Well it wasn’t a pretty win, but a hard-fought win. It was the slowest winning time for this course although it felt like the most effort compared to other years. Recent rain had eroded the bike course, exposing more rock for most of the course and more sand in the washes. Strong wind whipped around the course all day, creating a headwind for most of the flat sections around the lake. The run was completely exposed and the heat played a role late in the race.
I like to think of the Lake Las Vegas course as more of a fitness course and a good early season test. The bike is less technical than some of the other courses, but the series of steep climbs make it a good test of aerobic capacity. The sand and rough terrain also favor a strong rider. On the run, the same climbs become longer with a couple climbs steep enough that some people choose to power hike. My first outdoor mountain bike ride of the year was just one week before the race so I knew I had to rely more on my fitness than technical ability. Luckily my power numbers on the CompuTrainer at Dogma Athletica have been looking good all Winter and snowshoe racing keeps me strong on the climbs. My strategy on the bike was to maximize effort on the climbs and be safe on the descents. I don’t like the idea of losing any time on the downs, but I also don’t ride like I have nothing to lose.
Over the course of the Winter, I felt I had made some modest gains in the pool, but I wasn’t sure how it would translate to the open water. I had no delusions of making the lead pack, but I thought I would be able to cut my losses a bit and come out within striking distance. I was wrong. I started the swim way too comfortable, thinking that my steady threshold pace would be enough to keep it close. Exiting the water I was almost 3 minutes down to the lead, nearly out of the race. I won’t say I haven’t been there before, but it wasn’t a scenario that I had rehearsed in my head before the race.
I knew my only chance to get back into the race would be to push each climb on the bike like it was my last. In no-man’s land around mile 5, I dropped my chain over the high side of the big chain ring and flipped it into a knot when I tried to pedal it back on. I had to stop, untwist the chain, and stretch it back on the big ring. It wasn’t a major problem, but at the time I felt the race slipping away. Towards the end of the first lap I rode through Brandon and Craig and was starting to feel a hint of rhythm. The next split I heard was 2:55 off the lead. At about the same time I was having my mechanical trouble, Conrad had crashed and gashed his hand bad enough to require stitches. Being the fierce competitor he is, Conrad soldiered on with a bruised and bloody hand. At the time I didn’t know Conrad had crashed so I thought I was riding well and making back time. I thought a 3 minute lead going into the run would be a tough margin to make up. I had to whittle it down just a little more. The Felt Nine 1 responded amazingly well on the climbs and with a little more time on the bike I will be feeling better technically–good enough though for the fastest bike split of the day.
Off the bike I was about 2:40 down and feeling like I had poured all of my energy into the bike. I figured I could take back close to a minute per mile on Conrad when we are going uphill, but the course was half up, half down, so I would have to nail the climbs. I had heard he was running more in training, so I didn’t know what would be possible. I ended up catching him by mile 3 with just a couple climbs left. I wanted to keep running
hard, but I had made a poor decision to run in shoes that were too small. I normally wear size 13, but the Salomon S-Lab is only made up to size 12. I wanted so badly to run in this amazing shoe and I thought it would be ok, but at race speed I was really jamming my toes in the front of the shoe on the downhills and was forced to pull back quite a bit. I was just starting to feel the effects of the heat late in the run, but I had done just enough fueling with the First Endurance EFS and Liquid Shot to delay the fatigue and dehydration past the finish line. For my nutrition strategy click here: Josiah’s Nutrition Strategy
The outstanding performance of the day had to be Leslie Patterson—running her way into the top 4 among the pro men! Next time I will have to be given splits to her!
Next up is XTERRA Southeast in Pelham, Alabama. It is the only course in the point series I have never won, so I will have my work cut out for me.