I’m pretty sure all of you know just how blessed we are with the mountain trails we have in and near Helena. That is why you’re on this listserve, and, hopefully, part of our team. Last weekend, Dave and I got another dose of gratefulness of just how awesome we have it. I seriously don’t want to sound better at mountain biking than I am, because I have A LOT to learn, and I fall, A LOT. But, it became most apparent just how amazing our trails are near Helena, when I started biking past people (who I know are legit triathletes) on the technical and climbing sections. It wasn’t because I was stellar, it was because I had seen the crazy jutting-out rocks and gnarly trail ideas before (ridge trail, rocky road, contour, etc. come to mind), and I just tried them. I fell a few times, luckily not bad, and I fell in Helena Thursday before the race (hit my knee on the handlebars, ouch, the bruise still hurts). I think most of the people who didn’t try to ride the technical stuff probably didn’t have the glorious practice arena we do in Helena.
As for the race:
This was our first long Xterra. I had done the short Bozeman xterra and a sprint in Canada last summer. I have to admit this was the most nervous I’d been before a race in a long time. Why? Because of the technical bike section! I had heard some stories of people being unable to ride the middle of the course, notably one of the packet pickup women riders who’s raced this race 4 years in a row! This was a new fear for me, as this doesn’t come with road tri’s. Maybe nervousness is good? Or maybe the lack of expectations or pressure? Just hoping to live! The first real wig out I had was when I walked up to pickup my chip, and none-other than Samantha McGlone’s name was under mine. Holy Crap! I’ve always wanted her autograph! I think she has podiumed at Ironman Hawaii and has had stories written all over tri world about her, and particularly about her getting into Xterra in recent years (I think). I totally recognized her in the bathroom and ooo-ed over the compression garb she wore as she setup her bike near mine in transition. The pro guy next to her was very cordial to me and told me he won the race on my bike last year. Overall, the general consensus this year, he said, was to use a hardtail 29er in the xterra world. My bike has handlebar lockouts on the suspension which worked amazing for me. I helped Dave set up transition, googley eyed up some more pro’s and their bikes, and we were down on the beach in our wetsuits before we knew it.
The swim was short and surprisingly, I felt no need to push it. This was unlike the other two swims I’d done this year. I guess I figured the mt bike leg was long enough (20 miles/2 hours) that I didn’t need to go hard in the swim, or, I just didn’t have it? The water was clear, cool, and a little wavy from boats. I got sandwiched once and couldn’t go anywhere. I had a nice warm up and left in about 16.5 minutes (short for an xterra). Being so new, this is where I made my first big mistake (turned out to be a blessing I think). I took way more time in transition than normal (even put on gloves for better grip and socks, I never do that!…nearly a 3 min Raz transition), and somehow after ALL that time, I FORGOT the one necessity: FLUID. I left my camelbak in transition before a 2 hour ride. Hmmmm. (note to self, put water on your bike! I vaguely recall hanging the camelbak on my bar in Canada, MUCH better idea than off to the side!) So, I spent the first few miles (road climbing up to trail) wondering how to hydrate. There was an aid station before the singletrack climb at about 4-5 miles in. I stopped and asked if they had any bottles. Lots of men passed me here as the volunteer dug me out (I think his personal) a plastic water bottle. I was SO grateful and thought, well, I’ll throw this in my back pocket. I started riding up the single track for a couple more miles and realized how it wasn’t going to work with the screw cap and bobbling in my back pocket on the technical terrain. A couple miles later, I saw a nasty old discarded water bottle (we hope it wasn’t there for weeks and Dave is still joking I might get sick from it). I stopped again, got passed by some men, and spent the next mile riding (yeah, DUH, should’ve stopped there) with trying to unscrew the new bottle in my cage, unscrew the plastic bottle in my teeth and then pour it into the bottle while smashing the plastic and losing most of the water, all still riding. (and getting passed more and feeling TOTALLY retarded). Most everyone was very nice though and chuckled with me…at this point I could only laugh at myself. My retrospective thoughts are that it was meant to be because I definitely would’ve overdrank on the bike with my camelbak and had a terrible, stomach sloshing run. Instead, I only had about 6 oz of water, was dehydrated, and ran great.
