Monday, May 3, 2010

it's hard to remember to live before you die

So, it's been a while, so it's about time for an update!! I have been spending the last few months getting back into racing shape, working, and enjoying the family. A big new development is the filling of our garage with a quartet of bikes. That's right, finally added a MTB to the arsenal. So, now for my first MTB-related post.

My first impression was that it is a pretty ride. And freaking HUGE. I haven't spent much time around mountain bikes since junior high, so it was quite a surprise. Oh, did I mention I haven't ridden a mountain bike since junior high? Why? Because on my last MTB ride I decided it was cool to ride "no-hands" while cruising downhill and home from school. It took exactly no time to hit the pavement when your right grip hits a mailbox on the side of the street. Oops... Spent some time off-road with BMX during high school until I realized how bad I sucked. End of my cycling life, until triathlon 10 years later. However, I did spend a lot of time on ATVs during all of my life, and I hope that has left me with some off-roading skills.

Two days after my bike arrived, I finally got out on the trails. I was planning to head out on easy trails, but couldn't resist turning right instead and heading out to Yetman Trail in Tucson Mountain Park. I know the trail very well from running it once/week, so I figured I'd go for it. MANY thoughts came to mind during the first ride. Among them:
  1. What was I doing for so many years without a mountain bike?
  2. How am I going to force myself to ride my road bike again?
  3. How am I going to force myself to get off this thing?
  4. Oh crap, what time do I need to pick up the girls?!
As I literally laughed out loud on the final descent, I knew that I had a new addiction. It literally took one ride for me to get excited about riding again after a frustrating 2009. So, I have been going for it since in preparation for Xterra West. It has been quite a learning process. I came to realize the extent of hiking in mountain biking. And the extent of blood. I have not hurt myself much (just some bruises, strawberries, and what-not), but come back scraped every time, and leg shaving has become near-impossible. Anyway, ~4 off-road rides per week with a TON of riding, and 29 days after getting my bike, time for Xterra West Championship at Lake Las Vegas!!

The Friday before the race, I took one last ride at Sweetwater Trails in Tucson. It was a GREAT, confidence-building ride, and I felt ready to take on a tough course.

Friday night in Havasu, then on to Lake Las Vegas on Saturday. I got there just in time for "Xterra U", talks and question-answer stuff with Melanie McQuaid and Conrad Stoltz. We're talking world champs here, hanging out, answering questions, emptying their saddlebags to show what they carried on the course, etc.

It was VERY cool. And that was the theme for the weekend. A class event with very cool people. Oh yeah, the course, that was the other theme...

As a newbie, I hadn't seen a MTB "course" before. Not only that, but I had never ridden off-road with anybody before. The main goal of the weekend was to learn stuff. No biggie, just keep an open mind. So, I headed out for a pre-ride. Out of transition, climb, then, climb some more. Then bomb downhill (I ride the brakes), then crawl the gauntlet. Then, when you fall over, get off and hike to the top. Was it really a hike-a-bike? Yes, witness exhibit A, Stoltz and a fellow pro hiking up during pre-ride:

Get on at the top, go as fast as you are comfortable with. Crawl uphill, get off and walk. SCREAM downhill (or just scream, get off and hike down), repeat, etc. Then, about 4 miles of flat single-track around the lake. I called it a ride at that point, and wondered how I would possibly do a second lap and then run a 10k of craziness. Anyway, I tried not to think about it. Off to set up camp and get rested up. Home sweet home...

I laid down on my mattress at 8:15 to browse on my phone for a bit. I woke up a half-hour later. Oops! I guess I'll go to bed now. Up on race morning, and got down to business. It was a totally different atmosphere. Things I've never heard at transition before:
  1. I forgot my chaw!? Does anyone have one?
  2. Overheard on the race directors radio 5 minutes before the Sport/Duathlon start: "Does anyone know where the duathlon starts?" Not saying AT ALL that the event was un-professional. Quite the opposite. Just a totally different feel.
Quick race reports: Swim was actually kind of brutal. A very big wave of people headed through some small openings. Anyway, I survived. T1 was slow as planned. It was a different kind of transition than I have ever had, so I wanted to make sure I had everything. Headed out for what I knew would be a brutal journey. Basically, during the ride I pushed the limits more than I had before. I took more chances in the first three miles than I planned to take all day, and it kept going. It was good stuff, learning to push the limits of my equipment and my mind. It was all about being comfortable with taking risks. Run was crazy also. Lot of ridiculous uphills, cramping, crazy descending, repeat. I need to work on my salt balance for sure! Just like that, it was over. It was a long 3 hours that went by REALLY fast. I learned a ton and am taking the lessons to the trails. Also, building up the training hours on the road. It's suddenly racing season and I'm just about ready!

Xterra #2 in about a month at Deuces Wild Triathlon Festival. Sign up to get your on- or off-road tri on at Or, go nuts and sign up for more than one event to get a discount. Oly, Half, Xterra, and other options! Also, in May I'll be at Tempe International and Sahuarita. It's go-time!

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