Training in Sun Valley, ID

Here’s a quick clip from my recent training week in Sun Valley, Idaho.  The higher elevation made training tough, but  it’s a beautiful place to train!  I look forward to getting a bit more camera savvy as I go along, will post as I go!

Sweat for Chocolate. An Xterra Eastern Championship 2015 Race Report

On paper, the Xterra Eastern Championships looks like it should be “my race”. Short river swim with intermittent running? -Sign me up! Oppressively hot, humid weather? -I’m all about it! Technical East Coast urban mountain bike course? -Hellz yeah!

“That course is my Jawn, yo!”

“That course is tight!”

-As you might if you were from Philly.

But here’s the catch: I live in Boise. Where there are long climbs, no shade, not much humidity, and very little technical riding.

And they say “Howdy”.

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Howdy!

Regardless, I haven’t nailed a race in Richmond (yet). In 2013 I sat out with boxer’s fracture in my left hand.   Come 2014, I had a lack-luster swim that left me over 5 minutes down and fighting my way to finish just one place shy of a paycheck (8th).

What gives?

I don’t know. I came into Alabama, in much the same state this year: broken hand in 2013 finishing 9th. Then a lack-luster bike split in 2014 left me running hard for 10th.   But I came away with a strong showing there in 2015.

I had a fantastic block of training between Alabama and Richmond this year. 4 weeks of probably my most consistent and strenuous training to date. I was super confident going into this race. And why not be when your fitness is there? I honestly felt like I could ride and run myself into touch with the Josiah/Braden pain train at this one.

I mentioned in my last blog that I was looking forward to a fair swim this year. And Xterra provided just that. It might have seemed quite normal to Ben Collins who was joining us for this race, to have a “pro meeting” the day before the race. But for the Xterra folks, it was unusual and kind of funny. There just simply aren’t many things to discuss in a pro meeting for Xterra. So we don’t typically have them.   But we did this time. And it was a good idea. We mainly all agreed that we’re here to race each other fairly, and discuss the fact that there aren’t “optional” buoys on this swim course. We also had the pro race bumped up by about 10 minutes to provide a clear 2nd loop for all pro women, not just the top few. -All good stuff.

They addressed the athlete’s concerns, and provided a level playing field. I think XTERRA nailed it.

Ahead of the race, I had multiple last minute bike mechanicals just before leaving Boise. I noticed a completely destroyed freehub bearing in my wheel and also that my brake pad was down to metal-on-rotor. A by-product of a bazillion relentless miles in the preceding weeks that left me with little time to even look at my bike when not riding it.

However, before leaving Boise the mischief was all managed. Cody and G-Fit Studio Boise rapidly replaced my freehub body and I replaced my brake pads as well as rotor.

Well, it was all sorted and made it to Richmond with some delays etc. All part of the fun I guess.

Race day came quickly and the mood was great on race morning. Fellow pro Craig Evans was calling this race his “last hurrah” as he accepted a position that afforded more time with his kids and a chance more steady income. I think this set the tone at the start, since most pros were joking and actually standing on the beach this time, instead of hiding upstream to get an advantage in the swift currents.

Knowing how strong of a swimmer I am, Craig Evans decided he’d ride me to the first buoy.

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Box-Out The Swimmers

Just kidding.  It was all business.  Once the gun sounded, I started well in the second non-wetsuit swim of the year.  I felt great in the combination of my Blueseventy PZ4TX Swim Skin over my Champion System Apex Tri Suit.  I was face-to-face with Braden Currie for quite a while. About half way to the 1st buoy, he pulled slowly ahead of me. I pulled in behind him, and then just kind of faded into the group as we approached the first turn. This took us half way across the river, and we turned upstream. I found the pack in pretty much one straight line. I had a good view of this, because I was now the caboose. I had feet to draft off of, and I felt strong.

There’s a sand bar between the 1st and 2nd buoys, were we could run in ankle to knee deep water for about 20 meters or so. I dove back in on Ryan Ignatz’s feet. I took a more upstream line to the far buoy and came to the bottom of Belle Island back with Ryan. We ran together on maybe a hundred meter trail run and I dived past him in an attempt to bridge up to whomever was swimming just in front of us. Well, he swam on my downstream hip and re-passed me.

Swim:Run Richmond

In Richmond, this is totally legal.

I came out of the water just a few seconds behind Ryan, last male pro as far as I could tell, a bit more behind Josiah this time. This is just about the same as the non-wetsuit swim in Alabama. Only, Olly Shaw was nowhere to be found.

Running into transition I saw both of them together going the other way on their bikes. Damn. That’s where I wanted to be. Ryan and I were about 50 seconds behind those two. For the last two years now, once the wetsuits come off, I have not been able to swim with Josiah.

