Xterra Alberta Race Report

Today’s race was a fun anniversary race for me – it was exactly one year ago that I did my first full Xterra triathlon race back after baby number two, 3 months after Nico was born. So this morning I was hoping I would show my 3 month postpartum self how much farther I could come with another 12 months of work! And finishing today on almost the identical course, with the few muddy spots from last year nice and dry, I was able to take 23 minutes off my time, very satisfying! Here is how the day unfolded….

I feel like I’m sounding like a broken record in these race reports about Canmore, but once again it was a PERFECT and absolutely beautiful day to race out in the mountains! And with over 250 racers out (so I heard and so it seemed!) it felt like a big event with tons of spectators too, it was an awesome atmosphere!

At 9:15 it was the coolest sight watching the Sprint distance Xterra racers start the swim, while at the same time, the duathlon runners ran alongside Quarry lake beginning their 5km run! At 9:30 everyone doing the full distance dove in. I had great feet to draft all around me, but my zig zagging between trying to choose left me on my own in between, doh!! Luckily by the half way part of the 1000m swim I caught on to some fast feet to hang on to for lap two.

After that 15:33 splash in the lake and coming out in about 12th overall, it was a good long run down the green carpet to transition. Getting on the bike I was excited to race for the first time with some custom Mavic shoes with triathlon tops and mountain bike soles! They were easier to get on, and way faster getting off coming into T2 so I’m sure I shaved a few seconds there! Of course, the most comments I get on the bike are always, I love your shoes! 🙂

Thanks Mavic for the Xterra-made shoes!

With a nice road warm-up to the Nordic Centre, the climbing continued and I was feeling 100x better than last weekend on the same course! It was great to feel springy in the legs again, and with some places gained and lost I came off the bike in 1h27min with the 7th fastest bike split of the day, and a whopping 15minutes faster than a year ago, yeah!

JF missed me with the camera as usual but did catch Zoe ripping it up today!

Then it was on the identical and my most favourite Xterra run course! With only a few double track sections, the two-lap run course is full of rooty twisty, fun single track that takes so much focus to navigate that you can forget that you’re actually suffering at race pace. I ended the day with the 4th fastest run split (and knocking 7 minutes off of last years time), and 5th overall behind Mike Vine, Luke Way, Calvin Zaryski (my coach), and Mike Cabigon. Thanks again to race director Tony Smith for yet another “World Class Multisport Event in a Spectacular Location!”

Men and Women’s top 3 overall. Congrats to Tanis Tomlin (2nd) and Kelly Geisheimer (3rd)

Xterra Enduro Race Report

3 seconds over 3 days. That was the cumulative time difference between myself and second place overall, Roger Smith, at the end of a 3000m swim, 40km mountain bike, and 20km trail run over the weekend in Canmore. The Xterra Enduro is a new format and unique on the Xterra Canada calendar this season. With the options of doing it solo, entering single days, or doing it as a relay, it is a different challenge from your average one day Xterra race. Although I had just barely recovered from the half ironman in Calgary the weekend before, and had come down with a small head cold, I decided to do it anyway, as long as my cold didn’t get worse each day or go south into my chest. It was a fun “training race” to push a little bit and refamiliarize myself with the course for next weekend’s Alberta Xterra race. Anyway, here is the story….

Day 1: 3000m swim at Quarry Lake. On a blustery but warm Friday evening at Quarry Lake, a nice crowd of swimmers showed up for a swim race start at 7:00pm of 6 times a 500m lap with a short beach run in between each lap. After freezing in Ghost lake last weekend I thoroughly enjoyed the balmy 20 degree water temperature! Once we got going I stuck on my Coach Cal’s feet for a little bit before deciding he was swimming a little too crooked 🙂 After that I was trying to make gains on wetsuit-less Steve up in front of me but the naked arms only seemed to get a fraction closer by the end of the race. Superstar junior Madi Serpico, who was just out for swim portion out 10 seconds in front of me so after 48 minutes in the water I was second female for the night and glad that I’d felt okay being a little under the weather.

