Monday, July 14, 2008

Team Balsaque vs. the Nettle Patch: Vashon Island Xterra Race Report

Here is my race report for the Vashon Island Xterra, held at Dockton Park on July 13, 2008. I'll keep incorporating pictures as the week wears on...

Team LL Stats:

Total Time: 2:07.37
800m Swim (Lora Koenig): 16:23.1
T1: 27.4
14ish mile MTB (Trigrrl): 1:17.91 (9.7 mph and 2.57 nettle bush crashes per lap)
T2: 1:15.3
3.6ish mile trail run (Trigrrl): 34:29

2nd out of 4 relays.

Saturday: Team Balzaque Drinks Tequila and Sleeps in the Belly of the Whale

Vashon Island race weekend started bright and early. Megan and I met Doug at his house at 8AM to load up the car and we were on the road by 8:30. The trip to the Point Defiance Ferry was uneventful. I sat in the backseat and alternately read sections from a mountain bike skills book (alas, no specific chapter on turning right) and my favorite new book, "Stuff White People Like" (link is to the website of the same name).

The Point Defiance Ferry was my first time on a ferry. Damn, the sights of the Sound were gorgeous.

We met Jenny Stangl and Carly at Casa Bonita, this kick ass little Mexican Restaurant in Vashon. It was unanimously decided that our optimal pre-Xterra race preparations would include mexican food and no fewer than three margaritas apiece. Here we are collectively vibing that fifteen minutes is too long to wait for a margarita:

I found my new boyfriend hanging out at Casa Bonita. He's the shirtless hottie with the middle of the photo with the trucker hat and suspenders. His name is Roy Bob Jr. and he lives with his mom in a single wide five miles outta town. RB is a carnivorous Leo who likes chainsaw art, Monday Night WWF on a widescreen projection TV, shotgunning Keystone Ice and shooting at road signs. And remember ladies, I saw him first:
The Xterra weekend coincided with the Vashon Island Strawberry festival. My favorite part of the street fair was the two good ol' boys with guitars and an amp simultaneously playing "Christian Glam Rock" (their label, not mine-I can't make that kind of shit up) and ogling every underage female within ten feet. I was unable to find a commemorative t-shirt with a unicorn-riding strawberry, but we did find a most delectable mid-afternoon snack-a kebab of chocolate covered strawberries.The lovely lady in the middle is a gal pal from my days at Linfield College, Lora Koenig. Lora just finished defending her PhD at UW and graciously agreed to swim for me after my second test swim crashed and burned earlier in the week.

After checking into the campsite, taking a post-tequilathon siesta and settling into our Deluxe Whale Teepee (complete with an indoor (!?) fire pit and three empty Heineken bottles), we drove out to Dockton Park to pre-ride the mountain bike course. We were quite lucky to have Lora and her handy-dandy Garmin navigation equipment along for the ride. I think we saved 2.3 minutes and discovered two previously abandoned roads on our way to the park.

I'll save a description of the course to the actual "race report" section of this post. Suffice to say, there was a significant amount of frustrated swearing, tipping over and putting a foot down during the first third of the course. I also did hands-on reconnaissance on every goddamn stinging nettle patch near the trail. At the top of the ridge, we ran into two of the official Xterra representatives riding the course backwards. I knew we were in for a good time when I asked one, "Is there a time penalty for swearing?" and his answer was "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about." This was going to be my kind of race.

Here is Camp Whale after the pre-ride, eating a healthy pre-race meal of beer, cheese, salami, crackers and gummi bears.

During a downwardly-spiraling conversation fueled by Ninkasi and the intoxication of gorgeous setting (at one point a young deer maniacally ran through the tents in the meadow), the initial course of which I cannot recall, we deemed ourselves Team Balzaque (if the humor of this moniker isn't immediately apparent, say it out loud). If Balzaque could not emerge victorious over the Ironheads on race day, the least we could do was crash a lot and clear the trail for them as they lapped us.

Sunday: Can the Garmin Navigate Me to the Local Nettle Patches?

Sunday morning dawned early, clear and cool. Team Balzaque brewed up some cowboy coffee, loaded up the cars and headed back to Dockton Park for the main event. Some pre-race gear carnage and the bay where the swim was held:If you don't recall my nutrition issues during my last off-road event, let me provide a recap: not enough calories = late ride bonk. I have discovered that pre-race nutrition is more important for me in an off-road event because I find it difficult to concurrently eat and stay upright on the mountain bike. On this go-around, I obviously needed to try a new strategy.

