A “Pick Your Way” XTERRA World Championships 2015 Race Report!

It’s taken me a bit of time to recover from the XTERRA World Championships, both physically and mentally.  The second half of my racing season had it’s challenges for sure.  I wasn’t satisfied with my performances at the Mountain, European, and US Championships.  But with five solid weeks of training available before the World Championships, I was looking for a good result.  I know that I get fit training consistently at home, sans travel.  And everything went well in that five weeks.  Very well I’d say.  I was down to a good race weight for Maui. My power was back up to Springtime values, all systems were go.

But while some people were having the race they dreamed of, I was living a bit of a nightmare.  If you’re interested in learning about things like hypervolemic hypernatremia, feel free to read on or just give a quick listen!

I flew over to Maui on the Tuesday before the race.  Racing on Sunday, I figured this was enough time to finish my heat acclimatization.  I know that when I travel, I typically don’t have issues with heat and humidity.  HOWEVER, I do have issues with water retention.  And for some reason, it causes compartment syndrome in my legs when I run and ride after flying.  It typically takes 2-3 days to completely disappear, it usually does, and it did by Thursday.  My best guess from reading a ton of literature is that my body is used to a certain amount of sweating.  I’m not a salty sweater to begin with, so I must accumulate salt and then hold water during periods of forced inactivity.  I’ve confirmed this with weight measurements.

This is usually not a big issue.  But the cramping suddenly came back on an easy spin on Friday morning. It persisted on Saturday.  I tried to drink lots of water, but I know from experience that it takes 2-3 days for my body to come back to equilibrium.

Not 24hrs.

So on race morning, I was hopeful that I could dilute my system and hope that some pressure would come out of my muscle fascia and allow me to put together the race I had worked so hard to prepare for.  Warming up on the bike ride into the race site at Ritz Carlton Kapalua, I was feeling optimistic!  No cramping in my glues or piriformis muscles.  So far, so good.  Well, the Ritz is not bike friendly (very odd place to have a triathlon world championships, don’t you think?) so I dismounted and walked to the transition.

On the downhill walk, my quads started to cramp painfully.  Right up the middle (vastus lateralis/intermedius), top to bottom.  I know it doesn’t do a damn thing, but I stopped to stretch it out.  And it didn’t to anything.  So now I was frustrated.  But I stayed positive and focused on the race  and doing what I could.  I set up my transition. I drank a bottle of water.  I decided to go sweat it out a bit longer on the bike.  I cramped painfully during that ride too.  Not good.

Needless to say I wasn’t a happy camper, but on the beach before the race I was all smiles and focused on the race.  A switched flipped.  There was a moment that I said to myself: control what you can, let everything else go.  You trained hard for this, so just race. In that moment, I decided that I was going to race hard regardless of what happens.

12193798_10207883536467626_5189804299833668213_nNow, I’ve been to Kona a few times.  I have to say, the start of the XTERRA Worlds is much more exciting.  It’s an ITU style start with a mix of XTERRA, ITU and Ironman’s best all standing shoulder to shoulder and ready to rip into beach break.  All this while a helicopter flies panning shot maneuvers at like 30 feet away.  It’s freaking electric!

The horn went off and I sprinted into the water, missing the first drop off and sort of half-bellyflopped into the water.  Despite my crappy hole-shot, the swim was uneventful for the most part, and I felt very fit running into transition.  I got out fast, although I put my shoes on in T1, so my time doesn’t look special.  and was ready to see what I could do on the bike.  I pushed a bit out of transition and my legs were holding up.  I sat down to start the long first ascent and calmed myself down.  I was holding close to 500 watts, so I backed off knowing what I was able to sustain in the long term.  I felt really, really powerful. And now optimistic!

Just starting to fight the cramping...

Just starting to fight the cramping, by sitting upright.

