Smith family battles through Xterra finals

Lee Cannon takes second in his class

Jenny and Brian Smith closed their prolific 2008 season of Xterra racing finishing sixth and ninth place respectively at the Xterra World Championships in Hawaii on Sunday, October 26.
Lee Cannon had his best performance at the Worlds to take second place in his age class, ages 60-64.
The course in Hawaii is notoriously tough for a number of reasons, including heat, humidity, lava and the kiawe thorns known to slash tires open at the least opportune times during the race.
Then there’s the competition. While the World Championships attract the top multi-sport athletes from around the globe for at shot at the $130,000 cash purse, this year was exceptional.
“This was the strongest field ever by far,” says Brian.
And as for the aforementioned heat and humidity, this year topped all the rest.
“It was 95 degrees and humid, which made it pretty darn brutal,” says Brian.
“It was scorching on race day,” adds Jenny.
The Smiths are no strangers to the World Championships, having competed in them twice before this year.
Jenny had her best finish at her first World Championship experience, coming in fourth, and Brian turned himself “inside out” last year to finish in third place among the pros.
This year Jenny paid extra close attention to her preparation for the World Championships after seeing much of the same field at the US Championships in Nevada three weeks prior.
“The women’s field was exceptionally tight,” says Jenny. “I needed to tighten up the loose ends.”
The pre-race checklist included taping her insoles of her shoes so they wouldn’t slide and using new tires with extra puncture resistance.
In addition, Jenny knew that she would need the swim of her life in the opening stage to keep the leaders within striking distance the rest of the race.
“I was determined to have a good swim,” says Jenny.
Jenny did just that, shaving three minutes off her swim time from last year and transitioned onto her bike elated.
“I was so psyched,” says Jenny.
After suffering a nightmare of flat tires at last year’s race trying to pass people on her bike, Jenny rode much smarter this year to move up into the top five on the 20-mile ride, all the while paying close attention to her hydration.
Unfortunately Jenny hit a low point as she headed out on the final stage, a seven-mile run complete with grass, dirt, lava rock and sand.
“I was hurting—I just couldn’t get my legs going,” says Jenny.
After suffering through the first half of the run and giving up two places, Jenny recovered to push through to the end to move back into sixth place by the finish line, including out-sprinting one last competitor by five seconds in the home stretch.
Remarkably, Jenny’s time was five minutes faster than the year she took fourth place, attesting to the quality of competition this year.
Despite being the sixth fastest women’s pro Xterra racer in the world that day, Jenny was not entirely happy with her performance.
“Top five was one of my goals,” says Jenny. “I’ll definitely prepare a bit differently next year. But I didn’t do badly and I didn’t flat.”
Brian’s approach to the World Championships was a bit different.
“This year I went elk hunting,” says Brian. “I think I could have prepared better.”
Nonetheless, Brian put together his best swim as well and came out of the water charging.
Unfortunately, so did his competition, as a handful of new faces set a furious pace on their bikes.
Brian proceeded to pick off riders as he typically does, but the payoff wasn’t quite the same.
“I felt like I was going through people but they were all having bad races,” says Brian. “And I was probably a few gears shy of what I am capable of because it was so hot.”
When Brian dropped his bike in the transition area and headed out for the final run, he realized exactly how strong the field was this year.
“I realized how far back I was and I had my work cut out for me,” explains Brian. “Last year I was running scared. This year I was running pissed.”
During the run, Brian saw one pro walking and had last year’s winner, Conrad Stoltz, in his sights, yet when he turned onto the final beach stretch it became clear the leaders were too far ahead.
“I knew I wasn’t going to reel them in,” admits Brian.
Brian crossed the finish in ninth, second among U.S. racers, a bit disappointed but also happy with his overall effort.
“My whole race was definitely more well-rounded than last year and in that respect I was more happy,” says Brian. “And my body wasn’t as trashed as it was last year. I actually made it to the party after the race this time.”
Lee Cannon had his best race at Worlds among the mortals—i.e. the amateur racers—taking second place in his age class
Cannon posted the fastest swim split of his competition and second fastest bike and run splits, but it was the heat that put the hurt on Cannon, allowing first place to sneak by while he was re-hydrating.
“I was going through so much water. I went through my entire supply and when I stopped to drink at an aid station I didn’t see the guy pass me,” says Cannon. “The heat really took it out of me.”
Still, Cannon shaved a minute off his time from last year, making for a successful race by comparison.
“It was great race,” says Cannon.

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