of the XTERRA races are held out in the boonies, where it's easier to put
together a 1.5 K swim,
a 30 K mountain bike, and an 11 K trail run. Holding one in the
middle of a major city (
knew it was going to be interesting when I got this e-mail a few days before
the event: "The
Race day was 95/95 and sunny, with the startscduled for --good heat stroke potential. Perfect also for ESPN, which sent a camera crew to capture the carnage (watch your local listings).
The swim/crab scuttle took us out to an island where we ran 100 meters along a trail and gingerly re-entered the river for the return swim/splash/crawl/bleed. The start was delayed while the organizers moved one of the buoys "because we found some Re-bar (1-inch steel rods) sticking out of the river bottom." That history thing....
The pros, teams, and young guys splashed off in the first wave, leaving a half-dozen aqua-socks and sandals that slipped off in the excitement bobbing in their wake. The geriatric men and women set out two minutes later, and we quickly caught up with clots of people staggering around on the rocks near the first turn.
My swimming style--very gentle arm entry, groping around in the brown, nearly opaque water, "catching" on whatever was available (water, old concrete, or rocks), and lifting my head every ten strokes or so to scout for traffic jams--seems to have worked, as I exited the water ahead of at least one pro racer and lots of young guys.
Thus energized, I charged out of the transition area and started picking off riders on the few miles of road that began the bike leg. Unfortunately, I also picked off some glass with my rear tire, and immediately fell to the back of the pack while fixing the flat. Heading into the singletrack, I was reminded that changing a chain and failingto test ride before a race is a big mistake. The course was a blast--full of twisty, off-camber single-track, but I had to push up lots of hills because of my skipping chain. Plus, the course included some repeat sections, which meant lots more people to pass. Whine, whine, whine. At least I didn't face-plant for the ESPN Ghoulcam at the bottom of Collarbone Hill. And I may have derived some spiritual benefit from riding twice around a revival meeting that was right next to the course.
By the time the second transition rolled around, I was in cruise control, content just to finish. And after not running for two months (injury), my legs were only too happy to comply. Dodging angry hornets and climbing iron-rung ladders on the run course was amusing, but wandering through a half-mile of boulders, thigh-deep skank-water, and submerged logs and other unidentified thingies was not. And the last mile in the sun....I have never run a slower 6.6 miles. But still a fun course.
Worst part of the day was the two-hour wait for the results and a cheesy medal (I did manage to place in my age group). Best part of the day was having friends cheering at the finish. Second best was exchanging pleasantries with 42-year-old Ned Overend as he passed on his way to a 3rd place finish--and realizing that most of the top pros (male and female) were in their mid-to-late 30s. There is hope….