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May 28, 2014

Tuesday Night Worlds - Another 2nd Place

Tuesday Night Worlds Crit race - 5/27/14

I was a man with a plan this week. I had it in my mind that I was going to try a break this week. Breaks have never been given any freedom in the C race. Sounds like a challenge to me! This is really just training for me, so why not try. It was a little windier than I would have liked which gives the chase pack a little more of an advantage. This just made me decide to make sure to wait a little longer before making my move. There were some early opportunities, but I managed to stay patient.

There was a "new" official for the race and he didn't wait long before switching to 3 laps to go. Time to make a move. Up the hill on the back side of the loop, I put in my surge to try to catch the riders in front of me off guard. Coming over the top of the hill, I took a quick glance to see what the progress was. I had made a decent gap, but one rider had stayed with me. I wasn't going to put out my full effort just to bring someone along for the rider so he can swipe the victory from me at the line. I motioned for him to take his turn in front, but he refused. No sense in pushing on and wasting more effort if he isn't willing to work with me. I sat up and let the group catch back up. With under two laps to go, there wasn't much time to recover for a final sprint. I tucked in the back of the group and tried to conserve as much as I could. A surge early in the last lap caught me a little out of position. I was still near the back trying to recover. I had to spend a decent amount of effort to make my way up the pack catching a draft here and there to slingshot around the riders ahead of me. One by one, I picked them off until I readed the wheel of the guy in 2nd. I looked ahead to the leader and he was too far ahead for the distance we had left. I did the smart thing of staying on 2nd place's wheel for a moment before making my move. If I'd have just gone ahead, he possibly could have drafted enough to get back by me at the line. It worked out well and I easily went by moments before getting to the line.

Another 2nd place finish. Not too bad considering I'd burned some matches early in the race. I'd led a lap or two, tried my luck at a break, and still managed to have enough left to make the push on the final lap sprint. The guy I beat out for 2nd was the one that decided not to work with me on the break, so it was a little payback to get him on the line. I talked to him a bit after the race and, in looking back, he wished that he would have worked with me to try to stay away. Maybe next time...
Related links:
Big Shark Tuesday Night Worlds
USA Cycling Results - Vann Knight Tuesday Night Criterium Series
Strava Tuesday Night Crit

May 20, 2014

Tuesday Night Worlds - 2nd place!

Tuesday Night Worlds Crit race - 5/20/14

I was seriously sore and still feeling the effects of Sunday's olympic distance triathlon (Gateway Triathlon). I did take one day of rest, so that's something, right? There was about 20 riders in the race which is a slightly smaller field than normal, but the regulars that place high were all there. It felt like the group was doing more surges and slowing down than normal. It's a lot harder on the riders than keeping a steady pace. I found myself staying close to the front and in the top 3 for most of the race. During a couple lulls in action I was even ended up out in front to do some pace making. I didn't want to put in too much effort, but I also didn't want to make it easy for anyone in the back either. I actually felt like it was tough to keep up with front and was worried that I wasn't going to be able to hang on the entire time.

With 3 laps to go I actually found myself in the worst position of the night. I was back in about 7th place or so. I'm guessing the group got a little boost of energy from the excitement. I stayed calm and didn't panic. A lot can happen in those three laps. I just held tight and went with any surges from the guys ahead of me. I waited and waited to make my move. This is not my strong suit. I would love to be the guys to go off the front early and try to hang on for the win, but tonight especially, that wouldn't have worked. I was too tired to do an extended break away and the C race jumps on every move there is, so I've never actually seen a move of one or two riders ever make that stick. The group has always responded and possibly just dropped a couple riders off the back instead. Coming off the downhill and sharp left turn I carried a good amount of speed and quickly was coming up on the riders in front of me. It was earlier than I wanted to go, but I had to go with the flow. So, I put my head down and hammered up the hill. It paid off. Not only did I get my Strava PR for that hill, I also had distanced myself from the main group. I didn't actually look, but the sound behind me was telling enough. With any bit of a gap, I just had to keep the pressure on as I rounded the turn at the top of the hill. I caught the inside gutter a bit and it pushed me a little wide in the turn. That's when I felt a rider just off my right shoulder. It would be hard to impossible to hold him off if he was in my slip stream. Sure enough, with a call of "inside" he used my draft to sling shot around and nip me on the line. I got 2nd! I lost by half a bike length.

