The Ugly....I think the race course definitely has to take the lead in this category, but my transitions were a close second. For an ex-ITU racer I had the slowest, most pathetic transitions. T1 I couldn't get the velcro undone on my wetsuit, then missed my bike rack and had to backtrack, and then ended up in front of my bike still fully in my wetsuit. T2 I managed to find the right bike rack first time but found someone else's bike already in my spot. Instead of just finding a spot, I stood around wondering what I should do, duh!!
Emma, Dan Hugo, and I were all staying together with our great hosts Ryan and Molly. Race morning was an early one as the race started at 8am and we had a point to point swim so needed to set up transition then drive over to the race start at the Loews Hotel Lake Las Vegas. It was only supposed to be 75deg with a chance of rain but was already turning out to be quite a bit hotter, clear, sunny, and very windy. The race director had been measuring the water temperature in the days leading up to the race at around 70-71 deg which would make it a non-wetsuit race for the pros, but wouldn't you know it, the water temperature was suddenly below 68deg on race morning and wetsuits were allowed for everyone. I have to rant just a little about this since Xterra makes such a point of promoting their races as super tough and challenging, yet while the bike and run courses usually live up to the hype, every chance they get (and sometimes questionably so) they make the swim course as easy as possible for the non-swimmers, whether it be allowing wetsuits or shortening or changing the course. On top of allowing wetsuits, the swim course was shortened a bit to cut out a section that would have had us swimming into the very small amount of chop the wind was stirring up on the lake.
No matter, I got off to a good start and tucked in behind a couple of the guys. We started the swim in a little cove then rounded the first buoy and headed out into the main part of the lake. The guys in front of me went around the buoy and totally headed in the wrong direction. I sighted the next buoy and headed off on my own. I was surprised that no one decided to follow me and I ended having a nice calm swim and headed into transition well ahead of the rest of the field. Out onto the bike I just couldn't seemed to get into race gear. The course, while uninspiring, was very tough. We were biking around an abandoned development that had been roughly graded. The result was the feeling of riding around a open pit gravel mine. There were a couple of steep hike-a-bikes, some steep downhills you sort of just slid down, a couple of wash crossings, a bunch of gravel roads and a short section of single track along the side of the lake. Mel caught me halfway into the first lap, then Shonny, Renata, and Leslie one right after the other at the end of the first lap. At this point I definitely started to feel sorry for myself and didn't keep the pressure on. I was riding technically quite well, just not putting in a race quality effort. Jenny Smith and Rebecca Dussault flew by me halfway through the second lap leaving me in seventh place going into T2.
The run was just as tough as the bike with a two lap course, pretty much uphill to the turnaround then two downhill sections with a tough uphill in between on the way back. Still a bit unfocused I headed out onto the run with Emma Garrard right on my heels. The one nice thing about this course is it was so open that you had a good view of your competitors. I quickly noticed that Jenny and Rebecca weren't too far in front and I was steadily closing the gap. I got back on my game and got to work. I passed the two in front of me at the turnaround on the second lap and put my long legs to good work on the downhills to the finish line to hold off a hard charging Emma. Overall 5th, on the podium and in the money with lots of room for improvement. I spent some time talking with my coach, Gareth, after the race and besides the obvious mental faltering on my part we decided that I probably still need a bit more rest going into my races this year. My program and training has been just about flawless so far this year and we just need to dial in the taper a bit. In past years I have usually had to deal with nagging injuries and therefore not ideal training. This year I have had four months of great, injury free, training and can afford to really taper. Fortunately I have a whole bunch of races coming up to rest up for.
After the race we hung out for a bit around the hotel pool for awards then headed home with a quick stop for ice cream on the way, Coldstone Creamery no less. It was Dan's first time in Vegas so although pretty tired we rallied and headed out for dinner and some dancing at LAX inside the Luxor. I am definitely getting old as I hardly recognized any of the music they were playing. I guess it happens to everyone eventually. Sunday was a long day of travel, uneventful except for the cankles that developed sometime during the flight. Now it is a short two weeks before two back to back races, the Midwest Cup in Michigan and the Southeast Cup in Alabama. This weekend I am racing another of the Ontario MTB Cups races at one of my favourite riding venues Albion Hills.
Big thanks to my sponsors whose gear performed flawlessly (unlike my legs): Nineteen Wetsuits, Skinfit, Pearl Izumi Shoes, Rudy Project Sunglasses and Infinit Nutrition.
Here is a video that Dan shot of Emma and I sliding down on of the steep downhills while pre-riding. I think he figured one of us was going to have troubles and he would get it on video. (good thing we both rode it smart and safe)