I headed out onto the bike behind Ryan and worked hard to reel him in before the single track started.   I got pretty close, but not close enough. I pulled him back to about 30 seconds at the end of the bridge, and he disappeared into the woods. I didn’t panic though; I just focused on riding fast.

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My “Not 100% Confident” Face

But here’s the tough part of my day. Three days earlier I rode the course and was bucked around mercilessly and felt uncomfortable on such technical terrain. I concluded after the ride that my tire pressure was too high for the terrain. So I lowered it a bit and two days later felt very confident at race pace on the same terrain. However, today despite putting what I thought was the correct tire pressure, I was again fighting my bike.

I was “sketchy”, getting bucked around by the terrain instead of nailing technical sections. My feet were even being rattled out of my pedals. This is very unusual. I was cornering well, but I wasn’t taking the technical terrain confidently. My body felt fantastic. My nutrition was on, having used two full bottles of First Endurance EFS Pro.  The legs and body were snappy, had I could tell my fitness was there. But I couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t catching people as fast as the previous race.

After the race, I checked my tire pressure and it had gone up over 2.5 lbs. Turns out I should have re-checked tire pressure after my warm up and possibly allowed an extra pound or more for the sun heating them up in transition and during the ride. Live and learn.  And those new brake pads and rotor that I installed myself?  Yeah, they were rubbing.  I’ll let GFit Studio double check my routine mechanical work from now on.

Whatever. Excuses, excuses.  It was what it was while I was racing.  I managed to catch Ben, Ian, and Alex. (Olly was having a ripper day, but had a mechanical) But I didn’t catch Brandon, Craig, Karsten or Ryan as I did in the previous two races.  The fact is that I had the 6th bike split in this race.  I was almost 7 minutes slower than Josiah on this day. In the previous two races I was 3 minutes off of his bike split. Yikes. Instead of coming off of the bike in 4th as I did in the previous two races, I was in 7th.

The good news is that when I got out of transition 2, I still felt strong. And luckily, my shoes don’t need to be pumped up. 😉 I managed to run into 4th place by the “dry crossing”. This is a super crazy pick-your-way rock crossing on half of the James River. It’s crazy fun and makes me feel like a kid playing on the Perkiomen Creek.

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Chasing Branden Rakita (5th)

The heat was taking it’s toll on everyone by that point in the race. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t start to feel it. I managed my effort in the heat pretty well. I was governed a bit after the crossing, but I still finished with the top run split of the day. I’m pleased to see that. Because it’s not like my fitness wasn’t there. It definitely was. I could feel it. So I’m confident that the work is paying off. It just wasn’t my day. Too bad, since 2nd place wouldn’t have been out of the question had I ridden like I did in the previous races.

It was however, Ryan Ignatz’s day.  After the swim and first few miles of the bike, I didn’t see him all race. He ran only 17 seconds off my pace, so the splits I was receiving to him in 3rd were always just about the same. Congrats to him for putting down a very strong performance to finish about a minute off of 2nd. I love seeing the racing heat up and US boys having good fitness racing up front.

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Selfie with Alex Modestou (6th) and Ryan Ignatz (3rd)

After finishing on the podium in the first two races of the season, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with my performance in Richmond. But I’m pretty sure I know what my issues were. Rather simple, yet costly mistakes were made concerning my bike. Now, I need to say immediately that THERE ARE NO EXCUSES. Ignoring the specific issues I identified with tire pressures and brake rotors, etc… the fact is I had a weak bike split. I can just leave it at that and prepare better next time.

I finished just off of the podium. I was reminded shortly after the race that even if XTERRA chooses to bring 5 of us on stage, only 1st, 2nd and 3rd are the podium steps. Gold, Silver and Bronze are what matter in most sports. This time around I earned the “chocolate medal” (4th). The chocolate medal is a consolation prize that leaves you with cavities. The wooden medal (5th) should be used to light a fire under your ass, making you work to take the next step.

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Disappointed as I may be with my performance on the bike, I won a paycheck. Also, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that only a year ago I was fighting hard for top 10 finishes. So in the big picture I’m feeling good about being able to get into the top 5 against strong competition on a less than perfect day. That’s consistency. You win some, you lose some. But if you’re consistent, when you “lose some” you just might still earn a solid paycheck. J

But I still think that Richmond is a course and environment that suits my strengths. I’ll keep stubbornly saying this until I either win it or go down trying. Just like Alabama this year, maybe 3rd year’s a charm! We’ll see in 2016!

I have to thank my home stay Cindi for providing a great environment for a race, and letting me joyride in her 1967 pickup!

