Monday, May 25, 2009

Update and Pics

It was so hard to sit home while everyone else got to go to Alabama and race the Xterra Southwest Cup. I so missed hanging out with everyone at Jerry's but I know it was the right decision. I haven't been able to run yet but I have progressed from aquajogging to the elliptical training thankfully as there is really not much I dislike more than aquajogging. The plan is one more elliptical workout and a run on Thursday. On the positive, after a bit of a training slump right after the race, I got in some serious time on the trails with a great couple of hours on Sunday with the Speedriver Cycling Club guys up at Hardwood Hills. The next O'Cup MTB race is being held there this Sunday and the course was marked so we decided to head up north and get in a couple of hard laps. The showcase of the course is the infamous 'Boneshaker'. I've heard many a tooth has been lost on this section of trail. It is a downhill switchback with stepped drops of uneven rocks. In the past I have been pretty tentative about riding it but the first three times through I nailed it no problem. Of course the fourth time I got a little overconfident, came in a little to fast with my weight too far forward and did a perfect endo. Fortunately I tucked and rolled (which I normally don't do, usually opting for the superman) and managed to get away with a bit of a stiff back this morning and a bruised ego. Here are a couple of pics from the Xterra Midwest race in Michigan. For the full gallery click here or on my pics on right. Enjoy!!

The Homestay House

Local Wildlife

Actually getting out of the wetsuit before T1

Going into the river

In the river

Calf not happy

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Xterra Midwest Cup

This should have been an easy race report to write, great race, great venue, unfortunately... The 2nd Xterra Cup of the season was held at Fort Custer Recreation Area just outside Battle creek, Michigan. (Think Kelloggs) Finally a race close enough for me to drive to. No packing up the bike and getting on an airplane. I headed out Wednesday afternoon and picked up Emma Garrard at the airport in Detroit on the way through. Erin Kummer's extensive network of family was on hand to offer homestays to just about every pro-athlete which was great. Emma, Erin and I stayed at her grandparents old farm house about 30mins from the race site in East Leroy. The house is over 140yrs old or something like that and has been in the family the whole time. Only drawback, one bathroom, though as her grandpa Pete so eloquently put it "better than an outhouse like when it was built"!!! Thursday we headed out to the venue to check out the bike and run course and what a fun set of trails they were. Very twisty and turny but smooth and flowing, very much like what I am used to riding without as many roots and rocks. The course was a two loop course with a nice mix of double and single track and it was instantly apparent that it was going to be very fast. The run course was much of the same. The only down side for me was a short swim, only 1000m, and wetsuits. Still I was feeling really sharp, much better than Vegas, and excited to race.
Friday and Saturday were pretty relaxed, a short swim on Friday and a bit of each on Saturday. My right calf had been getting a bit tight throughout the week but honestly I didn't really give it much thought. There was a bit of excitement Saturday night with some heated debate about whether the swim should be lengthened to 1500m because it was a Cup race but overall everyone was really happy with how the race was shaping up. (the race ended up staying at 1000m but will hopefully be lengthened to full distance next year)
Sunday morning came early, another 8am start. Unlike Vegas it was below freezing and not looking like it was going to warm up much. I got in my standard warm-up, a good 20-25min bike with some accelerations, a short 10-15min run and a loop of the swim course. The pro's got a 30sec start on the age-groupers and I got right to the front to push the pace. We had a short run along the beach between the two laps then headed into transition after the second loop. The lead pack was the usual suspects, Craig, Conrad, Seth, Branden, Dan, and myself with Mike Vine putting in a stellar swim to be just behind us. After last race's wetsuit debacle I had Erin's grandma sew a tab on my wetsuit velcro and it came off perfectly. Out onto the bike course I got into a great rhythm and really tried to push the pace as I had no idea how much time I had managed to put on the other women. We had a small creek crossing early in the course which was fairly simple in the pre-rides, but the banks had gotten pretty muddy with all the pre-riding and the creek was definitely deeper with the bit of rain we had leading up to the race and I almost planted my front wheel and endo'ed into the water. After the race we got a good laugh over Seth's account of his near drowning experience. He did go OTB and ended up underwater, still clipped in, with his bike on top of him. Not a good situation and cause for a bit of panic. Apparently the spectators standing around weren't of any help either and simply stood there and enjoyed the moment.(too bad they didn't even get a picture) Can't you just picture the headlines, "Ex-swimmer leads out of water, drowns on bike course"!!! With the water done for the lap (or so I thought) I got right back on pace until at the end of a sweeping downhill I suddenly ran into a small lake where absolutely no water had been on any of the previous days riding and you couldn't see the bottom to know how deep it was. Lucky for me, Nico Lebrun passed me right before and boldly rode right through it no problem so I just followed.
A little before the end of the first lap Mel caught me, bummer, I was hoping to hold her off for the whole first lap. She also went by me rather quickly and again I couldn't hook her wheel. We looped through transition so out onto the second lap I could see that Renata and Shonny were working together not far behind me and Jenny Smith was charging hard not far behind them. I put my head down determined to hold them off as long as possible. Half way through the second lap Renata and Shonny caught me and this time I was ready to jump on. It probably sounds a bit amateurish, but I was so excited to ride the rest of the race glued to Shonny's back wheel. It is soooo much easier for me to ride simply following someone else's line, especially someone of that caliber. I totally don't overthink things and just ride hard. Jenny Smith caught the three of us right before transition so it was 2nd through 5th into T2 all together, very exciting racing. I flew through transition and went right to the front and set a hard pace to see who could follow and Renata jumped right on my heels. I didn't realized how cold my feet were until I started running and realized that they were so frozen I couldn't feel them at all and felt like I was running on peg legs. Right from the start of the run I felt my right calf tightening up but I kept hoping that as I warmed up it would loosen up. Renata didn't even let an inch gap form between us and we ran through transition and out onto the second lap right together with a nice gap on Shonny and Jenny. There was a short uphill at the start of the run loops and second time through the calf decided it had had enough. ARGGGG!!!! Here I was having my best Xterra race ever, in a head to head battle for 2nd and wouldn't you know it, the wheels came off. I decided to save my calf from a possible complete tear and backed off the pace and hobbled it in running on my heels. I managed to stay in third but quite likely still did some serious damage.
So here I am, after a pretty depressing drive home while everyone else made the trip down to Alabama for the next race, wondering how badly I am injured and how long it is going to take to heal. I have struggled with chronic Achilles tendon and calf issues my whole triathlon career and it always seems to appear right when things are really starting to go well. Anyway, it is off to the chiropractor/acupuncturist tomorrow and a schedule full of aquajogging, yippee!!(insert sarcasm here) I am extra bummed because of all the races this year I was really looking forward to Xterra Alabama at Oak Mountain. A full 1500m non-wetsuit swim with a short-fast mountain bike on a course I spent two months training on this year, this was going to be an awesome race for me. I got an email from Mel today telling me to get some ultrasound get down there. I wish it where that simple and a little mind over matter would make everything okay, but I have a feeling it is going to take more than that. Maybe next year.
(on a happy note - my picture is on the home page for the Xterra Mexico website, very cool

