So, my blog’s been a bit neglected lately, as I’ve been busy scrambling to keep my head above water with all of my work obligations. It’s a little overwhelming sometimes, but I just have to remind myself why it is I am doing what I’m doing, and that there’s a reason I continue to put so much on my plate. I keep reminding myself that I do love everything I am doing, and it is all a part of my path to be able to pursue triathlon at en even higher, more involved level. When I’ve gotten out for my bike/swim/run sessions this fall, I have continued to find so much joy and liberation there, and I feel totally reassured and fired up about my pursuits and efforts. Even as we near the end of October, after a race season that started on April 1, I am still loving it as much as ever — actually, more than ever. I’d say that’s a pretty good thing!
As I write this, however, I’m definitely living out a bit of a change of pace: poolside (under the shade, of course!) in Maui. This is not your typical vacation, however, but rather a “race-cation,” as I’m currently preparing for the Xterra World Championship, now just two days away here in Maui. This will be my final event of the season, and ultimately the “biggest,” or most important event. It will serve as the culmination of all my work this season, and I’ve definitely got my sights set on a big reward. I feel ready, excited, and confident about what I can do here. But, as with any race, there are so many factors that come in to play on race day, and you just never know what will be thrown at you and how it can impact your performance. All you can really do is be as prepared as possible and go out there and give it everything you’ve got. And that is just what I plan to do!
Although I qualified for Worlds way back in April with a strong performance at Xterra Vegas, I didn’t know for sure whether I’d be competing here until last month. Given the expenses of a trip to Maui, I wanted to be sure I could perform at a high enough level to justify the trip. Essentially, I wanted to feel confident that a top-five overall amateur performance here was possible for me, in addition to an Age Group World Championship title. Xterra National Championships in Utah was my “test.” Fortunately, I went into the race feeling awesome, and my performance did prove to me that my goals for Worlds are well within reach.
Xterra Nationals took place Sep. 22nd at Snowbasin Resort in Ogden, Utah. The setting was spectacular, with brilliant fall colors radiating from the hillsides like incredible eye candy for a lover of fall such as myself. It was absolutely beautiful! The bike course was challenging, with more than 3,000 feet of steady climbing, but conditions were perfect, and I thought the course was an absolute blast. It rode so well, and was pretty much about as well-suited to my abilities as I could have asked for, so I was stoked. I didn’t get a chance to check out the run course before the race, but had heard it was tough, and discovered just how true that statement was on race day.
I knew it was going to be an “all-or-nothing” kind of day, and was pretty set in my mind beforehand that I was going to be gunning from the get-go on this one. I really wanted to do something special, exceeding even my own expectations, and somehow just really felt like I could. So, I was going for it. NO holding back. Whatever happened would happen, but I was determined to put it all out there. I absolutely made good on that resolution, and for that I couldn’t have been more pleased.
After a long, tough and aggressive swim that put me out of the water and through T2 in 16th place among amateurs and 24th overall female (32:02), I knew I definitely had some work to do. Remembering my approach for the day, I did not hesitate in getting after making up the time I’d lost in leg one. I knew there were plenty of women within striking distance, and I wanted to get back to the front of that field. As soon as I got on the bike, it was all “foot on the gas,” with no letting up. I pedaled hard all the way up the first few miles through Wheeler Canyon, and though I started to doubt myself a bit as I passed more and more women, including a few of the pros who’d started 30 seconds ahead, I told myself to just keep on pushing. Whenever I questioned myself, my confidence kept kicking in, and I reassured myself that I was feeling strong, and that I could keep moving up the field.
I was definitely riding harder than I have yet in an Xterra race, but I was also feeling stronger and better than ever too. I’m glad I listened to my body and kept my foot on the gas, because I think I really found a new level on the bike that I hadn’t tapped into before, but now know I can achieve thanks to a year of hard training and progression all coming together. By the end of the bike, I’d worked my way up to 6th place amateur, and about 13th place overall female. My bike/T2 split was 10th fastest among all females, and fourth fastest amateur, just a couple seconds behind third. I was definitely super happy with this, and think I am finally realizing my capabilities on the mountain bike, which seems to be quickly becoming my strongest leg.
