So, there was a relay team at this race called “FLOAT, HAMMER, SHUFFLE!”. Hilarious. I decided my own race would be “Dominate, Survive, Enjoy” – and that I did. So, here it is. My first ever Xterra!
Swim: 0:15:04 (800m)
I was in my Blueseventy Fusion, all TriSlided up on the important parts, and ready to swim. I positioned myself the front. They shouted “GO!” and I sprinted off the line. About 150yds later… I was alone. Totally alone. Crap. Had I gone that far off course already? I came up for a long sight, and looked behind me. I was right on track and swimming solo at the very front of the pack!! I have NEVER found myself this far in front this early on in the race. So, with a tough mountain bike ride looming – and 4000’ of extra elevation – I cruised. I tried to keep my HR down, stay steady, and sight correctly. It seemed to work! After my race two weeks ago, this swim felt downright short. Before I knew it I was headed back to the boat ramp! I came out of the water in first place! Matt and Chris stripped my wetsuit off – and I said “I won! The race is over right?” They laughed, and I headed for T1.
No, I did not eat a sandwich. Yes, I struggled with my gloves. I never wear gloves on the road, but off-road, they are essential. I spent a lot of time putting them on, and everything else went smoothly… until I got to the exit and realized I forgot my Camelbak! I dropped my bike, ran back, put on the Camelbak, and yelled to my spectators that I’m so not used to this Xterra stuff.
Bike: 2:03:36 (24km)
…or 7.2mph. Not bad, as most of my MTB rides are around that range! It started with a slight uphill, and jumping a curb to get off the road. I hate curbs. I have no problem going over rocks and logs, but curbs? They are square. One false move and I faceplant. I opted to walk up it. Humbling, for sure. The course that curved through some pine trees. It was fairly rocky, and I was hoping the whole course wouldn’t be like that. It was tough going on the exact sort of terrain I hate. I was wondering what I got myself into! I was really, really hoping that the entire course wasn’t like this. (Spoiler: It wasn’t). Cue wanting to throw my bike off the mountain #1.
It came to a clearing, and I saw it. The first BIG descent. I was aware that there were a few washed out ruts on the way down. I took a deep breath, tried to pick a line, and headed down. I felt panic overtake me, and I knew my face showed it. I looked up just in time to see a course photographer! Oh man, I hope he caught that facial expression! I ended up dismounting twice on the way down to avoid some ruts – and people were super friendly. They point out the best routes to me. I was happy to see some flat land!
The course brought us through some more trail, then off to a road. The road only lasted a short time, and we headed through a field. There were volunteers in front of a tunnel telling us to dismount. I slowed down too early and fell over going over the final ridge before the tunnel. Whoops. I got off my bike with extremely shaky legs and short of breath. Between jitters, fear, altitude and effort, I could not stop my legs from shaking! I carried my bike through thigh-deep water and mud under the tunnel, mounted, and immediately dismounted again to get off the course and let a few people by. I took this opportunity to breathe, take a Powerbar Gel, and steady my legs. I got back on, felt better, and fairly confidently rode the next section. It was pretty similar to Fantasy Island, with easy terrain, and short technical ascents/descents. Home turf. Relief.
The course cut across another road, and we started on the big loop. I ended up behind another girl who just seemed to know the course well. She hadn’t pre-ridden it, but she managed to pick some wonderful lines, and I just tagged along. The course was mostly dirt here, with a few washed-out ruts, rocks, and sugar-sand spots. The course climbed steadily for 3 miles of this… and then you hit the last 1.5 miles of the climb. The course website says “After the 3 miles of gradual climbing, prepare yourself for 1.5 miles of steep climbing and more leg burning. This climb is very similar to the climb in the Xterra World Championships in Maui—both the terrain and the steepness. For those of you with designs on the Xterra World Championships, this course is a must!” I probably made it about .75 miles up the 1.5 mile climb before I had to get off my bike and walk it. The terrain switched from packed dirt with some rocks and soft spots to nothing but round rocks. Every single rider I saw in this spot was walking.
