Xterra Knoxville 2016

Another one down and boy was it a crazy race! Saturday I was able to get in a decent ride beforehand to scope out some of the trails, but somehow ended up getting myself lost and put in a few extra miles on pavement.  Once I finally got myself onto some actual trails, I was baffled by how slippery they were with just a little bit of rain.  The whole time I was thinking about the rain that was supposed to come through that afternoon and evening making the entire place one giant muddy mess.  I was woken up Saturday night by what sounded like a monsoon outside of my camper.  Not only did I now know it was going to be one of the muddiest races I had ever done, but I couldn’t go back to sleep thinking of all the different parts of the trail that I could slide off into hundreds of trees.  Of course I was so tired that I was able to pass out quickly after these few thoughts ran out of my head.
My alarm clock went off, what seemed like, three hours too early.  I jumped out of bed and I was so excited that it was race day again.  I quickly grabbed everything I needed from the camper and headed to the Ijams for the race.  After getting warmed up, finishing breakfast and doing all my pre-race routines, it was finally race time!  The water was the clearest of any race course that I have seen so far.  Swimming in the quarry was really cool, especially when you could hear the drone flying overhead filming the race.  I felt that I was moving quite fast during the swim compared to how I normally do.  I was very joyful when I rounded the last buoy and be headed straight for the exit of the swim.
download_20160607_200644.jpgEven I can enjoy the swim leg every once and a while.
The trails were insanely muddy and it was hard to keep your eyes open with the mud flying straight at them from what seemed like every direction.  Almost every turn I was having to drop a foot just to make sure that I wasn’t going to topple over and down the hill.  Surprisingly there were lots of off camper rock face type sections and every single one of them ended up giving me quite some trouble.  The second bridge I came to was the biggest doozy I had of the day.  It turned slightly to the right and as I was turning going across it, I could feel my front tire start to drift away.  It felt like one of those cartoons where you stepped on a banana and your feet start to slip out from underneath you in slow motion but there was just nothing you could do to stop it.  I went up in the air and down I came crashing straight onto the wood.  I stood up and tried to get on my bike but before doing so I was slowly sliding off the bridge while simply standing on it.  The bridges had a surface as slippery as ice which made it insanely difficult to make any traction across them.  Roughly 12 miles through the mountain bike portion of the race I was looking down thinking that there must be something wrong with my fork because it was riding rather stiff and awful.  I had locked it out at the very beginning for the pavement and gravel road that started the course but come to find out had never unlocked it.  So the first 12 miles of the bike course I was doing on basically a rigid bike which now and made so much sense why I was getting my arms shaken all to pieces.  Once I unlocked the fork it felt like there was the massive pillow below my front wheel that had relived my arms and hands from so much pain.  Everything seemed to get a lot smoother and I felt much faster on my bike.  After another tumble to the ground and multiple scary rock crossings I ended up finishing the second fastest bike time behind the local Alex Ohman.
Once I started the run I was in third place overall and was striving to catch Darren Cox who was sitting in second.  I heard someone from the side tell me that he was not too far in front so I put my head down and went for it.  I came to a section of switch backs in the trail and could see him ahead of me up the hill.  Not too long afterwards I was able to catch him.  Darren let me know that when he came out of transition that Alex had over a minute and a half lead on him, so I knew that I had quite some ground to make up if I wanted to have any chance of catching him.  All I could think about was not letting Darren or Marcus Barton catch me on the run.  As I approached where the trail passes transition, that minute and a half had been dropped down to one minute and I was off as fast as I could go.  The major hiking hill in the last mile of the run came out of nowhere to me and as I started my grueling and painful ascent I could see Alex up ahead.   All I could think about and feel were my legs tightening up as I painfully pushed down on my knees each step.  I caught Alex before the false summit and was able to take the lead.  Down the other side of the mountain I went, scared just as much as I was on the bike due to how slippery the trails were.  I was grabbing left and right for limbs and trees to try and slow myself down without tripping on a root or slipping and busting my butt on the ground.  Once the decent planed out I looked back and saw no one in sight so I forged on to the finish coming in with my best ever race result.
Normal overall podium picture.  Left- Marcus Barton, Right- Alex Ohman
download_20160605_213207Yeah being normal didn’t last long.  Left- Marcus Barton, Right- Alex Ohman
20160605_141423After every race there is always a very healthy meal.
Result: 1st overall!!!
Nutrition: Roctane Electrolyte Capsules, Lemon-Lime Roctane Energy Drink Mix, Strawberry Banana gel, Blueberry Pomegranate Roctane gel.
What I learned: No matter how slow you feel that you are going during the race, just keep pushing forward because everyone else is dealing with the exact same conditions and thinking the exact same thing.

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