Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Fun at the USDAA Trial

Strummer and I competed in a USDAA tournament only trial this weekend, first one I've ever been to and it was very fun.  Classes moved along quicker than normal because there weren't course re-sets and walk-thrus for all the different levels.  I signed us up for 5 classes for both days, way more than our normal load but this will probably be our only trial until November and it's only 18 mins. from the house.  Saturday was long for me even though I was finished by 4:15.  My brain was in a muddle by the last run which thankfully was Speed Jumping and even though I got lost and confused we still managed to only get refusals and qualify for Finals, somehow in second place.  I guess lots of other people were muddled as well.

Some really fun, challenging, interesting courses, some of the best I've run in a while so I thought I'd share some maps and video.  Strummer did surprisingly well on courses that ate up a lot of really great teams.  I combined 4 of my favorite runs in one video which I realize is not ideal but I don't have time to go back and redo them.

Team Standard, MC Standard, MC Jumpers and Speed Jumping Finals

 The challenging part of Team Standard was the dogwalk to the A-frame.  Even people with stopped contacts struggled to get the backside of jump 6 because their contacts weren't independent, ie the dog didn't stop while they caught up and a front, rear or even a blind after 4 put people behind on the dogwalk so many dogs took the front side of 6.  I stayed on the left of the dogwalk and did a rear on the flat.  I called him to me to prevent him taking the wrong side of the jump and he missed his contact but might have missed it anyway and taken the wrong side of 6 if I hadn't called him.  Then 6-9 presented an issue for those of us with fast dogs who didn't want to loose our knees after the tunnel.  I stayed on the left side of the A-frame and was able to run fast enough to pick him up for 9.  It wasn't pretty but we got it done without a refusal.  I knew he'd come out of the tunnel the wrong way but he corrected easily enough.  15-18 proved an issue for some teams but we serped it no problem.  I was initially planning a front at the teeter but decided for a rear at 15 on the fly.  Thought it would be smoother.  Lots of E's on this course, was thrilled to make it through with only a missed dogwalk contact.

I thought MC Standard was easier than Team Standard except for the weave pole entry.  I had a feeling we would miss that.  I have practiced this scenario with a pull but it didn't work as planned.  Most people put a front in between 5 and 6 to make the weave entry easier for the dog.  I thought about it but decided I wanted to try the pull.  And again that knee destroying tunnel challenge at 7.  Not very smooth but we pulled it off.  Missed his dogwalk again but we still ended up in 3rd.

MC Jumpers was maybe the most fun course of the weekend.  I rushed his weave entry and he missed but otherwise he did great.  The fault put us into 2nd place.

Speed Jumping Finals.  Wee Ha Fast and Fun!  I turned a little too soon to avoid the off course jump and again helped botch the weave entry.  But otherwise a great run and a great weave entry off the A-frame.  The bobble cost us the win and we ended up in 2nd by only 1/2 a second.

Unfortunately the battery on my GoPro ran out without me realizing and I missed my Team Jumpers run.  I had spare batteries but the indicator didn't show the battery was low so I thought I had plenty of juice.  Here's the map anyway.  It was our only E of the weekend other than Grand Prix.  We had a back jump at 11 but otherwise a nice smooth run.  This was a challenging course for many and there were lots of E's.  Some had a back jump at 11 like I did, others had the off course jump at 3 because the dog went over 11 with way too much extension.  Others struggled with 13-15 either getting the #9 tunnel or a back jump at 14.  Strum had nice collection over 11, I simply decelerated, stopped and called him but rather than trusting him and continuing on I stood there watching him and for lack of any cues he turned back and took the jump.  I handled the line through 14 with him on my right, did a rear at 14 and a rear I think between 17 and 18.  Push to 19 was no problem.  Was very pleased with his rear at 14 since he struggles with rears in general and this one was a sharp turn.  He read it early enough and had enough collection though so he pulled it off nicely.  Lots of dogs had too much extension and either ended up in the tunnel or back jumping 14.  Some people intentionally turned their dogs to the left over 14 which took more time but was safer for not getting an off course  and easier on the dog if they didn't get a collection cue early enough.  Wish I had video but oh well.

