Wow, Xterra Richmond was tough! I knew I wasn’t in it to place or anything but if I needed to find something I suck at I would have just entered a dance contest. Turns out I mountain bike worse than I dance. Here are my take homes from Sunday’s massacre:
1. Why is this race so small? There were only 145 of us blooming idiots. I really thought this would be a much bigger event. But I will say that the vibe is super chill rather than how you can almost slice the nervous energy with a knife at Ironman events.
2. That swim is by far the hardest, gnarliest, craziest swim I’ve ever done. You have to shift your swim strategy around every buoy to adjust for the current, which was quite strong in the middle of the James River. Boulders just under the surface force you to pull yourself over and slide off of them like a seal. At the first turn buoy I got socked in the face, my goggles fell off, and I was in such a pickle I actually panicked so hard I started panicking because I was panicking. Had it not been for the sand bar in front of us that we all ran on I feared I might actually drown. We looked like a bunch of Jesus’s on the sand bar, just a’walkin’ on water!
This is the swim course. You can just make out the sand bar between buoy 1 and 2, just above the direct line between the two. On the swim back from the run on Belle Isle, the red line shows a typical age grouper's line as they fight the current, the orange shows a typical pro and the blue shows the recommended line. Photo from www.xterraplanet.com.
3. I never thought Carl Bonner and I would be in T1 together, sitting down giggling and chit chatting about the fine mess we got ourselves into while we put on socks, mtb shoes, gloves, etc. We had no idea what we were doing. Everyone else had pretty much left.
Carl always takes forever to set up his transition area. No designated bike placement. Just put your crap wherever you want. Xterras are super chill about rules! Photo courtesy of Me.
4. I know I have an old Studebaker for a mountain bike, but between its crappy oldness and my crappy oldness we made for one slow-ass, all up in everyone’s way, festering turd in the middle of the trail. I got dropped by every man, woman, child, elderly, obese and if there were crippled folks out there I’m sure they passed me too. My heart rate was pegged and my quads were ripping. All I could think was how great it would be if my derailleur snapped so I could quit and blame my bike.
5. What the crowd support lacked in quantity it made up for in quality. If you could hear the crowd ahead that meant you were approaching some gnarly death trap on the trail - and those folks were there to cheer you on whether you eat it or beat it. They didn’t hike all that way up the trail to see you wuss out and gingerly walk your bike through a creek. So, I didn’t disappoint. At the first creek crossing I endo’d and landed on my ass. The crowd went wild....
6. Evidently what I think is technically challenging on a trail and what others think is challenging are completely different. Basically, if there’s a rock the size of a cell phone on the trail I think you should turn around because it’s obviously closed from this point on. At one particularly rocky, skull-shattering descent I stopped and got off rather than land on my melon and live the rest of my life as a vegetable. Just as I did some chick came rolling by yelling and flung herself down the rock pile and vanished up the trail. She just left me there holding her purse with my jaw on the ground.
7. By the time I started the run it looked like pretty much everybody’s race was already over. The bike racks looked as full as they did before the gun went off! It was a miserable 95 degree hot and humid death march. I ran until the Mayan Ruins, which is a ridiculous climb up a wall of railroad ties. After that I alternated running and walking as my heart rate kept spiking in the heat. The legs were there but I just couldn’t take the heat. I walked the Dry Way (the boulder crossing to Belle Island in the middle of the James River) since the knee is not near strong enough to take bounding from boulder to boulder.
All in all, I just wasn’t prepared for this race. It was way harder than a half iron road tri, and I’m just not in that kind of shape yet. And I’ve got to get better at mountain biking if I’m gonna attempt another one.