I’d like to start off by saying that I am extremely fortunate and thankful for all the people that made this weekend of traveling and racing possible. My job which works with me to be flexible when I need it, Tomek and Timmie for housing me during my stay, my coach Jesse Vondracek and Ben Hoffman for providing a sick bike for me to race on, and an awesome wife who encourages me to travel 4000 miles while she is in her third trimester! Now, on to the race/weekend report!
For those of you who are loyal followers on the Feighathlon blog, you may remember that I competed in the Desert Classic Duathlon last year while out in Arizona. A great time was had despite it being wet, cold, and my shoe practically exploding in the final miles of the run. I came it second last year to 2016 Olympian Ben Kanute and met my now coach Jesse Vondracek who took 3rd. Just a few weeks ago I learned that the race was now going to be put on by the Powerman brand with a couple changes. #1 was that the distance was almost doubled for the “Classic” race to a 10k run-60k bike-10k run. #2 was the inclusion of a Professional prize purse. These facts coupled with knowing that my coach, Jesse, along with friend and teammate Tyler Jordan would be out racing too really made me hungry to go back to race. After some debating and rearranging the schedule a bit, I bought a plane ticket and was off to Phoenix, Arizona for the weekend!
Everything went smoothly with the flight other than the standard crying babies and sick people sitting next to me (should have brought a mask). I was greeted at the airport by friend and Epix Gear North American Brand Manager himself Tomek Barc and Epix Gear Sponsored Pro Chris Schroeder. We had a nice dinner at a Mexican restaurant for our pre race meal and Jesse even showed up with his wife Amy to let me test out the bike I would be using for the race. Since I had such a limited time frame, I did not bring my own Trek Speed Concept to race on considering the need to build it back up after flying with it. Instead, Ben Hoffman had agreed to let me ride his Specialized Shiv for the race. I am super grateful to him for helping me out with riding what I know is one of the most top end bikes in the industry with all the bells and whistles. We then headed back to Tomek’s place and hung out until it was time to get to bed for the race.
The morning went as scheduled and we were some of the first people to show up to the race site. Seeing the mountains of Arizona in and around McDowell Mountain Regional Park was so refreshing after being away for so long and I’m still amazed by the scenery that this part of the country has to offer. After taking care of all the race morning preparations we were all lining up for the start of the Elite race. There were 7 Pros lined up to race and I knew that all of them were looking for the W.
The race started and we made our way from the wide dirt lot into the narrow punchy trails that 99% of the race was on. Last year I took the lead quickly for the first part of the race, but this year I promptly slotted into 7th place as the pace was INTENSE. I stuck closely behind Jesse and after about the first mile, Chris Schroeder backed it down and I moved into 6th. The pace stayed high and a couple of the front guys even started to build a gap. I eventually came by Jesse to move into 5th and staying close to 4th place.
We came through the first lap at the same pace as the previous year (about 5:50 pace on punchy technical trails), but this time there was still another lap to go. The pace slowed down a bit, but was still pretty high as I made my way through the rest of the run right next to the guy in 4th. We eventually found ourselves coming into the first transition together and made our way onto the triple out-and-back bike course.
While I was riding a super nice bike, I was not riding my bike which I’ve spent a ton of time nitpicking the perfect fit and getting comfortable with. It took me awhile to get into a decent rhythm, and before too long, Jesse had bridged the gap up to us. For the first couple laps we powered our way trying to catch the front of the race as we were in 4th and 5th place. At the beginning of the 3rd lap we were able to catch Tyler which made for a familiar situation in that we have all raced together on many occasions. We spent the final lap trying to gain time on everybody else while not blowing up before what was sure to be a death march through the desert for the final run.
The three of us came through the second transition pretty much at the same time and Tyler sped through quickly and immediately built a gap. I found myself running right on Jesse’s feet just as in the first run lap, but in a lot more pain and much slower! We eventually passed one of the other Pros about a mile in which moved us into 3rd and 4th place. Just before starting the second and final lap is when I made a move on Jesse. We were both suffering from all of the earlier efforts, but I was finally getting something resembling a rhythm back. The final lap involved me trying to keep the momentum up on all the punches of the trail with a decent gap between Tyler ahead and Jesse behind. I ended up crossing the line in about 3 hours and 55 minutes as the 3rd Pro and earning my first Pro paycheck!
This race was definitely super hard and is one of the experiences that defines why I race and train for endurance events. The community was amazing, the location spectacular, and the physical challenges immense. I love getting out of my bubble at home and mixing it up with such talented athletes that I have so much respect for. I’ll be flying out Sunday evening and am looking forward to spending time with Tomek and Timmie and having some fun in the Arizona outdoors before flying back to SC! Thanks for reading and congrats to everyone that raced including those mentioned plus Dirk Ross, Simon Hozapfel, Sarah Sullivan, and Yolanda Jordan!