XTERRA World Championships Race Report

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Photo by Jesse Peters/XTERRA

The XTERRA World Championships in Kapalua on Nov 1st was the final race in my 2015 season. Traveling to Maui every October has become a tradition for my family since 2006. This would be my 10th time going although I did not compete in 2012 when I was pregnant. It is such a treat to enjoy the warm weather and the ocean in Maui this time of year as we wait for winter in Utah.

It is the reward for a season of training, in a way the icing on a cake, or perhaps the entire cake itself and I am never one to have a small piece. The ingredients being all the things you put into a season; the training, the consistency, the balance, the rest, the endless little things I do in an attempt to be faster each year and the right ratios of each ingredient.

I saw an opportunity to be on the podium this year and had a sense of urgency to do so.  An opportunity that might not come around again. I know far too well what a missed opportunity feels like, a missed shot on goal, but I have faith that with persistence one will go in. So that was my big goal, and a realistic one. Contrary to popular opinion, I was not racing for 3rd or 2nd, I was racing for 1st. Even if it was delusional and the odds stacked against me, I believe in beating the odds.

Truth be told, I have often fallen short of my goals. For the past two years I have had nine 2nd place finishes when I wanted to win. I placed 4th and 5th at two world championships when my goal was to be on the podium. At Maui in 2014 I fell just 23 seconds short of the top 3. I figure falling short of my goals is better than not setting them high enough in the first place. I’ve found that falling short motivates me to work harder and make changes more so than winning. Wanting to do better is perhaps the reason I have improved each year since 2006. 31st, 21st, 13th, 11th, 10th, 8th, 5th, 4th to be exact.

My win at XTERRA USA Championships and the USA Pro Series was the monkey off my back and made me excited and more appreciative to race in Maui and see how I did against the best in the world.

Statistically, winning was a long shot but I’m a believer in anything can happen out there, especially in XTERRA where there are so many variables. All eyes were on Flora and Lesley for the win and rightly so, both having multiple World titles to their names in Cross Triathlon and XTERRA. On top of that Flora was first out of the water and off the bike at the ITU final this year and Lesley also crushes it in pro mountain biking when healthy. There was also plenty of other capable women out there that were hungry for the podium.

I chose to focus on my strengths and advantages. Coming into the race I believed I had a lot of time to prepare specifically for XTERRA and missed no time with injures for which I am very fortunate. Sure I don’t have that ITU pedigree but I do have the power to kiss owies better – magic! Speaking of injuries, there were far too many this year for the XTERRA women. Two key players, Barbara Riveros and Suzie Snyder would be on the sidelines, literally, at Worlds and more who stayed home.


Simply put, I go uphill a lot to train for XTERRA. Most important races, nationals and worlds, have a lot of elevation gain approx 4000’ ft in about 26 miles. I done about 3x that a week most weeks, mostly on my mountain bike. I also do whatever Josiah tells me to do and have confidence in his training plans.

It took me until June to start feeling strong climbing. competing in the GoPro Games in early June this year gave me a head start on my hill repeats and such.

Before nationals I started doing less volume, making sure I got enough recovery so I could get the most rewards for my VO2 Max efforts. Living at altitude I find I have to really make sure I get enough recovery so I can get my heart rate or pace up high enough.

My improvements and consistent training during the season gave me confidence. I was stronger in the pool and had swam times faster than before. What I swim one 100 at last year, I could now swim 10 or more. Funny, I had no intention of running faster this season as I felt the biggest improvements could be made in my bike and swim but my run probably improved the most. I will take it. My run speedwork was also more consistent. I was running times similar to what I ran in college at a lower elevation. Also doing some technical mountain running races this year I got a lot stronger running uphill and down. Then there’s also getting the job done when my pace was slow and body tired that is also so critical.

Getting ready for Maui also requires some heat adaptation, especially when living in the cool mountains. Doing some indoor training, wearing more layers while training and also more layers everyday to get used to being warmer were the main things I did. I also sat in the in the sauna a few times. I also think doing a number of races in the heat during the season helps and the more I race in heat the more used to it I get. Especially racing in Costa Rica this year, everything feels cool compared to that!

Life is good on Maui

Life is good on Maui

I arrived in Maui 10 days before the race to help with heat adaptation, get familiar with the course, ocean swimming and well, be in Maui. It also gives me a few days before race week that is getting busier and busier each year with obligations.

Race Week

We saw the surf pick and rain move in race week that had competitors stress. This has become something I expect since the course moved to location in 2011. The difference this year is West Maui had had consistent rain so there was a lot of lush green undergrowth on the trails. The bike and run course looked very different due to overhead elephant grass.

swimming with Branden and Josiah. Photo by Jesse Peters

swimming with Branden and Josiah. Photo by Jesse Peters

Tuesday was the first time we swam at D.T. Fleming Beach and it was stormy out. Lots of waves, currents and lots of chop but good practice and glad we all made it to shore safely with a bit of body surfing!

Photo by Jesse Peters

Photo by Jesse Peters

Wednesday was the first day to preride the whole course because it was on private land and it needed to be cleared.  Heavy rain overnight the course was very saturated. I stuck with my original plan to preride and headed out with a group of pro men including Josiah, Ben, Mauricio, and Branden. It wasn’t until we got past ‘Razor Ridge’ that we realized how muddy it was and perhaps regretted getting that far out and potentially doing damage to our bikes because of the mud. The clay-like mud made the already steep hills even harder to get up, the upside was it was not hot out. We were out there for 3 hours (much less in riding time) to get through the 20 mile bike course as we were constantly removing clumps of mud from our gear. There is always a trade off in XTERRA with course familiarization and tapering race week. The thing also with the Maui course it it is impossible to take it easy out there the reason I rarely ride the whole course in one ride.

After hours of cleaning and de-grassing my bike, I was riding my Specialized S-Works Fate, I took it to Krank Cycles at the expo and had my friend Chris Styler go over everything post mud. I had confidence the course would dry by Sunday so left on my fast rolling tires.

Up until Wednesday afternoon I felt great and hitting good times in training. I then started feeling tired from the preride as my prerace nerves kicked in. I backed off training the 3 days before the race. Friday started having some cold symptoms, which always feels strange in a hot environment. Although I have been much healthier this season I was sick for a couple of races. It was mentally it is challenging to stay confident but I have figured out how to get the job done regardless. I switched my focus to what I want vs. how I feel and not let some snot get in the way of my goals. Even when I am healthy I rarely feel great the days leading up to the race so what’s the difference?

1610744_10207082932664792_4133313646595064447_nParenting and Racing

Then there is the Torin factor. He will be 3 in December. He is crazy and very active with lots of requests and consequent tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. We are potty training, which requires more focus than a triathlon. Despite these things he is a ton of fun. I loved swimming with him in the ocean and showing him the turtles. Torin got a big kick out of telling the turtles to stick their heads out of the water and them sticking their heads out of the water. A turtle charmer indeed. We also built sandcastles and took him boogie boarding. All part of my taper :)

Another upside was he was sleeping so much better this year in his ‘room’ under the stairs at our condo. I had a lot of help race week with my parents and Ian coming to support. I cannot thank them enough for the load the take on race week, and it has got harder each year. I felt the need to relieve them after my training and prerace obligations were met for the day.

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Race week flew by, and time and spare time was filled with press conference, race clinics, pro meeting, and interviews.  I am happy to do these things to give back to my sponsors, help other athletes and give XTERRA a bit more press. I also made time for some massages from Todd Plymale-Mallory and a couple of opportunities to put my legs in Normatec boots.

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The day before the race I did an easy spin on the road with some short intervals I swam part of the swim course where I met up with a junior racer from Utah, Kobee. Always great to meet juniors excited about the sport. The water was calmer than usual with very little current and likely to stay that way.

I watched my parents compete in the 10k trail run. My mum really had to get out of her comfort zone to do this race so I admire her for doing so, along with my father who overcame a lot of health issues this summer and finished 2nd in his age group.

Hydration and Nutrition

Hydrating for this race starts days before. Minimizing time in the sun and always having a drink or water bottle on hand, and rarely just water, usually with an GU electrolyte tab in it. I probably had a GU Recovery Drink every day I was in Maui, seemed like good way to get calories in when it was hot out.

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My breakfast race morning was cold oats I had soaked in water the night before with some Nutella and soy milk I ate three hours before the race start. I also made sure to drink a bottle of GU Drink Mix before the race and had a hydration pack filled with 40 ounces of ice and two GU Drink packets. I also had 3 GUs on my bike, 2 salted caramel and vanilla spice to be exact. 440 calories during the race. I got asked about extra salt, I did not take any as the drink mix has additional sodium in it. I would also have a GU 30 minutes before the start. A hydration pack is great because I can drink constantly and never forget to drink. My GUs are taped to my top tube so they are a constant reminder. I did not wear a watch during the race so I picked areas on the course to take them. The first on Razor Ridge (GU with a view) the 2nd on the top of the next big climb and the last before the last 5 miles of singletrack. I would pick up a water bottle on the bike at the first aid station at mile 6 and another at mile 13. Once I got on the run I would drink as I felt necessary but most of the water was to cool off with. The nice thing about XTERRA and nutrition is if it doesn’t go exactly as planned it’s ok, but it does make a big difference, particularly with run performance.

Race day!

I actually slept some the night before and woke up much earlier than my alarm as I was excited to get out there although even though I was not 100 percent healthy. Torin is in the ‘only liking one parent at a time’ stage so I got a nice ‘I don’t like mommy’ as he sat with me at breakfast. Daddy had earned some serious parent points with trick-or-treating the night before and the previous day’s submarine adventure. This would soon change when I was out on the race course when all of a sudden he needed mommy and mommy was, well, busy.

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I rode to the start from our condo and as per usual got passed by a lot of other racers. I still can’t win the warmup. I set up transition, rode a bit more, ran, went down to the swim start and had time a swim warm up for a change. Getting in the water always makes me feel SO much better and awake race morning. As expected the waves were calm for D.T. Fleming standards.

The race was the 20th XTERRA World Championships and part of the celebration included the legends division. They would start with the pro men and women. This season in the US the pro men and women have been racing separate waves. There are fewer people in each wave it meant a lot more time swimming solo and what I believe leads to slower times and working harder. I was happy to be back with the men, it makes it more exciting having more people to swim with. Starting with the mean also gives the pro women an additional minute before the age group race, 5 to be exact.

