It was my third trip back to race the extremely fun Xterra course in Alabama this past weekend. JF, Zoe and I also enjoyed the great southern hospitality of Jerry Ryan along with fellow competitors, Wil, Erin, Branden, Blake, and Emma. Chris and Zeph, our amazing mechanics of Luna were also on hand with the trailer to support Shonny and I. It always adds to pre-race confidence to know your bike is in perfect working order! It was also great to be able to warm up on the trainers and wake up the legs before an early 7:30am race start, and then stay dry post-race when the rains really came down! Chris even jumped in the racing action and won the duathlon!
After a moment of silence in memory of Steve Larsen and a few tearful words from Conrad Stolz, we pros took the plunge into the lake under dark cloudy skies with a minute head strat on the age-groupers, who were allowed to wear wetsuits while the pros could not. Shonny, Wil and I exited the water together after two laps and I gave a quick wave to a blurry-eyed Zoe, who had just arrived with JF. Although I’ve raced on a full suspension the past two times I’ve done this course, I decided to try break out the Orbea Alma for this race in hopes of taking even more advantage of my climbing strength. However, this may not have been the best plan as I was quickly reminded of how many roots and rocks this course had, and in the end I had my slowest bike split by a minute on this course and found myself in 8th position heading out onto the run, not where I was hoping to be. I hopped onto the road running mad, I was going to get the fastest run split and catch who I could. I had fun leaping over the roots and dancing through the twisting trees before hitting the climbing walls of the last few kilometres of the run where we ran straight up and straight back down a few times before popping back out onto the pavement. On the pavement I could see Jenny Smith ahead and gave it all I could to close the gap, in the end she had me by 9 seconds! Feeling fit I met my goal of the fastest run split of the day to 7th place, however falling short of my podium expectations.
Melanie McQuaid took her third consecutive win leading from start to finish. Lesley Paterson was second, Renata Bucher 3rd, teammate Shonny Vanlandingham 4th, and Emma Gerrad in 5th. Now back in Calgary, spring has finally arrived and I’m finally able to enjoy riding my mountain bike at home. This weekend I’ll be doing a fun 8h enduro mountain race as part of a team of 4 before the Xterra Northwest Cup next weekend. It is the one Xterra race of the year we can drive to so looking forward to not packing my bike for flying for once! Over and out, and looking forward to improving again in the next one!