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…

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 Racing 101

Spring is officially only a week away, and triathlon season is coming in full force! Which also means the start of Xterra season for those who enjoy switching up the pavement for dirt.  The world of  Xterra (off-road) triathlon is a unique blend of tri-geek  personalities mixed with laid back mountain bike personalities. Where else can you see athletes riding around on a mountain bike in full spandex and compression socks, ha! Overall though, it’s a friendly, fun, and laid-back crowd and I think that is what draws many to want to get involved in the sport. I’m asked now and then about how to get into Xterra racing, so here are three of my biggest tips from experience….

1. It’s a lot about the mountain bike! If you don’t come from a mountain bike riding or racing background the most important thing to do is focus most of your time getting comfortable on the bike by improving your bike handling skills on technical terrain. The added dynamic of Xterra that makes it so exciting is that you could be the fittest athlete in the race on paper but if you waste too much energy just trying to stay upright on your bike, a more highly skilled and efficient bike handler will gain time and go into the run with more energy left in the tank! Of course, every race course is unique as far as the technical demands, but in general bike times in Xterra are about 60% of your entire race, so it is worth spending the time on your bike. Ride with more skilled riders whenever you can (you’ll improve fastest when riding with others) and enter mountain bike races to get comfortable riding technical trails at maximum effort, and learning to pass and be passed by others doing the same.

At the same time, one thing that blew me away at many Xterra races when I first started was other athletes asking me the night before the race, “so what is the course like?” Before getting into Xterra racing I competed in cross-country mountain bike racing for five years. The most important thing in preparation for a race is pre-riding the course, figuring out the best lines to go the fastest according to your ability, deciding the best places to eat or drink, where you’ll be able to push hard, recover a bit etc. If you’re new to the sport it is particularly important to decide if you’re uncomfortable riding any sections. Although most Xterra courses are less technical than mountain race courses (except in Canada, ha ha :)), there can still be steep ups, downs, or obstacles that are challenging. My philosophy is that if you can’t ride something while pre-riding, don’t expect to miraculously be able to clean it with the added race adrenaline and fatigue while going at race pace. Also, if there is a part of the course you’re fearful of, just commit to jumping off and running it, instead of dreading it and likely unconsciously slowing down as you approach it. Ride within your limits. Although some choose not to pre-ride a course to save energy, particularly when Xterra courses are longer loops, if a course is technical, I would say knowing the course and what to expect trumps a little extra pre-race fatigue most of the time. As anyone who was there may agree, the bridge-packed Whistler Xterra Canada course was the best example of the need to pre-ride!

2. Get to know the brick. Although I spent most of my life pre-Xterra competing as a runner, the biggest shocker when I started racing was the feeling from the bike-to-run transition. Your legs may literally feel like bricks for the first 5-10 minutes or more. Anyone from a triathlon background will have some experience with this feeling but the added challenge of Xterra is coming off the full-body effort on the mountain bike onto running trails, which can often head straight up or down with added roots, rocks, logs, mud or loose terrain! Doing workouts that involve race intensity from your trainer to the run, or even from your mountain bike to varied terrain trail running outside are great preparation for an Xterra.

3. Open water swimming practice. Unless you have a rock star swimming background, often the most feared discipline is getting through the open water swim. While smooth, no-contact lane swimming in a pool is great fitness preparation, whenever weather permits prior to a race, take any opportunity to swim in a wetsuit in cold and/or rough, ocean or lake water. It is also important to practice sighting where you’re going, and checking your ability to swim in a straight line! AND get comfortable swimming with others in very close proximity, and knocking you around at the same time. With all the extra external distractions, don’t forget to breath and find your own rhythm too!

A good option for trying out an Xterra race is to enter the sport race, which is half the distance of a full Xterra (approximately 1500m swim, 30km mountain bike, 10km run). For a fun challenge against changing terrain in beautiful places, think about trying some Xterra racing in 2012!

For the full U.S.A. and global schedule of Xterra triathlons and trail runs here

For the entire Canadian schedule click here.

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!