The Legends division was a great addition and so cool to see so many come back and race ‘for fun.’ A lot raced in their original gear from the years they won – so cool! It also seems appropriate to not be competing against the serious pros or potentially taking age group medals away. To be honest I was quite envious of this division, hopefully they all celebrated Halloween the night before in Lahaina. I would find out during the race they would provide great company on the race course.

The Swim





I positioned myself on the sand at the start beside Lesley and Jacqui, ideally keeping up with Jacqui who has always been faster than me in the water. It always seems forever for the canon to blast and it is difficult to hear any announcements by the water’s edge.

It went off and were side by side for the first 100 meters and then when the pack merged I seemed to lose track of the pink caps among the blue and now orange (legends.) I was wearing by Blue Seventy Point Zero 3 Speedsuit and Element goggles over my custom Champion System elite trisuit (black on white polka dots for the curious, better in the heat.)

Swimming in salt water at sea level feels so much easier than fresh water at altitude and the pace felt civilized. I started to pass some other swimmers and ended up swimming most of the swim with another pro man and a ‘legend’ or two. The 1500 meter swim was an M shape with a short beach run in the middle of the M. Coming back in the water I managed to have one of the few waves there were that day break on me hold in place for a couple of seconds, I don’t know how I did not see it!

Photo by Jesse Peters

Photo by Jesse Peters

A couple times I tried to break away from my little group but was unsuccessful. I came out of the water in 5th, with one legend in the mix, Julie Dibens, and about 3:30 from the lead. Ideally I was hoping to be 2 min back but was closer than last year. In so many ways my race was better than last year and I was aware of this as it progressed and it got me in a good place. Sleep the night before, no water in the goggles, already in 4th place.

The Bike

I headed up the hill from T1. When some pro men who are usually in front passed me saying ‘great swim!’ Giving me confidence I was off to a good start.


I passed Julie and Jacqui by mile 2 but got passed by Lesley. In an ideal race I would hang onto Lesley’s wheel and get to the front of the race but I could not match her pace or effort. She was going for it and I felt I was in one gear. I focused on my pace and stuck with the guys around me.

Unlike previous years I was really noticing the heat right away on the bike. The first four miles of the bike was the steepest and most sustained climbing with a few short downhills to break it up. Some new trail had stretched out this part of the course but with the same elevation gain. The dirt was mostly tacky and my Fast Trak tires were a great match.

Photos can be deceiving as we looked muddy, but there were only a few muddy sections, but they were certainly muddy! The first one around mile 4. There was a big debate in Josiah and my Mountain Bike Clinic, to the side or through the middle, I went slightly to the left and made it though fine.

Heading up to Razor Ridge I could feel the sun burning my skin and it was early still so I knew it would be a hot day. I cleared a few tricky spots, a steep narrow descent and awkward turns. and was going back and forth with a pro man who was making a lot of mistakes, like falling off the side of the trail clipped in and trying to mount his bike in front of me.

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Photo by Jesse Peters

I grabbed a water bottle from the first aid station at mile 6 and used it to cool off before the first long descent. I regretted not wearing gloves as my hands were slipping on my bars. I use very sticky grips but today the humidity was winning. A few guys passed, one was nice enough to say ‘get on my wheel!’ Unfortunately it didn’t happen. The high speed descents were where I lost the most time on this course, I’d had a close call preriding so was riding cautiously. On the next long climb I made up some time lost. Again I cooled off by spraying water over me. I saw Dan out there and it was great to get some splits and encouragement.

After cresting the top of the climb we headed down some switchback turns, the first one with a nice bank on it so I went wide, only to have another rider try to pass me on the inside and crash into me. I was so lucky to not be taken down with him.

The race has grown to 800 racers so there are always people around, at least where I am at in the race.  I try to be super aware of other people especially on the descents. The downside is other riders can potentially slow you down or crash into you as I found out. The positive side is having other people around can make you go faster. Technically speaking it was a clean ride for me, I clipped my handlebars once and put a foot down but recovered quickly.

At the bottom of this long descent I got caught by Jacqui. Although this meant I was in 4th rather than 3rd it was nice to have another woman around. It pushed me on the next part of the course where it is easy to lose focus. Funny, Jacqui has caught me in the same spot the past 3 times here. There were so many other guys around it was hard to keep contact but we managed to do so for the most part and went back and forth. The aid station at mile 13 was a big relief, Ian and Torin were there and cooled me off with some cold water. I also took another bottle from the neutral aid station.

This next section was longer than last year. When I got to the singletrack, the last 4 miles, Jacqui was back on my wheel and let me know Carina was not far back. I enjoyed riding this last section and it certainly has more flow than previous years as the trails get more use. My riding has improved when it comes to cornering and I kept my focus and pushed hard on the short uphill sections. It was a relief to hit the cart path and head to T2. I was in 3rd but assumed there were a lot of girls close behind, including some fast runners.

Photo by Richard Garrard

Photo by Richard Garrard

As I switched to run gear I did hear the announcement Josiah had taken the lead which was so awesome to hear, even if it did cost me couple of seconds in T2. I wanted Josiah to win more than I did.

I was racing in my Salomon Pro Sonic shoes, more of a racing flat with some tread, as light as my S-Lab Sense but great cushion. I had the fastest run split at nationals with them so I figured they would do the job here.

Photo by Richard Garrard

Photo by Richard Garrard

I exited transition and got splits letting me know 1st and 2nd were far in front and the race would now be for 3rd. I cooled off with some ice and headed back up the hill mimicking the start of the bike course. The first mile off the bike is always challenging in triathlons but even harder in XTERRA when it is uphill. This is another big thing I do in training and so far I was feeling better than usual. One by one I was catching guys. I expected to be overheating but all the extra vegetation this year provided shade.

I reminded myself to stay focused, keep pushing and keep catching runners ahead of me. I was still far off of first, but was gaining time on Lesley in 2nd, letting me know I was running well. I still had no idea who was in 4th and how far back they were so I was running scared, not wanting 3rd taken from me. At one point a volunteer told me I was 4th adding to my uncertainty.

Photo by Richard Garrard

Photo by Richard Garrard

With the new trails built the course was longer to the high point on the course. The the course rolls downhill with a lot of logs to duck under or hop over. I love this section, the obstacles keep it interesting and I love running downhill fast. I’m not one to cramp, but every obstacle I found my hamstrings tightening up. It felt like a maze with the tall elephant grass and with so many turns hard to see other runners. I was able to run the whole course except one short section that is so steep I use my hands at about mile 5 that led to a steep asphalt road. At this point I felt I had that podium spot and calm sense of satisfaction I would actually achieve my goal. The race was not over yet, but the top of that road before getting back on the trail is the point where all the hard work is done, for the race and for the season. The last mile cruises downhill on a trail with some switchbacks, across a dry creek bed, across the beach and toward the finish. When I ran onto the beach I managed to hook my foot on a root growing in the sand giving me another good cramp, luckily the finish was near.

Photo by Richard Garrard

Photo by Richard Garrard

I assumed I had 3rd locked but I wanted to make sure so I asked a volunteer on the beach how far back 4th was.

100 yards


Maybe he meant 100 yards to the finish? Or to the last guy I passed? I looked behind and could not see another woman but it is hard to tell with a lot of people on the beach.

As I turned the last corner and onto the grass I asked my mum the same question and she replied, ‘She’s on the beach!’

So I ran pretty hard that last 100 yards. Ian was close to the finish dangling Torin over barrier. This has become quite a tradition and I am so impressed they always make it to the finish in time. I grabbed Torin. He is plenty capable of running himself, but running in the right direction is another story, so I kept him in my arms until I crossed the line.  At that point I really couldn’t hold him any longer as my legs were done! 4th place would come across the line 4 min later, so an unnecessary panic but better than the alternative.

Proof the race is more stress on the support team :)

Proof the race is more stress on the support team :)

I soon was embraced by Ian and my parents who shared my  joy and relief. The icy cold towel on my back felt amazing. Torin was fussy but it was a long day for him and he was nearing nap time. I congratulated other athletes including  Flora and Josiah on their wins and Lesley for really going for it, putting it all out there on the bike and making it an exciting race. Flora had the fastest swim split, Lesley had the fastest bike and I ended up having the fastest run split, although being consistent in all 3 was what got us in the podium.


This year was the most satisfied I have felt after the race. My best finish in the age group race here was 4th overall so I’m ok with 3rd in the pro race. I got a big piece of the cake. The past couple of months have been some of the best ever and made decades of work and perseverance seem worthwhile. For the moment I have lost my fear of falling short of my goals and want to risk more to potentially achieve more next time. I am excited for what the future holds in racing and in life.


I cannot thank my family enough, for the help they have given me on a daily basis. The days off of work to come to my races to support and look after Torin. Josiah for coaching and being a great role model as an athlete and a parent. My friend Gene Murrieta who got me started in XTERRA and made the trip from Nevada to watch the race again this year. Renata, for not just being an great ambassador for XTERRA but for all those training sessions she pushed me, doing laps around me on the bike that helped me get faster.


My sponsors Specialized, GU, Salomon, Champion System, Blue Seventy, Probar, Suunto and Backcountry.com for their continued support. Jesse Hoffman of White Pine Touring for being a thorough and trusted mechanic in Park City, Melanie at Jupiter Mountain Massage for always fitting me in, Marlene Hatch for preventing those niggles from becoming injuries. The kids at Park City Nordic for their youthful enthusiasm that is contagious. So many other people who have helped and inspired along the way. To all the kind words and encouragement and everyone who make XTERRA what it is.



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My Halloween costume, I found another pineapple at the party!


More media and videos: Slowtwitch article

KSL article

Triathlete Magazine Prerace Interview

XTERRA Highlight video

XTERRA Mountain Bike Clinic with Josiah

XTERRA Interview

Post ride down Haleakala

Press Conference

Middaugh Coaching Interview

Preride helmet cam footage

Other race reports on dirttri.com


XTERRA Costa Rica, a Pura Vida race!

IMG_0215XTERRA Costa Rica in on March 29th, marked the start of my 2015 triathlon season. The race was a good excuse to take the family to a warmer climate and get a race under my belt before the US XTERRA Pro series begins in April. It was also an opportunity to race in hot humid conditions similar, in fact hotter, than in Maui, where the XTERRA World Championships are Nov. 1st.


