Friday, April 29, 2011

Rain in Spain

Kicking back in the Villa with the "girls" after eating dinner Spanish style at 10pm. We seem to have very easily switched onto local time. It has been an interesting trip so far to say the least. Nobody knew what to expect heading over here for the inaugural ITU Cross World Champs and well we still don't know quite what to expect and it's race day tomorrow!!!

Arrived into Madrid Wednesday at noonish and realized that Katie and I didn't make arrangements on how we were going to meet up since we were flying in on totally different flights. Thankfully we both thought to just meet up at the rental car agency, too bad we were in different terminals at different counters. After a few phone calls back and forth by the Avis reps we got things sorted out and headed out to pick up Emma at her hotel in the city then made the 3hr drive up to Extramadura. Katie only managed to stall the car out in the middle of Madrid traffic, oh about a dozen times or so, but she is slowly getting the hang of it ;))) We met up with Mel and Ross at the villa to find out that BA had left their bikes in Seattle and they had no idea when they would get in. American continues to win best airline award as it got my bike here no problem, no damage and no charge, the trifecta!!

It was pretty late by the time we got everything unpacked and built up so we left heading out to the race venue until Thursday morning. We got a really late start to the morning which was probably a good thing as we ran into the guys in the parking lot who had spent the morning re-routing the course. The venue is really quite scenic, surrounded by mountains with lots of blooming wildflowers, but there really aren't any mountain bike trails. (kinda important for an off-road tri) So the bike course is four loops of 5km with a bit of jeep track, some random bush wacking through fields and a bunch of riding along the rough sandy, rocky shoreline.

While more technical than the flat out dirt road course we were expecting, it is still not all that inspiring. Add to it that it has been raining on and off for a bit and the lake level is slowly rising, gradually putting the shoreline track into the water!! With more rain on the forecast for tonight and tomorrow is it going to be really muddy tomorrow.

To enjoy a bit of the local culture and sights, Mel, Ross and I headed out to one of the small nearby villages, Hervas, for the "official" Team Canada dinner. (Katie was out with family) We enjoyed walking around through the crazy narrow streets and alleyways before adventurously ordering a gourmet meal without having any idea what is would be. The seven course meal ended up being a appetizer of some sort of meat pate (good) mushroom ravioli in a potato puree (very good) salad with hidden calamari (good until I found the calamari) poached egg on top of cooked veggies (so so) pork cheek (well...) very salty fish in a broth (okay) and tiramisu (not the best I have ever had but okay) The Rioja took first prize and several bottles will definitely find their way back home. Today we took another couple spins around the course and suffered through the pro meeting. Unfortunately Mel and Sara are still without their bikes and both doing an amazing job staying positive while dealing with the likelyhood of having to ride borrowed bikes for the race. The young-ins are off to bed as their race is in the morning, while the pro's get the very late 4:15pm start for the ladies and 6:30pm start for the men. Nice to not have to get up at the crack of dawn, but really a little too late for my liking. No matter, it's still exciting to see the ITU get involved in the off-road scene and one way or another tomorrow will be an exciting race!!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Xterra South Central Championship Race Report

One of the great things about Xterra is they believe in appropriate start times, 9:30 am to be exact for the South Central Championships in Waco TX. It was a beautiful morning for racing with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-seventies and with the majority of the pros having homestays right next to the venue it was just a short ride down the hill to transition. I'm not a big believer in superstitions or jinxs (though I do paint my nails to match my bike before every race) however I maybe should have left out the last sentence of my previous post about a non-wetsuit swim. Rather shockingly the swim was announced as wetsuit legal for everyone about an hour before the race and sent the majority of us scrambling back to our homestays for our wetsuits. Admittedly I seriously questionned a sudden multiple degree drop in water temperature overnight, but after a few negative moments I put it behind me and got on with my warm-up. It was a deep water start with a one loop rectangle course and we all, as expected, completely overheated in our wetsuits. After drafting off of Seth last weekend I thought it was only fair that I take my turn this weekend and led the field out of the water. With the super steep and muddy banks it was good to be the first one out and have all the helping hands to myself. That and I like to be able to keep the boys honest at at least one race a year :) Onto the bike I knew I was going to quickly loose time to Mel and Shonny and perhaps a couple of other girls whose technical mountain biking skills far exceed my own. All I could do was ride strong and as smoothly as possible. My Fuji DSR 1.0 ran great and I definitely felt like I rode better than last year. Looking at the splits its hard to tell as they did add a short section to the course compared to last year, but I cleared a lot of sections and hills I couldn't last year and definitely spent less time off the bike hiking it. I was a bit punchy starting out, missing some lines and hitting the deck once, but got better as I settled down and really enjoyed the trails including two of the best half-pipes around. I kept the damage down to just Mel and Shonny, though kept expecting Suzie to come by me as well. The advantage or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it, of coming out of the water first is everyone who passes me gives me an update on who is right behind me. For the entire last hour of the bike Suzie was apparently "right behind you, pick it up" . I have to give a quick shout out to Xterra newbie Will Ross who not only had a stellar race but wins the most courteous passing award. The most awkward award goes to the caveman himself Conrad who clipped a pedal right as he went around me and nearly launched himself into the trees!!! I started the run in third and held onto third to the finish without seeing any of the other girls. Tried to really push the pace but wasn't taking any risks on the technical sections of rolling an ankle this early in the season. Congrats to Mel and Shonny as we finished 1-2-3 exactly the same as last weekend. I didn't get much time to enjoy the post race festivities as I had to get packed and to the airport for a 5pm flight back to Tucson. It sounded like a good idea when I was booking it but after a four hour layover in Dallas the second flight was pretty miserable. Very special thanks needs to go out to everyone in the Waco Xterra and MTB family for putting on an amazing race and to Greta and Matt for hosting Boobar and myself for the weekend. Everything from the pre-race Texas style BBQ to all the race details to the great homestays right next to the trails was amazing. This is by far the most fun, twisty, turny set of singletrack trails of any Xterra on the Championships Series. A definitely must do for all you singletrack junkies next year!!! Xterra Waco Race Gallery Just one weekend off before heading over to Spain for the inaugural ITU Cross World Championhips. I don't think any of us really know what to expect but should be lots of fun. It is going to be a girls (plus Ross) week with Mel, Emma, Sara, Katie and myself sharing a Villa. Hmmm, villa in Spain for a week :))) I have also updated race photos from the Desert Duathlon and Xterra West Champs.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Keep Waco Wacko

