Though the Xterra season is long, being from a Northern Nation, I usually feel like I get into my best shape every year near the end of the season after lots of outdoor riding etc all summer. As per usual, Xterra Nationals went fairly well and I was continuing to build that fitness a little in the 5 weeks up to Worlds. Having moved the family out to Victoria, B.C. (back to my homeland :)) on Labour Day Weekend, I’ve also thoroughly been enjoying the new training grounds! I’m now looking forward to a snow free winter, apart from weekend excursions up to Mt Washington for our ski fixes!.
I was counting my lucky stars after having avoided the two rounds of colds my kids have gone through since school started. The day before I flew to Maui, I had a light head cold and was feeling tired but still had good energy in training. Wednesday was travel day and with a gong show of flight cancellations/changes and late arrival, sleep was less than ideal. Thursday I felt like crap and rode an hour on the course. I was a big grumpy pants but from past experience I knew I always feel terrible my first day in Maui with the jet lag and the heat. So it was hard to tell the difference between being ill and adjusting to hot Maui. With congestion and a scratchy throat I wasn’t sleeping well but thought maybe I had a real cold beat by Friday morning when I headed out for early run. But by that evening my sore throat was back in full force and by Saturday morning my cold was in my ears and voice. Fun times! I enjoyed a little swim practice that day and just tried to rest. It was World Champs and there was nothing to do but race!! Heck, nothing to recover for afterwards! Except maybe the post-race party….
I was more than happy that race morning started with relatively calm waters. After being full on “scorpioned” by the waves crashing at last year’s swim exit, the few 2 footer waves at this year’s start were nothing! I was excited to get going. The canon went off and into the washing machine I dove with the rest of the Pros in our 2 minute head start over the other 700 or so amateur men (wave start 2) and amateur women (wave start 3). I had some feet until close to the first buoy (500m out) but was sort of alone for the rest of the swim until many of the green capped age group men were going by me. I came out of the water unscathed, phew!
Onto the bike, the first 3 miles was likely the hardest part. Unlike last year, this time we rode the first 3 miles of the run course, which meant a lot of steep, sandy ups in the full sun. The bike course was rumoured to be almost two miles longer than last year so I knew pacing would be key. My teammate Shonny passed me in the first few miles and I tried to hang with her but failed. She went on to ride the fastest bike split of the day and finish 8th overall. I focused on racing within myself – whatever that meant for the day – and found myself around a lot of the same guys for the rest of the race. When I wasn’t shooting out snot rockets (sorry, gross), or coughing now and then, over the two hours on the bike I made a few catches and actually quite enjoyed the somewhat twisty sections of the last few miles of the course and was making bigger ground on peeps there.
At the start of the run, Melanie, Carina, Kathrin Mueller of Germany, were all within site. So was our amazing young (17 years old) Luna teammate, Hanna Rae Finchamp, who went on to win the overall amateur title. It was a sufferfest as always, but I felt I had at least got the hydration part right for the run. Apparently with the trade winds dying down for a few days it was hotter than usual. Although sick, I actually felt like I still had a little more spark in my legs than I did after last year’s severe leg cramping incident coming out of the swim. But not feeling 100% definitely put me out of contention for my goal of the day – a top 10 after last year’s disappointment.
In the end, I managed 16th in one of the toughest Pro fields ever. Every year, the competition gets stronger. We had a new women’s winner this year – Nicky Samuels of New Zealand, who won handily by 2.5 minutes over Lesley Paterson (2010 & 2011 World Champ). Lesley out sprinted Flora Duffy of Bermuda for 2nd. Barbara Riveros (runner-up last year) was fourth. AND….drum roll….Emma Garrard rounded out the podium in 5th to win the Pro Mom category :), on her first season back with a 10-month old son! Full results can be found here.
So I’m disappointed for sure!! Although I did manage a 5th place finish on this course the first year it moved from Makena beach in 2011, I still miss and prefer the old course. While full of lava rocks and the dreaded thorns on the side, the old course actually required some balancing skills, decent bike handling, and a serious amount of momentum to ride well. I think it is a little sad that this new course is getting dubbed the “ITU Vacation race”. I know our women’s winner is an amazing athlete but it doesn’t look good when the official Xterra race report, quotes this:
“Samuels, 30, who raced for New Zealand at the London Olympics and normally focuses on ITU road events, said she practiced her mountain biking for only three weeks prior to this race. Still, she was able to post the second-fastest bike split among the females at 1:49:36.”