I don't have video for Team Gamblers but this was our most exciting run.  I had an ambitious plan and had to alter it mid-course because I had extra time to I was a bit out of position when the horn blew but we pulled it off with 2 seconds to spare.  1st place and most points of all the dogs, Champ and Perf.  The numbers indicate the opening and the letters indicate the closing.  I'm a little unclear as to when the horn blew so the closing starts with either B or C.  25 obstacles in 38 seconds, that was a run my ass of, seat of the pants run.  And risky because there was a chance he'd blow past the finish jump and be over time and lose his closing points.  Most people did 2 loops of tunnel/tire for their closing or tunnel/tire/jump/teeter.  But the A-frame was the high point obstacle and including it and going for the fast line of jumps at the end seemed like more fun for Strummer rather than all that fussy turning.  A few people that tried this had trouble with the line of jumps at the end, missing G or running past the finish jump.  Also most people went to the left for the opening, taking the start jump/chute/A-frame then doing some combo of jump/tunnel/A-frame then moving on to the dogwalk or weaves to get back to the tunnel by the dogwalk for the closing.

Overall we did pretty well, our PVP Team got a Q in 4th place, Strummer was overall 2nd Team dog for 16" division, 2nd place in both Speed Jumping Rounds, 1st in Team Gamblers, 2nd in Team Standard, other placements kind of a blur.  And of course a 6 point Team Snooker run to keep us humble, his only truly naughty move of the trial when he ran behind me to take a tunnel I wasn't planning.  This happened to many teams.  Kind of my fault for taking my eye off of him and not leading out far enough but still.  Drives me crazy when he darts behind me.

Probably no more trials until November.  Unless I go to a USDAA trial in October which will probably only happen if I don't go to Xterra Nationals.  Which I might not because Jonny had the brilliant idea of let's buy another mountain bike that he absolutely does not need and an espresso machine and we have a huge car insurance bill next month and I'm not willing to dip into savings for a trip.  He seems to think we can pull it off but I'm not impressed with his financial planning skills at the moment so we'll see.  Maybe he has a stash of money lying about somewhere that I'm not privy to.  And yes I'm extremely aggravated.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Sitting is the New Smoking - Life Hacks Outside the Ring

I suspect most people writing today are going to talk about what they do for their dogs to prepare for those few brief moments in the ring.  I'm going to focus on what we can do for ourselves, the human part of the team.  And of course some photos at the end of fun stuff I do with my dogs.  But so many agility folks spend so much time and resources on their dogs and such little time and resources on themselves, often to the detriment of their performance in the ring.

Movement/Mobility Practice or 'Sitting is the New Smoking'

This is a new concept to me but it's something I think could be a huge benefit to the agility community.  I'm not talking about yoga or pilates or any of those specific practices but rather the idea of generalized movements that help us maintain range of motion, flexibility and strength that are important for basic quality of life let alone the ability to do a front cross.  There are many examples of this on YouTube but Scott Sonnon's series of videos for beginners is where I'll be starting in a few weeks once I'm through with triathlon season.  Because even though I spend about 10 hours or so a week swimming, biking, running and lifting weights and a few more hours walking the dogs that leaves a good 100 hours per week that I'm largely sedentary and a good portion of that is probably spent sitting.  And if you haven't heard the mantra, 'Sitting is the new smoking' it's only a matter of time until you do.  Those standing desks can help but I can tell you from the personal experience of having a job that required me to stand all the time that that can cause physical problems as well.  The ideal state for the human body is a variety of positions and motions.  Alternating sitting down and standing up and taking little walking breaks is a good start.  But I want more, I want to be able to move like this guy:

Ido Portal


Another good resource is Kelly Starrett.  I finally got his book, 'Becoming a Supple Leopard-How to Hack Human Movement'  from the library and I started working my way through yesterday.  It's a BIG book.  Lots of info. to soak in.  May have to pony up the money for my own copy.

LOTS of free videos here.  And a great interview with him on London Real:

Kelly Starrett

I'm sure there are lots of other sources out there and if anyone knows a good one or if you have a movement practice please feel free to share in the comments.  In the meantime I've got a lot to keep me busy for the winter.  One-armed handstand by spring?  We'll see.  I think I'll start off with a flat-footed squat.  Because I may be able to hike/bike/run up a mountain and sort of keep up with a screaming fast off his head Border Collie but I can't do a simple flat-footed squat.


