This season, I used a deferral entry to compete for the
second time at the NC 70.3 in Wilmington. It had been so hot the month of
September and early October, I was worried that is might be miserable based on
weather – but in fact, it turned out to be a perfect triathlon day.
I was able to connect with team members prior to (see photo
of Todd and Millie) and post race (see photo of team at finish), team IOS-ETT
did really well overall at the race.
My swim was ok for me, this is usually my best leg, but I
stayed in the chop a little too long at the beginning and thus my time wasn’t
as fast as it has been. I finally got
over and found the deep water with the current (I did feel pretty idiotic once
I moved over, and realized what I was missing!). Note to all triathletes contemplating
Wilmington – get over in the channel as soon as you can!!!!
T1 is LONG…. I had stashed some shoes and put those on once
my wetsuit was stripped, this really did help with the long run into
Once I got on the bike, I got to see several team members as
they passed me (I am much more of a runner and a swimmer, but I hung in there
and cheered for them!). It was windy out on the course, particularly on Hwy 421.
Overall, I enjoyed the bike except for 2 main things 1- I hated the
drawbridges, felt very unstable on these and really slowed down and 2- there
was a really large peloton that swallowed me up, passing on either side, and
clearly drafting off each other… I sure wish officials had seen this massive
group! Here is the really unusual thing on the bike – I saw a black bear on the
side of the road! (And no, I was not hallucinating – others saw this too!). I
suspect that he was dead as he wasn’t moving, but it certainly got my heart
racing – it was a huge bear, just off to the side of 421 on the way back into
town…. Wow! Later on, our waitress at dinner said that Pender county does have
black bears and this wasn’t that unusual (really?) Wow!
T2 was smooth – but there were actual lines for the
port-a-potties, so I decided to forego that and just get on with the run.
I got into a groove on the run, and the
weather wasn’t too hot, so I was able to maintain. I ended up running a1:43.01 for the 13.1 (which is actually the
best run I have had at the end of a 70.3 by 2 minutes, so I was pleased with
Overall, a good day – the weather held out, no one I knew got hurt, our team rocked it (way to go Lindsey!), what a day to remember! Well done all….
Xterra World Championships is in Maui, HI, one of the most scenic and picturesque destination races I’ve done. It’s completely contained within the Ritz Carlton Kapalua resort property from pre-race dinner, entire race course, to the post-race awards dinner. You could check-in to the Ritz and never have to leave the entire stay.
We arrived on the Island on Wednesday which was about 5 days before the race. I was able to get in some good training which included one lap of the bike course on Thursday, several laps of the swim course Thursday/Friday, and a small preview of the run course during the days leading up to the race. Xterra changed up the swim and bike course to be a two-loop format this year which is great for spectators, not so much for the athletes. The multi lap course created a lot of lap traffic on both the swim and the bike. The bike course being two loops was a double edge sword in that you knew what was coming for the second lap, both good and bad 😉
The weather leading up to the race this year was completely
dry as opposed to 2016 when I raced there and it rained the entire 4 days
leading up to the race making for a very slippery and muddy day. I was really
looking forward to the dry conditions on the bike course to maximize speed and minimize
time out in that brutal heat and humidity.
We woke up bright and early around 5:30am on Sunday morning
to a dark sky. Once it was light enough to see outside we noticed that there
were some dark looming clouds right over the property. Around 7am it started
raining and didn’t stop until 8:45 which was a cause for concern because I was
very much mentally prepared for a fast dry course and wasn’t sure what the
conditions would be like until I got out there. I tried pushing that out of my
mind and focusing on my time leading up to the race.
We headed to the transition area around 6:15am and grabbed
coffee and something to eat on with the Butlers on the way. As mentioned everything
is on property so I only had to walk about 5 minutes from my room to get to the
transition area. I setup my bike and gear in the pouring rain and then went
back to the room to stay dry and finish my pre-race routine. We headed back
down to the transition around 7:45am to watch the pro’s go off at 8am. Once
they started I went off and got in a good run warmup with some dynamic
stretching and drills. I then got into my swim-skin and headed down to the
water to get a swim warmup in. Legs felt good on the run and body felt good
overall on the swim warmup.
Around 8:50am I gave Amy a hug and kiss and went to line up
in my wave. Anxiously waiting, I went through my visualization of how the swim
would go and getting into transition. It seemed like we stood there for forever
until finally the announcer came across the microphone with “one minute to go!”
