Thus far, the 2015 race season has proven to be a lesson in patience and perseverance. After a stellar fall and winter of training, 2015 looked to be shaping up to be spectacular. My first race, a trail half marathon, only seemed to confirm that those months of training paid off. However, three weeks following that race I found myself still recovering from a nasty respiratory infection and scrambling to rearrange my race schedule before the major Xterra Championships (Southeast and East) arrived.

ALL YOU NEED IS A LITTLE PATIENCE

After dropping two of my planned races, I opted to register for the slightly later—and hopefully warmer—Xterra Myrtle Beach Triathalon. About a week out my patience seemed to be paying off, so one of my Richmond buddies, John D., and I headed down to Myrtle Beach the morning before to get in a pre-ride of the MTB course. With more twists and turns than any course I can recall in even distant memory, the course would prove an interesting challenge, and limit my usual “road” strength.

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SLOW START, FAST FINISH

It’s no secret that the swim is my weakest event, but in the weeks leading up to the race, I was feeling a good bit smoother, and dare I say faster (yeah, I should not have dared…). However, I’ve never liked swimming in a wetsuit, which seems to blunt any feel for the water. To make matters worse, the boat John and I were on dropped our group off a good 30 yards behind the line, forcing a good sprint to try to make the line before the horn blew. I can honestly say I felt more like I was flailing around than swimming, but after a slow start, I picked up steam and hit T1 about 2 min back of the leaders.

The swim tends to really blunt my power early on in the bike leg, so it’s better to work on finding a good rhythm and let the legs open up. Nonetheless, I was still making good progress cutting my way through the field on the opening lap. Going into the second lap my aim was to keep my lines smooth and my lap time even with or better than the first. I continued to pick off several more athletes, including a group of three just a mile from the end of the course. Without much of a buffer coming into T2, I needed to have a clean transition, which I was mostly successful at, leaving T2 shoulder to shoulder with two others.

One noticeable differences between Xterra and road tri is that the runs are often more about who is less fatigued, or slow, than it is about speed. Nonetheless, I spend a good bit of time working on my running technique, as well as speed. After a fantastic BRICK the week before, I really felt like my run had come up a level this year. Objective 1 is to find your rhythm and turn over.

I quickly moved myself into the front of the group on the dirt road. One of the guys dropped off pretty quickly while the other settled in behind me until about mile one where he pulled even. Knowing the course was a flat out and back and that I was still running at a comfortable pace, I knew the best thing to do was to keep my effort steady and see what happens; if he was stronger he’d either pull ahead or stay even. However, about a half mile later he fell back a few feet, then several seconds. At that point, I knew we were well back of the leaders, but nearing the turn around I found myself about 30 to 40 seconds back of 3rd and 18 seconds up on 5th. Hitting mile 3, I edged my pace up a bit to see what happened.

As we emerged from the trail back on the road, I was now looking at 20 seconds to 3rd, so I decided to keep my effort where it was, knowing that the dirt road would be considerably faster.

Sure enough, as we hit the final mile, third place was now really struggling, not to mention cramping. As I closed to within five seconds, he gave one more look back and started walking. I overtook him with a pat on the back and pushed on to my best ever finish, and the second fastest run, also a personal best! Unfortunately, the race opted for an abridged awards ceremony, so I had to settle for just the result and some high hopes for Alabama and Richmond in June.

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Special thanks to all my sponsors: Blue Ridge Outdoors MagazineSLS3 Custom ApparelRudy ProjectHoney Stinger, and Skratch Labs