I am always excited when it’s time for Xterra Whitewater! Not only is the course fun, technical, and long, but it is my home course and training grounds. This helps me with a home course advantage since I know the trails like the back of my hand. Since I live only fifteen minutes from the race course I took my morning quite easy and only packed exactly what I needed for the race. I left my house very early to meet Jake and Haley for our typical race morning breakfast before heading back home, grabbing my stuff, and going to whitewater.
I arrived a little later than usual but still early enough to get a good rack position. After setting up my rack placement I put on my brand new, never before raced in, kit from Blood Sweat Gears bike shop. I am quite loving the bright purple coloring and it helps Kim to see me from far away during races, which she loves. I made the mistake of only bringing one pair of running shoes so I had to setup my trail run shoes at the river rather than a second pair that I normally use.
The swim was surprisingly uneventful. I usually see Jake, Jim, Margo, or others that I know and we exchange smiles or nudges. This time I was unable to pick anyone out so I was completely focused on pushing hard and trying to stay with the group in front of me. One thing that helps me every year about Whitewater is the run between the river and transition. This year I passed at least five people in that distance which brought me to seeing some of the lead pack dipping into the woods.
I came into transition behind Sam Chalk, which I knew was a FAST mountain biker, but was able to leave before him. I knew that Donny and Paul were way up ahead and I not only had to play catch up, but try and keep Sam from catching us too. Since my swim is slowly, but surely, progressing I had a lot less people to pass on the trails which let me keep the pace up a bit more than usual. After getting through the first few miles I caught both Paul and Donny as we went up the carpet (on carpet trail). Paul let me by him at the top of the hill and I had free range to go flying down the downhill! Carpet has one of the most fun downhill sections at whitewater because it has jumps and a sweeping berm down the entire way. When I made it to the bottom where it entered into south main I had caught up to Donny and passed him as we were reaching the top of Tower 93. Once I passed Donny caught on my back tire and stayed with me for a mile or two. I was a little nervous since I was unable to drop him, but knew the technical trails were coming which played into my favor. Near the end of Toilet Bowel I no longer heard anyone behind. When I looked back I could see no one in sight. I finished the rest of that side of the trails and headed into the parking lot aiming for East Main. I blew down the road and took the shard turn up into East Main which gave me a good vision of the road behind me. As I was turning in I could see Donny and Sam blasting down the gravel. I tried to get in and out of sight but Sam quickly caught me on the first steep hill climb on the East Main Extension Extension. I let him pass by as we were coming across the first field crossing and tried to hang on his tire as long as possible. After multiple technical sections and climbs he was slowly pulling away. As I exited East Main (Beast Main, East Pain, lots of names) I could see Sam at the top of the pea gavel trail and knew I wasn’t that far behind. I was unable to catch him before transition but could see him entering it as I was coming around the gravel channel trail.
After a quick transition, I was off to try and catch the leader. The trail takes a couple quick connector trails before making it to the Academy Loop. As we were crossing the overflow parking area I had already caught up to Sam, passed, and was trying to get out of sight into the woods. Once a mile or so into the trail I could no longer see him behind me. I kept pushing because I knew that both Donny, Paul, and Adam were fast trail runners. After making it out of the Academy loop I passed a few more people going to opposite direction as they were starting their run and came across the finish line to get a 1st place overall win!
What I learned: Never give up. I thought that I had lost my chance at an overall win after getting passed on the bike. Determination can carry you further than the mind lets you believe.