It was still a great result and better than expected considering how I felt at the start and concerns in the middle. I also got my PR for the loop in that last lap as well even though I didn't feel like I started to push it until getting to the hill. I'm feeling like a much more confident rider and I think my riding is getting better because of it. It's a wonderful self feeding cycle of improvement. I've felt it in all of my riding whether it is the solo triathlon efforts or in adventure races on my mountain bike. It's a great workout and wonderful training tool. I'm very curious to see what the B race is all about and hope to get into one soon.

Related links:
Big Shark Tuesday Night Worlds
USA Cycling Results - Vann Knight Tuesday Night Criterium Series
Strava Tuesday Night Crit

Gateway Triathlon 2014

Gateway Triathlon - 5/18/2014

Temps in the mid 40s in the morning was concerning to say the least. Water temps were 68 degrees, so with a wetsuit that was going to be fine. However, it's the start of the bike that is the worst. Wet, getting up to 20+mph, and clod temps are not a pleasant combination of factors. I've done it several times before and it's a very unusual feeling as you warm up. I can even free the warm blood get pumped out with every heart beat. I decided against any extra clothes, but I did put some gloves on my bike in case I needed them. Hands and feet are the only things that have a chance to stay cold, and possibly go numb, later in the ride.

With the cold water temps they had us get it to get aclimated before sending us off. The water was cold on my arms with the sleeveless wetsuit that I have. We weren't left treading water too long. We're off! My arms felt a bit sluggish and a little numb. I continue to have issues sighting in the water. I don't practice open water swimming enough. I don't practice swimming straight enough either. OK. I'll be honest, I don't do anything swimming "enough". I had only swam one other time, at the Trizou race two weeks ago, since the end of last season. you can see in my Strava swim data the distance I had to cut over during the first stretch out to get to the inside track. I did it because I wasn't sure if it was the last buoy or not.. it wasn't. It wasn't until about 1/3 on the way back that I felt comfortable at all in the water. It had been a horrible swim. I was WAY back. There was no time to wallow in self pity. There was still a lot of race left. In looking at the results, I was 64th out of the water.

I knew there was a lot of ground to make up, but I have been feeling pretty good about my cycling. I heard them announce that the leader was at the bike 5K marker as I left transition. WOW. That's a huge lead. I made the mistake of trying to have my bike shoes attached to my bike. I'd never done it with these new shoes and it was too hard to get into them. It wasn't the best way to start the bike. Once in my shoes though, IT WAS FULL ON! I didn't even bother with the gloves. I started catching and passing people right away. They were making me work for each pass, but that was great to have reason after reason to keep my face high. With an out and back bike course, I was able to count everyone ahead of me and was in 37th at the turn around. There was still a lot of work to do. Each pass was a motivation boost to the system. However, each pass was seemingly getting harder and harder as I caught better and better athletes. I was just hoping that I wasn't burying myself to the point where I wasn't going to be able to run well. By the time I got to the end of the bike, I was up to 25th place! That was a significant jump op the ranks.

I had a quick transition to the run and headed out. The last time I did this race it was a scorcher. This was perfect running weather though. Its been hard for me to tell what my run pace is lately. I just kept my pace rich, tried to continue to pass each person in front of me one at a time, and hoped that I'd be able to keep it up the whole time. I really haven't done much fast run training and certainly not for 10K. I've got tons of long slow miles as a great base though. I was catching people, but it was a very slow process. With the course being littered with both sprint and Olympic racers out there, it was hard to know who was in my race. I could eventually see the "T" or "S" on the legs of my competitors as I came up to each of them. My watch was giving me 1/4 mile splits and indicated a good 7:00min/mi pace. That was good for me if I could keep it up the whole way. Another out and back run course allowed me to do some counting again. I was in 21st place. No passes were easy. I kept picking them off the whole way to the finish and was able to stay strong the whole way through. I was ecstatic to have kept that pace for the whole run. I ended up in 17th overall and 3rd in my age group. There was a 3 minute gap to the next person in my age group in front of me and behind me, so my division result was solidified before the run even started. To top it off, I was the first name called for the raffle give-aways. I won a Rudy Project gift certificate. I needed a new helmet for adventure races, road, and cyclocross racing so that was perfect timing. Congrats to Chris Beuer (2nd overall), Doug Havlin (4th overall), and Holly Ball (3rd AG).

