Great White North Triathlon Race Report

I’d heard about this half ironman distance race up near Edmonton that everyone raves about as long as I’ve been in Calgary. So I was excited to finally take the opportunity to participate in the Great White North Triathlon in the small, cute town of Stony Plain this past Sunday. This race has had some super strong women winners over the past years with the long-standing course record set by the famous Heather Fuhr back in 1993. With great prize money (2500$ for the win) and 250$ primes for the fastest swim, bike, and run splits, I knew it would take a really solid race to come out on top against some motivated and tough competition.

On the morning of Canada’s 145th birthday, I lined up to celebrate Canada Day with roughly 1000 other participants on the beach of Hubble lake for an 8:00am 2km swim. In the biggest mass start race I’ve ever been in for a triathlon, I managed to stay out of the chaos and got around the first two buoys okay for the first of a two-lap swim. Considering it was a grey, cool, and drizzly morning, once in the water I felt amazingly warm in my wetsuit. I exited the water 52nd overall, and with at least 8-10 women in front ot me.

After adding arm warmers and a vest in transition to the bike, I was sure glad I had the added clothes, as the rain came down hard on the bike and hardly let up the entire time! I left transition with last year’s winner, Annett Kamenz, and knowing she is a super strong cyclist, my plan was to just keep with her as long as possible. WIth so many people I eventually lost sight of her but just worked on keeping a strong pace. Fortunately I was rarely feeling cold despite the rain and could focus on just riding strong. The bike course had few hills and is known to be super fast but with the heavy rain and wind the times were likely a little slower overall. Near to the 50 km turn around mark, I caught up to Emanuela Bandol, who let me know there were a few women 5-6 minutes up ahead, shoot I had some work to do to stay in contention! I saw Annett just ahead shortly afterwards, caught back up to her and we ended up going into T2 together 30km later. With plenty of fluid and Clif shot gels in me, I was feeling reasonably good for riding 90km in the rare time trial position for me.

I hit the run in 4th place and tried to find a good rhythm as my wet, numb feet and shoes sloshed on the pavement. A few kilometres into the run I saw my Coach Cal and the rest of the Critical Speed Racing team cheering crew. They told me I was 1:30 back from 3rd place. Turns out I was about 7 minutes back from the first two places but they didn’t want to tell me that yet. With three out and back turn around’s on the run I was able to check my own back splits and soon learned at the first turnaround that I was 6 minutes back from first. The leaders Tanya Salomon and Kelly-Lynn Marcotte looked strong to me so I would just go hard and see what I could do! No pace checking, I would just go by feel. I moved into 3rd place before the 5km mark. By the halfway point, I realized I had cut the lead down to 3 minutes, I just needed to keep up the same pace! Next time I saw Cal, I had moved into 2nd and was 1 minute back of first with about 4km left to go!

Coach Cal and the Critical Speed Racing Cheering Crew! Thanks to Kelly Frank for the photos!

After the last out and back turnaround Tanya was in sight. With 2km to go, I caught up and passed. I was ecstatic to take the lead but at the same time I had to keep pressing because she was fighting hard behind me. The last bit was slightly uphill and my legs were killing me, but I was finally able to celebrate around the last corner to the finish line, with the amazing announcer Steve King bringing us all across the line! To my amazement I had run a 1:24:13, and the 6th fastest run of the day for the entire race.

A great race, I would highly recommend it! I’d like to give it another go on a warm sunny day! Congrats to all my friends, and training partners out there who completed the race!It is so much fun to do an event when knowing so many people! Full results can be found here.

Xterra East Championship Race Report

After missing the Xterra East Champs the past two years, I was excited to go back to one of my favourite venues on the James River in downtown Richmond, Virgina this past weekend.  With J-F on his own with the kids for the first time for four full days (fingers crossed :)), I flew out to Richmond two days before the race, and enjoyed soaking up the warmth during pre-race prep, especially as cold, rainy weather hit Calgary, and even snow hit Canmore in the mountains!

