19 May 2008 By Rachel’s

Xterra West Championship

This weekend was a mix of highs and lows. To start off, I got to the car rental place and they didn’t have my car. I got upgraded to a hard-top convertible and was all stoked until I realized my Scalpel wouldn’t fit in the trunk when the top was down. So the bike got to ride “California style” in the back seat. This got lots of laughs. The next best thing was when I got to the venue in at Vail Lake Resort in Temecula, I found my amazing teammate Jamie Whitmore all smiles and looking great with her sweet Monavie/Cannondale cane, race jersey and awesome attitude. She truly lives the Xterra spirit.
Jamie and I and then she and her husband Courtney at the expo day before race

Thank you so much to Steve and Darcie for opening your home to me and letting me set up base camp at your incredible home! Here I met them for the first time as well as super mom and athlete, Tiffany Larson and her son J.P. So many people inspire me in ways they may not even realize. Spending the weekend with them outside of my race was so cool.

Race day was a hot one, to put it lightly. In Temecula for this time of year, weather is typically in the 80’s. Today it tipped a scorching 100 degrees. In a completely exposed, hilly race course, it proved to be the most brutal course I’ve ever encountered. Swim went as per my usual. I’m medium fast, but still need to knock off some minutes.
View of swim and transition area

On the bike, it was interesting. The course was perfectly suited for all of my strengths. Lots of hard medium long climbs, steep thrilling roller coasters, and twisty, but not too technical descents. I was loving my first of two laps. The heat hadn’t quite reached its unbearable stage and I felt good and strong and knew I was going to win my slot to worlds. What I didn’t plan on were a few wacky accidents. On one short uphill, a guy ahead of me didn’t quite make it up. As I went to pass him, he swung his long leg and cleated shoe straight into my head. Needless to say, I was off the bike. Fortunately I was stunned for just a moment as my new Bell Sweep XC helmet did its job. I suppose it’s a funny way for a helmet to save me? Well, I got back on my bike, went on again, and was doing great. But then on the final climb of the first lap, I got taken out by a girl riding next to me. She spun out straight into me and landed on top of me with her handle bar wedged into my thigh. This one wasn’t so forgiving. I spent the rest of the race wishing I had some Motrin. One other problem on the bike. I ran out of water. Not good given the temps. I rode for almost 30 minutes without any. In this heat, it was the beginning of the end. I finished the bike without a problem, but going into a hot run, dehydrated, with some serious elevation gain was not good.
Some of the hills we raced bikes and ran in. Typically the run is my forte. I’m light and loose and almost always have one of the fastest run splits of the day. Today I struggled. In fact it was so hard that I quit the race twice as my heart rate soared above the 200 mark (my max is typically about 193!). Having already been through a traumatic brain injury and multiple pass out episodes from that, a black out was not an option. Both times on side of the trail, my heart sank. I had never voluntarily quit a race in my life. Each time, watching the others trudge on, I put my game face back on and started again. Needless to say, I finished the race with the slowest 10K trail run time including my ‘stops’ that I have ever had. After crossing the finish line, I did pass out for a moment and ended up in the medical tent, but I finished and I was in good hands instead of on the side of the trail. Again I ended up with laughs as I recovered. There were others in the tent next to me with cramping legs and begging the overwhelmed medical staff to rub their legs out. I being a massage therapist went to work on them. I instructed them in breathing exercises and rubbed their legs out until the cramping subsided all the while listening to my own words and breathing with them so I didn’t pass out on top of them. One of the personnel commented that he never had a patient working on the other patients before. He also thanked me for teaching him how to work out the cramps. How cool is that!!

Even better than finishing, I learned that others must have suffered more than I. I won my category and secured a spot to worlds in Maui for October! In that moment, all of pain I was in melted. I am soooo lucky!
Category male and female podium missing one of the girls! Thank you so very much to my good friend/photographer Gene Murrieta. He caught me at both of my hardest moments. The first was on the hill with the girl crashing on me and the second was the first time I ‘quit’ the race. His words were so funny. “Gee Rachel, I catch you every time you look like Hell this race!” Smiles came out of that one!!! So anyone who needs to blackmail me, I suppose you could get a hold of those pics! Again, thank you Gene for your help and support. Also to Peter (another racer friend/doc) who helped me in the medical tent. Thanks also to the best team ever, MonaVie/Cannondale for helping me get there and Team Unlimited for putting on another “soul builder” of a race that was run perfectly as always. And I, as always was soooo happy to be back ‘home’ with my growing Xterra family.

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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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