Lesson #1 boys and girls: ALWAYS pack your wetsuit when traveling to a triathlon race! EVEN if you’re revisiting a venue where the water has been pretty much as warm as bath water on the same date over the last seven years! Otherwise the saying, “You can’t win the race in the swim but you can loose the race (or feel out of the race/contention) in the swim” will ring even truer!
I wasn’t the only Pro in the Xterra field who had traveled to Pelham, Alabama for the Xterra Southeast Championship without a wetsuit. Others had wrangled up, borrowed, bribed and begged for a wetsuit but in the final countdown to the gun it was only my teammate Suzie and I still left with bare arms and legs on the 8:30am start line Saturday morning. Either way, whoever took the water temp must have had a pretty faulty thermometer because the water was no where near “wetsuit cold” anyway! I’m usually the first to get cold and loose feeling in my fingers, so not the case here!. I tried to focus on the positive, at least I wasn’t overheating in a wetsuit as I felt like I was being left behind long before the first buoy! As a side note, the buoyancy of a wetsuit can help you swim at least 4-5 seconds faster per 50m.
The other excitement for race morning was doing some last minute tire changing to prepare for new wet and slick trails from the all night thunder storms. As always, it was amazing to have our Luna team mechanic there supporting us and virtually eliminating any pre-race bike stress! While I’m not typically one to do a rain dance, I was feeling kind of excited about the new challenging element to the day! Brandi and I checked out the first 10 minutes of single track before the race. What our homestay Jerry would say was somewhat true: “when wet, the roots here slippery as a boogers on a door knob!”, but as long as you had even a teeny bit of Mo, Flow and Finesse it was all good! Otherwise, the trail seemed to drain pretty well and some corners were even tackier for better cornering. It was only the many super greasy bridges that took many people out!
While momentarily feeling pretty discouraged and left behind in the swim by my self-induced disadvantage, I put aside millisecond thoughts of quitting and focused on swimming as hard as I could, if only to get on my bike and start having fun sooner!
With a bit of a cluster the first half of the bike and a few “we lost a few more on the bridge back there” shouts (LOL) I got through the first 30 minutes of pure single track unscathed and upright. When out on the double track I did notice my legs were lacking a bit of punch and weren’t feeling stellar. Especially up the long double track climb, my usual strength. No matter, it was fun and down blood rock I caught up to super mom of 5-month old Torin, Emma. On the next uphill section she slowly gapped me again (come on legs!). Near the end of the ride I tried to stay positive when someone shouted to me, “Stay in it!!”….hmmm…will I even be IN this race on the run!
After a Clif Espresso Shot at the end of the bike and a cup of flat Coke downed in the first half mile of the run I was starting to feel pretty good! It also helped that the temp was cooler than the usual 95F. Unlike in Vegas, I at least felt like I was moving somewhat quick on the 2-lap run course, other than when I had to back track and retrieve my shoe from the one huge mud hole! I caught Christine in the second lap and ended up 9 seconds short of Emma at the finish for 7th place for me for the day. Emma had a stellar race with the 3rd fastest run split and I can’t say I was too surprised. I remember how awesome I was feeling at 5-months PP with Nico at the 2010 Xterra Worlds until a flat on the bike put me out of podium contention. Go postpartum pregnancy hormones + hard work of course!
Up at the front of the race Lesley Paterson took the win by running down Melanie (who had the fastest bike split and turning 40 the day before – woot woot!) after T2. I was also super proud of my super mom/friend Brandi who took 3rd with a fantastic overall race and the use of her mad skills on this real mountain bikers course in front of my Luna teammates Shonny and Suzie in 4th and 5th.
For sure I’m disappointed and starting the race with a disadvantage before the gun even goes off is a mistake I don’t plan to repeat! But I put in my best effort for the day despite the circumstances and had a blast pre-riding and racing the awesome trails at Oak Mountain State Park. I would highly recommend this event to anyone! Between the pre-race birthday pedicure party and post-race Margaritas, and way too much laughing all-around I’m good to put this race behind me and look forward to seeing all my Xterra friends again in Richmond, VA in three weeks! Thanks to our homestay hosts Jerry and Kathy who have put me up and at least 6 or so other Pros ever since I first started coming to this race in 2006!
Next up: Calgary Half Marathon