Today, I did my first Xterra triathlon. Top thing I have learned: mountain bike races are not the same as cyclocross. For one thing, when I started to dismount to hop over a log, I got yelled at by the guys behind me, which made me ride over it while unclipped, which involved a very hard crash into a tree. Youch. Oh yeah- then the run at the end (after all of the running with the bike already!) involved a giant climb called “Toboggan Hill,” that was nearly impossible to walk up, let alone run.
That being said, I had a blast.
Sure, I’m totally covered with bruises now, and yeah, my chin hurts from where I got kicked in the face during the swim, and no, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as awesome as cyclocross, but it was a good experience, and highlighted a few things for me.
First of all, as soon as terrain gets weird (this was a seriously rocky course with some slippery rocks from the previous night’s rain), I have no idea how to handle myself. It was scary, and more than a few times, I had to dismount to walk really sketchy parts.
The race itself started pretty well- there was a 1/8 mile sprint to the water over a beach, and then a 2 loop swim totaling a half mile. The first loop was rough- I hadn’t swam since Ironman Kentucky, which was last August. By the second loop though, I was getting into the swing of it, until I hit the turnaround, and someone’s huge foot hit me. Twice. In the face. Then, as I tried to pass the guy, he literally started swimming sideways to swim over me. Charming.
Out of the water, I was the 6th female, and I had a decent transition. The bike course started with riding down a flight of stairs. Yep, way more mountain-bike-y than I’m used to. I started strong thanks to some awesome pre-riding I had done on Friday with Brian Rosener of Eastern Mountain Sports (it pretty much saved my life). I was having trouble catching my breath and getting comfortable, since I was so freaked out by passing and getting passed by people. Eventually, we hit the first descent, which was a singletrack, and I ended up pulling off to the side a couple of times to let people go by me, since they were obviously better cyclist and just slower swimmers.
Did I mention it was called King of the Hill? While I love the show, a whole lot of these hills were virtually unrideable for someone like me, who is fairly new to mountain biking. The time I made up a ton of time was on the 2 miles of fire roads, because I have no problem riding through gravel, taking those descents fast, and railing into corners. I passed a few people on that section, and stayed ahead of them as the course looped back.
After the bike, I was in 7th, and there was a girl about a minute up from me. (The other girls had a ton of time on me, but in my defense, two of them were elite Xterra racers.) I was seriously exhausted, because the mountain biking took a lot out of me- the times where I had to run up hills with the bike, plus all of the general panic and lack of being a good technical rider really tired me out in a whole lot of ways.
I pushed as much as I could on the run though, and passed the girl who was a minute up from me (and avoided getting passed by the girl who came out of transition right behind me.) When going up the hill, I kept reminding myself that it was just like any hill I would have to run up in cyclocross, though that didn’t really help.
I finished 6th overall female out of 30 something, was 56th out of 125+ racers, and won my age group (not hard, there were no other women in it!)
I definitely want to get out and do some more mountain biking done, because I clearly need the technical skills. Stuff like riding over logs, negotiating rocks, and going down descents are definitely things that I need to work on. I met some awesome people who told me about some mountain biking races and rides, so I’m going to try to get out and ride with people more. A lot of stuff like being able to pass other people while riding really skinny tracks, or being able to follow someone’s line are things I really need to work on.
That’s my abbreviated race report- I recommend trying an Xterra triathlon or duathlon if you want to test your overall fitness and technical skills while you make your plan for the cyclocross season. For me, this was all part of my “training plan” for the ‘cross season- since I lack technical skills, and after a winter
hibernation, I need better fitness, this was a perfect training day.
And now, I have to go tend to the 10+ giant bruises that have popped up all over my legs and torso, courtesy of Round Valley Reservoir.