The (actual) end of the season: XTERRA Nationals

Sorry for the silence on the blog, if you’re still following. For those of you who have stuck with reading, a big thanks. Saturday was XTERRA National Championships in Ogden, UT and I went and raced, along with Wes and Abi and my friend Anna who did her first XTERRA, XTERRA Utah.

So, this past Tuesday I got a clean bill of health for my ankle (nothing like last-minute) from the ankle specialist. I have not done any trail running in the last 2 months while healing, and I have only run 4 miles on the road. Not exactly top-notch preparation.

We took off Thursday night for Utah, stopping in lovely Rawlins, WY that night and finishing the drive to Ogden on Friday. Anna and I got checked in and body-marked with these ridiculously huge number stamps. Abi checked out the kid’s obstacle course. We had a lot of trouble getting Abi down for bed that night, and it was a fairly early morning on race day.
We’re lucky that Abi is a good car-tripper
Sunrise at the race start
The nationals course is a 2-transition course (read: extra climbing) that starts at Pineview Reservoir for the swim, climbs up Wheeler Canyon for the bike, then at Snowbasin resort base, the short course turns off to start on the run while our course went straight up the mountain and then onto some crazy-fun, technical singletrack – a total of 19 miles. Then you wind back down to the base, put on the running shoes, and run back up the mountain for the nearly 7-mile run course. After we set up T1 and T2, Anna and I took a bus back down to the race start at the reservoir. There was a lot of energetic chatter on the bus ride down but we were both pretty quiet. I was worried about the mass swim start (no age-group waves) and Anna was nervous about the mountain biking. We made a pact that I wouldn’t crash, and she wouldn’t drown and those were our goals for the race. Actually, my goals were: calm swim, strong bike, consistent run.

The race started with a cannon going off and lots and lots of people running into the water. I put myself squarely at the back and outside, and still got clobbered as I moved up a few spots. There was a helicopter filming the whole thing and the noise was freaking me out. I looked over and saw a guy doing a type of backstroke that I have never seen before – it looked like a backwards butterfly. That provided me some entertainment. I didn’t stop this time (which for me, counts as staying calm), although as I completed the first of the 2-lap swim I really wanted to go to shore and get out. I tried to think about the fact that I paid $150 for the privilege of nearly drowning so I darn well better finish. There were people, boats, and that helicopter everywhere the whole time. I was surprised to see 37 minutes on my watch when I got out, and it took another 3 minutes to run up the road to transition. I was SO happy to finish the swim with minimal damage, I already felt like a finisher!

On the bike I started with eating, then stayed calm and tried to hammer down on the doubletrack climb for the first 3-4 miles. Then things got tricky. Because of my slow swim, I was mixed in with lots of the sport racers. The trail got down to unpassable singletrack and people were really lolly-gagging. There just wasn’t much to be done. The first 13 miles were uphill but nothing too terrible, a few little rocky spots, but overall a beautiful, if crowded experience. I was relieved to get rid of the sport racers as we approached Snowbasin – until I saw the next climb! The last 6 miles proved to be very difficult and I hit my limit on that part of the course. My legs started cramping and I wanted to cry.

Meanwhile, Wes and Abi took a gondola ride to the top of the mountain and hiked a bit at the top. The scenery there was incredible. They have RED trees (and orange and yellow) unlike our yellow/brown fall in Colorado. The maple trees were my favorites.

Abi inherited her love of heights and enclosed spaces from me

Wes and Abi made it down for Anna’s finish, and I came through to start my run shortly after. Anna did awesome completing her first XTERRA and conquering her mountain bike fears!
It was so good to see Anna in transition since I was on the verge of tears. She talked me through it and gave me some pointers for tackling the run. Once I got my grape fruit strip in me I felt a little less wimpy.
Then it was straight up the mountain and after a mile, on some sweet singletrack. I tried to focus on conserving a little energy for a strong finish. I really tried to enjoy my first trail run in 2 months. It was so fun (and painful) to just be out there doing it again! At the last aid station one of the volunteers followed me a bit and told me “Just try to stay on your feet. You’ve got 1.5 miles left.” I assumed that meant I looked pretty bad. As the finish line approached, I tried to kick it in hard. I was so exhausted I forgot to look up as I crossed the finish line.
I wasn’t the last finisher, but I did take 4:22 to complete the race. The post-race massage and lunch were sooooo good. Just getting to Nationals and leaving it all out there was the goal. I feel so good to have accomplished what I ultimately set out to do this year, to qualify for and compete in nationals. If you’ve put up with me, you know that I wanted to give up on this several times this year. I am so grateful for the GT Dirt Coalition and the opportunity to represent a great bike company as well as IMBA at all my races this year. I’m beyond grateful for the support of Wes throughout the season; he was my biggest fan, babysitter, tent-staffer, masseuse, travel coordinator, and financial backer (!). I’m not too sure what’s next, but I plan on enjoying some nice trail runs with my faithful sidekick Maddy, who has been patiently waiting for me to heal!

4 responses to “The (actual) end of the season: XTERRA Nationals

  1. BRAVO! [Applause] Wowsers! You survived and thrived during a challenging race season, overcoming obstacles that would have stopped most people. Good preparation for parenthood. Way to go! How exciting to have a real XTERRA athlete in the family. We are all proud of you 🙂

  2. Nice Job Laura, wow it’s pretty over there! That race seemed really brutal, lots of climbing. I guess they don’t call it the National Champs for nothing! How crazy that when you really look back on your season…you met your goals. Its was rough along the way, but you got there!

    Great job, xxoxoxxo!!

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