Sunday, May 22, 2011

XTERRA Pacific Championships

Last weekend I raced the inaugural XTERRA Pacific Championships, in Santa Cruz, CA. Happily, this race's proximity to my home meant I got to sleep in my own bed! That was, however, probably the most comfortable part of the day.

The forecast was for rain, and we got it, along with wind and a sunburn (for me, anyway). It was raining over Hwy 17 as I drove in, but instead of constant cloud cover, it was little mini storms floating along in clear skies. That kind of weather makes gear planning a little tough.

Swim: 1500 meters in the ocean, alongside the Santa Cruz Wharf. Oh my, that was cold. In retrospect it probably wasn't as cold as the REAL race in March, but the time in the water was longer, so more time to feel the affects. As per XTERRA usual, the swim was two loops with a short run in the middle. First loop felt good. I stopped for a bit on the second loop to pee (I didn't foresee having a better opportunity to do so for the rest of the day), and lost the group I had been swimming with, and a little of my mojo. The second loop felt sloppy and I got off course a bit. The weather was also deteriorating at that point, so things were more choppy than they had been.

I went through T1 feeling completely swim-drunk, and shoved my numb feet into my shoes for the ride.

Bike: the absolute hardest part of this leg mentally was the mostly-flat road section right out of T1. I was so cold that I didn't feel I could move my legs, and we were riding into a headwind that didn't make things any warmer. I kept trying to jump on wheels as people passed me, and I just couldn't get my legs to keep up. So frustrating!

I had pre-ridden the course a couple times prior to race day, so I knew what to expect. The only thing that was different was that the overnight rains had turned the dirt to mud, so some of the previously fast sections were pretty sketchy. My bike split was slower than I would have liked, but the mud and the weather definitely had a hand in that. The storm that was headed in struck when i was at the top of the course, so my descent in to T2 was in the rain. Brrrrrrr!

Run: this actually went pretty well. I kept my riding vest on as I headed out of T2, because it was still raining and I needed all the clothing I could get. After about 10 minutes, the sun came out, and I got a little too toasty a couple times. I only got caught by one person, and I managed to hold him off until the finish. The run was mostly flat, enabling me to find a rhythm and slog it out. The only "XTERRA" section of the run entailed running down a cliff, running across a little beach (ugh, sand), and scrambling back up the cliff on the other side. Super fun, I hope they add more sections like this in the future.

I crossed the line about 5 minutes slower than my time goal, and was told I got fourth in my age group. Just missed the podium! When results were posted online on Monday, I was listed in 3rd place. Awesome, but a little bummed I didn't get the podium pic, as it was my first legitimate, I-didn't-get-last, podium at one of the big XTERRA races. Oh well.

Next up is XTERRA East Champs in Richmond Virginia. Fingers crossed for a Maui slot!!!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Race Reports

Since the last post (which was way too long ago), I raced XTERRA REAL in Folsom, skipped XTERRA West Champs in Vegas, raced XTERRA South Central Champs in Waco, TX, and skipped ITU Worlds in Spain. Life got in the way, and skipping a few races turned out to be the smarter choice.

XTERRA REAL took place on the first non-rainy day after a 2-week deluge. To say it was muddy was an understatement. As the bf put it, it was "the kind of conditions that make drive trains cry." The race was the day after my birthday, and the weekened that my dad happened to be in the Bay Area, so I had my favorite cheerleader in tow.

Swim: water temp was 48 degrees. That was extremely unpleasant, but is good incentive to haul ass so you can get out quickly.

Bike: Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. I had one good crash, an endo about 50 feet outside of transition. running water obscured a hole and I stuffed my front wheel into it. The two-loop course featured running-water singletrack, mud pits that swallowed whole wheels, and carnage galore. I managed to escape largely unscathed, and proceeded to get stuck in my bike shoes for about ten minutes in transition because the buckles were jammed. I recruited two guys to literally pull the left shoe off my foot. Not an ideal situation.

Run: Started off feeling pretty good, but I think a lot of that was adrenalin from the shoe incident. After a mile or so I lost my motivation, and slogged it in.

Finished 2nd out of 2, about ten minutes back, curiously close to the time I lost with my shoe. Oh well! It was fun because it was so ridiculous, and still one of my favorite courses.

XTERRA South Central in Waco was a bit of a mess. I had skipped the Vegas race the previous weekend because recent events had left me feeling a little run down. The Waco course is better suited to my strengths (less climbing, more technical) so I decided to make the trip. I managed to slice the tip of my finger off in my rental car in Austin, which left me wondering if I should proceed with the race at all.

Swim: declared wet-suit legal at the last minute, I think someone was being generous. I raced this last year with no wetsuit, and decided to try it with this year. It was toasty. Swim is in a river, half with the current, half against. Any time the tree cover gave way to sunlight, I started baking in my suit. It felt like the swim took forever, but I guess that's to be expected since I had been skipping the pool.

Bike: fun course, but I never felt like I got my bearings. No real crashes, but not a great performance either. This course is strange in that it is so twisty and tree-covered that you hardly see anyone on the course. I kept thinking I was off-course or the last person racing, luckily I was wrong on both counts.

Run: this run course starts out with a climb up a giant staircase, which is best navigated usings ones hands and feet. The rest of the course is a mix of pavement and trails, and I looked forward to seeing other people, just to have something to try to catch. At some point during the race I irritated my left shoulder, and by the end of the run it had become very painful

I finished 5th in my age group, made a beeline for the med tent to clean my finger, and got a massage to relieve the issue in my shoulder. I now have a massage therapist in Dallas, should I ever need one, who thinks I'm tough. So random. I also made friends with a girl in TX who lives in Redwood City, and we have gone riding a few times since. It's a small world, after all.

Next up is the brand-new XTERRA Pacific Championships in Santa Cruz. I even get to sleep in my own bed!