11 April 2011 By Rachel’s

XTERRA Lake Las Vegas 21K


4runner ready to go. 3 mtn bikes, 2 racers, a chauffeur/photographer, and a kid (my boss) for Vegas!

Last week’s race in of cold, slippery mud in Boise left me shaken and a bit discouraged. Fortunately for me, I have the best of the best people surrounding me in my life. Friends and clients who love me even when I don’t do as well as my head thinks I should. Sponsors telling me not to be so hard on myself and reminding me that not every race will go my way. My amazing Chiropractor/acupuncturist Greg Freebairn putting my hips, feet, heart and head (!) back together, along with my natural Doc figuring out my intestinal issues I’d been struggling with for weeks was a virus and helping me fix it. Wow! I am lucky. Lucky. Lucky!

Even luckier was I had the pleasure of heading back to Lake Las Vegas for one of my favorite 21k trail races with XTERRA! I completely love XTERRA. The people behind the races create fabulous events to help athletes tap potential, and embed into hearts memories and friendships that I cherish. It is like a huge family reunion each event I participate in, filled of people I absolutely LOVE!

Thursday afternoon I left with Emma Gerrard, Art O’Connor, and my little son Canyon, car fully loaded to Nevada.  I made up a rule. We brought my car, so I wasn’t driving. Makes the trip so much better when I can day dream looking out the window at snowy mountains and vibrant sunsets without having to remember I’m supposed to be looking at the road!

On the way down to Vegas we made a quick stop to St. George to drop off Canyon to play with Grandparent’s and cousins. Last year was too tough for me trying to find someone to watch him 5 minutes before the race start.  Little angel made me promise I would win the race before we said good bye as he really liked going to Hawaii last year.  Great! Pressure on by way of a 6 year old.

This race was important for a number of reasons. First I needed to get my confidence back. Second, I was incredibly excited to spend time with great friends. And of course it would also be great to win my ticket back to XTERRA trail run Worlds in December.  Friday morning we went to the XTERRA expo to pick up registration packets and check out the courses. My 21k was to be a combination of the XTERRA West Championship’s bike and run course.  After saying hello to Janet and Dave, Kalei, Ann and everyone else I could possibly find to give a big hug and kiss to it was time to ride.

Views of Lake Las Vegas, feeling the high energy vibes of the XTERRA communtity, and initially getting out on the course made me momentarily miss and wish for racing triathlons again. I loved racing them so much.  Someday it will happen. I will be back to full health soon. I know it.  In the meantime I feel incredibly blessed I am becoming stronger and faster running than I have ever been before. I love running. Within about 15 minutes of riding I realized my skills were so shaky from lack of riding dirt that I was cured of the need to race the steep, rocky sometimes technical course on two wheels. I followed Art and Emma as best I could but soon was wanting to ditch the bike and just run after them. Yes, my mountain biking skills need some serious help! I rode with them for a while and then left on my own for a bit to finish shaking out my legs from the drive from the 801.

I love riding. Even when I’m shaky on the skills. Definitely a great way to preview the race course for Saturday. My perfect pre-race warm-up. It was great! My head was still having a bit of a difficult time being ready for my race. I knew that I needed to have a shift and get my game face on. That evening Art and Emma left the condo we were staying at to pick up dinner. It gave me some time alone to decide what was going to happen on Saturday. Right before they returned I knew I was ready to race inside and out. I slept very well that night.

Race morning went off without a hitch. I became increasingly more excited as I ran into more friends I hadn’t seen for a while. I danced around the venue all smiles and joy. When the cannon went off (yes XTERRA always shoots a cannon!)  I started off light and easy watching the other females take off in front of me. I looked at the gaits and form and listened for how they breathed. Went we hit the dirt I took off. I initially thought that I would have an easy win. This assumption only lasted for the first 3 miles.

