This weekend was amazing. Xterra as I said before is awesome! For their inaugural Winter World Championship race, they definitely delivered! The weather was snowy and overcast on the day, yet I was so focused on survival I hardly noticed! Xterra style, it was hard, perfectly run, and the best place anyone could possibly be on a early spring day in March.
I was in contention for the Fire and Ice award for amateurs which is the fastest overall combined time from off-road tri Worlds in Maui and this winter Worlds race. Unfortunately for me, that slipped from my grasp in the first moments of the race. The snow bike I thought I had dialed since I’ve been doing that all winter. What I didn’t plan on was my rear tire losing it’s seal (I run tubeless). From the first 50 meters of the race, I had a flat. Unfortunately for me, I found out the hard way that when you combine cold and wet with a tubeless set-up, you are out of luck. I wasted a lot of time trying to create a new seal and had no luck. I also had no tube. My only options were to quit the race or start running. Rachel does not quit (except for when I passed out 200 meters before the finish line at a race a few years back–when I came to and I realized what happened, I cried for 2 hours) so I grabbed my bike and started running the six mile bike leg through the slippery snow. Finally about 2/3 of the way through the course and now almost half and hour behind, a guy (#25–By the way THANK YOU if you see this) tossed my his tool kit with a tube in it. I was already pretty worked at this point and soooo frustrated. I pulled my wheel off, put the tube in, and got everything working so finally I could ride. I pedaled like mad for the remainder of the bike leg–except for where the snow was too soft and deep—then I ran some more.
The snowshoe leg went smoothly even though I was already feeling tired from running almost 5 of the six miles of the bike leg. The regular run went great. By the way Kahtoola spikes are the way to go if you run in the snow or ice. My slightly slower times on these legs showed the fatigue I was already feeling. After the bike leg, I didn’t get passed by a single person the remainder of the race, but I did steadily reel people in one by one on the run and the skin up on skis. By the time I got to the final leg, I was completely worked. My body screamed stop! My mind said keep going. I was frustrated because I was so far behind, yet I knew that mechanicals and lots of other things can happen on race day and it is part of it. Builds the soul right?
My friend Danny (flew in from Hawaii to watch me and hang out—Thank you very much for the support!) said I pretty much looked like “death warmed over” by the time I got to the last leg and for me, by far the toughest part of the race. We had to skin up 1200 feet at which point we removed the skins, skied down to another point, skinned up to another point, back and forth until we did a final descent back to the finish. We skinned up over 2200 feet. Ugh! Luckily for me, have have a great set of lungs and really didn’t have a problem with that part. The downhill is what was scary. A. I had ultra fatigue from essentially running over 12 miles already in the snow, B. The hike up with the skins finished off my legs. C. I hadn’t telemarked or downhill skied in any way shape or form since before I had Canyon. Ya. I laughed and screamed for most of the descents. I only crashed once, did the ugliest turns anyone has ever set eyes on (at this point even if I remembered how to do a tele turn, my legs were too hammered to even attempt)–So I snow plowed, paralleled, and did everything I could to get down the mountain in one piece. I guess that the camera guy thought it was pretty funny, he skied down behind me the entire way filming the show (Perhaps if anyone has need to black mail me down the road, you can bribe him for this footage!). Me screaming in terror and he laughing. I’m sure it must have been quite the scene.
So the end result? Well the Fire and Ice award will have to wait until next year. You are however reading the post from the current Xterra Winter World champion for my 20-29 year old age group. So despite being almost an hour behind in the end of what I know I was capable of, I guess I faired better that I could have. I did finish the hardest race I have ever done in my life all in one piece! Now my snowshoe race the next day was when I lost my soles (not soul).
Saturday night after my race, I had my typical problem of still racing even though I was lying down. My thoughts won’t stop, my muscles are going crazy, and my heart is still beating so fast when this happens (that is how I know I completely finished myself off). Needless to say, I slept exactly zero that night. Not a good set-up for my USSSA National snowshoe race. I had thoughts of backing out of this one, but I just couldn’t bear the frustration of the ‘what ifs’ if I did not try. I don’t ever like to wonder. I go out and and find ways to do everything I dream of whenever I can. When someday I look back, I will be and am already a person with no regrets about the way I lived my life. Just smiles of heart breaking moments mixed with the sweetest of successes. I know deep down that even my challenges always eventually turn into sweet memories and reminders of hard lessons learned. My journey is beautiful and fun and rewarding and always will be.
