Race Report: XTERRA Canmore, Alberta

Here is a one sentence recap (in case you don’t want to read the novel below):   Dave loved the race venue so much that he’s still wearing his hot pink bracelet around two days later (the bracelet they put on you to get into transitions, etc).   …..and yes, I’ve asked him numerous times about it 🙂

But, that doesn’t really suffice to leave you with just one sentence.  I’m not usually one to blab about a specific race venue but I can definitely say this was the most beautiful backdrop and setting I’ve ever raced in (yes, better than Honolulu).  Canmore is a trail person’s paradise.  There are trails literally everywhere, even through people’s backyards.  The mountain biking, hiking, trail running, etc. opportunities are endless.  The people are amazingly nice and the atmosphere of the whole town is seemingly focused on active lifestyles.  Every menu has gluten-free and vegetarian options.  The portions are normal sized and the food healthy, therefore, the people are normal sized and healthy!  Interestingly enough (or embarrassingly), shopping around town, you find hardly any extra large gear, etc.  Go figure!  Even the bears are respected.  Every garbage can in the whole city is bear proof and the land is treated like we are the ones in the bears habitat (like it should be) and not vice versa.  Unlike Americans, motorists actually move over and stop for roller skiers and bikers and treat them like they deserve the road even more than they do!  Amazing!  The first night we ate dinner in Canmore (after the race), the restaurant owner asked for our phone number so he could call us to go mountain biking with him.  The people everywhere we’ve been have been super nice, too!

Onto the race:
Xterra Triathlon is predominantly focused on the longer triathlon course, which includes around a 1000y or m swim, a 22k mountain bike and a 10k trail run. This event offered both long and short course tri’s and long and short course duathlons (run bike run).  Sounded like a perfect way to start our vacation.  It was a bit expensive, for sure, but we soon found out the money was worth it.  The Canadian rockies are magnificent.  There is something majestically different from the mountains we’re used to seeing.  I think it’s the way the granite jumps up toward the sky, but it’d be easy to forget about racing if you stopped in awe too long (Raz!).  I did the sprint tri and Dave did the sprint duathlon.  He will have to write his own recap but I know he enjoyed every minute of it and ended up 2nd overall after smoking the mountain bike course.  Neither of us went into the race expecting big results.  We knew it was pretty competitive and there were A LOT of people showing up on race day.  Dave figured about 30 people were in the sprint du with him, which is a lot for a du.  I was surprised when I got in the water that about 35 women were in the sprint tri!  I have to admit, the sprints are usually a little less popular and I wasn’t expecting such a crowd.  Everyone around me in their wetsuits looked fit and young.  So, I decided I’d have fun and see what happened.  I think both Dave and I ended up having so much fun that the results just followed.

The swim was short in a beautiful clear water aqua looking mountain lake.  I was out in about 8.5 minutes behind about 3 or 4 women.  Boy, my arms felt like they were strapped to tires with that full wetsuit on, stanks, probably should’ve swam since Spring Meadow.  I guess that’s what training is for, that wall of lactic acid was not enjoyable!  There was a nice long path up to T1, however, and I started my race there almost catching the fast swimmers on the wetsuit canter.  Ha!  I couldn’t believe it, I did all of the no-no’s in T1 (like putting on a camelbak, socks, headband, and shoes without elastic laces) but still exited T1 first!  Oh MAN, now the competitive sides kicked in as I knew I passed everyone in T1 by the way the volunteer at the mount area yelled at me.

