Floating through the Miles

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!

portapotty

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!

Women's Podium

Women’s Podium

A Bit of a Bust in Bama

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!

Luna loves Bama

Luna loves Bama

Next up: Calgary Half Marathon

First 13.1 Miles of Pavement Pounding for 2013

Fact 1: Running races usually hurt pretty good especially when you try to go hard

Fact 2: Running races usually aren’t that much fun until the post-race satisfaction fun

Fact 3: Walking down stairs or doing much at all is particularly painful the day after a pavement pounding race!

The Final 50 metres of Ouch - thanks Mark Wild for the Pic!

The Final 50 metres of Ouch – thanks Mark Wild for the Pic!

Despite all of the above, I still toed the line here at home in Calgary for the annual Policeman’s Half Marathon with about 1300 others yesterday morning at 8:00am just as the kids were getting up and having pancakes with the babysitter. I have done this race two or three times in the past and the weather has never been great. Last time I competed in this race it was a full on snow storm!

Yesterday, it was maybe 4 degrees C at the most when we started with a rather chilly wind kicking up. I was started to regret my choice to wear shorts as we lined up. I thought I might try to stick with my coach, Cal off the start but he took off like a bat out of hell and later told me he went through the first mile in 5:35! Good choice by me!

Although I did see him up ahead several times during the race I could never quite close. A few miles into the race, there were a few other women still around me but soon it felt like no (wo)man’s land. I bridged up to a guy in a bright green shirt and decided to stick to him and hopefully get some draft into the headwind sections. He was running super relaxed and thanking every group of volunteers we passed. Wish I had the breath to do so as well! Turns out bright green shirt guy was named Mark St Amant about to set a PB by 12 minutes!!! Awesome!

Despite doing a short warm up before the race, my legs felt much less like ice-cold bricks and I finally did start to feel warmer overall by about the 8km mark. The sun sort of came out for a bit as we ran on the bike paths around the south side of the Glenmore Reservoir. It was awesome seeing all my CSR training buddies not racing out on course cheering too. At the 12-13km mark I finally decided to try taking a gel during a running race and not gag. To my surprise my Clif Chocolate Cherry Gel (new flavour this year!) with caffeine went down pretty well and hopefully gave me a bit of a boost to get through the finish line at the 1:23:38 mark for 11th overall and 1st female – a PB on this course for me and a good test to give myself a bench mark before my next half marathon run race one month from now!

Why did I just do this again?

Why did I just do this again?

Congrats to everyone who came out and all my CSR training buddies who set PBs as well! Grabbing the kids for some pancake brunch after rocks too! Winning a few free pairs of shoes from Foranzi’s Tech Shop was pretty sweet too!

Post race team CSR pic

Post race team CSR pic

Of course us Tri-geeks have to get a post race spin in too!

Of course us Tri-geeks have to get a post race spin in too!

Xterra West Championship Story

Well, the first race of 2013 is in the bag. It was hot, windy, and dusty but I focused on enjoying life in the in the desert for two days between leaving and returning to mid-April snow storms in Calgary, gheesh!

l-r: Melanie McQuaid, Suzie Snyder, Lesley Paterson, Shonny Valandingham, Me

l-r: Melanie McQuaid, Suzie Snyder, Lesley Paterson, Shonny Valandingham, Me

The full-distance Xterra race went off at 10:30 am, a later start than usual. It was already heating up pretty good (the high reached over 90F (28C) by midday). Once my Orca Alpha wetsuit was on, to avoid boiling over I was happy to slip into the cool 57F water for a warm-up, while it was cold to the face at first, once swimming a bit it was perfect. Once the Pro wave was away and swimming I was happy to find myself still with a pack of swimmers and getting some draft by 400m in, woohoo. I stayed with my small pack. After the second buoy in the one lap swim we headed back to the start against a headwind and bit of a chop. I unfortunately lost my pack and was back about 25 seconds by the finish. I kept stroking hard and had a good swim time relative to the competition for me in the end.

