Battling the extreme heat this summer has bestowed upon the South has been quite a challenge when it comes to racing. After riding for over 6 hours in the Off Road Assault on Mount Mitchell last weekend, I was feeling the toll of this summer.
XTERRA Panther Creek is a relatively local race being just over the Smokey Mountains. It is a fun course that is not extremely difficult but keeps you honest by making you work the whole time without much rest. The race starts with a 2 lap swim in the nice and warm Cherokee Lake. This year it was a part obstacle swim as a fallen tree intersected the back leg of each lap. First lap I thought there was enough water to swim over the tree and picked up a wooden passenger in my suit.
Usually this race does not have the highest attendance. This year there were around 10 competitors looking to get on the podium. They decided to start us in 2 waves. Marcus, my son Danny and I were in the first wave. We started off pretty quick and it was one of the more violent swims. I am not sure if this was because people were trying to swim beyond their abilities or just plain congestion. Once past the first turn it started to open up. I felt pretty tired in the upper body from the race last weekend, but I tried to keep a pace that kept me in contention and did not cause any issues. I ended up exiting the water in the top ten. I saw Marcus in transition as I came up the ramp. I quickly removed my Synergy Syn-Skim speed suit and got mike bike.
The first mile or so I used to get my legs warmed up. It is a strange feeling to do a sprint race the week after riding 70+ miles off road with over 11,000 feet of climbing. At around mile 1 there is a cool rock climb that I ended up throwing my chain on. It was slick and I had to roll back down and walk it up. After I put the chain back on the bike I took off and got the blood flowing in my legs. I was surprised to see that no one had passed me during that mishap. I saw 2 riders ahead and quickly passed them. Riding alone through the next 2-3 miles I picked off 2 more riders and then saw Marcus ahead on a climb. I kept my pace consistent and caught up to him around mile 4.5 of the first lap. Funny thing is that this is the same place we passed last year. I rode along picking off one more before starting the second lap. On the second lap I picked it up a bit more but was still riding slower than normal. I thought I was in 4th or 5th on the bike but was surprised when I hit transition in 2nd place.
It was time to throw on my INOV-8 X-Talon 190s and take off on the run. I couldn’t have been 10 yards into the run when Bence Roemmer caught up to me. Again this race was like Déjà vu. This is the same place we passed each other last year. I ran with Bence for the first mile or so but he pulled away from me. My legs felt heavy and slow especially when running. I figured if I kept a constant pace on the flats and hills it would make the run more efficient. As I was approaching the biggest hill of the climb I looked back and could see Marcus across the field behind me. I figured he would try and sprint up to me. Since we race in different divisions I was not concerned and would have like some conversation over the last 2 miles or so. I kept my pace constant but ended up running out the race on my own. Even though I felt slow I ended up running a 6:53/mile pace. Slower than normal but still good enough for 4th fastest run of the day.
In the end I finished 4th overall only 2 minutes out of 2nd. Had this been an “A” race the effort level would have been much different. XTERRA Canada is coming in a month and that is the only race that matters to me this season. I feel that everything is coming together for that race and I can not wait to get to Whistler.
Marcus got 5th overall and 1st in his age Group.
It was great to be able to get to the finish and watch my son Danny came across the line for 3rd in his division.