Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Gettin' Dirty- XTERRA Les Bois

I was first introduced to mountain biking back in June of 2005 while attending college at University of Idaho in Moscow. Learning to ride single track on Moscow Mountain (which is more like an exaggerated pitcher's mound with grass and trees on it) was not a cakewalk. Roots, downed trees, loose dirt, was not love at first ride. But my boyfriend had won a guided mountain bike tour in Utah in just two short months so we bought me a Trek 4300 and got me on single track as much as possible that summer.
A blast from the past: biking through Utah in 2005

Despite several bruises, a trip over the handlebars into a creek and a wickedly miscalculated off-trail ride that resulted in a broken helmet and severe gravel-rash, my confidence gradually improved- as did my love of riding. After moving to Boise years later, I fell in love with our incredible network of foothill trails surrounding the north and east ends of town. However, my love of triathlon (coupled with a lack of confidence due to less time on-trail) slowly pulled me away from mountain biking for the past 2 years...

...UNTIL THIS WEEKEND!!! Feeling bummed about a lackluster result at Lake Stevens and desperately needing a breath of fresh air in the tri department, I made a very logical decision: sign up for XTERRA Les Bois to shake things up a bit. I borrowed a friend's Stumpjumper and refreshed my skills with a couple pre-rides with MFMG.
First ride back. Still smiling and in one piece!

This is the second year Boise has hosted the offroad triathlon, and this time around it has been included in the XTERRA family. With Wattie Ink as a title sponsor, and my friend and Wattie teammate John Shilt at the helm, this was sure to be a premier event.

The best part about local races is that one gets the opportunity to race with friends. Several local competitors toed the line, including pros Kevin Everett, Chris Ganter, Captain Awesome and Trish Deim (who made an impressive debut on knobbies!) and at least a couple dozen people I see regularly at TriTown and the Y. I had my orders from Flanny, too: "HAVE FUN." Check!

Goofing around with Jannalyn Luttrell and
Trish Deim prior to swim start. (Photo by Kevin Schultz)
I hadn't swum in Lucky Peak since Boise 70.3 and let me tell you, the water is soooo much nicer this time of year! I came out of the swim just a few seconds behind Jannalyn and got to work on the bike. The course is pretty straightforward: a two-loop hammerfest on fire roads and singletrack with a couple pitchy climbs and one very technical gully descent toward the end of each loop. But as I learned all those years ago: "if you ain't hikin' you ain't bikin'." (friend and race supporter Walter Poly took a good shot of me navigating the rock garden). With their superior technical skills, Hortie Everett and Sara Lloyd both passed me on the second lap, but I was just happy to have made it into T2 unscathed. Now time to conquer the "groin"...twice.

No wonder it's a restricted sucks!
I had run the course on a relay team last year, so I knew what was ahead of me. Nice trail through grassy hillside, a long, gravel downhill, some pavement, some sand...and then the groin. This little gem of a climb gains around 200 feet in just .15 miles. It is a sandy, rocky slog that makes it (nearly) impossible to maintain a rhythm or even attempt to run. And once at the top, wheezing and near fainting, you get to look forward to doing it aaaaaall over again.

Adam Winspear saw an opportunity to play
MC and, boy, did he deliver!
The groin is what makes this race notorious and proves that it lives up to the name "XTERRA". The finish line is just at the base of the climb, so at least there's some "ooncha ooncha" music to help push you to the top. To go along with the beat booming from the speakers below, local triathlete Adam Winspear decided the poor souls trudging up the groin could use some encouragement. He grabbed the mic and started hollering run splits and supportive words to all of the participants. Thanks, Adam!

Fellow Watties and good friends
Sue Marston and Jay Sampsel
(who finished 6th amateur and won his AG!)
With this being my first offroad tri and only 6 short days after Lake Stevens, I was thrilled to be the first female to cross the finish line. Let's qualify this win a bit, though: I was one of only two female pros to compete, and Trish had (as I understand it) never ridden singletrack before (you go, girl!). The field was mostly local athletes, with 130 competitors registering for both the sprint and olympic distances. While it feels good to come away with a win in my first XTERRA, I have no delusions about my abilities...I have a long way to go before being able to compete with the true lady pros of XTERRA. :-)

Major kudos go out to John Shilt and all of the volunteers and staff that made this race a success! Thank you Wattie Ink for your continued support of the sport of triathlon! Blueseventy's wetsuit and goggles made for a very pleasant swim. Kswiss, thanks for making a tri shoe that can handle trail like no other. And Powerbar, your Double Latte Powergel is da bomb!