Important Links:
Gateway Triathlon Website
3 Disciplines Racing Gateway Triathlon Olympic Distance Overall results Gateway Triathlon Olympic Distance Age Group results Strava Swim Data, Strava Bike Data, Strava Run Data

May 13, 2014

Why choose when you can have it all!

I have heard lots of triathletes talk about having to split time training between swimming, biking, and running. It is so true. How much faster or better could they be if they were allowed to focus on just one. I know I have asked myself that same question over and over again. Do I want to fine tune my training to one event in order to maximize my results there? What is my real strength anyways? Even if I could pick a sport, what distances should I choose? To do that, first I need to list all of the racing I do:

  • Triathlon - Sprint distance
  • Triathlon - Olympic Distance
  • Triathlon - Long Course (half/full Ironman)
  • Triathlon - off-road (Xterra)
  • Duathon - road/off-road
  • Adventure Racing
  • Running - trail running
  • Running - 5K/10K
  • Running - Half Marathon/Marathon/Ultra
  • Cycling - Mountain biking
  • Cycling - Cyclocross
  • Cycling - Road/Criterium/Time Trial
  • Stair Climb
  • Obsticle Courses (such as Warrior dash)
  • ... and probably more. I forgot two on this list and had to come back to add them in already

WOW! That's a lot of racing! I easily participate in 24 races per year. An average of 2 per month and it's not uncommon to have 3 or 4 weekends in a row of races. I'm in the middle of a 4 consecutive race weekend stretch right now. That doesn't include the occassional mid-week race. I look at that list and wonder which ones I am best at. The answer is, none of them. I wouldn't say that I'm bad at any of them either. The balance of my triathlon race has always been my biggest strength. That is the same here when you look at my fitness over all of these different events. I don't win or make it into the top 3 overall ranking hardly at all, but you'll find me in the top % of total racers in all of them. If I'm going to choose it's going to have to be by some other measure.

The next factor is actually the more important one in the way I live my life. Which one do I enjoy the most? I have always lived by the mantra to do what makes you happy and do those things as often as you can. The problem is, all of those events make me happy. Each of them has their own individual aspects that I love. It's easy for me to pick any of them and say "I definitely want to do _____". However, I can't even start to think about the other side of that which is "I'm going to give up everything else on the list". No way!

I'm am stuck being a multi-sport multi-sporter and I love it! I hope to be racing and staying fit all year around for as many years as I can make it last! It's not that I don't care about results. I most certainly do. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I'm competitive. I've been known to claim victories in everything despite there being a winner or not. I've won a couples massage and even yoga. Yeah, that's right. Yoga. I did my yoga with a heart rate monitor on with a goal of getting my heart rate as low as I possibly could (not the whole time obviously as I like the challenging poses the most). So, I will continue to chase the top performers in each of my races and never giving up trying to be the best at all of them.

Smithville 8hr 2014 AR

Smithville 8hr AR - Bonkhard Racing 5/10/14

Nathan and I had some pretty high hopes going into this race. Smithville doesn't do check-in to supply teams with maps and clue sheets until race morning with just 2hrs before the gun. That made me really nervous, but it actually turned out to be fine. We had more than enough time. Mostly because they had only given out what was needed for the first 2 legs (trek then bike) with no UTM points to plot. In our planning, there were only a couple areas where we debated route choices. It went fast and we were able to kick back and relax while waiting for the start. The weather was wonderful and bordered on too warm.

