Friday, October 30, 2009

End of Season

I always feel like the season seems to last forever, then all of a sudden it is all over. The Xterra World Championships held on Sunday marked the end of another race season. A season full of great successes, frustrating injuries and mechanicals, lots of new friends, new races, new trails, new cuts, bruises and scars. My skills on the mountain bike progressed leaps and bounds, and while these skills eluded me in Maui I did finish in the top 5 at all 5 regional cup races I competed in throughout the season and finished 5th in the Xterra US Pro Tour.
I was so lucky to have incredible families host me for my winter training camps and at all the races this year. JR in Bama and Willie in Ashville, you both offered up your homes all winter to help get my season off to a great start. Your hospitality, support, and friendship was overwhelming. Iliana, Ryan and Molly, the Kummer family, Jan and Paula, Brandi, Betsy and Bill, Blake and Diana, and Allan thanks so much for hosting me at all the races this year. It makes such a difference to be able enjoy the comforts of a home while racing.
A huge big thanks also goes out to my awesome sponsors this year: Skinfit for their great racing suit and gear, Rudy for their awesome glasses and helmets, Pearl Izumi for keeping my feet happy in my cycling and running shoes, Nineteen for the fastest wetsuit in the world, Infinit for their fully customizable nutrition solutions, Extreme Endurance for their vitamins and supplements, Alto-Lab for helping me adapt to altitude, and Crocs Prepair for their great recovery footwear. Special thanks to my coach Gareth Thomas for his incredible knowledge and guidance throughout the season, allowing me to race at my best.
It has taken me a bit of time to reflect on my race on Sunday before putting down my thoughts on paper, so to speak. It definitely wasn't the race I was hoping for or know that I have in me, but it wasn't a horrible race either. I just didn't have that last little bit of snap on the bike and made little mistakes here and there that on a mountain bike translates to some substantial time lost. I got to Maui on Wednesday and got settled into the rental house with the rest of the gang. Will, Shelby, SueAnne, Ryan, Brandon, and Dave provided lots of good fun and entertainment throughout the week (pictures). I felt really good on the last couple of workouts leading up to the race and had been able to put in a great block of training between Nationals and Worlds. Race day arrived and I had the usual case of the nerves right up until the start gun. The swim start was a little rougher than last year as they forced everyone to start in a narrow roped off section of the beach instead of being able to spread out and have your own space. I still managed to get off to a clean start and rounded the first buoy ahead of the washing machine. A group of five of us managed a break and kept it through the swim. I think it was Luke MacKenzie, Eneko Llanos, Seth Wealing, another pro guy and myself.
Photo by Rich Cruse (http://www.richcruse.com/)
I was first woman out of the water but only managed less than a minute on Julie Dibens and not more than a couple on Mel and Leslie. Still I felt comfortable and ready to get on with the race.
Out on the bike I tried to get into a good rhythm but just couldn't seem to quite get there. I didn't have much traffic but still didn't manage to climb some of the hills I should have been able to and ended up off the bike a bunch. Julie flew by me early on and the others gradually reeled me in, passed me, and kept on riding away. I did manage the descents really well and got safely down the plunge and into transition in 7th.
Heading out on the run it was Julie, Mel, Shonny, Leslie, Carina, Marie-Helene, then myself with Danelle, Sara, and Rebecca hot on my heels. The weather had thankfully been overcast for most of the morning so we were spared a complete meltdown, but the big climbs right out of transition still took their toll. Four weeks of solid running leading into the race meant I definitely felt better than Nationals, but the time off throughout the season due to injuries left me feeling minus that ability to really attack the course. I caught Marie-Helene in the first couple of km's then got caught by Danelle at the top right before the descent down Cactus Alley. The long downhill provided some nice gravity assistance before the long haul across Big Beach. Running along a beautiful white sand beach sounds fun and exotic until you have to race it in the last 2km of a long, hot, punishing race. Danelle and I seemed to have hit maximum velocity a couple of yards apart from each other and had no response to Marion Lorblanchet who easily ran by us. 8th place and I left nothing out on the course.
The day wrapped up with a wonderful awards dinner and ceremony and the traditional Xterra Halloween costume party. Congratulations to all the great competitors who gave it their all on arguably the toughest triathlon course there is. Now it is time to relax, recover, enjoy some hockey and start planning all the great adventures for next year. Who knows, maybe this will be the year the Leafs remember how to win a hockey game? (or not)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Utah Pics

