Xterra Tri the Torture

The hubby and I finished the Xterra "Tri the Torture" off-road triathlon yesterday!  Let me say that again... I finished!  It was a difficult race consisting of an 800 meter open water swim, a moderately technical 14 mile mountain bike ride with 1500 feet of climbing, and a strenuous 4.3 mile trail run with 800 feet of steep uphill.  The race was long (almost 4 hours for me!) and challenging in a lot of ways.  This week's lessons are Letting Go and Facing One's Fears...

I was a little intimidated and anxious arriving at the race site because there were a lot of people who looked really athletic and really fast!  There were expensive bikes, fancy outfits, and many racers who looked totally in their comfort zone.  I opted to leave my wetsuit at home because of the time it takes trying to get out of that thing, and I was starting to regret it when I saw all the "serious triathletes" in their Xterra suits before the race.  However, while setting up my transition zone, I met the girl next to me and found out that this was her first triathlon ever and that, like me, she was a beginner mountain biker.  I felt relieved to know that there was actually a wide range of abilities and that everything would be okay!  I just had to focus and mentally prepare for what was going to be a marathon, not a sprint.

Getting ready to race!  (photo from the Xterra site)

I had a rough start in the swim thanks to my usual open-water-race anxiety, and ended up having to breast stroke for most of it, but I knew that what I needed was to forget all about it once I exited the lake and focus on my bike ride.  I was able to do just that, to let go of my frustrations and move on.  I'm not a golfer, but I imagine that the mental game in golf is similar.  A golfer can't dwell on a setback on a previous hole because it will set him or her up for failure on the next hole, and this triathlon was very similar.  So I got over it.  (After all, the swim is only a small portion of the long race.  In fact, the girl who took the gold in my age group had the slowest swim overall out of all the women, and she still kicked butt!)

Muddy bike ride on the course last weekend.  I'm glad the race day conditions were better!

I had a great start to the bike ride.  There is a long climb in the beginning and I passed quite a few people.  The hubby and I practiced the bike course last weekend and it was miserable due to the muddy conditions, but what a difference a week makes!  Yesterday the course was dry and fast and I felt confident.  I attacked the downhills and the rocky, technical sections and finished the first of two laps in about an hour.  I passed even more people at the start of the second lap and was feeling good about my training and climbing.  Then I hit the technical section again...

One of my biggest fears about mountain biking (and the main reason why I was so hesitant to take up this sport) was the vision of flying over my handle bars.  I guess I've just seen too many patients with clavicle fractures and neck injuries.  Well, I mentioned that this weekend was about facing my fears... because I flew over my handlebars and landed directly on my sternum on a boulder.  It knocked the wind out of me and my entire shoulder girdle, ribs, and shoulder blades were throbbing.  I also jammed my knee into a rock.  I spent a few minutes with the rescue team, realized that I was okay, got my hand bandaged with a cookie monster bandaid and was on my way.  I was pretty cautious for the rest of the ride and really sore when breathing hard or climbing, but I finished the ride in one piece.

Jaycob was just finishing the race as I started my run and he wished me luck!  (Actually, "no blood, no race" is what he said, and also gave me permission to walk on the steep climbs.)  The run had eight steep sections of uphill during the first 2 miles, and some were so ridiculously steep that I was better off hiking than trying to run.  I had spent all of my energy on the long bike ride and felt exhausted, and my knee was killing me on the downhills.  I accepted that this just wasn't going to be my day for setting any records with my running, but I was still on track to finish within my goal time.  My new friend from earlier who set up her transition next to mine passed me on the run to take 4th place in our age group.  I was happy for her for doing so awesome in her first triathlon!

The "Wet Finish"
After a long and strenuous run, the final portion of the race involved donning a lifejacket, running (or walking or hobbling) up a tower of stairs, sliding down a water slide and swimming to the finish!  I had zero energy left at this point, and my life jacket was hurting my bruised sternum and making it difficult to breathe.  Then the splash into the cold water completely took my breath away.  I slowly paddled to the finish line, and I was done!  Please point me in the direction of the ice packs.  And beer.

A few minor injuries... nothing that an Oktoberfest and ice pack can't fix!

Jaycob placed 3rd in his difficult and highly competitive age group, and 25th overall!

Jaycob on the podium

Winner winner chicken dinner!
Today I feel like I got hit by a truck, and I'm finding bruises on my ribs, hands, and both knees.  But I also feel accomplished!  I hope to complete this same race next year and I have some ideas about how to train more effectively.

I feel fortunate to have the abilities and resources to complete an event like this one.  I dedicated this race to my good friend and running buddy who just ended up in the hospital with neurological impairment from a medication reaction.  Two weeks ago we were discussing whether or not she should sign up for a full marathon this fall or just stick to her half marathon and sprint triathlon, and now she's walking with a walker and unable to drive.  It is shocking and heart-wrenching that things can change so quickly, and I need to remind myself to appreciate what I have and not take it for granted.  I hope to see her by my side in the Xterra 2015!


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