Thursday, June 24, 2010

Xterra Richmond

Last weekend Kitima and I ventured down to Richmond Virginia so I could do the Xterra Eastern Championships. I qualified by entering my credit card number and personal information online. and accurately hitting the "submit" button.

This race is funner than a clown on fire. It is a triathlon for sure but mix in some adventure racing, (dis)orienteering, obstacle course negotiating, Muddy Buddy and parts of the swim that were more like a run and parts of the run that were more like a swim and you get an idea about what this race is like. The shit-eating grin is included with your entry-fee.

This was my third Xterra race and my dirt-education continued over a course with a 1,000-meter swim, 13-miles-or-so mountain bike ride and a 10k trail run.

Interesting setting for an Xterra as the James River bifurcates the urban jungle. The race course meanders along both banks and over several bridges.

Kitima didn't race but was in full pro-triathlete stalk mode. Below she has hearts floating above her head as she poses with Melanie McQuaid. Yeah, Mel's racing a 29er now.

Kitima got a shot of Conrad "the Caveman" Stoltz below as he entered T2 all alone. How fun must it be to enter T2 without any bikes in it? I've entered T1 without any bikes in it but that's a different story. She saw him reach into a NASCAR cooler with Jeff Gordon's number on it and take off on the run with two bags of ice...brilliant as it was 100 degrees and humid. Well that was the was only 80 degrees to start the race at eight and was a mere 95 degrees during the run. Yes, even Stoltz is riding a 29er now.

Who knew the Caveman was a NASCAR fan?

Below Conrad exits the water. In the background you can see a pedestrian bridge suspended from the Robert E. Lee bridge...yes, you are Dixie. The pedestrian bridge is the start of the bike course and the home stretch of the run. Please to note the boulders, old cement bridge abutments and various foliage that make for an intersting swim; not pictured are pieces of submerged reinforcement bars.

I went off in the last wave. The swim immediately dragged you left as the current was slow and persistent. The water was murky and tasted of manganese, mud and blood. About the time you see the first rock isle you start to encounter lichen-covered boulders just below the surface. At first I tried the stumble-and-jump method of traversing them but then opted for the serpent-like slithering method. Think crawling on your stomach during Army boot camp under those low-hanging barbed-wires. After reaching Belle Isle in the middle of the river you ran for a 100 yards or so and plunged back in for the return trip. More slithering, some swimming and some current negotiations and I was back on the Northern Bank. Angela Schnuerch is pictured in the foreground above in her Full Moon Vista kit. She was suffering from a nasty stomach ailment but still raced and had a blast.

My fat head ruins Kitima's shot of the venue. Take notice, or not, of the shirtless guy digging deep into his tri shorts.

Kitima continued her stalk-mode by chatting up mountain bike and Xterra champ Shonny Vanlandingham. Below they laugh about my chances in the race.

Kitima: "Do you think he'll finish last Shonny?"

Shonny: "Oh? You think he'll finish?"

Both of them: "Bwahahahahaha!"

Below Conrad is infringing on my woman. Kitima doesn't seem to mind.
Kitima: "You know Conrad, Kevin and I aren't married yet."
Conrad: "That's not all tri chamois down there sweetheart."

Rolando and I freshly marked. He's rocking the old-school Train-This top. I'm wearing a Jacquemart Andre Museum shirt--possibly a first in the recorded annals of t-shirt wearing during a triathlon event.

I stand, somewhat effeminately, next to my ride. I beat it like a red-headed stepchild and it asked for more. I didn't have any. Stop by Geneva Bike Shop and they'll sell you one. Tell them I sent you and they'll charge you double and possibly hit you about the face and head.

Here Rolando is concerned. Should we have eaten Mexican and Sushi leading up to the race? Should I have swum prior to this event? I haven't run in months, will this be a problem? Did I leave the iron on? How will recent European fiscal policy reversals effect current U.S. Keynesian fiscal precepts? Damned if I know but that cerveza grande didn't help us.