Friday, May 15, 2009

Ontario Mud Cup #2 - Albion Hills

Last weekend I raced the second MTB O'cup of the season at Albion Hills Recreation Area just north of Toronto. This is one of my favourite riding spots and for the week prior to the race the report was the trails were in great condition. Saturday, ten minutes after pulling out of my driveway to go pre-ride the course, the skies opened up and the rain poured down. Apparently there were rivers running down the main hills on the course. The race directors had two coursed planned, a dry one and a wet one, so needless to say we ran the wet one Sunday morning. I got to the race site as the 9:30 start was finishing up and they were covered head to toe in mud, great. The race was delayed due to slow lap times and we were instructed that there were still a few muddy sections out on the course but that it was drying up nicely, yah right. The first section was in great shape, really dry and fast. I immediately gapped my start wave and was determined to maintain my stagger on the master womens start 3mins behind me. Cross the road into the second half of the course and all I can say is mud, mud, and more mud. Mud on the uphills, Mud on the downhills, mud holes on the corners. Not just getting muddy mud, but get off your bike and sink into just below your knees mud. I decided to just accept the situation and have tons of fun. I was riding really well and making up time running the mud sections compare to the other riders until the last hike-a-bike uphill where I had my bike up on my shoulder and was apparently getting tired as I caught my foot and went face first into the mud. No one got a good photo, but I looked like mud person crossing the finish line. I won the senior expert division by over 12minutes and only one of the masters expert women beat me, and only by a couple of seconds. Much better riding than the first O'Cup. I am now in Kellogg country, aka Battle Creek Michigan, getting ready for the next Xterra Cup race of the season. The coffee shop here has the worlds slowest internet connections so only one photo uploaded before I completely lost my patience. Except for the short swim, only 1000m, the course here is going to be awesome and really fast. Update post race.

Pre-riding Xterra Michigan

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly...

The Good....
Overall I had a good, solid race. I placed 5th, my second best finish at an Xterra Cup race, against a stacked field. (the best women's field assembled outside of the World Championships) I had a great swim and gapped the whole pro field. After mentally losing focus a bit in the middle of the race, I got it back together on the run and chased down a spot on the podium. Lastly, the Canucks definitely owned the podium, taking four of the ten spots and more than double any other country: Mel McQuaid 1st, Mike Vine 4th, Jasper Blake and myself 5th!!!
The Bad.... I mentally wasn't where I needed to be race day. I trained myself into a bit of a hole a week and a half out and let it play havoc with my confidence. My legs were still a bit fatigued going in and I let that affect my race. Instead of keeping the pressure on in the bike and fight through the fatigue I started feeling sorry for myself and lost my focus thinking I didn't have it in me to mix it up at the front end of the race as rider after rider rode by me on the course.

The Ugly....

