October 26, 2014
This year’s 6th place Xterra World Champ race finish was a bit of a surprise but at the same time, it wasn’t. Conflicting statement, yes- but I had a good feeling about this race going into it, and maybe that in part led to my enhanced confidence and excitement which also led to the good result. Or maybe it was just my time, who knows, but here’s the story…
After Xterra National Champs I signed on with a new coach and re-vamped my training routine. I had 5 weeks before Worlds and knew that this new coach (Tim) wouldn’t make me a World Champion in 5 weeks time, but he certainly wouldn’t do any harm, unlike I would do coaching myself. I didn’t want to create any expectations of myself and tried to think of this training as preparation for next year’s season. But I put my faith in him, did as he said and learned a lot about recovery, pre-race preparation, race nutrition and race pacing. I had a strange kind of calm in the week leading up to Worlds; I felt like I just wanted to get the race over with and take some R&R after a roller coaster season, but at the same time I was also excited to race and see where I stacked up. I thought it may be hard to get inside the top 10 as the field has been quickly growing in size and strength, but I knew I was feeling better than I did at the ITU Worlds in Germany where I finished 8th. I didn’t get an XTERRA TV interview so I felt like nobody expected me in the top 5 which also took some pressure off, but I secretly hoped and thought I could take a crack at it. I kept to myself for much of the week in Maui saving my energy from the draining heat, humidity and social atmosphere. On race morning I woke up with the butterflies in my stomach as usual but as the morning progressed, I became less nervous and was clearly less stressed out- as noted by Mechanic Chris before the race! All I thought about was the race strategy that Tim and I had discussed and enjoying my time out there. It had been quite some time since I’ve taken the focus off of results and onto the journey so this was an ideal situation for me to turn that around and I think that helped me feel more confident and less anxious.
The swim was brutal- the wind was strong which created some serious chop on the water, on top of some good sized surf. I focused on keeping my arm turnover high as Tim instructed, and staying in the draft since sighting was extremely difficult. I exited the water in about 9th position and had a slow transition, but Chantell Widney was right in front of me to work with. I sat on her wheel for a half mile or so while I let my body settle into cycling mode and also fiddled with my computer because it wasn’t connecting to my HR monitor. I couldn’t get it connected and I was about to get into the twisty section of single track so I decided to forget about it, pass Chantell and get out into my own space. My strategy was to pace myself early and ride technically smooth so I could go strong all the way through the race instead of going too hard early on and blowing up later. I felt great and even though I didn’t think I was pushing, I gradually began catching the women ahead of me. I passed five women in the first half of the course, all on climbs but still felt like I wasn’t working very hard, which continued to improve my confidence. I held onto 4th position through the remainder of the bike course, and executed my nutrition plan without a problem and felt pretty good going into the run.
As I made my way out of T2 I heard the announcement that Emma was right behind me and sure enough, she didn’t waste any time passing me to put me into 5th right out of T2. The first few miles of the run course were mostly uphill and with a competitor so close it’s hard not to go racing out which really drains your energy but I held back- again as instructed by Tim and settled into a pretty easy pace up the first hills. I started to wonder if this really was the best strategy when Helena Erbenova came flying by me less than a mile in, but stayed on track anyway. I tried to run smart- easy on the uphills and then open up the speed on the flats and downhills. I continued fueling with a gel flask and stayed positive and confident that I could hold onto 6th. By the time I finished I was spent. I swam, biked and ran as fast as I could, followed my nutrition plan and pacing strategy and even though I didn’t crack the top five I was happy. Sixth place was success for me on the day because I met all of my other goals, to include enjoying the race!
I’m now enjoying some R&R, reflecting on the season and looking forward to next year- a year with more ups than downs, greater confidence and even bigger success!