On the bike course I was having more fun than a tornado in a trailer park. You first crossed the suspended pedestrian walkway and descended a spiral ramp (seen below) onto Belle Isle where you got into some rooty, twisty singletrack. You could here "woo hoos" all around you. After that you crossed another bridge and then got off your bike and shuffled up several flights of stairs and began the meat of the course. It was mainly singletrack with rock geraniums (not quite a rock garden), steep and short climbs, steep ramps, tunnels, narrow and elevated bridges and always plenty of roots. There was a section were you descended sharply and got to ride up some stairs onto a wooden walkway. A mountain bike bystander shouted at me in a thick, southern, drawl, "I see you! Good hustle! Come on now!" The weather claimed many and accidents claimed a few more. One man decided that crashing wasn't enough but instead decided to crash into a briar patch while landing on his backside. Incredible writhing and coprolalia ensued.

Above is a shot of one of the spiral bridge descents.

Melanie emerges from a brush with the troglodytes in a race from a previous year. You got to spelunk in the tunnels twice. Insanely fun as you had to choose either the two outside, angled and wet high lines or take the low middle line and plow through the several inches of water and gravel and hope you made it through. Either way it was a literal shot in the dark. I said "beep beep". It did echo. I took the middle line as the splashing water was cooling.

I latched onto a 50-something year old guy that was ripping the legs off some of us young whippersnappers. His shins were carved from marble. His quads were made of piano wires. I believe he said his name was Thor Merckx. We started chatting as I hung onto his wheel. He would shout out proper lines to take ("stay left kid" or "watch out for that ledge kid") and when I asked him if he was going to take the sharp turn and ride up the steep ramp he said, "Hell yeah! Let's go!" He cleaned it. I ran into what can only be described as a prop from a Three Stooges movie: a piece of lattice wood sticking out from the railing with a nail on the end at knee-level. So of course I focused on this and didn't clean the ramp. Damn you tetanus!

After this I had about ten minutes left of the ride. I wasn't doing too great from a performance standpoint: bad body composition and heat will slow you down. I continued my sodium (Kitima, a.k.a. the salt Nazi had me on a raceday regimen) intake and tried to get some more calories in to start the run.

When I saw the weather prediction my raceday goals became: 1. Don't do a death march on the run. 2. Don't get sunburned cracka!

I got out on the run and had to make up for not taking in enough calories on the run and by mile three felt great and started picking some people off. This is largely unimportant though because you could come in dead last at this race and still be smiling.

"What's next?" I kept asking myself laughing. Below you'll see someone running along the massive rocks of a dried-out portion of the James River. There are a few spray-painted arrows on the rocks but you have to negotiate the cracks/chasms yourself and be an accurate appraiser of your ability to jump after a few hours of swimming and biking.

Above a runner picks her way through the riverbed.

The "Mayan Ruins" above greets you on the run course. Even though I was dying and it felt like someone opened an oven door I couldn't wait to scale it and keep on going. Everyone else seemed to feel the same way. All the competitors I ran into were extremely easygoing and cool offering encouragement whether passing or being passed. Xterra's motto should be "Tri-douche free racing." If you've ever done a road tri, especially an Ironman, you know what I'm talking about.

I wasn't feeling so fresh and springy as this runner was during his trail run race that was held the day before on the same run course as ours.

This gives you a better idea of scale. I don't know how long the crossing was but at the end you have to ascend a rusty, iron ladder that is tethered by one tired bolt that was installed in the late '50's...1850's that is. It creaks to add to your doubts.

Rolando, Kitima and I have already put this race on our calendar for next year. This is, if you couldn't tell, THE funnest race I've ever done.


rwithrow said...

I think next year I could clean up here in the 70 and over category. Nobody my age would ever try this.
Dick Withrow

Paddleboy said...

Loved the write-up, I live in Richmond and have done the race the last two years.