Monday, July 11, 2016

Give me All of the Sand and Mud you Have: XTERRA Magnolia Hill

This weekend was my third experience with racing XTERRA this season, once again with Race Revolutions. My friend, who raced the duathlon, and I traveled to East Texas to race XTERRA Magnolia Hill.

Being that it's July in Texas, we knew before we left Austin that the heat was going to be a major factor during the race. I prepped by bringing a bottle of Infinit for before the 1,000m swim, a 2 liter Camelbak backpack full for the 11 mile mountain bike, and a 24oz bottle for the 6k trail run. It was about 80% humidity and approximately the temperature of the sun's surface, so really, I could only hope that was enough fluids!

Post-race bike picture. A little bit messy!
The ranch was on the outskirts of Navasota, a small town in East Texas that I competed at a swim meet once in like 5th grade and haven't been to since (totally got 1st in backstroke, so a natural champion, obviously.) It was easy to find from our hotel and we got to registration at about 7:30 for the 8am race start. Since these events are smaller, with only about 100 competing, transition isn't such a stress-fest. Even if you arrive later, there is still time to grab a spot on the rack and plenty of space for your stuff.

The race started a little bit late to allow for some athletes from Houston who were stuck in traffic to make it. I thought it was cool of them to do that since they have that flexibility because there are no road closures to worry about. There was both a triathlon and a duathlon taking place at the same time, the only difference being the duathletes took a lap around the run trail before getting on the bike instead of swimming.

The water temperature was a crisp 83 degrees- slightly more refreshing than stale bath water. I lined up at the edge of the water in line with the first buoy for the mass beach start. While I thought this would work well, so did a big group of guys, who immediately shoved me out of the way when the starting gun went off. I wasn't able to get the jump I wanted to get out ahead on the edge, but that's the nature of the sport. I pulled back and let them punch it out and didn't have any issues until the first turn buoy where I got funneled back in to their cloud of flailing legs and arms. It would have been fine had half of them not starting breast stroke kicking for unknown reasons. I had to stop swimming to avoid a kick to the jaw, which slowed my pace from being spot-on the last race at 1:43/100yards to 1:51/100yards. That's still faster than any swim I had last season, and while I want to go faster than 1:51 at Boulder, even if I don't I'll still beat my time from IM Texas considerably, so that's ok.

Definitely not wetsuit legal

The exit of the swim course was up a boat ramp, where we passed a water pipe pumping out water at 60 degrees, which made me strongly consider just staying there and forgetting about the rest of the race. It was a hike to transition, which was actually OK, because I took the time to let my heart rate come down while I grabbed my things, letting me be calm and steady for the start of the bike.

Did I mention my seat post is still slipping? REI and I are gonna have a talk.
The bike course at Magnolia Hill was completely different than the other two Austin-area races I've done. Where Revile Peak Ranch and Pace Bend were technical rides with tons of rock and obstacles, this was flat single track or grass jeep trails. I thought it would be easier, but apparently when the race gods heard me complaining about busting it on rocks, they heard:

And that's what we got! So much sand that when I came around corners, I had to slow considerably to avoid fish-tailing to my doom. Also, due to heavy rains in the area, there was a major mud pit that you had to get off and walk through. I almost lost my bike once, and made it out with only a major bang to my shin from my pedal. It was the opposite shin from the one I busted at ATX, so +1 for symmetry. It hurt pretty badly when it happened, with the conversation in my head like,

"Are you bleeding?" "Yes." "Does your leg still work?" "Um, currently, yes." "Keep pedaling and cry about it later." Have you ever cussed yourself in 3rd person? When you get to that point, it's also the time to give yourself a chill-pill in 3rd person. I was bleeding a little and so, so over riding in sand, but knew I was nearly done and hey, at least it was all in the shade. I ended the bike averaging 8.3mph, which was over 1mph faster than I normally ride, so in the end, it was fine.

When I finally coasted in to transition, it was late morning and the sun was all the way out. I knew the run would be mixed with walking, but set out determined to run anything that was flat or shaded. That changed to flat AND shaded about half-way through the first loop because I choose life. It was hot!

Bikes were a little dirty!

The run course was two 2-mile loops that were a mix of mowed grass paths in the sun around the lake and shaded switch-back single-track. It was hard to decide what to love-hate more: the sunny spots that at least had a breeze, or the shaded spots that were humid enough you might as well have put your goggles back on. Overall, I was slightly slower than I wanted, but ran faster on my second loop than on the first, and finished feeling good- no upset stomach or nausea, which have been my issues with heat in the past. I ran 14:31 for the run, which is not what shows on the official results. That may be an issue with my Garmin in the pine trees,  My goal is to average under 13:30 for Boulder, which I think will be possible since the terrain and humidity is what slowed me down the most, neither of which will be present on course in Colorado.

Overall, my time was 2:40, enough to land me 1st in my age group and 3rd overall woman.* The Age Group finish was exciting because there was actually someone else IN my age group, so it wasn't an automatic win. Also, 3rd made it my first overall podium finish, and out of 19 women, the largest group of women all season. I was way happy with that!

*On race day I put on social media that I was 2nd overall, because the only list I had to view was a combined list of all finishers and I didn't recognize Terrhan as a women's name. Cowgirl's Tri regrets the error. ;)


Tasha got 2nd in her AG for the Du!

The race was hot, slick, and sticky, but I had a great time. Of the three XTERRA events I've raced, Bluebonnet, the first, is still my favorite, but this location was fun in its own ways, too. Now, with less than a month to Boulder, it's time for peak weeks and taper!

Sexiest photo of me in existence. Those goggles! 

I had to re-do my medal hangers because they wouldn't all fit on one anymore. That's a lot of race entry fees in 5 years. :/

Me in the center, Tasha to the left, and Jeanne, boss lady who got 1st overall, to the right. #whoruntheworld

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