Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Muddy & A Little Bloody: XTERRA ATX Race Report

 My long run on Sunday was atrocious. I felt like I was sleepwalking and after five and a half miles, I had to sit down in the shade of a traffic light and take a break.

That, I figured, was a pretty good indicator that I raced, and raced hard, the day before at XTERRA ATX.  And, despite a few hiccups here and there and my ever-present running demon, I really had.

I drove to Pace Bend Park  on Saturday morning, leaving the house at around 7am, again thankful that off-road racing means more sleeping in! After paying my $10 fee to enter the park and realizing camping would have been a pretty smart plan, I followed the signage to the race staging area. Pace Bend is a peninsula on Lake Travis which, for the firs time in years, is an actual lake full of water and not an moonscape of dust, weeds, and bored looking shorebirds. The week before the race the Austin area experienced a large amount of rainfall, which filled the lake to 103% capacity, flooding some of the race course.

You're welcome, State of Texas. My decision to race XTERRA and get married this year directly correlate to the end of our historic drought. I'd like my statue placed next to that of she-ro Anne Richards', if at all possible.

Inside transition, looking at the swim course.
Parking was a cinch, and a short walk from my car along the lake got me to transition and packet pickup. Other than the occasional, unavoidable fire ant bed, the area was clear and racking bikes was easy. There was plenty of space for everyone to lay out their things without knocking anyone else's over.
This is what lakes with water in them look like, Texans!
 I set up my transition area, realizing I forgot my race number belt and sunscreen at home, grabbed my wetsuit, and joined everyone else by the water. The water was chilly but not freezing, and the air temperature was about 60- much less frigid than the 38 degrees we had at Bluebonnet!

The swim was a mass start from the water, but I actually really liked this. Since it was in the lake, there was a ton of space for all 84 racers to spread out. I lined up in the front on the outside, directly in line with the first buoy, and had a smooth, conflict-free swim the entire way. My pace is slower on the race results than my Garmin thanks to my getting off course (the sun was in line with the final buoy and there was a current- oops!) so I'll go with my actual pace, which was 1:43/100yds- something I'm proud of! Despite getting off course, I was still the fourth woman out of the water, and felt really strong. Masters class at the YMCA is paying off!

The bike course was two laps of about 7 miles- the total ride ended up being right under 14 miles. There were some steep climbs, technical obstacles, but also plenty of smooth and squishy dirt track where you could pick up speed. I really could have gone faster than I did, but my wedding is this weekend and I was VERY concerned with tempting fate and ending up being a bride with a missing tooth, so I took is seriously easy. Even still, I walked much less than I did at my first XTERRA race and felt good the whole way, despite riding further than I EVER had on a mountain bike. I did stop at the top of the first big climb to catch my breath and let my heart rate come down, but never completely stopped again the whole course. The next race is supposed to be a beginner friendly course in East Texas (much less rock- Pace Bend is VERY rocky!) I'm looking forward to that event to push my speed and see what I can do.

A little bloody and a lot of muddy

I finished the bike in 2:15, with a moving pace of about 7mph- not terrible, but not my best. I did manage to obliterate my right shin on my pedal after hitting a rock wrong and was bleeding pretty good, so we'll chalk it up to that. (It's gnarly looking!) I was in and out of T2 in right about a minute and hit the short section of pavement to finish up with the run.

The run had been kind of flooded, with one portion requiring us to hug a fence and hop around some shin-deep water, so that was a slow-down issue. I also took my time any time the grass got marshy, because again, I did not want to be a bride on crutches. So, although the heat was bearing down and there was little shade, I could have definitely run more than I did, but chose to take my time instead, just in case. My main goal this season is to not let heat and humidity defeat me as badly as it has in the past. With the addition of better nutrition through my Infinit and more consistent run training, I think I'm definitely getting better. I wasn't fast, but I didn't have the desire to lay down and die either, so, improving!

Speaking of Infinit and people laying down, about a mile in to the course I encountered another racer sitting on the ground rubbing his quad. Because I am nice and share, and also because I'm not going to just leave someone sitting in the sun with no hydration, I offered him my bottle if he wanted electrolytes. He gladly took a gulp and about a half a mile later, ran past me, giving a fist bump on his way by. I'm not saying Infinit was the cure, but I'm definitely sure it helped!

At the halfway point, there was an aid station that had COLD water, which was amazing. I dumped it on my kit and the fabric it's made of kept me cool the whole way back down the hill and through the finish line. I finished at faster pace than I started and didn't want to throw up, so I'd call that a hot-weather running success!
Finish line and post-race party area

Overall I ended up 8th overall women, higher than my 10th place ranking before. I also got another first place Age Group win. This give me 150 XTERRA Points, placing me 1st in the South Central Region and currently, tied for 1st in the entire US for Women 25-29! I'm milking this for all it is worth, because I know next year when I hit the 30-34 AG, I'm going to be in super tough company!

 Things that worked: This race for me was run at a much- more "for fun" pace than usual because of how careful I was being, but that was OK. What did work was the swim training I've been doing- my pace is so much faster than my swimming last year. I am very happy with that.

My nutrition is also holding up, even as the temperatures begin to rise. I am happy with my Infinit! 

Things that didn't work: Forgetting sunscreen! I'm grateful my wedding dress neckline is also kind of tank-top like, because whoops! Thankfully, the bike course was mostly shaded, so I did not get burned badly at all, but I should know better, and have since put my whole bottle of sunscreen in my backpack so it can't be left behind.

Overall: Fun time! Again, the racers were all so nice, and the event was very laid back and fun for everyone, from newbies all the way to past champions. This kind of racing is fun, tough, muddy, a little bloody, and exactly what I like.

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