Sleep.  So important.  I'd like to get the recommended 8 hours but it usually works out to 7.  Falling asleep is no problem.  In fact staying awake to a reasonable hour is the bigger problem.  I'm lucky if I make it to 9:00.  T.V. puts me right out and reading is even worse so I'm not sure what to do at night.  Still working on that hack.  Then I'm usually up by 5:15-5:45 without an alarm.  Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night, more so in winter when I'm not training as hard for triathlons.  If I can't fall back to sleep I'll watch a mindless t.v. show on my tablet and it puts me right out.  This is exactly what the sleep experts tell you not to do but it works a treat for me.  So if you struggle with sleep and you've been following the experts' protocols to no avail then start experimenting on your own.

I've never tried it myself but some of my sleep clients have had success with binaural beats.  I make a CD for them from free tracks I find on the internet.  Of course I can't find the link right now, I downloaded the files years ago, but there are plenty out there, probably loads of apps. as well.

Lucid dreaming is something else I've played around with but not enough to notice any sort of performance advantages.  I did get to the point of being able to control a dream though and it was very cool.  Then I'd forget to follow the steps which for me were reminding myself throughout the day that I was awake and remembering my dreams as soon as I woke up.  Even making an effort to remember dreams is an interesting practice.  I need to leave a pad of paper on my nightstand so I can get in the habit of writing them down so I'll remember to remember.  There are other things you can do to bring on lucid dreaming but those two work for me.

In any case staying on top of sleep is important especially if you find yourself getting up super early a lot for trials.  I see so many short fuses on the second or third day of an agility trial and it's always folks who are complaining about how tired they are.  Hard to stay on top of that Snooker run if you're fatigued.


Also uber important.  Effects pretty much everything.  I could go on forever but I won't.  Last February I started some nutrition experiments on myself and I wrote about them here and here.  In short I've adopted a low carb, high fat, moderate protein diet and it's had huge positive effects on my health and performance.  I eat LOTS of vegetables, little to no sugar or processed food, healthy fats in the form of grass fed meat and dairy products, coconut oil, almond butter, nuts, avocados, some olive oil.

Though weight loss wasn't the purpose I went from around 126-127 lbs last February to around 114 1/2 - 115 1/2 lbs in August (haven't been on a scale in a couple of weeks but those are the last numbers I have).  My blood work has always been good but this past June I had a good drop in triglycerides and a small drop in bad cholesterol, modest gain in good cholesterol.  Again, numbers were already good so they didn't have far to go.  I feel a lot better, I can go for long periods of time without being hungry which is handy at agility trials and during triathlon training and races.  I've not gone all the way to ketosis but it's on my list for this winter once I'm done with tri season.  Mostly interested to see if it will improve mental cognition.  Getting rid of the last bit of processed grains/gluten (whole wheat bread, tortilla chips, burrito and taco shells) made a huge difference in brain fog and energy levels.  I'm curious to take it to the next level.

Everybody's different though and it's important to experiment on yourself and see what works for you.  In general though if you want to be able to perform well at agility, life, whatever - eat real, healthy whole food, and don't eat processed food, grain fed beef and dairy products, processed seed oils, sugar, and gluten and you should be good.  And maybe some Vitamin D supplements if you're deficient.


As for Strummer he enjoys plenty of activities outside the ring.

Isabelle Glacier Bench

Same peaks in the background as the photo above but from a lower, farther away trail

Arapahoe Pass

Boulder Rez

Chatauqua Park/Enchanted Mesa


Wubba!!!  Snow!!!

Watering Can.  Bestest Toy Ever.

Banditing CU's Turkey Trot

Gotta have a rest day

Or two

Grand Canyon

This post is part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day.  If you'd like to read about what other folks are doing Outside the Ring then click here.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Xterra Buffalo Creek 2014

Xterra Buffalo Creek
1500 meter swim
22 mile bike
5 mile run
8000' elevation

Despite the ominous looking early morning fog rolling over the lake it was a perfect day for a race. 

The morning started out a bit chilly when I arrived at the race site at around 6:20 a.m. but once the sun rose above the hill in the picture shown above it warmed up nicely and stayed about as perfect as it gets.

