It took me a few days to sit down to type my vacation/race from Xterra Oak Mountain but I feel that its better late than never. As a beginning heads up, this will be very low on pictures compared to others, something slipped my mind and I never even thought to pull out a camera.
This race was completely a guys weekend. Jake decided to ride down in the camper with me since neither of our wives were able to go. We got there around lunch time Thursday and decided that it would be a great idea to go ride in the middle heat of the day. After parking the camper, stretching our legs from the drive, and getting the bikes ready our good friend Dwayne was able to take us to the top of blood rock to drop in so that we didn’t have to pedal all the way up there. I seem to have the same routine every year of riding that second half of the course before the race, from blood rock back to transition. The beginning half is a lot of fun but I never feel that I want to use up my legs that much going up red road before race day. After a quick ride and some sight seeing around the park we headed to setup camp.
Friday went by quick with a short ride, lunch with friends, dinner at Tazikis (for the second time that weekend) and in bed early. I wanted to make sure that I was well rested and ready to go the next day. I tend to have the worst sleep the night before Oak Mountain, blame it on nerves, heat, etc. This year was different however, I got almost eight hours and I was stoked when I woke up race morning. After breakfast and packing the final items into the truck Jake and I headed over to transition. We got there early enough to get a good spot but not early enough to beat Marcus Barton to the waiting line for entering transition. At every race I have been to this year I have seen more and more people showing up early before transition opens, it has been quite surprising really. I setup my transition just the way I like it, made sure all my GU nutrition was stocked and ready on the bike, headed back to the truck to put on my Orca wetsuit, and it was off to the water to warm up I go.
No that is not me standing there.
The swim this year was one of my best swims yet. I dropped four minutes off of my swim time from last year, granted it was wetsuit legal this year and not last, but it was still super exciting! When I got on the bike, as always I know that I am far behind the leaders. I had all my air pressures dialed in so every turn, bump, drop, rock, etc. all felt great. I used the road section to really get my legs spinning and ready for the climbing that was coming on the bike. In the first half mile (not even left pavement for dirt yet) I reached down to get a sip of water and as I put my bottom back I snapped the top part of my bottle cage. I thought right then and there that this was going to be a brutal race because there was no way I would be able to carry water with no cage. I, very gently, put the bottom as tightly into the cage as I could and kept and eye on it as I rode, make sure to keep pushing it back in with my hand, thigh, knee, whatever it took to keep it from falling out. I decided to take in a larger amount of it very quickly to take the weight off the top of the bottle, thinking this would keep the heaviest part in the bottom where the cage was still strong. Another mile in I realized that this was going to work and I should be able to make it the rest of the course as is. I felt like I was really making up time and when I first saw Yaro and Michael Dorr I knew that I had made up lots of valuable time. After passing Michael he jump right on my tail. I knew that he was a fast racer and that I am going to have my work cut out for me if I even wanted to try and drop him. Michael and I rode in a train all the way to the bottom of red road, passing many other racers along the way. Once we hit red road he took off, seems like those Colorado legs really kicked in and left me in the dust. Rather than trying to kill myself to keep up I wanted to do my own race and went up it at a pace that I knew wouldn’t kill me later on in the race. As I crossed the red road along the ridge top I passed Marcus Barton, I have never caught him on the bike on this course so I was super exciting and knew I was doing well in the standings. After passing him, just like Michael, Marcus jumped on my tail. We rode together all the way till dropping in blood rock, which is where I pulled away. By the time I was turning on to Centipede I no longer saw Marcus behind me and I started pushing even harder knowing that there is a long downhill to recover on coming up. Near the bottom of Jekyll and Hyde, before hitting the pavement I came up behind what seemed like the lead pack of amateurs. I was able to pass a couple on the road before dropping into Foreplay and by the time I reached the end of rattlesnake had caught up to Charlie (who smoked me and Xterra Myrtle Beach earlier in the year). I tried to give him some good confidence since he was slowing down, when he is a super fast rider, and once we hit transition together we could see Dwayne right up the road so Charlie took off after him.
Running around the lake twice seems so tedious on the first lap and extremely long by the time you reach the second lap. I got passed by Josiah on the first lap like I was standing still, while he was already on his second and gunning for the finish. I started to feel the heat really hit me on the second lap, which doesn’t usually happen, but I made an effort to get two cups at every water stop to try and keep hydrated and core temp down. Battling the Alabama heat this is almost impossible but I only had another three miles to go. Finishing the dirt section on the second lap another racer came blazing past me and it wasn’t until he was further past that I realized he was on his second lap too (he ended up beating me by six seconds). As I started down the road to the last beside lake dirt section I could see Dwayne (who I had passed not too long ago) gaining on me.
I put down a huge effort to barely hold him off to finish the race 1st in my age group, 16th overall, and 5th place amateur, and didn’t even drop my bottle once with the snapped cage!
Now this is how you celebrate after a race!
Shutting down the Sonic.
What I learned: No matter how much you plan, something can always go wrong so be ready to improvise.