Monday, August 26, 2013

Xterra Buffalo Creek 2013

Xterra Buffalo Creek
1500 meter swim
22 mile bike
5 mile run
8000' elevation

This is a fun but long race.  It went dormant for a few years because the owner of the private lake went bankrupt when the economy tanked and I'm not entirely clear about what happened after that - the Forest Service took over the lake and didn't want to mess around with having a race was one story I heard but I dunno.  Anyway, this is its first year back after several years hiatus and I was very excited when it was announced last year.  I did the short course version of this race in 2007 and I had a blast.  This year there was no short course option and even if there was I would have gone for the longer version.

It's my longest race of the season and leading up to it I had mixed feelings.  Still feeling a bit apathetic about things like this but I can't afford to be too apathetic because I need the points if I want to go to Nationals.  As long as I get some points I'll stay in the top 10 and qualify but the start list shows 17 people and points only go to 15th place.  It looks like a competitive field too.  I don't know the people but all but 4 are in faster waves than me.  Way faster waves.  I'm in wave 6 of 7 and lots of these folks are in waves 1 and 2, the fastest.  It's likely not everyone will show up and I know at least one person isn't going but it's also possible for someone to buy a slot in since the race allows transfers.  I have no idea if I'm faster or close to any of the people in my wave.  And I can't worry about stuff like that since I have no control over it.  All I can do is show up and do my best and muster up as much motivation as I can and hope for some points after the dust clears.

It's my longest drive as well, 1 hour 38 minutes/71.8 miles and a good deal of it is mountain driving in the dark.  When I drove up in 2007 an elk crossed the road in front of me and there were some Border Collies on the highway.  Thankfully no critters dash in front of me this year.  I'm surprised by the drive on the dirt road between the highway and Wellington Lake.  I remember it took a while, about 25 minutes or so for 8 miles, but I'm surprised by how steep and twisty and uppy/downy it is.  It's also a bit dry and loose and washboard-y in places.  A bit unnerving for 6 a.m.  It's not really all that bad, it's just that I'm not expecting it.  I'm thinking maybe I would have been better off camping.  There are campsites right at the lake next to transition. 

I get up there at 6:29 a.m. and get one of the last parking spaces close to transition.  And I realize I'm so happy I'm not camping.  It's cold.  See your breath cold.  Hats and fleece vests cold.  You can see how folks are dressed in transition and this is after the sun started coming up.

That cloudy splotch on the photo is because my lens is worn or scratched or something.  I've tried cleaning it but it's a cheapo point and shoot that's been worked hard and is at the end of its days.  I ponied up the money for a replacement, same brand, similar model, same cheapo price point but I don't want to bring a brand new camera to a triathlon, leave it in transition to possible get trampled, etc. so these last few photos have that bit of cloudiness.

More transition.  I didn't take many photos.

This one came out o.k.  I couldn't resist the moon.

View of the swim from transition.

Swim:  1500 meters/1640 yards

The water is very low so we have to wade through a bunch of ankle sucking mud to get to waist deep water.  Not such a big deal at the start but it adds about 30 seconds to my swim time when I have to wade back out of it at the end of the swim.

The water is supposed to be 71 degrees but there's no way.  It feels more like 65.  If I'm lucky.  I warm up for a bit but not really long.  I get used to the cold, swim for a bit and feel myself getting colder so I decided to get out and wait in the sun for my wave.  Air temp. is probably in the low 60's with some nice bright sunshine and I warm up quickly enough with the sun beating down on my black wetsuit.  These are almost identical conditions to the swim start at nationals last year so it's great practice.

I'm in wave 6 of 7 and it's a 2 lap swim so there are other waves starting their second lap before I start my first.  The waves are small but only 3 minutes apart so there's a bit of congestion on the first stretch of the swim.  I'm in too slow of a swim wave but in a good wave for my biking ability which is more important so I have to suck it up on the swim and try to make my way through the washing machine.  At first I'm happy for the drafting but soon I realize I need to push my way through the pack because it's too slow of a pace.  It takes a couple few hundred yards but eventually I make my way through and start passing people from the other waves. 

