My Xterra West Championship Race Story

With the kids once again well taken care of at home by Papa and Grand-mama, I flew down to join a house full of Calgarian fun at Lake Las Vegas on Thursday! Lake Las Vegas weather has not been good to me on race day – there for my third race in 12 months, all three times the temperature has dipped well below normal to brrrrr racing temps!

Before the race I got in a few laps of the bike course and a short run. With the water temperature at 59 degrees and the air being cold and windy, I wimped out of a pre-race wetsuit swim and instead got in a few laps of our rental house pool, heck I could do 4-5 strokes across and flip turn at each end!

On race morning we woke up to rain and 7 degrees Celsius outside! I was sure the swim would be cancelled, especially once I heard the water temp had dropped to 57 degrees with all the heavy rain overnight! I felt like this kind of weather might send me into early retirement – why am I doing this again?! Either way, I decided I would ride down to transition in my wetsuit just to keep warm and noticed the 8:30 start half-distance sprint race was underway and racers were indeed in the water!! When I racked my bike with 25 minutes to start time, I figured I’d better start getting out of swim denial and get my head in the race and the water! Thanks to my new Luna teammate’s request, our team mechanic, Zak met me at the water’s edge with a big pail of hot water which we poured down my wetsuit front and back….ahhhhh!

Lingering on the dock until the last possible second to get in the frigid water!

With a few minutes to go I plunged off the dock and put my face in the ice bath as I paddled over to the deep water start. The Pro men and women started together in the first wave. I successfully got on some feet and was able to draft for the first two-thirds of the race. With my lips feeling blue, I tried to imagine the feet bubbles in front of me as hot tub jets relaxing my muscles….it helped for a while but the cold eventually caught up to me and the last five minutes were a bit of struggle as I lost the draft and the first group of yellow caps from the next wave were plowing through me. But finally I was on the dock and running on my numb feet to transition.

Exiting the swim feeling like a popsicle!

With no feeling in my fingers I really struggled to get my wetsuit undone, but was finally underway on the bike with wet tights I had worn under my wetsuit and an added jacket in transition – a great call as I was never cold on the bike!! I was near the back of the Pro pack and at least 2 minutes down from the leaders after the swim so I had a lot of work to do….

Heading out onto the bike course on my Orbea 29er

I thought I was feeling pretty decent heading out onto the two-lap red dirt moonscape course, but as usual in the early season, I struggled a bit to find the extra gear and power necessary for top speed on this fast rolling course, with a few sustained and steep climbs, and crazy fast open descending. With only a temporary stop of the bike to yank out some major chainsuck I made my way up to 6th place by the start of the run.

Nice start to the run course!!

I was feeling good from the start of the run and was determined to catch some people! After chasing down some men, I eventually caught up to my new Luna teammate, Suzie Snyder (who had a solid day finishing 6th). Then I caught Melanie McQuaid in the last mile to finish 4th. Meanwhile, up ahead the reigning Xterra World Champion, Lesley Paterson ran down Renata Bucher with about 200m to go, and they had an incredible sprint finish which you can watch here

Thanks to our Luna team mechanic, Zak, who drove out from California to support Suzie, Shonny (who opted to just ride the relay as this race due to a sore knee), and I for this race. He takes most of these photo credits! And thanks to him, my bike maintenance for this race was a dream, and I was able to fit in a shower, some food, make it to the podium, and get my bike packed all in time to get to the airport after the race and catch my flight home to Calgary!

Podium (L-R): me (4th), Lesley Paterson (2nd), Renata Bucher (1st), Emma Garrard (3rd), Melanie McQuaid (5th)

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