This race was a first time XTERRA experience for Grim Reaper Athletes Tom Keller and Romanie Walter. Preparation for this race was not extensive, and the goal for both athletes prior to the start of the race was to ride steady and rely on their endurance more than their mountain bike skills.
The swim was swimsuit legal with a water temperature of 72F. It was a group start with all 80 athletes starting at the same time in a little pond. Next year the race director is considering a wave start as the popularity of this race increases every year. Tom Keller was well prepared and remembered to bring his wetsuit, giving him the buoyancy needed to achieve a great swim. Romanie was not as prepared and wished she had her wetsuit as the splashing and wave forming from the rest of the athletes in such a narrow lake made the going a little rough. The course was well marked. The exit of the water was a little steep, but volunteers were lined up to give you a much needed hand up.
We popped out of the water and ran up a hill into T1, the racks provided plenty of room and made maneuvering through transition simple. Tom Keller had a battle with trying to get socks on wet feet, and took longer than his usual with his transition time, whereas Romanie did better than usual in her transition since she had no time finding her bike for once.
The bike course was challenging and fun. Tom crashed 3 times in the first quarter of the race, forgetting that the mantra was steady ride and finish strong. Despite biking for half of the course with his front wheel not even locked in due to his 4th, final, and most spectacular crash, Tom Keller smashed a great bike time and finished very well placed. Romanie stayed with the slow steady mantra, and finished without any great story, but had some leg strength and energy saved for the run. Despite having practiced the course a couple times prior to race day, both athletes were surprised at how physically taxing the course was on their body, particularly the lower back.
The run course was interesting, winding through the Wildlife Prairie State Park Zoo and walking paths. After such a tough bike, Tom shuffled through the run and was able to maintain his standing amongst his competitors. Romanie had some catching up to do in order to place in her age group, and had to push a little harder. There was a surprisingly long and incredibly steep hill in the last mile of the run, quite possibly the toughest hill either athlete has faced in a run.
Tom Keller finished second in his age group, which was 36th overall, and qualified for the XTERRA National Championship and Romanie finished first in her age group, 28th overall, and also qualified for the XTERRA National Championship.
The offseason is right around the corner, how do you plan to get stronger?