The mountain bike course was longer, consisting of two loops, with the majority of it in the opposite direction from what I’d done before. Despite having raced in Richmond four times previously, it always takes several times to remember what is coming up next on the fun, twisty, technical trails. It is 100% pure single track, and super fun! Katie and I got two laps in on Friday, and ended the day coaching a women’s mountain bike clinic for the local Luna Chix team, along with my Luna Pro team teammate, Suzie. I might have had a bit too much fun in the pump track, as my upper body was still feeling pretty beat up by the time we were swimming in the James River for the race start at 8:00am on Sunday.

Looking back at Richmond from Belle Isle

Swim start and exit under the railway

Pros had their own race start, which was a treat on such a tight course, with the amateurs starting an hour and half later at 9:30. The swim started by crossing the James River, getting out for a short run on Belle Isle, and diving back in with a few zig zags around buoys before heading back to shore. I dangled in no man’s land behind Katie but managed to swim pretty straight despite the current, occasional rocks, car axels, bicycles and such distractions on the bottom of the river. Shonny, Katie, and I left transition together. Shonny soon rode away, and once I’d passed Katie in the single track, I didn’t see much of anybody for the rest of the race. With the goal of riding smooth, I was having fun riding my Maxxis Aspen tires for the first time, a fast tread and light, perfect for the hard packed trails, with occasional rock gardens to navigate!

Some great cheering support out on course!! 🙂

The temperature was really heating up by the second lap of the bike, and after 1h and 40minutes of riding, it was full sun into the run on pavement for the first few miles. After about a mile I saw my teammate Suzie ahead, and slowly reeled her in just before the “Mayan Ruins”, a steep railway ties climb (pictured below). I kept a good turnover but never felt super speedy in the heat. After getting slightly lost on the rocky river crossing, I made it through the woods and back over the bridge to the finish in 5th place. Not amazing, but solid for me on this course with the competition, I ended the day 2nd fastest run by 10 seconds, 4th fastest bike, and 6th fastest swim.

A look at the Mayan Ruins with Conrad, the men’s winner climbing up

Fellow Canadian, Melanie McQuaid, who was back in Richmond for her 12th time (wow!), took the win, with Renata Bucher (Sui) in 2nd, Lesley Paterson (Gbr) in 3rd, and my amazing teammate Shonny Vanlandingham in 4th.

After the race there was time for a shower, lunch, the podium, another stop at Bev’s ice cream shop (yum!!), bike packing and a little relaxing at our wonderful homestay, Audrey’s house (conveniently located right up the street from the bike course trails!) before heading to the airport for my 7:30pm departure to Toronto. I touched back down in Calgary after 1:00am, a LONG day, which I’m still recovering from!

Up next, it is time to get out on my TT bike a bit in preparation for the Great White North Triathlon east of Edmonton (a half-ironman distance race) on July 1st! Oh Canada…

Calgary Half Marathon Race Report

I’m hobbling down stairs today and with a racer’s short-term memory I am shocked again at how sore every muscle in my body can feel after pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles (21.1 km). A little while back when I saw there was decent prize money for the Calgary half marathon, I thought it might fit well into my race schedule and be a good chance to go for a personal best time. After all, my only other three half marathons that haven’t been at the end of a half-ironman distance triathlon have been the Calgary Policeman’s half, always at the end of April, and pretty much always cold, rainy or snowy!

The start!

Well even the end of May can still be chilly in Calgary, and at our 7:00am race start it was cool and cloudy but at least dry. Sporting my first Luna team race singlet with a wool shirt underneath, shorts and gloves turned out to be the perfect choice (no camera with me but hopefully I will find some pics to add soon). The marathon and half marathon racers, meaning well over 4000 runners started out together from Stampede Park – it is pretty amazing to do events with that many people – a very cool part about road running races! I started in the second row, and went out with the plan to follow whoever was to lead out the women. I noted Lisa Harvey in front of me (a 1992 Olympian in the 10km, also a mom of two, who is still flying at the age of 42!). She took out the pace and was slightly ahead of me along with a blonde girl in a purple tank top. You never know who is going to show up! I was dangling slightly behind them along with Nadia Fry (last year’s second place finisher) as we went through the first kilometre in 3:30….hmmm, a little quick I noted but it feels OK. I was slowly bridging up to the two leaders near the first mile mark where I man yelling out splits said 6:02. Perfect. Just need to hold this pace from now on. Lets see if I can – Cal said trust in your fitness so I would. After passing through the zoo, I was feeling good enough to take over the lead near the 5km mark, which we passed through in 18:02.

