This is an article that was written a month after my high school graduation and published in The Richmond Times Dispatch. Andy Thompson, the writer of the article, met me out riding the James River trail system a couple weeks before the event. I knew he was a sports columnist because I had read several of his articles and we ended up riding for several miles together, conversing the whole way. He came to the event to spectate the pro race. But, when I crossed the finish line first in the sprint race, I managed to attract his attention to write a column on another story. I hope I can satisfy these expectations established when I was such a young athlete. Continue reading Xterra Sport Richmond ’08
I never signed a waiver agreeing to risks of life. I definitely did not ever sign an agreement to die someday. I was put here involuntarily. My parents did not think that maybe I did not want to be born. There are so many risks in this world and the only physical truth is the one that most of us like to avoid. But I am so glad that my parents did not think that. I am so glad I have been thrown into this life involuntarily. I did not sign a waiver, but because I was given life, I will agree to die someday.
No matter how hard we fight against disease and how much exercise and healthy eating we commit to, the end still comes. No matter if we live life protected by four walls or if we float miles above the earth skydiving, the inevitable still remains the inevitable. I once had a t-shirt that listed possible ways to die on the ski slopes of Vail, Colorado and the last line said how we could fall off the couch and die.
I’m not too worried about that whole end thing. It’s going to happen so why lose the enjoyment of life by worrying about death? Nah, I’ll stick to living. Some adults lose that approach and some kids maybe should at least slightly admit to vincibility.
Much of my life I have lived oblivious to the fact that I can be defeated. Once in mid-winter I rode my bike down and up Snowshoe’s snowy mountain road. I thought it would be a pain threshold test but it turned out to be more. At 55 miles per hour, the speed knocked the already -15 degree wind chill down to -30. When I rolled into the house, I looked my mom in the eyes and referring to my ride, said, “I don’t know what giving birth exactly feels like, but it couldn’t have been that bad”. The action of riding in a severely underdone outfit didn’t even skim the surface of how stupid it was to ride a bike at 55 m.p.h. on a snowy road.
As I am about to embark on a 2000 mile trail alone, at times with no help around for miles, I am constantly questioning if I have the maturity to totally grasp and understand my vincibility.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, in Pelham, Alabama for the Xterra Southeast Championships, I underestimated the heat. While refusing to quit the race and accept medical attention, with early stages of heat stroke, I risked my life. Some ways to go out are pretty epic and respectable but neither of those words describe dying at 17 because of refusing to drop out of a triathlon.
So while I cannot prepare for everything the trail has to throw at me, I have been told being adequately knowledgeable and experienced will keep me from making silly mistakes that could bring about my death. Life is an extremely complex existence that is way beyond any science or religion. No matter how much I learn about how things in the body happen, the question of how molecules come together to bring life will never be answered. It will always amaze me. But at the same time, complexity typically brings fragility. Life is fragile and the end can be brought about any number of ways. If I search all around me for ways that could bring that end, I will be distracted from everything that makes life great.
The night before my tenth birthday I touched an exposed wire that juiced my body like the two sets of baseball field lights above. Sure the shock of four-hundred and eighty volts left me frightened, but as I left the hospital the doctor’s warning of black urine took my fear to another whole level.
A senior at Freeman high school student’s lack of brains and excess of guts risked my life when he decided a stop was a stoptional. Sure I cannot live my life in fear of everything that surrounds me, but with a little caution and care I can possibly avoid many traps that would threaten an inattentive person’s life. That is not to say that driving is dangerous so I should not do it. But if I had not been on mental cruise control, thinking about my math exam rather than the world surrounding me, maybe I would have seen him pulling in front of me. Maybe he would have driven away ashamed rather than walk away punished. My totaled car sure would have appreciated it. So would his car insurance bill. Although his lack of attentiveness was given the ticket, maybe more awareness on my part could have prevented it. True, death traps surround me, but after these occurrences I learned that with care I can avoid most of them. I’m four for four on my slightly life threatening incidents being user error.
I would rather not have the reputation as the kid who went out on the A.T. at 19, completely unprepared and inexperienced, and died of hypothermia from not having adequate rain gear. Alternatively, crawling for miles to a road, eventually dying of blood loss after wrestling and killing an adult black bear, that’s not too bad. Neither is ideal of course but the difference is that one I was unprepared and the other I could not have prepared for. Yes of course I could get a desk job and live in the suburbs with the convenience of a knob to adjust the temperature within my walls in even the worst weather. I’ve been doing something like that for nineteen years and that does not really satisfy my urge for adventure.