Lap 2 is much less crowded, I'm able to draft a bit but for the most part I try to swim as fast as I can and avoid the people who are having a hard day.  At first I can't believe how winded I feel but then I realize, duh, it's 8000', of course I'm winded.  I had one of my worst swim freak outs ever when I first did this race so I empathized with the various people who were struggling.  I even came up on a guy from the 1st wave.  Thankfully I feel fine this time, no worries, focusing on my stroke and trying to go fast but not too crazy because it's a long race and a long day.  But I'm playing around with pacing to see how pushing myself in the swim affects the rest of my race.

I stop swimming at around 33 minutes which is an appallingly slow for me 2:01/100 yards pace.  I know not to get too wound up about the swim.  It's hard to say if the course is marked accurately, how straight I swam, etc.  And there's the elevation and the fact that this is race #3 in 4 weeks. My time for  at the Stroke-n-Stride last week was 32:08 which is only a minute off, easily accounted for with the elevation.  I hit the beach at 33:35 and the run up the beach to transition takes 1:46.


I struggle with my wetsuit for the first time in ages and end up cramping my calf a bit by straining it trying to get out.  I have bigger gloves but still it takes an eternity to get them on.  I'm going to be irritated if I miss a placement and going to nationals over these stupid gloves.  But it's a 22 miles bike ride in the dirt and I really want gloves.  I'm out of T1 in 2:32 which is about 50-60 seconds too slow for me.

Mountain Bike:  22 miles

I love the trails at Buffalo Creek and this is a beautiful course.  I ride through forests that open up to beautiful views.  It's a mixture of single track and double track and since it's one big loop there isn't much congestion on the trail at all and passing is mostly easy enough.

Note:  I took these photos last May when I pre-rode the course.  I don't stop to take photos during races.

The trails were not typically this flat.  There were some good climbs, especially at the start.

Nice views.  Not that I had much time to admire them.

The climb through the burn zone up Gashouse Gulch is steep and sandy.

The bike starts out with some flat-ish bits as you work your way to a steep downhill on a rutted dirt road.  I decide to eat a gel right away because my stomach feels o.k. and I'm not sure how long it will be before another good opportunity arises.  It's a long day and getting enough calories is important.  But very quickly I realize this is a mistake.  My stomach isn't as settled as I think and usually I wait a bit after the swim for this very reason.  My stomach goes all sore and crampy even though I'm going downhill.  I go down this road conservatively.  It's very steep and rutted in places and a woman went down in front of me last time I did this race.  The race director warns us that conditions are bad on this road due to a rain storm on Thursday but it's not nearly as bad as I remember it from 2007.  I never got back up to pre-ride this section of the course but I'm fine on the road.  Glad I didn't waste a trip up just to ride that road.

After a few miles the climbing starts and my stomach protests.  I ride as hard as I can but there's not much I can do.  I get passed by 4 people in my age group in the first 5-10 minutes of the climb but there's nothing I can do.  I can only focus on my own race and what I can do in the moment.  I'm sure my stomach will settle eventually, I just have to breathe and be patient and take my mind elsewhere.

Near the top of a long steep climb, maybe 30-40 minutes into the race yet another person from my age group passes me.  My stomach is still queasy and there's nothing I can do.  Eventually though after about an hour my stomach finally settles.  The trail turns from a steady climb to a mixture of climbs and descents.  I know I've got a good long downhill coming up so I risk some more gel and this time it settles in o.k.  I have to risk the cramping because I know I'll be in trouble in such a long race if I don't get calories in.

I'm on my own for the long descent down Baldy.  It's dry and loose so I'm watching my speed but it's a good sort of trail for me to go fast downhill so I push it as much as I'm comfortable.  There are lots of straight sections and the turns aren't too tight.  Eventually I see someone up ahead of me.  I figure the chance is slim to none that it's someone from my age group but I chase the person nonetheless.  Eventually we start the steep, sandy, loose climb through the burn area of Gashouse Gulch and I catch the person.  And she's from my age group, I think someone who passed me earlier.  I can't believe it.  I know that as long as I beat one person from my age group I have a good chance of finishing in the points.  So I use this as motivation for myself and push myself up the steep climb.  I don't hear her behind me and I don't catch any glances of her on the switchbacks as I make my way up. 

At the top I pass a guy on the short flat-ish part at the top then go bombing down a dirt road fast as I can.  Then I hit the steep steep climb up the rutted dirt road because what goes down must come up and thankfully I'm not talking about my gel.  I do manage to keep one more gel down, can't even remember where I ate it.  Anyway, this hill is brutal and goes on forever and I end up riding with a woman and 2 other guys.  It's nice to have other people to mentally pull you up so I'm happy for them.  Eventually they all get off and walk but I stay on my bike.  I'm not a whole lot faster and the woman catches me at the top.  But there's no sign of the woman from my age group.