So back to the snowshoe race. My main goal for this one I knew would just be surviving. I was one of the only females who was doing both the Worlds race the day before and then this one (Most people think I must really just like to suffer. I look at it as I like to find out what I’m made of!). I knew going into it that ‘most everyone else was fresh. I knew that if I wasn’t already worked over from the day before, I would be up there as a main contender for the first place spot. I also knew that on this day, I wouldn’t be there; I was so tired. There will be other years as I plan on racing forever and ever. Bottom line, for this race, I knew I just needed to finish and be thankful I could do that. So the race started and off we ran. I started out slower than I normally would, but had to as my legs were already completely toasted. Typically this course would have been greatly in my favor as it was full of hills and very technical single track sections. Today I learned how other people must feel when they come upon another damn hill. Ouch! I ended up walking some of these which is something I’ve never had to do before. By the end of the first loop, I was worked and I could feel blisters forming in both of my arches. I think this is from my feet being in wet socks all day the day before. I have never in my entire life had problems with blisters as my feet are always covered in callouses from growing up dancing and running bare foot through the desert. Well needless today, despite the fact that Rachel doesn’t quit, I got back to where we were to take our second loop. I stopped looked at Art with begging eyes and told him I was done. He looked at me and said to go and finish it. So I went. The second loop of the snowshoe was the same loop I’d done the day before for Worlds. It has mostly single track and lots of ups and downs. It is a great course. The problem was I was hurting so much and the blisters were getting worse.
About half a mile into this section, I felt the skin on the bottoms of my feet rip and the warm blood start to flow. From this point on, I forgot about how tired I was (amazing how I can forget when I experience a new pain that is worse to me than fatigue) and focused on forcing myself with each step to take another. It was so excruciatingly painful. Every uphill hurt, every downhill hurt. There was no relief. I just had to keep telling myself that the pain would stop when I crossed the finish line. I finally did in 11th place. For that much pain and how tired I was, I have never been more proud of an 11th place finish. I don’t care that I didn’t qualify for the national team. I made 5 other women’s dream come true in that way by my choices.
I am happy and also know I am one of the luckiest people in this world that I had the opportunity to compete in the first ever Xterra Winter Worlds Championship as well as snow shoe Nationals.
After the race I immediately sat down and removed my shoes to see the damage to my feet. At this point they had stopped bleeding for a bit. I have a circle of skin missing from each arch exposing some very raw skin as the layer gone is deep. This was funny as about 6 photographers, Art included came to take pictures. An Xterra lady came over and bandaged them and I hung out at the race chatting and laughing for the next 2 hours in bare feet on the snow. I was not about to put those bloody shoes on again. I finally made my way still bare foot down to my car which on this day was parked in almost the last row of the Snow Basin resort. I found some shoes that I could slip on and went back up to the finish line one last time. Unfortunately I had to leave before the awards ceremony and I also missed that party that night, but being a single mom, I had to get back to Salt Lake to take on that role again.
It is now Monday morning. I slept like a baby last night. I am still extremely tired, I feel every muscle so sore in my body, and I can hardly walk as my feet are missing so much skin. But I am happy. Racing makes me feel so alive. I go through many extreme emotions, especially at events at tough as this. Yeah, if you want to build a soul, race Xterra, if not Xterra, race something! Guaranteed, you’ll learn that you are capable of a lot more that you ever dreamed.
If anyone gets Deseret News in SLC, there was a big article about me and the Xterra event on Saturday, pre-race. Also Trey from Xterra, told me yesterday that they made me into the poster girl for the Utah regional trail run series. Keep a look out for those. I am so excited!!! One day when I get really good, perhaps I’ll be the poster girl for lots of things. I’d love that!
Thank you so much Xterra and Team Unlimited and Snow Basin for such an awesome weekend. Also USSSA for bringing Nationals to the same venue. Thank you Jamie Markosian for letting me stay at your condo. Thanks Danny and Scott and Canyon for your help. Thanks Lance for dragging me by my ear to my very first (and the only Xterra I was ever going to do) 2 Augusts ago–Now I’m going to compete in Xterra events forever! Thank you Monavie/Cannondale for taking a chance on me. Thank you Art especially too for putting up with all my behind the scenes drama and crap and for believing in me and helping me believe….
Hopefully I’ll have some pictures soon from some good friends who were there taking shots.
Can’t wait until next year! In the meantime, I can’t wait for my next race—as soon as my feet heal.