I have more photos of the course here from last year's race and here from this year's pre-ride.

This year's race went way better than last year in part because last year I got sick from a gel very early on the bike and it took a good hour or so for my stomach to settle.  Also the training from a coach who actually knows what she's doing.  Also the new bike with the fancy suspension lockout.  Lots of non-technical climbing on this bike course and being able to lock out both front and rear suspension made a huge difference.  I cut 11:33 mins. off my bike time from last year and 3:02 mins.  off my run.  The swim was way short this year and I think it was long last year so it's not useful to compare swim times.  Overall my time was 24:02 mins. faster but again, the short swim means 14:35 better at least, maybe even faster if I'd had a relatively faster swim.  Still, a huge improvement and I was very happy.  And it was a very fun day, I felt great on the bike and was able to push myself on the run though the last few miles of the run did not feel so fabulous.  But they're not supposed to if you're doing it right.  Plus some bling, third place in my age group.

On the run I ended up running nearly the whole thing with another woman who was in her 30's and doing her second Xterra, her first race being Lory.  We ran the last few miles side by side, pacing and encouraging each other and near the finish line her boyfriend appeared with their boxer and cheered her in to the finish.  And something about this seemed awfully familiar.  Finally the memory from Xterra Lory bubbled to the surface.  As I was walking back to my car after Lory I heard a woman complaining to her boyfriend that the race had been too hard and no way was she going to do Buffalo Creek.  Now normally I would keep my trap shut but something compelled me to intervene.  Maybe because Xterra needs more women, maybe something about this particular woman, I don't know, but I piped up and told her what a beautiful, fun race Buffalo Creek is and as long as she puts in some training over the summer she'll love it, it's such a fun day.  I assured her the course wasn't technical, very fun smooth singletrack, challenging for the length of it (22 miles) and the climbing but SO much fun.  I know she can totally do it.  And as it turns out, this is the woman I was running with for the past 52 minutes.  After we cross the finish line I thank her for pulling me along and she does the same and I ask her by chance did she remember if a crazy lady tried to convince her to do the race back at Lory and oh yes, she remembers.  And yes, she had a great day and loved the race and was very glad she did it.  What are the chances of that? 

This is my last Xterra before Nationals and I'm feeling pretty good about things after this race.  There is one more off-road triathlon the week before Nationals that I might do as a rune-up race, still undecided about that.  Very happy with my season so far, can't wait for Nationals next month.

Final Stats

Swim:  1500 meters/1640 yards, 25:41 swimming (1:34/100 yards) and 25:56 official time.  Swim was definitely short. [last year about 33 mins. swimming time (2:01/100 yards)/35 secs. wading through mud and 1:46 dash up the beach for official time of 35:21]

T1: 2:31 (last year 2:32)

Mountain Bike:  22 miles, 2:23:25/9.2 mph  (last year 2:34:58/8.5 mph)

T2:  1:00 (last year 1:05)

Trail Run:  5 miles, 52:51/10:22 min./mile, (last year 55:53/11.11 min./mile)
Total:  3:45:44 (last year 4:09:46)

3/4 Age Group, 33/49 Women, 176/212 Overall
(last year 9/10 Age Group, 44/57 Women, 177/211 Overall) 

Swim:   3/4 Age Group, 21/49 Women, 128/212 Overall
              (last year 6/10 Age Group, 133/211 Overall)

T1:         1/4 Age Group, 17/49 Women, 101/212 Overall
              (last year 6/10 Age Group, 107/211 Overall)

Bike:      3/4 Age Group, 34/49 Women, 179/212 Overall
               (last year 9/10 Age Group, 198/211 Overall)

T2:         1/4 Age Group, 8/49 Women, 57/212 Overall 
              (last year 1/10 Age Group, 58/211 Overall)

Run:      3/4 Age Group, 40/49 Women, 186/212 Overall
              (last year 10/10 Age Group, 192/211 Overall) 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Strummer Days Drifting Away

It's flying by.  Was greeted by this stunning sunrise at the Rez this morning, a sure sign that summer is starting to wind down and fall will be here before we know it.

I'll have to remember to start bringing my real camera and maybe even try some video with the GoPro.  But somehow the craptastic iPhone camera did o.k. this morning.  Some things are so amazing that even crappy iPhone can't screw them up.