We are the first to get to the line and weren't shy about being right up front. We chatted a bit with the Wild Hares team who we were with often as it turns out. We couldn't hear Gary with the countdown, but all of a sudden there were cow bells and the group started forward. We wasted no time to be off and running. We cut across a field and took a direct line to the paved trail everyone was going to be using. When our route merged with the others, we were in the lead! We kept up a fast but comfortable pace. We did get passed, but there was no worry with so much race left. We were the first team to break off from the paved trail for another short cut. It would have been worth it, but there was a little confusion with multiple fence lines to figure out. It made us a little late to CP#1. We were right back with the leaders just after CP#2 though and nailed the rest of the CPs in the first trek. We came into TA#1 in first place just like we like it.

A quick change out of the trekking pants, bike shoes, helmet, and pack up our paddles before heading out. Still in first. Just before reaching the first bike CP, I realized I had left our passport in my zipped pants pocket that was now shoved in my pack. I pulled off my pack as quick as I could when we got there and dug for the pants. Luck was on my side. The zipped pocked just happened to be right on top. Punch, repack pants, throw on my pack, and we're back on the road. Normally I have the passport in the chest pocket of whatever jacket I'm wearing, but it was too hot for that. Those few extra seconds allowed a team (I believe it was Tiny Trail Ninjas) to catch us. It was the first, but it wouldn't be the last. At one point we were back in 5th behind Team Fusion/Kuat, G-Force, Tiny Trail Ninjas, and Wild Hares. G-Force was absolutely flying! There was one tricky turn that took us to CP11 before CP10. This proved to be a big time saver for us and we leaped back over Tiny Trail Ninjas and Wild Hares to finish the bike leg in 3rd to start the paddle.

First, a gear check and loading the bikes into the canoes. No problem. We're off to paddle with our bikes to drop them off at the next CP which is a bit of an out and back run. We get a good look at the teams ahead of us on our way there because of that. We unloaded the bikes and made sure they were put back together and ready to ride. The other 4 person team, Tiny Trail Ninjas, who had pretty much caught us, didn't do that and it allowed them to leave at the same time. We just stayed with them for the most part and made up a little ground on 2nd place, G-Force. Fusion/Kuat was in the lead and nowhere to be found.

We got a new map and UTMs to plot for the next trek. Nathan left me to start on the plotting. I completely blanked on how to do it. I knew the general area of where the CP should be ploted, but I didn't know how to use the tool correctly. Nathan had always done it and I just assumed I could too. Bummer. I had to wait for him and help him plot it all out. Fusion was long gone, Tiny Trail Ninjas and G-Force were both already gone. I started out with the map. As we started on our way, I mention to Nathan, "I think we should swim!". We'd never had to consider that before. Sure enough, it's decided to swim the coves instead of going around since it was so far. The first one I decide to take off shoes and socks. BIG mistake! A few steps into the lake I step on a branch under the water and cut the arch of my foot. No good. I left my socks off, but had my shoes on for the second crossing. It wasn't as hard as I'd had the impression of it to swim with shoes on. A much larger crossing this time and happy to be back on shore. OH NO! A check of the map and Nathan points out that we passed up a CP! We had to go back. That meant doing the bigger swim section two more times. It was a HUGE mistake and it cost us tons of time. This put us right even with the Wild Hares team and unknown status for what place. I'm glad they were there and gave us something to fight for. We finished the trek with a slight lead on them.

Back to our bikes, we were headed back to the original bike drop location where we would get our final map and CPs. We held a steady pace, but the Wild Hares caught us and passed us with ease. They were really flying and easily ended up with the best time split for that section. We did our best to not let their lead get too large. We made it there, got our last map for a small bike-o to the finish. We were told to avoid the single track because of the rain that we had. We had to stick to the paved trail with no bike whacking. The Wild Hares were still hanging around and I'm not sure why. We even started out that last leg slightly before them. With the order of getting the CPs being pretty straight forward, we were stuck together the whole way. Trading the lead, but neither team able to get a gap on the other. We left the last CP with the slimmest of leads. However, their strong biking put them in front of us in no time. With nothing but the finish line left, we dug deep to not let them get away. We were right there. We each used the same route to the finish that we had used to go out at the start. That was great news and our more direct route was just enough to put us ahead and crossing the field in front of them. They jumped down into the field as well and were trying to catch and pass. I crossed the finish line first and then Nathan squeezed in just before them too! It was a CRAZY finish and the closest I'd ever been in or seen for an adventure race. 7.5 hours of racing came down to practically a photo finish getting us 5th place overall and 2nd in the 2 person male division behind G-Force. Congrats to Team Fusion/Kuat for the win and another great race put on by Bonkhard Racing! I'm so happy to live in an area to be able to do so many of their races.