Another weekend another race, the 2nd of 5 races in 6 weekends. This time we are in Waco Texas for the 2nd stop on the Xterra USA series. The city of Waco has been amazing in bringing this race back for a second year and the community has really rallied behing the event, from awesome homestays to setting up a great set of trails and venue. I am trying to snag me one of these Tees before I leave from the local bike shop. After a short 3 day turn around after Las Vegas I hopped on a plane to the Lone Star State on Thursday morning and got in with just enough time to head out for a loop of the bike course. This is by far the most twisty, turny, technical course of the series which doesn't really suit me as much as the more proficient mountain bikers, but it certainly is a lot of fun. If you are ever in the area you really need to head out to Cameron Park and check out the trails.
Bike Course Map - Cameron Park Swim Start - Brazos River
Once off the bike the run heads directly out of transition and straight up Jacob's Ladder. The photos don't do this justice as it is a challenge just to merely walk up them, especially with heavy bike legs.

And just because we are in Texas the winners are going to take home these giant belt buckles!! Apparently they are about the size of hub caps :)

The weather looks to be fabulous, nice and sunny but not too hot and humid and unlike last weekend we will be swimming sans wetsuit :) Looking forward to a great race tomorrow!!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Xterra West Championships, Las Vegas

Back when I was a swimmer I use to enter a "throw-away race" before all my real events at any big competition. This race was always aweful but it woke the nerves up, cleaned out the cobwebs, and got me ready to get on with the important races. I was hoping that the Desert Duathlon would act as that throw-away race but apparently I needed two this season to get the reset button to fully engage. Just a week ago I switched up the schedule and decided to head to Vegas for the opening race of the Xterra USA Pro Series. I made the 7.5hr drive out from Tucson on Thursday with fellow Canuck Karsten Madsen and spent friday/saturday getting in some pre-rides and runs on the Lake Las Vegas course. I was really happy with the small changes to the bike course which took out the stupid hike-a-bike and sketchy downhill and generally made the course much more rideable, though still super tough. I also liked the new single loop run course and well the swim is the swim. (and just for the record it wasn't THAT cold, definitely not in the 50's. Sure the hands and feet got a little numb and the face was a little tingly, but no gasping for breath, thinking about ripping off my wetsuit feeling that 50deg water entails)

Swim Start (think I'm 2nd from the right)

Got up early Sunday morning and did the usual warm-up routine feeling pretty good, not super snappy, but it's still April. The swim was a deep water start under the bridge of the Aston Montalego Hotel, but with only 30 or so pros and plenty of room it was pretty mellow. I was only swimming in my new Nineteen wetsuit for the 2nd time this season but felt super comfy in it and jumped right on leader Seth Wealing's feet. Seth was setting a quick enough pace that I couldn't get around him and go faster, but was a little too easy sitting in his draft. In the end it made more sense to conserve the energy, though I did try to will him to pick it up just a bit (didn't work) and hopefully didn't irritate him too much running into the back of his feet constantly, I hate doing that to people.

Seth and I heading to the first buoy

Was out of the water in second overall, first woman and as usual had no idea where anyone else would be. Even with the numb hands and feet I had a speedy transition and headed out onto the bike, the first race on the new (and super fast) Fuji DSR 1.0. The 2 loop bike course, while not overly technical, had a bunch of tough uphills early on with some deep sand wash riding in the middle and a tiny bit of single track at the end. I held off Mel quite a bit further than previous years and felt I was riding strong and steady, though not as quick as I would have liked. Couldn't hang on Mel's wheel but entered the second lap still holding onto 2nd place. Half way through the 2nd lap I was caught by Xterra rookie, Pro MTBer and fellow Honey Stinger athlete Kelley Cullen, with Shonny not too far behind her. Great to see new faces out racing - not as happy when they go whizzing by me. I held it close finishing up the bike and flew through T2 to close the gap down to as little as possible heading out on the run.