The race organizers, Sergio and Krista were incredibly accommodating which set the tone for the trip even before we set foot in the country. It was the first time for all of us going to Central America and we found traveling there quite easy, even with a bike, baby, stroller etc. Torin had his own airplane seat for the 1st time, which came at a hefty price but made travel much more comfortable. We had a 3-hour flight to Houston and another 3:30 flight to Liberia, where Sergio gave us a ride to the venue.  Traveling to Liberia was more expensive but worth skipping the 4 hour shuttle from San Jose. We also stayed in the same time zone as Park City, which makes it easier for a toddler to stay on a schedule.

Playa Conchal

Playa Conchal

Costa Rica in a ‘Sea’ shell

We felt very safe in Costa Rica and the people were incredibly warm, especially with a toddler. Although traveling with a little person is challenging, it’s also a great icebreaker with the locals, or Ticos in Costa Rica, as the majority seemed to love kids. The first night in our hotel the manager picked up Torin a huge unsolicited hug complete with cheek on cheek squeeze, before we could figure out how to say in Spanish, ‘you might not want to do that as he’s got a wicked cough.’ Just a fair warning, toddlers in daycare are sick 110 percent of the time.

2015-03-26 13.11.16Getting by speaking minimal Spanish is easy and most restaurants we went to had English and Spanish on the menus. Costa Rica is very accommodating to US travelers, most restaurants, grocery stores, street/beach vendors take US dollars (although it will cost more) and most even gave us our change in local currency, Colones (if we asked.) Credit cards are widely accepted (although I’d prefer to use cash in most situations) and ATM were few and far between where we were.

There are a lot of affordable mom and pop or ‘boutique’ accommodations that were nice to see vs. a lot of Hawaii where there are tons of chain hotels, restaurants and stores. The closest town to the venue, Brasilito, had about 10 restaurants, most of which were small and called ‘Sodas.’ Prices, and I’m sure we were paying Gringo prices, were close to what we pay eating out in the US. The $20 beach massages, anytime all-day, outside the host resort, Reserva Conchal were certainly the best deal we found in town.

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Food is relatively simple but fresh and healthy. The four food groups are: Rice, beans, plantains and fish, which you could eat at any meal. We quite liked eating rice and beans expecially with salsa lizano, for breakfast (usually with a side of eggs also.) According to Ian, Imperial is the better of the main domestic brews, but I would not know.

The pool at the Reserva Conchal Resort was a hit!

The pool at the Reserva Conchal Resort was a hit!

We did not have issues drinking the tap water and even the budget hotel we stayed in the first night had AC. I was also under the impression we’d see a lot of Americans living and owning businesses, but we saw little of that. Sure at the high end Reserva Conchal Resort catered to foreign travelers, but the there was also a lot of Costa Ricans as well. Finding a Wifi connection in general was easier than the states.

We stayed on the Northern Pacific side, the drier side of the country and March is during the dry season, and it sure was dry as most of the trees lose their leaves this time of year. There were palm trees and plenty of coconut water to drink! But there were also cacti. I was anticipating heat but not 10 degrees hotter than Maui.

2015-03-28 10.26.21Race Preparation

Due to less snow in Park City this year I was able to ride outside more than usual, that being said, I did one intensity session on the bike outdoors and 1 set of running intervals on the treadmill. Overall I was happy with my base coming starting the season. However, I anticipated being in a world of hurt during the race, especially with the 100 degree heat and the effort it took to pre-ride the course. There was a lot more climbing than I had anticipated and although there were some fast road sections, most of the course was very loose whether it be sand, dirt or lava rock.

On top of the last climb of the course

On top of the last climb of the course

Racing in the heat is not something I take lightly and overheating in a race is something I try to avoid at all costs, even if it means spending more time in transition or carrying more weight as fluids.

I made sure to stay hydrated and electroyted (I am making that a word) in the days leading up to the race and tried to stay cool, although I did spend a fair amount of time in the heat thanks to a toddler who wants to ‘go in the pool’ 8 hours a day.

I’ll admit I went a bit overboard with my T2 cool down cooler. It contained: Frozen bottle of Coke, Frozen bottle of water, Frozen hat and Bag of ice. I’d also carry about 60 oz of GU Brew in a hydration pack on the bike along with a frozen water bottle I would us to cool off.

Race Day

It’s rarely a 1st first race of the season without forgetting something important. I had a stressful day pre race figuring out how my bike’s dust cap disappeared sometime during transport. Then on the morning of the race I forgot my timing chip and spent my warm up time getting a new one and making it to the start with just minutes to spare.

IMG_0211Due to the heat, the race started at an early 6:45am. The swim was two laps in the ocean at Playa Conchal. A rarity in XTERRA, the pro women had their own wave a couple minutes after the men. This meant it would be a lonely swim. Super swimmers Sarah and Christine would be way out the front and Lesley with a bum shoulder would be behind me. Swimming solo makes the swim makes the swim longer, but this one seemed exceptionally long, I had to look at my watch between laps. Based on my time, I’m really hoping that was a long 1500 meters. I came out 5:30 minutes off the lead and 4:30 off 2nd.


photo by pongale.cr

I transitioned to the bike and headed down to the beach. I was racing on my Specialized S-Works Fate with Fast Trak tires, a 2.2 front and 2.0 rear and low tire pressure for the sand, about 20 psi. The first mile was in deep sand so it was a challenge to keep the wheels rolling and not sink. I missed the memo about duct taping my bike shoes and they soon filled with sand when the sand got so soft I had to dismount to run.

Just when I thought it would be nice time for a drink I realized I’d left my hydration pack in T1. It took me a few minutes to decide whether to go back or keep going. I’d felt I’d gone too far at this point to turn around and kept going, trying to come up with a hydration plan B. Luckily I did have some water on my bike and 3 GUs, but was very concerned about a total meltdown.

After the first mile on sand there was a huge, steep and loose climb followed by a technical downhill with a mandatory hike-a-bike section that took us to a remote beach where we rode through the sand again. This was the highlight of the race because I could hear howler monkeys! I had also made my way into first, which is a good feeling.

Due the early morning there was a fair amount of shade. It was bit lonely out there and I kept a close eye on the dirt looking for tire tracks to make sure I was going the right way. It was a long way to the first aid station but it was a relief to get there before my water ran out. I stopped to fill up my water bottle as there were only cups absolutely worth the seconds lost, but still could only take in half the fluid I had planned on drinking during the race.

Going away from the coast there was a lot of fast dirt road sections but also an energy zapping loose lava rock section where balance became key. Then the course lead us to more dry forest sections where there were a ton of ‘death vines.’ While preriding, another pro Alex Modesto got caught in one and managed to take me down with him, luckily we were both ok but it was reason enough for me to avoid them in the race.


photo by pongale.cr

It was great to see my family out on the course and it looked and felt like I had a big lead, although I certainly thought Lesley could potentially make up lost time on the swim during the bike. I rode hard but perhaps not with a sense of urgency. It was a long bike about 20 miles, but it seemed much easier than during the preride. There was about 1100 feet of climbing total, although it seemed like more because so much of the climbing was lose dirt or rocks.

Coming into T2 I was told Lesley was not racing, so I took a few seconds to sort through my frozen goodies, only to realize the contrary as I headed out of transition, Lesley was speeding in.

The run started on the road and uphill but quickly turned to dirt and back into the forest where the shade was welcoming. I was happy to be dancing around the roots in my brand new Salomon S-Lab Senses although I struggled to have a quick turnover off the bike. I did however, manage to survive the race without a blister! I knew it would be challenging to hold off Lesley, at about 3-4k into the race she made the pass and I could not match her pace. From the forest we went back down to the beach where I felt like I was running in place in the deep soft sand and a more direct sun beating down even though it was still early. What made it bearable was knowing how close I was to the finish where I crossed in 2nd place, 90 seconds off the lead.


photo by pongale.cr


photo by pongale.cr

Congrats to Lesley for the gritty win with what turned out to be a fractured shoulder (don’t try that at home kids.) I hope her recovery is quick as she is in killer form at the moment.

Post Race

The best part about the 6:45am race start was we still had time to hit up the breakfast buffet at the Reserva Conchal Resort and pool post race. I also had most of the day to spend with the family, that is if they didn’t take a monster nap, race support is a tough job!

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We spent the afternoon exploring up the coast, found a hidden gelato gem and a beach with more hermit crabs than I’ve ever seen before in my life.

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We had high expectations for wildlife and it didn’t disappoint. We did not have to look to hard to see animals, if fact we were practically tripping over them. Monkeys, coatis, iguanas, and birds are everywhere. Disappointed I did not get to cuddle a sloth so I will have to go back!

If you didn't know what a coati is...

If you didn’t know what a coati is…

Howler monkey demonstrates the functionality of a tail

Howler monkey demonstrates the functionality of a tail

I knew the country was big, but it took even longer to travel around Guanacaste than I anticipated due to most of the roads being two lane and windy. Most roads did not have shoulders and had a fair amount of car traffic but also a lot of locals rode bikes, almost always without a helmet and no lights at night and frequently with a child sitting on the top tube. It took a long time to get from the beach to the volcano or rainforest, so I’d suggest moving hotels when exploring different parts of the country.



We had a few extra days in to Costa Rica do some more tourist activities and beach time. We made it to the rain forest where we saw tons more birds.,I did see a toucan, although no queztal. I may not have won the race, but I am sure to win my next game of Scrabble with that word.


1st At XTERRA England!

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It’s been a goal to win an XTERRA Championship race, even before placing 2nd at all of the US Championship races so far this season. There’s a lot of hype about overnight success, and I’ve seen my fair share of it in XTERRA, but it has not been that way for me.

I have raced more than 50 XTERRA races and gradually worked my way to the top of the podium. That being said I feel grateful to continue to improve despite some major obstacles and lifestyle changes, and my steady improvement is a big reason I am still racing.

But I’ve certainly been haunted by the fact I haven’t made it to the top of the podium this season and often questioned whether it’s possible in my current situation and skill set.


August 23rd I achieved my goal at XTERRA England. I grabbed the finish ribbon for the 1st time, with one hand because the other was holding my 20-month old son. The victory was certainly worth the wait, and what made it sweeter was having a lot of family in the crowd, four generations to be exact. There’s no doubt family support aided me in this victory, both at this race and since I started racing XTERRA 8 years ago.