I realize I've been neglecting the blog.  I post quick things over on Facebook and forget to come here.  Stupid Facebook, I like reading blogs so much better but I'm in the minority.

I love this time of year and we've been having a stellar summer, relatively cool and just enough rain to keep the fire danger down, I'm not even starting to get burnt out on the heat and sun.  Wish all summers could be like this, it's like it was when we first moved here 24 years ago before all the droughts and global warming and Too Many People driving Too Many Cars.  I've even been able to do some backyard agility training with Strummer in the afternoon if I happen to be home.  Unheard of in August. 

Strummer sez, 'Yay for summer backyard ganes'.

Lola sez, 'Yay for summer backyard naps'.  She's 13 1/2 so she can nap all she wants.

And in other news Strummer went to the Boulder Ironman to cheer on the cyclists and got some cheers of his own from the cyclists.  And some snugs off of a lady with a cowbell.

I have a lot I could write about the Ironman in general but it's long winded and not very positive so I'll keep my yap shut.  Was interesting to watch the race though.  These photos are taken with 4-6 miles left on a 112 mile bike ride all of which had been in blazing sun up until that point.  The course went way out east where you may as well be in Kansas and it was probably poke your eyes out boring and these riders were just returning to town.  Some were happy for some crowd support, others had their heads down and were on a mission.  Some looked like they had a marathon left in them and others . . . not so much.  I avoided the downtown Finish Line hoopla but I did watch a bit of the finish on the Ironman website and it seemed like it wasn't a super deep field, ie not many people finishing at the pointy end.  But I don't know, maybe there are so many races these days that that's normal. 

Despite what the media were reporting this was not Boulder's first ironman.  There was an ironman back in 2001 that lasted a couple few years then turned into a half ironman then the Ironman cartel bought the half and added a full and this is the first year the full has been an Ironman under the official Ironman brand.  Which for some reason matters to people.  There was an ironman in Grand Junction this May and only 17 people went to that one vs over 3000 for the Official Ironman Brand race in Boulder.  Registration fee for the 2015 Grand Junction race was $200 on this year's race weekend, $250 until May 19 of this year and is currently at $400.  Registration for Official Ironman Brand race for this year's Boulder Race?  $760!  And I think the one in New York is/was over $1000.  Being an Ironman vs an ironman is a spendy proposition, not for the weak of wallet.  Whole new tax bracket.  Lots of super fancy cars parked at the Rez for masters swims and races in the couple few weeks before the race.  Quite an education in Ironman Culture over the past couple few weeks.  On the plus side my masters swim group must have made a nice profit this year.

Meanwhile my race season is still in full swing.  I have Xterra Buffalo Creek in 2 1/2 weeks then Xterra Nationals in September.  And maybe a non-Xterra sactioned off-road tri the week before Nationals just so I can get in the open water before Nats.  I'm not as fussy as the Ironman folk, non-Xterra is fine with me.  I'm pretty sure I already have enough points to qualify for Nationals even without Buffalo Creek.  I'm currently sitting in 8th place (top 10 go to Nationals) and with the exception of one person I don't think anyone else below me will do another race let alone 2.  The past 2 years I've finished in 7th place, we'll see if it happens again this year.

Then there's hiking in the high country, another summer treat.  Wildflowers are epic this year due to the snowy winter and wet spring.

I know you're jealous of my loud purple shorts. 

Oh yeah, and the rattlesnake.  We saw 2 on different trails but I only got a photo of this one.  The other one was angry and rattling and there were people between me and it so I couldn't see it before it slithered into a hole right next to the trail.  Still rattling and angry and I could still see it's silhouette.  Let a few other people go past it before I went and put my bike between me and it.  A little scary but I made it past.