Thanks Nils for the great pics!!! (www.n2fotoservices.com)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Xterra USA and Fall Colours

After a week of beautiful warm sunny weather in Ogden, Utah it has been hard getting used to the typical fall weather here in Southern Ontario, rain, rain, and more rain. Riding just isn't as enjoyable when it takes you an extra half hour to gear up. On the other hand we do get to enjoy the wonderfull fall colours. Xterra Nationals, A bit late (again) with the race report but here it is. At face value 9th does feel slightly disappointing considering my results throughout the season but breaking it down it was a really good race for me. Two factors that were against me right from the start was of course the altitude, especially since all but a couple of the girls that placed ahead of me either live at altitude or were able to do an extended altitude training camp, and the unfortunate fact that I had not been able to run in seven weeks after agravating my achilles (again) at the Xterra Northeast Cup race in Vermont. I was able to do elliptical training and aquajogging and was simply hoping not to have lost to much run fitness and to be pain free during the race. I did two really short runs Tuesday and Thursday before the race with no problem so I was pretty confident I would at least be able to get through the run and finish. The race was a mass start with about 300+ age group and professional athletes. It ended up being a wetsuit swim so I was a little worried about getting roughed up at the start and lined up far right on the inside line away from most of the other pro men. Seth was lined up right beside me and right from the gun he was off to a super fast start and I jumped right on his feet. I couldn't quite believe it but we managed to gap the field before the first turn buoy and continued to put on almost a minute on the next group. Out onto the bike I tried to just get into my own pace and keep the pressure on without risking blowing up at the top. With over 3,000 ft of climbing the bike course started at about 4,800ft and climbed up to 7,800ft. Mel passed me just before the top of the first climbing section and Shonny and Sara on the descent. Leslie, Jenny and Carina all caught me near the very top of the course and I held on to 7th on the descent back into T2. While Nationals was held in Tahoe last year, we did race the Snowbasin course as the mountain cup race so I did have the chance to compare the two. Overall I took about 8mins off my bike split on a slightly longer course and closed the distance between myself and the top women's bike splits by over half. I also rode the entire course without hoping off instead of several technical problems last year. (getting there) Next the run... I had held off both Danelle and Renata on the bike but could hear the cheers for them on one of the switchbacks as I was headed out. I knew the run for me was just going to be whatever pace the legs wanted to go. I felt pretty good considering the lack of run volume and kept putting one foot in front of the other hoping I might be able to hold at least one of the off. Danelle came by me a little over half way but I couldn't pick up my pace to go with her. At the top of the last climb, with only some downhills left to go Renata came flying by me. She has the ability to run downhill on rocky terrain faster than anyone I have every met and there was nothing I could do about it, so 9th it was. The really good news is that I scored enough points to hang onto my 5th place in the overall Xterra US Pro Series. Mel McQuaid 1st, Shonny V. 2nd, Renata Bucher 3rd, Danelle Kabush 4th - not too bad company to be hanging out with. I didn't get many pictures from the race, but Nils put together a great photo gallery. (yes that's me waving to the camera before the swim start)

So, onto Maui and Xterra Worlds. With four weeks between the two races I am pretty excited about the upcoming race. My achilles seems to be holding up great with a solid week of running already since Utah and the race on Maui is much more to my liking: non-wetsuit swim, no altitude, more short power climbing rather than long spin climbs, and more people to pass for those trying to catch me.