The only (extremely) unfortunate thing about the bike leg was that I lost my water bottle just before the aid station about halfway through, and didn’t realize it until after I’d gone through the station without taking a feed. This turned out to be a MAJOR bummer, and a critical loss, as I rode the majority of the bike, including the most sustained climbs, with absolutely no liquid/electrolytes. It was a hot day, and I was desperately thirsty. I told myself to put it out of my mind and tough it out, and I did, but by the time I got to the run, otherwise poised to move into a top-five amateur position, I was already so dehydrated and depleted from having no electrolytes coming in, that I was in for a serious challenge ahead.
I grabbed my bottle of electrolytes in transition and ran with it, drinking as frequently as I could, but it was too little too late — the damage had already been done. When I left T2 I could see fifth place amateur just up ahead, about 45 seconds. Typically I would feel like this was a very attainable gap for me on the run, but with the state my body was in, I was much less confident. I reminded myself that I am a strong runner and everyone was hurting, and tried to focus on moving up little by little over the course. Feeling the way I was, the terrain was BRUTAL. The hills felt never-ending, and every little downhill and flat felt far too short to provide relief.
I was somehow closing the gap to fifth over the first few miles of sustained gradual climbing, but my body was totally, completely exhausted. I was downing liquid and putting down Shot Blocks like it was my job, desperately trying to replenish myself, but it didn’t seem to help. I was SERIOUSLY hurting, and the run was quickly turning into a major sufferfest!! There was nothing to do but keep fighting, and just try to hang on. I tried to stay focused, and was actually able to make the pass for fifth near the halfway point. I did everything I could to pull away, but my body just didn’t have it. On the next steep hill, I was reduced to a painful walk, and she pulled back in front, and got just enough of a gap that I would not be able to close.
In the last couple miles, I literally felt like I was hanging on for dear life. I could feel my body fading more and more, and it was all I could do to just keep moving. My body was so depleted at that point, I felt dizzy and lightheaded, and there were several times when I literally thought I was going to pass out and fall over. I was dreaming of an IV to rehyrdate myself. It was about as far from pretty as you can get. But somehow, I kept moving. I got passed by a couple of pro women who I’d been in front of, but I tried not to get too discouraged. My goal was just to hang on and make it to the finish as quickly as I could. I finally made it to the final mile, pretty much all downhill, and forced myself to find another gear and let my body go. I still had fifth place amateur in sight, but I just didn’t have the legs or energy to make the move to bridge the gap. She had hung tough, and done an awesome job.
In the end, my run time was 53:52, 21st fastest overall female split, and 11th fastest amateur female split — definitely NOT the strong run split I am more accustomed to! But I was so relieved to make it to the finish, and looking back I was actually pretty amazed I’d made it through the run at all. I was totally out of energy, but I’d been running on pure desire. I wanted that top-five amateur finish so badly, and I was oh-so-close, but just out of reach. It was definitely a bit disappointing, especially because I felt confident it would have been a whole different ball game had I not lost my bottle on the bike, but that’s racing. I do believe I could have done better in Utah, and am eager to see just how much more potential there is. Nonetheless, even with the circumstances, I was actually really pleased with my performance. My final results for the Xterra National Championships: First place in my age group (25-29), earning a national title; sixth place overall amateur female, just 20 seconds out of the top-five; 16th place female overall (amateurs and pros); and 9th American. This was a solid day for sure, and I definitely felt like I proved to myself that I am strong and fit for the end of the season, and capable of results I have never achieved before. I found a whole new strength on the bike, a heightened competitive desire, and a continued tenacity to push through tough circumstances. This race was definitely enough to enable me to believe I have the potential to achieve my goals here at Worlds, and beyond — especially if everything goes right.
So, here I am now, in Maui, ready to fight for an age group World Championship title, and a top-five overall amateur finish. It is a high goal for sure, but I truly believe it is within reach, and I am going to give absolutely everything I have in that effort on Sunday. I’ve had three days here now to check out the bike and run courses and do lots of ocean swimming, and I am feeling good! The courses are incredibly challenging, and I will head into Sunday keeping that in mind. It is very hot and humid here for me, so that will definitely present a challenge in itself (especially since it was snowing when I left home!), and it will be all that much more important to make sure everything goes right with nutrition/hydration. It’s not going to be an easy day, but I am ready, and I am excited. This is it — one last hoorah before a whole new year of training, and a whole new set of goals, commences. Anything can happen on Sunday, but what I do know for sure is I’m going to leave it all out there, have as much fun as I can, and end this year with no regrets.