When I said that Alabama would not be my last XTERRA CUP race this year it was because I already had my flight booked and hotel setup in Little Rock Arkansas for the South Central CUP race.
I managed to have some more frequent flyer miles, another free Marriott stay and the $69 race entry made it a done deal. I also learned a little something from the last trip too. . . like not bringing my bike on the plane and getting stuck with a $175 charge (each way!). I was stoked to be able to ship my bike to the Arkansas Bike shop this time, not only did it save a grip of cash but Dan and the guys at the shop went above and beyond what you would expect from the best bike shop. Southern hospitality? These guys were awesome and I only wish I had more time to go ride and hang out with them…next year ;-)
Despite me signing up early for the race I have never felt more like I was not “ready” for a race. I have been slammed at work (a good thing) and just not “feeling” like I am fast and gave myself a list of excuses on the plane ride out. Then I started thinking about a quote from Woody Allen that goes something like “80% of success is just about showing up”. Now that I am sitting on the plane ride back home I realize how true that is…of course, it all depends upon what your definition of success is but for me it is all about fun I and found plenty of it in Arkansas. Now I have a quote of my own, “Fun is Fast!” I was met with the most challenging race I have done to date and when I got lost in the fun I realized how fast I could go despite what my mind was busy with or how I “felt” going into the race. I am so glad that I showed up!
We started our swim in the Arkansas river – no wetsuits and I think it was about mid 80's. Trying to describe the water as “warm” would be an understatement. I was on some feet for drafting most of the swim but it was almost more of a benefit to get some of the colder water that was kicked up by following someone. I don’t think I have ever done a triathlon where there was a real potential to “blow up” during the swim. ha!
The two laps on the bike we did are hands down the best bike course I have ridden to date. It had fast tight turns with some steep climbs like Folsom, deep woods like Alabama and almost complete single track the entire time. I already miss it.
I started the bike with Fred Smith, who also raced Alabama and is in my age group. I got in front of him right before the single track. He said he was already overheating from the swim and I knew he would be a top finisher in our age group so I tried to put some distance between us while he recovered.
The 100 degree temps were a constant reminder to keep the fluids going. I could feel the heat radiating from my face and body every time we slowed on a climb. Crazy! When I got into T2, and finished the bike, they announced that I was the second amature overall heading out on the run. Stoked!
The frequency in my run training is a huge help. I feel like I can finally run at a pace that doesn’t just feel like I am "holding on". I figured I was in first for my age group starting the run and I was looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was close. . . nobody. We would pass five aid stations on the run, all well stocked with ice cold water. Being able to dump the water on my overheating head was an enchanting treat that helped me to keep a decent pace and meltdown at bay.
At about mile four, Fred caught back up with me at one of the aid stations. I gave him a high five and told him to “go get it!” I followed him down what felt like a dozen switchbacks as we made our way back. It still amazes me what you can push your body through despite the 100 degree temps, brutal course and fatigue. That is what we signed up for I guess and in some sick way it is why we love it. Meeting the challenge is part of the reward. When we hit the road again I started counting to 20 just to keep my pace. 20 good steps. Repeat. Repeat. I managed to stay about 34 seconds behind Fred and I felt solid at this pace although it was right at my limit. I was counting the seconds between us as we passed each pole. Anything to keep my mind busy!
As we made our way up the last climb, Fred dropped the hammer and dropped me. Thank God there was an aid station at the top of the hill and I took in a few cups and kept an eye on who was heading up the hill as I ran down the shale gravel.
I met up with some guys when I made it back to the course who I had passed on my first lap of the bike and there was less than a quarter of a mile at this point so I just followed them in. Getting lost happens . . . unfortunately, for me it happens often. Bummer!
I packed up and headed back the the hotel/airport and still do not even know how I finished. I never even saw a clock so it could have been 2 hours or 3:30.?. To be honest, it does not matter for me because I had a killer race and I know I pushed the pace harder than ever. . . Harder than I thought I could and I am so glad that I just “showed up”. My success was found in the fun I had . . . even if some would say that fun is a little sick ;-)