Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Steamboat Springs and Xterra Buffalo Creek triathlons

Not sure why I've waited so long to do more racing in Colorado but the courses I've raced the last two weekends were a couple of the most scenic, fun and in the case of the Xterra last weekend, the most challenging I've done in quite awhile. 

Up first was the Steamboat Springs Olympic triathlon.  I went up a few days early to camp, preview the course and get in some mountain biking and trail running.  Steamboat Springs might be my new favorite town.  Great roads for cycling, mountain bike trails that are fast and flowing and great food for when you get off the bike. 

We had a beautiful campsite up above the town and direct access to a couple of great trails.  The first one was 3+ miles of fun singletrack that descends straight down into town.  In the opposite direction was what turned out to be one of my favorite trails I've ridden.  Fast and flowing sections, a couple rock gardens, creek crossings and incredible views.  A couple shots from the trail below.

Sunday was race day at another gorgeous venue in Steamboat.
The lake was beautiful but my swim wasn't so much.  Ended up having possibly my worst ever swim in an Olympic race and came out with a lot of ground to make up.  DU pool has been closed for most of the summer and I've been very lazy about swimming elsewhere.  My swim time sadly reflected that lack of work.
The bike course is a rolling out and back that rides fairly fast.  All the mountain biking from the days before might have added some fatigue to my legs since I couldn't get up to my normal power but turned in a decent ride and came in under an hour.   Still a ways back from the leaders but had made up some ground.
The run was another rolling out and back course.  Legs felt pretty dead coming out of transition but focused on the turnover and they came around a mile or so in like they usually do.  Coming back from injury I haven't been running much as I slowly build back up the volume and definitely nothing fast but I still ended up with one of my best olympic distance runs off the bike.  It took 5+ miles before anyone passed me which never happens and I was able to make a late charge in the last half mile to pass an athlete in my AG.  Ended up 4th in 30-34 which is probably the absolute best I could have hoped for given my awful swim.
A week after Steamboat was Xterra Buffalo Creek.  This was going to be my first Xterra race in over a year since Beaver Creek last season.  I'd meant to do a lot more offroad racing this year and signed up for Lory and Curt Gowdy but Lory was canceled and I got sick before Curt Gowdy so this was it.  The race was Sat but I made the 2ish hour drive up on Friday afternoon so I could get a pre ride in on the course.  Lots of people were camping but I decided to sleep in the back of the Jeep instead of dealing with a tent.  Plenty of room with the back seats laid down. 
For the pre ride I got incredibly lucky and headed out at the same time the RD and another guy were heading out on their bikes to mark the course.  I'd have been completely lost otherwise.  Had a great few hours rolling with them and got a good feel for the course, including a nice little crash on a fast single track section where I let myself lose a bit of focus and washout in a loose corner. 

Nice bit of road rash on the arm as well as hip and knee.  Always fun when you're going fast enough to catch enough hang time on your crash to notice your landing and feel relieved that there aren't any large rocks.

The swim is in a picturesque little lake nestled in the mountains at about 8,000 feet elevation.  The course is a 2-loop out and back.  I wasn't expecting much better then the previous Steamboat but I was about 2 min faster and felt much better in the water. 
The bike leg is one of the longest in the Xterra circuit at 22 miles.  It's a good mix of jeep roads, double and single track.  I really need to spend more time on my mountain bike.  I can probably count on both hands the number of times I've been on it this year and my skills aren't good enough to match up against even the moderately good riders out there.  Consequently I was getting passed most of the day until we got to the final 3+ miles climb back to transition and I was able to use some of my bike strength to reel in a few people as we crawled along at 3 mph. 
The run was on single track for the first half then onto a dirt road on the other side of the lake as we came into the finish.  Straight out of transition there is a solid half mile climb before it turns into fun rolling trail.  There were lots of twists and turns, a creek crossing and some quick sections down through rocks or logs where you had to watch your step and keep your feet moving quickly.  I passed a couple people on the climb and a few more on the single track.  Once out on the road I could see others ahead of me and concentrated on running each of them down.  I ran out of room trying to catch the last guy at the line but fortunately he wasn't in my age group.
After how many people had passed me on the bike my best hope was that I had cracked the top 10 in the age group but somehow I ended up in 2nd place.  That result is likely more a reflection of who wasn't at the race rather than my performance but it was still nice to be back on a podium after quite some time. 
Both of these events were two of the best I've done in quite awhile in terms of production and both were put on by Without Limits.  I'll definitely be racing more of their events in the future around Colorado and I'm looking forward to the new Xterra in Aspen for next year that they just announced.  Big thanks to Wattie Ink and Greater Than coconut water who have supported me all season even though I've been injured for most of it and getting a very late start to racing.  Up next I'll be heading back to Steamboat Springs for the cycling stage race over Labor Day. 

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