But about a half mile in, the cramping started up.  I tried to kind of ignore it and focus on the race.  But the pain quickly grew and grew until I was wincing and losing power.  I let a few riders pass, then a few more.  The pain became so unbearable that I couldn’t ride.  Have you ever had that nightmare where something is chasing you, and you can’t run?  I certainly have, although I’m usually not being chased by anything… but that’s EXACTLY how I felt.  I ride all the time, but right now I just physically can not do it.

I did what I could to relax my muscles, stretch them out, stretch the opposing muscle groups, breathe, pray, whatever! I drank my whole fresh water bottle in one go.  I was ready to bag it right then, since I know it doesn’t usually loosen up.  But what if it did?  I’d never know if I didn’t try.  And there’s like 18.5 more miles to go!  So I got back on and rode.

But it hurt.

A lot.

I could only ride standing up.  So I did that.  I rode standing up the whole time.  Hips forward, knees splayed out to the side like I just learned to ride a bike today.  Grunting in pain all the while.  Periodically, to my surprise, the pain subsided.  I rode like a man possessed and passed lots of people.  Then it came back and I was standing on the side of the trail again. This happened three times over 11 miles of hard climbing and descending.  The only explanation I can find is that the pain was so bad that my body decided to turn it off for a bit.

I can handle normal adversity.  In fact, I crashed along the fence line exactly where Josiah (and many others) crashed.  I just got back up and kept riding.  Yeah, I was frustrated that in addition to my body not working, I had crashed. But crashing is part of racing.  It’s the “body not working” part I can’t handle.  And I really mean “not working”.  I couldn’t sit.  I couldn’t lift my knees.  I physically had no business being on a bicycle.  That’s a frustrating place to be, and it takes a toll on an athlete mentally just watching what you trained for go down the trail, and ultimately down the drain on that particular day.

Eventually, on the long descent in the eleventh mile, I realized that I was doing significant damage to my muscles.  I was in constant pain and now couldn’t use my legs to absorb the terrain at high speed.  So I had to slow down.  Now the top AG men were coming past me at high speed. It was just getting dangerous for both my muscles and my well being.  After much hemming and hawing along the trail, I pulled the plug.

It’s not a short ride back from mile 11.  It was a painful ride on the highway back to Kapalua.  My mind wandered from wanting to mourn my race, to just letting it go.  I honestly wanted to cry at some points.  We each put so much work into what we do.  No one may see that work, but it gets done come hell or high water.  And normally, what you have to show for it is performances.   I’m there to race and I want to race hard.  So not being able to even finish was a real bummer.

But it’s not the end of the world.  I know this.  I had a bad day. Time to hold steady until I get the chance to do it again.  And that time will come soon enough.  And I’ll be stronger when I get there.  So, I wanted to put this race behind me pretty quickly.  (Probably too quickly, since I didn’t want to think about racing, or even write a race report.)  It just took some time to digest and come to a good place before I could.


The thing I’m nervous about is putting measures in place so that the cramping issue does not return.  There are a few tacks to take.  One could say, well just watch your salt intake and weigh yourself to maintain correct hydration for the travel and week before the race. That’s the one I think will work.  Watch what you eat, and weigh yourself to make hydration adjustments if needed.  Or you could say, just go there earlier and give yourself more time.  But I honestly think that wouldn’t do it.  Mainly, because I’ve performed without cramping in hot humid weather before. I’ve done it this year in Alabama and Richmond.  Not to forget that I used to run cross country in Hawaii. And also, I was there six days out.  The issue went away, and then came roaring back with poor food choices.

The cause of my cramping is clear to me.  Believe me, if it were a simple deficiency of electrolytes, as everyone is quick to offer up, I would be able to take care of it.  I learned that 20 years ago. I know a lot about hyporvolemic hypernatremia (not drinking enough during exercise) and hypervolemic hyponatremia (drinking too much water without enough electrolytes.)  I assure you, my issue is the one that falls though the cracks in medical literature, save for a few side-note mentions and papers on ICU patients during heart attack treatment.

