The XTERRA West Championship in Las Vegas, NV marked the start of the XTERRA US pro tour. With my season debut at XTERRA Costa Rica derailed by stomach issues, it served as my first real test against the increasingly competitive domestic and international men’s pro-field.
I had heard that the Lake Las Vegas course was not especially technical. But as I found out during my race recon, the course is a dry, rocky, sandy, washed out, and dusty moonscape that poses a unique challenge, especially to those who don’t live in the western US. Fortunately, an adventuresome challenge is exactly what I look for in a race and what makes off-road triathlon so enticing.
Here’s how the race played out…
Time crunched with work, my swimming training so far this year can best be summarized as: minimal but intense. The hard efforts gave me a good boost of confidence going into the swim. For the first time in my nascent pro career, I hung onto the lead pack up to the first buoy. After about 600 yards however, an acceleration left me off the back of the lead pack, in no man’s land. I stayed there for the rest of the swim, about a minute behind the lead pack, and a minute ahead of the chase pack.
I pedaled out of T1 eager to chase down as many guys from the lead pack as possible. The course, unlike any other I’ve done, is wide open. So much so that you can see athletes several minutes ahead of you. With carrots in place, I passed two roadies trying their hand in XTERRA. Towards the end of the main climb, I was reeling in Brad Zoller, who finished as the 2nd American at the US championship last year. My Rotor Q-Rings are a great advantage on all the pedaling sections. Once we hit the downhill and technical loose and sandy sections however, I started to slip backwards. Brad re-opened the gap, and Chris Ganter and Karsten Madsen passed me on the technical sections. Chris and Karsten went on to have career-best performances on the day, underscoring that if you aren’t moving forward in the sport, you’re moving backward.
The bike was a big wake up call. I can’t hemorrhage big chunks of time on technical sections and expect to stand on the podium. With the long and wet east coast winter, I unfortunately only have had a handful of days in the dirt thus far this year. While I had some fantastic skill instruction from Ride Kore last fall, I need to re-up my focus on bike technique now that the weather has finally turned.
After being dropped/passed on the descents and loose sand sections, I pushed hard solo in pursuit, sitting in 9th place as I entered T2.
The run was quite a lonely affair. I left T2 in 9th place, about 2 1/2 minutes down on 7th & 8th place and about 1 1/2 ahead of 10th and 11th. I dug deep and focused on using every section of the trail run to reel in the gap to 7th. I also had the pressure of holding off stellar runners runner Ryan Ignatz and JP Donnovan who were charging hard behind me. In the end, I narrowed the gap to 7th by about a minute, but crossed the finish line in 9th place, running the entire 10k solo.
Post Race Exploration
With the race course held on a construction site that went belly up, my better half and I were eager to explore some actual nature after the race. Our first stop was the Sloan Canyon Natural Conservation Area in Henderson. Cold rainy weather wasn’t what we were expecting in the desert, but didn’t hamper the experience.
Up next was Lake Mead and the Hoover Dam.
With the first big race of the year under my belt, it’s back to the grindstone. While my swim, bike, and run fitness can all stand to improve, I’ll be focusing on bike handling over the next three weeks leading up to the XTERRA Southeast Championship.