Like I said, I don’t have a death wish. I just feel that I am going to be surrounded by danger everywhere. No need to take unnecessary risks though. That is why I am doing all my research and meticulously planning the trip down to each calorie and mile hiked each day. To accompany me on my trip is a GPS dubbed “Spot” that has four buttons. One tells my mama I’m warm and okay. One tells her I’m not doing too hot and I want to come home. Another sends my coordinates to 9-1-1 and well, I just hope I don’t have to use that button. And lastly the On/Off button will come in handy.
I do have my nightmares and I do have occasional anxiety about the trip. I have considered not commiting to the expedition. But as much as my mom wishes it did, my mind just cannot seem to win over my heart. The trail has its hold on me and its not letting go until I find out what its all about. I was given life, I will agree to die someday, but for now I get to live and I don’t mind taking advantage of that.
A half mile from the finish I passed a guy who barely mustered the question, “What age group are you in?” and upon my short breath response he exclaimed “Good!” and relaxed into his own pace again.
I spent the whole morning yesterday on the chase. And although I recently had a breakthrough at Power sprint triathlon, yesterday was not my day under the spotlight. A guy from Freeman High School gained almost two minutes on me on each leg of the race. Sadly my chase was fruitless and I never saw him.
I had a highly unusual swim in which I lost minimal time to my competitors. However, the bike leg unveiled my rusty mountain bike handling skills. My body hit the ground four times throughout the ride but with no major injuries. They simply were reminders of the fact that I had not ridden this course in this direction since last year. To add to my difficulty I had a rubbing front brake that in addition to slowing me down, squealed at me the entire ride.
With that said, Xterra is a race of problems. Nothing seems to go perfect and the person who does well is typically the one who handles those challenges the best. In road triathlons, preparation in the months and weeks and night before the race can almost always prepare a racer for the day to come. However, in Xterra, no quantity of training or preparation can completely prepare an athlete for the challenges to come during the race. Those preparations can only give the racer a false sense of readiness. Experience, patience, confidence, and perseverance outweigh the fitness which solely propels on-road triathletes to victory.
In Xterra my four years of training are useless. My only foundation is the two Xterra triathlons I have done before. The challenge, although frustrating at first, is in essence what entices me to the hellish race.
Conrad Stoltz, the winner of the Pro division this past weekend raced with a three inch open gash on his foot. He wasn’t making excuses so what is my rubbing front brake compared to that. I was almost happy that the brake rub was the worst thing that day.
My run went smooth. I made sure to pace and yet I still cramped. My kick was late though. I prefer to feel like death at the finish and with this race I simply had to much left in the tank in the last mile. I finished second in my age group but still my competitor and I both beat everyone in the 20-24 age group.
I guess after going two years straight without being beat in my age group it serves me right to be humbled this year. I’m excited for the competition. If I am in the best shape of my life and so are they, I won’t mind losing. Endorphin fitness is home growing some of the fastest juniors I have ever seen. I hope the guys share the same dream as I do and maybe one day we’ll all race alongside each other wearing red, white, and blue.
Xterra is this weekend.
Two years ago I raced the Southeast Championship race in Alabama. It was my first off road triathlon. I wish I could say I crushed it but I did almost the exact opposite. Underestimating the ninety degree heat, my calorie, electrolyte, and fluid consumption were all way below minimum. To put it simply I bonked. At the first aid station on the run I cruised, sipping a tiny amount of Gatorade.
The next one I wasn’t so fly. I stood their for minutes. I drank about a liter, ate three gels, and ended up running away from an four-hundred pound EMT that exclaimed “Son! Come here! You don’t look in good enough shape to continue!” Ask me what happened from there on and I have not a clue. Ask the guy who grabbed the back of my suit to prevent me from running and he’ll tell you I replied less than polite to his concern for my health. Ask the people who ran by me and it seems they saw me crawling up from the ground. Those people would tell you I was grabbing trees left and right to hold myself up. But I remember no such thing. Ask the man who walked me to the finish line and he’ll tell you I was very stupid that day. I know for a fact he was right.
I finished. I ran the same time I biked. So I biked REALLY fast, and suffered from it on the run. I finished despite having lost over three liters in fluid. I finished despite having heat stroke.