OKAY, now I can focus on riding! By now, it’d had been about 8 miles of climbing (nothing like Helena steep, more gradual so it felt fairly good) and we were getting into the technical stuff. Oops, first spill on the elbow when a dude ran up my back and bumped my tire. OH well (my biggest fear before the race was getting in people’s way on the bike)! I let a few men pass me and then I started to ride stuff that looked scary and gained a little confidence. Before I knew it, I passed some people and came upon someone in full blue gear with MCGLONE written across her back…this was my second Holy Sh&t! moment. Third came when I noticed she wasn’t trying to ride much of the technical stuff! At this point, after being stuck behind her while she’d get off her bike and walk it over stuff, I hear this “GO LO” come up behind me. It was Dave! YAY!! Team Great Divide representing! We were both stuck behind her at this point (she did not want us to pass) and so I proceeded to chat with Dave and tell him my camelbak story. Finally, she let us pass and I said bye to Dave and didn’t see him until this finish line. It got crazy technical with big rocks, drops, two creek crossings, STEEP sandy climbs (not sure how anyone would ride that!…do you RANDY!?), and then, after about 5 miles of technical stuff, a wicked descent. I say wicked because my husband told me after the race he spent the whole time worrying about how our insurance was outta state because he KNEW i’d break an arm. That poor man! haha….I REALLY went slow as I have a very skiddish bike without grippy tires….I got passed by a woman on this squirrly section and she told me nice riding….at that point, I thought I was just back of the pack, so it gave me a nice ‘up’. The descent was full of swooping switchbacks, not tight, but VERY loose, deep sand. I heard some people say it was worse than the Maui sand. We got down to the pavement and I hammered (haha road skills on the mountain bike, big ringing it) and caught her w/ about a mile to transition. T2 went fine and I was glad to see Dave’s bike back and he was out on the run sporting the awesome TGD colors Greg so kindly borrowed him, thanks Greg! P.S. did you have a baby yet!?
The run was a blast. I’ve decided there’s nothing more fun than these Xterra runs. Wood stairways, roots, winding trails, trees, turns, short ups and downs, the fun doesn’t end! I usually suffer on triathlon 10k’s…they can be tough after a hard ride. But I just LOVE these xterra runs and they go by so fast with all that’s going on and the footwork to negotiate. I actually passed a lot of men (most of them bonking, or used too much legs on the bike) but I was just having fun. I was thinking of people in Helena who would rock these races like Wendy and Mark Brooke, Michelle R., Michele B, Evan, Aubrey, etc. Even the road tri people like Ann, Janet and Raz would love it with those trail runs! I’m not sure there’s an excuse with our backyard to play in! Anyone who loves trails would love these Xterras.
Not until some guy in a white outfit got in front of me about a mile from the finish line and said, “first woman or relay?…to which I responded with a shrug and said, I have no idea?, and he said, “well, are you a relay?” and i said no,” did I realize what type of race I may have just had. I was mostly alone on the run besides about 5 bonking guys I passed. It turned out that was Sam Mcglone’s private coach who flew up with her from Tucson for the race. I just kept smiling and ran through the finish and even then didn’t really know I’d won. I don’t think the calibur of pro women who’d raced in the past were there this year! HA. Oh well, I’ll take it. Dave had an amazing bike leg (as expected) and bonked a little himself on the run. He got 2nd in his age group!!! A TOUGH age-group! Greg said he had to if he borrowed his TGD tri top. 🙂 Way to go HUSB!
Okay, I know, I’m getting close to writing another novel so I better wrap it up! But when you only do one big race in the summer, you gotta write a lot about it! haha. I’ve also decided that sushi is the best pre-race meal ever this summer, and we had some delicious sushi in Mccall Friday night.
The volunteers, race directors, and chip timing were perfect and did a wonderful job. They were easily in touch with us and very friendly. The setting and scenery at Payette Lake was spectacular, and if you’re up for a challenging ride and an exciting run, I highly recommend thinking about trying this one next year. With the short swim, it really is feasible for anyone…Dave swam about twice before the race! The schwag was amazing, too, I can’t even list all that I came home with! Thanks for reading and being our teammates!