There's a bit of a downhill back to transition and I come in just behind the woman I was riding with.  We're racked next to each other and I beat her out of transition but she catches me very quickly on the run.

When I'm trying to figure out a goal for my bike pace I tell Jonny I think I can do it in 3 hours.  He says no, I can do it in 2 1/2 hours.  I decide 2:40 is a reasonable goal, 2:30 is a super stretch I'd be thrilled goal.  I end up splitting the difference finishing the bike in 2:34:58.  Very happy with that.


T2 goes much more smoothly.  No wetsuit to worry about and I'm not loopy from the swim, gloves come off quickly.  Out of there in 1:05, fastest time in my age group.

Run:  5 miles

No photos of the run, I never checked it out beforehand and it's longer than the course I did 6 years ago.  I only vaguely remember the course, I know it's a steep climb to a waterfall, a steep descent and then?  According to the race director's pre-race talk it's downhill from the 3 mile mark.  I'm having trouble with a side cramp, the one that's plagued me all summer, and it's slowing me down.  I'm not sure what kind of lead I have.  I can't see or hear anyone behind me but I have no idea what kind of a lead I have.  I'm so used to people blowing past me on the run or passing me at the very end.  All I can do is go as fast as I can.  I know the cramp will go away so I put my mind elsewhere and work my way up the hill.  I power hike in some super steep places.

The climb isn't too long especially compared to Lory and soon I'm headed back downhill.  There are some more climbs but nothing too terrible.  There is a long-ish climb that I'm not expecting after the 3 mile mark.  Race director must have forgotten about that one.  But after that it is mostly downhill.  The trail goes around the lake and is mostly in the woods but every once in a while a view of the lake opens up and I have a rough idea of how much is left by where I am around the lake.

Every once in a while I turn and look behind me and I never see anybody.  Nonetheless I keep going fast as I can.  My cramp settles down and I pick up the pace a bit for the last 2 miles or so.  I pass a couple of guys but never see or hear anybody behind me.  I'm so happy when I cross the finish line especially since I'm fairly certain I got my points for nationals.

I was hoping for a run time under an hour but wasn't sure how realistic that was.  I finish the run in 55:53.  SO excited about that.  11:11 min/mile for a trail run at 8000'?!  Yes, very very excited.

I was guessing a finish time around 4:15.  A super stretch goal would be 4:00.  I finish in 4:09, happy enough with that especially considering the elevation, all the racing I've been doing and the length of the race.

They have one of the cool gizmos that spits out your results at the finish line but it only give me my time, not my placement.  They have a sheet of results posted but it only goes up to finishers with a time of 3:40 or faster.  At that point there were 7 finishers in my age group.  I guess that from the amount of people that passed me that I probably finished in 8th or 9th place, plenty of points to keep me in the top 10.   So so happy about that.

Overall a good race, perfect weather conditions yet again.  It was a cool enough day, temps. in the mid-60's I'd guess, maybe up to 68.  Plenty of sun so I wasn't cold on the bike and a bit of cloud cover for the last couple of miles of the run.  Perfect.  Beautiful course.  Love Buffalo Creek.  Pleased with all my results except maybe the swim.  So happy with my run.

No food other than the dregs at the bottom of the potato chip bags and some very nasty looking grocery store cookies.  Don't know if there was food at some point but if there was it was long gone by the time I got there.  Didn't hang around very long afterwards.

Final Stats

Swim:  1500 meters/1640 yards, about 33 mins. swimming time (2:01/100 yards)/35 secs. wading through mud and 1:46 dash up the beach for official time of 35:21

T1: 2:32

Mountain Bike:  22 miles, 2:34:58/8.5 mph

T2:  1:05

Trail Run:  5 miles, 55:53/11.11 min./mile 
Total:  4:09:46 

177/211 Overall 
44/57 Women 
9/10 Age Group 

Swim:  6/10 Age Group, 133/211 Overall

T1:  6/10 Age Group, 107/211 Overall

Bike:  9/10 Age Group, 198/211 Overall

T2:  1/10 Age Group, 58/211 Overall

Run:  10/10 Age Group, 192/211 Overall

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