Race Report

Race morning dawned as all mornings this week. 70 degrees and cloudless skies. Since Xterra races often starting later in the morning — I think it’s a mountain biker thing — we had plenty of time to have breakfast, gather up our stuff and head down to the race course.

Caught up with Pierre and Kathy and chilled out before the race start, which was delayed 15 minutes for unknown reasons. The cannon fired and we hit the small surf in a 450 person mass start — pro’s and all. I got away clean and made it to the first turn buoy in good position. Exited the water at the end of the first loop next to Jamie Whitmore (two-time champion here). After the short beach run, I hit the water and moved up steadily on the 2nd loop. Hit the beach at 23:21, just 16 seconds behind Justin Thomas (JT), with whom I’d been staying all week along with his wife Julie. I was pleased.

Best thing about being out of the water early in Xterra is being able to maneuver as you like on the tight trails and pick the best lines. After a short road section we hit the first climb, a dirt/gravel road that went up and up. I paced myself b/c I knew that this was going to be a long day. I was feeling good, not great, but still passing as many people as I was passing until just before the first feed station when I dropped my chain and it got stuck between my spokes and the largest cog. It took me about a minute to dislodge the chain which was frustrating as I watched all the people I had passed on the climbs catch back up and pass me. No worries. This is Xterra. No one gets away without a little bit of hassle.

I continued to ride strong, but was starting feel the effects of the 2800 feet of elevation gain of the course. We topped out at 1400 feet at Ned’s Peak. This last climb was about 1 mile straight up and actually included a couple hudred yards of paved road that had me on the rivets using my granny gear (22-34, that’s 22 front chain ring, 34 rear!) Many people were standing by necessity. Didn’t make it to Deep Creek a couple weeks ago, but I can only hope that was not as steep as this!

After Ned’s peak is The Plunge. Where we drop 600+ feet in less than two miles on loose, nasty, sharp lava rock. It was the scariest thing I have ever done on a MTB because you really could not count on your bike going the way you pointed it. I got a little loose in one turn and got caught in the outside of the trail in the weeds. I had just about steered myself back to the trail with I washed out and fell sideways. Underneath all those weeds, of course was plenty of lava rock, and I thought, Ouch, lava rock is sharp and my shin had a nasty scrape. Other than that, I escaped unscathed.

A few rocky, rutted climbs later and we bombed back down that dirt/gravel path to the finish the bike. I was in a good position, but I knew I had lost some time. I wanted to have a steady run and just see where I would end up. This, however, would be one of the hardest runs of my life. We started out on the same road as the bike and then up, up, up for about 2 miles. It was rough. Had to stop and stretch out my cramping hamstrings 2-3 times. I was managing my energy levels and took a few walk breaks on the steeper sections to stay under control. On the way down I was able to make up time and pass a few people. When I reached the white sand beach at 4.5 miles I was feeling OK, but after 2 minutes on the 5-600m section of soft sand, I was DONE. I was passed by 3-4 people, but none in my age group, so I was OK with that!

Once I passed the last black sand beach section and made it the hotel golf course, I knew I was going to make it. Crossing the line I was elated. I had given everything I had and competed in the hardest, scariest race I had ever done — no disrespect to and Ironman or other road triathlon. Xterra is just a different kind of hurt. Never before had 8:27 per mile pace felt like such an accomplishment. I had simply hoped to race and compete with the best in the World today. To place in the top 10 would have been very gratifying. When I found out I had placed 5th, I was overwelmed.

After cleaning up my war wounds, I went back to watch Pierre and Kathy finish. Pierre had been nursing a badly sprained ankle for the last month, so he was going to make today a fun day. Kathy simply rocked. Passing people left and right she would later say she has never felt this strong on this course. She would place 2nd in the her age group, her highest placing ever at Worlds. She finished with style, turning a cartwheel across the line.

Results are posted at www.xterrplanet.com

More details and pictures to follow!

Aloha

Two Days to Race Day — Getting Antsy

Two days to before the race. Everything about my rhythm, however, makes me feel like we should be racing tomorrow. Chillin’ a lot.