Had to put the following photo in to call Shonny out ;) racking her bike nowhere near her spot and right on top of mine!!! How many bikes can you squeeze onto one bike rack...

I could see Shonny and Kelley running side by side about 200m in front of me and called on the legs to pick it up and shut it down. They didn't respond. I caught Kelley about 3km in but the gap between Shonny and I would close a bit, then open back up, repeat, repeat. On the uphills it would seem like she was right there but the illusion would right itself on every downhill and she ran a strong second 5km to finish just over a minute up. Mel never had to look back after passing me to take a convincing win, while Kelley Cullen and Danelle Kabush rounded out the top 5.

Overall really happy with the effort and result (3rd) but looking at the splits it is still obvious that the bike needs to improve. I'm back in Tucson for a quick 3 day turn around before heading to Waco Texas for the next race. It was great to see everyone in the Xterra crew again and super big thanks to Shelby for the bike feed, all the great volunteers for their help and race sponsors for putting on a great race. Also huge thanks to my sponsors Fuji, Rudy Project, Maxxis, Nineteen, Extreme Endurance, Champsys, and Honeystinger for all their great support!! Coach... we are back on the right track and moving forward.

Check out the Race Gallery from Nils Nilsen for some more great shots!!!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yeah for Xterra!!!

Just a quick blurb before heading to bed (it's race day tomorrow!!!) Last Sunday after an incredibly sub-par interval session on my TT bike I made the decision to skip the first race of the Liftetime Fitness Series in South Beach and head to Las Vegas for the opening race of the Xterra USA Series. Still more time and work is needed on that bike before I will be comfortable and able to produce the kind of power I need to be competitive on the road and it just didn't feel right to head back to Miami and not be able to race like I know that I am capable of. As soon as I made the decision and talked it over with the coach I knew it was the right one, stress gone, happy face back on :))))

Looking forward to a great race tomorrow, especially after watching Paula Findley take the win at the ITU WCS Sydney race!!! What a great way to get psyched up for race day...

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fun in LA

Well lactate/VO2 testing can hardly be called fun, probably the most painful 30+ minute workout you can do, but getting the data back is sorta fun if you like the "science behind the sports" stuff and don't mind bruised finger tips for a day or so. Monday morning, feeling pretty good after a whole day in the car on Sunday, I headed over to the Culver City Plunge (great name for a pool) for a quick, easy swim session. Not that I'm complaining about the pools in Tucson, but what a great facility; long course, salt water, nice and cool temp. and open for lap swimming all day!!! I love swimming long course and so rarely get to do it these days. Short of sneaking into the U of A pool, it is all yards all the time in Tucson. (at least it is outside)
From there I headed over to Helen's Cycles in Santa Monica to do a bike fit with guru Nate Loyal. I have never done a professional fit so I was pretty excited to see what he thought of my personal fitting experiment. Apparently I pretty much got it all wrong. We ended up moving my saddle back almost 5cm and shortening the stem 3cm. We also added shims to my cleats to stabilize my pedal stoke. As drastic as it sounds I didn't really feel all that different on it after the changes but after a ride back at home I am definitely able to stay down in the aerobars comfortably through the whole ride and expect the power to start getting back to where it belongs after a bit more training on it.
With my new bike position it was directly over to the lab for the bike test. Not ideal, but since I don't get out to LA to see Gareth all that often, we didn't have much choice. I haven't done any testing in over two years so we really needed to get some accurate numbers to make sure the training sessions are where they need to be. I had a feeling the bike numbers were going to be a bit off with the new bike and position, but thankfully it was just a bit low at the top end with my aerobic base good and strong. Easily fixed!!!! It was also the first time I have done a VO2 test so it was interesting to see the results of that though I have to admit still a bit unsure of what exactly they mean. Guess that is why I have a coach :)
working HARD :)) with the lovely green mask on
Lab graph for all you techies out there

Tuesday morning it was back to the lab for the run test. Legs were a bit fatigued but that's how you have to race triathlons anyways. My run has been feeling really good and the results showed lower HR's over the entire test with just a bit more lactate production at threshold but even still able to push to a higher level :) Now if I can just figure out how to run more on my mid-foot and with higher heels and knees I'll be flying (for me anyways)

More Data :))

After the test it was quick lunch and right back in the car for the drive home, yuck. Bit of a whirlwind trip but lots of great information and feedback to keep moving forward in the right direction. I would have loved to stay for a couple more days, SoCal is definitely a Landscape Architect's dream and with everything in spring bloom I could have spent hours wandering around just looking a people's gardens. One of these days...

Back in Tucson it is business as usual. The temp's are heating up and I'm feeling better about where I am fitness wise and where I need to get. Big weekend of training ahead then it is back to Miami for the first race in the Lifetime Fitness Series, South Beach :)