Lake Las Vegas

I arrived Friday, after splitting the drive with a stay in Barstow on the way. I checked into the house I rented on a nearby golf course, then went out to ride the course.

I was shocked at how difficult it was. There were several aspects to the course that were beyond my technical ability. First, there was terrible traction everywhere, up, down, and in most turns. The steepest hills were preceded by sharp turns, bleeding all momentum. The steepest descents were primarily loose rocks and dirt, making them more suitable to skiing then cycling. And a riverbed of soft sand were I couldn’t get the bike to go in a straight line and kept putting my foot down.

I’m a fairly good climber, the steeper the hill the better usually, but not on this course. The main problem is, I’m not a great mountain biker. If I were better, I could stay calm while my rear wheel slides around a bit, but I ‘mildly’ panic and push too hard on the pedals, which makes the situation worse, and out pops the foot, which leads to me running up the hill.

The descents, well the tricky ones, I didn’t even try to ride on Friday. I was just hoping to get down without getting hurt.

The riverbed of soft sand (sounds like one of those nightmare {fake} reality shows, where you’re subjected to your {bike riding} fears) was ridiculous. I rode about four pedal strokes and walked the rest of the way, while wondering how anyone could ride in it.

The conclusion after the pre-ride Friday – I’m probably not going to race. I have no interest in getting injured, and I don’t really see myself getting around this course without flipping. I’d have to do another pre-ride to see it again though, before making a final decision.

Saturday’s pre-ride was a lot better. There were people on the course I could follow through some of the tougher (for me) sections to see how it’s done. That made a huge difference. I still had trouble making the sharp turns in soft dirt before steepest of hills, but I could live with that. I also figured I’d only need to walk a short section of one of the downhills, much better than I previously thought. So it was good enough to sign up!

You gotta love Xterra, signing up the day before!

Race morning came and it was quite hot, more so than was forecast, and most people were warming up without any extra warm clothes, just their race suits by 7A.

I usually like the heat, or extreme heat, or anything unusual that makes the event more memorable.

The swim was rectangular and two loops. Water temp was reported as 58°F, but I doubt that, felt more like mid to upper 60’s.

I took the swim out really hard. For no real reason other than I felt like it in the moment. It was fun though, even though 2/3 of the way through the first loop I started to think – “what are you thinking, not much of a chance you can keep this up – but that thought made me smile. Sometimes its fun just to do and see what happens. I felt like I was playing and it felt good. I was swimming through a good portion of the group that started a few minutes ahead of ours, which was actually fun too.

I really like two loop swim courses. I like the run in the middle. I passed at least 3 people while running 10 yards along the beach.

In the transition, I sat down to put on my bike shoes and my abdomen cramped up, then each arch as I forced my feet into my shoes, and my left calf as I stood up. Inauspicious start I thought.

I rode fairly easily for the first bit, so I could get a bunch of fluid in me. The first minor descent before the first long gradual climb on dirt, I was passed by a 15 year old girl, possessing skills I just don’t have. I rode with her for a few minutes until some technical section appeared and off she went!

The first lap I got off where I thought I might need to get off, other than on the descent. Just before it, 3 guys passed  me and shot down the hill, the first of which was tumbling head over heels. I asked if he was OK as I passed. He said yup, hoped back on his bike and passed me again! But, I made it down. I’m not sure if it was because I followed them, or they distracted so I forgot to be afraid, or what. But I rode down the hill.

Similar thing happened with the riverbed. Just before it a guy passed me on the downhill and wiped out. I asked if he was OK, he said yes, hopped back on his bike and lead me through that riverbed. Thanks man! It actually wasn’t that big a deal, just keep pedaling.

After crossing something that looked like a lava flow, I noticed my back end floated around. It took me several minutes to figure out I had a flat. The thing that really made me look was a gradual uphill section into a strong headwind. There were three guys just riding away. I was about 20-30 yards back and I made the effort to bridge to get into the draft. That’s when I really felt the softening of the rear tire.

I decide to pump it up at the end of the first lap. I could get some water too there as the temp was rising, along with the wind.

I pumped up my tire, grabbed some water and a friend (Tom) went by just as I was putting my pump away. I rode with him for the next half lap, before I had to stop and pump my tire again. I was fortunate to only have to pump it twice. And stupid enough not to check my Stan’s before the race!

Second lap was better than the first. I was able to ride more of it, but I was getting a little hot. To start the run, I stopped at the aid station in the transition area and drank three cups of water. Then I ran off with my stomach full.

A couple of minutes into the run, just as I’m starting to open it up a bit and lift my heels, my hamstrings started to cramp. Hmmm, I thought. Hopefully that will work itself out. Then I crossed a little bridge and my quads cramped a bit. Hmm, I hope that sorts itself out. I ran on without much heel lift and trying to find a happy medium between pushing off too much and pulling through too much. Every so often I’d test to see if I could lift my heels a bit more, the answer was no. At about 2.5 miles I rolled my ankle, but thanks to the great work with Blair, it only hurt for a few steps and was fine afterwards.

The run presented some interesting challenges. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to finish at several points in the run, but it seemed to work out well enough. I also wonder how much time I spent pumping up my tire. It could be right around 5 minutes, which is sorta a shame, would’ve made the race far more interesting for the Dennis who beat me by 5 minutes.

There were only 47 people who were faster than me that day. Sounds like a lot, but I’m old and tired and worn out, and passed my prime – by like twenty years – and lazy, and unmotivated, and not well trained, and happy with the effort and had fun, even pumping the tire. After all, my goals were simple – first, don’t fall down and hurt myself – second, get some points so I can race in Utah – third, qualify for October – fourth, get beaten by enough to motivate me to train properly for the races in the fall. Checks to all!

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