The Race: XTERRA West Championships
Distances: 1500-meter swim, 18-mile mountain bike, 6.5 mile run
Products used: Blue Seventy Helix wetsuit, Specialized Fate, S-Works Prevail Helmet, Terra mountain bike shoes, Fast Trak and Renegade tires, Champion System 2-piece tri suit, Moving Comfort Endurance Racer sports bra, Salomon S-Lab Sense trail shoes, Trigger Point Cool Point.
A lot can change in a year.
XTERRA West Championships at Lake Las Vegas April 13th, 2013 was my return to racing triathlon after a year sabbatical to become a mother.
It was be the 1st out of town trip for Torin, and the 1st trip for me as a mother. Everything takes a bit more planning now – and a lot more stuff! Having a baby sure didn’t help me with my over-packing problem.
After figuring out how many diapers, baby blankets and onesies (not the trisuit types) I would need for five days on top of bike shorts, GUs, tubes, sports bras, running shoes, socks, etc. We loaded up the car for the 500-mile journey to Lake Las Vegas. My car, plus a jumbo rocket box was filled with just enough room for two and a quarter people. Vanessa, Torin’s aunt, was driving down with me. Without her help, and Marlene’s, Torin’s ‘Nain’ who would be meeting us in Vegas, I would not have been able to go to the race.
We broke up the drive with a stop at the Fillmore Hot Springs, that didn’t disappoint. Torin slept most of the 7 hour drive.
Did I feel ready for the race? No, but I usually never do this time of year. I try not to give too many excuses but I think mine are worthy.
My expectations had changed, and certainly lowered from when I competed in the race last year, before I knew I was pregnant. A top 10 would be great, if I walked away with any points for the series (meaning a top 15 finish) I would be happy.
But really my goals for my 1st race back were:
- Be happy
Which I think are good goals for anyone racing.
I felt very fortunate to get to stay at a hotel before the race, something I don’t do very often, if at all. It was super convenient to be so close to the venue for both myself and my support crew.
I was able to pre ride on the course on my Specialized Fate, along with a Fast Trak and Renegade tire at around 21 psi. Later that day I would test out my new Blue Seventy Helix both in Lake Las Vegas and Lake Mead.
Running? I was still recovering from a lets-try-to-remember-what-racing-feels-like 5k I did the week prior so wasn’t doing too much of that. Plus I felt it was much better to just rest than to pre run the brutal run course.
We did make time to take Torin for his 1st swim at the Westin pool.
Race day Torin would be just 5 days shy of his 4-month birthday so he’s still eating about every 3-4 hours around the clock. Vanessa was very kind to feed Torin from a bottle when he woke up in the night so I could get a good night’s sleep before the race. I woke up feeling pretty darn good, the later start helped too.
Pre-race priorities have changed now, my biggest concern before the race was making sure I wasn’t carrying as little milk as possible during the race. This would mean pumping as close to race start as possible.
I was also concerned with how hot it would be and how I would stay hydrated as I seem to need a lot more fluids these days. The later start, 10:30am, which allowed all the sport course athletes to get off the course before our start, something that benefited everyone, but would mean a warmer race.
I would take time in transition to make sure I had the right amount of fuel to just get me through the race. I regretted not packing a hydration pack and hoped bottles alone would get me to the finish line.
After setting up transition getting in a quick warmup in I headed back to the room, to fill my bottles, which I had forgot and to fill Torin’s bottles (no photo needed!)
The water temperature was super refreshing compared to last year. Pros had our own wave and I was sandwiched between Conrad and Branden with Shonny right behind me at the start. I felt somewhat intimidated, oh well.
About halfway through the 1-lap 1500-meter swim I made the wise decision to drop onto the feet of another swimmer rather than trying to swim faster than them and staying beside them. We weren’t swimming the best line and I was in a familiar place, leading the second pack of swimmers. I came out of the water higher than I anticipated and well in the top 10.
During the bike leg I would try to just race my own race go hard but not take any risks. It wasn’t worth it because I wasn’t really in shape yet or used to riding a mountain bike. It had been a while for sure.
