2 years ago when we came out to Utah for XTERRA Trail Run Nationals, we watched our friends compete in the USA Triathlon Championship race the day before. I remember saying that there is no way I could ever do that, yet 2 years later, I found myself standing on the shores of that same reservoir, shivering from head to toe as the air temperature barely reached 40 degrees. I wasn't fearful of the course, the competition, or even the mass start of men and women combined during the swim, but the cold... well, that scared the beegeebezies out of me. The water felt warm compared to the air temperature which actually made me want to do a long warm-up swim and not get out of the water until the very last minute (which is crazy for non-swimming loving me).
I gave Dave a quick kiss just as the start gun went off and we dove in with hundreds of our newest XTERRA triathlete friends. It was an elbow punching, kicking, mass of arms and legs for almost the entire first loop of the 2 loop swim course. I was stoked however, knowing I just kept pressing forward amongst the chaos without freaking out. My mind was calm and excited about getting to tackle the long bike climb up to Sardine Peak and down to a challenging but fun run course if I could get through the swim. I came out of the water about 3 minutes back of my age group lead pack, which even with training this season, is typical for me. As we took off on the bike, we started climbing up a shady canyon which made me question whether I should have taken the time to grab socks or arm warmers in transition. Fortunately, a good thing about climbing and climbing is that you warm up quickly.
It wasn't the perfect race, having a chain snap 10.5 miles into the bike, just after passing a line of competitors, watching them fly right back past me as I bewilderly stared at my broken chain lying on the trail. Without a chain tool to fix it, I thought my race was done, but luckily another biker was standing up the trail next to a volunteer. When he found out I didn't carry an extra chain link or tool with me (they were all in Dave's pack and he hadn't come to this point in the race yet- although I was certain he would be passing at any minute), he went to his pack and brought me his, helping me shorten and fix mine so I could continue on. I wish I knew his name or what happened to him during the race to place him along that stretch of trail, but he truly embodied the selflessness and genuine support for others that XTERRA is all about.
I knew I had a choice once I got back on my bike... Take in the sites and cruise the rest of the race, thinking my competitive race was done after loosing 5 to 10 min to the girls who passed me on the side of the trail, or buckle down, give it all I had and see what the legs and heart had left. I know I had trained hard for this race, I knew my legs could climb, and after learning so much about digging deeper than I knew I could after raising my sweet Angel these past 7 years, I went for it. I rode my bike harder than I ever had, even without the ability to switch more than a few gears for fear the tight chain would snap again. Funny, a few days before the race, I heard the song by American Authors, "Go Big or Go Home". As I lay awake in bed the night before the race, my heart going through periods of palpations of anxiety visualizing the course, that song came into my head. I actually got out of bed and watched the YouTube video of it that night. It was almost like a premonition because after the bike incident, "Go Big or Go Home" started to repeat in my head. I even yelled it at the top of Sardine Peak (luckily no one was around to hear me) just as I was about to start the descent for the next few miles down to the finish of the bike leg.
I let the legs go on the run and ran with my heart- it truly is the most breathtakingly beautiful course and despite the burning lungs and legs, I was having the time of my life out there. Much of the run course, including the first grueling climb right out of transition and a second about 1/2 way through, were the same as the trail run course so it was like running on familiar ground with flashbacks of the race 2 years ago. Crossing that finish line was such a sweet victory, knowing I didn't quit, I dug in and gave it my all. (Yes, another life metaphor) Truly beyond honored to learn I finished 1st in the 40-44 age group of unbelievable women and get to carry the title of National Champion this year.
After racing the XTERRA Mountain Championships in Beaver Creek and qualifying for the World Championships in Maui this coming November, I asked Josiah and his brother Yaro Middaugh to coach me, wanting to see what my body could do if it actually got in a pool more than once/week and trained specifically for a mountain bike-trail run triathlon. Yaro took over my workout training with Josiah overseeing and checking in from time to time. They have been amazing. They not only understand the science behind the periodization of training, but also because they both have families and other life obligations, they get that we all don't just train for a living. They also understand that brains like mine need a balance of hard, structured workouts and playtime escapes on the trail to keep my mind and body fresh and happy. I really have to credit the training plan that they put together and their belief in me that helped make what was able to do at Nationals possible. I will never forget seeing Josiah standing out on the course as I was cutting through the final 1/2 mile of downhill singletrack toward the finish, saying "Is that Dee? Go Dee, Go!" Josiah had just (well, not just... more like an hour before) won the overall pro race, yet he removed himself from the crowded finish to come out on course and cheer us age groupers on. Truly a good man and class act. I am so honored to be part of the Middaugh Coaching team for the second half of the racing season this year and can't wait to see what lies ahead for all of us.