I’m not sure exactly what to say about my race at Xterra Nationals in Utah. It wasn’t a good day. It wasn’t a terrible day either… It was just overwhelmingly lackluster, and fell far short of what I was hoping for, and what I know I am capable of.
I came into Nationals following a really solid, quality training block. I put in a lot of good, hard work between Lake Stevens and this race, and I could feel myself making changes and progress. I knew I was doing what I needed to get myself to a new level for the end of the season and specifically Xterra World Championships in Maui on Oct. 26th. That was the priority, and Nationals came 2nd — but still one of the most important races of the season for me. I definitely wanted to do well here, but I wanted to do well (and better) in Maui more. Of course in an ideal world I would’ve loved to do great in both of these races, but unfortunately that’s not the way it worked out for me this time.
While I knew I couldn’t expect to be 100 percent in Utah with Maui as my priority five weeks later, I did expect my race would show that I’m on the rise and well on my way to the peak I’m seeking in Maui. I put in the work I needed to, brought the work load down leading into the race so I felt rested and ready, and I really felt like I’d stepped up my game prior to Utah. I was super fired up, and honestly I thought I was poised for a breakthrough. But when race day arrived, I came up flat and my performance fell short.
Things just felt off for me from the get-go. I had an okay start in the swim, but then I struggled to really find my rhythm. Nothing felt particularly wrong, and I felt like I was swimming fairly smooth and efficient, but I just couldn’t get things going; the speed just wasn’t there. I felt like I was pushing and pushing but my body wasn’t responding. I struggled to stay on toes and maintain momentum, and felt like I was a bit in no-man’s land out there. I exited the water in 13th place pro female, in a too-slow 28:36, well back from where I expected to be and with a lot of work cut out for me. Unfortunately, that set the tune for the rest of the day.
Onto the bike I just tried to give ‘er with everything I could. I was digging deep and not holding back. Just like the swim, I didn’t feel particularly bad, and was doing all the right things, but I just didn’t have that extra gear that I normally do on race day. As hard as I pushed, the acceleration wasn’t there. I managed to pass two pro females during the course of the ride, but I also got passed by two more, so it was a wash. I was definitely expecting a lot more out of myself on the ride, as I’ve been biking stronger than ever these past few months. I thought I’d be able to move up several spots, and certainly turn in a much better bike split than I did. But as it was, at 1:47:50, I actually biked slower than I did on this course the last time I raced it 2 years ago — YIKES! I know I’m a MUCH stronger, faster athlete now, with my biggest gains of all on the bike, as every other Xterra bike split this year has overwhelmingly shown. A clear indicator I was just not myself out there…
As I hit the run, I focused on doing everything I could to stay positive in my head. I was disappointed the day wasn’t shaping up at all how I had hoped, but reminded myself the race wasn’t over yet. I was still in points-scoring position for this race, which was crucial for me in aiming to maintain my spot in the top-10 overall for the Xterra USA Pro Series (this was the final race). I needed to fight as hard as I could to stay in the points. This run starts off with a brutal long, steep uphill. I do NOT dig this at all. I knew coming in that this would be a huge challenge for me, but I tried to convince myself otherwise. Running uphill, especially for a sustained effort, is definitely not my strength, but I’d been working very hard to improve that weakness, and I reminded myself of all the work I’d done and the progress I had made. I could see the next pro gal just up ahead, but she was charging, and I was frankly just trying to survive that hill. I focused on staying calm and in control, doing what I needed to get to the top without totally crushing myself.
For me, the run really started once I got to the top of that beast. Eventually I made it, and I focused on lengthening my stride and using my power now that I’d hit more gradual trail that was much more my style. I knew I could run well on this terrain, and I felt like the potential was there, just itching to get out, but while I continually willed myself to pick it up, again it just wasn’t happening. I knew I could run much faster, but my body didn’t get the message that day. Before long one of the women I’d passed on the bike was running right on my heels, and eventually she made the move by me and I could not respond. On the next uphill I got passed once more, and again had no response. This put me into 15th place — the final place to score points toward my series total. I knew I had to stay in the points, and I fought as hard as I could to make sure I got across that line without losing anymore spots.
It wasn’t pretty, and it certainly wasn’t fast, but a tough 51:31 later, I made it to the finish in 15th place, snagging the final points of the day. I did what I needed to do, and as it turned out I was actually able to move up two spots in the overall standings to finish 7th pro female in the Xterra Pro Series in my rookie season. I was absolutely psyched about this! But I was definitely disappointed with how my day at Nationals turned out. I was hoping for so much more, and was confident I’d set myself up for a much better race, so it was frustrating and confusing to have such a lackluster day. Nothing went terribly wrong for me and I certainly didn’t struggle the way I had at Xterra Beaver Creek, but this race course is tough, and feeling even just a little bit off makes a huge difference out there. I definitely was not myself, and it showed. For lack of a better word, the day was just… “meh.” It’s always disappointing to not reach your potential, especially in one of the bigger races of the year, and I was initially pretty bummed out about my performance, particularly since I really didn’t understand why I’d come up so flat.
It’s easy when you have a result like this at a critical time to let it get to your head, to think you are digressing or to think you’re just not good enough. I tried really hard not to over-think it and accept that it was just not my day — hey, bad days happen to the best of us, even when we least expect them! But I also wanted to better understand where I’d gone wrong so I could avoid it next time. I chose to stay focused on the positives. I was very satisfied with my 7th place overall in the Xterra Pro Series, following my amazing teammates to complete a 4-5-6-7 sweep for LUNA. Suzie, Shonny and Danelle never cease to impress me and I am so fortunate to have them as competitors, teammates, friends and idols all at the same time! Placing in the top 8 in this series was the big “A” goal I set for myself at the beginning of the year, so it was incredibly validating to accomplish that. Of course, I wanted to end the series on a high note, but I’ve still got the most important race ahead of me in World Championships, and I’m super fired up for that! And while I didn’t have a stellar race out there, I did see some improvement in the weaknesses I’ve been working so hard to combat. I still was not great on the uphills of the run, and this course still felt hard for me, but I know I ran the hills better than last time I raced here, and every bit of progress is a step in the right direction!
After the race we headed to Aspen, where August grew up, to spend a week with family and friends and enjoy some incredible fall scenery. For me, this was really a chance to try to get in a bit of relaxation. I’ve been carrying a really heavy work load through the race season (on top of training and racing), and things got especially stressful these past couple months with a lot deadlines and obligations. Mentally it’s been very tiring trying to get through everything and keep all aspects of my life in balance. So, while I still had to work from the road, it was awesome to get a change of scenery out in Colorado, enjoy a really low-key environment for the week and spend some quality time with people I love. The weather was perfect and the foliage was absolutely stunning! I tried to soak it all up as much as I could, but unfortunately within a day of arriving to CO I ended up sick and felt really crappy for a good portion of the trip. This was a total bummer, but also a bit of a relief too, as it certainly helped shed some light on why I’d felt the way I did out in Utah. Knowing I was right on the verge of getting sick when I raced at Nationals is much easier to accept and understand than simply having a bad day for no reason, or worst of all feeling like things are going downhill.
So, activity was fairly limited in Colorado but I still got plenty of fresh, fall mountain air and enjoyed every second. In the end I think the low-key week was exactly what I needed as I came back feeling significantly better, refreshed, not discouraged, and ready to set my sights ahead on Maui. I am excited for this final opportunity of the 2014 Xterra season, and so grateful for all the progress I’ve made and the goals I have achieved up to this point — and, of course, to the many people who have played a part in helping me get here. Next stop: World Championships! See you soon, Maui! 🙂