Last Saturday, I got to participate in my first ever XTERRA regional event, the SE CUP in Pelham Alabama and I learned a lot, had a lot of fun and I know it will not be my last. I was set to race the West CUP in Vegas but we had a wedding to attend on the same day and so I started looking for another CUP race that I could give a go this year.... I had some frequent flyer miles and Marriott reward points burning a hole in my pocket so I just grabbed the first date that worked out. Hello Alabama! I was really bummed that Monique did not want to go with me but as soon as I got back home to sunny So Cal I totally understood. It was raining on and off just about the entire time I was there but it was also beautifully green and I cannot say that I would not want to go back....someday. This trip was a quick one however and all about the race....Its XTERRA Time!
I got to the race venue at Oak Mountain State Park early because I still needed to check in and I wanted to get a longer warm up than I normally do. I also got a sweet end of rack transition spot (red suit) and the warm up was a huge help. I started about an hour early and I usually just do about ten minutes of warm up.
I was not able to preride the course but I did know about the nasty hills and the end of the run and I was just stoked it was not hot and humid like last year when they held the race in June. Temps were perfect and we even got rain just after we started out on the bike. We started out with the swim at 7:30 EST or SUPER EARLY california time...
Learning a little something from the Del Valle race, I used a wetsuit this time around for the swim . . . even if the water was warm. I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient it was and I had a quick swim and perfect start to the race. I was able to get out in front and lead a pack to the first buoy and then find feet for an easy finish. We did two laps and although I still have a muscular endurance weakness in the swim I did not get dropped on the second lap and it was a decent pace for me.
I tried out these new goggles a few days before the trip and I am SO stoked on them! Perhaps a bit big and nerdy but just like an aero helmet. . . they perform! I am able to find feet to draft and ensure sighting with ease. The size and fit helps with peripheral vision and they don't get knocked off as easy when you catch an elbow to the face. The clear lenses also keep me "awake" compared to the tented goggles I have used in the past.
Getting onto the bike was a mess.... I had a 46 second T1 time but when I tried to mount my bike (with shoes attached to my pedals) I got bucked off. I have done this correctly a ton of times but for some reason my right shoe rotated forward enough to get caught under my crank arm and I got bucked off and lost my left shoe. No big deal but I need to get it worked out with some rubber bands or something for the next one.
The bike course was insane. I probably learned the most in this race during the bike for multiple reasons. I have never ridden in such a dense forest with roots and the like and have never had such an aggressive bike crew to ride with... I am use to people just moving over when I want to pass but it was not going to happen here! There were only a few "good" spots to pass and if you didnt make it happen you were stuck between riders and the trees until the next opportunity. They also had the Sport race and Duathlon all riding at the same time and I had no idea where I was...
No worries. I was just trying to keep up with Renata Bucher the entire lap. That girl was RULING the bike and we managed to ride the entire course within about 10 feet of each other switching back and forth as we passed people. She was just as fast on the technical sections as the climbs. Awesome.
Then a 10K Run through the woods
In as much as I was "racing" I was also a spectator to seeing the Pro Womens race unfold. . . It was amazing to see these girls at work. Renata and I passed Emma Garrard(who was in 3rd) on the bike who had a great swim and then just two miles into the run I saw Lesley Paterson pass me and Renata (for 2nd place) like we were standing still. Two turns into the woods and she was gone and tracking down Melanie. It took a lot more than I thought to fly out, race in a "new" area and fly home... Seeing these Pro's perform week after week in these conditions made me understand just how "fast" they really are...
It was an interesting journey and really put a few things in perspective for me. I am stoked to be home and back to training... I have a looong way to go and it is a fun trail along the way.