All suited up and ready to go with buddy Frank at swim start!

Day 2: 40km mountain bike at the Nordic Centre. For day two of perfect summer racing weather, race director Tony Smith gave us no mercy when it came to including plenty of climbing in the 10km mountain loop we were to do four times. We covered most of the vertical within the Nordic centre from near “the oven” at the top to the bottom of the coal chutes (watch out for big mama bear and cubs here) and plenty of up and down in between. 2h49min later I finished 7 minutes behind first place in second overall for the day. I felt alright during the race but my fatigue level felt doubled afterwards due to my cold. Luckily a fun night out with fellow racers and Calgary training partners at Kyle and Carrie’s place for a BBQ revived me a bit and Zoe thoroughly enjoyed the playmates and treehouse!

All smiles chilling at the finish after another fun day at the office on my Orbea 29er!

Day 3: 20km trail run at the Nordic Centre. By day three I was feeling really tired and was struggling to get myself up to run, let alone keep a good pace through 20km of steep up and down Nordic centre trails where most mortals never feel like they’re going anywhere fast. I learned I had a 17 minute lead on the overall going into the run so figured I would just have to run a good steady tempo to maintain it, but boy was I wrong and my body was not even up to much “tempo” pacing to finish things off! The race began and my body felt like a sack of bricks, oh well, one foot in front of the other let’s go and get it done! The front men’s pack took off like rockets and for most of the first lap I was going back and forth with strong running Cindy Koo. I finally got away on the last hill, and then was on my own for the next hour before finishing for a final sore legged plod of 1h57. Roger Smith of Golden, BC, finished off the weekend with a super strong run and brought my overall lead down to just 3 seconds, whew!!!  Gotta keep it exciting I guess! Now I think I’ll just sleep for a few days – oh wait, I have kids!

Calgary 70.3 Race Report

Although it is super nice to have a major race at home the logistics of the Calgary 70.3 are a bit crazy. Since it is a point to point race, all bikes are required to be racked at T1 the day before out at Ghost Lake, which is a good half hour west of the city. Race morning began with a 3:00am wakeup, a short taxi ride to the host hotel downtown where I got body marked before hopping on the 4:00am shuttle bus for a 45 minute ride out to the start. It was finally getting reasonably light about 25 minutes before our Pro wave start at 6:10. When I first arrived I was amused to see several Pros in transition wearing head lamps, these guys know what they’re doing!!

The water was brrrr, cold, but I decided I would do a short warm-up to avoid absolute shock when the gun went off. As we started I went after feet in front of me but was promptly dropped into no mans land with a few trailing behind me. It was tougher having to sight the whole way and even tougher once I could barely feel my hands and feet anymore and my coordination went out the window, even my face never really warmed up which was weird and rare for any open water swimming I’ve done. Thirty-two minutes later I was out of the water in fourth place, and very grateful to the volunteer wetsuit strippers out there today otherwise there was no way I would have got my wetsuit undone with how numb I was!

Although the weather eventually heated up nice and hot by the end of the run, going out for a fast ride on a time trial bike in a tri suit with no socks or gloves on isn’t exactly toasty at before 7:00am in this climate. For the first 30-40km of the bike I was seeing cross-eyed and riding rather wobbly before I eventually warmed up enough for my hands to get their circulation back and properly grab my gels and water bottles! So that’s when the race started to get a little more fun. The course is a bit long at 94km and other than a few signifiicant sustained uphills it is fast, rolling smooth and fun most of the way to T2 at the Glenmore reservoir, southwest of downtown Calgary. I really had no idea how I was doing until I passed my coach at the second aid station who told me I was 2:30 back of third place, and I thought, hey cool! I continued as strong as I could into T2, and headed out onto the run in 5th position after 2:32:55 on the bike, the third fastest split.