Here's some of the links for more information about the race:
Smithville 8hr race page
Bonkhard Racing page
Smithville 8hr Results page
Smithville 8hr photos and race reports
Garmin race data (only partial. It must have gotten bumped in my pack right before our first swim. Bummer!)

May 6, 2014

Tuesday Night Worlds Crit race - 1ST PLACE

Tuesday Night Worlds Crit race - 5/6/14

My world has been busy with racing lately. This is the 3rd race in 11 days. I'm feeling pretty good and think I've already mostly recovered from Sunday's Trizou triathlon. I got to catch up pre-race with fellow teammate in Mike Flanigan who races in the A race and Dan Hegger who is doing his first ever bike race with me in the C race. It's great that he made it out there. Maybe we can get even more of them to come out next week. The more they race, the more confidence they will have.

A car had driven through the course just prior to our race. I'm not sure how they got around the barrier, but they were chased off and police were called. A police car was there for the start of our race. He followed us around and made sure the route was safe. The pace started off fast right away as per usual. I stayed up near the front as much as possible. The pace eventually settled down and I found myself in the top 3 the rest of the race. I didn't push hard to do it, but I did find myself out in the lead pulling the others for at least a few of the laps. I was making sure not to wear myself out too much, but I also didn't want to let anyone catch back up that had been dropped off the back either.

Before I knew it, the time limit had passed and we were on our last 3 laps. The first one went by with no moves. Then with two laps to go, there was one rider that went for it. I was right on his wheel without even having to close a gap. He was pushing hard to try to get a gap, but I wasn't letting him go anywhere. I'm not sure what was happening behind me, but I bet it was stringing things out pretty good. He seemed to be content to do the work for me, so I let him. I waited until the 2nd half of the hill on the last lap to make my move. It was hard for me wait so long, but I certainly didn't want to go too early. I also knew I could go with someone if they tried to come by, but it didn't happen. Once I started I knew I just had to hammer it out the whole way through the line and try to not let anyone follow close enough to use me and slingshot by at the finish. I made it to the top of the hill still in first. I could see a rider out of the corner of my eye. I pushed even harder. This was for the win. I had clean wheels through the finish line and logged my first ever bike race victory! I was so thrilled! I couldn't wait to share the news with my family and friends. I celebrated with a Culver's peanut butter cup concrete. Victory never tasted so good.
Related links:
Big Shark Tuesday Night Worlds
USA Cycling Results - Vann Knight Tuesday Night Criterium Series
Strava Tuesday Night Crit

May 5, 2014

Trizou 2014

Trizou - 5/4/2014

The first triathlon of my season. I had an early start. I got up at 3:30AM to drive from STL to Columbia. It's what I'd been training so hard for all winter. However, I felt much less prepared than I thought I would. I knew all of my short comings in my training. The biggest of them all had to be the fact that I hadn't logged a single lap in the pool since the end of last season. I had no idea what was going to happen at the start of this race. To make matters worse, I had entered the "elite" division to be up against the best and they all showed up. I am pretty sure there were 19 men and 6 women. However, the standing only show 18 and 5. I'm wondering if there wasn't a DNF for each. Anyways, back to the race. With a pool wave start there was only room for 16 in the first wave (2 in each of the 8 lanes). I had been chosen along with my friend Dave Otto. Both us saw who was left out of heat 1, Victor Halamicek and knew that wasn't right. He had consistantly out performed us at races. We both offered up our spots and Victor and another were gracious to accept. If I had better swim training and confidence coming into the race, I might not have done that. Being the first race of the season, I really had no idea what I was going to be capable of. I was running and biking better than ever. I would be in the second heat with the women and 2 other elite men. Fine by me.