Enquring minds want to know, “Eric, how is your foot?” Went for a run this morning and it felt good. More importantly, legs felt good. Ran through the two beach sections (one white sand, one black sand) and “The Spooky Forest” which was cool. Lots of over/under logs & limbs.

After a short swim, met up with Pierre, Kathy, Valerie and Kathy’s mom for Starbucks (of course).

Yesterday evening, we went out to watch the sunset from the beach. This is truly a remarkable place when you can take 20 steps and see such breathtaking views.

Aloha!

Race Course Preview

Woke on Wednesday morning to cool (upper 60s) and partly cloudy morning. The sun rising over Haleakala was beautiful. First picture is the West Maui Mountains. The 2nd is 180 degrees the other direction looking up to Haleakala.

On my way out to the beach to take these pictures, I encountered a new friend who said, “Of course I am racing, can’t you see how fast I’m going?!” He was about 4 inches long. Big sucker!

Went for a swim and then a ride on the practice course. They don’t let us ride on the actual course until race day because it is private land. The picture looks timid doesn’t it? Problem is, underneath all that green of the trail are fist-sized loose lava rocks that make it feel like you are riding on marbles. Even the mild descents feel sketchy. Ooo, can’t wait for Sunday!

Today, Thursday, went for another swim and ride. Swim course (see picture left) was flat and clear (yesterday was Eagleman-like choppy). Rode up the practice course again and felt much more comfortable with the loose rocks.
Ran into Pierre & Kathy who were out to pre-ride. They look ready to go as long as they, along with Kathy’s mom, can keep little Valerie occupied!

Welcome to Maui!

Well Ironman is over. Vergil’s parents are off to some 12 hour, around-the-island tour of Hawaii (….a 3 hour tour….a 3 hour tour). The crowd a Lava Java is not nearly so lycra-clad. Always hate to leave the Big Island, but looking forward to getting into MY race mode.

While taking the turbo prop plane over to Maui, I took the opportunity to snap a few pictures. Below is the last leg of the road to the infamous Natural Energy Lab. The NEH is not infamous for it’s physical demands, but, as you can see, for it’s psychological torture. You can see the end of the road for all the of the two miles, but you just can’t seem to get there!

Then as we approached Maui, Haleakala voclano above the cloud line. Sunday’s race will climb the lower ranges of the volcano which will be plenty brutal enough, thank you very much.

Justin and Julie Thomas picked me up from the airport and JT got a call from Dr. Kathy just as we started down the road. We went for lunch in Paia and then a side trip over to “Jaws” to check out of the waves.

We then headed back to the condo in Kihei to assemble the bike and chill before going for a ride. 20 steps out our back door is the view below. It’s a tough life here!

Aloha for now!

IM Pictures


Cheryl McMurray rocking on Kuakini Highway!

Nice tail, Vergil! More cowbell, Tom!

G Lo rollin’ down Hualailai Road (turn LEFT!)

Elizabeth Weaver 9 miles in on Alii Drive

Vergil finishing with style!

IM Day After

As excited and nervous and energetic as Kona is the week before IM, it is like a bubble burst the day after. Most people are walking gingerly (even the spectators) and the atmosphere has very much mellowed. It is a time for reflection on the tremendous accomplishment of racing here in Hawaii, and even more so, on the journey that it has taken to get here.

We went to the awards dinner on Sunday evening, sitting with Tom & Cheryl, Christianna Ober (also her first IM in Hawaii) & Sean Ward, Vergil, his parents & friends Darren & Amanda. We couldn’t find G Lo and Chuck (sorry we missed you!). Without at doubt, it was the LONGEST awards dinner ever. Why does it take 3 1/2 hours to give out these awards?

Highlights:

  • They showed a “final finishers” video and Vergil and his parents crossing the finish line was the first clip.
  • Sister Madonna Buder was the last official finisher at 16:59:03 and 76 years old!
  • G Lo made the final video of the evening as she was interviewed a few days before the race while at the swim practice area, aka Dig Me Beach.

Walked by the street sign on the way home that marks the start and finish of the race year round.

