ITU Cross Tri World Championships
ITU Cross Tri World Championships
Sure it’s pretty early for a World Championship but coming off a strong start to the season in Vegas I was excited for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships at Oak Mountain State Park, Alabama May 19th. It was also the 2nd race in the US pro series.
I got to Alabama a week early so I could get ample practice on the course. The riding there is very different from Utah so the more practice I could get the better.
It was an honor to be a part of Team USA again and I wanted to do my best to defend my podium spot from 2011.
I knew the course wouldn’t be my strength but I didn’t want to use it as an excuse to not do well in the race or say I didn’t like the course because it didn’t suit me. Don’t be that guy!
I try to look at the big picture and someday be good at all kinds of courses, not just the ones that suit me.
Renata Bucher also got there early so it was nice to have someone to train with. A highlight for sure was halfway through a tempo run on the run course the clouds broke open and flooded everything. Lightning was right there and I all of a sudden had a reason to run much faster.
A big thanks to local triathlete Jerry Ryan who is generous enough to let me, and a ton of other athletes, stay at his house.
Another pro of the week was getting to take part in the ‘Ride of Silence’ put on by a local bike shop Cahaba Cycles in Homewood, a national event to remember and bring awareness to cyclists killed by cars. Homewood seemed like a pretty cool part of Birmingham. Obviously there wasn’t a lot of talking going on during the ride but after there was a good ol’ Southern barbecue where we got to meet a lot of people in the cycling community.
Back to the race – Because it was an ITU race the mountain bike course was on a 7-mile loop, as oppose to the age-group athletes who raced on the traditional XTERRA course, a 20-mile loop with a lot more climbing and rock gardens.
The bike course was also different from most XTERRA courses because it had a lot less climbing. Around 1000 feet total, most have around 3000. Going out and riding the course at an easy pace it seems non-technical, but once you speed things up it makes it much more challenging to make those turns. There was only a couple of rocky sections and lots of logs to roll over.
So I thought the course was well designed. It was technical enough that more skilled riders had an advantage but not intimidating that those less experienced mountain bikers were not intimidated.
I would be riding my Specialized Fate, a women’s specific 29er. After much testing with tire pressure I went with a low 18psi front and rear, Fast Trak on the front Renegade on the back. The lower you can run the better you can corner on a course like this. I have loved riding this bike the past month and cannot say enough good things about it. Luckily the Specialized mechanics were at the race so I had no pre-race bike drama to worry about.
Our race started at 1:30pm, and luckily for us the course was mostly in the shade with temperatures at a modest 85 degree high.
After a warmup I showed up at the start 15 minutes early, what I thought would be enough time for a swim warm up to hear them calling everyone out of the water. I splashed some water on myself to cool off but no swim warm up. Waiting around for the start in direct sun was the hottest I felt all day, I couldn’t wait to get in the water.
They did the traditional ITU call down, but no pontoon this year. I sprinted from the gun, once I looked up there was a pack of girls in front, just out of reach. I was leading the 2nd pack so I never had a chance to draft the entire swim.
I was swimming side-by-side with Sara Tarkington by the end of the swim, we are often pretty close in races. When I exited the water I was about a minute behind the leader and 30 seconds back from 5th place.
Not bad. Last year I was around 12th and made my way up to 2nd by the end of the bike. I’ve been feeling strong on the bike and assumed I would catch some ‘fast swimmers/slow bikers’
When I headed out on the trail it seemed empty. Where was everyone? Despite one spill I felt I was riding as clean as I could, but so was everyone else. I opted to wear a hydration pack because despite a section of road between each lap it was challenging to drink on the bike course. Each lap I got a cold water bottle and used it to cool off, definitely a luxury. It was great to have people out there cheering and giving splits.
I lost a few spots on the bike, Renata, Shonny, Brandi and Shae were riding fantastically and I tried my best to stick with them. But it wasn’t just the mountain bike girls that were riding well, I was really impressed with how fast the majority of the women were out there. Had a pretty clean ride, one spill when I clipped my handlebars on a tree but otherwise kept it rubber down.
I came into T2 behind Shae and hoped I’d pass her back on the run. Nope, she was running well too. Now I was in 10th, really hoping I could stay in the top 10. Toward the end of the 1st loop of the run (a two loop course) Danelle Kabush caught me. Heart sank a little, but there was still some hope.
Kept plugging away, had to run a little close for comfort to get around some horses on the course but survived without any hoof marks, a first for everything.
So yeah, crossed the line in 11th, my least favorite spot to finish in a race. There were a lot of stellar performances during the race but mine was not one of them.
But despite this I had fun out there. The race was well organized, it wasn’t too painful or hot and I had great support. I can’t complain because it wasn’t a bad race, just a so-so one, and it’s these races that make the good ones great.
I took my mind of my race by getting out on the course to cheer and take photos of the men’s race which I don’t get to do very often as they’re usually in front of me. Below are some of the photos I took.
Enjoy and see you next time!