Monday, August 31, 2009

XTERRA Lake Tahoe Race Report

XTERRA Tahoe Race Report...the low-down!


XTERRA Lake Tahoe began at the Incline Village Hyatt's beach, where we swam two 750 meter loops in the warmer than expected, 67 degree crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe. With a 100 meter run in between loops on soft sand, at an elevation of 6300', getting out of the water and running that 100 before jumping back in seemed tougher than the swim itself!

I noticed that if I pushed the pace as I normally would in the pool or the ocean (ie sea level), I immediately felt dizzy and could feel the oxygen debt. It took a few minutes to find a pace that was maintainable and I stuck to it. I knew it was slower than what I wanted, but with limited swim training lately, my expectations were pretty low. I exited the first 750 in 13:38, and finished the 1500 swim in 28:39.

Embarassingly slow? Yes. More motivated than ever to kick my swim training into high gear? Definitely.

There was a delightfully sadistic ~400m run to the first transition: across the beach, across an asphalt parking lot, down the street, across another parking lot, and into the transition which was in a grassy park.


After the long transition, I took off at a good clip on my Turner FLUX, in a quixotic attempt to leap ahead of the faster swimmers and Sprint triathlon racers (who started at the same time but only had to swim one 750m lap) before the dreadfully steep and sandy Tunnel Creek Road climb.

The notorious Tunnel Creek Road climb comes only about a mile into the race, and is 4 miles of loose and sandy but unbelievably scenic humiliation. My lame swim meant that I would be stuck behind a pack of slower riders clogging the only good lines up the climb. Passing was quite difficult as riders took both sides - and the middle of the road was usually soft sand.

My only option was to pass several riders at a time, blasting through the soft sand when possible. After a couple miles the traffic jam thinned out a bit, but still left me frustrated as hill-climbing is usually a relative strength of mine, especially on the mountain bike. It took me 31 minutes to climb Tunnel Creek Road, but by the time I reached the top I was probably in the top 20 overall and feeling better than I would have if I had blasted the climb on my own...

The top of Tunnel Creek Road meant the beginning of the impossibly RAD 4-mile-long single track Flume Trail. This trail is cut into the side of the granite cliffs and offers panoramic views of the lake ~1400 feet below. This would be the highlight of the ride, and one of the few (false) flat spots on the bike course. Unfortunately my gimpy swim came back to haunt me once again, and I encountered more bottlenecks on the narrow trail. It is difficult to pass on the Flume Trail, and a reckless pass on the right could have very negative consequences, such as dropping off a 500' cliff.

A few of the riders I tried to pass seemed uncomfortable on the trail or flat-out refused to let me pass. Poor sports. One guy actually started swearing at me and threatened me (and the racer behind me who also had bridged up to me as I waited to pass). Apparently "whenever it's safe, buddy, on your right" (you pass on the right on this trail) was an insult.

The rest of the bike course was less congested, with the 15 racers in front of me rather spread out. The day grew much hotter, into the 80s, which combined with 7500' of altitude can dehydrate you rather quickly. The loose sand on the course sapped the energy of my quads, but my energy was consistent throughout the ride, since I had slammed a bottle of (2.5 scoop) Vitargo S2 on the Flume Trail. After a couple more bottleneck incidents on the more technical downhill switchbacks, I was able to open it up slightly and cruise the downhill to T2 for the 10k run. For the entire ride, I believe only two people passed me. For my only fuel on the bike leg I carried one bottle of 3-scoop Vitargo S2 mixed with water, FEIN (75mg caffeine citrate packet) and nuun.

I took a only a swig of water from one aid station but that was it. NOT ENOUGH WATER! On a hot day, this must have had an impact on my performance. Next time I will use a light camelback to ensure and motivate me to drink more. We all know that a very small amount of dehydration can have a large impact on performance.


After a quick transition (for a change! (no pun intended)), I slammed half a bottle of Vitargo S2 and hit the 10k run course, which would be two laps on a mostly flat 5k loop that somehow was cut into a very small area. Every 10 seconds or so you would encounter a tight turn, perhaps a hairpin. This prevented any mojo from flowing and was a bit annoying. My strength as a runner is getting into Diesel-Mode and trucking along at LT or just under LT, but this course was stop and go. Challenging in a weirdly annoying way.

I had pre-ridden and pre-run the course beforehand and knew what to expect, but on race day it was difficult to get into any kind of groove. Although I felt dreadful like I was moving in slow-motion I somehow managed to let only one person pass me on the run, and I finished in 3hrs15 minutes. Approximately 15 minutes slower than I had planned, but a great benchmark to demolish next year.

