Racing Smarter

XTERRA_Vegas_swimming

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.

XTERRA_Vegas_Swim_2014

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.

XTERRA_Vegas_Bike_2014

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.

Emma_XTERRAWest2014

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.

XTERRA_Vegas_Run

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.

EmmaXTERRAWest2014Finish2

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.

EmmaXTERRAWest2014Finish
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.

XTERRA_Vegas_wmnspodium_2014

XTERRA_Vegas_TorinPodium

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.

Mahalo!

Emma

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