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2015-06-14 XTERRA East Championships Race Report by Debbie Sullivan

XTERRA East Champs

Last year I was able to come and race this course for the first time. I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this urban adventure! The course is a blast with a crazy zigzagging swim through the James River, a challenging and fun bike course with some fun crazy fans to liven things up in the middle of the woods, and diverse run going from urban to climbing the “mayan ruins” to rock hopping a route finding through a dry riverbed. I had a blast here and had my best finish in 7th. So this year I was really looking forward to coming back to this race and seeing if I could better that result.

I came out to work in the DC area for a couple of days and enjoyed the hospitality of David and Stephanie before I went down to Richmond. Thanks to an amazing group of athletes in the Richmond area I got connected with Karl and Jo Ann who took me in for a perfect homestay right on the course. Made my prerace prep so easy.

Well, it was a hot one! Hot and humid posing a myriad of challenges for the athletes. This makes things like hydration and nutrition even more key through the race. The pro women got our own start wave a minute after the men and just under an hour before the age groupers. Which was crucial in helping the women have a clean race without a couple getting through and the rest getting stuck in the crowds amplifying the time gaps.

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Ladies running the sandbar midswim

The water was pretty low this year so along with some extra running up a sandbar you could also be surprised by rocks sneaking right beneath you! I tried to get out fast but lost that first group pretty quickly. After running Belle Isle I dove back in to find the current back across the river. I obviously did not have the fastest route or best swim back across because some of the girls I was with were out ahead of me. As I swam back I was thinking how hot I was already while still in the water. We may have had close to the same running as swimming with the sand bar, Belle isle and run to T1. In transition they were keeping people clear and yelling to see how many Pro bikes were still left unattended. “One!”. Ha! Not encouraging to me.

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Running Belle Isle about to dive back in with Maia right on my heels. Photo: Xterra

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Coming out of Swim Photo: Jo Ann Gordan

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Dropping to the tunnels Photo: Jo Ann Gordan

Onto the bike I got on and raced down the bridge to get to the single track and catch up! Made sure to take in some nutrition here. It is early and easy to eat. I also chose to take my Camelbak with frozen Osmo active. This stuff is amazing anyway, but when it is hot….the best! I could see the next girl not far ahead, Britany and was focusing on reeling her in on the single track. However, I just couldn’t get my legs to push. I finally got by on some of the technical stuff at the back of the course but she soon passed me again on a road section and my legs didn’t really feel like they came around till the end of the lap. Finally! As soon as we hit single track I got by her and Sarah and tried to quickly open a decent gap. It was going pretty well and my legs were better but this go I just rode dirty through the technical stuff and kept messing things up which was just frustrating. By then end of it Brittany and Emily had caught back up and came into T2 right behind me.

I came into T2 in 6th and sped through transition to get going. It was going to be a hot run! I knew Brittany was a fast runner so I wanted to do what I could. She ran me down about 1.5 mi in and I could not even match her pace. I did keep her in sight and just kept going thinking I couldn’t let Emily catch me too. As I climbed Mayan ruins it was like a wall of heat! There was no air moving in that spot and as you climbed up it was suffocating. I ran down the stair tower and onto the little out and back section and saw most of the girls ahead me in the race. I was able to keep it strong and make it to the bridge with Brittany still somewhat in sight. This is the best part almost there. I was able to hold onto 7th. Staggered straight through the finish and collapsed in the misting tent under the spray.

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Coming into T2 Photo: Pax Tolosi

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Into the tunnel

I was not able to better my 7th place from last year and I was slightly disappointed with my race. Just couldn’t get the bike together better. It is alright I was happy to hang strong and so happy to see some of my friends have breakthrough races and take their first podiums. Suzie Snyder nailed the bike course and took her first US series win. Emma blazed the run almost making up a 6 min deficit. Catherine Sterling made some huge leaps and climbed onto the third step for her career best. Maia Ignatz blazed the race with speedy bike and run to take fourth and friend from CA Kara LaPoint took her first podium despite severely rolling her ankle a couple miles from the finish. While these are my competitors and I really wished I could be up there too. I actually really enjoyed seeing their victories. Next time!
So, still love this course and I will look forward to coming back. Right now I am focused on XTERRA Beaver Creek tomorrow! I had to get this report up before the race or I know it would never happen 😉

Let’s see what can do in the mountains now that I am a low lander. I have had a nice week a home visiting family.

More great photos from Backlight here.

Full results here.

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