Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rocking Curt Gowdy

Xterra Curt Gowdy
1200 meters/1312 yards Swim
14.1 mile mountain bike
5.4 mile trail run
6700-8000 ft. elevation

'Kick Curt Gowdy's Ass', Jonny sleepily tells me as I leave for my race.  I said I would but I admit that I wasn't feeling it.  Between the prediction for a high of 90 degrees and a feeling of being unprepared for the bike, I briefly thought about bagging it.  But I had blinked awake without my alarm at 4:19 a.m. and was not going to fall back to sleep anyway so I dragged my butt out of bed, loaded the zillions of water and ice and food for before, during and after the race into the car and started the nearly 2 hour drive up to Wyoming.

The smoke in Longmont and towns north of Longmont was thick.  The mountains had disappeared in the haze and it was settled into the landscape like a thick fog.  Breathing it in was awful and I wondered how I would ever get the smell out of my car.  But once I got north of Fort Collins the air cleared, the mountains reappeared and you would never know there was a fire.  Thankfully Curt Gowdy was not getting smoke from the fire even though it's only about 35 miles away.

I thought I was going to get to the race not too early, not too late but it turns out the Xterra crowd is pretty laid back and I was one of the early birds.  Got a good spot in transition but had too much down time sitting around.  But there are worse places to sit around and wait for a race to start.

As I listened to the race director's pre-race talk I admit that I felt some doubts start to bubble.  He was going on about all the medical support on hand complete with ATV for the bad crashes.  He said that like it was a certainty.  Then he talked about the 'beast' of a climb out of the Canyons at the end of the bike which was the one part of the course I missed out when I pre-rode it.  Water temp. was 62-63 degrees which is cold for me but the air temp. at 9:00 a.m. was already too hot.  Standing on the beach waiting for my wave to start and cooking in my wetsuit I told my inner Goldilocks to HTFU.  Then I got in the water to warm up, felt the biting cold water on my face and the feeling of my breath being knocked out of me and decided this was stupid, I was getting out and going home.  It would be so easy to get out now while I could.  Then I swam a little and once my heart rate came down and I got used to the cold I was fine.  Got back out since my wave wasn't for a while and decided I was going to do this thing.  The whole thing.  No wimping out and DNF'ing before the run or bail out point on the bike. 

So I decided to banish the doubts I had and closed my eyes and did some self-hypnosis stuff.  When I
opened my eyes I saw a woman who looked like she must have been the oldest woman there, like she was the oldest woman I'd ever seen at an Xterra.  She had a pleasant look on her face so I smiled at her and she starting chatting with me.  Turns out she's done all kinds of Xterra's, been to Nationals in Utah and Worlds in Hawaii as well as the Mountain Championships we have in Colorado.  She just moved here from Florida where she claims they have the most technical bike course for one of their races.  She was going on about how fun this race or that race was.  Her joy for the sport was infectious and I immediately felt better as well as inspired.  She had pre-ridden the course and said she planned on walking the whole part of the Canyons climb, too steep and technical to even attempt so I felt a bit of pressure taken off right there knowing someone with good technical skills was going to walk it.  Such a neat woman, I hope I'm still doing crazy off-road triathlons with technical bike courses like Curt Gowdy when I'm 62.

The Start

By the time my wave lined up in the water I was back in attack mode, ready to take on the day, no more doubts.  And I did.  Swim went great, even with holding back and keeping an easy pace I managed a 1:52/100 yard pace for 1200 meters/1312 yards which is good for me.  The swim course looked so small because it was two 600 meter laps with a very short, couple of steps run on the beach in between.  I'm used to doing a bigger 1000 meter loop at masters so this was a piece of cake.

The Swim

Took some time in transition to put on socks and gloves.  I got terrible blisters the last time I did an off-road tri sockless and the gloves were a luxury I felt I deserved given the tough bike course.  Well worth the extra few seconds.

