With four mountain bike rides under my belt, I was ready for my first taste of Xterra. If you’re wondering what an off-road triathlon tastes like, put dirt in your mouth. Yeah, it’s a lot like that. Dirt isn’t bad though. Think about all the animals that eat stuff with dirt on it. They’re fine, right?Anyways, I began my off-road career at the Xterra Real at Folsom Lake. That particular race is shorter than the standard Xterra (750m 16mi 3.5mi vs. 1.5k 30k 10k), but it was a great race nevertheless.

Here’s how it went down: Someone counted down from “10”, because counting down from “5” doesn’t create as much suspense. Then, it was go time – as you probably assumed. I got off to a quick start and was clear of the fray. Nearing the first turn, only two swimmers swam ahead and I briefly got onto the feet of the trailing athlete. I felt I could go faster, so I did, and moved into the second spot. Making the final turn, I thought, “Whoa, Erich, you could be first out of the water. That’s Blue Seventy’s slogan and M.O. and you’re wearing a Helix!” I finished strong, but it wasn’t enough to take the “First Out Of Water” title. Sorry, Blue Seventy, I failed you.However, I was first into transition and onto the bike. Yay for being good at putting things on quickly!

Erich Wegscheider on the bike at the 2013 Xterra Real

Riding A Bicycle!

I didn’t get a chance to pre-ride the course, so I really had no idea what to expect. Heading onto the single-track, I wanted to go fast, but also didn’t want to do anything really dumb either; I never knew what the next turn had in store. Yeah yeah… so I was a bit conservative. I was passed shortly into the ride, but on the one longish climb that wasn’t long, I was right back at the leader’s wheel. Then we descended around or over rocks, roots, and tight corners and I never saw him again. Upon reaching a more open part of the course, I stepped on it, but went off course. Whoopsie daisy. While only off course briefly, I still lost two positions.

Continuing on, we rode through a meadow, crossed a thick, gloppy mud pit, and spent time sliding about in sand. Myself and several others dismounted, err rode as far as our balance would take us, and ran to firmer soil. I fumbled around other technical sections and slipped further down the leaderboard. On any incline, I would zip right up the wheel in front, but rarely passed. I felt I was better off observing the rider ahead and their chosen line. It was kind of like a mountain bike descending clinic!

Then we went out and did the said loop once more, where I got a bit muddier.

Then it was time for the run. Yay! I had no idea where I stood overall, so I went out in search of people to pass; which is kind of the point of a race. I felt good from the get-go and was rapidly gaining on anyone I saw. Then the arrows led us to the trails where hills, turns, gravel, and sand eagerly awaited our arrival. I must admit, running hard on trails is… well, hard. I tried to put my head down and push it, but when I did that, I missed a turn and went off-course. Again. Fortunately, a guy I had passed alerted me before I got too far along. I continued on as hard as I could and there were times where walking seemed like a faster means of movement vs. my attempted uphill “running.” With a kilometer to go, I got a glimpse of another athlete through the trees and pushed hard during the pass and then all the way to the line.

Erich Wegscheider running at the 2013 Xterra Real

Off & Running

I moved up 9 positions on the run to get into the Top 10 Overall. For the run, like the swim, I had the second-fastest time. Had I not gone off-course though, the “Fastest Run Split” title would have been mine – the difference was 6″. So close to making my run shoe sponsor proud! Oh wait, I don’t have one…

Overall, the off-road experience was awesome and I’ll be on many more Xterra start-lines. It truly is a completely difference race; it’s punchy, requires 100% concentration, 100% of the time, and you get dirty! With a bit more time on my mountain bike, I’m confident I’ll be able to turn in better results in no time.

Erich and his mom

Heart To Heart With Mom

Some musings from race day:

  • I averaged 6:51/mile splits! Seems so slow for a race!
  • We were allowed to mount our bikes in transition. Seriously. Anywhere!
  • Other Athletes knew I was a roadie triathlete, being that I showed up in a 3-ounce run flat.
  • My mountain bike, an Orbea Alma 29’er with Rolf Prima Ralos CXCs, is ridiculously light! Other athletes were kind enough to pick it up and let me know how ignorant I am.
Erich Wegscheider's Rolf Prima Ralos CXCs and Orbea Alma S10 at the 2013 Xterra Real

Mountain Bikes Are Like Pigs – They Love Mud!

2013 Orbea Alma S10 with Rolf Prima Ralos CXCs

What It Looks Like When Clean

Recovery Spin