Saturday, November 10, 2018

Maui Mudslinging

It's off season, yet I find that I haven't stopped moving since the plane touched down in Chicago two weeks ago. I've wanted to put down my thoughts on XTERRA Worlds and I finally have a few moments to do so. Here we go.

I was earnestly wishing this year would not be a repeat of the mudFEST in 2016. You know what they say, wish in one hand and shit in the other and see which one fills up first. In this case, it filled up with PIG SHIT (there Karl I said it, PIG SHIT, not mud). It filled my crank, covered my wheels, filled my shoes, gloves, bound up my chain, cassette, cleats you name it. If you don't know Maui mud then let me explain. It's got the consistency of wet cement. It weighs about as much too. It attaches itself to your bike and everything just seizes up. Here's a picture (thank you Alyssa I borrowed this one for illustration).

But I digress, lemme start at the beginning. We arrived on the island on Monday afternoon, stocked up at Costco and tried to get some zzzzs (there's a five hour diff between HI and ChiTown).

Tuesday arrived and Alan-the-Mayor-Moore, Brad, Al and  myself opted to ride a portion of the bike course hoping to spread the pre ride over a few days. The course wasn't soaked yet, but it wasn't dry either. A few friends from home arrived Tuesday night so race prep was coupled with "light" sightseeing. Here's Al pictured at Sweetheart Rock next to the Blowhole. It's north of Kapalua along Hwy 30. We were really hoping to see some turtles in the water. Theres' really no bad views in Maui. Everything is stunning, the sunsets, sunrises, vistas, jungles, coast it's all amazing.

Wednesday was a pre-swim and a run on the 5k course. The ocean was calm and I didn't have any trouble moving through the surf. I practiced my entries and exits a handful of times feeling pretty confident. Illinois waves, if you consider them waves, consist of whatever Lake Michigan has on tap....not much. No undertow, no rip tides, no giant swells, it's pretty safe next to ocean standards. Later that afternoon the run course was still pretty muddy. The rain Gods were feeling generous and afternoons typically had one or two rain spells.

Thursday we found ourselves back on the bike course with more friends. TamTwin and the Halioris' joined us for some upper bowl riding. The course was open and we wanted to take advantage. We were pretty lucky to get out early and fount the course to be in pretty good shape. TamTwin and I took our obligatory piccy on top of Razor Ridge. Here we are conspiring . . .

I just love that view, ocean on one side, Jurassic Park on the other. It's simply breathtaking. Friday arrives and I opted for a complete day of rest, sort of. We did a little Lahaina shopping and found the world's biggest pair of Vans, size 60. I think they might just fit my super tall stepson Shain. We registered Al, Erik and his friends Larry and Elife for the Saturday trail run. Al, after coming off of half marathon the weekend prior was planning on running the 10k, the others were psyched for the 5k. More afternoon rains were solidifying the fact that 2018 was going to be a repeat of 2016, hike-a-bike and all. I was trying hard not to let that defeat me. I truly did have a great attitude going into this race. I was trying to look at it like an opportunity to redo my bad attitude two years prior. It's not very often life offers you a redo. I forgot to mention that myself and a few other Braveheart Chicago athletes were waiting on our race kits to be delivered to the island so that we could fly the Chicago colors during the race . . . at least for a little while until it became covered in pig shit. Anyways, this was another element that I was trying hard not to let stress me out. It was a lot of back and forth with Hyperthreads (our supplier) and at one point our kits weren't going to arrive at all. I have to hand it to Spencer, he really pulled through. Spencer bought a ticked to Maui and hand delivered our kits Saturday. I don't know many companies that would go the distance - in this case fly across and ocean - to fix a mistake. Thank you HyperThreads! You're Aces in my book!

Saturday arrives and the kids are ready to race the trail run. TamTwin's sis Kim, Erik, Larry, Al and Elife braved the slop and relentless up and crossed the finish line smelling like pig shit but looking elated! The consensus was that it was going to SUCK for those doing the tri on Sunday.

