Monday, December 15, 2008

XTERRA Trail Race: Holy Crap

What a way to end the year. December 13 marked six months since my knee surgery, and I celebrated the next day with the Xterra 15K Crystal Cove Trail Race. Killer! I've been running the trail, El Moro, for a couple of months now in anticipation of Xterra mayhem, and I knew it was a difficult run, but nothing compared to race day... for several reasons:

They changed the course due to construction. Coming from someone who's been running the planned course, the altered version was way more difficult -- the first 3 miles, that is. I also heard the trail had about a 4,000-foot elevation gain in total and the 15K grew to over a 10-mile run with the change.

It was freakin freezing. 38 degrees when we arrived, low 40s when we started, and a frigid ocean breeze keeping it chilly.

The runners were gnarly. Xterra races clearly attract a legit group of athletes who know what they're doing! In fact, I think I was the youngest female out there.

I went into the race with the mentality that'd I push myself to finish on top. Things didn't work out how I planned. Ha. But I was able to pull off 11th female out of 100+ women and first in my age group (but my AG was a very insignificant group, so that's not that impressive, ha).

My mom, who also raced, and me with our AG & finisher medals:

The Race:
My mom, dad and I got to the race super early, about 5:45 a.m. for an 8 a.m. start. Why so early? It wasn't just to get a good parking spot in that small lot :) My dad was a volunteer, how cool! So while he helped set up aid stations and whatnot I hung out half asleep in the Ford F150. The frigid temp didn't help my enthusiasm. That wait sucked. I would have rather started in the dark at 6. I'm in the back here, about 6 a.m., looking tired and mean in this pic:

Finally, after bathroom breaks, food and warmup laps, I was antsy to GO! I placed myself at the front of the group this time (given the disastrous Turkey Trot start), and with the countdown so began the burn. Pure uphill for the first mile, as about 50 or so people jetted far out beyond any level I could run. Then the detour. Ouch. Right turn downhill, and down we went and went... I knew going down that far was bad news cause it meant we'd have to run up more than 1,000 feet to get back to the main trail.

As expected, that uphill lasted forever!!! No mercy, lots of pain. I was so happy to reach the top, which happened to be where my dad's aid station was. He frantically got some pictures of me:

At that point there was about 10k to go. At least I knew what to expect for the rest. Not that knowing the course was comforting: all a gradual uphill grade and hill climbs with only a few breaks. It doesn't really ease up until about the last few miles; and even that consists of steep rolling hills...uuuppp annddd ddooowwnnn...until the last 3/4 mile of pure decent.

Honestly, at any moment through the run I could have easily given up cause it just plain hurt. Even taking Saturday off didn't seem to matter. I kept thinking of excuses to stop and then I'd counter that with excuses to keep going. Mental strength was my saving grace. Not that I finished as well as I wanted to, but I at least didn't stop or walk ever.

I also tried to keep an eye on the other women racing. I felt somewhat high up in the pack, but I knew a handfull passed me and I'd never catch them. (I later found out that one of those top women happened to be a fellow blogger, Beth, who ended up third overall. I met her and her boyfriend (I'm guessing) after the race... congrats guys!)

Once I saw mile-marker 7 I was stoked, almost done! I sprinted hard on the last decent and was able to pass a couple of women to put me at 11th. Felt a little naseous at the finish, but still powered down some drinks and food. About 20 minutes after finishing, I became freezing cold... thankfully I had a cup of coffee waiting for me in the car, still hot.

I waited for my mom, who ended up third in her AG. We all stuck around for the awards, and I got some more food with my parents -- they had a great breakfast for us, even fresh scrambled eggs!

Getting my medal...

Mom, dad and me...

I'm so glad I was able to get three races in this year. Six months ago, I would have never thought that'd be possible. Especially this Xterra craziness. Geez!

Now, it's time to focus on IMCA (oh yea, and a half-marathon in a month, ha).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Despite a Bad Economy...

...Triathlon continues to grow, and I'm not surprised. Read the just-released article here. I know I'll keep pouring my money into it even though I'm on a very tight budget!

"...'In some respects, it's a recession-proof sport,' says [Blair LaHaye, spokesperson for World Triathlon Corp., the parent company of Ironman]... 'We have been fortunate not to see a downturn based on the state of economy.'"

Monday, December 8, 2008

Spoiled by SoCal Weather

I'm starting to see other tri bloggers post about snow, freezing temperatures and the winter conditions that affect, and even prevent, their outdoor workouts. I have a lot of respect for all you who deal with real winters. When I signed up for an April half-Ironman, I knew winter training was inevitable, but living in Southern California, I admit, I have it easy. Occasional rain storm, a cloudy day in the 50s...

For example, this picture was taken before a run at El Morro (Crystal Cove State Park) last week. The fog on the coast was a thick as it gets around here, and I still ended up taking off my shirt because I got so hot (also due in part because I ran inland so far that I left the fog bank behind).
And PS... This picture is also the sight where I'll be racing this Sunday in the Xterra 15K Trail Run. I'm super excited. My first race ever was a trail run, and this race is going to be very challenging to say the least. Click here to see an old blog of mine that shows the elevation chart.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Training Stimulation

I tried something new on my long run and bike this weekend -- podcasts. I usually have my iPod shuffle on while I work out; the music motivates me and pumps me up. (I keep it on a low volume, though, b/c I still like to be aware of my surroundings, especially on the bike; in fact, I turn it off in high traffic areas.) Lately, though, I've left the iPod behind to enjoy the sounds of Mother Nature, a riding partner I'm with or even just my own breathing.

But Saturday, I found a new addiction. I downloaded a bunch of free podcasts on iTunes of the Competitor Radio Show, as well as some podcasts from Triathlete Magazine and others. (Search "triathlon" on iTunes.) I've only listened to Competitor Radio so far, and man is it entertaining to hear Bob Babbit -- who I love and admire so much -- and Paul Huddle talk to some amazing athletes: Craig Alexander fresh off his win in Kona; Dean Karnazes, whose interview was done while he was literally running during his 700-mile "mission to mission" run (he ran from Sonoma County to San Diego, stopping at all the CA missions on the way); Norman Stadler, Mark Allen and many more. The best part is, there are endless podcasts, which means hours of pure triathlon and endurance sports entertainment!

Some people I've talked to can't imagine concentrating on a radio show while working out. My dad is definitely one of those people, but then again, he spends hours just trying to get music onto an iPod. It's a valid point -- I mean, I don't know how people read books and magazines on cardio machines at the gym, are you kidding me? -- but to be honest, having a podcast fill my brain made me faster! It diverts the focus away from looking at the watch, you forget about any tiredness, fatigue or even boredom, and you just go while hearing amazing stories.

In my opinion, it's a great way to spice up training. I can learn the stories and personalities of all the athletes I admire so much. I mean, I didn't know Faris Al-Sultan covers up his power meter cause he just doesn't want to know, I didn't know the story behind Mark Allen's sixth Kona win (and holy shit is it a story!), I didn't know Andy Potts' wife battled cancer or that Ryan Hall adds GUs into his water bottles.... I could go on for a while from all I learned in just two workouts!

With all those hours spent working out, why not learn something while you're at it?