The bike was awesome.  I was able to ride so much more stuff than I rode a few weeks ago.  It felt like the fun, flowing course I initially thought I was signing up for.  And the other racers were great, I had no trouble passing or letting people pass me and everybody was so friendly and supportive and so happy to be out there.  One guy with a big grin on his face passed me and said, 'What an awesome trail, isn't it?'  and I had to agree.  There were places still that I had to get off.  Steep climbs that I didn't feel like fighting as well as the technical parts on Mo' Rocka.

The Bike

But this time around it seemed like the smooth single track went on forever because I didn't have to get off at every single rock or drop-off.

I know I posted these photos already but I want to have them in my race report.

I guess I wasn't as unprepared as I thought I was.  Also watching other people ride stuff gives me the confidence to ride it.  For the second half of the race I ended up changing places back and forth with a 51 year old woman.  I thought how cool that she's doing races like this at 51 then got a jolt when I realized that I'm only 3 years away.  We encouraged each other along and it was nice to have company on the hike up the Canyons trail.  I'm very glad I missed that part out in my pre-ride because if I had known about it ahead of time I'm not so sure I would have come back. 

In the end I finished the bike portion in about 2 hours 3 minutes compared to the 2 hours 5 minutes it took me to ride the shorter course when I pre-rode it and left off the last 2.4 miles including that long steep climb out of the Canyons.  And I felt way better this time around, not that same exhausted, mentally drained way.  I was tired, I'll admit that but not discouraged.  (My official bike finish time was 2:12 because my cyclometer doesn't record time when I'm stopped so I lost 9 minutes or so stopping to let other people pass and getting off and on my bike.  But I want to compare apples to apples.)

The course deals a cruel blow in that you have to run through the finish area to get to the uphill single track to start the run.  The very same single track I did on the bike.  Plus I had to run past my car and I had my key on me.  But I wasn't the least bit tempted.  I shuffled along at a painfully slow pace but I got back on that single track and told myself my race was only just starting and I repeated the process every time I ticked off a mile.  With 3.4 miles to go I told myself I was starting a long 5k.  With 2.4 miles to go I was starting a short morning run with the dogs around the lake, etc.  The course was much hillier and more challenging than my typical, flat-ish run around the lake but I told myself it anyway.  The course is my favorite kind of run course, rolling and none of the climbs too long.  There were a few places that were so steep that it made more sense to power hike them but they were short.  Such a fun run course, wish there were more trails around me like this.

At the start of the run I was thinking I could break 4 hours, a much better finish than my anticipated 4 1/2 hours but as I passed the 5 mile marker I knew it wasn't meant to be and in the end I finished in 4:04:55.  But it was o.k., I was just so happy to finish and to have had such a fun race.

The Finish

I did a good job of drinking water and taking in gels.  Thankfully some cloud cover and a slight breeze blew in just as I hit the exposed part of the bike course.  The cloud cover stayed through the run and this made a huge difference to the day.  It was warm but not unbearable because the sun wasn't beating down.  The race director added some aid stations due to the heat and that helped a lot.  There was plenty of water and the volunteers were happy to throw cups of it on me.

There was no pizza left at the finish line but I had brought plenty of my own food in anticipation of the food being either gone or non-vegetarian.  I had to hike almost a mile back to the transition area to get my bike and gear then ride the mile back to my car so it took a while to get out of there.  Didn't get home until nearly 5:30.

Going forward the biggest area for improvement is the run.  I was still so painfully slow despite doing way more running than last year.  I'm going to start hitting the track at least once a week and continue with the hill workouts.  My next race is the Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek in 3 weeks.  This is kind of like agility Regionals except you don't have to qualify.  The race is a bit longer and more challenging than a typical Xterra and you get more points for a given placement.  The good news is that I don't think the bike course is nearly as technical.  It has a lot of climbing though and some very long sustained climbs and a net elevation gain since it's a point to point race.  I think the run also has a lot of climbing and a net elevation gain so I'll be hitting those hills the next few weeks.