 

Thanks to Emma Gerrard’s homestay Chris and Kate for inviting me over for dinner and for letting me use their endless pool!

 

That was so convenient! HUGE THANKS as always to my sponsors and supporters especially Equal Earth!  Please visit their new website by clicking here or on the image below!  Please visit their websites and support those who support our sport!

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Please take a minute to visit my sponsors page and support those who support our great sport!

 

(Just Barely) A XTERRA Southeast Championship Race Report

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!

“I Don’t Know What to do with My Hands” (An XTERRA Western Championships Race Report)

Quite a lot has happened since my last blog post!  Since then, I caught a nasty flu, recovered, raced two more mountain bike races, and (most importantly) earned my first XTERRA USA Pro Tour podium spot!!!  How’s that for an executive summary?!

The XTERRA US Tour kicked off this last Saturday (April 25th) in Henderson, Nevada.  This was my 4th year racing the XTERRA Western Championships.  In previous years, I had “participated” in 2012, DNF’d due to a double-mechanical in 2013, and then finished 8th in 2014.

The trip to Vegas was really enjoyable this year.  A fellow XTERRA athlete Nate Youngs (who I had met last year in Maui) happened to have family living in Henderson and they offered to put us up.  Let me tell you, it was cool living next to Chris Angel, if just for a few days.  Needless to say my Hyundai Sonata rental turned some heads in that posh neighborhood.  They see me rollin’…

Uh… anyways, after we settled into our swanky accommodations, my pre-race prep workouts were underway.   And I felt good.  Like too good.  I know from experience that how I “feel” and how I “perform” are two completely different things.   And there is good reason for my skeptisizm this time around.  Only a few short weeks earlier I caught a nasty bug.  I guess it was the flu, and it knocked me out of a week of training.

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Pre-race, feeling “almost too good.” Photo Credit: Trey Garman 2015

Before illness, my confidence was sky-high.  My numbers on the bike, my bike race results, my running, swimming, crosswords proficiency, diction, were all at an all-time high.  But after, I did not seem to be performing at the same level.  So, understandably, my confidence going into this race was a bit lower than it had been pre-illness.  However, I knew my baseline fitness was still better than the same time last year.  And as the weeks went on, the memory of the illness faded and all indicators started to trend slowly in the right direction.

Originally, this winter I trained with the intent of coming out of the water with Josiah and catching Mauricio Mendez on the bike.  I figured if I could do that regularly, I’d have good crack at the podium (top 5), at some point.  But Mau wasn’t listed in the  pre-race write up.  Also, about three other podium contenders from last year were also missing.  Basically all South Africans.  But Ben Allen and Paco Serrano were listed.  So I had the same goals, same plan but the faces just changed.

Speaking of the pre-race writeup… I had to rib my XTERRA family a bit before the race about that.  The write up basically said: Look out for racers #1, 2, 3,… 5, 6, 7, 8…etc.  I was #4.  Haha!  So funny.  We all had a good laugh about it and they told me if I made the top 5, they would “never do that again”.  ;o)

Race morning quickly came and I felt totally ready to go.  Fairly eager even.  Again, almost too ready.  It seemed too simple on race morning at the pro rack.  I found myself completely prepped, warmed up, hydrated, etc… standing there, chatting, laughing, enjoying myself and thinking “oh God, what did I forget?”.

Oh, nothing.

Ok, cool.

So, half in my new Blueseventy Helix Wetsuit, I strolled down to the swim start.  After a nice long swim warmup I found myself calmly waiting for the start.  I staked out my start position according to the beach shape with fair disregard for where the other pros seeded themselves.  More importantly, with regard for the location of the mini starter’s cannon.   I was super eager to swim.  I knew from workouts that I was strong, if maybe not what I consider “fast” quite yet.   I’ve done a LOT of swim work this winter and was genuinely curious to see how I went.

I’m about 7th blue cap from the right in the swim start pic (below)

Photo: XTERRA 2015

Photo: XTERRA 2015

Once the canon fired, I dove in and got out fast.   I had clean water for maybe 200 meters with a group to my left and a larger group moving quickly far to my right.  Once I started to feel the effort, I decided to veer left and join in.  I hip-surfed for a bit further and it became single file.  Then the swimmer in front of me veered and a gap formed.  CRAP.  I surged hard, but I was still recovering from the start effort.  The gap grew slowly.  I was unmolested around both turn buoys, which is a real treat!  Open water swimming this Winter with The Triathlon Squad and Darren Smith’s D-Squad had prepared me for an ITU style rumble.  But it didn’t come.  In fact, I looked back after the 2nd buoy and saw I was leading a group!