The cannon went off and before I knew it there were a couple hundred of us
running toward the ocean. I took a couple hop-steps and then dove in and
started sprinting to get out of the washing machine of athletes. I got a good
start and found some feet early. My strategy was to find someone slightly
faster and stick on their feet for the first lap to conserve some energy. I
must have been swimming too close to the guy in front of me because he turned
over on his back about half way through the first lap and gave three giant
kicks as to say piss off and stop touching my feet haha J I backed off and swam in the
rest of the way by myself. The surf was relatively low so there wasn’t much
fighting to get out of the water. Once on land I picked it up across the beach
to head out onto the second lap. I dove in and found myself with significantly
less people around me which was a good sign. I pushed a little harder on the second
lap and actually found some more feet to draft off allowing more energy
savings. We ran into a lot of lapped swimmers on the second lap since there
were multiple waves that started behind us. I kept sighting the large Xterra inflatable
to ensure I was on course still. I swam until my hands touched the sand and then
stood up and took off to the transition. I was happy with my swim and was able
to conserve quite a bit of energy. I ran past Amy with a smile and she mentioned
I was second out of the water in the AG with a time of just over 23 minutes.
I got into transition and quickly pulled my swim skin off,
took a couple gulps of water/rinsed my face off, threw my shoes/hydration
pack/helmet/sunglasses on, and off I went. The bike course is by far the
hilliest course I’ve ever ridden with the first climb right out of transition around
10% on loose gravel. We then headed onto the cart path as it flattened out
which gave me a chance to throw on my gloves and get a couple gulps of
nutrition. We then headed through the infamous tunnel where the climbing began
immediately. The first 3 miles of the bike course ascend just over 1250 feet
with gradients ranging from 6% up to 15% with average gradient being around 8%.
My race plan was to hold back on the first lap and give what I had left on the
second lap. With this plan there were a lot of great climbers that left me in
the dust on the first 3 miles. I got to the top and felt really good and was
able to make up some places on the technical descents however the course was
very slick in spots from the couple hours of rain we had so I approached those cautiously.
This course is also tricky because there are still some very steep punchy
climbs mixed in with the descents so you don’t get complete recovery.
After the first lap I really had no idea where I was in my
age group and knew I had to give a little more on the second lap to try make
some positions up. We went past transition, I gave Amy another smile, and
headed out for my second lap. Once again I had several people pass me on the
climbs to get to the top of the mountain. Once at the top I was still feeling
good so started pushing to make up some ground and all seemed to be going well
until that infamous medial quad muscle twinge started happening. This was very
frustrating because I felt like I had nailed my nutrition to this point and
tried to be conservative on both the swim and first lap and a half of the bike
course. From that point on the wheels just fell off. The combination of punchy
climbs, accelerating to pass lapped riders when the trail widened up, and the
heat/humidity that were setting it just made things worse. I came into transition
and wasn’t really sure what to expect on the run. I hopped off the bike, threw
on my running shoes/race belt, and grabbed my nutrition bottle and spicy pickle
juice bottle to sip on.
Off I went on the run and hit the same steep hill we started
on the bike, no cramping at that point! It then leveled out and I was able to
get into a good stride and started feeling a little better until I hit the next
hill. From that point on the quads and hamstrings were locked up for the
majority of the run and my legs just hit a wall where they didn’t want to turn
over anymore. I was walking up one of the steep hills when I heard a familiar
voice behind me, it was my buddy Charlie Ledford. He gave me a word or two of
encouragement and told me to “come on.” I stuck with him for a couple strides
and then locked up again. Around mile 2 – 2 ½ I stepped wrong and felt like I
had broken my left foot and every step after that was excruciating.
Physically and mentally I was ready to quit at about mile 3 but
knew that I would regret that decision in the long run. I gritted my teeth,
shortened my stride and arm swing and just did everything I could to keep
moving forward. Athlete after athlete started passing me on both the uphill’s
and the downhills which was also frustrating. Finally I saw the beach
approaching and knew that we only had about a third of a mile to go. I got one final
boost of energy to run through the thick sand, get up the last uphill, and run
through the finish line. I was absolutely spent and had nothing left in my
legs. I went and collapsed in the shade and dumped several bottles of water on
I was very upset and frustrated after the race and the rest
of the day because I felt like I had put in the necessary training and year-long
prep to set me up for a great race. I’ve since had time to reflect and pull out
the positives which include an amazing trip to Maui with my beautiful wife and
some great friends, racing with the best athletes from around the world, and cutting
an hour and 15 minutes off my last race. Time to enjoy the off season and back
to the drawing board to figure out this cramping. Until next time, Mahalo…