TamTwin and I had a blast playing the part of Sherpa during the trail run. We scoped out the lower bowl and determined that YES, in fact it was going to be a rerun of 2016. Bring it on I guess!!

Finally we're getting to the meat of this post. Sunday, race day. I'm in my shiny white kit and I'm ready to face this thing, mud and all and knowing is half the battle. That's something that I wasn't prepared for in 2016. We racked my bike, set up my transition and made the rounds. Saw some friends, chatted nervously about the surf (waves were BIG) chatted nervously about the mud, and chatted nervously about the surf again, did I mention the waves were big? I found a YouTube video but I really don't think this will do it justice, so, if you're so inclined, I've embedded a video link via David McNerdy (McCurdy's) FB page that illustrates just how massive these suckers were during the women's wave.

Women's Wave XTERRA Worlds 2018

Ok, so if you're thinking "what the fuck were they thinking?"
You're not alone. I entered the water at 9:20 a.m. and it took me :38 minutes to swim 1500 meters. An all time sucky swim for me compared to the four previous World Championships I've raced. Why? Because I thought I was going to drown. I'm not being dramatic either. Some folks had pretty smooth sailing, a break between the breaks. My wave was not so lucky. After exiting the water, running onto the beach I attempted to re enter the water. I was pummeled by a pretty big wave and dragged back to shore. I actually ran out of the surf yelling "no no no no no" I found Al in the crowd and told him I can't go back in, I won't go back in. He calmed me and we waited out the sets. I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him because I wasn't sure if I'd make it back. Only after the race did that comment really sink in. Fucked up fo sho. I risked life and limb for what, a mediocre swim and a long suffering hike a bike? I don't know. It still bothers me that I thought this way and caused Al stress, jerky move on my part. So I managed to make it to the next buoy. Swimming to shore I knew I was up against giant waves again. I felt my body being lifted high above the shore. Reports later indicated waves were 8-10'. I wasn't entirely confident on my exit strategy and I remember people telling us before the race to not hesitate. I really can't say whether or not I hesitated because after being dragged under by a wave I stood up and another took me down. This time I couldn't tell what was up and what was down. My chest was beginning to get tight, things were getting dark. They say bubbles mean up, but it's all bubbles when several tons of water crash on top of you. I eventually popped up again, oxygen rushed in and screams rushed out. I did everything I could to drag myself to shore. One more wave hit me and took my goggles from under my swim cap, but strangely my swim cap stayed in tact. I had sand in every nook and cranny, an ocean water enema and nasal rinse. IT. WAS. INSANE. I ran onto shore, wobbly legs and all and Al found me again. He grabbed me and whispered in my ear "you don't have to do this." I ignored his comment, I told him I know how to bike and run. I was rattled. I wasn't in it to win it any longer. I was, I'm not really sure, I guess I was going through the motions. Auto pilot ON, Honey Badger OFF. I found my shit in T1 and off I went. In what seemed like many many many hours later (prolly because it was many many many hours later) I mounted my bike in T2 and looked defeatedly at my running shoes. I threw a little bit of a temper tantrum, throwing my gloves, helmet and Camelback down on the ground hoping someone would see how pissed off I really was. I slipped into my Hokas, placed my hat (in the business position - Tammy) on my head and off I went, back up the island.

