great to see the XTERRA family again. From the crew (Dave, Janet, Trey, Ann, and more) to the elite athletes, (Cody, Josiah, Mel, Conrad, Craig, Mel, Lesley, Emma, Shonny, Sara, Renata, and Katie), us regular humans, (Shelby, Casey, Charlotte, Frank, Fred, Mark, Owen, Sunny, A.J., Jonathan, Dan, Jessica, Glenn, Eric, Steve, Ali, Peter & Mrs. Lilley and Mr. Nathaniel Grew), and even some new friends (Rob, Deena, and more), it was great seeing everyone!
Race: ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships and XTERRA Southeast Championship
Location: Pelham, Alabama, USA
Date: May 19, 2012
Distances: 1 mile swim, 19 mile bike, 7 mile run
Result: 12th in Division, 10th American
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Maxxis Ikon Tires, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Rudy Project helmet, Scrub Brakes, Crank Brothers Candy Pedals.