Sunday, August 23, 2009

XTERRA Portland Race Report

After about a month of shlumping around and not wanting to do anything, I decided I needed to get back into the racing routine. I got a new coach, a new bike (the pink bike is moving on), and a new race focus. First up: XTERRA Portland.

I have family just south of Portland that were more than happy to put me up for a couple days, so I packed up the trusty old Corolla, and drove up to Pleasanton on Wednesday night for my Thursday morning departure. I figured getting past most of the potential Bay Area traffic spots would make my morning a little shinier. It did. Thursday morning I re-packed the car, picked up a breakfast burrito, water, and Diet Dr. Pepper, and hit the road.

The drive wasn't bad, I got to work on my car singing in a big way. Snapped pictures of Mount Shasta as I drove by, and kept my front seat stocked with a variety of car food. My friend Katy from Fresno was taking a road trip to Seattle and was about six hours ahead of me, so it was kind of fun to see where she was in relation to me (via FB status, of course). I stopped in Eugene to visit my friend Andy and to stretch my legs for about half an hour. I had my first run in with the "Oregon is full-service" gas stations, and made it my aunt Mike and Mary's house in time for a late-ish dinner.

Friday I hung out with my uncle (who very accurately compared himself to Shrek, he's a freaking giant), visited with my grandparents who I hadn't seen in years, saw my other aunt Mary Della who was going in for back surgery while I was racing, and went to (Mike's) Mary's vet hospital, where I was forced to play with a Corgi puppy, watch a Mastiff get X-rayed, and assist in a Poodle's ultrasound. Terrible stuff, I tell you!

Saturday morning I got all geared up and drove to the race venue. It was being held at a lake south-west of Portland, and my mapquest directions were two pages long, so I was nervous about getting there in time. For some reason Mapquest had me avoid all major roadways and take farm roads, which was pretty, but a little weird. All went smoothly and I ended up getting there way too early. Oh well!

Once the race people got check-in set up I picked up my packet and set up my transition, then sat around a bunch. I ran into one of my customers and his girlfriend who were racing, so at least I knew someone. They introduced me to a girl that moved from the Bay Area to Portland last year and had just done an Ironman, and we compared "I have literally only swam/biked/run XX times since the race" stories. She was nice.

The pre-race meeting was interesting. This was the first time an XTERRA had been put on in the Portland area, so the race organizers were definitely hoping they did things right. The website didn't say if wetsuits were allowed. The race director informed us that the water was warm enough that the pros were not allowed to wear suits, and age groupers were REQUIRED to wear suits, per USA Triathlon rules. People freaked out. Some baggy swim trunk-clad hillbilly guy started screaming at the race director. Someone eventually informed the race director that the actual USAT rule was that suits were optional, so Mr. Swim Trunks could relax.

When the race director described the bike course he said "at one point you will come to a sign saying 'Bridge is out' and an arrow pointing to a detour toward the left. You are going right. Mandatory dismount, cross the bridge, and scale the cliff on the other side."

Hmmmmm....that's different.

The swim: 1000 meters

Nothing terribly eventful here. The beach start was spread out enough that there wasn't much traffic, and things went pretty smoothly. I got out of the water feeling surprisingly good considering my lack of swim training lately. There was one weird spot getting out of the water where the regular dirt stopped and the beach started that required stepping up a 3 foot embankment. It was slippery when I got to it, and apparently as more people used it, it got so slick that people were falling on their faces and coming into transition covered in mud.

T1 took way too long.

The bike: supposed to be 25k

OMG, it was freaking gorgeous! We started out on the road, heading counter-clockwise around the lake, and dropped into some singletrack that took us back in a clockwise direction. I saw one girl in my age group go by me on the road section, and dropped into the singletrack behind another girl in my AG. I stayed on her wheel through the section. When we got spit back out on the road, I think she was a little freaked out as we had seen a guy that destroyed his front wheel, and the course was super twisty and rooty and technical (and awesome!)

We continued heading clockwise around the lake, riding short road sections and dropping into the trees. It was seriously the best singletrack I have ridden. There were bridge crossings, short steep climbs, mud, trees, meadows, and awesome descents. I stopped to check on one lady who had crashed and cut her knee open, and was afraid another guy was hurt, but turned out to be picking and eating blackberries mid-race. I picked off another girl in my AG, but knew the super fast girl was still up there. As far as I knew I was still on the podium!

Way at the end of the bike leg (which was at least two miles longer than it was supposed to be) we came to the bridge detour. What used to be a bridge with a railing (just like one I had earlier crashed into with my hip) was just two 2x6 planks covered with wire for traction over a stream. I shouldered my bike and walked across, only to be faced with a wall of dirt. About 15 feet above where I was standing was where we were supposed to continue on our way. I didn't see a way up...WTF? I let a guy who was behind me go in front and watched him shoulder his bike with one arm and pull himself up the wall using tiny foot holes and a rope that was hanging from a tree at the top. Holy crap! I hauled myself up, thanking my lack of self-control for having a light bike and laughing with the girl that was behind me. Shortly thereafter, we arrived in transition once again.

T2 was faster than the first one, but still slow.

The run: originally 4.35 miles, extended to 5.5 miles on race morning.

The run sucked for a couple of reasons. I didn't eat enough on the bike so I was pretty cooked by the time I got to the run. The course was two loops that started with singletrack, had a long section on the road, and hooked back onto the dirt that was made treacherous with lumps of grass and rocks and bees. I didn't get hurt or stung, but I had no energy and walked more than I would like to admit. I got passed by one girl in my AG that I know was behind me, and saw the speedy girl finishing her second lap as I was out on my first.

I crossed the line, changed, got in line for the free BBQ and waited for the awards. They must have had someone protest or something and I waited for an hour and a half to hear my AG results and never did. I packed back up and went to my uncle's house to shower and eat some more. We spent more time with my grandparents, and all went to bed early.

Sunday morning we went out to breakfast to celebrate my uncle's birthday, and I got back in the car and headed south. As usual, my post-race traffic tolerance level was lacking, and I subjected a few people to some whiney phone calls (sorry guys). When I was almost back to Pleasanton a Subaru pulled up next to me with a waving arm hanging out the window. It was Katy!!! Apparently her road trip included a stop in Pleasanton as well, but it was super random!

When the results were finally posted I found out that I got 4th in my AG out of 11 starters (10 finishers). Considering this was my new fast age group and my lack of training, I'm very happy with the result!

All in all it was an awesome trip that I will definitely try to do again next year!

Next weekend: XTERRA Lake Tahoe!

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