Athlete-Mom Interview: Carrie Atwood

Carrie and I met through the LUNA team. As well as the Pro team, there are 26 Local Luna teams (run, cycling, mountain bike or triathlon focused) all over the United States (and yes, I’m hoping we can get some in Canada soon). You can read more about each local team on the Luna Chix website. Carrie is a member of the Team LUNA Chix Triathlon team in Seattle (which you can read more about below). She lives just outside of Seattle in Sammamish with her husband Eric, her 7 year old daughter Seamus, and 6 year old son, Sirus. I think I’ll need to go visit this area as it sounds like an Xterra triathlete’s dream training place – Carrie can run to work, there are 4 lakes within a few minutes drive, and 5hrs of mountain biking right out their doorstep, which are well maintained trails that have had over 100hrs of volunteer work done on them each year! Read on to hear about how Carrie’s modern family balances work, family, and play…

Carrie and son, Sirus

1. Can you tell me a little about your athletic/competitive background before becoming a mom?
I did my first road century when I was 15 but never raced or road bikes competitively. I was on the crew team my freshman year in college but was always sick and full of injuries, so I didn’t continue. After that I didn’t do much except the occasional rec league softball or soccer team. After some encouragement from an old boss, I decided to try mountain bike racing and was hooked. It’s how I met my husband! I raced a few years at the sport level, but when work became unbearable and racing was no longer fun, I stopped. It wasn’t until after I had my kids that I switched to triathlons and got my athletic groove back!

2. What has motivated you to keep setting athletic and/or competitive goals since becoming a mother? Is it different than pre-kids?
Pre-kids it was about trying to get in shape, having fun, hanging out with friends and meeting new people. I didn’t care about goals or winning or any of that. It really was just a way to pass the time and stay out of trouble. Since having kids, I am actually competitive for the first time in my life! I set goals and I want to exceed those goals. I am more focused all around and while I still do it to stay in shape, I hope I am also setting good examples for my kids.

Out for a beautiful NW training ride!

3. How do you balance training and/or racing with your family?
I try to get my workouts done in the morning so that when I come home in the evening I can concentrate on my family. If I do my work out in the evening, I spend that morning time with them, eating breakfast together and planning for the day. I also try to make sure I spend some one-on-one time with each of them every day, even if it is only a few minutes at bed time. There have been times when I have left the house before the kids wake up and gotten home after they are asleep. Sometimes I feel sad about not seeing them, and wonder if I am being selfish, especially when they hang on me asking me to please not go out for another bike ride. But I know I am a better mom because of my training and racing. I’m calmer, more patient and more confident. If the sadness gets too bad, which sometimes it does, I’ll skip a workout and spend extra time with them. I am also very lucky because I have a great husband who is also athletic so he understands. As a bonus, he is a stay at home dad and manages everything at home. It really allows me to spend my at home time with the family.

Racing as a LUNA Chix

4. Can you tell me more about how you made the decision to have Eric stay home and how that has worked for your family?
We joke that being a stay at home dad was one of the negotiating tactics I used in order to have a baby- I told him he’d have all kinds of time to train, etc. Ha! He was his fastest the year Seamus was born, but only this year with Seamus in 2nd grade and Sirus in Kindergarten does he consistently have a regular schedule. I want him to stay home at least another year, so Sirus will be in full day 1st grade, but really, I wouldn’t mind him staying home for much much longer. I like things the way they are. One of the other girls on our Seattle team has a stay at home dad, too. I swim with one and work with one, too. I don’t think it is for everyone, but it works for us. It was hard at first, I really had to let go, but he does a great job. Since the kids started going to school, I have learned to not mess with the morning routine at all, and its a bit weird at school functions because all the moms crowd around Eric and hardly acknowledge me, but whatever! He has also said it has been hard to crack the mom cliques too. Sometimes it’s sad because when the kids are sick or hurt, they tend to go to him first, and I get called Daddy a lot, but I think what they get from him is way worth it.

Eric and Seamus

5. Did you train during pregnancy?No. What was your approach? Lots of rest. 🙂 My first pregnancy I tried to stay sort of active but by the 5th month all I wanted to do was lay around and get huge. The 2nd pregnancy I didn’t even try to do anything because I got huge almost instantly.

