My season this year is a little different, with more mountain biking in the mix than usual, however I wanted to still put in a solid Xterra schedule starting with the regular Xterra Real, followed up a few weeks later by the Xterra West Championships in Las Vegas.
After the worst drought conditions this winter in California, the day of Xterra Real brought torrential rain and temperatures that dropped as the race proceeded. The swim was choppy, but not as cold as usual, and thankfully short enough for my lack of swim training recently! I didn’t have a great swim but I wasn’t expecting much from it other than to exit in one piece. After a long run up to transition due to the low lake levels I had a pretty poor transition (yes it’s worth practicing these too!), managing to forget my glasses which wasn’ t a great idea with the impending mud fest on the bike.
On the bike it was tough to get going as I was far enough back out of the water that I was stuck behind much slower bikers for quite a while at the start of the singketrack but after navigating through them I had clear ground for the rest of the bike. I was biking steady but not at full capacity and technically did not ride as well as I would have liked which was surprising with the number of times I have raced this same course this year already! The first lap of the bike was wet, but the second lap was plain muddy with the trails turning to streams and puddles – it was really kind of fun. I passed the girls I expected to pass but realised 1 & 2 were probably too far ahead to hope to catch even with a fast run, so I focused on my own race and riding each section as well as I could.
A smoother transition (after pouring the water out of my Inov-8 TrailRoc 246s) from bike to run and I found I couldn’t feel my feet – guess it was colder than I thought! I started running hoping my legs would come around and sure enough I was clicking along pretty well. The run trails were in very wet and muddy shape but the TrailRocs handled the conditions excellently, even though not quite designed for these kind of conditions. Energy levels were goo and my legs started getting better as I went so I hit the hills at the back end of the course with enough power to run up them for once. I gave myself a secret high 5 as I crested the biggest hill on the course, then headed for home.
I finished 3rd female overall, 2nd in my age group – there were bigger time gaps than I would have liked to 1 & 2 but the season is still early. This race is great fun and a perfect early season adventure, even thought this year I think I was wetter and colder at the end of the race than after the swim! Thanks Yi + Rosevilel Cyclery Team for the support, and the post race heater – genius!
Xterra Vegas brought somewhat different weather conditions, with temperatures hovering around the 90 degree mark; we also got pretty strong winds to contend with on race day. Just like last year, I had to be in Vegas the week leading up to the race for a busy week of work at a trade show – all week on your feet is never good preparation for a race but I was determined to do a better job of it than last year and have somewhat fresh legs by race day. Julie at O2 fitness had stretched my training block an extra week (yes I was about as tired as you can possibly get at the point, barely being able to turn my pedals over on my final ride before my rest week!) before I left for Vegas, leaving the week leading up to the race for recovery the best I could. I planned early nights, focused hydration, decent food and a mid-week massage (best idea I’ve ever had in Vegas!) then by thursday I started moving again with a couple of short runs, a swim then some bike course pre-riding. I was feeling ok and hopeful I’d have a good race, but it was going to be a mental challenge more than anything to keep the heat from affecting me.
I stayed right at the race site with great friends so race morning was relaxed and not too early and I had plenty of time to get a short warm up in before being on the beach to watch the Pro Swim (they started 45minutes head of the age groupers). I was so excited for friends and training partners Kara LaPoint and Debby Sullivan, making their Xterra Pro debuts that it actually helped keep me relaxed going into my race.
I swam in a wetsuit I borrowed from a friend since I put a big hole in my at Xterra Real – I loved the borrowed Blue Seventy Helix and it really helped my swim. I’m lacking swim endurance so the last few hundred yards I could feel myself tiring, but I was pleasantly surprised to exit the water right alongside some top age groupers. A decent transition had me on the bike quickly and in a positive frame of mind and I focused on pedaling smoothly and trying to find a good rhythm. I tried to hang on to the wheel of Meghan Sheridan who is frequently top 3 amateurs but it didn’t last long and sadly I didn’t ever really find the good powerful legs I was hoping for. That said, I had really good mental focus and was able to keep pushing hard despite not finding the power I wanted. Every up hill was into a headwind or a crosswind taking more energy than usual, but I wasn’t getting caught by people and made a few passes, so it wasn’t turning out to be as bad a bike as I thought.
I was hopeful that I had fueled and hydrated well – I opted to bike with a camelbak full f Osmo and drank the whole thing, along with another bottle from an aid station so I went into the run knowing I’d done everything I could to set myself up for a strong final leg. I went with Inov-8 Roclite 268s for this course due to the very rocky terrain and fast loose downhills -I wanted some foot protection while still keeping things lightweight. The shoes really performed well and as it happened so did my legs! By taking each section of the course one piece at a time, I made my way up each of the steep hills in turn and used the downhills as short recoveries before attacking the next hill. I passed a handful of guys on the run, as well as a couple of women and only got caught by one woman (not in my age group) right at the last half mile. I had raced smart and mentally strong which was a new achievement for me – I’ve given up in races too early before and today I didn’t. I was racing not knowing what position I was in in my age group, but as I crossed the finish line I knew I was going to be happy with my performance regardless of where it placed me. It took a while for my results card to appear but when it did, I saw a ’2′ meaning second in my age group and thus also a qualifying slot for the Xterra World Championships. I haven’t qualified for Maui since 2011, and never at this race where the field is always tough so I’m pretty excited to get to to go back this October.
While it was far from a perfect race, this was the best I could get out of myself on the day – it took as much mental focus as anything else and this may be the biggest lesson so far from my new coach Julie at O2Fitness. Also, the hydration provided by Osmo really excelled in these hot dry and windy desert conditions – I couldn’t recommend the Osmo products highly enough for both a long work week in the desert as well as the race itself.