Once on the bike I was feeling better than I thought I would for getting the winter cobwebs and the first sensations of race pace pain out of the way. I focused on climbing smooth and steady and was having fun on the descents. My Maxxis Ikon tires were perfect for the loose rocky descents, and my Luna team Orbea Alma 29er bike was feeling light on the climbs. I also absolutely love our new Shimano XTR Shadow Plus rear derailleur. (It has a one-way friction clutch that only engages when the derailleur’s cage moves forward, which typically (and frequently) happens when the bike rolls over rough terrain like on this Vegas course. It practically eliminates slap and, because it keeps the chain under tension, it also limits the chance of a chain dropping off the chain rings!) Other than the fact the wind was getting crazy and came close to blowing us off course on the open moonscape. I made up a few spots by the end of the bike as started the run in 5th place.

Unfortunately, I also started the run thirsty in the heat, unusual for me and not a great sign! With a good swim, and a pretty decent bike for me on this repeat course, the run is what was the most disappointing. It was definitely a real struggle in the full hot sun. With virtually no flat running, and steep ups and downs, I did not feel like I was moving fast at all, and my coordination was not good for descending. I almost fell flat on my face a few times but saved it! In the end I came within a minute of catching 4th place Mel McQuaid but it wasn’t enough. Lesley Paterson’s fitness is on another planet right now and she finished 4th overall and destroyed the women’s field with a 12 minute lead on 2nd place, my LUNA teammate, Suzie Synder, followed by Shonny Vanlandingham in 3rd. But overall, I am satisfied given the month of crazy travel I’ve had with work and team commitments coming into this race. It was a solid start and I’m looking forward to building fitness and form (with more outdoor training time if spring ever arrives here at home!) with over 6 months of racing still to come, woohoo!

Thanks to our Luna team mechanic, Christ Mathis for supporting the Luna team this weekend!!

LUNAxterrawest

And big congrats to the other moms in the Pro Division, Kelley Cullen (6th place, mom of two, youngest just 10 months old), Emma Garrard (7th place and mom of 4 month old Torin), Brandi Heisterman (11th place, mom of two), Caroline Colonna (12th place, mom of two)!!

Next up: Policeman’s half marathon here at home on April 28th

2012 Xterra Worlds Story

Despite staying healthy, getting in some great training in the past five weeks, and enjoying the taper countdown to the Xterra finale in Maui, somehow it all went wrong after the gun went off on Sunday morning for the World Championship race…

After a distracting and painful jellyfish sting to one of my fingers in the warm-up swim, I managed to stay focused, calm and determined as we neared go time. The surf was rolling in pretty big on and off but when the Pros started, we lucked out with a few calmer sets and getting in and off wasn’t too bad. I managed to draft for a while and then found myself to the right of everybody but hooked up with a few blue and pink caps as we arrived at the first buoy right on target. I also lined up for the beach well for the first run out in the “M” shaped swim and was happy that I was at least swimming relatively straight through the side wave swells and stronger current further out. Going out to the second buoy became a bit more chaotic and some green caps who had overshot the first run out were swimming straight at us! Finally I was rounding the last buoy and heading for shore. That’s when I got my second jellyfish sting on the chin. As I neared shore and was looking forward to getting on my feet again I got pummeled by a massive wave. My body went into a full on scorpion which my inflexible back did not like at all! Both of my calves massively cramped right up into balls – oweee! When I finally figured out which way was up and down again I clamoured out of the waves and tried to get running as fast as I could to my bike up the long uphill grass climb to transition.

swim start

As I peeled off my swim skin in transition heaps of sand dropped to the ground, ugh! Even though we had wave starts this year, (two minute gaps between Pros, amateur men, then amateur women), I still had plenty of traffic to contend with for the first 4  miles of the bike. The narrower trail extended longer this year, and although it was relatively wide, the deeper sand on the sides made passing really difficult, I think Xterra has burst the seams by trying to manage 700 peeps on course at once! It was hard to find my rhythm and I was just feeling flat and on the verge of cramping most of the way. Since I wasn’t feeling my usual power on the uphills, I focused on enjoying the downhills and ripping as fast as I was comfortable. On one of the first longer open downhills I was sad to see my Luna teammate Suzie walking with her bike, front wheel tacoed and tube completely off.