I’d eaten a pretty big bowl of oatmeal at 4:15am and it was still feeling pretty heavy in my stomach. I’d forgotten how little I should eat before a pure running race! I was carrying a gel but didn’t think I would have any room to stomach it! On the amazingly flat course with a few tiny rollers, we headed west on 11th Ave downtown, it was cool to have all the streets completely closed off for the race. There was a headwind so I was happy to tuck in behind for a draft as we passed through the 10km split in 36:43, technically a 10km PB for me as my last 10km road race was a 38:19, which I ran at 16 years old – haven’t done much of this road stuff at all over the years!

After Coach Cal’s warning about bonking I forced down half my gel before we headed north on 14th and then west again on Memorial. There was a turn around at the 13km mark, and I was happy to see J-F had made it there with the kids in the Chariot – pretty impressive since normally the kids are still sleeping until closer to 8:00am. A small wave was all I could muster. Sometime around 14km I think Lisa dropped back a bit, and shortly afterwards, a guy we were running with started to pull ahead. I felt good and started to go with him but soon realized I was pushing it too early. I backed off and let purple tank top girl come back to me and decided I would just stick to her pace. Turns out this girl was Grace Kary, a young runner for the U of Calgary Dinos doing her first half marathon.

As we ran under the Centre Street bridge with about 17km to go Grace was pulling ever so slightly ahead and I was starting to lose contact with her. I was determined to just stick to her but my legs weren’t letting me! Shortly after we merged with the 10km racers which was a bit of a gong show for the last couple of kilometers trying to weave in and out of them, keep my pace, all the while trying to keep at least eye contact on the back of Grace. With about 500m to go we got our own finishing lane and I was able to just run as straight as possible – although that was even tough as even my eyeballs were starting to hurt and seeing straight was hard!

While I realized I would have to settle for 2nd I was also happy knowing I was going to get my goal time of a sub 1:20 time for the day. I crossed the line in 1:19:08. A great day, and fun seeing lots of friends out for the race as well. And nice to make a cool grand cash prize for the first time in a running race! Yeehaw, the top five were all awarded some nice cowboy hats as well – very fitting!

Here are the top five women overall, full results at www.calgarymarathon.com

1:18:37.63  Grace KARY F2024  Calgary AB

1:19:08.35  Danelle KABUSH  F3539  Calgary AB

1:21:04.13  Lisa HARVEY  F4044  Calgary AB

1:21:24.14  Nadyia FRY  F2529  Invermere BC

1:23:31.37  Rosemarie GERSPACHER  F3539  Calgary AB

ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship Race Report

On the day of my son Nico’s second birthday I was miles away getting ready for a 1:30pm race start at the ITU World Cross Champs at beautiful Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, Alabama. But it was time to focus because celebrating and eating the Thomas the Train cake would just have to be postponed one day! This race was also the Xterra Southeast Championship, one of the US Pro points series races, so a two in one race, with a fun change up in the time and format (multiple laps and elite men and women separate starts, the latter would be great to have every race!)

The heat and humidity weren’t bad at all, and I enjoyed every minute of it. Without the usual early morning start, it was a very relaxing race morning. It was exciting to have our very own race as the elite men started after the women at 4:00pm. It was also great having our Luna team mechanic, Chris at the race to get our Orbea 29er bikes working perfectly and to have a relaxing shady place under the Luna tent to chill out in beforehand.

LUNA teammates pre-swim, L-R: Shonny, myself and Suzie

After some formal introductions, we dove into my favorite kind of open water swim, a calm lake at 76 degrees, just right! For less than 30 women it was a really rough start but we finally settled in and I worked hard to get on some feet, and stayed on them until just near the end of the second lap. I exited the water in 13th position.