The race was held at Vachary Estates in Surrey, most of my family lives in West Sussex, the next-door county. I flew over with Ian and our son Torin, we were in the Czech Republic and Germany the weekend before for the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships. It’s still debatable whether the trip was a European vacation with a few races on the side or vice-versa. Either way, anyone who travels with two bikes and a toddler deserves a gold medal, even if it’s not in a race. In fact the toddler deserves a gold medal as well because jet lag can be pretty brutal when you are that age. A big highlight of the trip was Torin getting the meet his Great Grandma for the first time along with many others I will save for another post.

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I was not the only one in my family racing, my brother Ross, dad and cousin Nikki also raced in a sprint relay. Ross and Nikki were participating in their first triathlon and sounds like it won’t be their last!

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The swim was in a spring fed lake, the water cold enough for wetsuits and the lake long enough for a single out-and-back loop. After doing a lot of double loop swims it seemed a long way out! I was pleased to be 3rd out of the water behind Chantell Widney, we were about 1 minute behind Jacqui Slack.

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The bike course was two eight mile loops with tons of turns, bridges, dips, and logs. There were also plenty of open grassy fields with room to pass other competitors. It was also spectator friendly as it came in and out of the expo/transition area. The course by no means suited my strengths, I am better with some climbing, but it was a great and fun XTERRA course. One where experience and skills on a mountain bike pay off but at the same time do not put inexperienced riders at too much risk. So much work went into getting this course race ready by volunteers and race organizers and they did a great job of marking it and building trail specifically for the race.

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By the end of the 1st lap I had made my way to 1st but Chantell was still close behind and Helena Erbenova was gaining on me. I figured If I wasn’t going to win the race I may as well win the race for as long as I could. By the 2nd lap Helena closed the gap with Chantell on her wheel but did not make the pass, which meant I was doing more work but also controlling the race to some degree. I was probably the only pro who wore a hydration pack, but it allowed me to really hammer the grassy sections, which were actually quite bumpy so I didn’t want to be fumbling with a water bottle.  My legs were starting to feel fatigued from pushing big gears, both intentionally and not from all the twists and turns. I was hoping I’d packed my running legs today as in the last two XTERRA races my run was not what I’d wanted it to be based on my running in training and run-only races.

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Helena ran out of transition in front of me and I made the pass right away my legs felt good from the get go which is unusual for me. Helena passed me back during the 1st ditch crossing when I gingerly walked across a log and Helena jumped the 6-foot gap, I certainly lack some confidence in my long jumping skills! I got in the lead again and did my best not to look back. The run course was also two loops with lots of obstacles as well, some that favored the vertically challenged, others not so much.

The 2nd ditch crossing

The 2nd ditch crossing

We had some faster grass sections. I wore my Suunto Ambit for this race and it was a nice way to tell if I was running each lap consistently and a motivator to run a faster mile pace. And also a comforter, if I couldn’t win the race running x pace so be it. Turns out I ran the fastest run split and only two pro men ran faster than me.


I was so happy to run down the finish chute in 1st surrounded by my family. I spent most of my childhood summers running around the woods in the South of England and I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since then but turns out I still like running around in the woods…along with some biking and swimming.

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Helena came in 2nd and Chantell 3rd, making the podium a mom-sweep, which doesn’t happen very often in professional triathlon. I’m also glad it was a battle, it’s always more exciting for everyone regardless of whether or not you come out on top.

I can think of only 3 other moms who have won XTERRA Championship races, Helena, Chantell, and Danelle Kabush so I am honored to be in good company. I can only think of two  moms who have won triathlon world championships, Helena who won the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships in 2013 and Natasha Badmann who is one of the most successful Iron-distance athletes ever. I’d love to hear about more if you know of any. Why there are not more is an interesting topic for discussion as there are so many fit and fast moms out there.  Until things change, I will do my best to make this happen more frequently.

A big thanks to my family and sponsors, Torin for taking a nap so I can finish this race report. Next up I will be racing XTERRA USA Champs in Ogden Sept. 20th.



Miss Emma’s XTERRA Southeast Championship Race Report


It took about five minute in the South before being called “Miss Emma.”

After a plane flight solo with my son on my lap, which is almost always synonymous with starving and having to pee (or worse getting peed on), I was happy to be greeted with a slice Southern Hospitality. It started as I was waiting to deplane when the woman sitting next to me offered to hold Torin while I searched for runaway cars and baby bottles. This was followed by a much needed restroom with changing table and some airport food.

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My experiences in the south have always been pleasurable and the reason I keep coming back, and now bring my family. One thing I love about racing triathlons is it takes you places you might not necessarily go to otherwise and discover they are not what you expect…in a good way.

To start with, I never thought of Alabama as a mountain bike destination but they’ve certainly built some world-class singletrack making Oak Mountain State Park one of the best XTERRA venues in the country.

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What makes the venue great is the abundance of trails are technically challenging and fun to ride, lots of trees for shade and a lake to cool off in. That being said the course does not suit my strengths or experience. I have never placed higher than 5th and I’ve done the race since 2009. Although racing when I was 10 weeks pregnant and 5 months postpartum didn’t help matters.

This year I’d come off a productive and healthy block of training in cold weather and was excited to go to the hot and humid South, only to find I packed the conditions and brought them with me! The weather race week certainly through us for a loop, we had not packed for the cooler temperatures.

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I was lucky to have my parents meet me at Atlanta Airport, as it coincided with their trip to visit friends. They helped me navigate to car rentals in the world’s busiest airport – literally.


We stayed in Midtown Altanta one night and enjoyed checking out Piedmont Park. The next day my mum and I drove to Pelham, Alabama, about a three-hour drive.

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Race Day

Temperatures had cooled the water off enough it was a wetsuit swim for everyone. For me it meant I was swimming in my brand new Blue Seventy Helix.

DSC_0155Not long after the gun went off the first thought I had was “Swimming at low elevation is SOOO AWESOME!” What wasn’t awesome was my ability to swim in a straight line. At the end of the 1st lap I found the feet of a pro male, which is usually a good thing only he was kicking like a jet ski so I couldn’t seem to breathe or sight. Managed to break away and swim solo to the finish coming out of the water in 4th but close to Suzie in 3rd.



The cooler temperatures made nutrition easier for this race. Rather than wearing a hydration pack, I stuck with one bottle with GU Brew along with three GUs for the bike. I planned on drinking whenever there was an open section of dirt road, which wasn’t too often.

The Bike

I cut an 1.5 inches off my bars to avoid clipping a handlebar on a tree and after flatting in Vegas I was slightly neurotic about it happening here. I ran a thicker tire on the back; Fast Trak Control instead of S-Works and carried 3 CO2s. The course also had a lot more roots and rocks than I remembered and I was riding my Fate; a hard tail. The bonus rain had made parts of the trail, and especially the roots, slick necessitating a low tire pressure, but going too low would increase my chances of flatting.


Riding fast on the road coming out of T1 made me think my rear tire was too low (again being slightly neurotic.) but when I got on singletrack I realized things were ok. The first 5.5 miles were twisty, relatively flat and DARK! Imagine riding at dusk with dark glasses on (mine were clear but it still looked that way.) Turns out there was a huge black cloud overhead I couldn’t see because of the trees, making it double-dark.


There was no one around so I wondered if I’d taken a wrong turn and searched for familiarities on the trail (I should know this trail by now.) I reminded myself I was racing and to go hard. What’s great about this trail is you have to focus on your riding, especially when it’s wet. I had some close calls hitting roots at the wrong angle.

At 5.5 miles I started the one long climb in the race, the one place I could shine. I could now see Suzie and was gaining on her. What wasn’t shining was the sun, in fact the skies opened up and it was pouring! I passed three riders (not racers) who were sheltering under a trailhead markers. Once I passed Suzie she hung on my wheel and we caught Christine Jeffrey before the top of the climb. I was now in 2nd. After some fire road we descended through the feared yet fun Blood Rock and then my favorite section of descending before another much shorter climb, Johnson’s Mountain, where I managed to put a gap on Suzie.


The final 4 miles were flat and twisty again where I tried my best to maintain speed through the turns and accelerate on anything that was straight. Gwenyth has been all about the ‘conscious uncoupling,’ for me, 2014 is all about the conscious breaking. I still, on occasion scolded myself for comfort breaking.


The Run

As I came into T2 I got a split I was just over 5 minutes down from 1st. Undoubtedly a comfortable lead for Flora but anything can happen in a race so I was optimistic. Plus, I still had to hold onto 2nd place with some fast runners behind me so I was going to run as fast as I could. I felt all the accelerating on the bike in my legs for the 1st half-mile on the road but then got into a good turnover and hoped to lessen my deficit. My feet were a bit numb from the cold but soon warmed up.

P1000773The rest of run rolls through the woods singletrack through the trees with a few mud pits to navigate. As I came through the 1st lap I didn’t get any splits, which was mildly discouraging but I tried to stay positive as I felt strong.

DSC_0902I was happy to give a few high fives to kids as I went around the last turn before the finish chute where I saw Torin dangling over the barrier Michael Jackson style (although with much lower consequences) so of course I had to carry him across the finish. It was great to have him back in my arms although the kid was a bit confused, it turned out he had been woken up from his nap for the occasion.

DSC_0041-001I’d run the fastest run split and was 4 something minutes down from Flora, as opposed to the 10 something minutes in Vegas. It felt good to know my training block had paid off! More importantly I felt 100x better during this race than in Vegas. I was also 10 minutes faster than last year on the same course in similar conditions so I was more than happy with being Miss 2nd again…for now.


Women's podium + Torin

Women’s podium + Torin

We may have had to leave the post-race party a bit early because of Torin’s bedtime but he certainly allowed us to have a lot of fun on the trip. I am forever grateful for my own mother coming to the race with me and making it possible for me to race and for Torin to travel with us.

Torin also got his 1st haircut at the Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon!

Torin getting his 1st haircut at the Paul Mitchell Cut-a-thon!

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We got to check out the petting zoo in Oak Mountain State Park, I’ve been to this race so many times and never knew it existed before but certainly is worth it if you have children.


We also got some beach time at the park, I got another ride in on Jeckyll and Hyde, and we got to go the Birmingham Zoo before making the drive back to Altanta and flight back home.

2014-05-18 15.57.56Southern hospitality and singletrack as sweet as the tea made this trip a treat. Miss Emma is a name I could get used to, Miss 2nd on the other hand, I hope doesn’t stick around.