Attempting to get the climbing legs going!

I came off the bike in a tight pack with Brandi, Mel, and Magali. I started the run with Magali and thought all I need to do is stay with her to salvage a decent result. I started with her and but once we hit the steeper grass I was fading. The run felt like a bad dream where I wanted to pick it up but just couldn’t. I tried to respond to every pass that went by me but never lasted long, and finally limped across the line in 12th. A physio friend has since explained to me that my scorpion back compression in the swim likely caused a “neurological injury” to my legs explaining the lack of power and cramping feelings I had – especially by the time I was running uphill on the run – ugh! Three days out it is still super painful to walk around due to sore calves.

But enough of my lamenting. Even though we had to evacuate our condo for a few hours the night before due to the tsunami warning, luckily the wave didn’t amount to anything. Race day was a beautiful day, and not too hot. The 70.3’ers and ITU’ers came out and rocked it on the least technical course in Xterra for the men and women. Lesley Paterson crushed the field and handily won her second World Xterra Title. Barbara Riveros of Chile was second, Mari Rabie of South Africa in 3rd, Heather Jackson 4th, and Jacqui Slack, of Great Britain finished up 5th for the last podium spot.

Shonny and I happy to be finished!

I had an amazing support crew, with Chris and Waldek from team Luna, out to support myself and teammates, Suzie and Shonny. I’m so lucky to be part of such as amazing team! My parents, husband, kids, and brother were also out to enjoy some more summer, to hang out and cheer us on. Even though my last and most important race of the year was a serious disappointment, I’m happy with my overall season, and already looking forward to a luckier 2013!

The support Posse on race morning!

Xterra USA Championship Race Report

After celebrating my daughter Zoe’s 5th birthday last Wednesday, the following day J-F and I left the kiddies at home with my wonderful parents and flew down to Salt Lake City. We then drove 45 minutes north to Odgen, Utah for a 4-day “race-cation” for the Xterra USA Championship and the final race in the Pro points series. I felt lucky to have escaped catching the nasty cold both my kids had the week before as I would need all the oxygen I could get with this Saturday morning race being at altitude. The swim starts at 4900 feet (1494 meters), and the bike course peaks out at 7300 feet (2225 meters) with 3400 feet of total climbing!

View from top of the bike course looking back at Pineview Resevoir

With a lot on the line, Suzie, Shonny and I were excited to have our Luna team mechanic, Chris Mathis come for the race and get our Orbea Alma 29ers in perfect working order, a definite boost to the pre-race confidence!! This was very true when I picked up a thorn in my tire in the parking area before the race, I might have freaked out just a little but with Chris on hand to seal it asap and reassure me it was fine, I was good to go!

Luna team mechanic, Chris Mathis, working hard on our bikes!

With the Pineview Reservoir lower than ever this year, the swim started a long ways down the usual boat ramp start. It was a wetsuit swim but the perfect temperature. The Pros had a 30 second head start for the 2-lap swim without the usual beach run in between. We headed straight into the morning sun which made sighting the first buoy challenging. I’d had a good warmup but still felt weird and a little weak, the usual beginning of swim panicky feeling, especially as the green capped age groupers starting to engulf me! Just keep swimming, this will pass…and it did. I found myself around Renata the whole swim, and tried to catch on to a few amateurs throughout the swim as they surged by. I was feeling better on the second lap, but dang it was a long swim. Everyone’s times were at least 4 minutes give or take slower than usual, so I finally exited the water after more than 28 minutes!

Renata and I left transition together and I kept her in sight on the road stretch leading to the first section of dirt, and up through Wheeler Canyon as we made our way up to the top of Snowbasin. It was rocky double track climbing that narrowed down to single track as we neared the halfway point right before the first of two long sustained descents. The climbing was never too steep, with some rolling downhills and flats to break it up. At the halfway point I was about 3 minutes down from the leaders. Lesley, Melanie, Suzie, Christine, and Jacqui Slack were all still ahead. By the very top of the course, I had passed Jacqui and Christine, with Renata still just ahead of me. After a fun, slalom like long descent and a few more short climbs we entered T2. I went out onto the run in 5th. When J-F told me I was about 2:30+ back of Mel and Suzie, I knew some catching was definitely possible!

