Xterra Mountain Championships - Beaver Creek

The Xterra Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek turned out to be a good day and a good race. The water was brisk, the climb steep and single track fun, and the run challenging. Shonny V defended her title from last year, finishing in 2:31:58. Sara T held off a fast cycling Jenny S for second while Emma claimed fourth and Suzie S finished fifth in her first pro race. I had my best finish of the season in 6th and I really had to work hard to get it. I'm pleased with my performace and my race. It was a good finish for my first year racing the USA tour and I will be heading to the USA Championships in 6th in the series.

Race morning dawned chilly and a little windy. I had my ususal breakfast of oatmeal and Christopher Bean Coffee. Everything was ready to go, so besides the wind, the morning was pretty relaxed. NIck got the bikes on the car and we took off for T2. Mountain Championships is a point to point bike with T2 at Beaver Creek Village and T1 down at the lake. Because of the parking issues up the mountain, the race organizers encourage parking down at the lake. So I dropped off my run gear, made sure I knew where my rack location was and how to get out of transition and headed back to the car. Nick and I then drove down to the parking lots across from the lake. We unloaded the bikes (Nick was planning on riding to various points on the course to heckle - er - cheer for everyone) and rode over to the lake to get ready to race.

Swim - This was a wetsuit legal swim, so I made sure to liberally apply my Beljum Budder to my legs and the hips of the wetsuit. That with a little bit of body glide around the ankles really makes it easy to get the wetsuit off in a hurry. The swim for Beaver Creek is two laps in Nottingham Lake, down in Avon. Because it's a pretty small lake, the waves were only a minute apart. I knew we would get caught by some of the faster age group men rather quickly and figured it would good to get some additional feet to draft off. I had a really good start - made the first bouy ahead of the rest of the women. But not by much and I knew that it wouldn't last. Two of the women on my feet pulled ahead. I settled into a smooth pace rhythm and focused on my stroke and sighting. When I breathed to the left, I could see two more pink caps right beside me. The three of us went back and forth for most of the race. I exited the water in fifth place, one of my better swims all season.

Despite my prerace prep, the wetsuit took a little longer to get off. Lack of practice - I haven't used the wetsuit since April! The rest of the transition went smoothly and I was out on the bike.

Bike - One of the measures I have as to how my swim was and how I'm riding is how quickly Shonny catches me on the bike. Last year, she caught me pretty quickly - as we were riding though the parking lot. This year was better - I was actually on dirt already. But once she passed me, it was all over. She meant business. I tried to ride with her for a little bit, but that wasn't going to happen. I backed off the pace and rode at my own tempo up the climb. It wasn't any eaiser then during the pre-ride! About halfway up the dirt climb, Emma caught me, with Jenny hot on her heels. I'd already passed two of the women who had beaten me out of the water, so I was pretty happy with my position. I just needed to hold it. My plan at that point was to try to keep Emma in sight, try to match her pace on the climb. Worked until the start of the blacktop. Then I could not match her anymore. I locked out my fork and alternated between sitting and standing on the paved road.

Arrowhead Mountain Trail was really dusty this year. With all the guys that were around me, it was hard to see the lines at times. Once I got a little space and held it, I could see the trail and was able to pick up some speed. At every switchback, someone infront of me would skid into and out of the turn and I was covered in dust by the time I got off the trail. It was a fast downhill and I made up some ground I'd lost on the climb. Dropping back onto the Village to Village trail and my goal switched to holding the current postion. One of the women I'd passed was still pretty close to me. Everything seemed to be working according to (my) plan. Then another woman passed me - just flew by on the down hills. I made up ground, almost catching her on every small climb, only to loose some of that on the descents. Just before the start of the real single track, at the top of the climb near Beano's Cabin, another woman passed me. I took a few chances on Allie's way, staying pretty close to both racers. The drop down Corkscrew was quick - fast and fun. I just kept talking to myself, reminding me to get my weight back and sight the trail. Safe and sound into T2. I could see one of the women who'd passed me heading out onto the run and knew that the other couldn't be much farther ahead.

The hardest thing about T2 at Beaver Creek is that the dismount line is right at the bottom of a short, steep hill. I left my shoes on my feet and ran to my transition area. Racked my bike, swapped bike shoes for running shoes, helmet for visor, camelbak for numberbelt. Under a minute and I was off and running.

Run - After nearly two hours racing, the Mountain Championships had turned into a foot race. I had one goal as I left T2 - catch the two women in front of me. I started the run telling myself "I am a runner - run them down." I could see one of the women a switchback above me on the single track and set my focus on her. But the bike had drained my legs and getting up to speed as a struggle. I worked through the heaviness on the first section of single track, a gently downhill straight trail before the climb started for real. I knew I was making up ground. I hadn't run the first half of the course, but I knew there was some time before the really steep hill. The trail wound it's way up the side of the mountain, behind some fancy condos. I caught and passed several men, then just before the first water station made the catch I wanted. I had to stop at the water station for some ice, then took off again. Entering the steeper section, I had my first glimpse of the other woman. As the run topped out for the first time, I had a good view of my target.Wearing solid black with a pink visor - easy to see.

She looked back at the aid station at the top of Corkscrew and took off on the road downhill. I lost a little ground, but I didn't want to take any chances. I knew what the last half was like and felt pretty comfortable that I would be able to catch her once we got back onto the technical trails. Getting off the road and back onto the trail was a relief. The trail followed a little stream uphill, but it wasn't a steady climb. It was an undulating, twisiting climb which offered poor visablity as to the location of other races. I just had to push hard and trust that I was gaining. And I was. As the course turned onto another little road section and the race ahead was finally in sight, I was right behind her. Another stop for some ice and we turned up a long, sustaind double track climb. I made my move there. I picked up the pace as much as I could and held for as long as I could. I did not want the race to turn into a sprint at the end! I didn't know how much ground I'd gained - I never looked back. The trail started downhill on a twisty single track. Nick was waiting there, cheering. I didn't wave - focused on the trail and maintaining my pace. The trail at that section was the really steep, newly cut trail and I wanted to keep my eyes on the ground. Another short climb and steep down hill. Over the ski bridge and the finishline was just ahead. I breathed a sigh of relief when I crossed. My run had done the job this time.

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