I’m not sure when I first heard about XTERRA races, but most likely it was from Dave sometime last year when team members were discussing what events everyone was thinking about for 2017. When XTERRA was described as “a triathlon race, but with dirt” I was instantly intrigued as I’ve been racing triathlon for the past couple of years, and also participated in a couple of “off-season” orienteering events which focuses on navigation in the woods… and now there was something that combines both!

I picked up a Mountain Bike (MTB) last year, and have worked to improve my off-road bike handling skills as it takes a lot of effort and concentration to ride a MTB while racing. There is a VERY distinct line between average riders and GOOD riders. I’m barely average. My lack of skill (now legendary) is what made me sign up for the past couple MTB races as a way to motivate myself to become a better rider, all to prepare for THIS EVENT… XTERRA Charlottesville.

XTERRA Charlottesville wasn’t going to be easy. The course leans towards the “Championship/pro” for distance with a 1k open water swim (lake), 30k Bike (with 2600 ft of climbing), and 10k run (almost 900ft of climbing). The entire course resides on the Miller School of Albemarle’s 1,600 acres of student built and maintain trail system as part of their Endurance team… a HIGH SCHOOL Endurance team!

Race Breakdown

Swim

The Miller School (MSA) constructed a new “beach” entry just for the race. All racers lined up on the beach and waited for the horn to sound, then began to sprint off the beach and into the chilly water. I tried to keep myself calm on the first loop, concentrating on my form making sure at being efficient (something I’ve been working on for the past couple of months). It was a little difficult at the beginning as me and 25-30 of my newest swim lane buddies all starting at the same time trying to find our rhythm. There were times that I held back so so I can stay away from people, assuming that I could pass them on the second loop. Exiting the lake was done by a newly installed step system which was also constructed by MSA just a couple of days bfore the race. The school really stepped up in course setup and ensuring racers would enjoy the challenge.

Bike

The bike route was slightly different than the Conquer the Hill route, but used most of the same paths. Some parts were either trimmed back (or removed completely) such as the beginning stage of puke hill, along with the more technical steep descents just after “Narnia” when riding away from the lake. What was nice is Conquer the Hill also used some of the same routes as the run segment, so by doing Conquer the Hill in April I had a great advantage of knowing the entire course.1

As for the race, I knew I was in trouble from the beginning. My heart rate felt WAY to high after exiting the water and through transition… and I couldn’t get it to slow down. Looking at the Training Peaks data I was right in that my heart rate was between 180-185 bpm (I usually begin to feel like throwing up around 175 bpm when on the bike). After completing the first loop of the 30k course, I felt my power and concentration declining. I began to force myself to stop at each aid station to drink a cup of Gatorade and dump a cup of water on my head to cool myself down. When coming up to “Paradise” aid station, the friendly volunteers looked at me and asked “Are you OK” as I was showing obvious signs of dehydration2. I hung out by the tent for five minutes to collect myself. I smiled and replied “see you in two miles”, as this aid station was at a pinch point of the course where you could see it twice. Upon returning to the aid station, I did the same thing to stop and rest… and also found out there were bears on the course so to be mindful of the surroundings. I was so far behind my race goals I couldn’t even use bears as an effective excuse on my poor performance.

Run

I highly underestimated the affects of mountain biking would have on my body when doing a trail run. I had to quickly resort to “walk up hills” while “jogging down or on the flats”, which if it wasn’t for the fact I was in a race I wouldn’t have minded the extra time in the beautiful MSA trail system. Most racers where looking pretty beat down at this time, all wanting to simply “finish”, however, there was also small efforts of positive enforcement as we all suffering with each other. I actually started to feel better on the second loop of the run, to where I almost return to my normal pace right at the end because it was flat. Hills simply kill.

Post Race Thoughts

To say this race was rough for me is an understatement. When I started noticing that I was extremely dehydrated, it was very discouraging. I had planned to prevent this!!! I didn’t want a repeat of the EMV event where I needed to stop after the second loop… so I filled up my hydration pack for the full 1.5L, crafted a full nutrition plan that focused on replenish and prepare while ALL on the bike, but it was not enough. When I was back at “Paradise” on the second loop, my goal of racing my first XTERRA event had official changed to “finishing” my first XTERRA event. There was so many times that I just wanted to raise my hands and give up, using the excuse of my “first time”, “just learning what XTERRA is ‘really’ like” as if this race didn’t mean much. But it did. This is my B race of the entire year, had to keep reminding myself to finish the race.

I wanted to thank Michelle and Liz for orchestrating an amazing event. This is the second Adventure Addicts Racing event that I’ve done this year, and it was GREAT! Can’t wait to compete in more of your events in the years to come. Another shout out to the course designer Andy Guptill. I didn’t like you for about two hours yesterday as I was dying on the bike and wondered if I were to become bear food… but we’re good now and look forward to the next event at MSA!

Relive Ride Video

Race Results

Rankings

  • Overall: Placed 37th out of 89 (top 42%)
  • Gender: Placed 34th out of 81 (top 42%)
  • Male 40-44: Placed 5th out of 9

From what I can surmise due to some tracking issues people dropping or going through check points in the wrong order, here are my placing among the Male 40-44 category:

  • Swim: Ranked 3rd
  • Bike: Ranked 6th
  • Run: Ranked 5th

Splits

EVENT Sprint 1K Lake Swim T1 30K Bike T2 10k Run Total
Goal Times3 20:00 + 2* 2:00 2:20:00 1:00 1:05:00 3:50:00
Actual Times4 20:28 1:39 2:34:44 0:50 1:24:54 4:22:36

* Swim time includes a short quarter mile run to transition

Footnotes

  1. XTERRA race map is found on Adventure Addicts Racing, while a generic map of MSA trail system is available here

  2. When a volunteer is asking about your health, you are not doing OK. 

  3. Goal Times were based on 2:00/100m from my last 50m pool swim, 2/3 of Conquer the Hill, and an 10:27 pace for the run based SWAG of Early Mountain Vineyards Run then an additional two minutes for the added “Hills” and “Run off the bike” factors that plague a run. 

  4. Official Race Results available at 2017 XTRERRA Charlottesville Results page

Comments

Colleen

Apparently puking, or nearly puking, is all part of the fun. Like going clubbing, except smaller clothes and less alcohol.

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