I don’t often like to look back when I am racing. Move forward. Keep looking ahead. But today, I looked back. I was surprised to see a girl about 30 seconds back behind me. Hmmmm….. first I thought I could shake her by going a bit faster. She matched the stride. Wow! I became a little nervous. The race was no where near over and I was feeling a bit as though I had taken off too fast. My mind started wandering a bit, concerned about if I didn’t win, how would I handle it? I made the decision that somehow I was going to win the race. I could still visualize myself crossing the finish line as first female. I used the thoughts of everyone who supports me, believes in me, and the thought of my little Canyon being there at Worlds to propel me forward.

The remainder of my race I had to use a race tactic I made up on the spur of the moment. I wasn’t quite strong enough just to pull away from the second place girl. So what I did instead was to conserve energy and breathe very deeply to get as much oxygen into my system as possible. When she came closer than my 15 second comfort zone, I would pick up using form techniques taught to me by my running shoe sponsor Newton. I would go as long as I could to open the gap and then back off when I had to so I didn’t blow up. I knew if I kept from going into lactic overload I would win the race.

Going into the single track marsh area, I hit it really hard. I love sections like that. It is play time! I ran fast pushing off the berms and playing with form. I hoped that she wasn’t so comfortable in this type of section. Towards the end, I had opened a bit bigger gap but she was still there.  She was tough! Art and XTERRA’s Trey Garman were both there taking pictures. They called to me worried I would lose the lead. For some reason I found the energy to go hard. The next sections of the race included a lot of climbing. I was thrilled to have big hills coming up. I picked up the intensity and went for it. Luckily she was a better flat and down hill runner than climber. When I reached the beginning of the biggest hill almost a quarter mile long we ran twice in the race, I had opened up a bigger gap and knew I had it. I went as hard and steady as I could up the climb. I looked back one more time from the top and knew I had finally cracked her. Shooting down the other side, I ran hard. Fast across the flats. Then as quickly as possible up a crazy steep and loose mean hard hill. The remainder of the race was primarily down hill. I didn’t want to take any chances so I didn’t slack. I ran fluid and strong as I could all the way to the finish line and a happy first place finish.

Of course being so excited and having so many beautiful people I know, I pulled a Me, even though I know better. I forgot about my mandatory post race cool down and stretching nor did I eat anything for almost 6 hours post race. But I had a fabulous time catching up with old friends, meeting some new, and loving it that I won a race which, had I given up in my mind or heart, I may have lost. It was a huge reminder to me how important it is for me know no matter what, what I want.

The evening after the race was fun. Emma, Kelsey Withrow, and Cristine Jeffreys, were getting ready for their  XTERRA triathlon for the following morning. Art and I enjoyed a great dinner with these awesome pros!  How lucky! We had a great time laughing and eating celebrating endurance sport. I am so inspired at the athlete’s they are.

The next morning Art took Emma to her race start. I stayed at the condo trying to wake up and stretch my sore tired legs. Dang I wish I had taken care of them better after yesterday’s race. Achy, tight, wishing for my icy creek.  Big reminder once again that great racing is not just about the race itself, but the preparation all of the way around as well as proper recovery.

Here is where I need to start accepting things better. While I celebrate all of my friends still racing triathlon, I continue to have a difficult time not being able to race triathlons myself. I cry and get really sad when I watch them. I am fine being around the scene, but watching the actual racers doing what I loved still breaks my heart. So while Emma and my other friends raced the tri, I went with Art to ride mountain bikes in Bootleg Canyon. It was so much fun! I want to go back there soon.

We got back in time for the XTERRA race finish and awards. I am so proud and happy for Emma and Christine. Emma was 6th in the pro field and Christine was 3rd!  Kelsey did great too but was unable to finish due to bike problems.

Now it is late and I am home. Tired and happy.  Canyon is excited to know we get to go to Hawaii again for 2011!  As always, I am so grateful to Newton, CW-X, Zarephath Trading and all who help make my dreams come true.  Thanks Art for helping make the weekend a success. He rode all over the course taking pictures and giving encouragement. It is always great to have support. It means a lot! Thank you XTERRA for again putting on a top notch race. I can’t wait to race your next event!

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I will always remember waking up at the age of 12 to the pain I saw in so many while simultaneously realizing how lucky I was to feel fantastic.

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