Xterra Knoxville 2018

This past weekend was an absolute mud fest!  Every single trail on the course was caked and it was everything I could do to keep the bike upright and myself out of a tree.  The bridges were slimy and slippery, the roots were treacherous and the rocks were like sheets of ice and it was still a blast.

Saturday I pre rode part of the course and found it to be slippery, but completely doable.  The turns were a little questionable and a few sections needed to dry out, but all in all it was good.  Not only did I find out that I had only pre rode the driest part of the course, but later that afternoon a short and sudden rain cloud came through dumping even more water on the course.  I was excited.  Not only do I enjoy riding in the hardest trail conditions, I knew that all this rain had brought the water temp down enough to make it wet suit legal!

Getting up early for race day is always easy for me because I am so excited for what’s in store.  Sadly we were late meeting our friends for breakfast but still had plenty of time to get down a large meal and head to transition to claim a good spot.  Seventy-four degree water meant wet suit legal and I was excited.  The water temp was very warm feeling in a wet suit but I didn’t care.  I knew how much it was going to help me in the long run.  Knoxville has one of the most beautiful swim courses that I have done for an Xterra.  The water looks dark blueish green and you jump in and realize it is because it is sooooo deep.  The water is so clear that when someone dives in you can watch them swimming below the surface.  Along with great water Xterra Knoxville starts with what looks to be the smallest canon, but boy does it pack a punch.

The race was off and we were rounding the first rock edge of the quarry.  I tried to get into the main front pack and could feel a vortex affect pulling me along through the water.  Just before we got to the first buoy I felt someone tap on my shoulder a few times.  I started to get angry and annoyed that someone was so close until I looked up and realized it was Jake swimming beside and smiling at me.  It seems that this has turned into a joke between our Charlotte people since I have done this numerous times to Jim too.  Once I rounded the last buoy of the swim I pushed a little bit harder to get out of the water, off to transition and on to my favorite part!

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Photo courtesy of Rick White Photography

The beginning of the bike is a paved trail that leads to a gravel road before the muddy mess of trails began.  I passed multiple people on these sections knowing that it would make the single track easier to navigate.  The hills were insanely slippery and the rocks were deadly.  Multiple times I caught myself by setting down a foot or hand planting on to a tree to keep me upright.  I passed a couple more people in the first section of trails and once I came up to the school the road crossing guard was still in their truck.  I had no clue what position I was in but didn’t think I could have already taken over the lead this early.  After getting through the paved neighborhood sections it was a short piece of trail before dropping down to the first aid station and the “walking trail”.  I passed the aid station quickly and asked how far ahead the leaders are.  The girls responded back “you’re in first, you’re the first person we have seen”.  As much as I want to be in first that put a dampener on my riding.  I am used to the catch up game, as long as I have another person in front of me I have everything to gain and nothing to lose but once I am in the lead I have everything to lose and nothing to gain but time.  This makes me a little more cautions on the bike to try and keep accidents from happening.  I came back into transition covered head to toe in mud. I am surprised that my gears did not lock up on me with how much was caked in my cassette.  After a quick change it was off to the run.

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Photo courtesy of Rick White Photography

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Photo courtesy of Rick White Photography

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The first section of the run where my legs were kicking in was tough but then I was off like a rocket.  I would slide side to side on the trail trying to find any traction I could.  Not only were the trails just as slick but they had little sign of usage so the mud had not been packed in at all.  Countless times I would slide and have to catch myself on something so that I did not go off the trail or bust my ankles.  I had more trouble running in the mud than I did biking through it from the previous sections.  Once I made it through the main running section I knew all that was left was the dreaded steep hill climb.  This climb is the make or breaking point for the race.  The first time that I did Xterra Knoxville I was able to take the overall first place position because of this hill.  I was able to walk/climb/crawl just a little bit faster to the top and race down the other side.  It was just as steep and long as I remember it but once I crested it I let the rest of it go to get down the other side and across the finish line for a 1st place overall win.

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Time to refuel!!!

Products used: GU Roctane Lemon Berry Drink mix, GU Roctane Gels

What I learned: Smart swimming saves more energy than I had expected and can be a great help for later in the race.

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