Maybe one day Xterra will consider doing some proper trail building in Maui or even moving the Worlds venue around like many of us have suggested. If not, it is still the toughest race of the year, for length, climbing, and conditions – heat and surf – but not for technical riding – a triathlon that was originally meant for mountain bikers….hmmmm.
As always, a HUGE thanks to Luna Pro team manager (Waldek, also doubling as team photographer) and team mechanic (Chris), for all the amazing race support. Thanks to Chris V. and Brandi also for the amazing support during the race. Thanks to Katie, Debby, and Brandi for being such awesome housemates at Napili Point. I think my ribs and abs were more sore from laughing than from race exertion and coughing! Now time to get healthy enjoy the official off-season!
In the world of triathlon, it’s a pretty big time of year, 70.3 Worlds have just passed, Ironman World Championship is next weekend and the Xterra World Championship is just three weeks away. When the big one is approaching, most of the work is done but there are definitely some key workouts left to do for some final fine tuning. A little time is left to get every last ounce out of yourself for race day. And how to do this right for YOU is such an art! An art that some athletes craft through much trial and error. Or perhaps an art learned through an accelerated learning curve due to a higher internal monitoring – physical, psychological, social, tactical, technical, emotional; a higher all around self-awareness.
In my work as a mental performance consultant a big part of my philosophy is helping guide an athlete to higher levels of self-awareness for all the factors that help them perform at their best in order to do so more consistently. Some athletes have developed and use their self-awareness to their advantage better than others. Here are a few key reasons, in my personal opinion, as to why high self-awareness connects so closely to peak performance:
1. Progress is monitored more against previous self than others. This seems like a no brainer but so many athletes in my observations get stuck on comparing themselves to others in their training group, with their closest competitors, or with the champions in their sport. While there are many positives to learning from others and striving to emulate the best in your sport, greater emphasis on what is needed to reach YOUR peak potential will be more productive for day-to-day training. This means using your strengths and tackling your weaknesses head on and learning what helps you improve the most, not copying someone else’s success formula. It also means listening to your coach, listening to yourself, going hard when its time to go hard, and truly resting when it is time to recover.
2. High trust in coach and high belief in training program. For some reason, highly self-aware athletes seem to communicate better with their coaches and have a greater trust in their training. (again only my personal opinion here!). While of course there is some solid physiological science behind a great training program and coach, an athlete’s relationship with that coach, and belief in them can be equally, if not even more important, to building that self-awareness as a coach-athlete team as to what works best for reaching peak performances. The great coach-athlete relationships that I have seen involve a constant dialogue between coach,(e.g “how did that feel?”) and athlete (e.g. “I think maybe we should try X or change Y because…what do you think?”). When an athlete has the freedom to have such an open relationship with a coach, self-awareness as to what works best can be achieved much sooner!
3. High awareness of personal signs of fatigue = smart recovery. As related to the above two points, highly self-aware athletes know what they can handle, recognize the first signs of dangerous fatigue levels, and get better and better at taking proper recovery as soon as needed, even when unplanned. Secondly, such athletes don’t waste much energy comparing themselves to what others are doing. They listen to their own bodies, and stay confident in their “path to the podium”
4. Respect for the influence of all other “life factors”. With awareness of all the life factors that can impact training and competition for good or for bad, highly self-aware athletes are quicker and more confident to adjust accordingly when needed. When work, family, school, or any other life stressors (positive or negative) become more demanding, smart or aware athletes scale back training or modify as needed to stay healthy and keep moving forward as much as possible.
5. Know how to keep thyself motivated! Finally highly self-aware athletes are truly in tune with what motivates them. They can clearly answer why they are pursuing their sport? Why they love it? What kind of changes they make when their motivation starts to slump? How they keep things fresh, creative and fun while also consistently working hard towards their goals? They understand the purpose of each training session and how it fits in to the long-term plan, with a perspective on how it all fits together with the rest of LIFE!
Okay, after falling off the blog wagon for a while, that’s my two cents on something other than a race report in a while. Hope you enjoyed if you made it this far!
The Xterra USA Championship race is the 5th and final race in the Pro Points series. In order to contend for the overall prize purse it is mandatory to do this race, and one race (your worst result) is dropped in the final tally. American amateurs from all around the country also need to qualify for the race in their respective age categories. However, the Pro category lets us International folks in the race.
Like every other year I’ve been in Odgen, Utah, during the third weekend in September, the sun was shining and the reddening fall leaves were beautiful. As painful as riding uphill at altitude can be, the amazing colors and beauty of the trail always make me smile and grateful to be out there!