I moved into 4th after the first few km, and worked on keeping a steady even rythmn on the out and back run course along the paved bike path, thankfully a good amount was in the shade too. I have bad memories of the same race two years ago when I ended up in the med tent for an hour afterwards with super low blood pressure and a high heart rate. But by 8km in I realized I was feeling pretty good, and pushed on to end with the fastest run split of the day for 1:28:06 and just 24 seconds short of catching third.

Well, it wasn’t faster overall from my attempt at almost the same course two years ago, but I at least feel fitter to go the distance now, and that is a big thanks to Coach Cal who helps me maximize the quality out of the training hours I have to work with. I also have to give a HUGE thanks to my friend Luke Way for helping me get through this race feeling much better on my Orbea Ordu time trial bike. After Wildflower in April I was so sore, I could barely straighten my left leg, let alone walk the next day! So recently Luke, a professional SICI bike fitter, helped me out. After some measurements, flexibility testing, body marking, filming, dartfishing, spinning, and lazering, Luke repositioned my cleats, adjusted my saddle position, flipped my stem, and moved back my bars a little. Secondly, he is also a master mechanic and when I realized my derailleur was majorly messed up when I dropped it at T1 yesterday, he went out there in the evening, busted through the security, put in a new cable, and adjusted my derailleur so that it was shifting beautifully again for today! Merci Luke!!!

Thanks to everyone who cheered out there today, and congrats to everyone I know who raced today! Half-ironmans are tough!!!! I’m in awe of people who are motivated to race these more often and then double the distance for an Ironman! Three dunks in the cool river, and an ice bath later I’m still hobbling around, in a good way this time though 😉

Pro Women Top 5 left to right: Tenille Hoogland, Sara Gross (congrats on one of her first races back after having a baby girl 8 months ago), Mackenzie Madison, Moi and Lisa Ribes

Mountain Bike Nationals Race Report

I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited to start a mountain bike race as I was yesterday! It was a perfect Canmore summer day, the course was in great shape and it was very high on the fun factor!

Over twenty elite women wheeled to the start line at 12:15 (aaaah, nice not to be so rushed like my usual super early triathlon starts!). The field seemed disappointingly small, but one factor is that the U23 women have had a separate start over the past few years. But since we have the World’s number one rider in the World Cup rankings (none other than my LUNA teammate Catharine Pendrel) and Canada is ranked number one in the World for women, staying near the leaders was going to be no easy feat!

My goal going into the race was to shoot for inside the top ten. I was a little nervous about the start as I haven’t done a serious mountain bike race in awhile and didn’t know how much speed I had in the legs. Luckily we had a small start loop to settle things down so I followed my bro’s advice to sit in and just move up when it was easy to do so. Once we hit the first real climb I was feeling comfortable at the back of the front group and was able to move up a few more spots before the first technical descent, the Laundry Shoots, which was a bit scary as I had to make it through the first few turns and drops with my right foot clipped out, but stayed up!

Nearing the end of lap two I was sitting in 9th with Brandi and Mical in 7th and 8th dangling within reach. That’s when a little hiccup happened and I got major chain suck. I ran out of the short piece of single track I was in and luckily was able to finally yank the chain out. Yay, my day wasn’t over because I was having fun and feeling good! By then Jean-Ann had caught me. She rode stronger and stronger and by the end she’d broken away, and my legs were starting to cramp so 10th it was for the day!

Catharine repeated as Canadian Champ with Marie-Helene Premont in 2nd, and Emily Batty in third. Interestingly, although there are some talented U23 and Junior women coming up in the sport, apart from my first running rival, Brandi Heisterman (who is also a mom of two and finished an impressive 7th after riding the last 3 laps with a fractured, dislocated finger!!), the top 10 riders in Canada has not changed up much since I began racing all the Canada Cup races about 10 years ago! That’s why it was fun to end the weekend today as part of the Fast and Female mountain bike camp to encourage girls from 9-19 to get into the sport. Kudos to Catharine Pendrel, Emily Batty, Amanda Sin, Catherine Vipond and Mical Dyck for taking the afternoon to teach an impressive number of young girls some bike skills and inspire them to get into mountain biking!