I guess that prepared me for the next year. This past year I did the shorter of the two races just to be safe. I did more than be safe. I came out of the swim in fifth as if I forgot I am supposed to usually come out of the swim in about fiftieth. Two miles from the end of the bike I heard a staff member radio in, “Number one has just passed.” I turned around totally startled. I had only passed one guy on the bike! I passed the other three in transition!
Having absolutely no clue I was in first, I had no pressure I guess because I rode better than I ever have. Then came the run, my strong suit. I had the race in the bag and yet still a few hundred meters before the finish I still asked a volunteer, “Am I in first?” I wasn’t delusional. I heard right the first time. So I got to hold up a finish line banner for only the second time in my triathlon career.
In two days I will return with a vengeance to the Championship distance. This time I come prepared with almost 100 ounces of Gatorade Endurance, S-Caps electrolyte tablets, and lots of gels. Oh yeah and add on top of that a home course and another two years of training under my belt. I think I’m ready. Maybe there will be a follow up on “Just the Beginning for Cobb?” in the Times Dispatch.
There’s no chance of holding up the banner. That is for the bunch of pros racing for the ten grand prize purse. Maybe a worlds qualification can be had though. Maybe another semi-conscious run is to be completed. My mom told me that she won’t let me collapse at the finish line anymore. I can’t promise that be it a good or bad race. I pray for the former. We’ll see.
A few months ago I enjoyed my first ride on my new mountain bike. The Fezzari Solitude. I had done my research, and while other mountain bikes had criticisms in at least every other review, I could not find one single review that remarked negatively on the performance of a Fezzari bike.
It was not that the reviews were not there, or that the critiquing riders were unknowledgable and inexperienced. I found that there were more people riding on Fezzari bikes than I initially thought. I had no trouble finding reviews, but try as I might to find a way to criticize the company, I could not find any reason to not run to my local bike shop and buy one right away.
Trouble was, there are no dealers I know of. Fezzari sells direct though. No problem, they don’t sell retail pricing. So I don’t need to be a dealer to get the direct price. So I was wondering what the catch was. I went to mtbr.com, to find a reason why these bikes could sell for so cheap and be so greatly reviewed. It was a futile search and I threw up the white flag and realized that Fezzari was legit.
Through a couple weeks of bad weather, my beautiful clean carbon hard tail sat in my dorm room, unridden. I wanted to ride it so badly but I knew if I rode I would destroy the wet trails. My patience running at its end, the sun shone through the clouds and I pulled out my dusty mountain biking shoes. I was out the door headed towards unknown trails with no map. I didn’t care. I had a new bike that needed testing.
First thing I noticed was the responsiveness. I felt like I was pulling G’s every time I pushed down on the pedals. I felt like I was going to fall off the bike every time I accelerated. It was not that I got any stronger eating twinkies and watching movies all winter. I was shocked, and stubborn as I am, I still did not want to admit that I could have gone so long without knowing of this great bike company.
But once I hit the trails and headed uphill i could not lie to myself anymore. I was riding on a crazy advanced piece of machinery. I have ridden a Felt DA and a specialized S-works and did not feel this same kind of unworthiness. Fezzari had hit on every factor of bike building and had succeeded in mastering every element. There was nothing I could find that was wrong with this bike. It’s paint job was even sweet.
No longer a skeptic, I crested the mountain and turned downhill only to discover a new feature. I started down the mountain and although I knew I was not pedaling, by the immediate acceleration, I could have sworn something was pushing me. The darn thing felt like it was motorized. Scared at first, thanking god for these sweet xt brakes, I held my speed under control.
Soon though I realized I had nothing to fear. As I became more and more comfortable I realized I could corner on this bike at much higher speeds with much more control than on my old bike. I was absolutely and utterly ecstatic.
When I got back to my dorm room my roommate must have thought I just met the girl of my dreams. Call me a bike geek but this was better. Knowing absolutely nothing about bikes, he still could understand how awesome this bike is. It doesn’t take a genius to know a nice bike when it accelerates like a drag racer, corners like an Indy car, and is as light as a track bike.
I was in love. And after many, many rides, I am still in love. The girl of my dreams can hold on because I’m busy mountain biking. I look forward to even the most daunting of cycling workouts just as long as I get to ride on my Fezzari Solitude.
I just can’t wait to race on the thing. Last year I won the Xterra Sport in Richmond on my clunker. I think in racing, the name “Solitude” might express itself in more than just letters on the frame. I may be turning around wondering what happened to all my competitors.