I did ride while I was pregnant but certainly took it easy, especially on the descents and walked most technical sections where there was any risk whatsoever. I had to remember to not sit completely upright on my bike as I was able to pedal without hitting my belly now. It would help me get up the steep rocky climbs and help with riding into a headwind.
I guess it was super windy out there. It’s funny, I vaguely remember it being windy, but more so, I remember my ties getting blown off my bike number, so I guess it was windy.
Although the course was the same as last year, it was a lot dryer and looser particularly on the corners and therefore less safe. It certainly wasn’t the race to skip taking two seconds to put on the full-fingered gloves.
Like the swim I felt better than anticipated. I got passed by some faster riders, but honestly I didn’t expect to be in front of them after the swim anyway. I was also able to pass a few other girls which kept me in the top 10. Brandi Heisterman was my ‘carrot’ as I was able to keep her insight on the very open course. I was able to catch her by the end of the second loop, she wasn’t having a great day out there.
I was already starting to miss my little guy and couldn’t wait to see him at the finish line, which was great motivation to keep going.
I thought ahead to the run with some trepidation, hence the reason I was wearing a ‘high impact’ sports bra, something I didn’t have to worry about before. I was concerned I would feel like this:
I packed a cooler for T2, who knew how long I was going to be out there for!
Actually before the race I thought about how nice it would be if they had the swim and bike in the morning and saved the run for the afternoon. Not the case, but it was nice to have a cold water bottle and Trigger Point Cool Point waiting for me. This was my 1st time racing with one and it is certainly nice for hot races. I guess it was pretty hot, but again it didn’t bother me too much. I held my own on the run, there didn’t seem to be any other women in site and no one behind me for a ways. I knew I should try to push the pace as there are some fast age group women these days who could easily out split me if I slacked off too much, which was a great motivator when it was too easy to take it easy.
I felt better than expected on the run and tried to be smooth. I loved running in my Salomon S-Lab Senses, the were a great shoe for the loose and rocky terrain. My run split would later show I had work to do. I usually consider downhill running a strength but I’m just not used to it yet.
I tried to push myself further by reminding me how much more painful labor was than the rock jamming into my big toe, but it still hurt. I cheered for almost everyone I crossed paths with on the run and really tried to enjoy being there despite being in the pain cave.
More than anything I tried to appreciate being there and recognizing it was something I choose to do because I enjoy it.
I came across the line in 7th place good enough for some prize money and in the top half of the pro field. I was about 30 seconds behind Kelley Cullen, who also had a baby in 2012. She wasn’t the only new mom either, Laura Harrison also had a baby boy who Torin got to hang out with on the sidelines. Other pro moms who raced included Danelle Kabush (5th) Brandi Heisterman (8th) Caroline Colonna (9th) and Rachel Challis (10th) That’s almost half of the women’s pro field, so I hope that’s inspirational to other moms.
But credit it due to all the women who raced, and particularly to Lesley Paterson who took a sledge hammer to the gender gap by placing 4th overall and out-splitting all but one guy on the run and I’m sure had all of them running scared. She was closer to the men’s winner, Josiah, than the 2nd place woman, Suzie, was to her.
My race was certainly different from last year in so many ways. I placed lower but it was certainly more rewarding to have my little guy waiting for me at the finish line than any podium or prize purse could offer.
Did I feel incredibly different? Not really. I would say my ability to manage suffering seemed better but I also don’t think I was fit enough to put myself deep into the pain cave. I also seemed recovered fairly well and to be a lot less sore than previous years. In fact, I was more sore from paddle boarding the day after!
Although a lot of the athlete moms out there make getting back to racing ‘look’ easy, it is certainly just that. What is too easy is to write off a pregnant athlete and then if she does have good results when she returns credit it to ‘mommy hormones,’ like you basically can sit around and then show up at a race and be fast after having a kid. It’d be nice if there was a happy medium between those with the opinion that having a kid is the female equivalent to EPO and people you have to convince a gazillion times that you are going to continue racing competitively.
Things will continue to change as I figure out the balance of motherhood and racing, but it’s certainly a challenge I am forever grateful for.
Thanks for reading,