Finding Rocks and Loving it - Xterra Curt Gowdy


Like I said - I'm going to focus on positive things. There's enough bad news and depressing images going around and while the fire is still burning and there has been true devastation in parts of the city, I really want to keep looking forward. And maybe provide my own little distraction from reality for some people! In that vein, I'm posting my race report from Xterra Curt Gowdy instead of a Waldo Canyon Fire report.

Xterra Curt Gowdy - held at Wyoming's  Curt Gowdy State Park between Cheyenne and Laramie, just north of I-80. This was one of the most fun Xterras I have done. The swim was in the crisp water of Granite Reservoir, the bike meandered along the IMBA Epic rated trail system and the run traversed many of the same trails. I knew going in that I was in good mountain bike shape, but I wasn't necessarily in good Xterra shape. My adventure last weekend surely wasn't going to help much either! But it was a great race, a fun time and awesome riding. Congrats to Sara Tarkington for the win. And a huge congrats to Lance and rest of the Without Limits crew for the fantastic race. Very well done, especially for a first time event!
Even at 8:00 am, the temperature was nearly 80 degrees. Nick and I had camped overlooking the swim start and transition area and it was an easy pedal to the venue in the morning. I set out my gear and decided to jump in the water for a little swim. The water was 62 degrees, but I was still hoping to get away without wearing the wetsuit. One - haven't worn the thing all year and two, was hoping that the cool water would keep me cooler a little longer after I got on my bike. But alas - it was too chilly even for me. For swimming, I could have gotten away with it, but trying to get on my bike after and ride hard? The cold water would sap too much energy. So into the wetsuit I squirmed.

As with Xterra Lory, Lance divided the race waves into swimming and mountain biking ability to alleviate congestion on the bike course. I lined up in the first wave, feeling a little nervous about the two lap, 1200 yard swim. At the whistle, we were off into a churning mass of water and neoprene. I had a good start and found some good feet to follow. Settled into a smooth stroke, but knew it was a little fast. Or my wetsuit was a little snug! Very much not used to swimming in the wetsuit right now... Around the first buoy and the mass of swimmers had spread out. I noticed Sara right next to me, so I knew the pace was good. I was still with her at the end of the first lap, but started feeling the effort a little. I lost contact with her just after the first buoy again and then focused on maintaining my stroke and staying smooth. Even without putting in huge yards in the pool, I still managed to be the second woman out of the water. My transition was pretty slow - as I had anticipated, getting the wetsuit off was a bit of a struggle. 

Onto the bike. I was looking forward to the bike course after my pre-ride. I know people will complain that the bike course was too hard, that there was too much technical riding. Well, this was a course that required attention and the ability to ride a bike. It was not a course where big ring grinding was the fastest way to get from swim to run. This was fun mountain biking with consequences for mistakes. The consequences weren't huge, but they were there - the potential for carnage was fair. There were plenty of sections that required timing, skill and some good body English on the bike. It was a breath of fresh air after three seasons of racing on double track disguised as single track. The first seven miles especially had so many fun sections - so many rocks where the line was "Make your own fun." Unfortunately for me, I wasn't able to get into race mode. I cleaned 95% of the bike course, but I was in ride mode for the whole race.
Found some rocks in the middle of an Xterra - Photo Nick Thelen

Having fun on the rocks - Photo Nick Thelen

Ride mode with a huge grin on my face. I knew there were times that I should shift into my big ring and did, but the legs were interested in hammering. Not a quick response for more speed and power. I was more tired than I thought. And while the rocks were awesome fun, the punchy little accelerations and climbs and throwing the bike around were taking their toll. I got passed by two women on the bike (one was racing on a relay team) and two other women in later waves had faster bike times. I knew the time wasn't going to be super fast, but I still had a good time. I was happy to be wearing my camelbak too, the temperatures soared into the 90s by the time I got off the bike. The cool of the lake that morning was nothing but a faint memory. Another so-so transition (that's what I get for not practicing!) and I was off on foot for the run.
In the trees along Mo-Rocka trail - one of the really fun sections - Photo Nick Thelen

Heading for Transition on Shoreline Trail - Photo Nick Thelen

I knew the run would be a struggle. If I was tired on the bike and I've been riding a lot, I was going to suffer on the run since I haven't been running that much. Nick hollered at me to "run them down" as I left transition since the gaps weren't too long. Yeah, right. I might have looked good when I started running, but I knew it would last long. But image is everything, right? I tried to run hard for the first mile, but as I saw the red suit fading into the distance among the trees, I knew I wasn't going to be running anyone down. Just running was good for me. That's what I get for not running much over the last few months! I still had a decent pace, even with the heat. As I left the finish area behind and headed deeper into the tree, I decided to take my tri-top off and not deal with it unzipped all the way and flapping. My CTS kit is comfy, but black is not the best of colors for hot and sunny! It was a fun run, covering the first four miles of the bike course, then striking off onto new trails for the last miles. There were plenty of water stations - Lance added some due to the heat, but I was still happy to have my little water bottle with me. Got a refill on that twice! I did manage to not get passed on the run, but it was close. Despite being third on the course (I thought I was fourth, but didn't realize that one of the woman in front of me was on a relay) I finished fifth overall. There were two speedy ladies in later waves that had blazing fast bike and run times!
The run was just as much fun as the bike! Photo Nick Thelen

Heading for home - almost finished! Photo Nick Thelen

This was a great race. I'm happy I decided to make the trip to Wyoming and explore Curt Gowdy State park. The trails throw a nice mix of easy and fun and are truly epic. Hopefully the Xterra will grow and continue to provide a race with some real riding and fun atmosphere (though I did miss the slip-n-slide...)

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