Phew!  It sure was a short three weeks between the XTERRA Western Championships and the Southeastern Championships.  But in those three weeks, I was able to put some really good “hay in the barn”.  In fact, all indicators are continuing to creep in the right direction.  Good thing too, because after my first XTERRA podium (3rd) in Las Vegas, I was no longer “flying under the radar” as had been mentioned a few times since Vegas.

I was really stoked to be interviewed by XTERRA shortly after the race. What a great opportunity to start a dialogue with my fellow XTERRA warriors!  Since that interview, I’ve had nothing but fantastic interactions and support from my XTERRA family.  It’s added a whole new dimension and depth to my XTERRA experience.  -Just awesome.  I look forward to building on these friendships!

Flying under the radar.  That was never my intention.  But it definitely brought up the question of how I was going to manage “pressure” to perform in pre-race discussions.  Totally fair.  I’m confident in the work I’ve done and the fitness I’ve worked hard to build.  But you just never really know how things will go until you are put in the situation, do you?

To add to any uncertainty, there were some new variables thrown into the second race of the XTERRA US Pro Tour.  Kiwis Braden Currie and Olly Shaw had come over to spend our Summer in the US and give us an always welcome dose of international talent.  They had come off of some really impressive results in the XTERRA Asia-Pacific tour during their summer.  So I knew they would be in the mix for sure.

While the preparations and travel to my race in Vegas went smoothly, the same was not the case for the Southeastern Championships.  A bit like last year, it seems like almost every little thing was “off” and I was having some trouble getting into the frame of mind to race.  I was going through the motions and getting my prep done, but at times I was not quite looking forward to racing.

Sometimes lots of small things are going in the wrong direction, and it’s easy to get down or negative.  Like pulling your old speed suit out only to find it to be ripped way down the front.

But there was literally one moment when I had to stop and remind myself…

Life will always throw curveballs.

And my attitude is what matters.

I told myself that I was here to do a job and I needed to get it done.  From then on, I had the frame of mind to do the job regardless of how I felt about what was happening.  So, for example… I sewed my old speed suit back together:

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Don’t worry, a new blueseventy PZ4TX swimskin is now here as of press time! Yeah!

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Check out the 2015 Blueseventy PZ4TX Swimskin!

Oak Mountain State Park is amazing.  The park is full of beautiful old-growth deciduous forest.  The trails are top notch.  There’s a bit of everything for everyone.  But the attributes that make them amazing are also what make them so difficult. This bike course seems to want to destroy people. I did manage to break my hand and knock myself out on this course in 2013. In the days before the race, people were crashing left and right just leisurely pre-riding it.  Including myself.  I pretty much shoulder-tackled an old-growth oak.  The oak totally won.  Luckily, I didn’t break anything.  And it didn’t affect my ability to swim later that day.  I actually swam pretty well.  Go figure. Maybe I should keep crashing until I can swim in the front pack.

Anyway… race morning came quickly and I rolled smoothly through my typical routine.  The weather was beautiful for a triathlon.  Calm water, mild temperatures and a non-wetsuit swim.  The first half of the trails were wet and slippery, the last portion was bone dry and sandy.  Bizarre.  It was like a storm hit half of the park.

For once, instead of giving you the 1st-person play-by-play… I’ll spare you the details.  It’s not that there wasn’t exciting racing, carnage, race tactics, and serious suffering going down.  There sure were.  But something interesting happened to me that hasn’t happened in a long time.

The race just flew by.

I was on auto-pilot.

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Don’t get me wrong though, I remember in vivid detail every moment of the race. I made decisions, I executed. But it just flew by.  It’s really weird.  And hard to explain.  One example I can give is that I went through the most technical section, called “Blood Rock”.  I could see in my periphery that there were numerous spectators lining the trail, but I didn’t hear anything.  Not just absence of cheering, but I didn’t hear my bike, my breathing, anything.  It was absolutely silent to me.  -So weird.  I have no idea if anyone was cheering, but I saw people all around, and I saw the rocks, the terrain… but it was like tunnel vision. Maybe they were just bored and disappointed that I didn’t crash…

I felt like each portion of the race was ending quickly.  This is really cool and also really strange at the same time.  I think the reason is that I’ve started to really focus. I’ve noticed in my workouts that I don’t delay between tasks or intervals.  I also don’t extrapolate my mind to the next interval, or workout, or next day, or next week… etc.  I’ve started to be able to focus better on what I’m doing and just move to the next task.

So I think what happened in the race is that I focused so well that I tuned out distractions and this made time seemingly fly by.  Call it the “flow state” or whatever.  Regardless, it was neat.

In the end, I was in a race.  I swam strong although not as fast I’d like.  I rode through everyone in front of me with the exception of Craig, Josiah and Braden.  I ran Craig down and finished 3rd.  I do remember an unusual amount of suffering during the run.  Looking back, it was a bit embarrassing.  Allison Moore said I sounded like I was about to give birth. Yikes. But I’ll take the embarrassment if it means I can be in the hunt for a podium spot!

I finished in “3rd”!

IMG_0838The same position as the last race in the series.  Consistency.

And this time I knew what to do with my hands:

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I got to stand on the podium with Josiah Middaugh TWICE!  How cool is that!? What an honor.  After the race, I got to spend some time with Josiah, his brother Yaro, and Brad Zoller.  They are great people and a riot to get “peanut busta parr-fats” with.

