This is a race report for the XTERRA Charlottesville Sprint. I chose the sprint distance as I was also traveling for work to Costa Rica and wasn’t sure how well the hotel gym accommodations would be, thus had concerns on bring able to race at a peak performance. Since I had time and traveling working against me, I signed up for the sprint to have FUN.

I chose wisely! The morning of the race day I was physically tired (although I was able to ride a stationary bike two days while in Costa Rica) and felt mentally out of it. I was a zombie. I arrived at The Miller School of Albemarle just after 8am and transition was closing in 45 mins. I knew what I had to do, get my bib/chip/stickers and setup my bike… just like I have done for every race for the past five years… yet this time I had to run back and forth to my truck so many times because I forgot stuff that I barely made it out of transition before it was closed.

I was finally at the lake to sing the National Anthem, hug my Speed Sherpa (and XTERRA partner in crime) teammate Melissa for good luck (she was doing the FULL course for XTERRA points), and watch the first waves begin!

Race Breakdown

Swim

The race started at 9:00am with the individuals that were racing the FULL XTERRA distance going first. The swim start were separated into three waves of men, and one wave with the women and relay teams. The Sprint racers didn’t start until 9:45 after all the FULL distance racers completed their swim portion of the race. There were only two groups for the Sprint racers; men, then women and relay teams. The swim route was a simple square shape where the FULL distant racers did two loops without exiting the water (an improvement from last year), while the Sprint racers did one loop.

My swim would have been a lot better except my goggles were filling with water on the right lens. No matter how many times I would stop, empty the water, and restart… the goggles would start filling up again. I need to figure this out before my next race because this shouldn’t be happening with a fresh new pair that I purchased for 2018 races.

Strava Swim Activity

Bike

If you didn’t figure out from the giant banner picture at the top of this post, the course was VERY muddy. It had been raining off and on in Charlottesville, VA since Wednesday, and racing in mud is something I haven’t really experienced up till now as most trails beg for riders to stay off if the ground is wet to preserve the routes. After finishing my swim it’s off to run the 1/4 mile of dirt to transition. When looking at my T1 time, I must remember that it always takes longer for XTERRA when comparing to Sprint or Olympic triathlons, but that is because there are more things to put on for XTERRA like cycling gloves and a hydration pack1. I started the bike segment feeling MUCH better than last year as I wasn’t dehydrated and also knew what to expect from experience and my pre-ride weekend that happened a couple of weeks ago. I was climbing the first hill exiting transition with confidence, and my head was finally clear and into the race. But that happiness began to fade away as I began to realized how difficult it is to ride when a course is not perfect.

The first turn into the trails wasn’t too bad. It was easy to see where gravity was guiding water and there were already tracks from the FULL distance riders in picking good lines. However, things quickly got worse. Trying to climb uphill or on switchbacks soon became difficult to navigate, or worse your front wheel pushed out and you crashed. “Puke Hill” was not a challenge, it was impossible as my tires had zero traction. Between the mud and sticks, soon giant globs of nature’s garbage started building up between the wheel and frame making it harder to turn the pedals from the built up resistance. Then at the 8 mile mark trying to cross this tiny stream my bike race came to a screeching halt. My chain broke. Snapped right in half and it was now floating in the stream. The last mile of my bike Strava data is me pushing it from behind.

Strava Ride Activity

Run

The Miller School’s trails are simply beautiful. Since I had already been running for the past mile while pushing my bike, I had my running legs from the beginning of T2 which allowed me to quickly find my stride for the last 5k. I quickly dumped my hydration pack, put on my running shoes, snatched my race belt/bib to head out for a relatively fast XTERRA transition.

I was really happy to be running as I was in a section with very few people in front of me, as most of the FULL racers were still on their second loop and I was in the lead pack for the Sprint racers. The run route is the same as last year with the exception that Sprint racers do one loop while the FULL racers complete two loops. For my future self, the high level overview of the run is:

  • Suffer the hill out of T2
  • Rolling terrain with plenty of roots and rocks for the fist two miles
  • Then start climbing back up to the school the last mile

The final stretch to the finish line is the best. After climbing for the past mile you finally get to a flat section right in front of the main school building and you suddenly feel a burst of energy as you can now see the inflatable finish line.

Strava Run Activity

Post Race Thoughts

Whether you completed the Sprint or FULL, you should congratulate yourself in completing not only a HARD course, but also in extremely difficult conditions. Reminder, last year I did the FULL in 4.5 hours and I bonked on the bike. This year if I had done the FULL and assume I kept the same pace on each segment, I would have finished in 5.5 hours simply because of the mud and the conditions of the trail. It was that BRUTAL, and I now (24 hours later) love every minute of it.

Oh, and by the way… XTERRA people are great. The five racers that had completed the course before me all raised their arms and one-by-one fist bump in recognition of an extreme accomplishment. One individual mentioned they felt they had a taste of Maui (XTERRA’s World Championship location) as it always rains. Most people stayed for another three hours watching people complete their

Race Results

I’m only measuring myself to the overall rankings as I discovered upon returning home that there were only two people in my age group.

Rankings

  • Overall: Placed 6th out of 24 (top 25%).
  • Gender: Placed 6th out of 17 (top 35%).
  • Male 40-44: Placed 1st out of 2

Splits

XTERRA Sprint 500m Swim T12 15k Bike T2 5k Run Total
Goal Times3 10:00 4:00 1:17:00 1:00 42:30 2:14:30
Actual Times4 9:41 4:05 1:52:09 1:11 35:16 2:42:24
End of the day, trying to clean up... just a little.

Pre-Ride Media

I did complete a pre-ride a couple of weeks ago. Below are some pictures I took of the campus and a highlight video of the course (along with the creek that ate my change at the 52 second mark). If you want to see the whole 8 of 9 miles of the course, you can see this video on vimeo.

Pre-Ride Highlights

Campus photos from Pre-Ride

Footnotes

  1. Ironman still wins for the longest transition times, but that is simply a numbers issue with so many racers. 

  2. T1 is consists of 2 minutes of transition plus 2 minutes of running to transition from the lake. 

  3. Goal Times were based on beating last year’s race, but with only 1/2 the total distance. 

  4. Official Race Results available at EVENT Results page

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