Xterra South Central Championships Race Report

On the first trip to Cameron Park in Waco, TX, Renata captured the women’s Xterra South Central Title in 2:17:29. She held Shonny off on the run, with Melanie finishing third, Emma in fourth and Christine hanging on to fifth. The fourth, fifth and sixth place women were really close at the finish, with only 26 seconds separating them! I wish I could say I was in the mix with the rest of the women, but after a nasty crash and bad mechanical on the bike, I was happy to be able to finish! I ended up eighth pro women – out of eight – and ninth woman overall. But despite my poor performance, the race itself was a blast and I’m happy that I made the trek to Waco. Even the bad races are good learning experiences at this stage in the game.

Race morning dawned sunny, hot and humid. The Moore house was busy early, with four nervous athletes and one nervous spouse. I couldn’t say who seemed more worried – the athlete or the spouse! This was Cat’s first long Xterra and she wanted to do well because it was on her home course. I made my breakfast – oatmeal as usual, with a small cup of Christopher Bean coffee, then got the heck out of the kitchen. It was a little hectic in there and I wanted to try to chill out before the race. Shae and Amy headed down to the race site first because they needed to get their numbers. I waited for Cat, then we rode down to the transition area together. My bag was amazingly light without my wetsuit!

I claimed a spot on the quieter section of the pro rack and proceeded to scatter my equipment. Translation – I neatly laid everything out on my blue towel, taking up as much space as I could. I ran through the transitions, making sure that the set up was smooth and I didn’t have to think about the different steps. By that time, the sport racers were getting in the water. I double checked everything again and headed down to the river bank to watch the start. A bonus to the river swim – very spectator friendly! Once the race started, everyone watching just walked along side the swimmers, cheering.

Swim
The first thing I noticed as we lined up was the dearth of pink caps. There were not that many women on the starting line. The second thing I noticed was the strength of the current. Without constantly treading water, I was being pulled past the starting line. I didn’t have too long to think about that as Kahuna Dave’s little cannon released us, starting the race. The swim was a sort of rectangular shape, with the first leg downstream. As I’d found out swimming on Friday, that meant wind chop. The water was rough, but manageable. There were two pink caps right near me and another just ahead. I took a good look at the buoy to get my bearing and started working my way through the chop. I was still right with the other two women as we rounded the distant buoys and turned back upstream. No more dealing the with rough water, but progress towards the next buoy was considerably slowed. I found a good set of feet and hid as best as I could in the draft. I wasn’t loosing time, but I wasn’t gaining any ground on the women around me. The final buoy meant it was time to cut diagonally across the river through the wind chop to the swim finish and the volunteers waiting to help pull us from the river. At this point, the first AG men started catching up. I used this to my advantage this time. I got out of the water in fifth, just behind Emma. Into transition, swapping goggles for sunglasses, swim cap for helmet. Decent transition, with one small issue. Renata flew past me through transition, so I started the bike in sixth place.

Bike
I was really looking forward to the bike portion of the race. I had a good feeling on the pre-ride and felt really strong prior to the race. It was also a really fun course, with more twists and turns, blind corners going into steep climbs, fun descents – all on smooth single track. But when I got on the first section of trail, something was wrong. I just didn’t feel “right” on the bike. There’s that feeling of being one with the bike – as if the wheels were an extension of self. I never found that sense and felt like I was fighting with the bike for every turn, getting over every obstacle. I knew I was riding well, but it was frustrating that I could have been riding better.
Then things got worse. On a section of trail with some exposed rocks and roots, I wiped out. Still not sure what happened. All I know is that I went from riding to sprawled across the trail with my bike on top of me. I haven’t crashed in a race in a long time, so I guess I was due. I untangled everything, checked brakes and such. That’s when I heard the distinctive “ding ding ding” of something hitting spokes in the rear wheel. My rear derailleur was bent into the wheel, hitting the spokes with every turn. Not good. I walked to a location where I had some room to look at the bike. The derailleur seemed okay, but the hanger was bent. Applying some brute force (frustration induced, I’m sure) I re-bent the hanger to get the derailleur out of the spokes. I could ride – I would be able to finish, but the shifting was beyond repair. I lost use of the large chain ring because it would not stay in gear in the cassette. But I could still ride.

The worst part was this all happened very early in the race. I would have to deal with the skipping shifting for 90% of the bike portion. I tried to get back into race mode, to find the flow required for the course. Nearly impossible to find a sense that I’d been struggling with before the crash. Combined with the shifting issues, I was not in a good place mentally. Instead of calming down, riding my own race with the hand I’d been dealt, I kept trying to chase the rest of the field. I didn’t know where I was, but I was tearing myself down because I wasn’t in sight of anyone. Then my back started hurting. It’s been something I’ve noticed getting worse over the last few months, but Chalk Creek on the 15th was the first time it affected a race. I didn’t want to stand, didn’t want to do anything that would stress my back more then it was. I couldn’t enjoy the course and wasn’t having a good time at all. I was just hoping that I would be able to run well after the bike. My transition was efficient, but not speedy.

Run
I started the run not knowing anything about my time deficit. I knew I was eighth AKA last pro woman, but I didn’t know if I would be able to make up any ground on the run. Like the bike course, there was really no good place to get time gaps – a true out of sight, out of mind course. It was a challenging run course, a mix of urban trail running up and down decades old stair cases, through the disc golf course and single track trails that meandered through the woods and wild flowers of Cameron Park. The first hurdle right out of transition was Jacob’s ladder (see picture!) Climbing up on all fours seemed to be the favored method of many. I started out running strongly, but the humidity was getting oppressive. Without anyone in sight, the incentive to keep pushing wasn’t there. After passing the few spots were I would be able to see any of the other women, I really lost my motivation. The mental cloud from the bike hovered over me. My pace was slowing and I was more willing to walk up some of the steeper hills. I really wasn’t racing anymore. The goal was to just finish, evaluate the race and look towards the next race.

Despite not having the result I wanted, I’m also happy that I went out to Waco. The course was a blast and the local cycling and triathlon communities were more then helpful. The volunteers were more then enthusiastic and committed to making the event successful. From Ian riding every day to make sure that the course was still marked and getting up early to finish marking Sunday morning (if anyone got lost, I would be surprised) to the winner of Saturday’s 20k trail run helping pull us out of the water, I could not ask for better support. I also had an awesome homestay with the Moores. I had issues, but I was still able to finish. Thanks to Nick for making me do most of my work on my bike, I was able to fix my bike enough to finish. It also provided the catalyst to go in and see someone about my back, so hopefully that will not be an issue at the next race.

Comments

  1. Enjoyed the read, Tracy. I do hope the back issue gets resolved. If my hearing was any good I would have loved listening to your story (both pre-race and post) while in Waco. The course was truly fun. Too bad the crash robbed a lot of being able to enjoy it on race day.

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