Still a few more weeks to squeeze out as much as I can.  Better go throw another load of laundry into the washer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

XTERRA Aspen Valley - All The Carnage

XTERRA Aspen Valley
1200 meter/1312 yard swim, 12 mile mountain bike, 5k/3.1 mile trail run
Starting Elevation 6483' 
El Jebel, Colorado (between Glenwood Spring and Aspen)

I'll admit I came this close to bailing on the race and driving up to the Maroon Bells for a hike on race morning.  It's one of my favorite areas and it's perfect timing for wildflowers which I'll bet are epic this year due to the heavy winter snow and wet spring.  So much more tempting than torturing myself again on that bike course.  I barely made it through one lap yesterday on the pre-ride and now I have to do two laps and my legs are still a little stiff from yesterday.  And run and swim as well.  I'm not a fan of self-flagellation or being scraped off the side of a mountain but I'm also not a fan of bailing on committments.  But can I finish this course in one piece?  For the first time ever I'm not entirely sure.  It's not just scary, it's also very physically demanding.  So many hills I had to push my bike up because they were too steep to ride.  But eventually I convince myself that I have to try.  At the very least the swim looks fun.

The race doesn't start until 10:00 a.m. and transition doesn't open until 8:30 so I have a lot of time to kill.  At 7:45 I have a plate of scrambled eggs from the Whole Foods across the street from the race site.  It's a little nutrition experiment since I don't usually have solid food other than maybe an energy bar before a race.  But no energy bars or Gu's for me this year, just  regular food and Ucan.  I had bought a Gu packet yesterday since the race was going to be nearly twice as long as I'd anticipated and I'm not sure if the Ucan I have on hand will be enough but I never use it.  Two portions of Ucan gets me through no problem and the eggs are a great choice, enough to get me through to the race start without any stomach upset.

Some guy asks me to take a picture of his buddy while we're waiting around in transition so I ask him to do the same as long as we're doing photo shoots.

I get a great spot in transition and I'm ready to go in plenty of time.  Surprisingly relaxed despite the challenges that await me.

Swim - 1200 meters/1312 yards

I'm most looking forward to the swim.  The water is warm, around 74-75 degrees, and the air temperature is hot so I can wear my sleeveless wetsuit and enjoy the mobility in my arms.  The lake is a man-made water ski lake that isn't super deep and only about 5' around the edges so if people panic they don't have far to swim to to be able to stand up.  A perfect swim situation for first timers or nervous swimmers.  It's a unique course in that the turn around buoys are little islands, one at each end of the lake.

There's ample time to warm up both before the race and after it starts for those of us in the later waves.  I was initially in wave 4 of 6 but at check-in I asked to be moved to the last wave so I could take my time through the bike course.  I start off waiting for my wave in the water because the sun is beating down and it's hot but a woman standing next to me has a crab crawl across her foot so I run for shore.  Then get too hot again and decide to risk the crabs and whatever else may be crawling around.  Thankfully nothing bites or pinches me.

The swim goes well, I push myself to experiment with pacing.  At one point my hand scrapes the bottom and I realize I've drifted off course and I'm near enough at the shore.  Not sure how that happened but I quickly get back on course.  My wave is small so there's little congestion at the start and I quickly have clear water for the rest of the race, swimming on my own.  I catch a few people from the previous wave and pass a few from my own but other than that I have no idea how I'm doing relative to the rest of the field.  In the end my time is 25:30 (by my watch) or 1:57 per 100 yards which seems slow but the course feels a wee bit long and there is my off course yardage.  Official time is 25:53 which includes the short dash to transition.

Mountain Bike - 12 miles

Now the fun starts.  My goal is simply to finish with enough gas in the tank for the run.  I'm not scared on the course like I was the day before because I know what to expect and where to get off and walk.  I'm prepared for lots of walking due to the technical parts that are over my head, the super steep, loose downhills, and the super steep uphills that are too steep for me to ride.

The course is two 6 mile laps but those laps are composed of two different 3 mile loops that go back to the transition area so I'm never more than 3 miles from transition which gives me many opportunities to bail.  In my mind I break the course up into those four 3 mile loops.

The first loop starts off a little crazy since lots of people from previous waves are starting their second lap.  Also this part of the course is super steep and very narrow single track much of it on a ledge so passing is very difficult.  I end up spending a lot of time pressed against the hillside with my bike as I have to wait for lines of people to pass.  The only good thing about this is that I climb the steep part a bit then get to recover while letting people by then climb some more and on and on.

You can get an idea of the steepness of that first hill from the elevation profile.  It's a max. 11.7% grade on the uphill and 14.8% on the downhill.

