Diving into the XTERRA season
There aren’t many places in the world where you can snowboard one day and race a triathlon the next. It’s that time of year when my car is overflowing with sports equipment because I am not quite ready to put my skis away, but want to start biking and running.
Sunday marked the start of the triathlon season for local XTERRA athletes as we dove into the reasonable 57-degree water of Folsom Lake for the XTERRA Real Mountain Bike Triathlon. It also marked my one-year anniversary as an XTERRA athlete and I was determined to stay on my bike, unlike my inaugural race when I spent most of my time face down in the mud.
It was hard enough getting there … I had a bout of food poisoning Friday night (Don’t worry, I won’t say where from) and almost didn’t have a bike because my fork was broken and most of the bike shops were slammed doing tune-ups and repairs because of winter neglect. Luckily, Greg at Cyclepaths spent two days working (and cursing) and managed to fix it. The power also went out in Tahoe Donner Saturday night (why does this happen every night?) and I did not wake up until I got a phone call from Erik Lake, who I was my ride. Oops.
The mass-start swim was somewhat of a rude awakening, the crowded mass of more than 279 swimmers kicking each other as they headed to the first buoy, which was invisible due to the morning sun. My wet suit felt stiff as it was the first time I swam in it this year. Luckily, it was only a half mile; I considered this my warm-up.
The thought, “Am I really doing this?” went through my mind as I remembered snowboarding at Alpine the day before. For many of us up here it was a test to see what kind of shape we are in after a winter of riding a stationary bike and lap swimming.
From the swim we had to run up a long sandy beach to the transition area where we changed into our bike gear. Someone told me I was the fifth woman. That was good enough for me. It was a perfect day for racing, about 70 degrees with clear blue skies.
I changed out of my wet suit, put my bike shoes, helmet and gloves on and headed out on the bike course. The mountain bike course was two 8-mile laps mostly single track over wooded rolling hills. It was relatively dry with a few muddy sections and sandpits, unlike last year’s mud bath. I was staying on my bike and actually passing people, unlike the previous year. I got a few flashbacks when I passed racers struggling to get over rocks ” the race attracts a lot of first-timers, like myself a year ago. I had passed a couple of women and was in third. I was pretty excited. It was my first time in the top-three overall in a triathlon.
Incline racer Jim Kaplan soon passed me and I worked hard to stay with him. He joked later that I stayed with him so I could see all the good lines and then took off. We were soon riding in a large pack as we headed into the second lap. We then hit one of the more challenging parts of the course, which was riding through two sand pits, both of which contained hills. They were really hard to ride through, but I had practiced the week earlier and was determined to get through them. In the first pit I had to get off my bike because of other riders, but I made it through the second pit and received a loud applause from the crowd watching.
The second lap I felt stronger and worked a little harder, although I got caught by another female racer who bumped me into fourth. I tried to keep her in sight, but it was hard to maneuver around other racers. I knew if I kept her in sight I could catch her in the run, my strongest leg of the race. After a season of racing I was feeling more confident on my bike and really enjoyed the more technical section and getting through them.
My transition from bike to run was relatively smooth as I headed out for the final leg, which had a few long climbs. I caught the woman who passed me on the bike in the first mile to regain third. I really wanted to hold onto third, as fourth in my opinion is the worst place to finish. I felt pretty strong and was glad my legs were not too tired from the bike. I held onto third and finished with a time of 1:09:48, more than 15 minutes faster than last year. I received a medal for placing first in my age group but did not get an overall award because they only awarded the top three pros.
Enough about me.
There were also a lot of other Tahoe racers there. Sarah McMahan of Incline was sixth overall with a time of 2:15:23 and first in the 35-39 age group while celebrating her twins’ first birthday. Eric Ronning of Incline placed fourth in the 40-44 age group with a time of 2:00:13. Matt Chappell of Truckee was sixth in the 25-29 age group with a time of 2:02:54. Jim Kaplan of Incline was 16th in the 35-39 age group with a time of 2:17:48. Dane Shannon of Tahoe City was 13th in the 25-29 with a time of 2:27:33. Erik Lake of Tahoe City, who raced on a single-speed, placed 21st in the 25-29 age group with a time of 2:53:11. And Rachel Barth of Incline was third in the 30-34 age group in 2:31:49.
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North Tahoe senior Etienne Bordes had a standout day on the track in Colfax, capturing a pair of first-place finishes as athletes from nine other schools competed at Friday’s invitational.