Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Xterra Nationals 2014


Swim course distance: 1,500-meters/1640 yards (0.93 miles) Combines two 750-meter laps (no run in-between)
 Elevation at Port Ramp Marina for swim start:  4,900-feet
Water temperature: Probably around 67 degrees
Mountain bike course distance: 28-kilometers (17.7 miles)
Total climbing on bike: 3,400-feet
Elevation at highest point: 7,300-feet (where Sardine Peak Trail meets the ridgeline)
Elevation at T2/Snowbasin Resort Lodge: 6,400-feet
Trail Run course distance: 10-kilometers (6.2 miles)
Total climbing on run: 700-feet
Total climbing on course: 4,100-feet

LOVE the purple shirts they gave us this year!

Finally I have a good race at Nationals.  Such a great feeling when it all comes together and you have that awesome day.  I get to Utah late Tuesday afternoon and have plenty of time to relax, pre-ride the bike course, have a swim in Pineview Reservoir and of course a visit to Antelope Island.  Such a difference from last year, night and day.  I feel strong and rested and ready.


Heading out for my warm-up and feeling good.

The water is 67.5 degrees, air temp. must be low to mid-60's with the sun beating down.  I don't wear my swim socks and I'm not cold at all.  Probably don't need my neoprene skull cap but it helps to keep the water out of my ears and doesn't hinder me in any way so I wear it.

The swim field seems smaller than last year and it's not my imagination.  The Championship age group field was 342 last year and is 266 this year.  I decide to line up with the buoys this year so I don't waste time swimming extra yardage.  The race director has promised that the course will be accurate this year.  Last year it was possibly as much as 660 yards long which is a LOT for a course that's supposed to be 1640 yards.  Last year the buoy had drifted overnight and no one had checked it in the morning but this year the race director promises it will be checked.  And standing on shore I'm happy to see that the buoy looks significantly closer than last year.

And we're off.  That smoke is from the starter cannon.  Because Xterra uses a cannon, not some panty waist starter pistol.

The washing machine

The first buoy comes up much more quickly this year and I'm able to sight it a little better since it's closer in.  There's congestion at the first turn but I'm expecting it and keep calm and wait my turn to get around.  It's crowded but not nearly as bad as previous years.  I occasionally get boxed in even on the second lap but thanks to the races I did this summer I can figure out how to work my way through.  I draft a bit here and there but I don't do it too much because I feel like the people I'm drafting off are holding me back so I go a good pace for me and catch a few feet here and there when I can.  I focus on my stroke technique, trying to pull every bit of power I can from every stroke.  I feel smooth and strong in the water despite the crowds and turbulence and I'm passing people the whole way.  My time is 35:07/2:08 per 100 yards, a bit slow for 1500 meters compared to my Stroke-n-Stride/race times this summer which were more like 1:48-1:50 per 100 yards but given the crowd I had to navigate and the long day I have ahead of me and how good I feel coming out of the water I'm VERY happy with my swim.

I run up the boat ramp to T1 in 1:16, a big improvement over last year's 2:08.

T1 is 8 seconds slower than last year.  I probably don't need to worry about tying my gear bag shut, the volunteers usually do it and that's likely where I lost the time.  Gloves are a bit problematic as usual but I've left a small towel to dry my hands and this helps.


My bike goes really well this year.  I ride all the way up Wheeler Canyon without having to get off at all (usually there's a spot or two that I have to walk due to steepness and other people walking).  My coach passes me at the one rocky, steep spot I always get off at and some other people get off but we ride up it no problem. 

Jonny is waiting to cheer me on at the Green Pond trailhead.  I hit the trailhead at around 1:04 hours.  I'm not sure but I think this is a good time.  I can't remember my times from previous years.  I feel much better than in previous years though.  It's pretty much all climbing up to this point and usually I'm plenty tired.

For the first time the other racers from the sprint and non-championship race don't try to pass me on the single track downhill after Green Pond.  This has been the one scary part of the course for me in year's past but this year I ride it no problem and only 2 people pass me on a wide portion of road.  Phew!  In fact pretty much everybody that passes me this year is really nice and patient, waiting for a good place to pass rather than trying to squeeze by me on narrow trail.  There are a couple of meat head local guys from the local race being impatient and yelling, 'left, Left, LEFT' over and over even though there's no where for them to pass but at least all they do is yell and they don't try to run me off the trail like the other years.  When I reach the turn off for Sardine Peak which is where the sprint racers turn off I hear the volunteer tell the sprint racer that he's in 5th so I was well ahead of most of them and this makes me realize I must be going faster this year.

But being faster means I end up in a bigger crowd on Sardine Peak.  This is kind of good because I have some pressure and people to pace off of.  I fall behind a man who is about my pace and I let him pull me up the mountain.  Sometimes he surges ahead a bit and I push to keep up.  I also have a couple of women on my heels pushing from behind.  Usually I'm on my own with a few other people struggling on Sardine Peak so I'm excited that this year it actually feels like a race.  Xterra interviewed me for their race t.v. show this year and one of the thing they asked me was what would be a Facebook status that I would post during the race.  I tell them, 'Riding up Sardine Peak feeling strong, enjoying the fall colors,' and this keeps running through my head as I ride.  I do feel strong and I am enjoying the colors.