We watched the first heat do their swim and out of the pool. Our turn! Despite what it sounds like, I was pumped and ready to give it my all! I was not going to go away quietly. We got in the pool and without much waiting, we were off. I was quick to get after it. I even took the lead over Dave Otto who I was sharing a lane with. I figured I was probably going out too fast and he'd probably catch and pass me before the end. This was what happened. It didn't feel as bad as it should. With only a 400, it went by pretty quickly. Climbing out of the pool is a bit of an awkward climb. I got to my feet and was off and running. It was a decent run to our bikes and my pace was fast. I didn't feel like it took me too much time to get on my shoes and helmet, grab my bike, and run out of transition.

I jumped on the bike just past the mount line. Click, click. My shoes clipped in. Not normally an event to mention and be excited about. However, I was wearing these shoes for the first time and the cleats as well. I know the rule not to test new equipment on race day. I guess I'm just a risk taker despite having had that backfire on me at least at one race. There's some sharp turns to start the bike and I was playing it fairly safe. I'd seen someone go down on those turns two years ago and there was plenty of other time to make up any ground I lost. I pushed hard once on the main loop. I wasn't saving anything. I wanted to catch Dave Otto who wasn't extremely far ahead of me, especially since he's almost impossible to run down. Two big climbs on the loop that we do twice. The hills felt much better than they did previous years. My improved bike training, including hills, had paid off. I felt fast. I had passed some of the women who had gotten out of the pool ahead of me, but neither of the men. The second loop was filled with traffic from people starting their first loop. It wasn't the easiest to navigate, especially with some of the turns. Most of the way around the second loop, I'm getting passed! What!? Oh... nevermind. It's Kevin Nickel who has won this race the last three years. He was flying. I did what I could to keep up and finish up my bike.

Another pretty decent transition and headed off around the track to start the run. I was wearing new shoes for the first time yet again. I am pretty sure I lost some time going the longer way around. No time to fret over it though. I was running well and feeling pretty good. I had a decent pace going. There weren't mile markers out there to know exactly how far I was into the run. With such a short run of 3 miles, I guess it didn't really matter. It was just push hard the whole way around. The course loops around to go back on the walking bridge over the road. This is good news as the highest point of the course and a downhill the rest of the way to the finish. My new shoes were feeling fine. With no socks, it was probably a bigger risk than normal. There hasn't been anyone in sight ahead of me to run down which would have been nice to keep me motivated and my pace up. I finished will all I had and got some great cheers coming into the finish.

I had stopped my watch at 1:07:??. I had started it 10 seconds early and stopped it just past the line, so I was glad to see the final results putting me at 1:06:53 and my best finish time at this race (by 3 seconds! and my slowest time of 1:07:00 LOL!) This race keeps me pretty consistent. I was very happy with the result no matter what place it amounted to. I ended up 15th in the Elite Men and was only beat by one of the women, Holland Smith. I had also had 2 others within 30 seconds of my time that I wonder if I could have held off if I had stayed in that first heat and known how close it was. I'm excited for my next race. I won't have to wait long, just 2 weeks. I'll try not to use anything new for that race. Also, I've got an 8hr Adventure Race to get through first.

Important Links:
Trizou Website
Trizou Race results

Boonecrusher 12hr Adventure race

Boonecrusher 12 hr Adventure race - 4/26/14

The Toporadicals are back and ready for action. After a 4th place showing at the last race, we were poised to break into the top 3. Our training was going well and everything pointed to a good race. The race headquarters was at Brushy Creek Park. For the first time, Nathan and i decided to camp at the race site. We both love to camp and it's very convenient to be so close to the race start. There were some concerns about not getting as good of sleep and issues planning and plotting at camp.

