July 26th, 2012 :: By Mike Murphy
Always have a plan B… and maybe a plan C
Xterra Whistler took place last weekend, on Sunday (July 22). New venue, new organizer, same suffering. This year, Keith Nicoll (Coach Keith, Run The North Shore series) had taken over the whistler race, and moved it over to Lost Lake. The trails at Lost Lake are amazing, and the lake is a perfect fit for a triathlon. One of the best things about an Xterra race, is the laid back atmosphere. Not a lot of stress race morning, and everybody looking forward to getting out on the course and challenging themselves.
I drove up early Sunday morning, and gave myself enough time to spin my legs out on the bike after my 2 hour commute. I felt amazing. I had great legs the day before too, and i was ready to dig really deep on race day. Keith, Mark, Jonny, and a whole lot of volunteers had things rolling smoothly race morning. A quick swim warm-up, and we were off. Right from the start, a couple of quick swimmers lead things out. I did my best to get one of their sets of feet. Unfortunately, that lasted for only about 300m, then i was on my own. I didn’t mind though, i felt strong and i was sighting really well (seemed to be better than the guys in front anyway). It felt good to put a really solid effort into the swim, and it paid off, as i came out in under 20 minutes. After a reasonably quick transition i was on the pedals and feeling strong. My game plan was to keep the first bike lap quite controlled, and lay it out there on the second lap. I cranked through the first uphill section, and bombed down the back side of the hill. That’s where i smoked a sharp rock and flatted. Damn sharp whistler rocks. I tried to top up the
tubeless/Stan’s tire with my CO2, but the sidewall cut was too big and it all leaked out.
Plan A scrapped.
I hiked my bike the couple km back to transition and didn’t quite know what to do with myself. That’s when Mark offered to let me race the sprint duathlon which was starting in 20 minutes. Plan B here i come. I ran back to my car (no parking at Lost Lake) and grabbed a tube, ran back to transition and put the tube in my rear wheel. Fingers crossed that it would get me through a bike loop. I had about 30 seconds to spare before the start, and i was ready to give’r.
I went out pretty strong right off the gun and took the lead. I was feeling good and I was flowing through the first half of the run course. While hammering along with my head down, somehow i ended up on the bike course. I wasn’t sure if the bike and run loops were supposed to overlap, and i was too busy pinning it to turn around to check. In hind sight, obviously they don’t overlap, but in the moment it made sense to me. After about another 10 minutes of running, and passing a lot of riders, i finally admitted to myself that i was off-course.
Plan B was starting to slip through my fingers.
At the first intersection that looked remotely familiar, i changed course and headed in what i hoped was the direction of the lake. A couple more wrong turns and u-turns, a few extra km’s in my legs, and i was back in transition. It would have been easy to give up at that point and say it just wasn’t my day. But…the little hamster running the wheel in my head didn’t let that thought through the door. I hopped on my bike and went at it.
The rain was falling by now, so the trails were a bit more slick, but i was strong and on my game. The only down side to being on course at this point was the traffic. It sucks having some fast(er) guy breathing down your neck when you’re just trying to grind your way through a trail. I was the faster guy in this case, so i made an effort to give lots of warning and to slow down and let people move over before i passed. Probably not the fastest technique, but i don’t think i scared anyone or caused any crashes.
I managed to stay on course the whole loop, and i was ready to run hard when i hit transition again. This time though, i was planning on sticking to the race route rather than sight-seeing. Only one small mistake on the run; at the same place i screwed up the first time. I caught my mistake and turned around. Pretty solid effort all the way back to the finish (which was way closer this time around), and Xterra was a wrap. I was really happy with both my physical and mental strength. I had great legs and would have loved to be mixing it up with the front runners of the triathlon. But, i kept my head in the game when things went off track, and still managed to challenge myself and enjoy the day. The rain was falling pretty hard after the race, so i was quick to pack up and head home. I felt a bit guilty for skipping the awards, and i apologized to Keith for not sticking around. My kids had been at their grand parents the last couple days, so i really wanted to get home as soon as possible to see them. An extra 6 hours in Whistler would have really cramped our bouncy-house fun in the afternoon.
I really hope that Keith keeps the Whistler Xterra event alive. It is a great venue, and I hope he doesn’t feel it was just logistically too much trouble. Besides, i really need a do-over next year.