I was stoked to use my brand spankin’ new custom Champion System Triathlon apex tri suit as well as podium shirt for this race!  I’m extremely greatful for their support this year, and for making such sweet products.  Please check out www.champsys.com where you can design your own incredible apparel and “#beyourownbrand”!

Anyway, with two 3rd place finishes… one would think that puts me in 3rd overall in the series, but WRONG!  Since there were two different winners, I’m in 2nd!  Ha!

XTERRA Pro Tour Point Standings as of May 2015

XTERRA Pro Tour Point Standings as of May 2015

This is great.  I’m going to have to work my butt off to stay there by the end of the season.  But I’m up for it.  In fact, since it took me 2.5 weeks to post this race report… I’ve already been putting in significant work towards just that!

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Post workout fetal postion. Nothing a milkshake couldn’t cure!

Speaking of “significant work”… a few people in Alabama still insisted “you have to be doing something differently this year…”  I assure you that I’m doing the same things I was doing last year.  I’m just trying to do them consistently and better each time.  But yes, compared to two years ago, I’m doing everything a bit differently.  It’s just that no one cared last year. 🙂  It obviously starts with my coach and squad.  I’m trying to be better on all fronts: from focus, simplifying, season planning, equipment choices, executing workouts, better nutrition periodization, surrounding myself with supporters, marginalizing negativity and negative people, etc…

I’m trying to do everything better than I did yesterday.

If you’re a fan of #TheTriathlonSquad (which I hope you are!) then you can sort of piece together specific workouts, etc.  But you won’t learn how to be a better athlete from “so and so’s favorite bike workout”, or even “my typical training week” on some forum.  More importantly, there’s an underlying theme if you look at each of the squad’s blogs or interviews, etc. The most important thing (in my opinion) is our/Paulo’s shared work ethic.  It goes by a few terms, including:  “LEED” (Live Excellence Every Day), and #DYJ (Do Your Job).

It’s a job.  Before telling a professional triathlete that they are working too hard… ask yourself if you’d tell a medical student that they are studying too hard to become a neurosurgeon.

“You’re practicing too hard to become 1st chair violin!” -Said no one, ever.

Triathlon is a job (or a hobby) that you choose to do.  Or choose not to do.

There’s no “sacrifice” of “having a normal life” involved.  This is your “normal life”.  I recently watched a terrific interview with Gwen Jorgensen on witsup.com, where she corrected the interviewer when addressing the subject.  There’s a brief moment when she was quick to say that we don’t make sacrifices to do our job.  We choose to invest in our careers.

So if you decide to move abroad, or choose train so hard that you are periodically really fatigued… that’s required investment in your career goals.  Repeat after me: “This is the life I have chosen.”  Just like pulling an “all-nighter” or working weekends when a deadline approaches.

#DYJ.

Long winded, I know.  And I don’t mean it to be “high-horse” sounding.  But it kept coming up.  So, that’s what I’m doing differently.  It starts with believing in Coach Paulo’s training.  Then, I do my job on my end. Paulo does his job with an impressive level of professionalism, so I strive to match his level.  And it’s moving my career in the direction I want.  -Awesome!

But wait Chris!!!  You have to “have fun”!  You have to “be happy”!  Well yeah.  But “happiness” and “fun” can mean different things to different people.  Working a field can bring a farmer happiness and satisfaction, even though it’s not easy work.

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There are a lot of my competitors out there working very hard with a high level professionalism.  I think about that every day. I admire them.  I want to race them.  I want to compete with them.  That’s what makes me happy.  The hard work required to do so is fun for me.  It helps that I ride a mountain bike, because that truly is “fun”.  I love working hard with athletes that are much better than I am.  That’s fun and rewarding at the end of the day.

I’ve digressed (again) but this time around I’ve been thinking about a lot more than a race or a specific result.

Mostly, I think I have had a training-induced lack of creativity!  I pledge a much more entertaining blog post next month!

Next up is the XTERRA Eastern Championships in Richmond Virginia on June 14th.  Being originally from Pennsylvania, this is as close to a “home town” course as I get on the pro tour.  Having won a Duathlon National Championship and coming in a close 2nd in the Duathlon Off-Road Nationals both in the “RVA”, I have an affection for that town!  Even if the XTERRA course there is a bit, well… interesting.  The swim is especially bizarre with a crazy zig-zag down, up, across, up, across, down and back across the James River.

On that topic, here’s brief side-note:

I’m looking forward to clear instructions before the pro swim this year.  Last year I obviously did not get the memo about being able to start WAY up river and also unaware that a critical buoy was “optional” and got crushed by 5 minutes in a 1000m swim!  I’ll point you to last year’s blog post  since I’m tempted to launch into a full-on rant about fair play and clean sport.  …that I just deleted. -ha!  I’m happy to explain my position on this and many other topics in painful depth and detail …in person.  For now, I’m working hard to let my performances speak for me!

That, and I’ll have someone videotape the swim. 😉

Looking forward to Richmond and the 2nd half of the XTERRA season in the Northern Hemisphere!

See you in the dirt!

Photo: Xterra 2015

Photo: Xterra 2015

HUGE THANKS as always to my sponsors and supporters and friends!  Please support those who support our sport!