Tuesday, May 17, 2011

XTERRA Moab 2011

First off, refer to the pics on the Triatomics album for the visuals. Moab is interesting to the eye, for sure:
XTERRA Moab Album

This race is a revived version of the XTERRA they last held here about six years ago and before. The course was changed somewhat from those years, which also had other variations. It worked well, except for the fact that we had on-coming traffic on the far end of the bike. Since it was on a Jeep road, there was room to pass, but the lines were sketchy and people didn't give them up easily. Anyway, it was a great race course.

The swim was in pretty cold water -- between 55 and about 58 degrees, depending on how far out it was measured. XTERRA races always seem to be two lap swims, which is strange. The water was so cold that people had trouble staying upright after exiting the water. I had a slow transition because my hands were so numb and I had trouble getting things off from the swim, then on for the bike.

The bike course is held on the infamous "Steelbender" (a.k.a. Flat Pass) Jeep trail. It had some gnarly rock slaps, big ledges, etc. It was physically and technically tough and took a real toll on you back, arms, and hamstrings. It was also pretty scary in parts and required some committed moves to stay on and not walk down them. That made a big difference in times, I think. The drops actually made stuff around here seem pretty tame in comparison.

This was also the longest XTERRA I've done. The bike was a long one (taking me 1:51) and the run was a full 10km on a pretty tough trail (my time of 54:08 was not the fastest, but among the fastest). I think the winner did a 48-something run, which was fast on that course. So, it was a longish race and there were a lot of tired folks afterward.

Laury Goddard had been to a Moab XTERRA training camp about 6 weeks prior, so he knew how bad the bike course was. I thought he was exaggerating, but he certainly wasn't. He was rather understating the difficulty, in fact, and to see it for yourself was absolutely necessary. We pre-rode on the Thursday before, and we had to practice certain spots several time to get it down, and get the guts up to do the drops in the race.

Both Laury and Orion had great races. Here's an amazing fact: this was young Orion's FIRST ever triathlon! He's only 16 and we just started to teach him how to "race swim" this year. He had taken to it quite well, and despite being more of a mountain biker, he's turned into a good swimmer and even better runner. I am pushing him to also run cross country for the Hilltoppers this fall.

We did Los Alamos and the Triatomics proud, with age-group medals for all three of us. Laury got 2nd in the 60-64 (...a tough field, no lie!) and Orion got 2nd in the juniors <18 after a hard-fought battle with two other very good triathletes. The guy who ended up winning was a faster swimmer/runner, but Orion was hands-down the best mtn biker. The other juniors were amazed with his mtn biking strength and ability. I think he has a future in both road and off-road triathlons.

I got 3rd in the M40-44, with a 9th OVERALL! The M40-44 class had the most placings of the other age groups in the top ten...well, maybe the 25-29ers had more if you count the overall. I also had a girl beat me! She was awesome and had a stellar bike leg. She can also swim and run well, so I'm not ashamed =)

Overall, this was a great race, but not for the faint of heart, or the under-trained. The course is hard and requires good mtn bike skills. It's also physically tough with all of the rock ledges to climb and a lot of granny-gear, gut-busting mega-steep climbing...throw in two stream crossings, and some deep sand, and you've got a lot of work to do. They do have a much shorter "Sport" version that has some of the stuff, but not nearly as bad.

Moab is also a lot of fun. It's a total circus with the National Park tourists, the jeepers and other off-road vehiculars, the motorcycles, the mtn bikers, the river rafters, the Germans...you get the idea! It's all a lot of fun too, except that they only serve that dang Utah 3.2 beer =)