Next stop: Emmett's Most Excellent Triathlon!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Over the Hump- Lake Stevens 70.3

This aptly-titled post is sort of a follow-up to last week's diatribe of the Burnout Monster. I had many concerned friends approach me after posting last week, especially so close to a big race. To be frank, I was a bit concerned about "outing" myself in such a blatant manner. Am I making myself vulnerable to my competitors on Sunday? Is this unprofessional of me? Could this be a self-fulfilling prophecy? My friend and Lake Stevens competitor (who took 3rd in a stellar performance!) Kate Bevilaqua  found me at the pre-race briefing, gave me a hug and said, "I read your blog, are you OK??" And so it starts...addressing the storm of concern and buzz I created by admitting that The Blerch had followed me all the way up to Washington state.

Matthew Inman is the genius behind creating the Blerch- check out his work at 
The funny thing is, self-disclosure can be a cathartic thing. I told Kate that as soon as I had admitted and embraced the fact that burnout had found me, I felt a good deal of pressure lifted from my shoulders. Optimistic by nature, I feel that many of life's trials and speed bumps are manageable; one just needs to figure out a way over, around or through them. I decided to get over the hump of Lake Stevens, leave the Blerch in our sketchy neighborhood in Everett, WA where we stayed and get on with finding my race mojo again.

Tribute to MFMG since he couldn't be there with me. #sailboat
Lake Stevens was a late-add. Flanny and I sort of thought, "why not?" when I had expressed interest in racing. Travel isn't too taxing and I had always wanted to race the hilly course. Many of my local TriTown friends were racing, including my buddy Andrew Li. We were riding the coattails of all of the other athletes who had solidified plans, so we had to scramble to find a hotel room and travel arrangements. Turns out Andrew and I make excellent travel companions. With his mellow personality, generous nature, impeccable Ah-Nold impersonations and affinity for food, he made for perfect company for a road trip and a great race buddy.

Representing Blueseventy!
This boy loves his hotel waffles!
  Race preparations went smoothly and before I knew it I was bobbing in the warm water waiting for that gun to go off. With Meredith Kessler and Tennile Hoogland in the mix, I knew it would be blistering pace for the swim...and the Blerch got the best of me. I relaxed into my own pace, made friends with the wonderful bouy line along the course and cruised. It was less stressful than my last two race starts, at a cost of over a minute off the main pack. Damn Blerch.

Lake Stevens provides a picturesque but brutal bike course, with a mix of rolling hills, pitchy climbs and sharp turns. Friends who had done the race before told me the course would really suit me, as I usually thrive riding hills. Not so on Sunday. Flat legs. Flat affect. I almost wished for a flat tire. Stupid Blerch had followed me all around that topsy-turvy bike course, nagging the entire time about how much better I'd feel if I just threw in the towel.

One thing about the Blerch...doesn't seem like he can run. :-) Within a couple miles of the run my leg turnover picked up, as well as my spirits. Some encouraging words from Matt Lieto (who rocked it, placing 5th) and fellow Wattie Inker Guy Crawford (finishing a solid 7th place) helped my feet find their wings. Now, running a 1:29:46 may not seem like a big deal when compared with speedsters like Meredith or Kate, but cutting below that 1:30 mark is a major milestone for me and well worth celebrating!

Andrew getting re-bandaged by friends
Kirk and Rachel. Sad Panda
Handlebar hanging on by a few carbon threads.
The Boise TriTown crew also had an impressive showing, with 4 members winning their respective Age Groups and several others finishing strong as well. However, I was told at the finish that one of our TriTown guys was spotted being carted off the bike course in an ambulance...and it turned out to be my co-pilot, Andrew. Misty morning conditions made for poor visibility and he hit a rock about 5 miles into the bike...going approximately 30mph. By someone's grace he walked away with some significant patches of road rash, but all of his bones intact. 

