I picked up my parents from the airport Friday and we headed up to a condo we rented in Avon, near the resort where the race is held. Wes met us there a few hours later and we went to get my numbers and check out the course. While up at the resort, we asked around about putting up the GT Dirt Coalition tent – we spoke with the gal who does all the announcing first, then Kahuna (Dave Nichols) and then Mike Kloser. It was pretty amazing, all of these folks were SO nice and happy to have us set up the tent as long as we were pushing IMBA. Um, and I shook Mike Kloser’s hand, so I hope his Adventure-Racing awesomeness rubbed off a little (he is team captain of Team Nike, most winning expedition-length AR team). After all the chatting and tent setting-up, though, I really didn’t have time to check out anything other than the two transition areas. I was a bit nervous, this being a Cup race, more points are on the line and it is a MUCH bigger race than any XTERRAs I have done so far.
We slept well that night and my Dad and I got up bright and early to set up my TA’s. The second TA is up at the resort, where I dropped my shoes and running stuff. The first TA is down in town (you realize how much climbing there is at this point) by the lake. Race mornings always go by so fast, and soon it was time to warm up briefly and get started. No beach run this time, there was no beach to speak of, just lots of rocks!
The swim start was totally crazy. I got swam over and around a ton, and had several people who couldn’t swim straight just repeatedly swim into me, which was super-annoying. Every time I’d find some feet, someone else would cut in and take them. It reminded me of racing a crit, but underwater, where you can’t see or breathe. Oh well. I got out of the water after 2 laps and saw 31 minutes on my watch, not “fast”, but my fastest swim yet!
MUCH faster transition this time, and I was off on the bike (I really recommend mentally rehearsing the TA, it helped a ton). Lots of climbing to be had here, and I mean lots. We crossed the highway and started up the mountain. After about 1 mile of pavement we were on a trail – I passed and got passed a couple of times here as we settled in for a long haul. 3600 feet of UP, and 2700 of that was the first climb – no breaks, and I’m not making that up. Near the top of the first climb, I slowly caught and passed a gal on a pink Yeti in my age group. We ended up going back and forth for the whole bike leg.
The course, though brutal, was beautiful. We rode through meadows of wildflowers and had incredible views of the Gore Range. I didn’t really soak it in as usual though, because this time I was super-focused. I really truly gave it all I had, and I’m not much of a climber/altitude person, but I didn’t think about that at all. I cranked it every chance I had. After 2 hours, I was finally going down some fresh-cut singletrack towards the second TA. On the very last turn, I finally passed pink-Yeti girl, which made for an exciting transition. I was being chased!
It was so cool to hear my family yelling every time I did a transition at this race. I jumped in my shoes and out the gate, and up the mountain again. This time I started gaining on pink-Yeti girl within the first mile of the run. I kept it up, climbing the first big climb quickly, which was very steep. I felt great, but it was getting hot. I got passed by a physically challenged (legally blind) athlete and his pacer, more on that later! Then the downhill, I figured I’d open up the legs and gain some more time. Well, my legs had other plans and they decided to seize up on me. It felt like I was being stabbed! Argh! I shuffled down the hill and started on the last climb of the day. This was where I really lost steam. I didn’t get passed, but I just couldn’t run any more. I was feeling the effects of the sun and altitude I think. I definitely hit some kind of breaking point, because I really wanted to cry, very unusual for me during a race.
It was so good to finally hit that finishing line, just under 4 hours. Kahuna was announcing and he said something like “Oh she’s been out there a long time!” (Which, actually, made me feel quite slow). But, he also announced where my tent was and for people to come over, which was awesome! This was hands down THE most difficult race I have done this year, the 12-hour Adventure Race included. I was 9th of 14 in my age group. I was hoping to have moved up a bit more by staying focused and giving so much, but I gained some perspective on that while I was out racing.
When I was passed by the legally blind guy and his pacer (who were quick!) I realized that the physically challenged athletes are not comparing themselves with anyone, at least I don’t think they are. Their category is so small, and the challenges that they face are different, so I don’t think any of them care what place they are in their age group. They seem to do it just for the personal challenge. Ultimately, that’s what all of us out there racing should be doing it for. It doesn’t matter if I’m the first woman to finish, like at the adventure race in May, or the slowest swimmer in my age group. None of that matters. I’ve been having a great season, despite, or maybe because of setbacks. I was so encouraged by the physically challenged athletes out there that day.
Also, it was super-fantastic to have my parents out for the race. They helped out with Abi so much and even manned the tent. And nothing compares to having four people cheering for you! As I was stumbling my way to the car after the race, Abi wanted me to pick her up, which I did while groaning in pain. She patted me on the back with her little hand and said “Good running, Mommy.” “Thanks Abi!” “Good biking, Mommy.” And gave me some more pats and a hug. I think that trumps getting a medal any day.