Ray's Blog

Sunday, February 26, 2006

2004 September 25: XTERRA Nevada

XTERRA is a series of offf-road triathlons that has been gaining momentum over the past few years. In 2004, Cedric and I decided we'd take part in XTERRA Nevada, which is held a few hours from the Bay Area in Tahoe's Incline Village. The XTERRA Nevada course consists of .75K (maybe .5K?) swimming in Lake Tahoe, 32K mountain biking in the mountains above Lake Tahoe, and a 5K trail run.

Cedric and Alex and I drove up the night before the race. I couldn't find us accommodations in Incline Village, unfortunately, so we stayed at the Resort at Squaw Creek, which is totally excellent, but which isn't quite ideally located.

Race morning had us showing up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and slowly fighting the bikes off the top of the car (I have since replaced my bicycle racks). We brought the bikes and other race equipment to the transition area and then walked across the chilly wet grass towards the lake. We stopped to put on our wetsuits, which helped warm us up significantly. Then we continued down (ouch! Pebbles underneath bare feet!) to the lake to hang out for the race start.

Cedric & I posed for a few pictures while waiting. The water was cold enough (62 degrees) that I dreaded entering it, so I didn't get in before the race (I seem to make that decision often!). With a bang! the competition was underway, and all the participants took running starts into the lake. My thermal worries melted away as I had the most pleasant swim I've had thus far in a triathlon-- the water felt great, the lake was beautiful and crystal clear, and I somehow had plenty of space to myself.

After the swim, I slogged out of the water and jogged (ouch! again) back towards the transition area. About a minute into my transition, Cedric joined me (we had placed our bikes next to each other). After pulling myself together and making a final decision on whether or not to bring my water with me for the bike ride (my mountain bike frame can't fit any water bottles, and a Camelbak seemed like overkill...), I got going on part two of the triathlon. (I can't remember whether or not I did end up bringing water with me. Probably I did.)

After a short stint on the road, the long line of bikes started climbing up into the hills above the Pondarosa Ranch (yup! The one from the TV show). It was a pretty tough climb up rather low-traction sand and gravel, and it took a lot more out of me than it should have. I screwed up and chose a bad line at some point (in retrospect, I should have paid more attention to where on the path everyone else was biking!) and had to walk my bike briefly until I found some traction; naturally that was when Cedric came upon me and passed me.

Once the big climb was done, we continued riding along some singletrack. I didn't know what proper mountain bike or XTERRA racing etiquette said about letting people pass, and I guess I should've let people pass me more often. In my defense, I wasn't actually the limiting factor for most of this section-- I was right behind someone else who I couldn't figure out how to pass. I gather now that I should have communicated to him that I wanted to pass him, and then he would have pulled over at an appropriate spot. Next time!

Things eventually widened out to a fire road for a few miles, and then we had the big descent down to lake level. The first part of the descent was packed dirt with occasional medium-sized rocks in the path-- nice, classic mountain-biking riding. The bottom part, however, was a lot of sand. I was amazed at how fast people were descending (it seemed like a lot of people passed me here!), because I was scared to go very fast on this stuff. Even at the speeds I was travelling, I felt as though I was on the edge of control (except for one corner, where I was definitely out of control, and I almost lost it).

I made it back to the road and the transition area in one piece and put on my trail running shoes for what would be the longest 5K run of my life. There were no big climbs on the run, but there were a lot of little ups and downs, and after the bike ride, I didn't have a lot left to give. There were some minor off-road-ish obstacles to overcome (like going over a log to cross a creek), and those slowed things down as well. Nobody passed me during the run, and I passed a reasonable number of people, which presumably means (yet again) that I didn't work hard enough during the bike leg. The run course wound around the race start/end area and thereabouts, never getting too far away from it; this made it difficult to guess how much running remained at any given point. Towards the end, I thought I was on the final stretch, and so I sped up, but then it turned out that the course zigged and zagged for a while more before the end.

Cedric and I found each other and compared notes. He had beaten me by some huge amount on the bike leg, so he had been hanging out already for a while. We both agreed that the race was an awesome experience. I'm definitely planning on doing some more XTERRAs! My swimming and running were acceptable in this race, but hopefully I'll improve my mountain biking beforehand...

After cooling down and wandering around some more, Cedric and I gathered up our stuff and brought it all back to the car, where Alex was snoozing.

Alex's pictures of the event are located here. My results are here.


  • I saw that you used a Camelbak. I had a suggestion for Camelbak on my blog and was wondering if you could take a look and add any input.

    Keep on riding!



    By Scott Dunlap, at 10:55 AM  

  • Hey Scott and Ray
    I am not sure if you are still xterra racing, but I wanted to invite you to an awesome Xterra in Texas. If interested check out www.campeagle.org/xterra.

    By Camp Eagle, at 3:34 PM  

  • Hey Ray and Scott
    That address is "all caps" for EXTERRA...so it looks like this..www.campeagle.org/EXTERRA.
    Camp Eagle

    By Camp Eagle, at 4:00 PM  

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