Thursday, October 30, 2008

2008 Xterra World Championships - Race Report

I wrote this race report on the flight back from Maui. Typically I don't like to write too long of race reports, but since I have plenty of time to kill and this was the biggest race of my life I got into some detail.

The night before the race Xterra puts on big "Night of Champions" dinner and it's killer. The only reason I know this is because I went my first year (2006). The last two years I have opted to skip the dinner. I just don't like all the hype, would rather eat exactly what I want, and just relax... relax I did. My sister and I hit a killer pita restaurant recommended to my by the owner of Tokyo Joe's who I had the pleasure of meeting and riding with that morning. The food was incredible and then we headed back to the hotel and I just laid around at watched the world series and was dead asleep by 830.

I slept great and woke up at 530am with no alarm.

Now for the race.

empty transition. time to race.

Standing at the edge of the water waiting for the canon to go off was kind of surreal. I had thought about and visualized that exact moment for a year and it was exactly like the picture in my head. I was very calm and at the same time ready to throwdown.

I felt great swimming the day before the race and had swam a lot the week leading up to the race in hopes of getting my race of to a solid start. I didn't want a repeat of Tahoe. Standing on the start line waiting for canon to go off I made a promise to myself that I would swim hard the whole way.. for once.


The canon went off I jumped in right behind some fast AG men and some pro women. The plan was going to hang on their feet to the first buoy and see where I was. I was able to do this but was getting my ass kicked. It was hands down the roughest swim I have ever been part of. I got kicked (in the junk), dunked, grabbed, and elbowed. I didn't let it get to me and just hung in there taking a beating but swimming well. At the end of the first lap I was still feeling good and ready to go harder the second lap.

After the beach run I dove in for the second lap right on the feet of some pro men and women (obviously not the super fast swimmers, but solid ones). I once again started to get beat up a bit in the pack as it seemed everybody was fighting for a feet. One pro woman in particular, my friend Danelle Kabush, was beating the crap out of me. The only reason I knew it was her was because 'fessed up at the awards dinner later that night.

When we hit the last buoy I was still feeling good and swimming well. I was able to pick it up as we headed back towards the beach and was stoked I was able hang in there and have a great swim (by my standards)

Fast. I wore my Zoot Sprintsuit (it has a pad) so while some people were getting out of the speedsuits I was able to just throw on my helmet, shoes, and grab my hydration pack.

As soon as I jumped on my bike I started to pass people. I knew I had some work to do. I mean it's the worlds champs so a lot of the AG'ers are really good swimmers so there were plenty of people to chase (and pass!). Once off the road the climbing starts and was in a pretty big gear passing a lot of people. I put in a pretty hard effort all the way to the first descent and passed a lot of people.

I just kept pushing it up every climb because as I knew a lot of guys out there are better descenders than me and willing to take more chances. So I yo-yo'd with a couple of guys. I would pass them on the climbs and then they would get back to my wheel by the end of the next decent. I still continued to pass people and then started riding with 3 other guys in pack over a couple miles of rolling terrain. I think I kind of lost focus a bit during this stretch. I wasn't pushing hard enough. I just kind of sat in the pack... and it wasn't slow but I could have been riding harder.

When we got to "Ned's Climb" our pack was caught by another pack of five. So as we started the climb I was now in a group of 8. I fumbled a bit here. A lava rock got kicked up by the guy ahead of me and right into my front wheel and I almost went down and had to quickly unclip as to not crash. So the pack got a bit of a gap on me as I got going again up the climb.

At this point I decided I wasn't going to ride in this pack anymore. As soon as the there was room I made my move and gave it everything I had. I went to the front of the pack and kept pouring it on... and on. When we got to the paved section I locked out my fork and got out of the saddle and kept going and caught and passed two more guys. At the top of climb, right before "the plunge", I looked back for the first time and there was nobody... I mean nowhere even close. This got me stoked and ready to charge the descent.

The descent was really good for me. I just opened it up and let my bike do the work (thanks Gordon). Nobody caught me! The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful. I caught a couple more guys and rode with them until the last descent. one guy got a way from me and I was to get away from the other. As you head into t2 you can see people heading out on the run. I kept looking for amateurs and didn't see any until I got really close to T2 and saw a bunch of fast pros just getting started on the run... I was stoked.

Again pretty fast. The only hang up was that I couldn't find the gel that I had laid out for the run... so I was gel-less.

Heading out on the run I knew there could not be too many amateurs ahead of me and I wasn't sure where I was in my AG. I got a little boost from the race announcer, Whit, announcing that I was one of the top amateurs and pre-race favorites... time to represent! I headed out of transistion and the legs felt good but the guys I came into transition with were trying to hang on... so I went for it as soon as i hit the road. Once you turn off the road it's a straight 2.5 miles of climbing, and the best time to make up significant chucks of time. So I went for it. I just charged the hill and passed quite a few amateurs and a couple of pros. This boosted my confidence and then I just kept rolling. Because I didn't have my gel I was forced to take in some Gatorade Endurance, which in the past has give me some sotmach issues, and this day was no different... luckily it didn't really hit me until after the race.