The run starts with about 5 minutes of straight steep uphill running under the chairlift. It is brutal but it is just about putting one foot in front of the other as fast as possible. Then it is fast, mainly rolling downhill single track with lot’s of baby head rocks to look out for for a few miles. By the halfway point of the run I’d over taken Renata and had Melanie in sight back out on some double track. At about the 4 mile mark I puffed past Melanie and knew I only had a limited amount of climbing to my advantage to close on Suzie before the last mile of more of trail which was all downhill to the finish! With the altitude nothing feels fast on this course but I kept pushing hoping to see Suzie in sight. When I finally did near the end of the descending I put on the gas with gravity to help as best I could. With one small hill before the finish I went as hard as I could but it wasn’t enough and I had to settle for third by a margin of 13 seconds! Ouch. I was definitely gunning for a top two finish but if it had to be third, it might as well be to a Luna teammate, so I’m super happy for Suzie who had the race of her life to date as a Pro!

Last ditched effort to close the gap on last little climb before downhill finish shoot

It was an incredibly exciting overall series this year for the overall as well. That 13 seconds would have been the difference of finishing 2nd versus 4th overall in the Pro series as well, so it is a hard pill to swallow and not keep thinking about where I could have found 13 more seconds out there on course over 2 hours and 52 minutes of racing! That said, I am as motivated as ever to get back to work for Worlds in Maui 5 weeks from now. Congrats to Lesley Paterson who took the win on Saturday as well as the overall series title. As the reigning Xterra and ITU off-road World Champ, she is THE woman to watch out for on October 28th!

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

Xterra Canada 2012 in Canmore! The Race Report

After two years in Whistler, Xterra Canada moved to Canmore this year – a gorgeous rocky mountain town that J-F and I enjoyed living in for five years before moving an hour east to live in Calgary full-time four years ago. It is one of my favourite places to mountain bike in summer and cross-country ski in the winter and did not disappoint as the Xterra Canada venue yesterday!

A few blasts of rain the day before and overnight made for some slippery riding conditions, and we woke up to the first snowfall of the season on the mountain tops with the morning temperature feeling not much above freezing. After spending most of my transitions set up time shivering and chilled, ironically I finally started to feel reasonably warm for the first time after I got in Quarry lake for a warm-up swim. Thanks to a really warm summer, despite some very cold nights recently, the lake stayed reasonably warm for a September triathlon in the Canadian Rockies!

A great shot of the swim start by Jordan Bryden

The gun went off at 9:30am, and about 150 competitors made the plunge for three 500m laps, and two short beach runs in between. It was a pretty bumpy start in the small lake. My neoprene cap felt like it was choking me, I was fighting to stay calm, sight the buoy, not get kicked or punched in the face, swim hard and find some feet to draft all at the same time – oh, isn’t open water swimming fun! By the second buoy I was in a small pack and drafting. I figured it was an okay pace, as any attempts to pull out and around the two in front of me failed. The funny part, I discovered later was that the two I was swimming with were the same two I’d swam with a month earlier at the Xterra Enduro – I guess we naturally found each other again!

When I exited the water, even though I hadn’t felt too cold while swimming, my terrible circulation still left my fingers and toes numb. I struggled the entire long run up to transition to get the velcro of my wetsuit undone. Finally, just before reaching my bike I got it undone and could start to get my wetsuit off! Off on my bike, I was over 5 minutes down on swim superstar Christine Jeffrey back in action for the second half of the season, about 2min30 from Melanie and Suzie, and another 1min30 from Chantel Whidney, an ITU triathlete trying an Xterra for the first time.