The sprint bike course wasn’t super technical, which is why I think lots of people who want to try Xterra should get up here for this race!  (about 9 hour drive up here)  There was one single track descent but otherwise it was some super steep climbing on double track and meandering through the woods.  Dave and I rode part of the long Xterra course today and it was a lot more single track and much more technical.  I would say you’d definitely need a full suspension bike for the long course (mostly because of roots), but could get away with a hard tail on the short course.  Our bike course was supposedly 11k but took about 40 min (with T1 and T2) for Dave and 45 for me.  The trails up here are more windy (as in winding around trees, not wind) but it keeps you focused and we loved it.  I biked hard for the first 30 minutes I’d say and then kinda tuckered out some.  I walked some steep hills, too, (probably about 5?) and Dave said he only walked one.  I was caught at the end of the bike by a fast mt bike chick from Banff and we pedaled into T2 together.  Hmmm, took me about 2 minutes to find my setup to leave my bike (humungous T2 it seemed, probably 300 racers at least in all the races?), but FOR ONCE, platforms came through for me!  ALthough I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off for a while and asking volunteers where to put my bike, the Banff gal was changing shoes and not very fast.  I finally threw my bike on the racks, grabbed my visor and took off in my trail shoes that I rode my platforms with.  I had my race flats in T2 but decided to B-line it out of there in front while I could.  Onto the run!

I was worried about the legs on the run as I had raced the Seeley lake tri the day before, but yahoo, onto trails right away!  WOW.  This is amazing.  Jumping over logs, roots and trees and winding down around ponds and up short steep climbs, what a blast!  Just how I pictured Xterra from the magazines!  I soon forgot about the race and started thinking how much fun this run was!  Wait a minute, I NEVER have fun on the run of a tri?!  At times, you wonder if your legs are going to hold up on those steep descents with all the bike fatigue in them ( I was glad to have done the short course).  But my feet weren’t numb like normal on the tri runs, so I was just having a blast!  You forget about distance and start focusing on negotiating turns and missing trees, etc.  I ended up coming into the finish with the duathletes who started at 9 and our wave at 9:15 so they didn’t realize a triathlete was in, but I didn’t care because I was so high from that run course!  The Banff gal came in about a minute behind me and told me she is a rock climber and does these to stay fit and light for rock climbing! 🙂  She was ripped. I bet she could do 100 pullups.

Something I was reflecting on after the race was how XTERRA really comes down to almost a swimmer’s race, and maybe a biker’s race if you are exceptionally good and fast on the mountain bike.  This is much different from, say, an Olympic Triathlon (non Xterra), which often times is a fast runner’s race.  But really where I won was getting out first in T1, because immediately in the bike and run courses, they have you making turns and anyone in front of you gets away and you never know by how much.  You lose sight of your competitors immediately.  Unless you had someone out on the course telling you it’d be pretty hard to know where you were in comparison.  I could’ve had someone off in front of me the whole time and would never have known or seen them.  I guess you just have to do your best each day and see where you come out?  This is especially true on the run course.  I found XTERRA is not a runner’s race at all.  First of all, the trails are tight and technical, so you can’t open up much and gain time on people unless you have faster turnover really.  But you can’t really see the people you want to catch either.  And if you did try to see them, there’ s good chance that your lack of negotiating the trail for a split second will spill you on the ground.  I passed a duathlete on the run course once and just the small lack of focus had me tripping forward on a root and almost eating dirt.

Ahhhhhh, and finally, the real money stuff:   You finish with a nice technical T shirt, an awesome fabric shopping bag, a humungous buffet including lots of fruits, veggies, pasta and chicken, and best of all, a free 10-15 minute Active Release massage as soon as you cross the line!  We had door prizes handed out to us at awards that included a water bottle with a $40 gift certificate to Tri-It.ca and Dave got a pair of bike gloves.  They were also giving out some huge schwag including $175 vo2 max testing, bike fits, running assesements, massages, shoes and more.  The amount of extremely nice schwag was incredible!  But, it seemed almost unimportant compared to the amazing setting and organization.  The race was put on SO well and the volunteers were happy to help and everywhere.  Iron Ann was right when she told us that Canadians put on the best races.

Sorry for the book but the race deserved it!  Hopefully next year we can rally a group to come up here for some events.  The event was put on at the Canmore Nordic Center (basically a mountain bike ski hill in the summer, trails everywhere and marked by signs!) and supposedly there are 24 hour events and stage mountain bike races, etc.  I know I can say for Dave, too, that we would LOVE to see our teammates have this type of experience we did!

pictures will have to follow as we don’t have the cord to upload them for now!  ~LO

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