Elite women mingling before the start

The bike course was three 10km loops and I knew it wasn’t a great course for me, almost entirely flat and constant cornering. My fitness has come a long way since Vegas but my power on the bike isn’t quite there yet. My back was sore by the end of the first lap from the constant accelerating out of corners but it was still a super fun course to ride, and mainly in the shade which was nice!

I went out onto the run in 11th position and had some serious catching to do!! As I left transition I heard Conrad’s voice over the loud speaker saying I would probably run through the field – hmmm, guess I better do that then, ha!! I was hot and I was cramping a bit at the end of the bike but tried to find a good rhythm right away. I caught Emma in the first lap, and halfway through the second lap came upon Renata, Shae, Brandi, and Michelle from Mexico. I got by them and kept up the pace knowing the finish wasn’t much more than a kilometer away. I came across the line in 6th place with the second fastest run behind Lesley’s, the race winner. Not the overall result I’d wanted but I’m still confident in my fitness and looking forward to improving over the next few months of racing as summer finally comes to Calgary!

Here are the results for the top 10 women:

1. Lesley Paterson GBR GB 02:24:39
2. Melanie McQuaid CAN CA 02:27:15
3. Carla van Huysteen RSA ZA 02:28:34
4. Suzanne Snyder USA US 02:29:13
5. Shonny Vanlandingham USA US 02:29:15
6. Danelle Kabush CAN CA 02:33:03
7. Michelle Flipo MEX MX 02:33:14
8. Shae Vaughan USA US 02:33:27
9. Brandi Heisterman CAN CA 02:33:50
10. Renata Bucher SUI CH 02:34:56

Over the weekend I was back for the third time at a wonderful homestay, at Jerry and Kathy’s house. They opened their large home to seven of us for the weekend including my Coach Cal (who unfortunately didn’t make it far into the bike portion of his race before flying into a tree and injuring his shoulder bad enough that he had to stop, big bummer!), and Brandi Heisterman, another Canadian racing in the Elite race. Brandi and I first met running track against each other at 12 years old. She is also a mom of two now so it was great fun catching up on each other and all the people we’ve known in common over the four days we were there!

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)

Xterra Winter Triathlon Race Report

Today was a super fun break from the regular winter volume training to compete in one of the shortest races I’ve done in a long time! At the second annual Xterra Winter Triathlon in Canmore I got to experience another one of Tony’s (www.smithevents.ca) amazingly run events!

Run-to-ski transition at the top of Main Street

The race began with a 500m swim in the Canmore Recreation Centre, a first experience for me as it was my first swim in a pool in a triathlon. The slowest swimmers started first, with a maximum of 4 swimmers in one lane at a time. It was a sold out race so while the first swimmers began at 2pm, I finally got to hop in the water over 45 minutes later after a short warm-up in the 10 metre long kiddie pool corner. Swimming 500m as fast as I could was a burner and I went out a little too hard! With a goal of swimming faster than 7:30 I was happy to hop out of the pool  7 minutes and 27 seconds later.

After transitioning into run clothes and putting on run shoes on the way out the door, we ran an icy 3.5km on the gravel path system that circles the north side of the town. Those that chose to run in studded shoes or with Yaktrax today (not I :() were the smart ones! For the few short, exposed gravel stretches in the run it was possible to get some leg speed going but otherwise it was dicey balance of running fast, small steps to stay upright especially through a few of the corners.

Then for the most exciting part of the race – transitioning to cross-country skiing for 5 laps of main street in Canmore for a total of 3km.  The snow was laid down on the Main Street as part of the 10-day winter carnival. Since it was only my second ski of the season I was a little wobbly at first but once I found my two-skate rhythm I was having way too much fun, and wanted to keep going when my 5 laps were up!

While I unfortunately had to leave with the family before the awards the rumour is I was the second women but I will have to confirm that. It was so short and fast, I think my transitions may have taken as long as the racing, ha! Either way, it was a lot of fun on a beautiful, perfect 2 degree winter day and would recommend this event to everyone! It was a total blast!

