Whew! I’m sitting @ Taylor Seavey’s temporary home on Maui, HI, reflecting on the race @ Xterra Worlds that took place on October 23, 2011… Took me some time to recover and gather some energy to write this up. Many thanks to Seavey family for letting me stay here as I recover and visit!
The swim was the best swim I have ever had and I had so much fun with it, regardless of all the beatings I received. The start turned out really well since I had a fast entry and got to the front quickly so I could get in a head start for 1 second! Then everyone else swarmed around me, kicking me, grabbing my legs, punching my sides as they passed me. I forced myself to stay calm, which I was able to do so the entire swim. As we approached the first buoy, people in front of me slowed down to get around it which resulted in bottle-necking. People from behind were still swimming full speed into the bottle-neck, over me and pushed me down into the water. I got pushed deeper and deeper as each line of people came over. As I let go of my last breath and saw the bubbles float to the sky, I thought “boy, that was my last breath, it’s time for me to get back out!” so I grabbed someone’s leg and pulled with all my might to get out. I surfaced and first thing I did was swim forward to get out of the hell-hole! Sorry for whoever I pulled on, but I needed to get out! Hope you were able to carry on as well. Anyway, I was able to resume my rhythm rather quickly without panicking, past the 2nd buoy, then onto the beach for the short 50 yard beach sprint to do another lap. The beach sprint worked to my advantage since I passed 4 people and felt great going back into the water. I had to remind myself as I was running the beach, that I am doing another lap and that I need to make sure I keep my breath calm. Once I started swimming, I started to run out of breath, so I just focused on breathing while remaining swimming. This plan worked well as I was able to complete the entire swim without backstroking!!
Once I got out of the water again, I ran as hard as I could, using the transition run time partly as a warm-up for the bike portion. I came into T1 looking for my bike and I couldn’t see it! I had passed my bike and missed it by a few bikes – it was behind me the whole time as I stood there in a bewildered state for a good 15 seconds, scratching my head! I couldn’t look into the crowd to look for my supporters because the crowd was massive and it’s better to count on myself at this point. I couldn’t hear my name anyway, so I was on my own to depend on my so-called reliable eyes… Once I turned my head to look back, I located it, put on my biking shoes quickly, put on my helmet, and then bolted for the bike exit. As I neared the transition area exit, one of the marshals said my helmet wasn’t buckled, so I had to stop momentarily to buckle it before I can “legally” leave the area! Next time, I’ll be sure to buckle my helmet first thing when I put it on since I will be messing around with it anyway!
As I hopped on the bike, first thing that popped in my head was “cyclocross mounting does pay off!!!!” I have now been cyclocross racing for a full year and now am a few points away from being Cat 1 cyclocross racer. Remounting is a big skill to have during cyclocross racing and it turns out to be handy for triathlons!! Anyhow, I put the hammer down and started passing people immediately as I know the first mile is all paved and straight up to heaven. I lost count after passing 30 people before hopping onto the singletrack and started having fun! Except, around mile 2, as I passed another competitor, we both locked handlebars while attempting to pass a couple of ladies around and over a sharp technical feature. We both went down hard and I got up quickly to stay out of the mess and the oncoming wave of people. I looked back at the guy to make sure he was okay, and he appeared to be okay because he stood there, yelling at me. I didn’t waste time and got back on. We both continued to battle each other up and down the hills – I finally found my match! We both matched each other’s speed pretty closely. As we rode a calmer section of the course near the end, he whined that he had some cuts and is bleeding a bit from our crash. I showed him that I also got some cuts and told him that it’s all part of the game. He swallowed it and just kept on riding. I felt bad but at the same time, I’ve been racing for years and you get to the point where you know when you need to stay back and when you need to keep moving. He was just upset that we locked bars and that’s all part of the game. Sorry bro! The bike course was top-notch! I enjoyed every bit of it because it had technical turns, steep long climbs, fast descents, and great views! I didn’t want this ride to end (as you can see in my face in the photo below), but I had to put an end to it as I entered T2.
