In 2013 I did not compete in my favorite XTERRA race since it was the weekend after Raleigh 70.3. As such I was very much looking forward to Richmond in 2014. But things don’t always turn out as planned.
Back in February, on my annual ski trip out West, I injured the MCL on my right knee. Thankfully I did not tear it but I was only able to ski 2 out of 6 days. It wasn’t long after injuring my knee however that I was cleared to run. Although I was mentally ready for it apparently my body had other ideas.
The injured right knee, unbeknownst to me, caused me to favor it while running. That led to pain in my left knee. The pain in my left knee led to a slight tear in my right calf. After several weeks of treatment at the PT for my calf (and no running) I was once again cleared to run. By now however it was already April. Low and behold on my 2nd run back I got my 1st ever bout of Plantar Fasciitis, but only in my right foot.
I was rendered unable to run for several more weeks. Heck, it hurt to even walk. I dug out my trusty old custom orthotics from years gone by hoping they would help. I went for a 2 mile run a few days before the race and though my heel was sore after, it was bearable. I decided at that time I would still forge ahead and race with the possibility that might not finish the run. I also decided since my time would be very slow that I was going to have as much fun as possible. For me that means I would ride my Specialized Fatboy!
Swim: The current in the James River was ripping like I had never experienced before. There was one buoy in particular (late in the swim) that I couldn’t make. In fact, I did not see anyone ahead of me clear that particular buoy. I was literally 3 feet from it swimming as hard as I could but I was not getting any closer. The kayaker told us to skip it and swim to the next buoy. I finished what was a very difficult swim near the front of the pack and made my way to T1.
Bike: I hopped on my Fatboy and off I went. Richmond is one of the more technical bike courses on the XTERRA circuit, but with the Fatboy I handled the rocks and roots with ease. That is where I was at an advantage. Going up hill with a 32+ lb bike however was not so easy. I also was woefully out of shape and 15 lbs heavier than my race weight which made it that much more difficult for me. The 1st (of 2) laps was crowded. A ton of people passed me but I didn’t care since I was just having fun. The crazy spectators on the course were out in full force as usual. They took a real liking to my fat bike. About 3/4 of the way through lap 2 Mark Wicker and Dan Girouard, my two buddies, passed me. I had been expecting them for awhile so this was no surprise. Given my lack of fitness it was also no surprise that my quads started to cramp at the end of the bike.
Run: I took my sweet time in T2 as I pondered whether to attempt to run. I decided I’d rather limp through the run than DNF so I switched shoes and off I went. I ran at an easy pace and though I was cramping it was tolerable. It was really only a problem going up hill or up the stairs. The cramping was at its worst at the top of the famed Mayan Ruins stairs but it wasn’t long before they subsided enough to continue. The trail run portion along the river was very muddy and I had to be careful not to slip.The boulder hopping “dry” river crossing wasn’t exactly dry this year. We got pretty wet wading through water in a few sections. I ended up finishing the run having only walked the stair cases and for a minute after cresting the Mayan steps. Bonus – my heel/arch was not hurting!
We also really got lucky with the weather. It was not humid and topped out in the low 80s. Every time I have done this race in the past it was wicked humid and over 90 during the run. The day after the race in Richmond it was 97 and humid. I am very happy she waited an extra day to bring the heat.
Although my finish time was by far my slowest ever I am glad I decided to race. I had a load of fun on the Fatboy and it was pretty cool with everyone cheering me on since some of the spectators and other competitors had never seen a fat bike. XTERRA Pro Conrad Stoltz even had a chat with me before the race about my bike. He said he was “jealous” of my bike. Though he is a Specialized sponsored athlete he is still waiting for his Fatboy. Apparently the Fatboy is not yet available in his home country of South Africa. Conrad ended up finishing in 2nd, close behind his much younger countryman, Dan Hugo. Not bad for a 40 year old! I must also say, for being the most decorated XTERRA athlete of all time, Conrad is also one of the nicest pro triathletes of all time!
As I write this race report I am encouraged that my heel was not sore after the race. Granted I ran slowly but 10k is about twice as far as I had run at any one time in 2014. So at least there’s that.
I’m hoping I can continue to run and get in shape with the goal of having a good half iron distance performance late this summer or in the fall.