Race Report: Xterra Costa Rica

Xterra REAL Race Report: Matt Balzer

April 16, 2016 Comments (0) Race Report

The Difference A Year Makes

Last year, the HITS Napa Triathlon was my first Olympic Distance Triathlon I’d ever done. I had never swam longer than 750M open water continuous and had never done a race that lasted longer than 90 minutes. Needless to say, the rolling hills of Napa Valley on Lake Berryessa kicked my butt! I had a decent swim, but I significantly underestimated the bike course, cramping up in my quads by the end and begging for every hill crest. The run did not go much better; nearly debilitating cramps in my hamstrings and quads made running a cruel joke. I still managed to finish with the win in my age group and my time was 2:23:03.

I signed up the day after for this year’s event and was already looking for redemption. This year, with a less than ideal travel situation, going to Redding the day before to coach a track meet and then getting to the race site at 10:00 p.m. the night before the race, I got my redemption!

I woke up that morning and felt surprisingly good. I slept like a rock after the long day before and woke up refreshed. I got ready and jogged over to packet pickup in the light spring drizzle. This made me a little worried, because the roads aren’t the best. But, that didn’t get in the way of my morning preparation. Also, the weather cleared up. I did some active movements before heading over to transition to set up and help my mom, who did the sprint triathlon.

I got into my wetsuit and headed down to the swim start earlier than usual, about 30 minutes before to watch my mom’s swim start and get my warmup in. I was experimenting with a longer swim warmup, and it really worked! IMG_1526 I swam great, however the start was an absolute brawl, which I lost miserably. I got dunked and swam over and had a mini panic attack before getting my bearings and swimming to catch the bulk of the group. After the first 750M loop I was really in a good rhythm and pushing to catch more people. I came out of the water 13th.

I had a decent transition and was out on the bike, the leg that crushed me physically and mentally the year before. I started out much more conservatively than last year, which really helped. I looked down to start my bike computer and realized I hadn’t even put it on in the first place. I road the entire time by feel and did really well. I caught a couple of people on the way out for the first out section of the two times out-and-back course. After the turn around, we came up this slight hill and were about to descend, when I went to shift from my small ring to my big ring and got nothing out of it! It didn’t shift! I had no tension in my front derailer! I rode the rest of the course in my small ring flying by people up hills and subsequently being passed on the downhill.

Coming into transition, I had lost where I was in the group. I didn’t know if I had maintained my position, made up spots, or had lost spots. I went through transition and heard one of the parents or volunteers tell the guy in front of me that he was in 7th. I was in 8th! I made up spots and felt fresh for the run! It started to rain again, which was a great feeling being as humid as it was during the race. The way out is mainly uphill, until you head to the turn around point where you go downhill for about a mile. I kept telling myself I only had to make it back to the top of the hill around 4 miles and the rest was downhill back into the finish line! I closed hard for the 2nd fastest run of the day! IMG_1532

Overall, I had improved my placing from 20th the year before to 5th overall and 1st in my age group! I had a course PR of just under 15 minutes which came from a 2 minute improvement in the swim leg with the help of some great teammates with the UNR Tri-Club and my technical swim coach Luiza over at Bridgewater Swim Academy, over a 10 minute improvement on the bike with the help of the computrainer at Velo Reno, and a little over 2 minutes on the run! My total time was 2:08:09! I was actually surprised by my time! I thought on a perfect day, I could go around 2:08, and with all that went wrong, to still get my goal time was an euphoric feeling!

My mom finished her 2nd and longest triathlon to date and was 5th in her age group! I’m glad I was able to perform so well under unideal conditions, but I was more happy to share the experience with my mom! I’m already signed up for next year and more excited than ever to see where my season is headed!IMG_1538

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