TriForcer Sian Turner was FIRST OVERALL at Xterra Granite Bay a couple weeks ago. This was a well deserved victory– Sian’s dedication to her training has been outstanding this year (including a 30 runs in 30 days with a few days of running in a blizzard!) Here’s her description of the battle among the top 3 women:
Just a little change of tempo in recent race reports for you all. If you have time, this is a link to the report of one of the girls I was racing against and finished second behind me, http://karalapoint.wordpress.
Xterra Real is one of the first Xterra’s in the US each season and happens to be just up the road at Folsom lake; it is a points series race (you gather points to get a qualifying slot for US nationals) vs. a regional championship where you can get a world champs slot, so it’s generally a small-ish, low key event and only locals who show up to it vs. anyone travelling too far to get there. That said, this region has a lot of fast Xterra athletes and this race is so well organized, and while the course is short it is really fun and a great start to the season. Xterra is a small world and especially on the women’s side you generally know who is racing and therefore who is going to be vying for the top spots (there were just 30 women total in this whole race). I raced this race in 2010 (3rd overall female) and 2011 (4th overall female) so I knew the course fairly well but trail conditions were pretty different this year (dry and sandy) vs. the previous 2 times I’ve raced where it was just plain muddy. I knew I had a shot at the win but I also knew that both Kara and Debby were racing; I’d always been close-ish to them in races last season but never really been that close to Debby on the bike or to Kara on the run or swim. Debby also lives right by these trails now knowing the trail conditions and lines was going to add to her biking advantage.
For the first time in years, the water was over 50 degrees; I like cold water so this was great for me, the last few years it’s been scary cold somewhere in the mid to high 40s so it was nice to be able to feel all appendages after exiting! It is only a 0.5mile swim and I think it measured pretty accurately so for me getting out in 13:30 was a great result and amazingly put me right in contention from the start rather than chasing like a mad thing on the bike to try and close a gap. I made a conscious decision before the race to race without my garmin and HR strap and even to bail on putting gloves and glasses on in T1 – I had a feeling that every second I could eek out was going to count if I wanted to try and be at the front. ‘No messing around’ was my main plan for the day and also to just go hard from the start, it was a 2hour race and if I missed out on a top of the field position I would make sure it wasn’t because I didn’t put 100% in 100% of the time. I had one bottle of water/calories (about 300) on the bike which was going to be enough for the whole race if I got the majority down me – most of this race was going to be about how much you could deal with hurting!
My T1 was fast and pretty soon I found Debby just in front of me – we were moving at the same speed but not quite all out so I had to decide whether to stick on her tail or overtake; I went for the overtake and rode in front for a short time but some of the back section of the course tripped me up technically with other people screwing up around me so I was off and running my bike for a short section before I could remount; Debby navigated past me and gained some ground but I kept her in sight. I thought Kara was in front of us at this point as she’s a great swimmer so I was a little confused when she came up behind me; again a technical section screwed me up just for a second and Kara got in front which put me in third, but I got back to Kara’s wheel and sat there for a while – we got glimpses of Debby ahead of us, she was making time but we hoped we were pushing hard enough to make sure the gap didn’t get too big. It’s a 2 lap bike course (2nd lap was way better for me as I’d found the right/wrong lines first time around so rode much smoother) and going into the second lap Kara and I rode together – we were moving at a good pace; just as I was calculating where I could try and make a move to see if I could make a gap on Kara before hitting the run (I know she can run!), she made the smallest of mistakes on a sandy corner and went down in front of me. We’re friends, sure, but on the trail we all compete to our abilities on the day, so I had to take my chance and I knew she’d have done the same if it was the other way around and we both understand what that’s about – I quickly checked she was not hurt, then had to get my head down and make as much time as I could in the next 5 or 6 miles before hitting the run. I didn’t look back, had no idea what gap I had and turned my focus to seeing if I could close the gap to Debby a bit as well as staying clear of the chasing Kara. I have to say, I think this is the most fun I’ve ever had at a race – most often I’m racing against myself for the most part rather than being right in the mix of such a close race where really it was any of ours to win or lose; the tactics involved were also going to make a difference so a bad decision was going to change things as well.
At the end of the bike Debby had over a minute on me and I’d no idea where Kara was, for all I knew she was right behind me and I was going to have to find something major on the run to stay clear. I’d not held anything back on the bike but I was very much hoping that I had the fitness to MTB somewhere at threshold for an hour and 16mins and still be able to push my poor legs for a threshold 4mile trail run. The first mile or so of the run is flat, I went hard and after about 5mins could see Debby and see that I was gaining on her, I made the pass by the halfway point just before we hit some good hills; again, yes we’re friends but we can race as competitors and be happy for whoever has the best on the day – I may have said a quick ‘hi’ as I passed but I was too busy hurting and breathing so hard it was likely more of a grunt! I was now running scared as I still had no clue where Kara was and I still had 2 miles of hills to get up and down to the finish – that’s a long way when the hill just gets steeper and reduces many legs to power walking. At the top of the hill someone (who I thought at the time was and now know for sure was Kara’s boyfriend) was kind enough to tell me I had a bout a minute’s lead; I half believed it but half didn’t and got my head down and kept running – I’ve been run down late in runs before and it’s no fun; every bit of remaining energy was going to go into making sure it didn’t happen now! I got to the mostly flat last mile wondering if I was going to have to muster a sprint finish; I dared myself to look back a couple of times and kept not seeing Kara. There is a finishing straight of about 200yards or so and once I got there and still couldn’t see her I was pretty sure I had the win; good job as my quads I think would have cramped up at any sign of a sprint finish!
Kara came in about a minute later with an almost identical run split to me (30:49 for the 4 miles), and Debby (fastest bike split) about a minute after her. It was anyone’s on the day and we will all meet again many times this season, along with a multitude of other usual (and fast!) suspects on the Xterra scene; having this race under our belts to get some cobwebs out feels awesome and as Kara points out in her report, ‘strong competition is what makes us grow as athletes’.
I’ve definitely had a different level of commitment to my training since sometime in December; even though since then I have travelled plenty for work (England, boston, las vegas, England again, Colorado and las vegas again this weekend) and had a week out with tonsillitis, the training I have done in between times has been consistent, much higher volume than anything last year (I’ve had a couple 15hour weeks, along with a couple of 30mile run weeks, with 10-12 hour training weeks now feeling very manageable). This has made a huge difference and I hope this race was the first of many where I see these training results pay off. A couple of other minor tweaks I have made which I think add to the picture include really making an effort to get to bed at 9 or 10pm (I rarely sleep past 6am naturally so getting to bed early is the only way to get enough sleep), I’ve also (even though I generally ate very healthy anyway) cut out a large % of the bread, pasta, pizza I did eat, upped my veg, fruit, nuts and salad intake even more and rely mostly on rice, potatoes/sweet potatoes and oats for starchy/carbs; my engine seems to run better this way. I’m not 100% strict by any means and don’t stick to wheat/gluten free the whole time (I prob will leading up to races now though) but I just know that if I do indulge in a pizza (and I do every so often, I like food too much not too J), I will just feel a bit sluggish the next day.
With my main training focus being on HIM this year (wildflower then vineman 70.3) I’m quite surprised at the fitness seemingly transferring pretty well to xterra. Next race is on dirt again – xterra west champs in vegas In less than two weeks – it’s at the end of a long week in vegas for work so it’s going to be interesting to see how antisocial I can be for a whole week staying on the strip!