We got into town and race check-in was already open so we decided to go there first instead of setting up camp. The Bike Shop in Fort Dodge had everything ready to go for us. Kudos to a GREAT race shirt (good design, good color, and great fabric)! We were excited to get right to it. We looked around for a good place to get a good plate of pasta. Fort Dodge was not really helping us out much there and we ended up settling for a Fazzoli's. We spread out and started plotting. The UTM coordinates were really not matching up like we'd like for our double checks. It took a minute to get rolling with it and get into a rhythm. We decided to note the ones we had questions about and head be to check-in to ask about them later. We had a good idea of what the race was going to look like and ended up with just a few questions. Back at check-in we found out we weren't the only one's with questions. There was one CP that had the wrong UTM coordinates, so they marked the spot for us. All other questions were confirmed and explained.
We headed back to camp and setup the tent which only took a few minutes. Planning and plotting went pretty quickly too actually. We did our share of checks and double checks to make sure we picked the "right" route. We even did some calculations to see what the situation was like with the time cut off. Previous years had very few finishing in time with all the CPs, so we needed to be sure we could finish, or have escape routes ready. puzzled, it looked like there was plenty of time. You just never know, so we identified CPs that would be the best to punt on. The idea of not finishing the course is something that is like nails on a chalkboard to us. We got to bed at a reasonable hour.

We both had a good night sleep and woke up early with no problem. We had everything packed and ready to go from the night before. We got dressed and headed out. Despite being very close to HQ, we brought the car in case they were letting us use them as a supply point. We asked when we got there and that was not allowed. No problem. We were ready for either answer. Mainly it meant that we'd have to carry our paddles with us the entire race. Race directors did a good job of making sure everyone had the CP correction for the wrong UTM and made announcements to clarify any questions. One announcement said that we could leave our paddles at HQ with our bike. We instictively started unpacking them and were happy to not have to carry them for the first trek. However, I was quick to realize that we didn't want to have to come back to HQ after trek 1 and wanted to go straight to the boat ramp. Paddles were packed back up. A beautiful sunrise and national anthem got things going. We all gathered up on the parking lot and were counted down. Nate and I were right up front and center. I was off with start. The excitement of it all must have really gotten to me and I was out in front! I turned to make sure Nathan was with me and said to him "We're in 1st place" with a chuckle. He was the voice of reason and realed back my pace to something more reasonable, although still in the lead. Only 5 CPs for trek 1, but we were the only ones in sight that went for CP3 first. Maybe I should have been more concerned about that, but I felt good about our choices. It didn't take long for us to realize these "open field" areas weren't going to be fast going. The ground was soft and grasses were high. We did well on pace and got all the CPs cleanly. Only seconds were lost on a brief discussion of what reentrant to check for CP4. Pre-race, start, and Trek 1

Running up to the boat ramp for the canoe leg was a big boost. It was obvious that were still out front. The voulenteers said that only one team had gone out before us and they had skipped a CP. We were in first! No time to celebrate. There were some big winds coming across the lake and it was going to be a battle. As we paddled into the wind, there was discussion of possibly changing our route, but it was decided to keep it as is. One team was not too far from our heels when we got to the first CP. Paddling is not our strong suit. The wind was really messing with our boat and our novice skills on the water showed. It was a fight the entire way around the lake. There were three sections where were could pull the boat on shore and get CPs by foot, so we did that every chance we got. We did get passed by Wadabi before getting to the far end of the lake. After the last CP we tried to figure out where we stood, but Wadabi wasn't in sight. We had a slight mistake that caused us a little time, so they were likely out in front. We pretty much tipped our boat as we came in. I was just so excited to be done with that. Time for catchup on the bike.

We had a short run to HQ to get our bikes and a transition that was fast enough. I can't tell you how happy I was to be on my bike. That would change quickly... very quickly. After going south to get below the lake it was time to head east. POW! A headwind that was unforgiving. Our pace was reduced to a crawl. With our destination pretty far to the east of us, there was no doubt we were in for a lot of suffering and suffer we did. We did what we could and tried to draft and use the tow to stay together. Now I was having to long for getting to the next trek section. Slowly but surely we inched our way along. The team in the distance in front of us gradually pulled away and out of sight. We were thankfully able to do the same thing to the team that was behind us though. A big gravel downhill to the TA was a nice rest.