Canadian Mountain Running Champs Race Report

I’ve only done a handful of running races since I officially hung up my track and cross-country spikes twelve years ago but today was 42 minutes and change of painful yet fun running at the Canmore Nordic Centre. It was chilly and spitting rain just before our 10:00 start but I had fun warming up on a few sections of the new single track I will be racing next weekend on my mountain bike. Wow, it was strange doing a run warm-up and strides again!

On the senior women’s start line was a small but impressive women’s field consisting of some well seasoned trail runners, a biathlete Olympian and cross-country ski Olympian who are also strong runners (the Senior men raced 12.5km after us). I knew it wouldn’t be an easy day. My friend Madelaine Bate (also a mom of two who I used to mountain bike race with and now is focusing on Marathons) got the hole shot off the start line and when we hit the first hill Magi Scallion and I were at the front side by side. Then it was into the single track and all the way up to the top of the oven before we crested the top (where I was reminded how loud and heavy my breathing is during a running race!) and turned left and got to let gravity take us down the twisting trail. Luckily we didn’t have to run all the way back down to the stadium! We stayed on the narrow trail and went back up again to do the same loop two more times – a 9.2km total course. Magi was hanging on strong and I finally broke away from her a little the second time up the climb. I was also able to reel in the race leader, a young buck in the under 19 category who just went out a little too fast for himself.

In the end, the slightly cool temperature felt great to race in while leaping over the roots downhill and fighting hard to keep a good rythmn on the steep ups. I finished a mere 20 seconds or so in front of Magi, with Megan Irmie, superstar biathlete finishing a big week of training in third.

If you’ve yet to experience the awesome and fun trails of Canmore for running or riding you can experience the course we did today on this quick lapsed time video – kind of cool!

Furious 3: Final Stage Race Report

After another 6am wake-up (ouch!), J-F and I rode the 3km from our condo to downtown Fernie. Unfortunately, my dad had to take a pass on day three. He wrenched his back yesterday trying to avoid a tree during a fall and felt too stiff and sore to continue this morning. But we’re super proud of the 12 hours or riding he already put in! He is also stoked about how much he feels his riding skills improved in the two days as well!

Like yesterday, the race started in three waves, 5 minutes apart. I was in the first wave and felt the sore legs pretty quickly, as I imagine most people did! After getting out of town, we climbed on the some double track where I started to work my way up. Unfortunately I didn’t work hard enough to move up early because before I knew it we were on the narrow and long “Hyperventilation” climb where it was very difficult to pass. But I was able to gain about 5-6 positions by the top. That is when we hit the super fun black diamond “Hyperextension” descent. It seemed to go on forever and was so much fun and we whooped through root filled corners, drops and undulating dips back down into a warmer climate again, ha!

Although I had the women’s race leader, Kate Aardal, in sight during the climbing it was all over after the first long descent. After the first ascent and descent the climbing was less sustained but still tough. There were plenty of bridges, and logs in today’s trails which were fun, one or two were a little nail biting! Unfortunately the rock star descending skills of Margie Smith, local Fernie rider Krista Turcasso, and Megan Rose were too much for me today and I ended the day in fifth, still with a big smile on my face (finish line in downtown Fernie pictured below). And after 8:33:11 ride time over three days, I ended up third overall.

My Coach, Cal Zaryski (pictured below with me post-race), ripped it up in the very competitive Sole Men’s 40 category and finished second overall, not bad for another Xterra triathlete!!

J-F had a solid last day and had tons of fun out there. He finished 55th overall in the Solo Men’s category, not bad for a guy who barely has any miles in his legs this year! He should be a little bit better prepared for the Highwood Gran Fondo he is doing next weekend!