6. Any advice you would give to other moms trying to stay active (or even competitive) while balancing kids?
For new moms, I’d suggest putting that baby in a BabyBjorn or some sort of carrier and walk all over the place. Hills and more hills! There is nothing wrong with sweating a little even, just don’t run. Babies love being in those carriers, they are content and will nap, and you’ll be able to ease into getting back in shape. We have a Chariot so to make family runs or bike rides more fun for the kids, we would stop at a park or two along the way. Now that my kids are older, I can go out to the garage on the weekends and spend a few hours on the trainer while they play in the house. And again I am lucky because I actually like the trainer and treadmill, so my advice would be to learn to love them. My husband and I have gym dates, where we swim or lift weights together while the kids are in the gym’s kids club (which luckily they love!), and most of my social activities with my friends are spent running or biking. This serves double duty: I’m getting in my girl time, I am getting in a workout, and an added bonus of that I’m not out spending my kid’s future college tuition on drinks or restaurant food. There is of course a time and a place for all of that, but if I can kill a few of those birds with one workout, then that leaves more time to be with my kids.

7. And of course can you tell me about the local Luna Triathlon team you’re are a member of? What are you favourite group workouts to do in and around Seattle? 
I am headed into my 5th season with Team LUNA Chix in Seattle and for 2012, I am going to be one of the team co-leaders! I love being part of Team LUNA Chix and meeting women who are interested in triathlon. One of my favorite things is hearing the stories from the newer ladies who are just beginning to realize what they can actually accomplish. Some of our most inspiring workouts are the mini-tris that we have a few times each summer. It gives the ladies a chance to swim, bike and run, practice transition and test their race strategy in a super short distance, low key, low pressure environment before their big day! I love the LUNA Chix and encourage all women interested in triathlons to check us out at our website and come to one of our workouts.

Team Luna Chix Tri Team in Seattle

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

My Xterra training paradise!

Forty years ago this summer, my parents discovered Hornby Island, a northern gulf island in British Columbia, and bought some waterfront property overlooking a sandstone beach. After ten years of camping, my parents built our family cabin in 1981, which they have expanded and renovated over the years. With it being only an hour trip, which includes two 10-minute ferry rides from where I grew up in Courtenay, B.C., it has been the ideal weekend and summer vacation get-a-way for our family, and now my parents live here most months during the warm half of the year. Here is how the cabin looks today looking up from the water…..

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Looking back at the family cabin from the canoe

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Beach view to the northeast

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Beach view to the northwest

The sunsets are spectacular and most evenings are spent hanging out on the front deck admiring the views. As kids we spent many nights sleeping under the stars on the deck with our border collie dogs curled up beside us. The sound of the waves lapping against the beach is the best background noise for incredible, restful sleeps. On Hornby, “Peace comes dropping slow” (Wordsworth)

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A Hornby Island Sunset

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Zoe and Nico enjoying dinner with a view!

When we want a break from the rocky, sandstone beach there are three incredible sandy beaches to visit. Here I am at the largest one, Tribune Bay, getting in for an open water swim. The water is crystal clear and it takes me 25 minutes to cross the bay and back at high tide!

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Swim training at Tribune Bay

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Tribune Bay sand castle buidling with Grandpa

Ironically spelled the same way as my brother’s name, Mt Geoffrey Nature Park has some of the most fun single track trails to mountain bike and run on. I can ride trails for over 4 hours without getting bored on Hornby. There are some incredible views and the flowing single track is so pretty, lined with salal bushes, ferns, beautiful green moss and big B.C. fir trees! The trails are all well-signed and maintained, and there are no bear or cougar worries here either!

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Ride with a view – the top of Mt Geoffrey

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Taking a break to enjoy the soft “mossiness!”

Finally, for an island this size, roughly 3o square km, it has all the amenities you need! Many artists make their home here including top potters such as Wayne Ngan, and painters such as Graham Herbert. There is a central island co-op with a variety of restaurants and other small boutique like shops. While its a great place to stay active and do some super fun training, the pace of life is slower and very relaxed on Hornby Island. I plan to bring my kids back every summer to create the same wonderful childhood memories I have of this place….but psssst,  please keep this place a secret! 🙂

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Nico outside “Fibres” where you can find everything hippy and bohemian for Island life!