Twenty four hours before race start, the remnants of what was once Hurricane Danny lashed at Long Island, NY, creating wet, muddy conditions for the third race in a row. But the rain and clouds kept the warm temps at bay, which was a good thing as far as I was concerned.
I had traveled back to my native NY for the final Xterra point series race of the regular season. This race was roughly half the distance of most Xterra races - "only" a half mile swim, 11 mile mountain bike, and 3.1 mile trail run (compared to twice that) - which made it more of a sprint event. It was a bit of a surreal experience for me...wandering through the transition area before the race, surrounded by Xterra competitors, but immersed in a thick NY accent (as in, Lawn Guyland). Those are two compartments of my life that have never come together before!
This was an important race for me...as the last race of the season, it was a final chance to earn much needed points towards qualifying for the 2009 Xterra US National Championships, my ultimate goal over the course of this long season of racing. The night before the race I put fuel in my tank the best way I could think of: with a trip to a nearby Chipotle for a hefty burrito bowl. Race morning consisted of my usual pre-race routine - two yogurts, some GF cereal (fittingly enough, my mom had Nature's Path Organic on hand, which I recently reviewed on this blog!), and my ever-reliable packets of GU.
The swim took place in Deep Pond, a 40-foot deep glacial kettle hole and evidence of Long Island's origins at the end of the last ice age. Literally minutes before the race, the nosepiece on my goggles snapped, leaving me with two separate eye pieces. I nearly panicked. Worried I'd miss the race start, I ran from the water back up to transition to grab my spare goggles, and was back in time for the race start (which had thankfully been delayed to get some kinks worked out of the timing system).
After two laps in Deep Pond, I set out onto the mountain bike, riding a full suspension Kona Dawgma that I rented from a mountain bike shop on the island. The mellow bike course had some great twisty turny singletrack, and was a real joy to ride, but the heavy full suspension bike was definitely overkill in hindsight. Never the less, as I came into transition there weren't many bikes, which meant most racers were still out on the bike course while I was transitioning to the run. Things were looking good.
The run started out easy enough, but soon hit a section of ravines. Steep descents into and steep ascents out of the ravines challenged me to keep my pace. They weren't especially tall (or deep, depending on how you look at it), but they were enough to make you work for it. I ran across the finish line in about one hour and thirty seven minutes, just fifteen minutes behind the overall race winner. Overall, I placed 25 out of 138 finishers.
What mattered, more than my overall finish, however, was how I fared against my fellow age groupers (which is how competitors earn points toward a slot in the national championships). The Long Island race was last weekend, and earlier this week Xterra posted updated US standings. The top 9 men in my division earn a guaranteed slot at the national championships. After a season of competion, I'm ranked...10th. Talk about being close, but not close enough! It was momentarily heartbreaking to see the updated rankings.
But all is not lost - I'm basically sitting in a wild card slot, and I'm waiting to hopefully hear from Xterra that they'll have a slot for me in the national championships, which take place in Utah at the end of this month. So for now, I'm keeping my fingers crossed, and dutifully checking my email for the hoped-for message.
Whether I get that slot or not (don't get me wrong...I'm REALLY hoping I do!), I hope I've inspired a few folks and shown that having Celiac Disease or being gluten-free isn't a hindrance. You can be more than just active...you can excel (however you choose to define the term). There are no limits - make food work for your body, not against it; set your mind to something; and go do something great (and gluten-free)!