I start off the steep climb with a guy writhing in pain on the side of the trail, his bike blocking the trail.  He dislocated his shoulder earlier, popped it back into place and now it has dislocated again and he can't move.  A girl who has just made a big deal of having to pass me on a particularly narrow portion of ledge is now stuck with the task of moving his bike off trail.  And she's not happy about it or the least bit concerned about the guy.  Thankfully a medic is on his way down to help the guy.  Rather than put her own bike down to move the guy's bike, she asks the medic to do it.  Because apparently her race is more important than this poor guy getting help.  A bottle neck is forming around all of this so I pull over and take a breather and let everyone by.  I have to stop many more times and it's kind of a mess but in the end this probably helps me because I'm able to recover and tackle the next portion of hill.  My second loop is clear of people but slower but this can also be because it's hotter and I'm more tired.

Anyway, there's a very steep portion of downhill with a switchback that I had tried to ride the day before and realized too late that it was too steep and nearly ended up in a tree but managed to stop myself.  Today I notice it's marked with yellow caution tape so I have plenty of time to get off ahead of time to walk down it.  It's even more dangerous today because the dirt is looser and deeper from all the previous racers.  Some guy insists on passing me as I'm trying to walk down it and he's going too fast, misses the turn and goes down in the bushes/trees.  He tells his buddy he's too hurt to go on.  The race organizers have positioned medics all over the course so that if you notice an injured racer you tell the next medic that you see so I tell the next medic.  So much excitement and only the first 1 1/2 miles and it doesn't end there.  Throughout the race I see people covered in dirt and blood too injured to go on, one guy with his face cut up pretty good.  Or guys on the side of the trail bent over their bikes hyperventilating.  And a guy's tire explodes in a flat as he tries to go down a super steep rocky bit at an alarming speed.  So much carnage.  I've never seen so much in a race.  Thankfully there were plenty of medics on hand.

The course then flattens a bit and enters a motocross track.  This part is not technically difficult and yet I manage to fall.  Since it's so wide and easy I decide to adjust my Camelbak hose and I'm not paying good attention and drift into the soft shoulder.  My wheels go out from under me sideways and I land on my side just below my butt.  Thankfully I'm not hurt, I just feel stupid for falling in such a ridiculous place.

There are no hard technical challenges but there are some super steep hills, more like walls, that I have to walk up.  Pretty much everybody has to walk up these.  And we have to go up them again on the run.

Then there is some steep climbing, so steep I'm mostly walking as is another woman.  We end up walking/riding together for a bit.

At the top of one of the climbs.  You can see a big wood structure at the top of the hill.  Thankfully we didn't have to go on that thing though there are some wood bridges and structures later on.

One more big steep climb then it's a quick downhill to transition for the second loop of the lap 1.  This loop has most of the technical riding and steep climbs, a lot of steep climbs. Lots of getting off and getting back on my bike.  And all the bridges and wood structures.  This one is the biggest.

The ramp to the right is a drop off , great if you're looking to get some air.  The ramp to the left slopes down very steeply and then there's another drop-off but smaller than the one on the right.  Still, I'm not for riding it and during the pre-ride I walk down it which is also sketchy.  However after the pre-ride someone tells me there's a trail that bypasses the whole thing so I take that during the race.  Phew.

But there are others with no bypasses.  This one doesn't look so bad but you can't see that's it's a fairly decent drop-off and then there's another drop-off/rock ledge after it.  There's a medic standing at the top of this ramp warning people.  I tell him no worries, I'm walking down it all.  On my second lap I'm so hot and overheating and tired that he looks a bit alarmed when he sees me and asks me if I'm o.k.  And I tell him yeah, I'm just hot.  There's a good steep little climb just before this ramp so I'm particularly red.

At least the views are nice, not that I notice much during the race.

There is still a lot of climbing, up and down, and I find myself riding/walking with a group of 4 other women, two of whom are friends doing the race together.  It's their first Xterra.  Full on baptism by fire.  Only one other woman is planning on a second lap.  After all the shell shocked people coming off the trail from the pre-ride the race director decides to offer the option of doing only one lap.  Your time is 'unofficial' and you don't get points for Nationals or any awards but you're allowed to go on and do the run and you get a time so you can compare your results to the other one-lappers.  27 people decide to go for this option.  Many people also opt to form last minute relay teams and many people simply bail.  The race is sold out and limited to 200 people and only 142 of those finish the whole enchilada.  So I'm tired and having the opposite of a lot of fun but I'm determined to finish and happy that at least one other woman is with me.