ITU Long Course Worlds Race Report

I finished my triathlon season where I began it 7 months ago in April at the Xterra West Championship. With some good recovery and a minimal amount of training since Xterra Worlds two weeks ago I arrived at Lake Las Vegas feeling good, and miraculously having avoided the terrible colds that my kids had all week. Team Canada had organized a group swim in the lake on Thursday, and although the water was cool to get in, it felt fine once we got swimming.

However, on Friday, the afternoon before the race the temperature dropped and the skies opened up with heavy rain for several hours. The next morning I arrived in the twilight at transition about 45 minutes before the scheduled 7:00am race start time to learn that the 4km swim had been cancelled!! The reason was due to the combination of cool air temperature and cool water being deemed unsafe to race. While this was definitely in my favour against my strong competitors in the elite category, most of them top swimmers, I have to admit I still feel a little jipped that I did not get to experience a 4km swim as part of a race. That said I’m definitely not complaining that we were saved from starting the bike wet and possibly hypothermic! My body also feels beat up enough after racing 120km on the bike followed by a 30km run, definitely my biggest race/endurance challenge to date! I hope be able to walk again normally in a few more days, ha!

The swim start that was not to be!

With the swim cancelled (the lake and arches we would have started under pictured above), it was a time trial start with racers starting at 5 second intervals. With no swim, I was able to dress perfectly for the weather, and at least it was sunny with the eventual high around 16 degrees. I felt good on the bike right from the start. I had not ridden my Orbea Ordu time trial bike since the end of July at the Calgary 70.3 so I was glad the position felt so comfortable as soon as I got on it again just the day before the race.

The bike course consisted of two out and back loops on either side of Lake Mead (created by the famous Hoover Dam), a National Recreation Area. The winds weren’t too bad, the weather was clear, the pavement was generally super smooth, the desert and lake views were pretty scenic, and it was fun going fast! It was also neat to see approximately where I was behind the front cyclists at each turn around. I was going back and forth with Amanda Lovato, an American for much of the bike, and we entered T2 together in Henderson. The bike  consisted of non-stop climbing or descending, and by about the 100km mark my legs were feeling pretty punched on some steep bike path climbs. I was feeling ready to be done riding – I was also thinking about the fact that if I was doing an Ironman, I’d still have 60km to go – yikes!

Mom, the photographer catches my front end coming into T2, ha!

Entering T2 was awesome because we just dismounted and volunteers took our bikes. They also helped us grab our run gear back and get changed in the changing tent. Then it was off to do four laps of 7.5km run course.  I started the run in about 13th position. I felt great from the start and got into a pretty good rythmn, and tried to find a pace that felt fast but not too hard in order to pace myself. Not unlike the bike, the run had a few short sections that you might call “flat” but otherwise, it was a loop that was all uphill and then all the way back down. By the halfway mark in the run I’d moved into 10th position but by mile 13-14ish I started to wonder if I could get through it! I was well-hydrated so was mainly taking coke and gatorade from all the aid stations. With a few miles to go though I was actually feeling hungry and instinctively grabbed a cookie from a tray at the aid station dangling in front of me, maybe a bit of a risky move to eat while running! Although I found a second wind in the last few miles, a Polish girl recaught me, and I crossed the line in 11th, after getting through the 30km run in 2h15 minutes, and my total time for the day being 6h09!

My dad giving me some splits on the run

Rachel Joyce and Leanda Cave of Great Britain came 1st and 2nd, and Meredith Kessler from the USA was third to complete the podium. As far as the other Canadian women in the Elite race, Tenille Hoogland had a great day, finishing 7th, and Margaret Bailey was 15th. As a result, we came second as a nation, (a team category I didn’t know about until they announced it at the post-race dinner) behind the U.S.

Running for Canada!

Although I was a little nervous about following all the ITU rules I had learned about at the elite race meeting, on race day the organization was super impressive. It was fun to represent Canada for the first time in a race as well. I was told there were about 150 Canadians and I could see them everywhere on the course and there were tons of spectators cheering for Canada too – maybe our red and white race kits stood out more as well!