Well, as long as they get the course marked dialed in for the second annual Furious 3 next summer, I would highly recommend this race to anyone! It was some of the most challenging climbing I’ve ever done on a bike and I loved the fact it was mainly all single track! And the descending is as fun as it gets on a mountain bike, I would definitely like to try and do this race again in the future! Finally, a big thanks to my mom, Grandma Peggy, who looked after Nico and Zoe while the rest of us were out riding. She spent lots of time helping Zoe on her bike, Zoe enjoyed hitting the dirt on her bike and mountain biking just like mommy!

Furious 3: Stage 2 Race Report

Well, in an ironic twist most racers in the Furious 3 stage race finished the race feeling plenty furious today!!! I have mixed feelings about today’s stage. On the one hand, my legs felt good, and the riding was awesome! The climbs weren’t as steep as day one but they were more technical and rooty and the descents were SO much fun, long and flowy with plenty of rolls, roots, drops, scattered bridges and logs, and loads of bermed corners!

On the otherhand, myself like pretty much everyone else went off course at some point due to poor course marking and race marshalling, sorry a few pieces of red flagging doesn’t cut it! Real signage with arrows on posts or tacked to the trees would be a good start! There were some points where it sounds like the entire field went off course or rode in the wrong direction without even knowing it! A few guys I was in with less than 10km to go (it was supposedly 45km day and my Garmin recorded me at over 49km by the finish!) accidently rerode a gravel climb from the beginning of the day before realizing we were back on part of the course we’d done about an hour earlier. After backtracking and getting going in the right direction towards the finish line we met up a growing group of racers that was stopped by two passing trains for a good 15 minutes. Volunteers were recording race numbers and times to be fair but it won’t mean anything now unfortunately as I heard the entire stage may be neutralized.

After the long pit stop at the train, was the short section of trail after which it was a hard 5-6km sprint to the finish, where I practiced my time trialing (gotta do some prep for the Calgary 70.3 at the end of the month!) and some drafting in small packs to gain a bit more time – although my lung busting effort won’t mean anything now I don’t think, ha! And that’s too bad because other than the solo women’s leader, Kate, who was definitely up ahead and out of sight again, the next three women, Margie Smith, Marg Fedyna, and myself (both whom I only had 2min 30 and 1min + lead over respectively from day 1) were having a good little battle amongst ourselves, and with Margie catching me on every descent after I’d do the catching on the climbs, it could have made for an interesting race after two days!

As for J-F, he did some major backtracking with the group he was with, and he was plenty pissed when he hadn’t even seen the first aid station after 2h30 of racing! After some anxiety over how my dad would fair and whether he’d make to the finish with all the directional mishaps out there, my mom called to say that he’d made it to the finish line coming from the wrong direction after over 7 hours of racing – so yes, he got lost too! And of course, there are plenty of stories like this from every racer today. It is really unfortunate because as much as we’re here to experience the amazing trails Fernie has to offer we’re also all here to race and see how we all stack up against each other. When you pay big bucks for the entry fee for a race like this, I would say the minimum requirement is having a course that is well marked which makes for a fun AND fair race!! And hopefully that’s what the last day will be tomorrow!

Furious 3: Stage 1 Race Report

What better way to spend Canada Day on Canada’s 144th birthday than riding sweet singletrack with 300 other people on a perfect day in Fernie, B.C.?! I have only ridden in Canada Cup mountain bike races at the ski resort in Fernie and have always wanted to discover the other amazing trails around the valley here. When the Furious 3 mountain bike stage race was announced last fall, my husband, my dad, and I jumped on the opportunity to enter.

Just after 9:00 this morning we rolled out of downtown Fernie on a 40 kilometer mystery ride – well for me at least, and many others who’ve never ridden here before. The first 15 minutes was super fast and I struggled to stay in contact with the front pack before hitting the first long double track climb. I made some gains on the climb butbeingg such a lightweight on the following double track descent before the first single track I lost spots again. With some rain and a late snow melt the single track kept everyone on their toes with plenty of wet roots and semi-wet bridges. I’m riding my Orbea Oiz for this race and it is fun to ride through the undulating dips.

