My first Xterra since injuring myself last year in August (not counting USA Champs because although I did participate, I didn’t RACE…I merely endured to finish in order to salvage my points series overall standings). I’m always nervous before racing, especially for the first race of the season, but this time was ridiculous! I’ve been racing for 13 years, as a pro for 6- it’s crazy that I was so nervous, but I guess that just goes to show that I really do still care about performing well- more to my own standards than anything else. Yes, of course I want to win or podium, or whatever result oriented goal I set for the day- but performing at the level that I think I’m capable of is how I ultimately judge my performance after racing.
Usually, after the gun goes off the nerves calm and you just swim, bike and run like you know how. Not this time…I swam fast, maybe a little too fast.
When I got on the bike I couldn’t catch my breath for anything, which messed with my actual riding ability. I couldn’t get into that state of flow that you really need when racing a twisty, rooty course like Oak Mountain. I felt like I was wasting energy all over the place by braking too much into corners and then having to accelerate hard out of it. My back starting aching and I got frustrated- but I was in the lead so I felt like I had to keep the pace up in order to hold onto it. My brain was telling me to relax and don’t worry about the finish results, to just ride like you know how and enjoy being back in the race, but I couldn’t overcome that pressure to hold onto the lead. I wanted to win because I was leading, because it would be a great way to start the year, because it would be a great way to return from injury, etc., but I also wanted to prove to myself that I WAS truly strong again and that I WAS capable of performing at the level that I was at before the injury- or even better. So I hammered that swim and bike course, knowing that my run fitness was soley aerobic base level and my speed was poor so if it was at all possible, I needed to create a time cushion because there was a very good chance that I would get caught once on foot. To my astonishment, I finished the bike without any crashes and took off out of T2 with a good friend, Anthony Snoble. I ran right behind him for the entire first lap, at a pace that I knew was too fast to maintain but didn’t know what the time gap was to the nearest woman behind me and desperately just wanted to get out of sight in case there was anyone close. I figured I’d just go out hard and then try to settle in for a little while and see what happened from there. Being a two lap run course, maybe I’d get a time split at the lap point and make a judgement on maintaining pace or try to pick it up. Unfortunately, I got no such indication of where my competitors were at and just tried to maintain the effort. When we re-entered the trail section Anthony began to fade and although I was hurting so badly, I knew I had to keep pressing on so I pulled ahead on my own. I was trying to use every mental cue I had to stay calm; run natural, keep a high cadence, etc., but was still so nervous about what was happening behind me. At one point, Anthony saw a woman behind us who was on her first lap but didn’t know it- and gave me a warning yell which scared me into thinking I was about to get passed so my adrenalin spiked and I picked it up but then promptly tripped and fell. I got up and started running like my life depended on it. When I hit the final stretch of road before turning down onto the short bit of trail to the finish line, Chris Appleton was there telling me that nobody was in sight. I was finally able to relax mentally and try to enjoy the winning finish, but at that point it was really hard to do because I was so tired- mentally, physically, everything! I ran into that finish chute and felt the hair on my arms stand up with one final rush of adrenaline that I had actually done it. I led from start to finish and accomplished what I had doubts about for the past 2.5 hours. What a great feeling!
In reflection, I’m not happy about my actual bike performance; my technical riding was poor, my ability to control my emotions was poor and I let the pressure get to me. But what I did well was prove that I do still love this sport, love all of the challenges that I faced that day and that I pushed through them instead of caving to the pressure and just going through the motions because I was afraid of losing or afraid of pushing myself and settling for “good enough for the first race back”. Every race creates new learning opportunities and I sure learned a lot at this one!
Race kit: Hyperthreads one piece tri suit
Swimskin: Synergy Syn Skin2
Wheels: Stans No Tubes Carbon Valor, 27.5 in
Sunglasses: Optic Nerve Side Swipe (with clear lenses)
Running Shoes: Altra Superior
Nutrition: GU Energy Roctane Gels and Lemon Tea drink mix
Sunscreen: Planet Sun Skincare
Thanks to these sponsors as well as the following who support me on my personal mission to see how fast I can go!