Now, I love my main sport of Xterra for the relaxed, chilled out and friendly atmosphere. However, unfortunately the relaxed nature of it all in regards to actual distances was a rather large disappointment when the race started out with the longest swim I have ever done in a triathlon, period! And I have done several half-ironman triathlons. The reservoir we swim in was unusually low this year so some of us thought, that is why the first buoy looks so far out there! We headed out into the glaring sun and boy did it feel like a LONG time before I rounded that first buoy. I had some good drafts for a while, and eventually the surging fast age groupers flew by after starting one minute behind us. And eventually I was settled into a pace with a few blue caps, and Heather Jackson just in front of me and Renata Bucher behind me and that was how we left transition as well 34 minutes later!!! To give perspective, for a 1500m swim I am usually in the 24-25 minute range. After the race, most estimated the swim to be around 500m too long!
That aside, I wasn’t really aware of how long the swim really was until the end! Off an on to the bike, I was feeling pretty awesome. I ditched gloves for this race and likely gained some serious time on the long road stretch for this smart move! Up into Wheeler Canyon, in the shady, and rockier section I was making some good time and quickly overtook Heather Jackson. Not long after that I felt like I was kind of in no man’s land for a while. I was surprised more male age groupers weren’t passing me – perhaps the extra long swim left those stronger mountain bike types farther behind than usual! I loved the short-lived descending and once up the steeper switch back climbing to the summit of Sardine peak I came upon Jackie Slack and Christine Jeffries. I had the last long descent all to myself with no one behind or in front and headed into and out of T2 in 8th place.
Up the first and very steep climb up a ski hill I could see Carina Wasle of Austria just ahead but it would be a few miles before I actually caught her. I was feeling pretty good and before the end of the first, fun, up and down windy single track I came upon Suzie, and then Melanie once back out on the double track. And then I finally saw and caught Carina on one of last climbing sections. I had made it to 5th. But no slowing down yet! It was a lot of gravity running in the last mile plus to the finish and after missing 3rd by 13 seconds last year I wasn’t about to give up any free time this year!
In the end I crossed the line well over a minute behind 4th (Emma Garrard) and was definitely proud of my effort. Although it was one of my lonelier races (e.g. without many people around me much – weird!) I felt like I was always pushing and “racing” my hardest, gave it my best so to speak. Out in the front Leslie took the win, Barbara was 2nd, and Chantell Widney (mom of 5-year daughter, up and coming Xterra superstar, watch for her in Maui!) was 3rd. That equals three moms on the podium!
At the end of the day, I had also jumped from 5th to 3rd overall in the Pro series – a nice surprise! After a slightly crazy couple of weeks prior to the race spend relocating our family to Victoria, B.C. from Calgary, AB and miraculously not getting sick as my kids came down with colds, I was happy to get through this training block and race healthy and fit. Even half of my housemates in Ogden were sick! And many thanks to the Kunz family for opening up their large “cabin” to Branden, Bri, Craig, Josiah, John, Steve, Brandi and I for several nights. It was a fun, relaxing place to hang out, and full of laughs right to the end, except when Branden almost died on the backyard zipline – but that’s another story!
Now its back to work before the big show off of some beach in the Pacific in exactly one month from today – Oct 27th. In the meantime, I will get back to adjusting to and enjoying life on my favourite island – Vancouver Island – and continuing our rather interesting, and way too time consuming house hunting!
With my kids happily settled into to life on Hornby Island and my husband doing some mad landscaping work on our house in Calgary before coming out to join us soon, I enjoyed a weekend away south of the border. After many years it was fun to be back in the land of my running years at the University of Washington. The weekend included a clinic with the Seattle Luna Chix Triathlon team and a new Xterra race adventure in Black Diamond, WA. (Although unfortunately I didn’t get to revisit the famous Dick’s Drive-In for the best hamburgers and milkshakes ever!)
It was a super fun time. On Saturday, my homestay Carrie and I drove down to Black Diamond from Sammamish (pronounced sa-MAM-ish, not sa-MA-mish as I kept saying, ha!). With 12 attendees, we talked the new-to-Xterra ladies through the specifics of swim-bike-running in off-road triathlons before going through a pre-ride of the two-lap 7.5 mile course. It was the most amount of single track over rocks and roots I’d ever seen, twisting like crazy through salal bushes, giant ferns and dark rain forests, quintessential Pacific Northwest style. It also involved almost zero vertical gain, not the best suited course for my strengths but a perfect one to practice my not so amazing cornering skills! Everyone did great on the ride and we all made it across the sketchy slick log for the creek crossing that we had to run through twice on race day (pictured below).
