HERE ....WE......GO! This entry is a bit rushed (so pardon the grammar/spelling) as I'm in between packing and leaving for Las Vegas. As you know from my previous entry, I'm once again attempting the XTERRA double of last year. Essentially two challenging XTERRA trail races in less than a week. One being atop Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs (thankfully already completed) and the other at a much more manageable elevation yet still at a moisture sucking dessert. So yes, XTERRA: Lake Las Vegas West Championships is up in a few days, but before we look too far ahead, we must recap what just occurred.
Last Sunday my lovely and supportive wife: Molly Mandje and I rose early and made the 100+ mile journey down to Colorado Springs. Being the first race of the season, I had the typical pre-race butterflies fluttering around. I was both excited and anxious about my debut. I didn't doubt my fitness, but of course as I've mentioned before, training and racing are two COMPLETELY different art forms.
Upon arrival at Cheyenne Mountain State Park, Molly and I were greeted by good friends Ben Anderson and his two boys. They'd be racing the 5K, which meant we could all enjoy the day and course together. Our other friend Christy made the 20 minute drive to come and support me as well as keep Molly company during the race. It was a fun and relaxed atmosphere which help put me a bit more at ease.
After a small warm up, I changed into my PUMA FAAS 100 TR racing shoes and made my way towards the start line. I had warmed up over what I assumed would be the 1st mile of the course. Unfortunately, due to weather reason, the first 1-2 miles of the course had been slightly altered, which I didn't know till the gun went off.
With a crack of the gun, we were sent off into (at least for me) quite literally the unknown. Seeing the race course funneling a lot sooner than I expected, I made a hard -perhaps TOO hard- push to the lead. After a few hundred meters, I found myself in the lead but closely followed by a group of guys. I do 99.99% of my training solo (although my Colorado HS mate Liam Meirow would put it at more like 96.86%) so it's always an alarming feeling to have people around you in a race. I maintained my composure and decided to focus on the surprisingly technical terrain in front of me. The first 1-2 miles were full of rocks/boulders, small streams, snow and sloppy mud. All of this while climbing at 5-6% grade and at an elevation just below 7K feet! Needless to say it was a quick and rude awakening return to racing.
My lungs were handling it alright, but my legs and specifically quads were feeling down right miserable. I could immediately feel the weight sessions and hard workouts I had done that week. I kept telling myself to calm down and that this was expected. I knew that eventually the course would have to level out, as I was pretty sure the finish line wasn't located on the moon! The course also had a great deal of switchbacks in the early miles. This was both good and bad. Good, in the sense that someone could be 5 - 10 seconds behind you and you could be out of sight. Bad in the sense that... someone could be 5 - 10 seconds behind you and you wouldn't be aware. Naturally the more I tired the more I feared that I had gone out too fast and might be caught. I kept assuring myself that if I was tired, that others behind me surely would be too.
The further we climbed (over 600ft inside of 2 miles or aprox 5.8% grade) the more labored my breathing got. With it went my ability to correctly hear the noise behind me, so I was somewhat running blind or rather deaf. I was certain that I had a comfortable lead and was about to allow myself a bit of a reprieve from the suffering when all of a sudden around one of the switchbacks I spotted a runner! A RUNNER...in a race -that I was TRYING to win- the nerve of him! The sight of him gave me a much needed shot of adrenaline (and fear) and jolted me into a different gear. Not wanting to be caught, I managed to lift legs, which now felt more like Lincoln Logs a bit quicker and higher as I crested what I hoped to be the last -for now- of the hills.
Finally after 3+ miles, the course decided to flatten out a bit and I was able to start striding out and work on building a comfortable lead. This was also around the point where I recognized the course from last year and I was more or less able to predict what would be ahead. Thankfully, for the rest of the race I was able to keep a commanding lead and didn't come under threat. Nevertheless, I wanted to run quicker than I had last year and pushed on. 41 minutes and 44 seconds later, I crossed the finish line in first place! The time was heaps quicker than last year, but unfortunately I couldn't quite compare the two races as the first 2+ miles had been slightly different and thus making any comparison null and void. Either way, the point of the day had been accomplished. I had received a hard rust buster at elevation and practiced racing, tactics, dealing with the type of uncertainty you can't duplicate in practice and had come out unscathed.
At the finish I was greeted by my wife and our friends. Ben's kids, 8 year old Ezekiel and 14 year old Abreham were quick to congratulate me and tell me about their own 5K. Abreham was a bit upset that he'd gone off course a bit while Ezekiel was shocked at how muddy and rocky the course was. The three of us headed out for a cool down and talked more about our experiences. It has truly been great having the Anderson's in our lives as they're not only a great family, but fantastic role models.
After the awards ceremony, Molly and I said our goodbyes to our friends and hit the road back towards Boulder. While I was feeling a bit sleepy, tired and sore, I knew my day was far from over. This was but a small part of the bigger picture. Once home, I plumped down on the couch, slapped on my RecoFiT Compression Sleeves and worked on hydrating via some PowerBar Recovery drinks for a few hours. Later that afternoon I headed out for another workout, this would be a shorter one and on the much gentler and forgiving road surface. Given how my body felt, the workout went surprisingly well. After that I returned home, and hopped on the bike for a quick spin to Rally for a light weight session and swim.
Finally, 16+ hours after I had started my day, I could finally relax. I was done with the day's race and training and could begin to look at the week ahead. Up next is Las Vegas, which brings us to now. I've had a good week thus far, but have been dealing with soreness and fatigue -which was to be expected. Monday was an easy easy day + a swim/bike. Tuesday was the last hard workout of the week and it went about as well as I would expect it to go given that I had raced just two days prior. Wednesday (yesterday) - Friday will just be easy running and recovery.
I'm looking forward to the race this weekend and will admit I'm once again anxious/eager. My goals for this weekend are (1) WIN and (2) IF the course is exactly the same as last year, then run significantly faster than I did in 2013. So we'll see how that goes, I'm not afraid to put my training and goals out there. The gauntlet has been thrown down and now it's time for my legs to do the TALKING, so HERE... WE... GO!