The evening finished up with a loud, smokey (believe it), crowded evening at LuLu’s bar on Alii Drive. Got to bed at 12:30…6:30am EDT…just as Monday swim practice was finishing back home (thanks covering this morning, Franz!)

IM Hawaii


IM morning broke overcast, humid and cool (mid 70s). Hard to connect with everyone in the crowds downtown, so we dropped Vergil at the closest point and parked the car about a mile from town. Stopped in for breakfast at the famous Lava Java and ran into Justin Thomas (Xterra pro with whom I’ll be staying when I get to Maui). Ate with Dr. Kirsten Grove and Ally Heim.

As the gun fired, a light rain began – always a good omen in Kona. The water was “up” a bit and the finish times would reflect the slow conditions. Most competitors would see times 5-15 minutes slower than expected on this day. [The picture here was taken just east of the course which runs North/South. The competitors didn’t have any breakers to deal with.] Jason and I would later jump in for a 30 minute swim and I can vouch that the current was definitely pushing out.

Once we saw Cheryl, Elizabeth, Gail and Vergil head out on the bike, we chilled out and waited for the pro’s to come back to town. The weather remained predominantly overcast with light winds. Reports came back that the winds were down and there was even rain on the bike course – between a few minutes and an hour and a half depending on where you were.

As the pro’s came back to town, both Normann Stadler and Michellie Jones had established big leads they would not relinquish. Just as notable, however, were 2nd place finishers by Chris McCormack and Bethesda, MD native Desiree Ficker, who ran through the fields after several struggles in previous IM races.

As the sun dipped down, our local heroes, Cheryl, Elizabeth, Gail and Vergil made their way back to town and to the famous finish on Alii Drive. Each having gone through their own journeys to earn that the phrase, “You are an IRONMAN!” Congrats to all!

More Pictures to follow!

So Who Needs ID to travel?

Well if you every wondered what would happen if you forgot your ID when traveling by air, I can now tell you!

The morning started uneventfully as Jenn (I owe you, big time!) shuttled me to BWI airport for at 7:20 flight (do the math, we left just before 5am). I had prepacked virtually all my gear. Just needed to gather up the loose items and hit the road in the morning. Made it to BWI in record time — who knew that traffic actually MOVES on the Beltway at 5am? As soon as I opened up the hatch of the Element, I knew it. I didn’t even have to look. I had left my wallent on my desk. After a few choice words and some debate as to whether we could get home and back in time (Jenn was great. Never panicked, just let me steam slowly), I went inside to see if they would still take me. After a little mumbling with other people behind the desk, I was told that I could get through, I’d just have to go through the extra screening. Deal!!!

Fortunately, I had stashed cash in my carry-on expecting to use it later! After a relieved hug from Jenn, I made it through security without at hitch. The depth of my indebtedness grows to Jenn who retrieved my wallet from home and is sending to to me here in Hawaii.

Other than that, the trip has been uneventful. Quick layover in Phoenix (saw an ad for the Cirq de Soleil show KA on the airplane which reminded me of the Las Vegas trip last month), I landed in Honolulu 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Only drawback was the 3 hour layover waiting for a 40 minute hop to Kona. No worries. We’re on island time!

IM is tomorrow. I’m here to support Principle Fitness athletes Gail Lohman, Vergil Arbuckle, Elizabeth Weaver and Cheryl McMurray (yes, I’m claiming Cheryl because she swims with us!). Each is racing IM Hawaii for the first time and they have each traveled their own unique path to get here. I am looking forward to sharing their experience with them. If you want to receive text message updates on these or other athletes, check out www.wigglewirless.com. It’s a pretty cool, free service.

Until then, I’m out. 17 hours of training is plenty for me!

Here we go

Two days before I leave for Hawaii to watch Principle Fitness athletes Vergil Arbuckle, Gail Lohman, Elizabeth Weaver, and Cheryl McMurray. I’m looking forward to the trip. Getting nervous for my own race (Xterra Worlds, www.xterraplanet.com) the following week. I hate packing because I always feel like I am forgetting something (and I usually am). Starting early to hopefully avoid that!

Will keep you posted as the trip continues.