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Racing Smarter


Finishing 2nd at the XTERRA West Championships is my best finish ever in a US Pro Series race. I should feel happier about my result but the race felt like one long argument with my body. It’s funny, sometimes you feel great but the results don’t match and other times you feel like crap but get good results. My experience was certainly the latter.

I was lucky to have this result and believe it was due to being smarter in my preparation and execution when the circumstances were not ideal (not to be confused with being smart, if that were the case I would be doing something else for a career.) If I’ve learned anything from being a parent it are that the situations you face at races, and in life, are rarely ideal but almost always manageable.

Early season races are almost always painful when you come from winterland and The XTERRA West Championships especially painful because it’s hot, exposed and windy. That being said I’ve always felt decent at this race, even last year when I was competing in the Double D Division. This should really be a division, I bet it would be most watched. Hey, whatever it takes to get people to pay more attention to women’s athletics.

This year I was coming off two weeks of being super sick, hanging out of the couch with only the strength to drink chicken broth and Google stuff like giardia, strep throat, swine flu and pink eye (this is too random to be made up.) Who knows what concoction of infectious diseases I really had but THANK YOU daycare. Yes Torin was sick also but it didn’t slow him down as much – making me the baby.

I had to force myself to rest, even though I wanted to be on my bike or in the pool, doing a warm up race just to give me a bit more confidence going into my 1st race. Mid –March through mid-April is usually a cram session for me coming off of winter but being healthy trumped any fitness or preparation I could gain during this time. It was also smart to not do too much pre-riding or trying to keep up with healthy people the days leading up to the race.

Saying bye to dad and Park City

Saying bye to dad and Park City (Torin looks sad but he just has pink eye)

I had to keep reminding myself, even though my preparation wasn’t ideal, I was leaps and bounds ahead of where I was last year, and being 3 cup sizes smaller certainly helped. The trip in general was much easier after a lot of practice last year, it only took two trolley loads to schlep our stuff to our apartment for instance. When I set our departure time at 8am, we actually left by 9am, unlike last year when I said we’d leave at 9 and left at noon. Getting to the race would not have been possible without the amazing support of  ‘Aunty Ness.’ To make things easier for everyone I splurged on….drum roll…. a hotel room (not a word in most pro triathlete’s vocabulary) walking distance from the venue.

Can't forget this valuable piece of luggage!

Can’t forget this valuable piece of luggage!

Swimming with Aunty Ness

Swimming with Aunty Ness

I woke up race morning, after a good night’s sleep, and Torin sleeping through the night, with a few cries here and there. Hard to believe I’m still nursing but nothing that slows me down and no pump to deal with anymore. I was nervous, but my nerves turned to excitement when I got a good luck wave from the little guy.

Race morning breakfast for Torin too.

Race morning breakfast for Torin too.

I was optimistic, when that gun goes off; I’m going to feel awesome and rested. I had my fair share of good races post-illness so I convinced myself I had a shot at winning.

My Fate and gear set up in transition

My Fate and gear set up in transition

The pro start

The pro start

Well, I felt far from awesome when I started the swim I was gasping for air and trying to sight the 1st buoy without burning my retinas, as it was right in front of the morning sun.

I tried to convince myself the reason my body like crap because I  hadn’t raced in forever, and to suck it up. Move it body.

I kept going. I soon found some feet and stayed on them even when I wanted to see if I could swim a bit faster. I felt comfortable in my Blue Seventy Helix despite very few swims in it before the race. I came out of the swim with a pack of swimmers in 4th place but close behind 2nd and 3rd.


One place to make up time without a lot more effort is transitions. Because I wasn’t feeling 100 percent I had to pick my battles. I came out of T2 in 2nd but got passed by Suzie and Chantell as I put my shoes and gloves on. It was great having those girls around to keep me focused on the bike despite feeling a lack of power and rusty technical skills. I’d only rode my mountain bike a few times during the off-season and none of which was fast but it certainly was fun to be back on my Specialized Fate.


I managed to move my way back to 2nd during the 1st wash, a loose, dry river bed-like section. I stayed in 2nd until the 2nd lap I was riding smoother now but I noticed my back tire was dangerously low. I weighed the odds; stopping and putting air in could cost me the podium, but destroying my tire, or worse, rim, could cost me any prize money or series points, and I had a hotel room to pay for and a baby to get back to, so I stopped on a climb before a rocky descent and put air in my tire. Me from two years ago totally would have kept riding til my tire exploded, I’m so old and mature now :).  I got passed by Suzie and Chantell, but got back on and kept going, surviving the rocky downhill. At that point I just wanted the bike to be over with because I didn’t know if I had a slow leak. The wind picked up a lot 2nd lap and so did the temperature.


I came into T2 right behind Suzie, and managed to have another quick transition as I came out running in 2nd. The first run-off-the-bike is always painful and my body was not happy to still be racing. Seeing Suzie and now Shonny behind me kept me on my toes. I wasn’t overly confident I’d stay in front so had to give myself some positive mantras, you know mom power and stuff like that.


I’ve been happy about progressions made in my running during the winter but certainly wasn’t noticing it today. Running and running off the bike are two different things. I had to remind myself I was in 2nd. Hills are often my strength, but I opted to focus more on the downhills and technical sections to make up time as they take less energy. As always I loved running in my Salomon Sense Ultras, they worked great on the rocky and loose terrain and often allowed me to take a rockier but shorter line. It certainly felt hot and windy out there and I made the most of each aid station to hydrate and cool off. The course was so open it made it too easy to look behind, and ahead, but there was no one in site in front.


The only patches of shade were a quarter mile from the finish and it was such a relief. I was so far of off first and couldn’t see Shonny behind me so I was able to carry Torin across the finish line – always a highlight for me but it is getting more and more challenging! I think I heard the announcer Kalei say something along the lines of ‘He’s as big as you! Soon he’ll have to carry you across the line!’- That would be nice.

It certainly felt like the 1st race of the season and like my body was still in the aftermath of illness but it was a good lesson in not giving in to my excuses and persevering when I was not 100 percent. After all, I’m not going to feel awesome at every race but hopefully can continue to pull off a good results in those situations by racing smarter. And at some point I’ll  figure out how to race smarter when I’m feeling awesome.

Sure I have some reasons for not racing faster, but they certainly don’t add up to the 11+ minutes Flora Duffy dominated the women’s race by, which is another reason for not being happier about 2nd place. I’d got lucky winning the close battle for 2nd against a talent group of women, and it gives me great points for the Pro Series, I’d just wanted the battle to be for 1st. Smart preparation in not-ideal circumstances can only get you far, good results also require consistent specific training.

Finding some shade at the finish

Finding some shade at the finish

It was great to see my XTERRA friends again and welcome some new women to the pro field. I am certainly looking forward to a good block of training before the next XTERRA Regional Championship in Pelham, Alabama.



Big thanks again to Vanessa for being my ‘race sherpa’ and for the companies that support my efforts, please support them!

Salomon, Backcountry.com, Specialized, Blue Seventy, Champion System, Probar, GU Energy Labs, Crank Brothers and Suunto.




Motherhood and the Bank


It’s early and I’m sitting in a crowded Galena Lodge in Sun Valley Idaho, it’s minus something and I’m waiting before the start of the Boulder Mountain Tour, a 35k Cross Country Ski race. I haven’t had my coffee yet so I don’t feel like making small talk.

I question why I’m there. I could be spending time with my family, I could be training for triathlons, I could be working, I could have done this with the Chariot, it would give me an excuse to ski slow.

Motherhood and racing has been a challenge and remaining positive can be exhausting. I certainly get down on myself a lot, especially this time of year when other athletes living the full-time athlete lifestyle year round and racking up the miles during winter when I certainly feel far from professional.

Our 1st magazine cover!

Our 1st magazine cover!

I’m grateful for the increased exposure being a mom gave me this past year, a few decent results helped too, but I’m still working on getting my sponsorship, as a whole, back to what it was before I became a mom – and that is frustrating. When I eventually get paid the prize money I won in 2013, I believe it was equal to what I earned in 2011, my last full season before becoming a mom, and it gives me a sense of accomplishment. The downside is my overall my income is ‘two-thirds full’ what it was before I became a mom and that is before all the additional expenses. Some of it is my choice to work fewer hours, but a lot of it isn’t and for someone who has always valued independence it bums me out.

The upside is I get to slide around on snow a lot this time of year. It’s hard to remember the last time I didn’t put on skis or hang out in windproof clothing all day and before you don’t feel sorry for me, it can be tiring work chasing kids around on cross country skis, ringing cowbells, and teaching adults how to put on cross country skis for their first time, and my 10,000th time.

My rest days sometimes include activities like five hours of back-to-back ski of lessons on cross-country skis just begging for 5 minutes of downtime in between so I don’t eat my hand. By late February I am just longing to put on jeans and keep them on all day. Although I seem to gravitate toward low paying professions, it is some steady pay and it’s still a way for me to stay afloat during the winter when I’m not racing triathlons. I’m grateful for the jobs I have in winter and generally enjoy them an it forces me not to do too much too soon, although a training camp in Tuscon or Kona does sound pretty nice right about now. When spring rolls around and I can train, and more importantly recover more, it seems a lot easier than my schedule right now. And hey, at least I don’t have to worry about overtraining…ever again.

But each winter I tend to get confused, am I a triathlete who skis or a skier who does triathlons? My upper body strength would have the needle pointing toward two wheels. But it’s hard to not add skiing into the mix come winter when I live in a ski town and I’m watching the biggest snowflakes I’ve ever seen fall outside. After all, cycling indoors and trying not to get hit by a snowplow on a run can get old. I still enjoy cross-country skiing and find it a nice change in the winter.

Swings are fun

Swings are fun

Despite work and being a mom, I’m still finding the time to ride indoors, swim, and incorporate some strength training into my routine in an effort to produce more power and prevent injuries. I’ve even started running on the treadmill, which really takes a lot of the fun out of running but seems to be beneficial and convenient. It feels really good to build on the fitness I gained in 2013, and know how much further I am ahead of ‘this time last year.’ I can’t always go to all the races I want, which is a bums me out, but getting consistent training, even if it’s only 12 hours a week,  feels like money in the bank this time of year.


