After 2 years of being all about qualifying and racing in Kona, I wanted to go a little more low key, and do something that was different, but out of my comfort zone. Thats why I decided to do an Xterra race. I chose Xterra Italy, because the date was at the end of term, which meant I could train up until then, and then have the summer holiday with the kids, without stressing about fitting training in.
On the week leading in to the race I had a stomach upset, and couldn’t really eat anything except rice and bananas. My head started going all over the place, as I was having flashbacks to last year, and I was pre-menstrual too, which was almost an exact repeat of the lead in to Kona. I was really frustrated for a couple of days, so I just focussed on making sure I was hydrated enough, and I soon managed to start eating better.
Rachel and I flew out on Thursday to Rome, and drove the 2 hours to Lago di Scanno. Arriving there we were greeted by the hotel staff who kindly gave us some food, even though the kitchen was closing. My stomach was starting to feel ok by this point. On the Friday we built the bikes and decided to take them up for a short recce of the first part of the route. The first loop goes up from the lake, into Scanno, so we rode up, and met up with fellow Brit, Stacey, who Rachel had found was doing the race too. There were only 25 women entered in the full distance race, and 10 of them were pros, so we thought it would be nice to meet someone else from the UK who had decided to race there!
Scanno was beautiful, and we were just wandering around saying “wow” about everything, the venue was really special. We decided against taking the chairlift up to the first descent, and spent the day relaxing, and enjoying having time away from responsibilities and kids!
The race didn’t start until 12:30, which was good in some ways, as I had not slept well for 2 nights. (I think I got the best nights sleep the night before the race!) It meant that it would be hot, but I made sure I drank a pre-load drink during the morning, and made sure I was topped up with fuel throughout that time. Rachel and I had breakfast, then went back to the room to stay out of the sun, and sort our race stuff out, before heading to T1 at 11am
The Swim. Garmin data here
The swim was in the beautiful lake, but we still weren’t sure of the course. The race briefing was a bit haphazard as they switched from Italian to English and back again, but I could see where the course was meant to go. The pro’s weren’t allowed to wear wetsuits, but we were allowed to choose, and most of us chose to wear a wetsuit. I felt like a had a good position in the swim, exited the water looked at my Garmin and thought whoa, that was a good swim! I started unzipping my wetsuit, and there was a man running next to me who started saying “no”, so I thought maybe you had to wait until later to take your wetsuit off, but then turned the corner and realised we had to go back in and do another bit of swimming to the exit. (should have looked a bit closer at the race map!) No wonder I thought my swim split was so good. It was still the fastest AG time though, so pretty happy with that.
The Bike. Garmin data here
As I got into T1 I had a quick look around and noticed that not too many bikes had gone, I saw Stacey and said hi, then headed off with a brief stop to try and get my heart rate monitor back around my chest, as it had slipped down in the swim. People were shooting past me, a woman flew by who looked younger than me, and I tried to stay calm and keep a fairly steady pace, but my HR was pretty high. As the bike was off road, I knew there would be an opportunity on the descents when I wouldn’t be putting any power in to recover, so I wasn’t too concerned. It seemed pretty frantic for the first loop around town and on to a steep descent, which I walked. Stacey shot off down there and I didn’t see her again until halfway up the main climb on the 2nd loop. The second time around was a lot less congested, and frantic, I felt like I was within my ability now. We started the long climb up to the ski lift. I was deluding myself that it would be nice and steady, but before too long we turned right up a steep set of switchbacks which we had no choice but to walk. As I neared the top I caught up with Stacey again, and we had a brief chat. I carried on up, riding when I could, but also walking a lot too. The next descent was a long way down from the top of the chair lift, and I had to walk some sections there too, Stacey flew past me again, (this was becoming a recurring theme ;-)) and I made a final ascent up the switchbacks from the first loop, where we started to ride on the same route as runners. A runner actually pushed me up the hill for a few seconds on this section! After the gruelling switchbacks it was back down again to the lake and T2.
The Run. Garmin data here
I felt pretty good starting the run, as I had had a fair amount of recovery, descending. I remembered racing at the Fan Y Big fell race, and knew it wasn’t as much ascent. I also reminded myself of the woman who was ahead of me on that day. She was running and I was walking so I aimed to keep running as much as possible and started up the first set of switchbacks. My catchphrase was, “just keep moving” I passed a couple of men and then Stacey at the top of the first climb. I thought I was moving really well, got into a rhythm and kept picking people off. I don’t know how many people I passed, but it was a lot. It was great running through the town, through tunnels, around corners and up steps. Then we met the bike course again for a brief section before descending down to the lake through dusty fields, and woodland. This was where my running past came into the fore, as I was descending way faster than the other athletes, and I came in with the 4th fastest run split of the day. Its a shame my technical descending on a mountain bike isn’t as good!
I really enjoyed racing in Scanno, I hadn’t looked forward to a race this much for a long time, and I was definitely feeling out of my comfort zone. It was great going somewhere different to race, and also going with a friend. Kudos to Rachel who was up for coming, and managed to fit her training in, with 3 kids the youngest of whom is 2. And Stacey who also had a 2 year old. Women showing their true strength!
Full Results here