Thursday, October 6, 2011

Xterra USA Nationals

The Xterra USA National Championships was held for the 3rd time at Snowbasin Ski Resort, just outside Ogden Utah.  This race, on top of being the championship race, was the "must score" sixth race in the Xterra USA series.  The other 5 scoring races were your best 5 of the 6 regional championship races.  I had just squeaked onto the podium taking 5th at last years race, also finishing up the series in 5th, and was looking to better that placing and hold onto my 3rd overall ranking in the series.  Mel and Shonny with their amazing racing and consistency had put the top 2 spots in the series out of reach.  With the altitude (5,000 to 8,000ft) and lots of climbing and me being a lowlander and one of the larger athletes at 5'10 this course would not be considered one that suits me.  However I had managed to work in a 2 week training camp in Park City prior to the race to adapt and now living in Tucson had Mt Lemmon to work on the climbing skills and so was feeling pretty good going in.  I knew my running was still a little behind where I wanted it with the time off due to injury before the HyVee race but it was coming around nicely and, well, I would just have to Canada UP!!!

All smiles setting up T-1
Emma, Mel, Mical and I rented a condo Lakeside, another edition of the Villa of Fast Chicks, right near the swim start so race morning was a breeze even with two separate transition areas.  We were expecting a media frenzy with Lance Armstrong in attendance and weren't disappointed, thankfully they seemed absorbed with everything he was doing and had little effect on anyone else's pre-race rituals.  The only issued ended up being three times as many boats, kayaks, jet-skis, etc that made the already difficult buoy sighting with the sun directly in our eyes downright impossible.

Beautiful morning at the Swim Start
The weather shaped up to be beautiful, a little chilly warming up but guaranteed to be perfect racing weather once we got onto the course.

All ready to go!!! (me on the far left in pink cap)
The swim, except for the trouble finding the turn buoys was fairly uneventful.  Aussie Ben Allen killed it and got out of the water almost a minute ahead of the field and I tucked myself nicely into the first pack of guys for a nice draft.  I finally had a speedy T1 and was out of my wetsuit and onto the bike with a nice gap on the chasing women.

Into T-1 just ahead of one Lance Armstrong!!
The bike course starts out with a short section of pavement to get to the start of the dirt and climbing.  Up Wheeler Creek I swore I hit the rim on my rear tire going over one of the rocky sections and was desperately hoping I didn't have a leaky back tire.  I jumped off quickly at the first road crossing to double check and while it felt a little soft it didn't seem to be going flat.  Still in the lead I started up the singletrack climb hoping to keep Mel at bay until the top of the first descent.  No such luck, she passed me a bit before the top.  Even after checking my back tire I still couldn't shake the feeling that it was going flat and ended up babying the descent.    

The rest of the bike was pretty uneventful (and my back tire never did go flat!!)  I slowly got passed by the mountain goats and rolled into T2 in 6th with 7th through 9th right on my tail.  Emma caught me pretty quickly and we both slowly reeled in Shonny (who was amazingly racing with knee brace on due to a 90% tear of her ACL, she definitely gets the Canada Up award)  With all the twists and turns on the run course it was hard to tell exactly how close the race really was but in the end 5th through 9th ended up being separated by only 3 minutes or so.  I held onto 6th, unfortunately the first spot off the podium, but did keep my 3rd overall in the series.  Congrats to all the chicks out there, the depth in the women's race just keeps getting better and better.

Xterra USA Series podium 4th E Garrard, 2nd Shonny V, 1st M McQuaid, 3rd C Jeffrey, 5th S Snyder
I would love to say that I am putting in a great block of training leading up to Xterra Worlds in a couple of weeks, but that is a story for the next blog entry....

Thanks for reading and as always huge thanks to my friends and family, coach Gareth Thomas, and all the sponsors who support me; Fuji/Breezer Bikes, Rudy Project, Extreme Endurance, Champion Systems Canada, Nineteen Wetsuits, Maxxis Tires, Honeystinger.  

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