Race morning was perfect conditions, about 20 degrees C, slightly overcast but sunny by the end of the bike. The swim temp was made getting in with a wetsuit easy but wasn’t too warm either. It was a unique 1000m swim with the start taking us out between two large areas of lily pads. After that it was out around a buoy before heading to a tiny island. We were assisted up on to the island by coconut wearing volunteers before running no more than 20 metres across carpet before jumping back in and heading straight to shore. I was surprised to find myself in 3rd spot at this point and out of the water as well. With a bit of lily pad fright I lost a bit of time going too far right of the pads but still made it into shore and T2 in 17:12, nice length for a swim I figure,
Out on the bike it was nice to not have too much traffic. It was a course that required full focus to try to remember what was around each blind corner! Near the end of the first lap I heard a female voice sneaking up on me and wasn’t too surprised that there could be some stellar local mountain biking talent in the race. Turns out it was Solana Kline of Bend and the girlfriend of Ryan Trebon, and therefore knows my brother Geoff quite well – small world!! She had also just entered and won her first Xterra race at Vashon Island, WA! Solana was in and out of my sight for a while but on such a tight and dense course, it is hard to see anyone within 30 seconds but at least I was enjoying connecting the dots together better on the 2nd lap! As I headed into T2, I saw Solana running out so I had some work to do!
The run was a 2-lap almost figure-8 course with a pass near the finish 4 times. It was much like the bike course, always keeping you on your toes to navigate turns, and leap over roots, rocks and logs – only maybe a mile of open double track to just plain run! After 2h39min I crossed the finish for 1st in the women and 9th overall. A great day, and it was fun meeting lots of new Xterra friends! Thanks to Carrie, Eric, Seamus and Sirus Atwood for the amazing having me stay for the weekend with amazing hospitality! Congrats to Carrie who had a rocking day on the course and set a personal best time – no small feat just over one year after having brain surgery!
Next up – JABR mountain bike race, Squamish, B.C., Aug 17th
I love mountain venues. I think they remind me of my first years of mountain bike racing. A beautiful ski hill resort, lots of fresh mountain air, plenty of climbing usually rewarded by long, fun, technical descents (although the long descent factor was missing this weekend!). A very relaxed place to be for a race!
Back in Beaver Creek, Colorado on Thursday for the Xterra Mountain Championship this past Saturday, I timed my only pre-ride of the course by finishing the last technical descent in the dumping rain. Not the best way to check the feel of the trails which were all dry and nearly dusty again by Saturday! After an ideal pre-race day of run-nap-swim-eat beets I was feeling ready and rested.
I knew being next to Vail, CO that we were high and in thin air but I honestly couldn’t tell you the altitude before the race. I just know it pays to be a wee bit more conservative but otherwise my only plan was to listen to my body as usual – race hurt is race hurt! But for those interested the race included 3,600 feet of climbing on the bike and another 1,300 on the run. It started at 7,400 feet and peaked out at 9,400 feet.
I had a pretty good swim and was actually enjoying myself for most of it. The first lap I was drafting a crazy splashy kicker until I realized I was faster if I pulled to the side and away on my own. I had a good rhythm and felt like I was stroking strong. On the second to last buoy my arms were definitely feeling heavy but the timing was fine with the bike only a few minutes away…
Onto the bike I was down 3.5 minutes back of the leaders Julie Dibens (3x World Xterra Champ back in her first race in nearly two years after battling injury) and Flora Duffy. My teammate Suzie Snyder, as well as Kelley Cullen and Emma Garrard were also up ahead.
As we headed up under the ski lift to begin the first 3.5 miles of climbing I could see Shonny back down the switchbacks. With her absence last year I knew she would be the biggest challenge of the day for me to attempt a repeat win from last year, especially as she lives in Durango during the summer.
By that 3.5-4 mile mark I had passed Emma and then Kelley on the beginning of the pavement climb. By the end of the pavement I had passed Flora and could still see Shonny sneaking up on me. After a few miles of pavement we were back on the dirt and STILL climbing. And the top of all the climbing Shonny caught me and our teammate Suzie was in contact just ahead. After all the twisting descending and flats through some Aspen trees I had lost contact with Shonny but bridged up to Suzie on the next climb. We road together on the traverse across the mountain. After the most fun section of rolling descending single track it was one more short dirt road climb before the final corkscrew descent and into transition. There I saw Julie Dibens and managed to put in a burst to get around her before the descent.