Torin also sees the importance of indoor riding

This winter I got back into cross-country ski racing and coaching after not doing either in 2013. Besides enjoying racing I believe it counts as some good training, if not a good kick in the pants.  I also believe I can still improve my skills which keeps me motivated. I raced one Wasatch Citizen Series race before jumping into the US Cross Country Ski Championships, that are cruelly scheduled during the holidays. Fine if cross-country skiing is the only thing in your life, but not if it’s you’re off-season and there is chocolate and wine to be consumed. I raced my first US Cross Country Ski Championships in 2000 at Soldier Hollow and I remember it being an incredibly humbling experience that made me feel incredibly slow during and after.

In my mind I’d come a long way since then and the hills at SoHo would feel like speed bumps. I could ride my bike uphill effortlessly for hours and if I’d endured childbirth I could endure anything…except maybe a 10k at Soldier Hollow.

After my first race, a 10k Individual start Classic race it was just as hard and Hermod’s Hill was just as big as I’d remembered and I’d wondered if I’d come anywhere as an athlete in the past 14 years. The 20k Skate Mass Start was much better, despite starting at the back of the pack I managed to pull off 19th place, 2nd master,  and was perhaps my best finish at a US Championships. I will note that it was a pretty international field as it was an NCAA race, and yes I was at least 10 years older than most of the competitors.  It was a hard, hard race, 4 laps of the Olympic 5k, and I came to the conclusion that skiing and racing at Soldier Hollow will get you in shape for pretty much anything.

Going up one of the many hills at SoHo

Going up one of the many hills at SoHo

Although I felt good about my experience and it was awesome having people out there cheering mid week, financially it was not a smart idea to do these races. USSA Charges way too much for annual memberships and was the reason there were only a few other master skiers competing, which is too bad because there are a lot of master skiers in the US and  Cross country skiing is a fast growing sport and being more inclusive at events like this could certainly help the sport in so many ways. I was certainly made to feel like I did not belong there on several occasions. Hearing, “You’re racing?” multiple times was not encouraging.

It really made me realize the importance of specific training when trying to compete at an elite level. I went on to win a few more local races, and is maybe where I belong as long as I am a multisport athlete and don’t have time to wax 10 pairs of skis for one race.

Which brings me back to the Galena Lodge, sitting on the carpet under a bar that cold morning not in the mood to initiate a conversation when I hear,

‘You’re Emma right? I’m pregnant and I really like reading your blog so I just wanted to say thanks.

My first thought when I hear something like this is ‘Oh, people actually read my blog.’

We chatted for maybe a minute and I offered a congrats and have fun out there.

But really the thank you needed to be returned because it really made my day and made me feel better about being there. Even more awesome was the fact she was participating. It gave me a reason to go hard, but more importantly finish. I did just that, a hard battle for 8th after missing the lead pack as soon as the gun went off, but enough for a top 10 finish and some prize money.


I like supporting the Boulder Mountain Tour because they do a great job of being inclusive, whether you’re a pregnant mom, or elite cross-country skier hoping to make the Olympic team someday…or both.

Which brings me back to the question of skier or triathlete. Which is perhaps the beauty of multisport, jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none means you can have so much variety in your training, and maybe even some skiing…if winter is your thing.

And, if stars align I will cash out late October.


2013 XTERRA World Championships


The XTERRA World Championships took place October 27th in Kapalua, Maui. There were 750 competitors with more than 60 professionals including the best off-road triathletes in the business along with a lot of top road triathletes, Olympians and mountain bikers who were in it for some big bucks, the race offered a $105,000 prize purse, and some end of season fun.

The field gets stronger each year. It’s great to see so many road triathletes try XTERRA, and the ones who are strong cyclists and climbers seem to do well. It’s also nice to hear them say XTERRA is more fun and laid back. Although the laid back part I find funny because I see a lot of serious people before Worlds that makes me think, how serious are road races?!

The truth is, although we may seem relaxed, this is a big deal for the XTERRA athletes. We are passionate about this sport and to do well in this race is something we shed tears and lose sleep over. It’s the reason I work 3 jobs in the off-season to support my tri preference. It is much, much more than and end of season ‘racecation.’

Especially for someone who was ecstatic to qualify for the race as an age grouper in 2006 and gradually improve each year after that. My results since then are: 31st in 2006, 21st in 2007, 13th in 2008, 11th in 2009, 10th in 2010 and 8th in 2011. No giant breakthroughs just keeping at it and making improvements each year.


What happens at XTERRA World Championships is generally determined months if not years in advance. I was more confident than I ever have been and was happy with my prep for this race mostly because I was feeling fit and rested. I’d had two good performances back-to-back at USA Champs and the Epic Mountain Challenge in the past month. My fitness had improved steadily over the season and had no feeling of burn out from a super long season that’s so familiar to triathletes these days.

I arrived in Maui 10 days early. Originally my thought was adjusting to the heat, getting some hard sessions in at sea level and previewing the course. What I didn’t realize was how much a four hour time change would impact my son 10 month old Torin but it didn’t help that we were on east coast time a week ago.

I made it a goal to be top 5 at the XTERRA World Championships. I thought it was a realistic but challenging goal, but honestly I’d hoped for even better. There was a lot of depth to the women’s field but it was also really open as far as who would win. Lesley was definitely the favorite, having a near-flawless season, although she was beatable as Helena Erbenova proved at the ITU Cross Tri World Championships this year. There were about 30 pro women, and hardly anyone I could confidently say I could beat. It would take a very good race to even be in the top 10 this year.

I was grateful to have the Specialized mechanics Eric and Dylan on Maui to get my S-Works Fate race ready. My tires of choice were S-Works Fast Traks at about 18 psi. It made a huge difference knowing my bike was in good hands and something I did not have to waste energy worry about before the race. I also made several trips to massage therapist Todd Plymale-Mallory to get my body race ready.


Race Day

I woke up from the best night’s sleep all week, only up once! There was a lot of ‘vog’ (volcanic fog – a new word I learned this trip) in the air and hot, humid temperatures, even more humid than it had been the past week. As the race neared the air had cleared but it felt airless and muggy zapping my motivation to warm up.


The swim was approximately 1500 meters at D.T. Flemings Beach. We would first swim 500 meters out to one buoy, back to shore for a quick beach run and then 250 meters out to another buoy. The beach is a popular surf spot on the island with a pretty mean beach break at times. Last year the waves were huge! This year although swells were initially predicted race day it ended up being as calm as it could have been.

The pro wave started and it seemed pretty civilized, easy to find feet going out to the 1st buoy and I could look down and see clear down to the ocean floor complete with fish, coral and the occasional camera guy. I felt pretty good and had ‘Get Lucky’ in my head, which I hoped it would be the soundtrack to my day. As we rounded the 1st buoy I managed to close the gap on a group of pro women. I found the feet of Heather Jackson, I knew because of her neon yellow goggles that matched her kit. I was in a good position until a pro guy bumped me to the side and took her draft only to not be able to keep up and lose the pack, argh!!


I could see the pack as I ran across the beach. The race was now spread out and although I tried to close the gap again on the way to the 2nd buoy I was unable to do so. I came out of the water in 14th place, but about what I expected.


The long run uphill to transition was a good way to see who was in front before starting the mountain bike. I opted to wear my Salomon S-Lab Advanced Skin Hydration Pack to make sure I drank during the ride; it had about 40 ounces of GU20 sport drink. I also carried four Gus taped to my top tube which almost got ripped off and dropped when I mounted my bike, that would have been bad!

The Bike

The venue moved from the south end of the island in 2011 from a very lava rocky Jeep road course to a very smooth, less dangerous course with equal if not more climbing. The course still has some growing pains as it has changed (primarily the bike course) every year since 2011.

The XTERRA crew worked hard to try to make the bike course more technical, primarily adding trail at end of the bike loop on the old abandoned Village Golf Course. Like a lot of new trails there was loose dirt and sand (from the sand traps.) unpredictable sharp turns, bumpy and a ton of vegetation. This section has potential to be great singletrack with the right kind of trail building and design. On top of that it would be an awesome contribution to the Maui cycling community.

The start of the bike course follow the 1st 3 miles of the run course, which is 95 percent climbing and continue to climb up to Razor Ridge, the views from this spot are pretty spectacular.


I gradually picked off places as I made my way up the long climb.  I felt good but was tried to be patient. There was also a lot of going back and forth with some pro men and top age group men, which added a challenge. Letting them pass on descents and now rather than trying to pass one woman it was a pack of four. Luckily there were a lot of opportunities to do so. By the time I made it to the ridge I was in 6th place with the some of the top competitors in my sight, mainly Jacqui and Lesley.

There were a few descents and another long climb on a dirt road. I made my way past Jacquie and I was now in 5th place. I was trying to figure out who else was still in front. I’d already passed a lot of key contenders so I had to work hard to hold my spot. I figured Flora was up there, I knew Lesley and Barbara were but who else?

After a long bumpy descent I was back in 6th place. Jacqui’s dedication to XTERRA has really improved her mountain biking skills: I was dropped! I remember it was so dusty the dirt stinging my eyes.  After that the course would see much more undulation, a lot more dirt road and wide open descending which is pretty uninspiring but still some healthy climbs. There would be about 5000 feet of climbing on the bike course alone.I was starting to feel the heat but needed to maintain my focus and effort on the climbs to keep gaining spots in the women’s field. I was about 3-4 minutes out of the lead now. I rode and ran almost the entire race with pro Chris Ganter, who probably won the men’s Speedo division and I will have that image burned in my head for months to come.

I really appreciate getting splits and seeing so many spectators on course including Ian and Torin ringing not one but two cow bells.  It’s not the easiest place to be a spectator you have to be super motivated and have a strong tolerance to heat, dust and men in spandex. There were so many more, including my parents who have watched me race every year in Maui, the Specialized support crew, Mari’on Lorblancet who has a much bigger challenge in her life right now, Julie Dibens, Cody Waite, August Teague, Jens, Wattie, Brandi Heisterman and Simon Marshall who told me to ‘fight!” love it!


There was one long, approximately 4 minute climb before entering the new, more technical trails that I assumed would be the hardest part of the bike leg. My main concern on this section was to stay on my bike, push the short climbs and not break a chain. This part went quicker than I anticipated although I was probably overly concerned with the traffic around me. This part went by a lot quicker than anticipated although it had zero flow. Looking back what surprised me about the bike course was it felt like I used very little power but still had a decent bike split. Was this me or the course?


