Xterra Vernon was a new race on the rapidly expanding Xterra race schedule in Canada. Of all the great Xterra race venues I’ve been to in the last seven years, this one is now high on my list of favourite race venues! Just 20 minutes from downtown Vernon (located in the Okanagan Valley in B.C.), the race took place at Ellison Provincial Park.
Down the hill from a great campground and fun playground area for kids, the transition was picturesque, set up amongst the pine trees next to a picnic area which was steps away from the beautiful beach swim start in a secluded bay on Lake Okanagan (see pic of Zoe playing on the beach).
The Swim: The swim was 2 laps of 750m with a short beach run in between. The water was a pretty ideal 16-17 degrees Celsius and once I was warmed up, the temperature was race-perfect in my Orca 3.8 wetsuit. I got off to an aggressive start and focused on staying on feet in the lead pack. Halfway through the first lap, a bit of a gap opened up between the swimmer in front of me and the three leaders, so I was left chasing down a 30 second gap to the lead pack on the second swim lap. Overall it was a good swim for me and I felt I kept up a good arm turnover throughout. I exited in the water in 4th place overall
The Bike: After exiting transition, the bike portion began with a good 5 minutes plus of pavement climbing – enough time to wrench my gloves on, get a gel in, and get some blood flowing in my legs before hitting the dirt. The trails were truly single track in a mountain bike park across the road from the campground. It was twisty and fun with occasional rock gardens and log piles to navigate, as well as short power climbs and a few fun sustained descents. In my opinion it was an ideal Xterra course, technically challenging enough for the experienced rider to try and go fast, while still being very ride-able for a beginner. With a few changes in position on the bike, I came into transition in 5th overall.
The Run: I headed out onto the run side by side, with whom I later learned was Sean, one of my running teammates at the University of Victoria a mere 18 years ago! You never know who you’ll run into at races! And wow, was the run tough – like the bike it began with a good climb and when we hit the dirt it felt like a scramble up some rocks to a ridge. If you looked left at the top it was a breath taking view of the Lake Okanagan before turning right into a rare piece of rolling single track through the woods before crossing the road again and doing a loop up a long climb before descending down switchbacks and all the way back down again before repeating it all over again! I crossed paths with my Coach, Cal a few times throughout the figure eight style loop as he was ripping his way to first place about 10 minutes ahead of me. I pushed the pace as best I could and made up two places on the run before hitting the finishing shoot in 3rd place overall 2 hours and 34 minutes later.
We were also honoured to have the celebrity race announcer, Steve King, at this race so the spectators were well entertained with racer’s backgrounds and events info during the entire race. Afterwards, I enjoyed just hanging out dipping my legs in the lake and playing at the water’s edge with Zoe and Nico while J-F got in another ride on the fun bike course.
Overall, it was fun weekend road tripping “race-cation” with the family. Although a one and a three year old definitely tested our patience a few times over the 6 hours of drive time it took both ways (not something we do very often!), the amazing rocky mountain scenery, fun overnight visit we had with the Hewitt family in Vernon, post-race night stopover at a friend’s “Slice of Heaven” on Mara lake, and the wonder and amazement Zoe had on her face when we stopped for a tour of the Enchanted Forest just east of Revelstoke on the way home all added to the fun!