Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Xterra Midwest Cup

This should have been an easy race report to write, great race, great venue, unfortunately... The 2nd Xterra Cup of the season was held at Fort Custer Recreation Area just outside Battle creek, Michigan. (Think Kelloggs) Finally a race close enough for me to drive to. No packing up the bike and getting on an airplane. I headed out Wednesday afternoon and picked up Emma Garrard at the airport in Detroit on the way through. Erin Kummer's extensive network of family was on hand to offer homestays to just about every pro-athlete which was great. Emma, Erin and I stayed at her grandparents old farm house about 30mins from the race site in East Leroy. The house is over 140yrs old or something like that and has been in the family the whole time. Only drawback, one bathroom, though as her grandpa Pete so eloquently put it "better than an outhouse like when it was built"!!! Thursday we headed out to the venue to check out the bike and run course and what a fun set of trails they were. Very twisty and turny but smooth and flowing, very much like what I am used to riding without as many roots and rocks. The course was a two loop course with a nice mix of double and single track and it was instantly apparent that it was going to be very fast. The run course was much of the same. The only down side for me was a short swim, only 1000m, and wetsuits. Still I was feeling really sharp, much better than Vegas, and excited to race.
Friday and Saturday were pretty relaxed, a short swim on Friday and a bit of each on Saturday. My right calf had been getting a bit tight throughout the week but honestly I didn't really give it much thought. There was a bit of excitement Saturday night with some heated debate about whether the swim should be lengthened to 1500m because it was a Cup race but overall everyone was really happy with how the race was shaping up. (the race ended up staying at 1000m but will hopefully be lengthened to full distance next year)
Sunday morning came early, another 8am start. Unlike Vegas it was below freezing and not looking like it was going to warm up much. I got in my standard warm-up, a good 20-25min bike with some accelerations, a short 10-15min run and a loop of the swim course. The pro's got a 30sec start on the age-groupers and I got right to the front to push the pace. We had a short run along the beach between the two laps then headed into transition after the second loop. The lead pack was the usual suspects, Craig, Conrad, Seth, Branden, Dan, and myself with Mike Vine putting in a stellar swim to be just behind us. After last race's wetsuit debacle I had Erin's grandma sew a tab on my wetsuit velcro and it came off perfectly. Out onto the bike course I got into a great rhythm and really tried to push the pace as I had no idea how much time I had managed to put on the other women. We had a small creek crossing early in the course which was fairly simple in the pre-rides, but the banks had gotten pretty muddy with all the pre-riding and the creek was definitely deeper with the bit of rain we had leading up to the race and I almost planted my front wheel and endo'ed into the water. After the race we got a good laugh over Seth's account of his near drowning experience. He did go OTB and ended up underwater, still clipped in, with his bike on top of him. Not a good situation and cause for a bit of panic. Apparently the spectators standing around weren't of any help either and simply stood there and enjoyed the moment.(too bad they didn't even get a picture) Can't you just picture the headlines, "Ex-swimmer leads out of water, drowns on bike course"!!! With the water done for the lap (or so I thought) I got right back on pace until at the end of a sweeping downhill I suddenly ran into a small lake where absolutely no water had been on any of the previous days riding and you couldn't see the bottom to know how deep it was. Lucky for me, Nico Lebrun passed me right before and boldly rode right through it no problem so I just followed.
A little before the end of the first lap Mel caught me, bummer, I was hoping to hold her off for the whole first lap. She also went by me rather quickly and again I couldn't hook her wheel. We looped through transition so out onto the second lap I could see that Renata and Shonny were working together not far behind me and Jenny Smith was charging hard not far behind them. I put my head down determined to hold them off as long as possible. Half way through the second lap Renata and Shonny caught me and this time I was ready to jump on. It probably sounds a bit amateurish, but I was so excited to ride the rest of the race glued to Shonny's back wheel. It is soooo much easier for me to ride simply following someone else's line, especially someone of that caliber. I totally don't overthink things and just ride hard. Jenny Smith caught the three of us right before transition so it was 2nd through 5th into T2 all together, very exciting racing. I flew through transition and went right to the front and set a hard pace to see who could follow and Renata jumped right on my heels. I didn't realized how cold my feet were until I started running and realized that they were so frozen I couldn't feel them at all and felt like I was running on peg legs. Right from the start of the run I felt my right calf tightening up but I kept hoping that as I warmed up it would loosen up. Renata didn't even let an inch gap form between us and we ran through transition and out onto the second lap right together with a nice gap on Shonny and Jenny. There was a short uphill at the start of the run loops and second time through the calf decided it had had enough. ARGGGG!!!! Here I was having my best Xterra race ever, in a head to head battle for 2nd and wouldn't you know it, the wheels came off. I decided to save my calf from a possible complete tear and backed off the pace and hobbled it in running on my heels. I managed to stay in third but quite likely still did some serious damage.
So here I am, after a pretty depressing drive home while everyone else made the trip down to Alabama for the next race, wondering how badly I am injured and how long it is going to take to heal. I have struggled with chronic Achilles tendon and calf issues my whole triathlon career and it always seems to appear right when things are really starting to go well. Anyway, it is off to the chiropractor/acupuncturist tomorrow and a schedule full of aquajogging, yippee!!(insert sarcasm here) I am extra bummed because of all the races this year I was really looking forward to Xterra Alabama at Oak Mountain. A full 1500m non-wetsuit swim with a short-fast mountain bike on a course I spent two months training on this year, this was going to be an awesome race for me. I got an email from Mel today telling me to get some ultrasound get down there. I wish it where that simple and a little mind over matter would make everything okay, but I have a feeling it is going to take more than that. Maybe next year.
(on a happy note - my picture is on the home page for the Xterra Mexico website, very cool www.xterramexico.com.mx)

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