The Run

As always it was a relief to get to T2 and switch to running. Although I was concerned with hydration and dealing with the heat so had a cooler in transition that I packed with ice, a frozen bottle of Coke that would now be thawed and a Trigger Point cooler. Along with my visor and number belt it was a lot to juggle coming out of transition. I put on my Salomon S-Lab Senses, that would be light on the uphills, control on the descents and give me great traction on the grass, mud and sand. I also liked the fact they drained well as I’d be dumping a lot of water on my head to help cool myself down. Too bad I forgot to tighten them and had to stop again!


The run course has been the same the past two year, close to lots of elevation gain in the first 3 miles and and off-camber running on sand and grass. This year and last they took out the big hill at the end, which was a huge game changer for a lot of athletes, we would finish after the beach run. I was feeling better than I thought, it’s always a balance figuring out how hard to go on the bike and how much to save for the run. On this course I am more conservative on the bike as it’s easy to blow up on the run. The fact the run followed the start of the bike course actually made running it seem easier than biking.  I started to gain some ground on Jacqui Slack as the course headed uphill and made the pass before the 1st mile. I hoped I would catch a few more women as I was getting splits there were more a few minutes up. I was in the midday sun now and I must have been working hard because I tried to remember the tune of ‘Get Lucky’ and could barely do so. I dumped water at the aid stations that were every mile. I ran everything this year including the steep grade going up to the lake.

I was getting filmed by XTERRA TV and felt pretty good about myself for running that section until I realized the camera guy was keeping up with me walking! I knew after mile 3 there would be a lot more descending so I tried to stay focused and push hard to the top of the climb. I thought a lot about my running form and opening up my stride on the downhills.

We were in thick vegetation, often sugarcane and it was hard to see ahead. I was getting splits there were more women in front, and not far, only 30 seconds. I had a pretty bad trip climbing over some stacked logs, this was new from two years ago and I hadn’t run over it yet. I managed to lodge my leg in between the logs and fall pretty badly as the logs were high off the ground. Right in the shin! Ouch! And then my opposite hamstring cramped. It turns out you could run underneath the logs! I shook it off and kept running. There were only a few more shorter uphills, and a rock scramble before a long descent and beach run to the finish. I could now see Barbara Riveros who was in 4th place and tried to close the gap.


By the time we got to the beach I was just seconds behind Barbara but running in soft sand is hard to cover ground. Should I run down closer to the water? I’d be longer but possibly faster. A male competitor I passed earlier was running past me on the wetter sand so I ran down there, maybe gaining a second. When we got off the sand we were 100 meters from the finish, I tried to pick up the pace but it wasn’t enough. I crossed the line, 6 seconds behind Barbara. It’s tough being that close and it’s hard not to think of all the places I could have made up 6 seconds but it’s ok because she’s a pretty cool girl and also sponsored by Specialized. If I’d been told me six months ago I’d be trying to run down Barbara Riveros at the World Championships I would not have believed it.


I finished in 5th place, about 4 minutes from 1st, 1:35 out of second and the top American. I had the 2nd fastest run split, only 20 seconds behind Lesley, who six month ago beat me by more than 10 minutes in the run alone. Out of the top 5 only Lesley and I did not compete in the London Olympics. Heck, I certainly wasn’t training for the Olympics last summer.


Nicky Samuels of New Zealand won the women’s race, Lesley was 2nd, Flora Duffy of Bermuda was 3rd and Barbara 4th. I also have to mention my dad set the bar high by placing 3rd in the 60-65 age group in the 10k trail run.

Long story short, I felt good out there and had a performance I am happy to end the season with. It’s been challenging but really enjoyable and rewarding getting back into triathlon this season and I certainly look forward to next year with higher expectations.

I can’t say how thankful I am for the support I’ve received this season. To my family and friends, especially Ian, my mom, and Vanessa who helped out so much with Torin so I could pursue my passion, Josiah for coaching me with the understanding what it’s like to be a new parent and to Torin for choosing me as his mom. And of course the sponsors, Specialized, Salomon, Champion System, GU Energy, Blue Seventy and Probar for making me race faster and giving me fewer excuses!


As for the off season, I enjoyed a few days in Maui decompressing, relaxing, reflecting on the year and getting another song stuck in my head, Lets Be Still. I’ve been to Maui so many times but I always find new things to do, this year we went mountain biking in the Makawao forests and to the Olivine pools where we swam with tropical fish were serenaded by ukaleles.


But I could only be still for a moment. I’m back in Park City figuring out my race schedule and sponsors for 2014 and my jobs for the off-season. I plan on coaching for Park City Nordic this winter, working at White Pine Nordic, and teaching Computrainer classes for Max Testa Training, do my own training and more importantly make being a mom a priority. Ian and I are moving around the puzzle pieces to figure out how we both can work, spend time with our son, occasionally each other and occasionally do something for fun, but then again being new parents is pretty fun.




73 Weeks

Emma_XTERRA_Nationals_ small

XTERRA Nationals has taken place at Snowbasin since 2009, the year I moved to Utah. I have competed in the race every year since then, except 2012 when I was pregnant. My best finish was 5th in 2011.

The start list for the women’s race was intimidating and challenged my self-confidence the week before the race. With the pro women’s field twice as big as year’s past it would be much, much harder to be in the top 5. I considered the top 3 pretty untouchable; it was going to be Lesley Paterson, Heather Jackson then Barbara Riveros.

I told myself I could compete with the list of talented and well-tuned women racing but was also hearing I wasn’t a contender. It can take the pressure off not being in the spotlight before a race but it also made me doubt my ability and my training. It was certainly a lesson in believing in myself when perhaps others don’t. I thought about the workouts I’d done the past month and how I’d stuck to my plan especially when others around me were doing more.

As a new mom I’ve certainly had less opportunities to travel to XTERRA races in the past two seasons for obvious reasons. As a result I have to make the races I do get to compete in count. What it has allowed me to do is really focus on a few races creating more motivation to do well, and less room for error. It is also a reason not to underestimate any mom competing.

Adding to the prerace pressure was it seemed like myself and everyone around me, was either recovering from getting sick, about to get sick or really sick.

On a more positive note, A few things that have helped immensely since my last XTERRA race at Beaver Creek. First was daycare, second was hiring Josiah Middaugh as a coach, third was having one of my favorite training partners, Renata Bucher, come to Park City to train. Lastly, the race was in my backyard, I live at 6900ft and ride and run on trails similar to Snowbasin all the time. I’d also had a lot of productive training sessions on the course.

My bike, a Specialized S-Works Fate was in good form thanks to the wrenching of Jesse Hoffman at White Pine Touring and the Specialized mechanic Eric Saletel who came out to the race.


I was also super excited to race in my custom designed tri suit from Champion System. I wanted a kit that was unique, different, colorful, and more style. When I made this sketch I really wasn’t expecting it to become a reality. Kudos for making it happen Champion System!

Race Morning

Two transitions make this race tricky race morning. Add a baby and it gets more complicated. We stayed as close to both transitions as we could to make things as simple as possible race morning. Torin has been teething for a long time now so restful nights are few and far between, luckily the night before was above average, the night after? Worst ever, but I consider myself lucky. I walked downstairs to Dan and Brad tag teaming breakfast and thought, ‘that’s so cute!’ Renata and I ate quickly and then headed up to T2 to drop off our run gear. I thought we’d be the first ones there but it wasn’t the case. We went back to the condo after so I could pump before heading to the swim start. Ian (AKA baby daddy) would be in charge of Torin today and would have an equally challenging time logistically getting to the key cheering spots.


The Swim

I had the least confidence in my swim and prepared myself mentally to come out of the water pretty far back but knowing I could make up ground on the bike and the run. The swim certainly looked long from the start and according to a few different accounts it was 2k rather than 1.5k, that’s a pretty big difference that impacted the overall results, especially in the pro men’s race.

I found myself swimming pretty far to the right when I was swimming to the 1st buoy and felt slow from the start but soon found a good rhythm and appreciated the pro athletes having their own wave so it wasn’t too crowded. I haven’t been swimming in my wetsuit very much but I felt so comfortable today. I was able to stay on the feet of Rachel Challis that worked out perfectly. There were times when I questioned our line and went my own way but it put me in a pretty good position when I came out of the water. I was in 10th place but only 30 seconds out of 5th. Did anyone else struggle with those timing chips? mine snapped right off and I had to shove it in my suit.

Photo Courtesy of Trey Garman/XTERRA

The Bike

The ride started with a short section of singletrack where I was paranoid about goat heads after stepping on one walking down to the swim start. Then we rode about a mile on the gravel shoulder of a road where I was paranoid about slicing my tire on broken glass, Utah roads are notorious for broken glass.

I survived and made it to Wheeler Canyon, a rocky fireroad and the steepest section of the course. At this point I was side by side with Carina Wasle of Austria and could see a few women ahead including Suzie Snyder and Lesley Paterson. It was hard to believe I was gaining on Lesley and figured there must be something wrong. I made the pass but Lesley countered a couple of times. By the time I made it to the Art Nord Trailhead, before getting on the East Fork trail, Cody Waite rode by saying ‘Lesley can’t stay on your wheel,” I’ve certainly never heard that before. At this point it seemed like there was an opportunity for else was to win the race. I was feeling good and I wanted to take advantage of the situation. This could be my day.

I could now see a few more women ahead, Jacqui Slack, Chantell Widney and Melanie McQuaid. Melanie was certainly my carrot for a long time and I made the pass around her Chantell and also Christine Jeffrey before the 1st descent down Wheeler Creek. I was motivated to make up as much time as I could on the ascent, as I knew I would lose some time to Mel on the descent.

I loved riding over the top of this climb as there were lots of spectators cheering and I got to see Ian and Torin. I was getting splits I was gaining on Barbara who was in the lead and I was now in 2nd place. Melanie passed back on the descent and I tried not to lose too much ground. Then I had a mishap. My saddlebag started coming off and rubbing against my wheel. This is a pretty high-speed descent so I was hesitant to stop and lose even more time but at the same time I risked the bag jamming in my wheel and causing a mechanical or a crash. Instead I tried to spin it around so it was sitting on top of my top tube but instead it swung to the side and I was knocking it with every pedal stroke, argh, luckily I didn’t have to pedal too much.

