Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Race Recap - Maui Xterra World Championship by Martin Nichols

A few words from my favorite Martin...

So on October 24th I traveled to Maui to compete in the Xterra World Championships.  Here is race page:   http://www.xterraplanet.com/maui/
This is generally regarded as having one of the toughest bike legs on the Xterra circuit.  I had competed in the Nationals in Ogden in late September, where the altitude hammered me during the bike, so I was looking forward to a sea level race.  This would be my 5th Xterra of the year, and I had been timing my training to peak for this event.  I even got in a decent taper, which is hard for Xterra athletes since we are used to being constantly red lined and anaerobic in our training and shorter events.
The venue was great and we got there a few days early.  Most of the athletes stayed in the same hotel, the Makena Resort, which was where the race started and ended.  The water was incredible!  High 70's and crystal clear, with sea turtles everywhere.  It was so fun swimming that I probably over-swam the days leading up to race day, but I tried to take it easy on running and biking the days before.
On race morning, of course I couldn't sleep, so got up at 5 a.m. and did a 30 minute high-spin bike ride in the dark to get my legs warm.  This actually turned out to be great prep, as when I started the bike ride my legs felt much more warmed up than usual.  Going forward I plan to spin it out for 20-30 minutes every race morning to warm up.
I also had a chance to swim for about 10 minutes before the start of the swim, which really helped loosen me up.  I timed my supplements, Gu's, etc. just right (the details of those race secrets not to be disclosed ....), and felt really good and fresh at the race start.  I even took the inside straight line to the 1st buoy, which with 550 very aggressive swimmers got pretty violent.  Check out the start on this video clip:
At the turn on the 1st buoy I had about 20 seconds with no breathing as about 50 athletes swam on top of me and pulled me down.  Nothing like a bunch of competitive, type A personalities throwing elbows and pushing your head underwater.  So after that I took the turns a bit wider.
The swim felt great, and I got out in the top 5 of my age group.  I wore a speed suit over my tri suit, and if nothing else it gave me a mental edge.  Plus I looked really cool.
The transition to bike was fast, and I had a great start.  I was mostly passing people for the first 4 miles.  I got to Heartbreak Hill, and made it up the first face without having to dismount, which is fairly hard (see video above and how many people walk up it).
So when I got to the 2nd steep pitch of Heartbreak, about 4.5 miles in, I tried to ride up again -- and that is when disaster struck!  While downshifting I put some heavy torque on the chain, and it busted!!  I couldn't believe it, especially when the race was going so well.  I stood on the side staring at my chain for a bit, and then a passerby offered me his chain tool.  I took me awhile, but I got the chain fixed and hopped back on.  Then about 10 yards later it busted again!  By now I was 3 links short on my chain, and my derailleur got knocked out of whack.
A race sweeper came up and said there was no way I could walk my bike out through the rest of the course, as there was another 12 miles of steep uphill, so I had to walk back to start and take a DNF.  That alone took me about 90 minutes.  Meanwhile my support crew (i.e. my wife) thought I had been injured and were frantically checking all the medical tents.  And to make matters worse, an Xterra cameraman followed me out and interviewed me with his HD camera as I walked back down, so I'm sure when the full Xterra TV show comes out I'll be highlighted as one of the "sad" cases they do on the kooks who break down.
I was so ticked!  But the whole scene was super cool, and I am for sure trying to go back in 2011 and take revenge on the course.   And my training buddy (and master mechanic) Rex killed it and got 7th in his age group, so I was super stoked for him.
The Happy Ending Epilogue:
So ever since Maui, I've had a ton of pent up race energy and angst, and I haven't been ready to end the Tri season on that note.  So last Saturday, I had Rex re-assemble my bike which had lain in pieces since Maui, and very last minute entered the "In The Dirt" off road Tri in Temecula -- not really a full Xterra (just a 1/2 mile swim, 15 mile mt bike ride, and 4 mile trail run), but still a good, hard event and pretty competitive.
The race went great, I killed the bike portion (see above about pent up race angst), and took 1st overall.  Nothing like taking out a few young guys as well: 
So now, finally, I can relax and enjoy the off-season (well, except for that Turkey Trot coming up, so I better get in some interval training .....).

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