I decided to load more long-term (complex carb/protein) fuel into my breakfast and rely on Heed and a single, "in case of emergency only," packet of Gu for the race. Breakfast consisted of coffee and two pieces of peanut butter toast. Two. This idea only turned out to be half of a good idea. Bad half: I spent the hour before the start time nauseous from the effort my stomach was putting into digesting that much peanut butter and bread. Good half: I had no nutrition issues during the race.

The men took off at 9, followed by the women and relays at 9:10. The first member of Balzaque out of the water was Doug, followed shortly by Carly. Stangl, Lora and Megan were not far behind. Lora and I had a quick timing chip exchange, and I was off and, uh, running.

The bike course was two 6.5 ish mile loops. The first quarter mile was, for me, a bike and hike. The steep pitches were so frequent that it was more efficient just to push the bike the entire segment than to constantly have to get on and off of the bike. I passed Carly on this stretch and didn't see another Balzaque until the very end of the run.

The bike and hike was followed by a fairly technical section though the forest and some section of trail that was so twisty and overgrown that it was very difficult to gauge the trail more than fifteen feet in advance. Although I had a couple of spills in this section during both laps, it was awesome. I rode through, around or over some sections that I didn't ride on Saturday, only because my legs were burning (and not from the nettles, that was a different sort of burning) and I didn't want to have to stop and start up again.

At the halfway point on the course, the trail hit its highest point and we began the "Return of the Jedi" section. I refer to it as such not because I was chasing little hairy lifeforms through the woods (most of the men that were lapping me were tall and smooth-legged), but because it was heavily wooded, fast, with smooth trail and lots of tight turns that required me to commit to taking some chances in order to keep up with the women that I was riding with. Some of these chances worked, some of them led to some trips into the nettle patches and finally being dropped by the folks I was riding with. C'est la vie.

The final third of the course was almost exclusively downhill, including a section where I caught some air off of some roots and a section where I did a skidding switchback turn for the first time. Not purposely, but it worked splendidly.

All in all, I had a great time on this bike course, although it was a difficult course that really tested my bike-handling skills. I am still, however, pretty frustrated that I still have significantly more fitness than I have ability to ride fast on singletrack. Just be patient, grasshopper.

The run took us back up the hill from the bay and into the trail system. The first mile was a steady, and sometimes steep, uphill. I made a mental note that I will place hill repeats on Wild Cherry on my 2009 Xterra training schedule. When I could run, I ran strong and smooth, probably because I didn't burn through all of my energy on the bike ride. The second and third miles were a series of steady rollers and final push involved a 1/2 mile stretch of pavement and a bomb downhill on loose and dusty singletrack back into the park. Stangl caught me with less than a quarter mile remaining. I tried to stay on her tail, but that lasted all of fifteen seconds. She is a speed demon. I am a bowling ball.

Doug and Lora greeted us at the finish. Stangl and I were followed by Megan and, last but definitely not least, Carly, who received a five moon salute and cheers of "Go Balzaque" as she ran into the finish chute. Everyone was sporting a huge grin after the race and the first thing each person said after they crossed the finish line was some variation of "That was so much fun!!"

And it was. SO. MUCH. FUN. Thank you Xterra and BuDu Racing.

We stuck around for the awards ceremony (which involved Stangl participating in a push-up contest and grown men shotgunning gatorade), reloaded the cars and headed out to catch the ferry. Here was our post-race celebratory meal, eaten while waiting in line to get back on the ferry.

Team Balzaque already plans on representing at Vashon Island Xterra 2009. We are now accepting applications for new team members. In order to qualify for Balzaque membership, you must:
  1. Be able and willing to consume large amounts of pre-race margarita and/or beer.
  2. Participate in the pre-ride swearing contest.
  3. Engage in the steady sexual harassment of your team members, other racers, the men who take money for the ferry and local teenagers selling chocolate covered bananas.
  4. Have an almost illegal amount of fun.
See ya in 364 days!


Anonymous said...

Emily Moon and I most definitely qualify. In fact, I've already won the pre-race swearing contest for 2009 - in the bag.

Vivian said...

This is great info to know.

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