Despite the muddy conditions I had a fantastic run, both ACTUALLY and mentally. I really enjoyed it. I ran what I could and slipped where I couldn't. I was able to make up several places and ran down fellow BCC Coach Chrissy Halioris who was 20 minutes ahead of me out of T2. Still, I crossed the finish line in 14th place (a far cry from what I envisioned and what I trained so hard for all year) in 5:45. 33 minutes slower than 2016 and an hour and 45 minutes slower than my best finish in 2015 when I placed 4th in my AG. Disappointed was and is an understatement. Yes, I survived what I perceived to be near death by drowning. I still feel pretty uneasy when I think back to those moments that probably amounted to 30 seconds but seemed like an eternity. As with all adverse experiences one is supposed to learn something. I did. I learned that I'm not very strong (mentally speaking) when I'm confronted with adverse conditions. I rock it in perfect conditions, but then again, who doesn't? What defines us are the tough ones. For some, wet trails, slippery roots, rocks, snow, cold, etc don't seem to derail them from doing well, in fact doing excellent. Yeah, I had a bad race this year and I underestimated the conditions and overestimated my ability to conquer said conditions. So for 2019 I plan on training in all kinds of adverse conditions, you know to toughen myself up. I'm imaging hunks of meat hanging in a cooler and me punching the shit out of it, eye of the tiger playing in the background. Or. . . how about this? If it's cold, I'll wear warmer clothes, if it's wet, I'll wear water proof clothes. If it's hot I hope it's hotter. If it's muddy, good. If it's slick better. I need to turn my attitude inside out. I no longer want to just survive a crazy hard event, I want to do well at said crazy hard event.

As for my white kit, it did not fair so well. But with the suggestions of many of my white kit wearing friends, I was able to get it 99% clean. The rest of our trip was spent relaxing, speed sightseeing (on a bike) adventuring along the West Maui loop a 60 mile road ride with 3,600' of gain. Beautiful vistas, cliffs, "the wall," Banana bread, Kona ice cream and reaching 47 mph on one wild decent. I did swim in the ocean one more time, to you know, address my fears. It was pretty cool. I saw a turtle. And I witnessed an amazing rainbow on one of our last days. I almost forgot, Al and I attended a Luau, like the really cheesy ones. I swear Don Ho was our emcee. He did in fact sing Tiny Bubbles while sporting white patent leather boots, with a heel.
Post West Maui Loop
Maui Rainbow
West Mau Loop crew
XTERRA awards dinner

XTERRA Sherpas during bike leg
Erik and Al B4 XTERRA trail run

Thursday, October 4, 2018

2018, Far better than expected

Ummmm, it's really been a year since I last posted. I suck! I was reading my last blog recapping my 2017 Finish at the XTERRA Fort Custer for 2018 points where I finished 3rd after being bested by Megan James (outstanding runner) less than a mile from the finish. I tongue-in-cheek blamed it on the decaf coffee I unknowingly consumed before the race costing me the 10 second difference between 2nd and 3rd place. That's the kind of operation they're running at Alan Moore's Driftwood Inn. But I jest.

Wowza, what a year. If I could sum it up in just one word or how about one phrase it would be Daring Greatly. Yes, like the famous Theodore Roosevelt speech sometimes referred to as "The Man in the Arena." It's probably my favorite speech.

"It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of his achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly . . . "

I watched so many of my friends Dare Greatly. From my wonderful husband Al to the athletes that we coach. 2018, although tumultuous for me personally had ended up to be so life altering in so many ways.

Surprisingly, I was named 2018 Ms. XTERRA as someone who embodies the "Live More" philosophy. I was of course the last to know. Funny, I should have been suspect of the video crew following my every move for two days while preparing for the XTERRA PanAm Championship in Ogden. But, I bit the line, you know, the one about the film crew profiling female cyclists, I was one of many, or so they said. And why wouldn't I believe that?

So I've included a link to the tribute video and article. They did a fantastic job and I still can't believe it is me that now has my name permanently affixed to the biggest traveling trophy I've ever seen...

2018 Ms. XTERRA Tribute Video

There was some other really good shit that happened this year too. I was appointed to Battalion Chief for the FD I love and work for.

I did a few crazy gravel races including a 150 mile jaunt through Lincoln, Nebraska with a measly 10K of climbing. And I watched my husband and friend Brad devour a fetus sized burrito a few weeks back. It was both disturbing and equally impressive. They both had stellar races the following day. I've enlarged the photo to better illustrate the girth of the burrito.

I think this year was all about Daring Greatly. When you put yourself out there sometimes . . . most times you fail but every so often you shine, you burn so brightly. But you are never alone, when you find success it's always because there are those in your life that supported you and lift you higher than you can stand on your own two feet. For those humans in my life I am grateful. I love you