The descents on this course make me smile – thanks to Trey Garman for this shot exiting the meadow to the next super fun section of the EKG trail

We had about a kilometer climb on the road to get to the Nordic Centre trails, which worked out by giving me the necessary time to get my gloves on my numb hands. I was feeling decent, and other than getting stuck behind a bit of a walking train of peeps off their bikes down the laundry chutes, I had pretty clear trail the first lap. Although the roots were slick I stuck to a good motto a mountain bike race buddy, Mike Garrigan always told me: “ride it like it’s dry!” and didn’t feel like it changed the conditions much at all, perhaps partly thanks to knowing this course and the lines so well. By the bottom of the coal chutes I had moved into 3rd place, but Renata joined me and immediately set a furious pace up heart break hill. I stayed on her wheel for that climb and from then on I kept her in contact and she dangled in and out of my sight for the rest of the ride.

My Avia Bolt’s await me in transition, the perfect lightness and traction for this course!

Melanie was out front by over 3 minutes at the start of the run, and Renata had about 45 seconds on me. The run was extended by about 2 km from the previous Xterra Alberta course, and it was tough! With rarely a flat smooth section, the run course is constantly up and down, twisting, and over roots and rocks. I knocked my knees together several times and felt like I was about to twist my ankle a few times, especially on the first lap. I didn’t feel smooth or fast and I was hurting and heaving up the killer steeps. But I managed to catch Renata halfway through the first lap.

A cool shot by Luke Way, grabbing a sip of water at the halfway point of the run

At the halfway point I heard I was still 2 minutes down on Melanie, so I just had to dig and hope for the best. Ian Crosthwaite caught me at some point and was pushing me hard from behind. By the time we hit the Biathlon range, unfortunately Mel was not “catchable” (she finished 1min08 in front of me) but I figured I would try to kick it in and finally drop Ian. When we hit the rocks I tripped and nearly face planted. On the dirt, he dropped the hammer and I tried to respond. That was when I truly hit the wall, its been awhile since I’ve hit the wall that bad running, but I guess if any place in the race, it could have been worse!

Heading for a second place finish, as Ian leaves me behind, another shot by Luke Way

Overall, I’m happy with second, and a solid race with the second best bike split by seconds to Renata (who finished 3rd), and fastest run split of the day. It was so amazing to have so much support out there and the amount of cheers I heard all day long from spectators, volunteers and even fellow-racers kept me pushing. Congrats to everyone who completed this epic and very tough Xterra course, and to everyone who secured a spot to the Xterra Worlds race in Maui. It will be awesome to have another amazing strong contingent of Canadians there again. And of course, very cool to have three moms (myself, Brandi and Chantell) on the Pro Podium!!

The podium L-R: Brandi Heisterman in 5th, Renata Bucher (3rd), Melanie McQuaid (1st), me (2nd), and Chantell Widney (5th). Zoe may be shy at times but she loves getting up on podiums any chance she gets! 🙂

Me, myself and I riding for Africabike

After one of my biggest weeks of training in a long time, with my mother in law in town for a visit, we headed to Canmore for the day on Saturday. It was a perfect day to spend in the mountains, but slightly on the hot side to be starting a mountain bike race at 1:00pm! It was an Alberta Cup race, as well as a fund raiser for the Africa Bike Project whose goal is:

“…to change the lives of the students and staff at Kipgrengwe Primary School in Kericho, Kenya.  Providing these students with bicycles will mean shorter days, which will directly increase productivity, increase safety and decrease drop-out rates.”

It is a great cause and with just one week to ask around for a few donations, I was overwhelmed with the generosity of pledges! Thank you all – and you know who you are!!! With your help I was able to contribute 510$ in pledges!

On the other hand it was disappointing to see so few riders on the start line. I think I heard there were only 37 racers total! A huge bummer of a turn out! I lined up as the only elite female with one other expert female, and four guys, three of whom were racing elite. With Crazy Larry announcing and keeping it loud and exciting, the six of us headed off into the 30 degree heat straight uphill.

A great day for a race! Where are all the riders??

It was fun, but I was also happy to cross the Finish! Wish more were out to do so!