Now, I’m happy about this since only a few short years ago I was ecstatic to have ANYONE behind me.  However, I am also disappointed in myself.  It means that I was the one to blame for creating the 3rd pack in the first place.  Eh, oh well.

After the first 750m lap, there was a short beach run before diving in for the second swim lap.  I saw that there was a solid gap to the next pack, so no chance to run back on.  And I also saw that there was a steady stream of athletes right behind me.  Going out to the buoys, I noticed a swimmer surge to my left.  I drag-raced them to the buoy, knowing that I had inside position.  However, they went a bit wide and then accelerated well out of the turn.  It turned out to be Josiah Middaugh.  He really picked the pace up on that last stretch.   I got right on his feet and drafted as best I could to the beach.

I have to hand it to Blueseventy, that Helix is sweet.  It swims like a sleeveless, I had no “wetsuit hickies” on my neck, and no water got in.  It also came off quickly in T1.  Just awesome.  The Nero tinted racing goggles felt great, were crystal clear, and didn’t fog.  Their products let me just swim, focus on the effort, and the task at hand.  When things just work well, you almost don’t notice or appreciate good equipment until you reflect on a race.  But I definitely appreciate it!

After the swim, there was a long run up the beach, through a tunnel and then up a steep golf-cart path to transition.  On the way up I saw I was with Josiah and Ryan Ignatz.  (we all had the exact same swim time, haha)  And word was we were about 2:30 down on the leader Ben Allen.  “Ok, that’s not bad.” I thought.  And I was with Josiah.  And that’s actually good.

Swim: 22:11 (19th) 

I had a pretty quick transition, but as I grabbed my bike I noticed Josiah was putting his shoes on.   Mine were clipped to my pedals.  So I knew I needed to get my shoes on before he caught up with me on the road if I wanted to stick with him.  This did not happen.  I got one shoe on and he rumbled past.  I got into his draft and went for my 2nd shoe.  A gap opened up.  I got the shoe on and sprinted back to his wheel.

Here’s where I think I should have been smarter.

History shows that Josiah goes to the front of the race.  So, the longer you stay with Josiah, the closer you get to the front of the race.  Easier said than done, but it’s the truth.  I wanted to stay with him.  But I reached down to tighten my right shoe.  And a gap opened up.  I pushed to get closer to him, and then reached down and tightened my 2nd shoe.  A bigger gap opened up.

And it happens that fast.  I was gapped.

Note to self: Get velcro shoes.  -Noted.  That small gap grew.  Albeit, slowly.  But it grew steadily nonetheless.  He’s the man on the bike.  Very impressive!  Now it was time to ride my own race.  My Niner Jet 9 RDO full suspension performed beautifully on this rugged Mars-scape of a desert course.  I was able to remain confident on some seriously gnarly terrain.  I started off in 14th, then steadily passed 10 athletes on the bike.

Now wait Chris…  14 minus 10 is 4, right?  Just checking, because that’s kind of a big deal.

Hell yeah it is!  I was in FOURTH!

Photo: XTERRA 2015

Photo: XTERRA 2015

Bike: 1:13:14 (3rd)

As I came down to the transition I saw the leader “Paco” Serrano running the opposite direction out of T2 and Josiah close behind.  Allis had told me how far ahead 3rd place was but I didn’t hear it well.  I was running out of transition when Kevin Everett (who had unfortunately DNF’d with a sidewall blowout) told me that 3rd was “just ahead”.   I wasn’t sure what that meant, but after about a mile, I could see someone well up the road.  From his kit it was Ben Allen.  From his form, he looked solid early.

The gap was very slowly coming down though, so I internalized and focused on a strong effort.  I felt like I was running one of our 10 mile tempo runs at Lake Miramar again with shoulder-to-shoulder with Trevor Wurtele.  XTERRA running is funny like that.  The effort is definitely 10K.  But the pace ends up slower than your half marathon.  And the fatigue is like the back half of a full marathon.  In deep sand.  Up loose, steep climbs.  Down loose, steep descents.  It’s just brutal.  I think that’s why you see such erratic numbers in XTERRA run results.  The fatigue magnifies small differences in otherwise very evenly matched athletes.

A few miles later, heading into a long and agonizingly sandy gulch, Ben was only 10 meters in front of me.   I ran the same lines as him, letting him do the thinking. That way I could just focus on running faster than him.   It worked.  Coming back onto solid ground, I made it to his heels. I decided quickly that I felt great and it was best to go by immediately.  I ran hard and worked to make the pass stick.  He didn’t respond.  Allis told me that Josiah was 4 more minutes up.  I so I didn’t really see the need to run any harder than needed to solidify my current position.  I haven’t been focusing on my run (yet?) this season, but I was pleased with my strength.  I felt like I had more in me if needed, and a kick seemed there if I needed it.

