I like crosswords. I’m not the best at them, but I keep coming back for more. My Father-in-law occasionally sends me a stack of them. As far as I’m concerned, that’s one of the most useful presents anyone can get me. Not to mention thoughtful. He’s really giving me recovery, vocabulary, relaxation, and frustration, all in grid format.
Anyway, one annoyingly simple crossword questions that comes up again and again is
Depending on the number of boxes, of course, good answers include:
Yet, As yet, To date, So far…
Well, since I hadn’t blogged about racing since July, I figured it was time to catch up on 2014!
When I last blogged about the 2014 racing season, I had just come off of a three race campaign including the first three stops on the US Pro XTERRA Tour. I had finished 8th at the Western Championships, 10th at the Southeastern Championships, and then 8th again at the Eastern Championships. Considering my best finish in an XTERRA Championships was a hard fought 9th in 2013, I was pleased to be finishing in the top 10 regularly.
After spending a few weeks in Pennsylvania and LBI, New Jersey, I regrouped for the 2nd half of the tour. The next race on the calendar was the Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek Colorado. With the type of training I’ve become used to under coach Paulo, I’ve come to really like race weeks. They’re not “easy”, but they are something I look forward to. So, training straight through this race in Colorado was tough. I had to prepare mentally. During race week I was still plugging away full gas, trying to put out thoughts of “why am I even here?” and “I could be training in Boise for free”.
I told myself to just shut up, and just do the work. Allis may have even said it. 🙂 In fact, that was a common thought from 2014. “Shut up and do the work.” So I did. And on race day, I was strong. I finished 7th place. (Spoiler alert) -My highest placing of the season. Here are the results.
In the money! For the first time in my career.
After the Mountain Championships, I spent two weeks at training camp in Poway with the Triathlon Squad. This time, I had my mountain bike. Which I rode. Solo. A lot. I also swam. A lot. Coach Paulo changed my swim stroke.
So, armed with an adjusted swim stroke and some strong bike legs, I had the opportunity to race in both Idaho XTERRA races; XTERRA Les Bois and XTERRA WIld Ride in July and August. Despite not being regional championship races, both had some great pro competition. I managed wins at both of them. I was particularly pleased with my body’s performance at Wild Ride. Which, like the Mountain Championships, is held at high altitude. Being mindful of my new swim technique, I came out of the water 4th overall and was 1st out of transition. For the first time I was the hunted and not the hunter. That was interesting and required a change of tactic in the race for the win against other professionals. Good stuff!
These three results to start off the 2nd half of the season gave me a lot of confidence and momentum going into US and World Championships in the months to come. In the few weeks ahead of Nationals, I was fortunate to be able to spend some time training in beautiful Park City, Utah with fellow XTERRA pro Emma Gerrard. Park City is a wonderful place. Not just to train, but just to be. Also, Emma and Ian were awesome hosts and friends. I really enjoyed my time there, getting to know them and their family.
The US National Championships, at altitude outside of Ogden, Utah, was as exciting a race as I have ever had. In years past, I’ve had really challenging swims at Nationals. So I made some tactical adjustments and ended up swimming right where I needed to be.
The rest of the race for me was basically against Ryan Ignatz. He had previously knocked me out of 7th place in the overall points standing at the Mountain Championships. With about 5 points separating us now, I needed to come in ahead of him. Easier said than done against an athlete like Ryan. On the bike, I buried myself and got away. I tailed Cody Waite, as we both caught Brad Zoller and Alex Modestou. It became a foot race for places 6-10 when you figure we were all catching up to Craig Evans who was up the trail. In the end I paid for my bike work and finished 9th. Here are the results.
In the money again! That made four races in a row, and two in a row on the XTERRA Pro Tour. And back into 7th place in the Pro Tour Overall standings!
It was tough not being able to hold on to Brad and Cody, but I also knew I was racing for places that I had never even seen at the US National Championships. So as disappointed as I was to not close the way I like to, I was excited to be in the position I was. All the work I had put into my swim and bike was putting me in the position to fight. And I fought. Next time I’ll fight again and the outcome might be different. But being in the right position to give yourself a chance is a great place to be.
Next up was the last race of the season at the XTERRA World Championships in Kapalua Maui, Hawai’i. I’d done this race the previous season and finished a rather disappointing position, embarrassingly far down the leader board.
This year I was looking for more. It’s a very hard course with tough environmental conditions. There were unseasonable rains the week of the race, making pre-riding of the course all but impossible. But the course is not “hard” in terms of technicality anyway. There isn’t really much to preview. It’s mainly a power-to-weight ratio course. Simply put, the higher your watts/kg, the faster you’ll go up the hills. This is a bit frustrating for the pure XTERRA racers who spend years building skills and technique, but it is what it is. We all know this, and all you can do is prepare for it. In a seemingly strange equipment move, I used my new Niner Jet 9 RDO. I wanted to go to full suspension for this race for a few reasons. I feel that I gave up a bit on the steep climbs, but gained anything I lost back on the descents. It helped with cornering and also helped my legs be a bit more fresh for the run. Honestly, there are pros and cons to a hard tail vs. suspension for this course. Personally, I think it might come down to what you like better. For this course at least. On other courses, there can be a huge advantage to full suspension.
Race morning, there were fairly solid swells coming into DT Flemming Beach. (maybe a Hawaiian 2-3′ with 4′ sets) I had what I felt was a very strong swim for me, despite having some battles and getting my timing chip ripped off of my leg. Losing my chip, I was obliged to scream my number and “no chip” every time I hit a timing mat. This seemed to work, since they had all of my splits at the end of the day. -Sweet. I pushed as hard as I possibly could for the whole race. I moved up steadily and finished 23rd professional. Here are the results.
Was I happy? Sure. Satisfied? No. Definitely not.
Albert Soley and Ryan Ignatz ended up in 14th and 15th after exiting the swim with me. I know I can do better. Could I have done anything more that day? No. And that’s why I can’t complain. I was prepared. I did all of the work. I executed a clean race. I took risks in terms of equipment and tactics. I was aggressive. There isn’t much I could have done differently to go faster. If you know that, it makes whatever position you finish more palatable.
And with that race, there it was. My season “as yet”.
After Maui, the 2014 racing season for me was over. And now the year itself is coming to a close. 2014 was a pivotal year in my professional racing career. It was my first full year under coach Paulo. It was a year of significant growth and development. I can say I did things better and performed better. But being better is a continually evolving, and ongoing process. The work will get harder. I always expect it to be. That way I’m ready when it does. And I’m looking forward to being better tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year.
A question that people asked me a lot this year was “are you excited to race”? This year I noticed that I had a strange answer. No. I’m no longer “excited” to race. Excitement hints that there’s mystery in my performance. This year I’ve realized that there isn’t much mystery at all.
I’m now curious to race.
I know the work I’m doing, so I know the shape I’m in. Mainly because I give performances regularly. In the days leading up to another race, I’m genuinely curious to see how what I’ve been doing plays out against the competition. I know I’m going to hold up my end, but the other end is where the variables are. But those variables are not my concern.
I like being in that space, and I intend to continue down the same road in 2015. Just do the work, take care of business and just be quietly curious about what the future will bring. I’m really looking forward to some big changes that are taking place in terms of my supporters and opportunities coming my way! On that note, I’ll have some significant announcements in (much more concise) blog posts in the coming weeks.
To all of my family, friends, sponsors, supporters, squad mates, and fellow competitors… thanks for helping to make 2014 an amazing year. I cherish you all, and am looking forward to seeing all in the new year! Wishing you a happy and healthy new year in 2015!