Enjoying post-race buffet of Krispy Kreme donuts, chips, and pop with the kids

Thanks to my parents, who were able to join me and the kiddies for another “race-cation” with JF unavailable to come. We are spending a few days checking out the Vegas area and avoiding the Canadian winter just a little longer before heading home. Then I will finally enjoy the start of the off-season. My “active rest” will consist of packing up the house to move on December 1st! (We are moving into a rental house for about 8 months while we renovate a bungalow we bought in the Calgary community of Montgomery – should be a busy winter!)

Thanks to everyone who has supported me for a very fun, and productive 2011 season of racing. I especially could not do it without the support of the LUNA Pro Team, my husband, my parents, and my Coach, Cal!!

Xterra World Championship Race Report

Awwww, Maui! Even though every year is a majorly important “race-cation” for me, I couldn’t help but stay pretty relaxed leading up to the race with a condo on the water with a lanai view like this…..

View from our Kahana condo with amazing sunsets every night!Steps away from the beach of the Lanai, take your pick!

And my two cutie pies having so much fun with my parents and husband along to help out….

Zoe and Nico enjoy their new inflatables in the pool with Grandma

With all the anticipation and hype surrounding the the new Xterra Worlds venue in Kapalua in West Maui, I was pleasantly surprised and downright excited for the race on Sunday by the time I had seen the whole course and race morning arrived. Many had said it was a good course for me and I was in full agreement! Well, the big day has come and gone, and even though I made the podium in 5th position, which was satisfying, overall I have to admit I am a little disappointed and expected more of myself. Here is how my race day story unfolded….

As I’ve heard many say in the world of triathlon, you can’t win the race in the swim, but you can lose the race in the swim, or at least I would agree you can put yourself out of contention in the swim. For me, the swim is the crazy, unpredictable part. You can be going great in a pool, but an open water swim with 670 some other people in slightly rough, ocean water with a strong current can be a tough one to navigate. I started the race in the middle of the line up on the beach, and got off to a pretty smooth start. As we neared the first buoy the chaos thickened, and I was punched in the head several times by some guy as I was working on my swim agressiveness and trying to herd him left in order to make the buoy. The current was pushing the whole pack too far left of the buoy so I arrived right in the middle of the angry lady on the surf board (ha!) yelling at everyone to get around the buoy. I obediently treaded water around the buoy trying to keep my head above water, while many others did not make it around and chose to or were forced to cut inside. Maybe there is a better way? Pontoon buoys? Maybe not making all the amateur racers wear swim caps the same color as the buoys could be a start to help sighting too? Anyway, after that crazy slow up at the first buoy I was swimming clear and managed to swim a straighter line back to the beach for the short sand run before lap number two. In the end I came out of the water at least two minutes slower than I would have liked and 5 minutes down on the top Pro women contenders – ouch! I would love it if the Pros could have a fairer and separate start like we did at the US Champs – but enough of my swim rant!

The masses are off, many drifting way too far left of the first buoy!

Off onto the bike, I had some passing to do! After patiently riding out a few bottle necks in the first few miles of twisty single track, and a quick stop to yank my seat back into place after the nose jacked up when I sat down too hard over a bump (whew!), I found my rythmn. The climbs were tough but all rideable, there were bits of fun twisty single track, shaded “jungle-like” sections, fast downhills spattered with small rock drops, grassy humps, red dust bowls, and smooth, super highway speed sections, nothing super technical by mountain bike standards but a good variety of everything, and just plain tough! All I did the whole ride was pass people and try and keep my lightweight self on fast wheels on the downhills. J-F gave me a split with 5 miles to go and I was disappointed to hear I was only in 9th at that point. I gave it all I could to T2, and luckily had a solid day on the bike with the 3rd fastest bike split of the day.