Right away I knew my legs were feeling pretty punched and there was no chance to stay with any of the guys. So I just found my own rhythm and decided to put in whatever felt like a hard effort for the day, and to enjoy the trails. And what a fun course it was! I got to ride some of my favorite single track including FYI, EKG, and Baby Beluga along with some new trails I hadn’t ridden yet – so fun! And luckily most of it was in the shade. As I was all by myself the whole time it was hard to remember I was in a race! Luckily the orange taping, arrows, and volunteers at various locations were some good reminders 🙂

Post-race smiles after water hose down!

I raced two laps in 1h33, and two bottles, and two gels later I still came across the line thirsty! Whew, no snap in the legs but still had fun and it was motivating to be riding for such a good cause!

The view from a much-anticipated dip in the Bow River before heading back home!

A Dreamy Long Weekend, Enduro Style!

They are rare, but a few times per race season I get to enjoy some lower key, casual races, and that is precisely what this beautiful August long weekend was all about. A time to have as much fun as possible with family and friends, while throwing in some “fun” racing. A great chance to get the kind of quality intensity training in that would be impossible to do on my own while also avoiding going too deep into the pain cave that is needed for the more important “A” type races!

Saturday and Sunday in Canmore was the second annual Xterra Enduro. Here is how it unfolded…

Event 1: 3000m swim at Quarry Lake (47:50, 10th overall). With a 10:00am start time, it was tough getting my family organized in time to leave Calgary but we arrived with about 20 minutes to spare until the start time. Quarry lake was the perfect temperature to swim with a wetsuit. It is so clear and gorgeous you feel like you could just drink it up while swimming. We did 6 x 500m laps, with a short beach run each lap. I missed a small pack ahead of me, and the first lap probably felt the toughest as I didn’t get time for a warm-up, but settled in and one of the guys I was swimming with said we picked it up each lap so that was cool! Check out the incredible conditions that made for a very enjoyable swim!

Event 2: 40km mountain bike at the Canmore Nordic Centre (2:43:46, 4th overall). After some time for a lakeside picnic it was time to head up to the Nordic Centre for a 2pm start for the 40km mountain bike race and it was hot!! I went through 3 bottles and three gels and was definitely feeling thirsty most of the race, but actually felt a bit stronger and more technically on by the 3rd and 4th final lap. On pretty much the identical course to last year I was 6 minutes faster so that was encouraging. This demanding course involves pretty much all the climbing at the Nordic Centre but of course it is mixed with fun descents like laundry chutes, the Albertan and the coal chutes.

Start line for the 40km mountain bike race

Heading off and up and up and up to start!

After the bike race, it was off to Kyle, Carrie, Fin and Will’s house for an awesome BBQ. Zoe and Nico had a blast chilling in the backyard and you can see why!

Event 3: 20km trail run at the Canmore Nordic Centre (1:50:30, 5th overall? still waiting for run results). Sunday morning, it was back to the Nordic centre with beat up arms and legs to line up and run 20km on the trails on the same course we rode the day before meaning major climbing and lots of rooty descending. After a wee bit of “yogging” around the stadium to warm up we were off. Like a delayed brick, the legs were feeling pretty heavy the first bit. I actually started to feel better on the second lap and got my downhill root running coordination working a little better! After one lap, the second woman was about 10 seconds behind me, so I decided to pick up the pace up the climbing to the laundry chutes. I didn’t see her again but had some good back and forth running with some of the guys out there. And I managed to take a good seven minutes off my time from last year, so another good sign of hopefully improved fitness, or maybe just a willingess to go a little harder in this challenging race, ha!

Post-run podium time with the kids

After some food, socializing, and awards, we ended our super fun Canmore weekend with an icy dip for the legs in the glacial Bow River while the kids did some rock throwing. J-F was icing his ankle which he sprained almost two weeks ago, it has been hard for him to be so laid up, but he finally got out for a ride again today! Thanks to him and the kids for their weekend race support – they had some fun trail walks while I was racing. Congrats to all everyone I know who did the race – it was tough! Coach Cal proves again why he is a great coach AND training partner for me – he is faster in all three disciplines – as he won the overall this year! And a big thanks to Tony Smith who always puts on fantastic events. Come on out to his next event, a road triathlon in Canmore on August 19th, for more info go to: www.smithevents.ca

Post-race pic with CSR training group

2012 Calgary 70.3 Race Report

Stay calm and carry on. That was my motto of the day while racing my 4th Calgary 70.3 yesterday. Although my day started off with a weird series of unlucky events, I managed to enjoy myself by the end and it was a great way to cap off a long stretch of racing at only the mid-point of my season! Here is the story….