Into and out of T2 it was Shonny, myself and then Suzie for a 1-2-3 for Luna. I did get one split that Shonny was about 2 minutes ahead. She is one of the stronger runners so I knew I would have to have a great run to catch her. So off I went feeling like I was in slow motion up and up through the Aspen trees with a few short reprieves along the way. I knew it was the same for everyone so just kept up one foot in front of the other! A long open road descent towards the transition area broke up the middle of the run. It was only a tease because right as you see the finish you have to head back up again for another loop of climbing before descending back to the finish. I was starting to feel a little queasy on the final climbs. I picked up a running partner, Craig Evans, for the last couple kilometres but unfortunately only managed to make up 25 seconds on Shonny by the end. A good day for sure and I hope I will be as fast as Shonny when I grow up to the age of 44 years young too! Suzie held on for 4th, while mom of two mountain star Kelly Cullen had a great race to run into 3rd. Rounding out the podium was mom #3 of the day, Emma Garrard.
Thanks again to our Luna mechanic Chris, for the pre-race support spoilage. Thanks to Branden Rakita (also placing 2nd in the Pro Men) and his parents for the accommodation set up and the most amazing pre-race meal!! And thanks to Brandi and Craig for all the laughs and amazingly fun post-race day ride – recommended to us by men’s race champ and local, Josiah Middaugh.
Now I’m out on the Hornby aka Hippy Island for a bit before heading to a new Xterra venue, at Xterra Black Diamond in Seattle in a few weeks. Can’t wait to hang with the local Luna Chix team down there as well!
It amazes me how we can push ourselves in a race, and then be hobbling around within minutes after finishing. This is what usually happens to me after these 2km swim/90km bike/21.1km run races, most commonly known as the half-ironman distance. For me, my second one in three weeks and last of the season (thank goodness!), was a, as expected, tough day! After a post-race day of total uselessness and complete mental and physical depletion (thanks kids for enjoying two rainy day afternoon Monday movies with me and bringing me Kleenex when the tears flowed during Black Beauty!) I am feeling much more recharged today!
For my second time at the Great White North triathlon, I got my wish from last year, a dry, mostly sunny day. However, the difference this year was a new course, with changes including a one-loop swim (although apparently it was as much 300m too short of 2km), a two loop (or rather out-and-back) bike, course, and a two loop (out-and-back mainly on the paved cycling paths) run.
This year race start was at 7:30am so after less than 6 hours of sleep I was still feeling groggy before go time. I was also still in the port-a-potty line up when they called everyone out of the water at 7:10 saying the swim warm-up was over, doh! I guess I wouldn’t even get a warm-up to help me wake up! No matter, at least I still had time to get my wetsuit on and get down to the beach! And the positive was that the water was warm enough that is wasn’t too much of a shock to the system to dive in with hundreds of others and start swimming like crazy to keep a straight line and not get clobbered in the head too many times! On the 900m stretch to the first buoy things got pretty chaotic about half way there when everyone merged together where a little point of land stuck out into the water. The buoys were hard to see with the sun and I felt like I kept getting boxed in behind people. A not very smooth or straight swim to say the least! On the way into shore I also went too far right and was yelled left by the volunteers in kayaks. Finally out of the water, I was happy to be rolling on my bike but my legs weren’t feeling great.
Annette got out just in front of me but slowly lost me and gained about 3min on me by T2. A newcomer to Alberta, and to triathlon in general, Karen Thibodeau (3rd in 2012 at Ironman Canada and this year’s Victoria Half-Ironman winner), already had at least a five minute lead with her mad swimming ability, and she only gained time on the bike. Meanwhile with lots of cross winds and rolling hill it felt hard to find a rhythm for me on the bike and to stay focused. One plus of mountain biking, there is no time to forget you are in a race with all the excitement the trail alone brings let alone the competition. So hands down to all the road triathletes out there who do so many of these races in the not so comfortable TT position staring at pavement for hours at a time. During temporary lapses of focus I was thinking of when I might sell my TT bike, ha, but focused on pressing on!
