Thursday, September 28, 2017

Bronze looks good on me

XTERRA PanAm Champ highlights

Sitting on the grassy hillside with my head hanging low I exhaled slowly with an all too familiar tightness in my chest. At that moment I vowed never to return to the rugged beauty found in the Wasatch Mountain range.

That was 2012 and I had just completed my first XTERRA US National Championship off road triathlon. Keeping my word I did not return in 2013 or 2014. Yet, like many promises made to ones self forged in the bitterness of disappointment I did go back in 2015, 2016 and again this year mainly for redemption. I think what kept me away and what keeps most flat-landers away are the climbs. Training in the midwest you are living amongst the corn and soy bean fields, void of elevation save a few punchy river valleys and wind......we all hate the wind.

I wouldn't count my first foray into XTERRA in 2012 anything more than exploration, despite a few good finishes on the local scene. When it came to the Championship races, I placed "fair to midland" (a quote often uttered by my Pops). So with three Utah races under my belt this year seemed hold more promise than usual. As they say, the 4th time's the charm (I know this isn't the correct euphemism but it illustrates my point).

Al and I usually split the drive to Ogden up into two days. The first is a 900+ mile journey to Littleton, Colorado to visit my folks, the remainder is an 7+ hour drive to West Haven where we are home stayed by Meri and Devin (college soccer buddies).

We arrived in Ogden Thursday evening, settled in and planned on a partial pre ride the following morning. Mother Nature had other plans, heavy rains meant riders were strongly encouraged to stay off the trails allowing them to dry for Saturday's race. We opted for a chilly dip in Pine View Reservoir and a quick out and back run along the water's edge.

This year was different than in years past, Al would not be next to me on the starting line due to injury. Instead he would be tracking my progress as my race Sherpa.

Race morning was chilly, 40s at the res and high 30s at Snowbasin. It's been like this before but usually the temps rise to the low 80s later in the day. Today's high was forecasted to be in the mid 60s. Al tried to lift my spirits telling me this is the perfect temp for racing. Deep down I know he's right, but I'm dreading the cold climb up Wheeler Canyon in a wet kit. But XTERRA is gritty right? We are hardcore right? Still, nobody likes to be cold.

My swim was consistent with how I've been swimming lately and that's pretty well. I exited the water faster than previous years and my transition went under 2:00 minutes. Good considering they did away with the carpeted exit forcing competitors to run on this gravely-gnaw-your-feet-up parking lot.

I made good time up the canyon and settled into a rhythm on the bike. One little mechanical up Sardine forced me to dismount to pop my chain back on -- my bad. I lost a few spots on the climbs, including Sian Turner (2nd in my AG) but managed to earn a few back on the decent. I entered T2 and aside from a little fumble because my rack was occupied by another's bike I quickly slipped into my running shoes and exited to the trail. Al was along the fence line yelling my place (you're in 2nd). At the time I wasn't sure if Courtney Kaup had started the race and I knew Sian was ahead of me so with that knowledge I ran to maintain 2nd. I pushed hard up the hills and bombed the downs. I felt strong overall. Crossing the finish line I learned I was 3rd - which meant a podium and is AWESOME - to Sian in 2nd and Courtney in 1st. Courtney was 3rd OA amateur to Jen Razee (2nd) and my good friend and 2017 Ms. XTERRA Deanna "Dirty" McCurdy took the OA title. Props to these fast women. So strong in every right, they are champions!

This day, which also happened to be Al's and my 11th wedding anniversary, I would not hang my head in defeat on the grassy hillside. As my name was called I stepped upon that 3rd place podium proud and with a secret goal in mind for 2018.

Special K

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