The T2 transition was fast for me since I was able to put the bike away quickly and put on my running shoes before a couple of other competitors exited. I struggled with my set up as I ran out because I tied my number to my hat and should not do that next time. I had to make sure I had the number on before I left T2. So, next time I will just put a clip on instead of tying it together.
Darian Seavey, Taylor’s Dad, had made me an ice collar the night before and it worked its charm for the first 15 minutes. I couldn’t believe how quick the heat got to it! Once the ice melted, I overheated and had to walk most of the hills, run the flats and the downhills. It was by far the hardest “run” of my life, because every time I tried to push it up the hills, my heart would start to get overloaded. My legs and lungs felt great, the heart just didn’t have the pumping power! At this point, I told myself in my head to keep moving and just finish the race. I don’t care how well I finish, all I cared was to be able to finish it. This strategy worked well for me since I was able to save my energy for the downhills and catch up to a few people on the way down. There was one more brutal climb on a paved path before reaching the bottom, which was unbelievably hot and steep. I walked the whole section and had to stop a few times to let my heart catch its breath. I had the people running the aid station in the vicinity, pour 4 cups of refreshing cold water on me as I passed them. I crawled and pulled my way to the top of this hill and said “This is it! You’re almost to the bottom… keep going, you can do it!” Once I made it to the bottom, the hell beach was painstakingly long to complete. The sand was so soft and hot. At this point, I didn’t want to do anymore. I stopped once more on the beach before hitting the last hill to the finish and got my breath to run for 50 feet! I saw Matt Signoretty’s mom at the bottom of the hill, yelling “come on John!!!!! Finish is right up there! Come on!!!” All I could think was “I KNOW!! Oh my god, this hill looks like 13 miles!” I got one more breath near her again, then tried to jog up the hill. As I started jogging again, I saw Melanie McQuaid buckled over on the ground with a bunch of people pouring cold, ice water on her. I thought to myself, just keep yourself calm and just finish it. I was extremely worried about Mel, but she had all the support she could get so I kept going. I jogged for another MAYBE a good 10 feet before I had to walk the hill again. Once I arrived on the flat part of the hill, I looked back and saw another competitor coming up, so I dug deep and pushed myself to run to the finish. I did it!!!! I finished my first Xterra Worlds!!!!! I placed 9th in my 30-34 Age Group, 70th overall out of 670 competitors in 2:54:31.
Once I passed the finish line, my legs just buckled and I fell into the arms of the HOT flower girl. Before the race, I had made it my goal to get a hug and a kiss from her at the finish, but instead I passed out! I was put in a wheelchair and hauled off to the medical tent. “No, don’t take me away from her! She can take care of me!” I kept screaming on the way there. They ignored me and hooked me up with a bag of IV and put two freezing cold towels on me to help me cool off quickly. After 15 minutes, I was out of the hole and was able to eat solid food and got back on my feet. That was my first time getting an IV after a race! What an experience – I plan to prepare better next time. Even though I didn’t get the race I wanted, I got the experience I wanted… I look forward to next year’s Xterra Worlds!
Enjoy the Xterra Worlds Highlight Video here…
Please check out the results here: http://www.jtltiming.com/results/x-maui11.html
Many congrats to the DEAFlete athletes for their hard work (please click on their names to go to their websites for their stories): Taylor Seavey @ 5th in 20-24 Age Group, 77th overall @ 2:55:56; Mat Signoretty @ 8th in 20-24 Age Group, 135th overall @ 3:07:59; Jessi Stensland @ 2nd in 35-39 Age Group, 155th overall @ 3:10:52.
Many thanks to my sponsors: Julbo Eyewear for the great glasses (I used Dirt on the bike and Ultra on the run), Grand Traverse Landscaping LLC for the support, Honey Stinger for the gels (Strawberry & Ginsting flavors), Feedback Sports & Squirt Lube for great their lubing system, Mountain Pedaler for keeping my bike up to speed, Vail Foundation & Vail Ski Resorts for their support, and all my friends and family for their never-ending support!!!!!