Right before the beach I caught and passed Craig Evans. He gave me some words of encouragement and I just tried to focus on my cadence and turnover. Then I hit the beach and as always it was brutal. It feels like you are running slow motion, but again I just thought about cadence and turnover. Then it was into the "spooky forrest" with 1.5 miles to go and I was informed I was the 2nd amateur and 3 minuter back from #1. I just kept going and as I got close to the finish a pro was coming up on me and was going to make me work to the line. So over the 1/4 mile i picked it up and ended up holding him off, but couldn't quite catch the number Am... but I took 7 minutes out of him on the run!

I was so stoked to cross the line and even more stoked to have my sister there and knowing that Beth and the Family were watching online.

once I got my card with the results confirming that I had won my AG group I almost broke down. I have never worked so hard or been so focused on a single goal in my life... and the fact that I was able to make it happen was unreal.

Post race:
I quickly took in some fluids talked with Josiah and Conrad for a bit and then packed up all my gear. I headed over to the bike wash and ran into Chris Leigh. I have been a big fan of his since I started triathlon. He kills the 70.3's and when shows up at Xterra races he usually lays down the fastest run split. We talked for quite some time about surfing, living in socal, austrailia, colorado, and just racing in general. He's a super cool guy, really mellow and down to earth.

After washing my bike it was back to the room and time to clean up. After packing my bike Steph (my sister) and I headed down for some well deserved beach time and then hit the poolside bar. After a drink we headed back to the room and got ready for the awards dinner.

The dinner was killer. The food was great and getting to stand on top of the podium and get my "World Champion" jersey is something I will never forget. I was also able to sit down with Conrad, Amber, and the team manager for Specialized (hopefully some big things are in the works..Thanks Conrad!) and enjoy of ice cream and cookies!

Overall the experience was incredible and I still can't believe I was able to accomplish this in 3 years of racing and training.

I will get more into the goals I had for this year, the future and a 2008 season recap in a future post or two. I also have a lot of people to thanks for this. But that will be getting a post of it's own as well.

that's it for now... this is already way too long.


Justin said...

seriously awesome.

all the best luck in the coming years as you set new goals and achieve.

in the mean time, you need to start descending with me. no more losing time on the funnest part!

Luke said...

great RR...made for an entertaining morning read!

rad that the people in the sport are super cool...the is what i miss about xterra the most!

time to put all that aside...12 hours, it's on baby!

Jaakko Hiekkaranta said...

Awesome dude! just awesome!
It really has been great to follow your journey to greatness! And I believe there's just much more success coming! You're an inspiration! THANK YOU!

MJ said...

Great to read your account. Congrats again!

runninggunner said...

Great race report for an unbelievable race. Keep up the great work.

TG said...

Well done buddy! I have watched you progress for 3 years now and I couldn't be more stoked for you! You are a true champion! Enjoy the downtime.

allison said...

I like reading the in-depth race reports! Especially for something of this magnitude.

Jim said...

Again, Congrats to the World Champ.

The streaming video of the swim showed how brutal it was as ALL the swimmers converged on the first bouy on the inside line. Believe me, it was probably even worse behind you. I know, that's little consolation.

Your run must have been phenominal. To make up 7 minutes on a world class athlete, over that terrain, in that short a distance, WOW. Smokin'

You deserve all the accolades you get. Hard work and dedication has paid off in spades.

Sam said...

Congrats man! Great Race.

FatDad said...

It's been a blast coming along on this journey with you. Thanks. Looking forward to meeting TJ in Vegas!

ramon said...

Awsome dude. What a killer season and ending it with your World Championship. Its been inspirational following your journey this year. Thanks for taking us along for the ride and again, Congratulations.

Sean Crichton said...

Reading that RR has got me stoked. Truly inspirational.

So, does this mean you're moving out of 30-34 AG? .........please?

allison said...

BTW, just ask Luke and Justin - we'll get you out to Trabuco and some other fun descents soon! ;)

Mark said...

Awesome race AND report!

Hells enjoy some TJ time!

Maggs said...

Great race report. You made up 7 minutes on that run course...WOW! Great job. Next year Beth and I'll have the beer ready for you (if we don't drink it first).

Flatman said...

Mega congrats, bro...cereally. You ROCK.

Check my blog for something cool ;)

Ryan Denner said...

killer man... congratulations on an absolutely incredible season! Lookin forward to loggin some miles on the MTB w/ you soon...

Definitely motvational!

Gordon said...

I'm cool, you are cooler. I didn't know if you knew that or not.

FatDad said...

I spotted Las Vegas half on the race schedule. You should bandit the 2nd half!

SixTwoThree said...

YES, great post to match a great race. Happy to see the short clip too. My guy is a pretty fast mtb descender. Email me offline if you ever want some advice. I'll hook you up :-)

Mer! said...

Way to go James!!!

What a year you've had and to top it all off with World Champion...pretty freaking cool!!

Awesome job!!

kt said...

Oh my gosh! I am just now catching up but you ROCK. Congratulations. Seriously. I cried. I am such a sucker for happy stories.