Sardine Peak during the pre-ride

Near the top of Sardine Peak one of the women behind me starts chatting, asking me where I'm from, etc.  I'm always amazed when people do this.  I answer her in short, one words gasps and she eventually gives up.  The guy who's been pulling me up pulls over to the side for a rest near the top.  I thank him for the pull and then quickly everyone I've been riding with smokes me on the downhill.  It's o.k. though, it's not a very long downhill and I'm happy to go a pace that feels good to me.  The descent is super fun, smooth swoopy singletrack with a few tight switchbacks but mostly fun, fast weaving through the woods and the fall colors.

There's a another short climb on the Maples trail but it's not too bad and soon I'm back at Snowbasin where Jonny cheers me on once again and snaps a few more photos.

Love this aerial shot.  He was up on a hill above the course.

As I head towards transition I look at my cyclometer and realize my time is 20 minutes faster than last year!  SO excited for that.  Later my official time is about 2 mins. slower and I realize my cyclometer turns off when I stop and I probably lost 2 mins. on Sardine Peak having to stop to let people by at some switchbacks that I walked up.  Also a woman ahead of me fell down at a switchback she couldn't quite make it up and it took a bit for her to clear off the trail.  Still, so excited by that huge improvement.  And I felt a lot stronger on the bike this year as well.


Ah the run.  I'm hoping for a 10 min. or so improvement on the run but pretty early on I realize it's not happening for me this year.  The first mile is a steep climb up that most people end up walking including me.

The second mile is downhill and I usually end up getting a cramp and this year is no different.  Then the trail becomes more rolling - some ups some downs - and the cramp eases up.  Don't know what it is about running steep downhills but I even get cramps in training even if the downhill is at the start of the run.  Something to work out this winter/spring.  It's a bit warm, maybe high 70's, but there's a stiff breeze here and there and plenty of aid stations so I'm able to dump water on my head and cool myself down.  Still my head wants to go but my legs won't cooperate.  I feel like I have strength left in my legs, I don't have that burning feeling, but somehow I can't go any faster.  At almost the half way point someone from my age group passes me and she's going way faster, no way I can even pretend to try to keep up.  Oh well.  I have to run my own race and my overall goal of breaking 5 hours looks darn achievable if only I can keep up some kind of forward motion on the run.  Watching my run splits go by I fear it may end up being close.  I end up walking a lot of the uphills even though they don't seem that steep.  I do this every year.  The elevation is around 7500' which isn't super high for me though I realize I do very little running at higher altitudes, it's mostly biking and hiking in the higher country in the summer for me. 

The miles tick by, I end up falling twice for no particular reason.  I'm not hurt but it does cause an adrenaline rush each time that takes a few moments to recover from.  The last mile is a steep downhill and looking at my watch I realize I have a very good chance of breaking 5 hours.  I go as quick as I can and for now the cramp is not bothering me.  I hear the crowd at Snowbasin sooner than I'm expecting and next thing I know the finish line is coming up quick.  They've changed the finish so that we don't have to slog up a steep hill right at the end anymore.  Thank you Xterra for that.  So happy to see that finish line!  I click off my watch at 4:53.  Way ahead of my goal!  Such a great feeling.

The pros have a 2 minute head start so that's not my finishing time.

Yay for the finish line.

My run time is only 1:08 faster than last year and part of that is due to the lack of the final hill and my splits from last year to this are all over the place.  But my overall time is over 31 minutes faster than last year and even with the longer swim last year this is still a huge improvement.  And I felt so much better, especially on the bike.  Such a great feeling when it all comes together.

The only glitch I have is that I forget to put my bottle of 2 servings of UCAN on my bike and the only other fuel I have is a one serving gel flask in my Camelbak that I threw in last minute in case I needed extra.  I stop at the only bike aid station and grab some Powergels which wastes some time because I have to stop to put them in my bike jersey pocket.  I never use them though and the one serving of UCAN (about 50 calories) is the only fuel I have for the whole race and I'm fine, never feel bonky or like I need more fuel.  I'm declaring the high fat/low carb diet a success.  I never got all the way to ketosis but apparently I had enough fat burning adaptation going on to get me through a nearly 5 hour race on only a little UCAN.

Overall very happy with my season and my performance.  Looking forward to an easy recovery week and moving on to fall/winter activities.

Final Stats

Swim:  35:07 swimming time (2:08/100 yd.)
            [47:23 (2:04/100 yards if 2100 m/2297 yards is accurate) last year] 
            188/266 overall (278/342 last year), 58/86 women (84/110 last year), 3/7 age group
            (8/12 last year) 

Run Up Ramp to T1:  1:16 mins. (2:08 last year)

T1 plus run up from beach:  3:01 (2:53 last year)

Bike:  2:42:00/6.71 mph (2:59:20/6.06 mph last year)  240/266 overall (326/342 last year), 73/86
           women (101/110 last year), 5/7 age group (12/12 last year)

T2:  1:51 (1:48 last year)

Run:  1:30:16, 14:27 min/mile (1:31:08/14:27 min/mile last year)    249/266 overall (317/342 last      
          year), 77/73 women (98/110 last year), 6/7 age group (11/12 last year)

    Run Splits:

    Miles 1 and 2:  32:26
    Mile 1:   (18:46 last year)
    Mile 2:   (11:44 last year)
    Mile 3:  16:30 (19:22 last year)
    Mile 4:  15:16 (13:28 last year)
    Mile 5:  14:17  (15:22 last year)
    Mile 6.2:  12:01 (13:07 last year)

Final Time:  4:53:31 (5:24:40 last year),  243/266 overall (315/342 last year),  75/86 women
                    (95/110 last year), 6/7 age group (11/12 last year)

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