There were 8 bikes already there. With adventure racing, it's hard to know what that means. 4 person teams, 2 person teams, possible skipped CPs... There's a lot of race and Toporadicals would never give up. We started right back up that hill we had ridden down for our approach to CP17 to start off this leg. This was a tough one. We were so sure we were in the right spot, but the topo lines and the terrain were not matching up and it took a lot of time to finally get it. It was right were it was suppossed to be, but I still feel like the map was lacking in that area. I was looking forward to the next task. RIVER CROSSING! Fun. We came to the river at just the right spot. The water wasn't too deep and footing was good. The cold water on our legs actually was awesome! I knew we had 3 more river crossings planned and couldn't wait. CP18 gave us some trouble first though. We stayed high and to the left of the reentrant where the CP was going to be. We made it all the way to the end of the reentrant and NOTHING! Nate insisted we were in the right spot, so we went back through. This time I took the creek. Sure enough, it was right there. We must have been too high or away from the edge to see it at that point of our route. Silly mistake. Back across the river at the same point we crossed before so there wasn't going to be any problems there. We ended up on the heels of another team so we pushed to try to get ahead. We ended up getting the next CP at the same time. The last CP was a decision point to go around and do a climb, or a direct route with 2 river crossings. With wet shoes already and enjoying the cold water on our legs the last crossing made it no choice at all for us. The 3rd crossing was about knee deep, but the 4th was almost waist level! I didn't really want to get out. We got the last CP and were back in TA in no time.

Besides knowing we were going to have to make the big climb out of there, most of the rest of the ride should be headed west! That's right... with a TAIL WIND! Yes! The crosswind sections when heading North and South were still not fun to deal with though. At least there wasn't a brick wall of a head wind. There was a short trail section on this leg and a fun pint dangling over the middle of the creek. I had to climb and maneuver my way through a fallen tree to get it. There was a big, steep climb just after that and I was proud to have made it up without having to get off my bike and walk. Closer to the end of this leg there was a valley to go down and come back up after crossing the river. It was going to add a climb both directions. We were starting to really feel the effects of a hard day by the time we got to the last trek.

I didn't really feel tired, and my muscles didn't either. However, my knees were really hurting. I was forced to some sort of awkward shuffle to try to hold any pace. It just wasn't happening. I was being forced to walk. Thankfully, walking did provide relief and didn't cause my continued pain. I could even walk pretty fast without trouble so that's what I did. I would do a run/shuffle from time to time until the pain was too much. Descending down the steeper hills was actually the worst part of it. Who would have thought going down a hill would be my least favorite. The teepee CP was a cool area and actually this whole park was pretty neat. Unfortunately my mind was on my pain and on time. With the winds slowing our bike and giving us trouble on the canoe, we had to consider the cut off time. I was really paranoid about it. I didn't want to give up our good position by coming in late and taking penalties. I kept constant recalculations of when we needed to leave and how fast I had to try to go. There was going to be a head wind for the bike back east to HQ/finish, tired legs for both of us, and not knowing if my knee issues would appear on the bike as well. We did get all the CPs and back to TA with another 30 minutes by my estimated comfort level.

I was only sort of glad to be back on the bike. My knees were fine with peddling, but I knew a headwind was in our future. The voulenteers were pretty sure we were in second place since one of the two teams that had left already didn't have all the CPs. The first part of the ride had me feeling great. I rode up the climb across the river with ease. At the top, Nate let me know he was struggling, so I took the lead and let him hook up to the tow for assistance when needed. It wasn't long before we got rocked by those winds and our pace brought to a stand still. I wore down fast. My fatigue hit me as hard as the headwind. Now I was in trouble. I let Nate know and he took the lead to bring us home. I was struggling to keep up and was ready for this to all be over. Those last couple miles felt like an eternity! It's funny how a mental boost can change how you are feeling physically. I saw the parking lot with our car! It was just what I needed... an end in sight. I made it up to Nate's wheel and was happy as could be to be cranking out the last little bit. On the slope down to HQ the wind gave us one last strong GUST to make sure we knew it had been a formitable opponent. We shook our heads and laughed, both having thought that same thing. FINISHED!

2ND PLACE OVERALL! Our best finish so far! We were thrilled. I think what I was most proud of though was clearing the course. Before starting out in the world of adventure racing, I'd never been satisfied just from the act of crossing the finish line. Having done the entire race within the time limit when so many others weren't able was a thrill though. Success and results are always pushing me to be better and faster. Now there's only one spot left to improve to... FIRST. This was the start of 4 race weekends in a row for me. AR, TRI, AR, TRI.

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