While not pleased with my placing at Lake Stevens, I am happy with a swim PR and THRILLED with my run. Funny thing about starting at the bottom... you have nowhere to go but up! As always, I am incredibly grateful for all those who support my endeavors: Wattie Ink, Blueseventy, KSwiss, Speedfil, Powerbar, ISM and of course my friends, family and #1 Superfan Matt. I couldn't venture into this realm without you.

And with that, my first season racing with the pros is winding down...I think. On a whim, and at the behest of several friends I've signed up for my first off-road triathlon, XTERRA Les Bois. Gun goes off at 9:00am tomorrow morning. Ready for some DIRT!

Should make for an entertaining race report, too. ;-)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Burnout Monster

On the eve of my departure for Lake Stevens, WA I find myself in unfamiliar territory: I am not giddy with excitement. The pre-race anticipation typically bubbling over within me is absent and the thought of staying home is more appealing. Though this is difficult to admit, it is consistent with a pattern over the past couple weeks. Despite a solid recovery period and relatively light training schedule I am unusually tired. An old running injury has flared, causing a training setback. I find myself only smiling about 70% of the time (instead of my usual 90%). Every day seems to drag a little, the standard bounce in my step peculiarly absent. An unsavory, unwelcome little troll has crept into my life. His name is Burnout.
First grade. I never was good at faking a smile.
The thing about Burnout is he likes to catch me by surprise, pretending to be disinterested in interfering with my life's mojo. Things flow, training, social life, family, sleep...I juggle these things better than a circus performer (if you don't believe me, watch this video. Around 1:50 I do a pretty neat trick in T1). But this incessant performance gets tiring and we all have our limits. 
One thing is for certain, MFMG and I will be returning to White Bay very soon. (it's Burnout's kryptonite.)

Admitting that the evil monster named Burnout has infiltrated triathlon for me is a painful realization. I imagine it is how a musician feels if the songs he plays yield no joy. The other half of Team Green agrees. He told me today, "Even when you're at rest you're planning your next event or training session; constantly looking ahead instead of enjoying what is happening in the moment. It's the triathlete mindset." He knows me best. This is the heaviest racing schedule I've attempted thus far, so it is not surprising that I'd test my limits and venture into unknown territory.
The good news about recognizing Burnout early is that I can break out my Kung-Fu Ninja skills and beat him right out of my life. I have an uncanny knack for finding the upside of life's speed bumps (with the aid of an incredible support system, of course) and persevering through them. Two things are certain:

  1. I will race Lake Stevens 70.3 this weekend giving it everything my heart, mind and body has to offer. And typically I surprise myself when I lay it all out there.
  2. After a proper post-race celebration with a mob of friends who will be racing with me, I will regroup, rest up and send Burnout's ugly mug down the road. I've got some playing to do.
Addendum: My friend Justine (who understands the vacuum that is training, racing and keeping up with the daily rat race) shared the following with me upon reading this blog. Turns out there is a name for the green-eyed Burnout monster- "the Blerch"

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Rockin' Pacific Crest

Mother Nature smiled upon us this past Saturday with moderate summer temps and a delightful cloud cover, making for perfect race conditions in beautiful Sunriver, OR. It was my first time racing Pacific Crest Long Course, though I have heard many good things about the venue and race over the past several years. It was time to work it into the schedule...and I'm so glad I did!
Juniper Swim and Fitness Center.
Another reason why Bend rocks (besides the beer selection)

My coach, Flanny, and I decided that Pacific Crest would be targeted as my "A Race" for the early season. The pro field at this race is smaller and more attuned to my level of competition at this time. I knew Mackenzie Madison and Jennifer Luebke would be racing, which would challenge me in the perfect way to bring out my best race. Having raced Leadman 125 in Bend last September, I was somewhat familiar with the bike course. I was also urged to pre-ride the run course since it was described as a maze of paved bike paths winding through cabins and trees, where every turn is like Groundhog have no idea where you are because everything looks the same. Got it.
A particularly enjoyable view from the run course...
and a welcome break from the monotony.

Logistically the race was a tad of a headache as a first-timer, as T1, T2 and the expo were all in different locations. I opted to forego the shuttle bus on race morning and rely on my manager/photographer (also known as my husband) for transportation to the event. Morning setup went smoothly, arrived at the swim start early enough to leisurely set up T1 and enjoy my pre-race snack of peanut butter and banana goodness.