Into T2 finally 2h36 minutes later. My amazing ball of energy friend, Suzanne, who though injured at the moment, made the trip with Coach Cal and I as moral support! As I struggled to get my run bag gear open, she let me know I was in 8th place and 13 minutes back. Ooooookay, must be a worse day than I thought. Turns out there were some relay team women in the mix and I actually was starting the run in 5th place. Some work to do regardless! Well, turns out my run legs seemed to be working fine. By the about the 13km mark I had moved into 2nd place (though I still was confused and thought I might be in at least 3rd until after I crossed the finish). I managed to cut 6 minutes off of Karen’s lead with a 1:24:29 run so I was happy I still had the energy/fitness to do that at the end of a long race. I also timed it well and crossed the line just as the sky opened up with a whopper of a thunderstorm downpour, nice!
Congrats to Karen on the smashing win, and to the rest of the ladies on the podium: Lindsey Adams in 3rd, Kristina Schultz in 4th, and Sharon Styles in 5th. Congrats also to my amazing coach, Cal who finished 8th overall in the men (he is not slowing down one bit at age 45!!) as well as the 20 other CSR athletes who raced, many of who set PB’s for the distance! It is so much fun to know and cheer so many others on course, the fun of racing local!
I was also excited to win to ATA Iron Challenger for some extra cash, and a great way to promote racing locally in Alberta!
Next up: Xterra Mountain Championship, Beaver Creek, Colorado, July 20th
Over the past few years, I’ve done at least 1 or 2 half-ironman distance triathlons throughout my Xterra race season. The longer distance race is a great fitness and mental toughness test. This weekend, the Chinook Half was probably my most enjoyable half-ironman triathlon race to date.
The race takes place in the south of Calgary, so only a 20 minute plus drive from my door at 6:00am on a Saturday morning. At the 8:00am start it was cloudy, pretty chilly (8 degrees air temp and 16 degree water temp) but with my Orca Alpha wetsuit and Neoprene cap on, after a bit of a warm-up in Midnapore lake, it seemed tolerable enough for a 2km swim. Once we were off I found myself swimming with Emmanuela from Regina, and with her swimming just a bit quicker I decided to stay on her feet and conserve a little energy for a long morning at the office! I was the 2nd women out of the water by 9 seconds (time 31:21), and found out after the race that there were cash primes for the swim, bike, and run. It would have been nice to have known this as I may have pinned it instead of staying steady into shore, oh well! Since my fingers were pretty numb, a big thanks to the great volunteer wetsuit strippers who got me out of my wetsuit and going again in no time!
After one trainer ride on my TT bike on Wednesday to make sure it still works, I set on the bike with my new Giro TT helmet courtesy my Luna team. I love the built-in eyewear, and I also felt like Darth Vader on a mission as I could hear my breathing extra loud. The bike is longer than usual for a half by 6km, so a 96km ride. I put my vest on in transition afraid I would be cold, but the sun came out on the bike and it was just fine! The bike is very scenic and is an out and back on the rolling and scenic 22x highway with the Rocky Mountain back drop. I started to feel my unused TT riding muscles like my gluts and hips pretty quickly but tried to just relax and keep a good but strong cadence. About 15 min into riding I passed Emmanuela on one of the rolling hills and knew I was then the first female, okay just 85km or so to go and hold this position! On the way out the headwind was narly and the false flats and uphills made me feel like I was going nowhere fast. I just tried to stay in the aero position as much as I could, and not cook my legs too early.
At the turnaround, I could see Annette Kamenz was not far behind, a super strong rider from Edmonton. I had to get moving, and at least it felt like I was with a nice headwind on the way home (and a 20 minute faster ride on the way back thankfully and total time of 2:47). Soon Annette sling shotted by me on an uphill and I was determined to keep her in sight. When she had some shifting trouble on the next hill I got by again but not for long. Coming up on 20km to go I still had her in sight. However after that point it got tough as we were coming up on all the Olympic distance triathletes on the way back as well; their race had started 1h15 later than the half. I went as hard as I could to keep contact because I didn’t want to have to dig myself into a hole on the run, and couldn’t remember how strong of a runner Annette was!
Coming into T2 my coach, Cal told me I was 1 minute down. Not bad, I thought. And Annette took longer in transition so when I came out running I saw her almost right away. I was surprised how good I felt running right from the start. As I came up on Annette I contemplated being more conservative to start and hanging with her pace for a bit, but realized I just needed to go my own pace. The sun was still out, the temperature was PERFECT, and I was looking forward to discovering the course on the first of the two loops for the run. After running on the bike path through the neighbourhood for a while we descended into beautiful park Fish Creek Provincial Park. I loved the fact we got to run a few kilometers on shaded dirt paths next to a creek. It was so pretty. There is one out and back point near the end of the first lap and there I calculated I had about a 2 minute lead, no time to take it easy for sure. The lap ends with a nice steep climb back up to the start/finish area. It was fun to see so many friends out watching and racing as I started out on the lonelier second lap. The first lap was full of racers finishing the Olympic distance triathlon.