Lap two starts and I'm having a brief little chat with the other woman.  We're encouraging each other on, telling each other how awesome we are for attempting another loop of this madness and a volunteer says to us, 'What is this, a social ride?'  I respond, 'Are you crazy??!!  A social ride??!!  Maybe if my friends are sadists or masochists!'.  He realizes his mistake and says he's joking and encourages us on.

After a bit I hear some women behind me and it's the two first timer friends.  I tell them, 'Good for you' and they respond, 'Yeah, we decided we'd feel like shitheads if we didn't finish'.  And so lap two goes.  It's slower and hotter and quieter but we soldier on.  Walking, riding, walking, riding.  By the final loop I'm very hot and I have to stop a few times to let my core temp. come down a little so the others get ahead of me.  But all of us finish the bike.

Run - 5k/3.1 miles

The run is only a 5k but it's so hot and I'm so tired.  The start of the run is on some wooden bridges that go over some ponds.  Before I get on I stop and the pond's edge and splash loads of water over me.  I would get in all the way and dunk myself but there's no easy way so I settle for some splashing.  It's not the nicest water but I'm not picky at this point.

Eventually I catch up to the pair of women.  They tell me they're from Salida and I'm excited about this because Jonny and I are contemplating a move there at some point.  Boulder has gotten so overcrowded and busy and full of traffic and rich people.  Selling up and moving onward gets more appealing each day.  They love it except for the lack of city amenities, ie shopping.  I hate shopping so this is no problem for me.  But we're all too tired and hot for too much of a conversation.

The course goes through some nice cool woods then spits you out on the hot, exposed motocross track.  Up, down, up, etc.  Then onto the singletrack and up a steep trail we did on the bike but it keeps going up and up, neverending.  Such a cruel joke for the last mile or so of the run.  But I can hear the finish line.  I wonder if I'm going to be DFL for the first time ever but I hear a finish time announced that's way slower than what I'm likely to finish in.  And I see a guy starting the motocross section as I'm finishing and despite the huge mountain we have to climb I don't think there's enough race left for him to catch me.  Not that I care.  I just want to finish and for the first time ever I don't care if it's DFL.

Finally the trail heads downward and spits me out on the road that leads to the final wood structure.

(photo taken from the Without Limits folks)

My coach's husband rides up on his bike and he's cheering me on to the finish.  He isn't racing but he's there to cheer on his wife and many friends.  He rides with me up to the final wood bridge and my coach is on the other side cheering me on and taking a picture as I descend.  Then it's just a short run to the finish and she runs a bit with me.

Ah the finish!!!

SO so happy to see the finish.  I can't believe I did it but I did.  And I got third place in my age group.  Apparently the course scared a good portion of my age group away.  I got a nice medal, icing on the cake.

My poor socks.  Shouldn't have worn my favorite pair.

But look, the magic of Oxyclean!  That stuff is amazing.

I then had a not so fun drive through rain and flooding roadways in the mountains.  Stopped at the top of Vail Pass in the hope it would blow through.

It lightened a bit then got worse again and I pulled over in Dillon.  Where a guy ran a red light and almost hit the car in front of me.

Didn't get home until 8:00 p.m.  So tired, so hungry but so happy to be able to say I finished that beast of a race.

Final Stats

Swim:  1200 meters/1312 yards, 25:30 swimming time (1:57/100 yards), official time 25:53 includes dash to transition [according to gmaps pedometer course is closer to 1300 m/1425 yards for a pace of 1:47 which is closer to what it felt like]

T1: 2:54  (struggled with gloves on wet hands)

Mountain Bike:  12 miles,  2:53:27 hrs.,    4.9 mph

T2:  1:45

Trail Run:  5k/3.1 miles, 45:35/14:42 min./mile 
Total:  4:09:31 

139/146 Overall 
42/43 Women
3/3 Age Group 

Swim:  2/3 Age Group

T1:  2/3 Age Group

Bike:  3/3 Age Group

T2:  2/3 Age Group

Run:  3/3 Age Group