The ground evened out for a while, and I got back on my bike. Then, the descents started. I’m still not at all confident on long, technical descents. So, I wasted a lot of free bike speed walking some of the more technical sections. Cue wanting to throw my bike off the mountain #2. A girl who had clearly fallen off her bike and landed on her face earlier went screaming by me. While I let her by, I grabbed another Powerbar Gel and recollected myself mentally. Mountain biking requires so much more focus than road biking – and it’s draining! Plus, if I’m not on my A game mentally, I might misjudge an obstacle. A volunteer asked me why I was walking – I told him I valued my life more than my bike split! That gave him a laugh, and gave me the kick I needed to get back on my bike.
The course description says “After about 3.5 miles of fast descending, you turn onto a dirt road. You will never be so happy to see a dirt road in your life! The dirt road is super fast (more descending) but contains just enough ruts to keep you honest” and it is incredibly accurate. The smile returned to my face, I relaxed a little, and I tried to find some speed. I started really enjoying the course again here! I approached the aid station and almost wiped out turning the corner on the approach – stupid sugar sand! The volunteers were AMAZING and all laughed when I asked them if I impressed them with my near wipe-out. The course continued on the dirt road for a while, with a few short, technical spots. Soon, I found myself approaching a bunch of cows! I spooked the tiny one, and I was afraid that a big one would charge me. Does that really happen?
Another mile or so on the dirt brought me to a nicely-packed gravel road. YES! I ditched the granny gear, put it in the big ring and tried to make up some time. I chatted with a few racers here, including a guy that was running with his bike. He had destroyed his front tire, and I had nothing to help him. I found out later that he ran the final seven miles of a fourteen mile bike course with his bike, then ran the run. Hardcore, for sure.
We turned from this road, back through the tunnel – but through the dry side this time! – through the woods, and back to that first nasty descent – only it was an ascent this time! I managed to spin my way up until the final section. I lost traction, and then couldn’t get going on the bike again. I hit the peak, saw the next steep, rocky descent, and thought heck NO! I ran my bike down it, thanked the medics that were strategically positioned at the bottom of this hill, and hit the final half mile back to transition.
I came around a corner and heard my biggest cheering squad EVER! Because everyone raced the previous day, they were all free to spectate today! I didn’t even look up at them. I was so focused on not crashing in front of them. I was incredibly relieved to bounce down the curb onto pavement with transition in sight.
My legs were rubbery and I wasn’t really thinking straight. I knew I’d finish the race and that the hardest part was behind me!
Run: 54:54 (8km)
I was all smiles and having a great time. The course started out pretty easily, and then, right around mile 1, you hit “The Eliminator”. The course info says “This nasty hill near Mile 1 will be sure to challenge even the most seasoned XTERRA veteran. Once up the hill, the course heads towards the dam as athletes get a spectacular view of Fool Hollow Lake.” Whether it was the hill, the bike, the altitude or just my fitness, that hill was indeed nasty. But, holy cow, that view from the dam was worth it. I kind of wanted to sit down, eat a few Powerber Energy Blasts, and just take in the view. But, I didn’t. I ran on. I physically stopped for a few seconds at each aid station. My breathing was out of control, and I didn’t’ really want to immediately vomit up anything I consumed. After the dam, the course was a flat out-and-back that was pretty enjoyable and fairly scenic!
I hit the turnaround feeling good – though a little out of breath. I cruised the rest of the run. I enjoyed the dam view again on the way back, still tempted to stop! Shortly after this, we got word that a naked man was loose on the course on the Eliminator! Never confirmed this rumor, but it gave me a really good laugh heading into the final mile. The final mile brought you down a hill, through the lake (because is it really an Xterra run without a water crossing?) and back around the lake. The final half mile involved climbing stairs from the lake up to the finish line area. So, with mud and rocks in my shoes, I climbed them and set my sights on the finish line!
It was awesome.
I (somehow) ended up first in my Age Group, winning an awesome wine bottle topper! At the raffle, I won sunglasses, a Timex visor and Chamois Butter paraphernalia in the raffle. Patrick walked away with a new pair of running shoes.