UnBEETable! That was the joking chant I shared with the Rakita family and Craig Evans after crossing the finish line for my first Xterra series win at the Xterra Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek, Colorado. I had scarfed down as many beets as I could handle the night before the race, with the laugh that the extra nitrates would help the oxygen uptake while racing at altitude.
Placebo or not, my race went as well as it could have after spending the previous two weeks at sea level! The swim was conveniently located in a small lake just a stone’s throw away from our condo, so after waking up and driving our run gear up to T2, it was a pretty relaxing morning getting ready for the 9:00am start time. It was a wetsuit swim with the water temp about 66 degrees Fahrenheit – just right! With four wave starts at two minute intervals, the Pros went off first. I was in a group, actually drafting and feeling okay until we rounded the first buoy. While breathing towards the buoy side I accidentally inhaled a bunch of water instead of air. Gulping and choking (it is hard enough to breathe at altitude) I momentarily panicked and did a bit of breast stroke until I could breathe properly again. Unfortunately after that I was all on my own and just had to find my own rhythm and swim as straight as possible between the buoys.
I came out of the water in 4th place. After about a mile on flat pavement we were up and climbing under the first ski lift. Roughly the first 40 minutes was all twisting single track climbing with a few reprieves of flat flowy sections through the Aspen trees (fitting as my Maxxis “Aspen” tires turned out to be the perfect choice tire for this course). From the start of the climb I could see Sara Tarkington about 30-40 seconds ahead. My last race at Beaver Creek was in 2009 and it took me until the end of the run to catch Sara that year, so I knew she would be one of the strongest contenders of the day! About 2/3 of the way up the first climb I was closing up to Sara when Jenny Smith let me know I was 1 min and 20 seconds back from first place-Melanie McQuaid. By how good my legs were feeling I knew a win was a good possibility at that point. On the next pavement climb Sara and I pushed the pace together, and went by my Luna teammate Suzie. Back on the dirt Melanie was in sight and I was reeling her in. (Thanks to Trey Garman for the photos below!)
On the gravel road descent that lead into the first single track descending Mel flatted, not the satisfying pass I was looking forward to but I said, ‘I’ll take it!” The top of the course began with super fun descending down fast switch backs. Then was a fun mix of shorter climbs, single track descents, and flat fast big ring sections to traverse to the other side of the mountain climbing before a final longer descent into T2. Sara and I went back and forth at least four times. We were moving fast, and it was a good battle. In the last descent I got a bit of a gap and went out on to the run with about a 30 second lead. Wow, it was the first time I didn’t have anyone to run down!
I didn’t let up, and felt pretty darn slow going up all the steep climbing in the run but despite the suffering, and with no one in sight behind I managed to begin to enjoy the scenic run before letting gravity take my legs as fast as possible down the final long hill to the finish line. It was a fun day under perfect race weather conditions! A win definitely helps make me feel much better about the few extra days of gorgeous weather and family vacation time I had to miss on Hornby Island for this race!
Thanks to everyone for the kind words and support! Now I’m looking forward to not getting on a plane for a while and enjoying several races around home through the end of the summer. Next up is the Calgary 70.3 on July 29th.