This race course has never been my favorite, but I was determined to go into it this year with a positive and relaxed attitude. I want to love this race as much as I love Colorado, but I struggle with the altitude every time. I arrived on Thursday with Branden and his parents, who are always fun to catch up with since we’ve shared so many good times together. On Friday, we drove to the top of the bike course and rode the descent and short single track climb (which is very minor compared to the first major climb of the course) back to transition. Later in the day I joined Josiah to teach the Xterra University, sharing our knowledge and experience with a diverse group of first time racers and seasoned veterans alike. During the University, the skies opened up with a huge rain shower and dropped the temperature considerably. Of course there was concern about the course becoming muddy, but we were confident that the dirt on the high altitude mountain would soak up the moisture very well and not become a slippery mess. Afterward the clinic, we fueled up for Saturday’s race with a hearty sushi dinner at Nozawa, as is the yearly tradition.
On race morning, I regretted eating that last sushi roll because I was still feeling it, but went ahead and ate my breakfast and began hydrating for the effort that was looming a few hours away. For some reason, I never seem to make it into the water for my swim warmup as early as I’d like, and I only got a few minutes of water time before we were called out. Oh well, I stayed calm, decided to focus on starting under control and not make the mistake of going out too fast. When the gun went off, I took off with about 40 hard strokes and then found some feet to draft. I tucked in and stayed there until the third buoy when we started to mix in with the slower pro men and I lost the draft. I think I was on my own for most of the rest of the swim, and came out of the water third, just behind two other women and had one or two more just behind me. This was not a typical swim for me and I was kind of bummed, but I got out of T1 pretty quickly and was 2nd on the road. Fortunately, I passed the first woman quickly, but I also got passed shortly thereafter so I remained in 2nd. I tried to remain focused on my own effort and “racing my own race” as I like to remind myself so I put more energy into my own effort and less worry on where other people are around me. I kept my effort pretty steady up the first long climb and seemed to start pulling away from the third woman a little to give myself some breathing room. I felt like hell- my breathing rate was really high and I felt like I was pedaling through molasses, but I rode the remainder of the bike course smoothly and didn’t catch sight of another woman anywhere nearby.
As I began the 5.5 mile run course, I thought I heard the announcement of the third place woman coming into T2 so I thought she wasn’t far behind. My legs felt like Jell-O and my breathing still felt out of control, but I wanted to put some space between myself and the third place woman before getting to the switchbacks so that I’d be out of sight. Out of sight, out of mind, right?! Wishful thinking, I know, but I do know that catching sight of the racer ahead of you gives you a little more energy than you thought you might have. About a mile up the trail I caught and passed an age grouper male friend who was so motivating up the next set of switchbacks. When I tried to slow down to hike around one of the steep switchback pitches he yelled at me to keep running. I was struggling pretty hard, and I wanted nothing more than to hike for a minute, but I pushed on. I just tried to keep a steady effort and gradually pulled away from Rife, then let my legs open up as much as possible on the downhill. Before long I was headed back up the next climb and I felt like I was starting to overheat with the Colorado sun beating down on me. I dumped a cup of water over my head at the aid station and told myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other, and no matter how slow you have to run- just keep running. Thankfully the last climb is shorter than the first and I made it over the top and heading downhill without completely blowing up. I ended up finishing 2nd, but over 7 minutes behind Leslie, who was absolutely flying up that mountain! I don’t know how she does it, but that kind of performance sure does impress and inspire me!
So after this race, I still lead the Pan Am Tour and in a couple weeks head south of the border to Mexico for the next one, so stay tuned and enjoy the highlight video from Xterra TV!
Sights and sounds from a magical day in the mountains at XTERRA Beaver Creek. A day when hundreds of XTERRA Warriors lived the metaphor that life is a mountain … by literally climbing that mountain. #xterrabeavercreek #onetribe #livemore
Posted by XTERRA on Saturday, July 15, 2017