I’m pretty done right now so it is hard to remember exactly how the race all fit together but what stands out is the “Hyperventilation” climb at the halfway point which was a single track climb with plenty of steep switchbacks that never seemed to end. It was so high at the top I was
considering putting my armwarmers back on! This was followed by a steep descent back towards town before one more grunt up double track and down to the finish line, which I crossed 2h36 minutes after start time in second place in the solo women category behind Kate Aardal (I will update more when results are posted later). J-F was a trooper and on very little training finished in 3h10 with some major leg cramping issues on the climb. My young 67 year old dad was a trooper, and after blowing out his tire and fixing a flat, he came in around the 5h mark and is gung-ho to go again tomorrow! Here he is pictured crossing the finish line! Yay, Dad!!

Xterra Vernon Race Report

Xterra Vernon was a new race on the rapidly expanding Xterra race schedule in Canada. Of all the great Xterra race venues I’ve been to in the last seven years, this one is now high on my list of favourite race venues! Just 20 minutes from downtown Vernon (located in the Okanagan Valley in B.C.), the race took place at Ellison Provincial Park.

Down the hill from a great campground and fun playground area for kids, the transition was picturesque, set up amongst the pine trees next to a picnic area which was steps away from the beautiful beach swim start in a secluded bay on Lake Okanagan (see pic of Zoe playing on the beach).

The Swim: The swim was 2 laps of 750m with a short beach run in between. The water was a pretty ideal 16-17 degrees Celsius and once I was warmed up, the temperature was race-perfect in my Orca 3.8 wetsuit. I got off to an aggressive start and focused on staying on feet in the lead pack. Halfway through the first lap, a bit of a gap opened up between the swimmer in front of me and the three leaders, so I was left chasing down a 30 second gap to the lead pack on the second swim lap. Overall it was a good swim for me and I felt I kept up a good arm turnover throughout. I exited in the water in 4th place overall

The Bike: After exiting transition, the bike portion began with a good 5 minutes plus of pavement climbing – enough time to wrench my gloves on, get a gel in, and get some blood flowing in my legs before hitting the dirt. The trails were truly single track in a mountain bike park across the road from the campground. It was twisty and fun with occasional rock gardens and log piles to navigate, as well as short power climbs and a few fun sustained descents. In my opinion it was an ideal Xterra course, technically challenging enough for the experienced rider to try and go fast, while still being very ride-able for a beginner. With a few changes in position on the bike, I came into transition in 5th overall.

The Run: I headed out onto the run side by side, with whom I later learned was Sean, one of my running teammates at the University of Victoria a mere 18 years ago! You never know who you’ll run into at races! And wow, was the run tough – like the bike it began with a good climb and when we hit the dirt it felt like a scramble up some rocks to a ridge. If you looked left at the top it was a breath taking view of the Lake Okanagan before turning right into a rare piece of rolling single track through the woods before crossing the road again and doing a loop up a long climb before descending down switchbacks and all the way back down again before repeating it all over again! I crossed paths with my Coach, Cal a few times throughout the figure eight style loop as he was ripping his way to first place about 10 minutes ahead of me. I pushed the pace as best I could and made up two places on the run before hitting the finishing shoot in 3rd place overall 2 hours and 34 minutes later.

We were also honoured to have the celebrity race announcer, Steve King, at this race so the spectators were well entertained with racer’s backgrounds and events info during the entire race. Afterwards, I enjoyed just hanging out dipping my legs in the lake and playing at the water’s edge with Zoe and Nico while J-F got in another ride on the fun bike course.

Overall, it was fun weekend road tripping “race-cation” with the family. Although a one and a three year old definitely tested our patience a few times over the 6 hours of drive time it took both ways (not something we do very often!), the amazing rocky mountain scenery, fun overnight visit we had with the Hewitt family in Vernon, post-race night stopover at a friend’s “Slice of Heaven” on Mara lake, and the wonder and amazement Zoe had on her face when we stopped for a tour of the Enchanted Forest just east of Revelstoke on the way home all added to the fun!