Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Taking if Off Road - Xterra Trail Race Report

This race wasn't even remotely on my radar.  It was one of those total last minute decisions.  G had always wanted to do an XTerra race so when he saw this was fairly close to home and that we didn't have any plans that weekend, he jumped on it.  I wasn't terribly interested in racing on my mountain bike so I figured I'd go along as a cheerleader.  G then told me they had a 12km trail run as well as 2 open water swim races.  Huh.  Ok.  I figured if I was going to get up early on a Saturday, I might as well get a run in.  So, I signed up for the trail race.

I feel like I should do more trail running.  I raced one 5 Peaks race a few years ago and really enjoyed it but triathlon always seemed to win out.  After doing this race, I'm thinking trail running should be a regular part of my routine.  It's so much more challenging and fun to run on trails that it is on the road.  The surface is a bit more forgiving but you also need to be on your toes more, both literally and figuratively.  I can't plod along like I normally do.  I really had to focus on picking my feet up and keeping my cadence high, which is probably better for my form in the long run.

The race was at the Kelso Quarry, which I didn't even know existed.  It's a lovely little spot right on the Escarpment.  The quarry itself is fairly small but there is a ton of land around it as well as a lot of trails.  The triathlon was the first event so G had to get there early.  His race started at 8:00 am and my race didn't start until 9:30 am.  I figured he might be close to being done by the time I started, ha ha.  This particular race was the Canadian Championship so there were a lot of heavy hitters out.  Sean Bechtel had won it last year and he was back to defend his title.

It wasn't terribly warm out given that it was the last weekend in June and I wished I had brought pants or something with me.  I stood around in every single layer that I brought, trying not to freeze.  I helped G get into his wetsuit, watched the swim, cheered G on when he came out of the water and then went to the car to sit for a while and warm up.  The bike was a two loop course so I thought I'd see G again before my race started.  I did not, which worried me a little.  It was almost go time so I went out and did a little warm up.  My sciatic nerve issue was still lingering post Eagleman.  It wasn't horrible but it wasn't great either.  It was just enough to be annoying.


I did some drills and a light jog to get my legs moving.  It was still pretty chilly and I was thinking that the singlet I decided to race in wasn't going to be warm enough so I had put my Eagleman finishers shirt on underneath it.   The trail race started at the base of the trail that went around the edge of the quarry and then made it's way up the Escarpment, into the forest and then back out and around the edge of the Quarry again.  I wasn't expecting to go very fast, especially since I wanted to make sure I didn't trip and fall because THAT is something I'd definitely do.

The small group of us that were doing the trail race all milled about at the start line.  I think there might have been 30-35 of us.  They took us through the route and then told us we'd have to wait a bit to start as the triathlon leaders were going to be coming through.  Sure enough a few seconds later the men's leader came barreling down the road and blew by us.  We all gave him a big round of applause as he ran by.  We all made our way back to the start line and then proceeded to say to each other, "No, you go ahead, No you go ahead".  I started laughing and turned to one of the guys at the front and said that this would NEVER happen at a road race.   Nobody wanted to be right up front.  I didn't because I didn't really know where we were going.  I wanted someone to follow.  I sidled up to the one guy that decided to stand up front and I stood slightly behind him.  I wasn't going to go off super fast.  My plan was to see what pace the guys were running and stick with them unless there was another woman that was up at the front and then I'd stick with her.

The gun went off and the guy beside me took off like a shot.  I mirrored his pace and stayed just off his left shoulder.  I stuck with him for the first 500m but my legs wanted to go faster and we were on relatively flat ground so I figured I'd go ahead and try to put time on people before we got into the trails.  I passed him and was in the lead until we hit the 2km mark.  I could hear someone coming up behind me and was passed by a guy in black.  He went by really quickly and put a bit of a gap on me.   I didn't hear anyone else behind me.  I chugged along, thinking about how hot I was getting in my double layers.  We got off the trail and onto some pavement.  We were also climbing.  I was sweating buckets so I pulled off my singlet, then pulled off my t-shirt and put my singlet back on.  All while running uphill.  I balled my t-shirt up in my hand and held onto it until I found a place I could drop it and come back for it.