Coming in to transition at the end of the bike

I headed onto the run in 8th position just behind Erin Densham, a 2008 Triathlon Olympian from Australia. I thought great, she’s gotta be a fast runner so we can work together. And we did for the first mile or so going back and forth up the long uphill on the paved golf path but unfortunately once we hit the dirt she fell behind and I never saw her again. The run climbs were brutal and hot with only slight reprieves on soft grass, and dirt with plenty of fun non-stop cornering through tall shrubbery and trees. Up ahead I could see Carina Wasle of Austria, and eventually caught her before the top of the climbing. Once the long downhill sections started just before mile 4 I was having some difficulties really letting it go as I was getting a bit bonky and uncoordinated. With no one in sight, J-F (who was all over the course, bless his dehydrated self that day!), yelled at me to keep me running up the last VERY steep pavement climb before hitting the long single track descent back down to the beach. After making it across the rocky river bed and short beach section, I pushed up the last, long and grassy climb to the finish. I had to squeeze around the medic team hovered over a collapsed Melanie McQuaid about 300m from the finish. Unfortunately for Mel she came close to pacing her 110% effort perfectly to take the win but was overtaken by a system malfunction before she made it there.

The painfully slow, sandy, and HOT run across the beach!

With one past World Champion down for the count, and another two past champs out with injuries (my Luna teammate Shonny, last years champ out with an ACL tear and 3X World Champ Julie Dibens out with a foot injury), the 2011 title was wide open for a new winner, and my hat is off to the speedy Scot, Lesley Paterson for her amazing day and win. With a great day in all three disciplines, she charged to the finish with a smoking fast run that even outsplit the men’s champion of the day, Micheal Weiss!!

Womens podium – myself (5th), Marion Lorblanchet (2nd), Lesley Paterson (1st), Helena Erbenova (3rd), Renata Bucher (4th)

The same podium all cleaned up for the Awards banquet

All in all, as much as it was a sufferfest, it was motivating and I think I can even still say, fun to race a new Worlds course. With what I feel was a sub-par day I feel motivated to go back and give this same course another go a year from now! Thanks to my family for their support at this race as well as the LUNA team, and our team mechanic, Chris who was there to have my Orbea Alma 29er in perfect working condition. He also raced and bravely overcame a panicky swim to finish his day in the top half of his extremely competitive age category!

Congrats to everyone I know who put up great battles on this new, extremely challenging course! Many Canadians rocked it out there with lots of podiums – congrats to my Coach Cal who took the 40-44 World title AND to fellow Canadian and mom, Brandi Heisterman, who came an impressive 9th in the Pro women in her second ever Xterra and you can check out here story too on her blog!

Also get a look at the course by checking out a great 10 minute recap video of the race here.

And full results can be found here.

Now its no rest for the weary and jetlagged. I’m back in Calgary and have two weeks to recover and try and maintain some fumes of fitness for ITU Long Course Worlds in Las Vegas on November 5th….hmmmm, what will it be like to pin it for a 4k swim, 120km bike, and 30km run all in one day? Stay tuned for the final race report of 2011 still to come….

2011 Xterra USA Championship Race Report

It felt like take two for me this year at the US Xterra Championships. J-F, our little man Nico, and I took the same beautiful 12 hour drive south to Ogden, Utah as we did last year while Zoe stayed home with visiting Grandma. Only this year I got to race instead of drive home with a horrible flu the day of the race!

The race was on Saturday, and we started off with the swim in Pineview Resevoir at 9:00am when the water felt warmer than the air! Normally a mass start race, this year we Pros got our own wave start 30 seconds ahead of the amateur masses. The word on the boat launch was that some new Pro entering the race named Lance Armstrong requested it and I wasn’t going to complain! This new guy also brought a swarm of new spectators to the event so that part was cool too.

As for my race story, my fitness has only improved over the summer and since I hadn’t raced against many of my main Xterra competitors since my last Xterra race in the US in April, I was looking forward to testing myself against most of the best women in Xterra three weeks prior to Worlds. And I am really happy with how my day went….

The swim was wetsuit but warm enough that my hands and feet stayed toasty. Despite a good warmup I felt a little uncoordinated and feeble the first lap, but the second time round I felt I was stroking stronger and hanging on well to some age groupers cruising by. I came out of the water in 7th for the Pros.

Exiting the swim trying to get my wetsuit undone!

