XTERRA East Championship Race Report
How many of you recall Sesame Street and their cheesy way of “sponsoring” a show? “Today was brought to you by the letter F and the Letter P”. Well, folks, this race report and the lessons learned are brought to you by Frank. It’ll make sense in a minute or two. Bear with me.
I know it’s been over three weeks since the XTERRA East Championship race in Richmond, but I’ve had numerous folks question when the race report would be hitting the blog, especially since I posted that I would explain the demise of my race with a Facebook and Twitter post. Kind of hard to get an idea of what happened in less than 140 characters, so here’s the scoop.
Dan took his whole clan to the race since numerous family members would be participating in the race activities. This meant that our usual commute and sharing of a room didn’t take place. Another good friend, Chris, was also doing the race so we decided to head up together and split a room. We headed up Friday night and planned a pre-ride on Saturday after the trail run races were over.
We had a pretty good pre-ride even though it was 4 billion degrees outside. Things were going pretty good until Chris had a bit of a crash and screwed up his ankle pretty bad. By the time we hit the hay that night, that thing was swollen as big as a house. My good friend, Frank Fernandez Posse, was staying in the same hotel with us and stopped by to give some advice. He’d gone through some ankle issues over the past year and wanted to offer his experience. The three of us hung around in the room just shooting the breeze and talking about racing. One topic, oddly enough, that came up was the use of a bike pump and how he recommended against using someone else’s pump. We all knew the reason why, mainly because the gauges can vastly vary from pump to pump. Having the wrong pressure could be detrimental to your race. Frank wished Chris well, headed out and we began planning dinner.
On race morning, Chris officially threw in the towel and decided not to race. We had originally planned to check out of the hotel, pack up the truck and head to the race. However, since he was hurt, I told him that there was no sense in him hobbling around the race course. I suggested that he just hang out in the hotel until checkout time and then drive my truck down. The race course was close enough that I could just throw my transition bag onto my back and ride the bike there. He agreed and I headed down to the truck to grab my gear. One of the things I couldn’t figure out how to safely carry was my pump. I resigned to just using Dan’s and headed to the race (see where this is going).
All of the pre-race prep went as planned. I got a decent spot in transition and setup everything including tire pressure. With. Dan’s. Pump.
The swim was the usual zig-zag course across the James River. It went something like this: Swim to the first buoy, take a right. Run across the sandbar and back into the water. Take a left at the next buoy. Swim across the river, over boulders and take a right at the next buoy. Run across Belle Isle (upstream) and back into the water. Swim to the next buoy, fighting the current and take a right. At the last buoy, take a left and head for the shore (see pic below). Pretty interesting swim to say the least. I felt pretty good with my swim time and came out of the water looking forward to a good bike.
As soon as I got out on the bike, I knew I was in trouble. Apparently, using Dan’s pump was indeed a bad idea. I inflated to the pressure I wanted, but apparently, the pressure registered on his gauge is way different than mine. As I rounded the turn, up the gravel road to the Highway 1 bridge (see the bridge in the top of the pic above) , I realized that I wouldn’t be able to handle single track trail on the pressure I was running. Any hard landing would have caused my rim to bottom out. With great regret, I pulled over to put in some air. I quickly grabbed my can of air, twisted the valve to puncture the can and put the valve onto the valve stem of the wheel. In order to release the air, I had to again, give the can of air a twist. When I did, I snapped the valve stem right off of the wheel. I stood there in disbelief. “This can NOT be happening” I thought. I tried to take the valve stem and twist it back into the wheel with hopes that there was enough threads to grab hold. No luck. I flipped the bike over and pulled the wheel off and leaned it on the guard rail of the bridge as I broke the bead and put a tube in. To add insult to injury, I couldn’t seem to get the air to come out of the can. I began asking racers as they swooshed by me if any one had air to spare. After about 30 riders past, a young kid on a relay team stopped and offered me a pump. With about 50 pumps from the little hand pump (all while profusely thanking the kid for stopping), I had the tire inflated. I handed him the pump, sent him on his way and threw the wheel back on the bike. I zoomed across the bridge passing the kid and I thanked him again.
