|Eureka Springs, Arkansas|
We're several weeks into the 2014 season and I just arrived to the party - a little late - but I'm back nonetheless. It's been an eventful offseason. First, I broke and had to have knee surgery in February, and then everything else broke. It was like my equipment said, "Look we got you all the way through XTERRA Across America, but that's it. NO MORE!" The travel case for my bike started to give up the fight in January. On a weekend ride at home last week, my rear hub broke in half. On the way down to Arkansas, my cooler strap broke and then my backpack strap broke. Finally, just before the pre-ride at XTERRA Eureka Springs, my helmet broke. Aaargh! But as Trey Garman says, "Adapt and conquer!"
Despite being surrounded by broken parts, the trip was awesome and I was "Happy" to be back in the XTERRA world. A teammate of mine, Chris Alcorn, was traveling by RV to the race with his family, so I met up with them in Tulsa on Friday night. Saturday morning, we finished the trip to Eureka Springs and snagged a campsite 50 yards from the race transition area.
|Chris with daredevils Sylvia & Everett (Summer '13)|
Once we arrived, I wanted to go check out the start line to see if I could find the race directors, Kevin and Cne'. Two of Chris' kids, Everett (5) and Sylvia (3), wanted to go with me so we hopped on our bikes. The campsite is higher than the start area, which meant going down a big hill to get there. Both kids assured me that they were good at going down hills and there wouldn't be any problems. (I should know better than to trust a couple of kids whose combined ages don't add up to double digits.) I got to the bottom first and was looking around when I heard screaming and crying coming from behind me. A quick look revealed Everett flying down the hill, feet in the air, out of control. He has just recently graduated from a strider bike to a pedal bike with a coaster brake. Instead of using the pedals to brake, he was trying to use his feet as brakes - without success. As he was flying down the hill, all I could do was watch and hope he could hang on. As luck would have it, Everett was able to control the bike enough to navigate it to the bottom of the hill and into a grassy field, where he finally came to a stop. Problem averted. Not so fast. Round two of screaming and crying was coming at me. This time, it was Sylvia on the strider flying down the hill even faster and more out of control than Everett. There were about four times that she looked like she was done, but amazingly enough she too was able to pull it off and avoid crashing. Both of the kids went from sheer terror to huge smiles of relief when they realized they had conquered the 'mountain' and come out the other side unscathed. They faced their fears. That's a lesson straight from Jon Blais: Face your fears, live your dreams. The view is usually pretty good from the other side.
Race morning was great because we were so close to the start line. I was able to eat breakfast and then meander down to transition to set up my area in a leisurely fashion. We're trying something new this year with video, so I did a little filming (and maybe a little arm-twisting to get video participants). Eureka Springs, AR is a beautiful setting for a race, and this is a great course. In fact, Chris said that this was his favorite race he's ever done. The bike course is challenging with climbs, technical aspects and sharp rocks that often puncture the side walls of your tire. If you remember from last year, I had two flats and one broken brake lever. I was hoping that I would escape the misfortune this year, but nooooo. At mile six of the bike course, I flew off my bike and stepped on the front wheel, breaking two of the spokes. I have Reynolds carbon wheels that have only 24 spokes, so breaking two left me pretty concerned that the wheel would come out of true. It did, and my brake rotor rubbed for the rest of the ride. I decided to go easy on the downhills in order to limp the bike through the rest of the race. It proved to be a successful strategy as I was able to finish the next 8 miles on a severely damaged wheel. It really says a lot about how strong the carbon wheels are that even without two spokes they can really take a pounding.
The race went well for both Chris and myself. Chris placed 1st in his age group and I placed 2nd. Chris is the guy on the team that is super-organized and even keeps spreadsheets of race results to let us know how everybody on the team is doing. However, Chris' organization skills failed him on the registration for this race. Because he couldn't find the receipt showing that he registered for the race, he inadvertently registered twice. In other words, he paid twice to race once. Most of the time that wouldn't be a good thing, but not in this case. At these races, they usually have raffle drawings for some pretty cool stuff. Since Chris registered twice, he had two numbers, giving him double the chance to win something. He won with both numbers! He ended up winning a $50 gift certificate and the grand prize of a GoPro camera! (He came out ahead on that deal!)
Once the race was over, Chris was able to get a taste of the race after the race. His family was continuing east to visit relatives and he was returning with me to Colorado. We had to clean up, pack up the bikes, and make a 4.5 hour drive to get back to Oklahoma City for a 7:45 flight. These crazy plans have always turned out OK - but I'm never really comfortable until it's all done and I'm sitting on the plane.
As I sit on the plane, typing this blog, I can't help but think of last year. This was my first race of 2014 and if it were last year, I would be finishing race #11. (Kinda' makes me tired just thinking about it.) But - even in smaller doses - XTERRA is such a blast and the people are so great that I will always look forward to the adventures that await me in the life of off-road triathlon. And for this I am truly happy.