As usual my legs were starting to hurt and I was started to feel hungry. My own coke had run out and the aid stations weren’t doing much for me but I knew I had enough fuel in the tank to finish! At the second out and back I saw my lead had extended to 6 minutes so I knew I could enjoy the last few kilometres to the finish. As I neared the finish I noticed J-F and the kids had made it watch and was happy to see them after hobbling around a bit at the finish (run time 1:29). J-F, Zoé and Nico had all come down with bad colds on Thursday and Friday so I was just crossing my fingers I would hold it off until after this race. Race morning I woke up with a niggle in my throat and even as I was doing the race, especially by the run, I could feel my throat getting worse. Thankfully my body held up to get the job done but now I’m down for the count with a cold too. Ouch say my nose, throat, back, butt, and legs today but as it always goes, “this too will pass!”
Thanks to Mike Bock, the race director, for putting on such a great event, with tons of awesome volunteers out there. Thanks to Rose Serpico of Tri-It for encouraging me to enter this race just a few weeks ago and go for the Alberta Iron Challenger (see photo below). Of course, a little financial motivation doesn’t hurt. And thanks to Coach Cal for coming out to watch and giving splits! And of course, thanks to my wonderful team Luna for supporting me with the gear to jump in these crazy road events every so often!
Up next (body permitting): Rundle’s Revenge in Canmore - time to hit the dirt for a weekend of mountain bike and trail running race-training!
If there is one thing I’ve learned after many years of racing and learning from the athletes I work with on mental preparation, it is that there are things you can control, and many you cannot when it comes to competition. If you focus on the “uncontrollables”, stay fixated on them and waste emotions on them, you will definitely be using up valuable energy needed to perform on race day! Be ready for anything and whatever will be will be! I like Will Gadd’s philosophy (a rock star rock climber from Canmore); he believes in the “positive power of negative thinking”. In other words, think of everything that could possibly go wrong and be ready for that!
In my first year of racing Xterra, and at my first East Championship race in Richmond, VA eight years ago, while my bike arrived, my luggage got lost and never made it to me before the race. In the two days I had before the race I was madly running around to find rotors, run shoes, a helmet and other race gear, as well as trying to learn the tricky, twisty, “hard to remember what comes next” technical course and feeling pretty nervous about it and the open water swim in the river with a current. The night before the race I had no appetite, barely ate dinner, and went to bed with a horrible headache. Not surprisingly, the next day I felt super flat in the race and had nothing left in the tank, especially by the time I hit the run!
On my first day back in Richmond this year on Friday the rain poured down like cats and dogs all day thanks to Tropical Storm Andrea from the south. Pre-riding was out as the course trails in the James River Park System were closed. Plan B ended being lots of chilling, going to the coffee shop, a short run, and a quick swim in an outdoor pool at the country club with the other Canadian girls in town (thanks to Mel for this rainy fun swim date!). On Saturday, the rain FINALLY let up before noon, and (gasp!) the sun started to come out! Brandi and Chantell had arrived and had not yet seen the course, so Katie and I took them on a ride of part of the drenched run course, and scouted out some of the mountain bike trails. There were draining incredibly fast so we were excited that at least the full mountain bike course should be open for the race if the rain held off and it got to dry out for the rest of the day and night.
Meanwhile, the James River where we were to swim, had risen over 8 feet higher from the rain! It was ugly mud brown and flowing fast. Surely the swim would be cancelled and it officially was by Saturday evening (the only other time it had been cancelled in Richmond was back in 2003). The swim course at this race is already shorter to begin with, and most of our times are roughly 6 minutes faster than the regular full distance swim. With the swim replaced by a 1.6 mile run, the long and technical mountain bike course favored the strong riders more than ever! I knew the run start would give me a small advantage but hardly any over the strongest riders so it wasn’t going to make it any easier! I was either indifferent to the decision or just in my learned Zen, go with the flow, What-ever mindset, ha!
Our Pro race began at 8:00am. I ran in 2nd for the women, 30″ behind Leslie, and once out on the road over the river, Brandi and Mel had passed me before the first section of single track. I kept them in sight as long as I could but a few too many bobbles and unforced errors – to borrow from Tennis – yes I was in full control of my bike but many stupid mistakes over many obstacles added to precious seconds and contact lost over time. Soon Shonny was on me too. She rides as smooth as she talks with her Texan drawl and went by me and onwards to the front of the race with a lead over Leslie going into T2.