After the swim, we road for about a mile before hitting the dirt and heading up, up and up and way above Snowbasin ski area. The climbing is never crazy steep and includes lots of rolling and rather fast, super fun descending at times. After about three amazing look out points on the new upper part of the course, the mountain bike ended with a long, super fun descent back down to the resort and T2. Thanks to our LUNA team mechanic, who came out to support Shonny and me at this race, I had fresh Maxxis rubber to ride on and my Alam 29er was working like new again!

The scenic bike course at Snowbasin

After the bike, I had moved into 4th position, and could see Lesley Paterson about 45 seconds ahead of me up the long steep ski hill that started the 6 mile run. Unfortunately, Lesley’s best discipline is the run as well, so catching her would be very tough! However, by about halfway through the run I did catch Kelly Cullen, and moved into third where I stayed until the finish. Fellow Canuck, Melanie McQuaid won the race, Kelly Cullen held on for 4th and Emma Garrard rounded out the podium in fifth.

Podium shot – hard to get due to the crowded swarm following Armstrong all day!

The hero of day though is my LUNA teammate Shonny Vanlandingham. After tearing her ACL a few weeks ago, she toughed it through the race with a knee brace for the run to complete the day in 7th and finish off the Pro series for 2nd overall. Since she is set for surgery for October 7th unfortunately last years World Champ will have to sit out Maui this year.

For the full story on the event visit: www.xterraplanet.com

Xterra Canada Race Report

After a few weeks of restful time with the family, with amazing weather and super fun training days on Hornby Island, it was time to head over to Whistler for the Xterra Canada Championship.

It was a completely new course from last year, which was a fabulously fun skill-testing challenge for anyone! With two days to practice finding all the right lines to navigate through the dips, roots, and too many bridges and planks to count, my upper body was fatigued from so much bike pumping but it was worth it to get to know the course better! Plus it was so much fun to ride!

Sampling of the wild Whistler course riding!

Race morning was yet another sunny and warm day. With the number of competitors way up from last year, it was a chaotic swim start. And I didn’t think I could ever say this but I got lost in the swim! The first and tiny buoy was straight out from shore and the sun was shining straight at us blinding our vision. I didn’t sight a whole lot on the way out to the first buoy because I couldn’t see it anyway! When I finally did see it I realized myself and half the field were way too far right of the buoy so I had to back track to get around it with people swimming straight at me after rounding the buoy. After that mess I found my rhythm and was happy to see where I was going. You can see how bad it was in the photo below…

Xterra Canada’s blinding swim entry heading into lap two!

Otherwise, the water was a great temperature and I was well warmed up to head out onto the bike. I came out of the water as the 4th Pro and 10th women overall. By about half way through the lap I’d moved up to 2nd place behind Melanie McQuaid and knew I’d have to work hard to hold off two top Canadian Pro mountain bikers both entering their first ever Xterra race, local rider Brandi Heisterman (also a mom of two – go moms!) and Mical Dyck. By the River Runs through it trail Brandi had caught me and half way through the second lap Mical caught me. I rode technically well for me and was cleaning everything better each lap but I had a lot of work cut out for the run after a long bike with roughly a 9 minute deficit on Brandi and 2 min deficit on Mical going into the run.

Coming through the lap on the bike where it was fun to have so many friends and family cheering!

And ohhhh, that run! It was truly as my coach had described it would be, a “billy goat’s run”. It was more technical than the mountain bike and all straight up and down. It was jumping down over rocks and roots or running straight up not knowing where the next turn would take you. It was epic and tough, and not really anywhere to open up the leg speed until the final pounding down the pavement to the finish. I’d caught Mical and narrowed the gap to 2 minutes on Brandi by the end to finish 3rd after nearly an hour of running or should I say scrambling, ha! It was truly an epic day with one of the longest mountain bikes and definitely longest run time wise of any Xterra race I’ve ever done. Mical ended her solid day in 4th and Emma Garrard from Utah rounded out the top 5 for the Pro women. Congrats to everyone who killed it, conquered, or survived their day at Xterra Canada and still finished with a smile on their face – there is nothing more challenging in Xterra anywhere!!!

Pro Women’s Podium L to R: Mical Dyck, Brandi Heisterman, Melanie McQuaid, yours truly and Emma Garrard