After XTERRA Italy, Nicole and I enjoyed the next 2 weeks touring cities like Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, and Rome. We ate, drank, and walked our way through every city. We also made sure to get a run done at every city, often times early in the morning when we had the tourist areas to ourselves. Needless to say the trip was nothing short of amazing and it was exhausting. I wasn’t sure if XTERRA Lake Tahoe would be the best race to do only 5 days after we returned but the amazing course makes this one a hard one to skip.
I did have the days after our return off so it was easy to sleep in and do some easy workouts for a couple days. Jet-lag was pretty killer for both of us. On Thursday, my bike finally arrived from Italy, I put it together, and John K. at Castro Valley Cyclery put the final touches on the bike. On Friday, I took off for Tahoe anxiously awaiting the approach from Donner Pass down into Truckee. That’s when I feel like I’ve escaped from the lower lands of California.
I arrived at my friend’s house in Tahoe City and drove over to Incline Village, where the race is, with another friend to register and get a swim done. Registration is always smooth at Big Blue Adventure’s events, so I was able to enjoy some time catching up with other friends who were racing too. The transition area is in a park across the street from the shoreline. My friend and I walked over and joined the small swim clinic for a one lap swim on the slightly choppy lake. As cold as Tahoe can be, it was surprisingly comfortable that day. Besides feeling the effort related to any activity at altitude, I enjoyed the swim and it gave me a chance to find landmarks to spot on race morning.
I was spoiled by XTERRA Italy. It started at 11am! I relaxed that morning, ate a decent breakfast, had time to let it digest, etc. XTERRA Lake Tahoe starts at 8am! Most likely due to road closures involved in the race, so I understand why. Blame it on the jet-lag, the lowered motivation, the bad night of sleep, or the go-to excuse “the altitude”, I was a little slow to get going on race morning. I arrived, with my friend, just over an hour ahead of the race. I had forgotten minor, but time consuming details like putting my race number on my bike, taping Clif Shot energy gels to my frame, and an extra water bottle. Sure it may seem silly, but being slightly out of routine with little time to prepare can make me feel rushed and less relaxed. I did not get a bike warm-up in, and only got a run warm up in back to my car for my visor, which I like to wear during the run. Oye, I was definitely a little off. As I was running back to transition people were passing me as they walked to the shoreline in their wetsuits. Courtney, the race-announcer, and husband of my coach, even said “Get going Butner, you’re not in Italy anymore!” One way or another, I got to the shoreline with about 10 minutes to spare and jumped in for some quick openers.
The water this morning was glassy and still comfortable, great conditions! I jumped in up front, as I like to do, and fell into the pack and madness as I’m used to. So things seemed normal, but in my mind it was not. Mental focus breakdowns happen sometimes when you least expect them. As I swam, my mind wandered to work anxieties, negativity, and back to racing. I caught myself out of focus multiple times during the swim and the swim felt so long! We jumped out for the usual beach run before lap two and I tried to make this lap a little more focused. I wasn’t all there on the second go-around but I made it through.
As my mind focused on the transition and the bike ahead, I grabbed my bike, which caught on my backpack (first time this has ever happened) and pulled it with me off the rack. I had to stop for a moment and unhook it from my pedal. Just a few seconds, but oddly rattling to me as I normally ignore little things like that and move on. As I made my way up Tunnel Creek Rd. I found myself climbing well for that first 30-40 minutes, even clearing a couple of tricky sections that force people to put their foot down. The highlight of this course is racing on the Flume Trail which is a cliff-side single track with epic views of the lake and “terminal” drops over the edge. The key here is to get ahead of slower racers before entry or be stuck behind them and take too much risk passing them on narrow sections. I didn’t make the passes when I needed to and ended up stuck behind slower racers and honestly, I was happy to stay there.
The climb from the Flume Trail up to Marlette Lake is a little tricky and most of us had to dismount this time because of traffic. That section is followed by another major climb all the way up to Marlette Peak. I still couldn’t find the energy to make the climb a strong one, but took advantage of technical sections to pass slower racers who stepped off to clear them.
At some point, I mentally gave in. My cadence slowed, my effort reduced, and I submitted to the demons of the day. I continued the rest of the race at whatever pace I could do. I still had fun during the remainder of the epic bike course and down Tunnel Creek Rd. but the goal of finishing was all I focused on.
The run is a windy two-lap course through the Incline Village area with almost no elevation gain to speak of and I walked and ran as I could, giving support to fellow racers along the way.
In the end, I found out I made it up Tunnel Creek Rd. with my fastest time ever and I was glad I was able to ride this classic XTERRA course again. This was the 14th year of this race. Some of you may remember this used to be the USA Championship course for XTERRA and in my opinion, the better one.
The reasons I fell apart? Most certainly jet-lag and the reduction in training while I was thoroughly enjoying Italy with Nicole. Two days after the race I caught the stomach flu, so most likely I was in the pre-stages of that during the race.
I’m back to normal health now and excited to be racing at the XTERRA USA Championship in Ogden, Utah on September 20.
I am also excited to have earned a spot at the XTERRA World Championship in Maui, however, I will have to turn down my spot this year. Another happy racer in the roll-down will have a chance to go instead!