How do I know? Data.  The same cramping happened in the past, as recently as February when I was sick and drinking pedialyte to “stay hydrated”.  I gained liquid weight and cramped.  It took a lot of time for my body to get back. Dilution was the solution.  And sweating. It’s very hard to believe (for me at least) but I weighed 11 pounds more in the days after this race than I did on race week. It’s nearly impossible to gain that much actual weight in a week.  That’s like 40,000 calories of food in terms of body fat storage, or nearly 7,000 excess calories per day.  I eat 3500, and my basal is over 1,750.

It was liquid.  Here’s a picture of me a few days after the race:


I found that this is something called hypervolemic hypernatremia. (Too much extracellular fluid caused by too much electrolyte). High blood plasma volume for an endurance racer is usually desirable.  But In my case, there is a tipping point where it causes/caused compartment syndrome. My cramping symptoms are exactly what someone with compartment syndrome experiences: painful cramping in their most trained muscles, when they call on them. Especially brought on by eccentric contractions. This is why it comes on when I run/walk down hill, and also why it affects my glues when I’m riding since I have very tight psoae. or psoas…es? j/k.  Anyway, that makes sense.  I just don’t know the exact mechanism for the cramping, but it’s probably not crucial.

Most likely cause of too much salt? Island food basically. Tuna poke (poh-kay) and Teriyaki chicken are some of my favorite foods of all time.  Poke basically marinated raw fish.  As it happens, Hawaii is the Poke mecca.  So, basically my salt intake doubled (or perhaps tripled) by eating poke as a snack and on my salads for lunch. Combine that with the fact that there’s pretty much teriyaki everything on the island + hot weather + reduced training load + salt water ingestion during swimming… and you have a perfect storm for super high blood plasma volume.

The good news? These are mostly controllable variables.  I’ll be sure to focus on my race week nutrition an hydration next year and all of next season.

The thing I’m really excited about was my physical preparation for this particular race.  This year, I feel like my coach and I really nailed the physical prep.  I still think that the course in maui is not quite technical enough to be fair to the Xterra pros.  But, I’m now more optimistic about my prospects of racing well on that course.  In those brief instances when my body did decide to let me race, I was climbing much better than I ever have on that course.  I could really push and keep pushing.  Same as in training.  It’s a shame that I didn’t get to unleash.  I really wanted to see what I could do on that course.  But I’ll get more chances.

Failure isn’t part of the process, it is the process.

I loved the race report posted by the eventual winner Josiah Middaugh.  “If first you don’t succeed, try 14 more times.”  In his explanation of the journey to his world title, he points out that it’s a long road and a myriad of things go wrong along the way.  This is poignant reminder that things don’t always go as planned.  All we can do is keep working diligently, and be the best people we can be along the way.  This is very much in line with Coach Paulo’s “philosophy” (hehe) of working hard every day to be better.  After all, that line of thinking has me performing the best level of my career.  This year was my best season of racing so far.  Two podium finishes at XTERRA “majors” and the Professional Tour Standings?  Hell yeah!  That gets me pumped for 2016.  I’m looking forward to continuing to do things better in the future.

On that very optimistic note… that’s a wrap on the 2015 season’s racing.

Thanks as always to my family, friends and sponsors for supporting what I do. Equal Earth, Blueseventy, Champion System, 1st Endurance, G-Fit Studio Boise, TriTown Boise.

See y’all in 2016! Yeew!!!

Let me just leave you with this gem.

Let me just leave you with this gem.


I was going to write a “season summary” blog post, but I decided to let R. Buckminster Fuller explain how it went, and how I plan to pull it together for Worlds.

en·tro·py  ˈentrəpē/  “lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.”

July 2014- Up Until Now, to Date, as Yet, So Far.

GFit Boise/Niner Demo Day!

GFit Boise/Niner Demo Day!

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

“Until now”.

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!

Special thanks to Snapple Tri Team & G-Fit Studios Boise for the incredible support this season!