I think the race course definitely has to take the lead in this category, but my transitions were a close second. For an ex-ITU racer I had the slowest, most pathetic transitions. T1 I couldn't get the velcro undone on my wetsuit, then missed my bike rack and had to backtrack, and then ended up in front of my bike still fully in my wetsuit. T2 I managed to find the right bike rack first time but found someone else's bike already in my spot. Instead of just finding a spot, I stood around wondering what I should do, duh!!

The Race....

Emma, Dan Hugo, and I were all staying together with our great hosts Ryan and Molly. Race morning was an early one as the race started at 8am and we had a point to point swim so needed to set up transition then drive over to the race start at the Loews Hotel Lake Las Vegas. It was only supposed to be 75deg with a chance of rain but was already turning out to be quite a bit hotter, clear, sunny, and very windy. The race director had been measuring the water temperature in the days leading up to the race at around 70-71 deg which would make it a non-wetsuit race for the pros, but wouldn't you know it, the water temperature was suddenly below 68deg on race morning and wetsuits were allowed for everyone. I have to rant just a little about this since Xterra makes such a point of promoting their races as super tough and challenging, yet while the bike and run courses usually live up to the hype, every chance they get (and sometimes questionably so) they make the swim course as easy as possible for the non-swimmers, whether it be allowing wetsuits or shortening or changing the course. On top of allowing wetsuits, the swim course was shortened a bit to cut out a section that would have had us swimming into the very small amount of chop the wind was stirring up on the lake.

No matter, I got off to a good start and tucked in behind a couple of the guys. We started the swim in a little cove then rounded the first buoy and headed out into the main part of the lake. The guys in front of me went around the buoy and totally headed in the wrong direction. I sighted the next buoy and headed off on my own. I was surprised that no one decided to follow me and I ended having a nice calm swim and headed into transition well ahead of the rest of the field. Out onto the bike I just couldn't seemed to get into race gear. The course, while uninspiring, was very tough. We were biking around an abandoned development that had been roughly graded. The result was the feeling of riding around a open pit gravel mine. There were a couple of steep hike-a-bikes, some steep downhills you sort of just slid down, a couple of wash crossings, a bunch of gravel roads and a short section of single track along the side of the lake. Mel caught me halfway into the first lap, then Shonny, Renata, and Leslie one right after the other at the end of the first lap. At this point I definitely started to feel sorry for myself and didn't keep the pressure on. I was riding technically quite well, just not putting in a race quality effort. Jenny Smith and Rebecca Dussault flew by me halfway through the second lap leaving me in seventh place going into T2.

The run was just as tough as the bike with a two lap course, pretty much uphill to the turnaround then two downhill sections with a tough uphill in between on the way back. Still a bit unfocused I headed out onto the run with Emma Garrard right on my heels. The one nice thing about this course is it was so open that you had a good view of your competitors. I quickly noticed that Jenny and Rebecca weren't too far in front and I was steadily closing the gap. I got back on my game and got to work. I passed the two in front of me at the turnaround on the second lap and put my long legs to good work on the downhills to the finish line to hold off a hard charging Emma. Overall 5th, on the podium and in the money with lots of room for improvement. I spent some time talking with my coach, Gareth, after the race and besides the obvious mental faltering on my part we decided that I probably still need a bit more rest going into my races this year. My program and training has been just about flawless so far this year and we just need to dial in the taper a bit. In past years I have usually had to deal with nagging injuries and therefore not ideal training. This year I have had four months of great, injury free, training and can afford to really taper. Fortunately I have a whole bunch of races coming up to rest up for.

After the race we hung out for a bit around the hotel pool for awards then headed home with a quick stop for ice cream on the way, Coldstone Creamery no less. It was Dan's first time in Vegas so although pretty tired we rallied and headed out for dinner and some dancing at LAX inside the Luxor. I am definitely getting old as I hardly recognized any of the music they were playing. I guess it happens to everyone eventually. Sunday was a long day of travel, uneventful except for the cankles that developed sometime during the flight. Now it is a short two weeks before two back to back races, the Midwest Cup in Michigan and the Southeast Cup in Alabama. This weekend I am racing another of the Ontario MTB Cups races at one of my favourite riding venues Albion Hills.

Big thanks to my sponsors whose gear performed flawlessly (unlike my legs): Nineteen Wetsuits, Skinfit, Pearl Izumi Shoes, Rudy Project Sunglasses and Infinit Nutrition.

Here is a video that Dan shot of Emma and I sliding down on of the steep downhills while pre-riding. I think he figured one of us was going to have troubles and he would get it on video. (good thing we both rode it smart and safe)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Xterra Lake Las Vegas (aka the lunar landing)

To say that all the athletes were a bit surprised when we got to see the course of the first Xterra race of the season is a bit of an understatement. It has universally been named the Xterra Lunar Landing. I had a solid race finishing 5th, but definitely left a lot of room for improvement. Here are some photos from the race, full race report as soon as I manage to get unpacked, caught up on work and have a spare moment to put together my thoughts.
In the middle of the washing machine

Leading out of the water (even the boys!!!)

Okay, so there was a bit of vegetation

Welcome to the moon or Las Vegas