As soon as I hit single track, I knew I still didn’t have enough pressure. I came across a guy working on a broken chain, stopped to offer help, but he said he had everything he needed. “Can I bum some air from you?” Hoping that he’d have a can of CO2, he instead pointed me to his pump. Another 50 short pumps later, and I was on my way again. I was concerned that the lower pressure would cause a pinch flat on the tube, but I threw caution to the wind and just hauled ass. I didn’t take it easy on any of the jumps, drops or other rough areas of the course and figured that if I got another flat, I would deal with it rather than worrying about it along the way. When I approached the tunnel section of the course, I actually caught a little air coming off the jump. Check out Cody clearing that section.
The Richmond course is pretty cool. Not only is it in the middle of downtown Richmond, but it has some really interesting obstacles and sections of trail. There’s tunnels, bridges, and all sorts of really cool things to ride.
Adding to the course obstacles, there’s also a crowd of locals that come out to taunt the racers. By 8am, they were already tanked, full of beer and having fun. They hang around two technical sections of the course that are tough to transverse without the distractions, much less with them hanging around in funny costumes, shouting at you. It makes for a great time and even if you don’t have a sense of humor, you can’t help but grin when you come across these clowns. What makes it even better, it’s a two-lap bike course, so you get to deal with them twice. I hope they never stop doing what they do in future years, because they’re a blast to have on the course.
On the first lap of the course, I had to deal with overcoming the second wave of racers that passed me during my tire repairing stops. By the time we hit the second lap, the Sprint racers had hit the course. Dan and I had previously calculated that if we could have a decent first lap, that we should be able to be on our second lap by the time they hit the course. This was accurate, and I would have made it, would I had not stopped for the repairs. As I came up onto the road bridge for my second lap, I noticed a ton of Sprint racers in front of me. I passed as many as I could before hitting single track but when I hit the trailhead, congestion had already started. Since many of them were new to racing (good for them), they were walking their bikes over many of the obstacles (bad for me). Some of the obstacles had bikers stacked up 15 deep. It got to the point where I spent as much time running along the side of the trail with my bike on my shoulder (in order to pass) than I spent riding it. By the time I hit the halfway point of the second lap, it finally started to thin out a bit. Knowing that the competitive side of my race was pretty much over, I decided to just have fun with it and race as fast as I could.
I came into T2 ready to hit the run. The heat was already exceeding 90 degrees, so I knew it was going to be a tough one. The first section of the run, which is predominately sidewalk and packed gravel, was an area where I tried to just get into a good rhythm. I also knew that once I hit the “Ruins” that I would have to deal with cramps, so I staved them off until then.
Sure enough, as soon as I hit the top of the stairs of the Ruins, my left quad was cramping. I joked to the folks standing at the top that I would have to run the rest of the way like a pirate. I managed to shake the cramp by the time I hit the next water stop and got all the way to the dry way with little issues. The dry way is a section of the James River that doesn’t have much water flow unless it rains a ton. It’s basically a boulder hop across the river back to Belle Isle. It’s a fun part of the course if you can manage to keep from cramping. Because of the hopping and lunging forward from rock to rock, it has a tendency to flare up issues with tired muscles. I had a few cramps here and there, but they only lasted seconds at a time.
After a quick jaunt over Belle Isle and some more single track trail, you have one more bridge to cross the James River and head to the finish line.
I finished 10th in my division which I guess isn’t too bad considering the tire issues. I should have listened to Frank. I was really hoping to get some redemption after being sick at ITU Worlds, but I didn’t get it. Still a very, very fun race and was great to see my XTERRA family again. Thanks Pax Tolosi for some of the great photos above, including his better half, Beata Wronska coming up the stairs. Check our her cool blog.
Race: XTERRA East Championship
Location: Richmond, Virginia, USA
Date: June 10, 2012
Distances: 1000m swim / 32k mountain bike / 10k trail run
Result: 10th in Division
Products used: GU Roctane and GU Brew, Maxxis Ikon Tires, Cobb DRT SHC Saddle, Rudy Project helmet, Scrub Brakes, Crank Brothers Candy Pedals.