Now for the race recap. I apologize for the lack of photos- Matt is trying his hand at shooting video and it has yet to be produced. Look for a follow up post later on. As always, I'll try to keep this concise and entertaining so as not to provide a cure for insomnia...

  • Solid swim! Yahoo!!! The plan was to try to stick with Jen Luebke, whom I know is a solid swimmer. Plan failed...I was so amped at the start that the only thing my brain was screaming within the first couple hundred meters was, "FORGET HER, JUST GET SOME AIR!!" (You can bet that I'll be implementing a swim warm-up at my next race). By the second buoy I had calmed myself and settled my heart rate enough to pick up the pace again and get into a good rhythm. Turns out I was just over a minute behind Jen into T1, and nipping at Mackenzie's heels. Right where I wanted to be!
  • And now for the blooper reel. No wetsuit peelers at this race, so I was left to my own devices to strip off my Blueseventy Helix. Now, I remember watching a great transition video put together by Boise pro Chris Ganter last year in which he suggests stepping sideways out of your wetsuit. Note to self: wet neoprene on wet neoprene is slippier (new word) than new tube socks on freshly polished hardwood floor. I found myself with both feet in the air, landing flat on my rear on the asphalt. (Yeah, I'm a pro.) What else could I do but lie there on the pavement, squirming my left ankle out of the suit to finish the job? Look for the video to be posted as soon as MFMG is finished editing. I have no shame. :-)
  • The bike leg was relatively uneventful. Mackenzie passed me straight out of T1 and I knew she was out for blood by the way she steadily faded into the distance and out of my sight over the next few miles. I had discussed my strategy with Flanny the previous day, had my target wattage and was encouraged to race, but not do anything stupid on the climb up Bachelor. I told myself not to chase just yet, settle in and be patient. I pedaled comfortably in solitude, soaking in the ponderosas and mountain lake scenery for 58 (not 56!) miles. The bike was executed as planned- controlled and leaving me well-fueled and hydrated for the run. Once again, my nutrition plan was like clockwork.
  • Imagine my surprise when I enter T2 and Wattie Ink teammate Aaron Edwards calls out, "you're about 7:30 down from Mackenzie." Ouch. She must have ridden out of her mind! Then I hear, "4th place female!" Whoa, that was a blow... This mental jolt was just what I needed to get to work on the run. Again, the plan was to find my legs over the first couple miles, relax and settle into a rhythm.
  • Mile 4 of the run is where the magic happened. I noticed my pace was feeling very comfortable; but comfortable is not how I like to race. I had read a great article recently (courtesy of my friend and fellow tri-geek, Lauri Thompson) that examines the art of racing and suffering. I decided it was time to suffer. Watching my pace gradually pick up, I settled in at a slightly slower pace than what I had been doing on the track for mile repeats. I figured if I could hold that pace for at least the next 6-7 miles, perhaps I'd find another lady to chase for the last few miles of the run. And so my K-Swiss Kwicky Blade Lights carried me through the next several miles with a little more spunk than typical. 
  • FINALLY between miles 8-9 the trio of significant others appeared (MFMG, Ben Metcalfe and Matt Lieto) all there to cheer on me, Mackenzie and Jen, respectively. I was rapidly closing on Laura Coombs and Jen. Sweet! Hearing that I looked as strong as MFMG has ever seen me on the run, and that I had cut into the sizable lead Mackenzie had on me going into T2 was just the motivation I needed to hold the pace. While it wasn't enough for me to get the win, I was thrilled with a run PR of 1:31:58 on a somewhat challenging course.

  • Congrats to Mackenzie on her repeat win (I've lost this 5th consecutive for you at Pac Crest??) and to fellow Boisean Kevin Everett for a stellar performance. Special thanks to our house-swap buddies Rick and Meg Floyd (look for great things to come from this neo-pro at Lake Stevens!). Also, Hortie Everett, Kevin's wife, for cheering and calming me when I let a little "French" slip out as I fell over in T1. :-) And of course, Matty Green...there are no words.
Next up...Lake Stevens 70.3!

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