Run: 37:01 (7th) 

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Photo Credit: Kevin Everett 2015

I finished in 3rd!  About 7 minutes off of Serrano and 5 minutes behind Josiah.  Hats off to those guys.  That’s one aspect I love about Xterra: The strongest person on the day wins.  We (typically) don’t have to point fingers at officials or drafting rule violations.  For the most part, you hammer, you suffer, and you push, push, push to the finish.  Simple.

Final Result: 2:13:48 (3rd Overall!)  Link: Here

Proof: 

West Podium

You also “survive” Xterra.

So I have respect not only for my fellow professionals, but for everyone out there.  I definitely felt for Ben, since he was obviously very human on the day after some serious travel.  Also, he seemed to have rather nasty, bloody blisters on his feet after the race.  He must have really been in pain out there!  Regardless, he’s a class guy and it was awesome to race him and get to meet him after the race.

I’m so pumped for my first ever XTERRA podium finish, I’m beside myself happy.  The feeling is like:

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My previous best placement in an XTERRA Pro Tour race was 7th at the Mountain Championships last year.  It’s validating to get a result when you put in hard work, and that work is mostly work done in a vacuum.

I know for a fact that my competition all work hard as well.  But I can’t speak to exactly what they go through.  We all have our unique challenges.  But I know exactly what I’ve been through.  I know how many days I’ve been cranky from fatigue, or not felt like getting up, or getting into the pool, or out in the snow, or rain, or cold wind.  But you keep going with the belief that hard work pays off.  And it does.  This year saw a pretty sweet high early on, followed by a deep low with that sickness.  As my good friend aptly put it: “The struggle is real”.   Coincidentally, coach Paulo says we have to “operate in the struggle”.  -So true.

Putting in a performance you are proud of is something to be enjoyed.  But as great as it is to get a result, for me it’s more motivating than validating.  It makes me hungry to move forward and do the work required to be better.  A small gap opened up and I couldn’t close it.  I saw what it took to get to the front of a race and it was so close I could touch it.  I want to get my biking to a competitive level and then put some “icing on the cake”.  That’s motivating.  That’s exciting.

The struggle to be better is real and the process is continuous.

I have to thank Allis for her support.  She’s the one that has to deal with my seemingly singular focus and crankiness when the struggle gets real.  A huge thank you goes to Paulo Sousa for laying out a clear path for continual improvement.  Thanks for my “career day“.  ;o)  Thanks to my sponsors: Equal Earth, Blue Seventy, Champion System, First Endurance, G-Fit Studio Boise/Niner Bikes, TriTown Boise.  You all allow me to do my job to my best ability every day.  I’m honored to represent a fantastic group of companies and people who believe in me as much as I believe in them.  Thanks to my squad mates at The Triathlon Squad in San Diego.  Great friends that inspire/motivate me during camp and even when I’m training solo in Boise.

I truly meant what I said in my 5am pre-race Instagram post:  “I do my very best to make you all proud every day.  And today is no different.”

One race down, and another comes in three short weeks at XTERRA Southeast Championships (May 16) in Oak Mountain State Park, Pelham Alabama!  Can’t wait!  Operation: “Not a Fluke” starts… now!  :o)

Chris Allis West

Matchy-matchy

Quick-n-Dirty!

I recently capped off an awesome (and extremely tiring) two-week block of training with a bit of racing at the San Diego Quick-n-Dirty.  The race was a 5-lap world-cup cross-country style mountain bike race in Balboa Park.  I highly recommend this series to anyone in SoCal as it was very well produced and felt like a much bigger event.  For a “training race”, the competition was fantastic and made me WORK!  This race was a great test of my racing awareness.  I was stoked to come away with a win, and I’m glad to have my first crash of the season and mechanicals (hopefully) out of the way! 😉 Congrats to all who raced.  It was a fun day and looks like the XTERRA triathletes took top spots in the men’s AND women’s Expert field!  Results: Here

Here’s a race recap video made by the super-talented Eric Lagerstrom!

Thanks to squad-mates Magali Tisseyre, Eric Lagerstrom, and Joe Maloy for coming out to watch me do my thing!  Thanks to coach Paulo and The Triathlon Squad for the path and motivation!  Special thanks to Equal Earth for believing in me and the tremendous support!  Thanks to G-Fit Studio Boise and Niner Bikes for honing my race equipment as we go along.  First Endurance for making my race nutrition effortless, and freeing me from salt tablets and thick gels!