Once we climbed the driveway there was a path off to our right.  This was single track and I found the footing be challenging to say the least.  It was slanted and narrow.  I slowed down a fair bit through here until I could find a rhythm. It was still pretty open though and I could see the man in black just ahead of me.  I kept him in my sights until the path started to curve.  After that, I lost him.  There were so many twists and turns it was impossible to know how far ahead or behind anyone was.  Which is kind of a good thing as it forces you to never let up.  All of a sudden I came across two girls standing just off the path.  They were holding cups.  I then realized that this must be an aid station.  Sure enough I turned the corner to find a small table.  I grabbed a cup of Gatorade and continued on.  I couldn't see anyone in front of me and I had no idea who was behind me.  It was a little strange.

I turned into the woods at this point.  It was so quiet, all I could hear was my breath and the pounding of my feet on the dirt.  I caught a guy from the triathlon here.  He moved over and let me pass.   I came up on another guy who managed to stay in front of me for a bit.  I'd catch up to him on the flatter parts but lose him on the more technical, rocky sections as I'd tend to slow down.  Eventually I caught him and had room to pass so I did.  I had no idea where the man in black was because of all the twisting and turning the path was taking.  Rounding each corner always had me wondering if I'd catch a glimpse of him.  It was like wondering if I'd see Bigfoot.  I came to much more open part under the tree canopy and was able to see a few people a head of me as well as someone on a mountain bike.  But no man in black.  I caught the two people in front of me and was gaining on the biker girl but she hit a down hill and sped away from me. 

I picked my way over tree roots and rocks.  I leapt over logs and tried to stay as light on my feet as possible.  When the path was clear, I ran hard.  When it wasn't, I slowed down.  There were a couple of good climbs that had me quite winded by the time I got to the top.  I zig zagged my way through the woods, checking over my shoulder every so often.  No one was behind me, at least that I could see.  I could feel my legs starting to fatigue a bit, actually lifting them up was hard work!  I still had 4km to go.  I could hear the announcer so I figured I should be heading out of the woods soon.  Sure enough I could see the path opening up into some single track which then turned into a wider rail trail.  There was a really nice down hill that I just let loose on.  I had hoped to be able to do this race in 1h - 1:05 but I was actually on pace to be faster than that.  I had lost some time on the technical sections is the woods so I aimed to make it up wherever I could.  I knew we had one last loop around the quarry and that was flat so I should be able to make up some time there. 

I came flying down the hill towards the final aid station, grabbed a Gatorade and stopped to suck it back.  I glanced back and didn't see anyone else from the trail race.  I took off and started to pick up the pace.  I knew I had less than 3km left.  I got out onto the path around the quarry and could see a few people spaced out ahead of me.  They were all in the triathlon.  There was lots of "good run, nice work" exchanged as I passed people.  Now that I was on flatter ground, I started to pick up the pace.  I took a slight misstep and rolled my ankle, which freaked me out a bit so I slowed down for a bit.  It seemed ok so I started to pick up the pace again.  I could see the finish line on the other side of the quarry.  I finally spotted the man in black about 300m in front of me.  He became the carrot and I worked at closing the gap.  I started to reel him in but realized that I was going to need a bit more real estate than what I had left.   I saw him cross the line and followed hot on his heels 20 seconds later in 57:25.  Better than I hoped for!  To top it off, I came in second overall and I was the first place female.  I was pretty happy about that.  The XTerra folks give out some decent swag too!  I got a medal for 2nd place O/A and a box of Clif Bars and then another medal for 1st place over 40 female as well as a cool knapsack.


After the race I took advantage of the free physio sessions they had.  My sciatica was really bugging me after running on so much uneven surface.  The girl that worked on me worked wonders.  After I got off the table I felt like a million bucks.  I'm never missing out on free post race massage / physio ever again.

I finally saw G come in, much later than I had anticipated.  Turns out he had wiped out and had 2 mechanicals on the bike so he was actually BEHIND me on the run.  He was pretty banged up but happy.  He also rocked the new WTP tri suit nicely.  I think they look awesome and I may have to wear it for my next race. 

I know G had fun and he'll probably do another one of these if it works in his schedule.  It will probably be a few years before I decide to tackle an off road triathlon.  I need to learn how to handle my mountain bike a lot better before I venture into racing on it.  I will think about doing a few more trail races though, especially an XTerra race.  It was really well organized and the course was definitely challenging.  





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