I'm still a bit tired today but the only muscles that are significantly sore are the muscles on my back just behind the lower part of my armpits, my lats maybe?  They're sore from all the turning and braking that I did on the bike.  I'm hoping to get back to training tomorrow though.  We've been having a terrible heat wave, triple digit heat for the past 5 days including today so it's not a good day to be out anyway.  Poor dogs, they get a nice walk early in the a.m. but not much else I can do with them after that and agility practice is out of the question outside of a few quick weave pole entries in the backyard.

Here are the final numbers.  I was not DFL.  There were 9 DNF's and 2 DQ's.  One guy had a crash that exposed 6" of his shin bone yet he seemed to have a good attitude about it though he did not finish.  I passed woman walking on the run and she had some cuts on her back.  They didn't look that bad but I saw her seeking medical attention at the finish line and it sounded like she had cactus spines in the cut.  Ouch.  There were a lot of cacti out there, many of them blooming.  So pretty but not if you land in them.  I saw a lot of guys on the side of the trail with mechanical problems and a few carrying their bikes back to the finish area.  Didn't see or hear about any other injuries.

Overall had a great time.  I think Curt Gowdy and I will meet again next year.


Swim (1200 meters/1312 yards):  24:36 mins. (1:52/100 yards), 5/5 in age group, 142/191 overall

T1:  3:37 (wore socks and gloves)

Mountain Bike (14.1 miles):  2:12:45 (hours:mins:secs), 5.5 mph, 5/5 age group, 168/191 overall

T2:  1:53

Trail Run (5.4 miles):  1:22:06, 16:26/mile (winner of age group was 11:46), 5/5 age group,    168/191 overall

Finish:  4:04:55, 5/5 age group, 46/59 women, 165/191 overall


  1. You rocked it!!! I LOVE that you enjoyed the bike so much after all this time dreading it! SO happy for you that it turned out to be such a good race day :)

  2. Big congrats on sticking it out and competing through the whole race, even though your Kazoo was telling you to go home.
    Great accomplishment!

  3. Congrats!! Thats so awesome. I dont know how people do this kind of thing but way to go!!

  4. Wow, congratulations! And in that heat, too! What a delight that your bike time was so much better than on your practice run. Not only were you not DFL, you beat a bunch of people; that's cool. Do you think that the wave level that you picked was the right one?

    RadioLab on NPR this weekend had a show on... uh,oh, don't remember the general topic. But there's this lady who runs and wins 100+ mile races. Started running when she discovered that it staved off epileptic seizures, but not 100+ miles. Didn't work forever, and they ended up removing a damaged part of her temporal lobe, which completely affected her sense of time passing, as in, she doesn't sense it at all any more. So your strategy to convince yourself that you were just starting out is what it's like for her running all the time, and all of a sudden she found that doing 100+ miles was easy--no sense of time passing, therefore no sense of how tired she should be feeling... interesting.

  5. I was in the best possible wave for me. I lost time letting quite a few people pass but I hung onto a few fast wheels here and there and riding down behind the faster, confident riders gave me the confidence to go faster and ride stuff that normally would worry me.

    I did hear that program on Radiolab and her story had given me the inspiration for my race day strategy as well as the story of Scott Jurek getting up off the road during Badwater and pretending his race had just started. When you're running/racing you're already in a hypnotic state so it's fun/easy to play around with time distortion.

    There was another story on Radiolab, an interview with Juli Moss and Wendy Ingraham, who will be at my next race in my age group, and they were talking about research indicating that our body sends our brain signals of fatigue before we're tired as a defense mechanism so we always have a bit extra in the tank that we can tap into if we can mentally put aside the fatigue/pain signals. Of course you have to be careful with that or you end of crawling across the finish line at the Ironman like Juli but still interesting to know there's more in the tank than you think there is.

  6. Oh, that makes sense. Otherwise adrenaline would have nothing to work with.