Starting this year, Xterra Oak Mountain was the biggest race on my calendar. Going into it I was very nervous and signed up very late so that I could try to fly below the radar. All winter and the beginning of this year I have been working on my swim to try and fix what the weakest leg of the race is currently for me. To get myself as prepared as possible for the race I decided to travel down with the camper a few days early and not rush myself the day before like the past two years.
I arrived Thursday just after lunch and had plenty of time to unhook, eat, and relax. Of course I had to meet friends for dinner and find out information about any course changes or new lines on the bike section. Friday morning started with a nice pre-race brick sections, followed by a large lunch with friends and going to pick up my number one fan, best friend, and race wife from the airport.
All this lead to Saturday morning coming more quickly than expected. I was surprisingly able to get a good night of rest before the race which definitely helped. After an early morning breakfast and last minute prep it was time to go claim a spot at transition. I arrived early and was able to get the exact spot I wanted with little time to spare. With a large race many people decide to show up earlier than they do for the regular races in the SouthEast. The water was warm and beautiful and the fish were nibbling on our toes. The swim course seemed quite long, but I also just thought that I was making excuses for my weakest leg of the race. I felt strong in the water compared to previous years and rushed off to transition.
After getting on the bike, I was passing people left and right heading across the Seven Bridges trail. I bounced off rocks, jumped roots and snaked around corners. At one point I decided to jump a root for a faster line and while in the air caught the side of a tree with the end of my handlebars. Not meaning to come that close was pretty scary but thankfully it didn’t send me over the bars. I descended down a hill to come up behind another competitor right before we crossed the cabin road. As we were moving, I yelled to her, “Watch these trees they are very tight.” As soon as I finished saying that, the exact trees I was mentioning she caught one side of her handlebars and it sent her off the trail. I stopped to ask if she was okay before continuing and she said there were no issues as she climbed her bike back up to the trail. As I descended again, but into Blood Rock this time, I could see only one person in front of me followed by lots of loud hecklers. I yelled ahead that I was riding the section and they proceeded to move over while carrying their bike. I danced through the roots and rocks just like I had practiced the day before hitting each line I wanted to. I had a smooth and clean exit and was excited how much time that saved me. Right as I hammered down on the first pedal stroke after Blood Rock my chain fell off. I felt so excited that I had cleaned the hardest section of the entire course only to drop my chain five feet afterwards. I was quick to put it back on and off I went. After finishing the bike course I got on the run and off I headed for two laps.
Near the end of the first run lap I caught up to my mentor and training partner, Marcus Barton. He said he had been cramping and that I could catch the others in front. I tried to lay down the hammer and get done with the first lap. As I got onto the road to start the second I could see Yaro right in front of me. I pushed to catch up and passed him on the road. It looked like he had tucked in behind me as we came down the road hill before entering the woods. I picked up the pace a little and by the time I made it to the bridge crossing over the spill way I could no longer see him behind me. The ice cold water from the aid station drastically helped cool down my body temp on the second lap as the day was heating up. I kept telling myself that there was only a mile and half left. As I was rounding one of the corners in the woods I could see AJ Petrillo in front of me. I made it my goal to catch him. As I passed him I felt another burst of energy and off I went even faster. Once I made it to the parking lot and out of the trails I gave it the rest of the energy I had to make it to the finish line and ensure they wouldn’t catch back up. I finished 1st in my age group and 4th overall amateur.
What I learned: The body is much stronger than the mind leads it to believe.