Next to creep up on me was my other Luna teammate, Suzie, on the second lap of two. I kept her in sight all the way into transition and managed to bridge back up within a mile into the run. Then it was on and up the Mayan ruins, which makes the legs cramp big time and feel like crap for a few hundred metres. With about 1km to go, I was getting some cold shivers in the crazy humidity and I got another split that I was 25 seconds from 4th place. Unfortunately I was still 20 seconds too far by the finish and had to settle for 5th, but happy to be back on the podium!
A big thanks to Chris cubed this weekend: our team mechanic Chris for the wonderful race support, Suzie’s bf Chris for the great help and feeds, and Shonny’s gf Kris for all the great laughs! Our mechanic Chris even jumped in the race, and rode the course blind and rocked it! Thanks also to our local Luna Chix Richmond team Audrey Kane for the homestay! It’s only uphill from here and I’m happy about it as far as Xterra goes!
Next up: A local one, Chinook Half, June 15
We’ll be thinking of you this morning as you float through the miles. That was in the email I read from my parents at 6:00am on Sunday. It put a smile on my face and I decided it would be a good motto to run with in an hour when I started the Calgary half marathon race, along with thousands of others starting out in the full marathon.
After a few days of nonstop rain, we were lucky to wake up to a sunny morning, although still rather chilly at 7:00am. I have to say running races like this one are pretty cool when you can feel the energy of joining so many others setting out with the same goals for the day, finish and finish as strong as possible. After all, how often do you see this many people hanging around in the porta-potty lines at once!
We lined up to start and I set myself up behind Lucy Njeri Muhami who had come out from Toronto to race. With her PB of 1:12 I knew I would be racing for 2nd. She was tiny and ran so effortlessly. I enjoyed watching her back for about 1km before she pulled away. After that I settled into my own rhythm but turns out a guy named Elmostafa Ansom of Cochrane, AB was into the same pace. As we rolled through the zoo in the first few kilometres I noticed even our breathing sounded exactly the same and we were knocking elbows several times during the race. Weird, but always good to have a pace buddy! When the marathoners tagging along behind us turned south, we crossed downtown on 11th into a slight headwind and hit the 10km time split in 38:15. I was slightly behind my pace a year ago at all the time checks but also feeling way better, and did kind of feel like I was floating along rather smoothly. Heck, I’ve been a runner since the age of 12 so there must be some long-term payoffs to knowing how to put one foot in front of the other with some decent technique and muscle memory!
Through 14km or so the sun was shining a bit warmer and it is always so cool to have such major roads like Memorial (paralleling the Bow River on the north side of downtown) closed off just for us to run on. I saw Lucy a good few minutes ahead approaching a turnaround point but as I made the turn the 3rd and 4th women didn’t look too far off. I knew I would need to keep the pace strong to defend 2nd place. I felt like I still had another gear in the tank if needed which was a nice feeling. Back under the Centre Street bridge we merged with the 10k runners for a few hundred metres of gong show, tricky passing before having our own half-marathon lane all the way into the finish. My running buddy dropped off the pace and I was on my own. One young dude seemed to just saunter by with about 600m to go and said good race. I stayed in contact and said no way are you going to take me here with this short of a distance to go. I mustered up what felt like a sprint finish to pass him back and crossed the line in 1:21:34, and in the money, woot woot!
Congrats to everyone who ran and many of my training pals who set personal bests. A huge shout out to a record-breaking weekend by my training friend Myron and 9 others. They broke the Guinness record for fastest linked marathon by a group of runners tied together with leashes around their waists. The old record was a group of five who ran 2:57; the new record is 10 guys who ran 2:55:23, while impressively raising nearly $100,000 for research into mitochondrial disease! Read more here.
Of course a few shout outs to the moms: Congrats to Pauline, the third placed women who has kept up some solid run training with 2.5 year old twins! Lisa Harvey, mom of two and our Olympic legend in Calgary won the 10k in 36:22, with Chantell Widney, a mom, was hot on her heels in 36:30. Watch for Chantell racing the Xterra East Champs with me in Richmond, VA on June 9th!
Thanks to the Calgary Marathon for a super well organized event! Next year will be the 50th year of the Calgary Marathon so should be pretty special, apparently it is the oldest marathon in Canada!