Xterra Buffalo Pound- Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Dave and I decided to head north to see a new part of the world and test out what the flat-landers call mountain biking. True enough, we encountered many short hilly blips but nary a mountain. The bike course was very interesting with many technical turns, lots of twizzly trees, and constant ups and downs. At one point, I was seriously concerned about what I was doing to the chain and gearing on my bike, continually shifting from granny gear spinning to climb, then strong crests over the top and back to the granny gear. Dave mostly noticed there were no long descents,which we are so used to here, naturally, as there were no long climbs either. Yet another race where we returned with a big ol’ slap in the face of how lucky we are to live where we do!

There were MANY gracious people and nice racers who welcomed us, chatted with us, and thanked us for coming to see what they offered. Immediately upon walking to the swim, more than a few people came up to chat. That was heart-warming to us, as we were entering the cold water for the first swim of the year (besides one pool swim last week) and fearful after the horror stories of our friends in Boise 24 hours earlier. The swim ended up being very enjoyable for both of us. The lake was part of a Provincial Park and was actually very nice, albeit choppy with a strong breeze. There was a 200 yard (yes that far) beach run in between our two 500m laps. It was very fun actually, and Dave’s best description was he felt like “a fish outta water” flapping along the beach, still in his goggles. Haha, what a visual. I’m sure we were all quite the site!

It seemed like the majority of the 100 or so racers were doing the half distance race, which made sense to us only after our bike course kept going, and going,…..and going. I was SO ready to be done with all those little blips (everything looked the same after a while) and it was the first time in my LIFE of triathlon that I actually thought about the nice swimming (and that I’d rather be swimming) while on the bike course. Most of that had to do with a muddy section I slid down and somehow stopped myself by heading a tree. DON’T TELL MY MOM! I think the muscles in my neck took the brunt of it, but after losing a shoe, scraping my armpit down a tree (I’ll show you the sweet effects of that at the meeting tonight if you’re lucky) and rekindling my flailing bike….I stood up to realize I didn’t feel concussed at all and actually had no pain (minus the fear of what I just did), besides all the scrapes so characteristic of XTERRA. I should’ve known to be extra careful as I immediately caught a handlebar on a twizzle tree coming onto the bike course. Dave caught me about 1/3 into the bike course, and he was flying (great swim Dave!!!). I knew there were only about 5 men in front of me out of the swim so I was very proud of him. I also was told at that point that I was first woman. I don’t even know how many women did the full course honestly (maybe less than 10). That bike was so gnarly that I’m impressed with any of them.

Finally after about 2 hours of winding around the hills, I was back in transition and feeling fine in the head. Having ran the half Saturday, I knew I was treading thin waters with cramping on the run. I had to shorten my stride and my legs loosened up about 3k into the 10k run. Surprisingly, we started straight up a hill (wait, I did say there weren’t any mountains, right? at that point it felt like the only mountain in Saskatchewan, especially to Dave) for about 2k. Our run was two 5k loops and the second half of the run was a blast, twisting and turning through the same forests of deciduous trees we just rode through. I loved this and Dave hated it. It is NOT ideal for a long-legged gazelle type runner. Xterra’s never really are, and you can never really see where you are in relation to the field. It was the first time in my life that BEING SHORT became advantageous. Multiple times on the bike and run, you had to dodge trees at head height. I giggled as I squeaked right under them and continued my ski racing habits around the turns. That brought the fun back to me and I really enjoyed the second 5k.

As always, the Canadians put on quite the event. We had to bust outta there as the race took longer than we thought and still arrived back in Helena at 11pm (about 7-8 hour drive). Originally we planned on Xterra Moab this weekend but that drive would’ve been 11 hours. It was another wonderful, sporadic adventure for us (always that way, as of late) and we came home with some sweet technical T’s and a few painful chaff marks as reminders of what we call fun. Hopefully we can talk some of you into joining us on our next one!

Wish we had more pictures, and no idea of the results but I’m guessing Dave finished top 10 overall in the men and probably fairly high, if not first, in his age-group. I finished 4 minutes after him in 3:08 and nary a woman in sight. All of the men I was bike/running with were very encouraging to me and throughout the ups and downs, I remembered my hard core friends all over the country racing this weekend and staying tough. In that sense, it was easy to finish with a smile.

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