Photo courtesy of Nils Nilsen
Photo courtesy of Nils Nilsen

I don’t think I lost too much time but it was a pity not to enjoy one of the few descents. Once we started going back uphill again I pulled over and ripped the bag off. Unfortunately this isn’t the 1st time this has happened but this time I would shove it in my tri suit rather than throw it to the side and fear flatting. Chantell passed again and then Lesley. It was really nice of Lesley to ask if I was ok.

Now we were heading up to Sardine, a few rollers and then a long steady climb. I kept my cool and caught back up to Chantell and Mel. Once we hit the Sardine switchbacks I started pushing my pace and made the pass, I was now back in 3rd. We were gaining on Barbara Riveros who always seemed to be around the next switchback. As I came to the first summit, a mountain biker with a helmet cam jumped in behind me saying ‘don’t worry I’m just filming.’ It was hard to ride relaxed and I somehow came a millimeter away from a disastrous crash going around a turn. I’d love to see the footage sometime.

I rode cautiously over the top of Sardine Peak, it’s rocky in sections and I feared slicing my sidewall. It’s also the most scenic part of the course with Mt. Odgen on one side, a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake and Pineview Reservoir on the other so sneak a peek if you can. The descent was a lot smoother and I anticipated getting passed by both pro women and age group guys but it didn’t happen. About a mile from T2 I passed Ian who was standing next to ‘the loudest cheerer ever,’ always nice when people you don’t know cheer for you enthusiastically.

I was so happy with my bike split, despite my saddlebag mishap and the fact I really should have taken in more fluids (I only drank half a bottle) but did manage to eat four GUs. I was lucky to get away with this in this race; the weather was perfect, not too hot or cold. In Maui it would be a different story.

It was probably the strongest effort I have put out on the bike in an XTERRA race, I road with a sense of urgency and determination which earned me the 2nd fastest split time behind Lesley. My split was also 3 minutes faster than when I last competed in 2011. Lesley has made huge improvements in her riding this year and to see her win pro mountain bike races is very motivating. XTERRA has so many strong cyclists I am proud of finally being able to compete with them on the bike. For years I’ve got passed on the bike by better riders and I’ve just blamed it on their experience but it takes a lot more than that compete at their level. This was a pretty big breakthrough that I hope will remain consistent so I can say mountain biking is my strength as I want it to be.

photo courtesy of Meghan Hicks
photo courtesy of Meghan Hicks

I came into T2 with Chantell not far behind. I must have gone hard on the bike because I’ve never had quad cramps before. Salomon Senses on, a bit of Coke and off on the run.

Going into this race I had the most confidence in my run. This would be where I assumed I would make up time, but the only people in front were pretty speedy runners, Lesley and Barbara. It would take a lot to pass either of them. Chantell passed me on the 1st long climb straight up the ski hill I kept her in sight and figured I just needed the first climb to get into run mode and I’d reconnect once we hit singletrack.

I never saw her again. I was in no man’s land, well sort of, more like no woman’s land, there were a few other guys around to keep me company. I was trying to push the pace and not giving up hope that a podium spot was possible, plus there were some fast runners behind me keeping me on my toes. Anyone else have that undiluted Gatorade at the 2nd aid station?

The 1st three miles of the run feel pretty long on the Green Pond Loop, then there’s another mile with some climbing and then the last two miles are pretty smooth flowly singletrack through the trees and perfect dirt. This was another highlight of the race. I really enjoyed opening up my stride on the descent. I had a comfortable amount of space behind me but also unfortunately in front too. I let my mind wander too much, body get too comfortable as I took in the views. I thought about the other moms I wanted to make proud, and what I’d overcome in the past 73 weeks. Pregnancy is tough, and unplanned one even tougher, much more challenging than any race I’ve done. I thought about how grateful I was to have the support I did through it all and still at this moment. I thought about my son and how excited I was to see him, more so than my place in the race.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks

Coming into the finish I had enough time to grab Torin and carry him across the line.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks

Out of the five women who I would walk on stage with later, three of them would be moms. Although 4th place can be bittersweet it was fitting considering I have finished 7th, 6th, 5th respectively in XTERRA races this year which gives me great hope for Maui October 27th.

Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks
Photo Courtesy of Meghan Hicks

I was really overcome with emotion, I was so happy but also had a huge sense of relief. I was back where I wanted to be, where I felt I had left off, 73 weeks ago, before seeing that terrifying red plus sign that changed my life.

For the better.


9 Months in 9 Months Out

On September 18th, 2013 three days before XTERRA Nationals, Torin will be ‘nine months in, nine months out’ which is pretty crazy to think about.

This time last year,  I was passed by a woman, potentially three-times my age, on a the promenade in Nice, France. Ian, who was usually incredibly supportive and tolerant of my pregnancy induced slow riding yelled,

“You sooo deserved that! You’re riding so slow I’m having a hard time keeping my bike upright!”

A low point in my athletic capability and self-esteem but if anything is a big slice of humble pie for female athletes it’s getting knocked up.

I still feel slow at times but I’ve certainly come a long way since that day.

To start with I’m a lot lighter, perhaps the lightest I’ve been since I was a college runner. Breastfeeding combined with nursing combined with moderately healthy eating combined with competing with a 8 month old for meal times (don’t even bother) does wonders to lose any weight gained during pregnancy and then some.

I’ve heard people say, ‘You’ve got right back into it.’ Which is nice to hear but harder to agree with. The past nine months, although they’ve gone by quickly, have certainly been a learning experience both physically and socially.  It’s only been a few weeks things have felt back on track training wise. It’s taken a lot of races, fatigued training, flat tires, questioning whether it’s worth it, arguments, sleepless nights, tears and a lot of help from family and friends.


It took my body time to recover from having a baby but even longer to figure out a routine that worked for our new family. I spent months of training primarily on Ian’s days off or before he goes to work and the kind help of family and friends. No routine sitters, no daycare. It worked – I was able to get back in shape but it grew tiring. I was self-coached, which basically meant figuring out training day-by-day based on who I could convince to watch Torin. It’s funny because I had to plan ahead but also be really flexible and willing to change plans around other peoples’ schedule. It got to the point where any minute I wasn’t with Torin I thought I should be out training. If I didn’t have help, I would bring Torin with me, his car seat would sit on the pool deck or next to my bike trainer or he’d come along in the  in the Chariot on snow and wheels.

That lasted until Torin was about 8 months and we settled with sending him to daycare three days a week, which, despite the expense – has been AWESOME for all of us. There weren’t a ton of options in Park City so we feel lucky to have Torin where we do at the moment. That gives me five days to training and only two days a week where I have to be creative. Next I hired a coach and everything seems a bit smoother now and Ian and I have one day a week where we can mountain bike together if we’d like.

Overall the good times far outweigh the bad. Torin and I haven’t spent a night apart and that feels totally normal. Our new family has been on lots of adventures and family trips including camping, hikes, bike rides, planes, boats, weddings (not ours) together. Even the simple things like all hanging out in bed together as a family in the morning, sleep or no sleep, are pretty spectacular.

The biggest improvements in athletic performance I saw were from months 4-6 postpartum, which was right after my last blog post. I went from just trying to figure out how I could get out and train and trying to simply finish a race to ‘thinking’ I could win races. I emphasize the ‘thinking’ part because really getting my confidence back was a big deal after it got obliterated on the South Coast of France.

Running at the BEast of the Southeast

I started to get better results despite feeling super tired most of the time. This was partly because I struggled to remember to eat enough to train and nurse. There were some workouts where I’d spend so much time getting stuff ready, so someone else could watch Torin, more time than the workout itself, that I’d forget to eat. The result was not getting what I wanted out of the workout and feeling even more frustrated. It’s interesting to think that there really isn’t much I’ve done more of in the past 9 months than breastfeed, and that includes sleeping.  It certainly became a huge part of my life, more than I ever realized it would, and a constant juggling and timing act with training and racing and worthy of a blog itself.

Breastaurant with a view

Torin had nothing but breast milk for the 1st 6 months when we started introducing solid food. It took another month before the solid food really provided any substance. On an energy level I feel 10x better now than at 6 months but he still seems to be nursing as much! The key to feel was drinking enough fluids and getting enough protein. During that time I would drink a lot of recovery drinks with protein (it seemed like all day) and now I still regularly snack on Greek yogurt, they take about 10 seconds to eat and require no prep or cleanup and also has calcium which I also need.

I’ve also been asked something along the lines of how I’m able to nurse and train at the same time.  I feel fortunate that I’m not sure what this implies, whether it’s about being able to produce milk and train hard or whether it’s about not having enough energy to train while nursing. Either way training and nursing certainly hasn’t hurt Torin’s growth. He has been in the 95 percentile for weight since he started drinking liquid gold.

For the most part it’s been great getting to travel with Torin and flying, despite some dirty looks, dirtier exploding diapers mid flight with no changing tables in the bathrooms type stuff, no extra time down the runway for people with babies (WHEN did this happen United?!?) was much easier than expected – also another topic worthy of it’s own blog.

People were so quick to ask whether I feel stronger now but it’s so hard to tell because every season feels different and there are so many different pieces to the triathlon puzzle regardless of having a child. It always comes to question whether it is a social or physiological advantage too. I feel less injured which is in part due to less training. Not being injured or being able to travel as much to races has allowed me to do a lot more local running races like the Jupiter Peak Steeplechase which was a blast!


I feel lighter, due to a hungry baby, and that helps running and climbing on the bike for sure. I feel my endurance is pretty good but not the best ever, my breathing more controlled most of the time, and pain slightly more manageable.  I don’t seem to notice the heat as much but whether or not this has anything to do with having a baby I don’t know. I certainly happy with my fitness level at the moment feel I am capable of my best results in regards to times at both XTERRA Nationals and Worlds. Places will be harder as there will be arguably the most competitive women’s field in XTERRA’s history at those races.

And if the 90-year-old from the bike path in Nice shows up?

She’ll be going down.

Emma 2.0



Embarking on Motherhood and Racing

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:

  1. Start
  2. Finish
  3. 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.

Who says mom's have no style?

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

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.

Race day breakfast in the hotel room

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.

Getting my gear ready

fuel for the race

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!)

Torin wishing me luck before the start!

The Swim

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.

The Bike

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:


Luckilly it wasn’t THAT bad.

The Run

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.

Babies on the sidelines

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,

Mama Emma