Surprisingly, I was handed a results card before I even left the finish chute (JTL TIMING is awesome), showing that I finished in 15th place, and 2nd in my age group. The timing company's card was the same exact card they used at races I did on O'ahu back in 1996-1999 when I competed in cross country, road races and triathlons. If it ain't broke, don't fix it! I still have a couple of those old cards and it was nostalgic moment for me...I had planned on competing in the first XTERRA Maui (back then called AquaTerra) in 1996, but my Navy and college schedule wouldn't allow it. 13 years later I finally competed in my first XTERRA, after years of triathlon, Ironman, mountain bike racing, adventure racing...funny how it all works out. I cannot wait to compete in my next XTERRA...

The trophy was an XTERRA Lake Tahoe pint glass, which I filled and emptied while we stood on the podium! Cheers!

After the race, Lisa and I drove the loop around Lake Tahoe, stopping at Emerald Bay for some hiking and photography. Emerald Bay is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. On Sunday we returned to Emerald Bay and scrambled/hiked down the dry waterfalls and creek bed onto the beach. We checked out the Vikingsholm castle, swam in the bay, and soaked up some rays before the long epic drive home. Solid weekend.

The last few weeks have been very light in terms of training. With back-to-back races and a very busy time at work, it was essentially a mid-season break. Now I look forward to getting back into the swing of things and ramping up for my next "A" race, the Ironman 70.3 World Championships in Clearwater, Florida on November 14th.

I love it when a PLAN comes together!

Stay Thirsty My Friends!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Santa Barbara Triathlon Report

Race Report Time Kids! Gather around! Ok...

The Santa Barbara Long Course triathlon this past Saturday was a bit tougher than I had anticipated. The 34 mile bike course offered treats such as potholes, twisty descents, X-Files-like false flats, and busy intersections open to traffic. Good times. After the tragic loss of Barbara Warren due to an accident on the bike course last year, I had no problem taking a very conservative approach on this technical ride that I had not pre-ridden. I still wound up with the 9th fastest bike split out of 780, which was surprising given that I felt like I was holding back considerably and slowing down almost to a complete stop at several intersections.

The 1 mile swim reminded me that I need to get back in the pool with purpose, and that I cannot fake it through a 1+ mile swim leg. Losing 5-6 minutes to the leaders is unacceptable and nearly cancels out any gains I usually make on the bike. This was a true wake-up call, and I am working on a plan to get back into swim shape; making this weakness my strength! At 6'2 and 180lbs (in race shape, I raced SB at 187!), I should be flying through the water instead of zigzagging slowly. Moving on...

The 10 mile run confirmed for me that I don't have much under the hood after running very low mileage the last several weeks while a peroneal tendonitis in my right foot healed. With low expectations going in, I focused on what I COULD control, like fueling with VITARGO S2 and pacing. I give myself an "A" for both, since I held back considerably on the bike and kept my pace consistent on the run, plugging away at 6:30ish/mile. Can't complain.

My fuel for the race: one bottle of 2-scoop Vitargo, 3hrs before the start, along with one Nature's Path "pop tart" and water. One 2-scoop bottle of Vitargo slammed 30 minutes prior to the start, along with some water. One bottle of 2.5-scoop Vitargo on the bike. One half bottle of 3 scoop Vitargo at T2...and the other half I sipped as I ran. One big mistake was not taking any FEIN caffeine along with my Vitargo on the run. That would have helped immensely as I faded a bit at mile 9 to 6:40s. I had to rally to get back on track!

I was passed by the 2nd place 30-34 in the last half mile. My mindset from the start of the race was to just go with the flow and treat it like a training day. That was a lame idea. I had no idea that I would finish only 21 seconds behind 1st place in my Age Group at the end. 21 seconds was very doable, since I was cruising the run to avoid any further injury. Even in "B" or "C" races I need to be more engaged. Gotta race with the killer instinct regardless of relative importance of the race. After all, these races are training for the "BIG" races. I can't wait to come back next year to try to take 10 minutes off my time and crack top 10 overall.

This was Lisa's first triathlon (she normally does adventure races and endurance mountain bike races) so the weekend was really not about my race, but hers. We stayed at our friend Chuck's house a few blocks off State Street, which is an incredible location. Chuck has it made in the shade! The Fast Fletchers: Slater and Monique, as well as Paul Cusick (from Intense mountain bikes) and his girlfriend Lisa joined us as well for the weekend.

This race gave me some good benchmarks and data for my upcoming push towards Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, Florida. I will take one more "easy" week before resuming my normal training program and ramping up for my "last hurrah" for 2009.

This weekend I am off to Xterra Lake Tahoe with Lisa...I have been on my mountain bike just a few times this year so it should be pretty interesting. I have ridden the course before, during last year's Big Blue 24 Hour Adventure Race, so I know what to expect...pain!