Xterra South East Championship 2010

It was a hot (95) and humid (90%) day at Oak Mountain State Park for the Xterra South East Championships. The victor of the day (besides the weather) was Shonny V, posting a blazing fast bike and run on her way to finishing in 2:38:02. She placed 6th overall in the race! Melanie was 2nd in 2:42:05, Lesley took third in 2:46:28 while Renata held off Emma to finish 4th and 5th (2:49:41 and 2:49:57.) I once again finished 8th with a 3:02:19 (out of 8 starters), but feel much better about the race and my ability to handle the conditions. I had a solid swim in the balmy water, a decent bike and was able to make up ground on the AG men around me on the run. There's still work to do, but I took some of the lessons from Waco and applied them to this race with good success.

It's never a good sign for race day conditions when at 5:00 in the morning, it's already 78, with 75% humdidity. I was happy that I had frozen most of my liquids for the race - with this kind of heat, it wouldn't take long for any fluid to become undrinkably hot. After eating, I loaded my transition bag, cooler and bike into the car. Yes - cooler! I wanted to make sure my food and liquids stayed cold to eat after the race. It was a bit of drive and I enjoyed every last minute of AC before getting to Oak Mountain State Park. Got the Era ready to race, with number and such. (I was racing the Era due to an issue with the Tomac that was making me nervous.) Set up transisition with all my gear and watched as everyone started trickling in. There were more coolers among the Pro racks then I have ever seen at a triathlon! Soon enough, it was time to head towards the water. And amazingly, everyone wanted to get in the lake! The water was warm, but it was colder then the air temperature! I did a short warmup and found a small patch of shade along the shore to wait.

This was a mass start race, with all the age groupers and relays and pros together. It was a two lap swim with a beach run in between. I got a decent start and settled into a good pace, on a decent set of feet. There were a lot of men around me and three other pro women. I kept my eye on the other women and started sighting for the first bouy. Staying out of the way the other races proved to be a challenge. I knew the pace was a little slower then I wanted, but with the water temp, I wasn't going to start pushing until the last lap. I was steadily moving up among the age group men. On the beach run, I was right beside Renata and Emma.  Starting the second lap, I started trying to pull away from the other two women. I got a few yards, but not enough to make a difference. We were out of the water together and Renata took off through transition onto the bike. Emma left seconds in front of me, leaving me to try and limit my losses on the bike.

After about five minutes on blacktop, the bike turned onto the fast, twisting single track. The trail for the race was built and maintained by BUMP (Birmingham Urban Mountain Pedalers) and it was going to be a fun ride. I knew that I had to ride my bike, focus on the trail and not try to chase. I needed to ride my bike and have a good time riding my bike. The first section of the trail was flowing, with gradual climbs and descents. There were plenty of roots and turns, with the roots frequently appearing right in the middle of the berms. I had that flow I'd been missing in Waco. I felt at home on the bike, looking down the trail to where I wanted to go, floating around the corners and roots. I knew that Shonny was coming, but I wanted to hold her off as long as possible. I didn't feel like I was loosing ground, but I wasn't catching Emma either.

The middle third of the race was a long, steady double track climb. I was not as strong on the climb as I wanted, as quite a few age group men caught me on the that section. My water was still cold thanks to the ice, but I was dripping. I decided to back off a little on the climb because I knew the last section would be challenging. Slowing down a little would end up saving more time then crashing. My goal was to keep the rubber side down and regain some confidence after Waco. The temperature was climbing as quickly as the trail was and I was starting to struggle just a little.

After the climb, it was time to tackle Blood Rock. I'd been warned that there would be lots of people watching, waiting for carnage. I remembered the lines I'd practiced on my pre-rides and tuned out the cowbells and cheering. I didn't want to be the one to deliver on the carnage! Cleaning Blood Rock earned me loud cheers from the assembled crowd. After Blood Rock, the trail turned downhill for a long, technical twisiting ride. Kept reminding myself that I needed to keep my weight back and spot the corners. Sometimes, those reminders were loud enough for the riders behind me to hear! Matt, the Coloradoan I'd rode with on Friday caught me on that section. I made good time coming down.

After the fun downhill, it was time for the rough, new section. I wasn't as smooth as on the pre-rides. I stayed upright, but the heat was winning the battle at that point. My water was no longer cold and I was as wet as I'd been getting out of the water. I picked on of the age group guys in front of me and focused on staying in contact. I needed a goal so I didn't start loosing huge chunks of time. I couldn't see Emma or any of the other women. The ride was fun, but I was ready to get off the bike. We finished with another section of blacktop - long enough to get shoes and gloves off before entering transition. I took a little longer then I wanted in transtion - I wanted to make sure I had everything for the brutal run ahead.

We started with the same section of blacktop and single track as the bike. There was a good sized pack of men spread out on the road and trail in front of me. My plan on the run was to use the flatter first section of the trail to run hard and try to make up time. Then, when I started suffering from the humdity, I would be on the rollercoaster section, where I would end up walking to the hills. The trail was fun running, with enough roots and rocks to keep you on your toes. I picked out the guy right ahead of me and focused on catching him. Again, a goal to keep me moving and potentially making up time on the woman in front of me. I'd finished my chicken broth before the first aid station and refilled the little bottle with water. Pouring more water over my head and dumping a cup of ice into my jersey steeled me for the next section of the run.

Like I said, they do not belive in switchbacks in Alabama. We went straight up the hill, through the bushes and trees, then straight down. Some of the hills were runnable, others I chose to walk. I was starting to get hot, my skin was grainy with salt and it was generally miserable racing conditions. I was getting ice and water at every aid station, but it was barely enough to stay on top of the ever rising temperature and humidity. I knew that the run was going well - I was catching almost all the age group men who had passed me on the bike. I still was not able to see the next woman. Up and down, up and down, trying not to go head over heels, with the focus on just getting to finish as quickly as possible. Turning the last corner to finish line was the best feeling. Done! I think I drank two bottles of Gatorade within five minutes of finishing!

I knew I was probably the last woman in the pro field, but I was satisfied with my race. I'd remained tough despite conditions worse then I'd ever faced in a race. The heat index was 107 about the time I'd finished. I'd made good choices with preperation, ensuring that I would want to drink and that I had enough electolytes with me.Thanks to MotorTabs and Gu for making sure I had electrolyes and energy gels! I also had a good bike leg for me and hadn't let the last minute bike change rattle me (too much). I kept the rubber side down and came out of the bike in one piece. Once I got on the run, I didn't let the lack of information about the other women mentally get me down. I focused on where I was and what I could do with the race at hand. I was the last woman, but I was less then two minutes off of seventh place. My bike is still the weakest part of the race and I am still loosing unsermountable time chunks to the rest of the women. Now it's time to race my mountain bike around Colorado, work on the skills and strengh that's holding me back in the Xterras. Two more races in the season - Beaver Creek and Nationals. Looking forward to them!


  1. Good to read how you maintained your mental focus in that heat, Tracy. I thought Waco was tough. Not sure I could have handled Alabama. Congrats.


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