To start the day off I arrived at transition to find a new tube stuffed in my bottle cage (at this race, we need to rack our bikes the day before). I realized why when I noticed my front tire was completely flat! Luckily with the great help of Speed Theory, the mechanics on hand quickly changed it for me while I got my gels taped on, body marked, and into my wetsuit. I had about five minutes to “warm-up” in the chilly water at Ghost Lake, before clamouring out onto the dock, where the Pros were diving off for the start. I was sure I had my goggles on good and tight, but as soon as we dove in after the gun went off, my goggles were full of water – doh! After stopping quickly to empty them, I got back with the tail end of the group and was happy to settle in with three other women for the rest of the swim. With my neoprene cap on, the water temp was bearable but I was still grateful for the wetsuit strippers as my hands and feet were pretty numb after over 30 minutes in the water.

A pic of the swim start at Ghost Lake showing was a gorgeous day it was!

Most of all, I was rather excited to be heading out of the water and onto the bike in a group so I’d have some competition to key off of on the ride. (The small Pro Wave starts 15 minutes ahead of the next wave, which can make it a pretty lonely day of racing, I definitely prefer the mass starts for a half-ironman.) Unfortunately as I went to mount my bike, I noticed my bars were completely bent downwards and off to the right. (Later on I noticed my left brake lever was bent inwards as well!). After what felt like an eternity of loosening and re-tightening the handle bar and stem bolts (turns out it was approximately 3:30 that I lost when calculating the difference between my 5:11 transition time and most of the other Pro T1 transition times) I lept on my bike to find my chain was completely off. Finally, with black greasy hands I was off and riding angry and solo! I was totally bewildered at what had just happened to my bike as I had purposely checked and tightened those exact bolts the day before the race! Either way, it took a serious beating from someone as it was even hard to loosen them to fix it, but on with the race!

While it was frustrating to start out for a 94km ride and 21.1km run likely out of contention for a good finish result, I was also happy to get going and just decided to focus on giving it my best from there on and make it a good training day at the very least! After all, it was a perfect 25 degree summer day so I couldn’t complain. One guy passed me from the next wave at about 40km, and I passed one Pro guy, and caught up to one other Pro woman by the end my 2h29min on the 94km bike ride – pretty exciting – there are many reasons I prefer Xterra racing, ha!

Off and running, I felt pretty good right away. I had downed my two bottles, 4 gels, and 3 electrolyte tablets on the bike. Making good use of the coke, water, and cold sponges at every aid station, it didn’t feel too hot at all on the out and back bike path run. At least 2/3 of it was in the shade too which was nice. By about the 15-16km mark I finally did some passing and moved into 8th place by the finish with a 1:26:57 run split, the 5th fastest women’s run split of the day and my best run time on this race course for my 3rd attempt. To note: the fastest women’s run split of the day was by a fellow Critical Speed athlete, amateur champ of day, and new amateur course record setter, Sheila Croft – she ran a 1:24:30!

With one of the strongest fields yet, the amazing Magali Tisseyre (CAN) took the win, followed by Heather Jackson (USA), Melanie McQuaid (CAN), Sara Gross (CAN), and Lisa Mensink (CAN) for the top 5 on the podium.

Well, after a good little fitness test on the road, I will retire my TT bike, and not very existent TT riding muscles for the rest of 2012 and look forward to more riding on the dirt now. Next up is the very fun Xterra Enduro race in Canmore next weekend (Aug 4-5). Come on out for a fun two days of three individually entered events or go for an overall time with a 3k swim, 40km mountain bike, and 21 km trail run!