Ride Hard....Roll Fast

My adventures as a triathlete, Mountain Biker and aspiring bike racer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Nothing like Tahoe in September

It's official! I've been invited to XTERRA Nationals in Tahoe!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rocky Gap.....Footnote

What a weekend.

For those faithful few who remember last year's report of my crash (and DNF) at the Rocky Gap XTERRA triathlon, you will appreciate this race report. If not, feel free to read that report first...

As mentioned in my previous post, I was racing here to score point in order to qualify for Nationals. Top 15 score points. 18 women in my AG. Top 10 at the end of the season get an invite to Tahoe (Nats). Currently ranked 2nd in region. NOT finishing here or finishing out of the top 15 would force me to possibly have to race again in August to solidify a slot to Nationals. I did not finish this race last year.

Camping has become my race lodging of choice lately, as it is MUCH cheaper as well as much more fun when done with friends. I headed out to Rocky Gap State Park on Saturday, arriving with enough time to check in, set up camp and get in a ride on the course with friends Stacey and Vergil. The race course is split into four basic sections: ~2 miles of road, technical rock gardens, ~2 miles of technical climbing and a sweet, fast, smooth single track. To save our legs, we rode everything except the climbs, and I felt great. The second time through the river trail, I took it up to race pace and felt the best I'd ever felt between speed and balance around the tight corners. Last year's pre-ride had left me gasping for air on the climbs and feeling severely nervous about the race...finally having some confidence was a bonus.
Dinner back at the campsite was pot-luck and consisted of my Cape Cod salad and the famous Febbraro Baked Ziti (Italians know how to do it up right!). Was pretty tired from the drive, ride, and a busy week, so I was in the tent, asleep around 10.

Race Day:
An already emotional day being the 5-year anniversary of my mom's unexpected death, I did my best to get my game face on early. Best pre-race music? Rob Zombie's "Dragula" and Fort Minor's "Remember the Name". At 8:45, we were lined up in the coral ready for the gun.

Having been to the pool at most 4 times in the last 2 months (and still healing from a chronic shoulder tear), I had intended to go out easy in the swim. I hit the water in the middle of the wave, and felt good, so I pushed hard enough to hold my place. The swim was smooth, with the most contact fighting our way around the buoys. Only got kicked in the face once when some guy in front of me decided to switch to the breast stroke, but goggles stayed in place and it wasn't too bad. Two loops of 600m made the swim, and I believe I actually had the exact same time as last year. Oh well. Shoulder felt good, didn't feel tired...time to hit the trail.

This course is two - seven mile loops and is rocky and technical as all get-out. We do get a bit of a reprieve with some road sections, except that we still climb a fair amount. The road being my strength, I used the first section to pass some women in my AG that I'd lost time on the swim to, and managed to pull ahead of 2 before heading onto the trail. Hit the first rocky section with a lot of confidence, maybe too much, and felt like I was picking great lines and keeping a good pace. Things change quickly in mountain biking. I was behind a few guys that I wanted to pass and thought there was a clean line on the low side of the trail, through two trees, that I could ride to get around them. As I rode the line, my rear wheel slipped in the loose dirt and my bike leaned slightly off-balance. To try to stop myself from going over, I unclipped my right (downhill) foot, and tried tobrace myself. Because I was on a slope, my foot buckled underneath me, and I crumpled to the right, jacking my ankle underneath my frame. With the line of racers behind me, all I could do was stay on the ground and try to pull my bike off the course. My first thought was that I was done...my ankle was in excruciating pain and I wanted to cry. Immediate flashback to last year, and I found myself talking to myself, primarily repeating: "You've GOT to be kidding me. Not again." I hadn't been on my bike for 10 minutes yet! Racer after racer passed me, and concentrating on the pain kept me from looking for, or caring about, the ages on the calves of the women that went by. I stood up on my good foot, braced myself against two trees, and decided to wait out the initial shock of pain. I desperately wanted to finish the race, and in that moment, pleaded with my mom for the strength. After what seemed like 30 minutes, I felt myself coming around and could at least put some weight down on the other leg. With a break in the pack of riders, I decided to try clipping back onto my bike and see what I could do in the saddle. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no pain when I pedaled, and even with speed, I felt good. I was off again, and by the end of the first lap was able to pass back a good number of riders who'd passed me while I lay on the side of the trail. Second loop felt even better and reeled in even more women in my age group on the climbs. Was only off my bike on the nastiest climb (Evitt's Revenge), and during the second lap, finally started to feel soreness in my ankle as I picked my way over the rough terrain. Was NOT looking forward to the run, and at that point was not even sure whether or not I would be able to finish. 5 miles on technical trail is a long way to run, but an even longer way to walk. I finished the bike to see most of my teammates already done with the race (Congrats to Eric for the win, Damian for an amazing 3rd place finish (and 2nd Xterra!), and Frank and Pierre for equally impressive results!), and rolled into T2 in a foul mood. I did not want to be the type of racer who needed the world to know how injured I was, so I just kept to myself as I switched gears from the bike - t0 - run. Poor Frank tried to offer me encouragement to stay positive, and I grumbled something back NOT very positive about my ankle. Sorry Frank!

I wasn't even a half-mile into the run and I felt myself already down to energy fumes. Having an already sensitive stomach makes it very difficult to fuel myself properly for shorter distance triathlons. I have to be very careful to only ingest water in the last 10-15 minutes of the bike, and I can't take any gatorade or gels on the run. The most challenging part about this is finding a way to get calories in, and most of the time, I try to run on whatever I've got left over from the bike. I did a poor job of eating on the bike, and paid for it on the run. My ankle was definitely sore, but my biggest inhibitor at the moment was my energy level. I came up on my friend Keri, who told me when we were about 1.7 miles into the run. Hey, might as well put one foot in front of the other...and finish. The first 3 miles of the run are on the bike course, traveling through the rock gardens and then climbing up Evitt's revenge. After 3 miles, the tank was empty. The 4th mile was a super steep downhill into a ravine; barely runable because of the steep, rocky downhill. This section is, of course, followed up an uphill, which is a hand-over-hand climb out of the ravine. Given the incredibly uneven terrain, my ankle felt the worst here. After the climb out, there was 1/4 mile of flat trail and 1 mile of road to the finish. Adrenaline kept me going to the finish line, but i had nothing left for any final burst towards the tape. Almost immediately after crossing the line, my ankle was searing with pain and I saw my friend and race volunteer, Tyler, who was amazing and made sure I found the medic to look at my ankle. Michael came to see how I was doing, but I was in a pretty bad way by that point.

Hobbled my way back to the Principle Fitness tent to have Dr. Kathy look at the ankle. After a little ART (active release technique) - very painful -, she determined it was either broken or a very bad sprain. (Saw Dr. K again this morning - not a break, but a Grade 2 sprain. Not MTBing for a week, and hopefully things will heal quickly).

No idea what my finish place was, but finishing definitely scored me points and most likely, solidified my ticket to Tahoe. I know that it's not always a good idea to push through pain, especially if could cause more damage, but when properly motivated, I guess a lot can be overcome. Fortunately, this wasn't too serious an injury and I'm proud of myself for putting my head down and getting the job done. Props to Vergil and Stacey, my training partners, who also "did work" out there yesterday. And to Stacey for her sprint-to-the-finish to hold off the next Age Grouper. Nice work!

I'm off to North Carolina for work tomorrow, and resting the ankle this week.