Xterra Alberta 2011, Off-Road Triathlon

Posted by Derek MacKenzie (Fiera Race Team)

XTERRA is an off-road race series that has global events year round, including trail running, mountain biking, duathlon and triathlon. The triathlon distance is on average a 1 km swim, 22-24 km mountain bike, and a 7-8 km trail run. On August 14th, Darren McGregor (Fiera Race Team), my cousin Mark, and me competed in this years AB XTERRA triathlon at the Nordic Centre in Canmore and it was a BLAST! We drove down on Saturday to pre-ride the MTB course, and good thing we did, because to call it challenging was an understatement. It was a 10 km loop of brutal climbs (Georgetown), technical descents (laundry and coal chutes), and rocky XC (EKG trail). Our casual pre-ride took 50 minutes for one lap! Feeling like that wasn’t enough, we decided to ride the run course too, which ended up being another 4 km of technical trail and definitely a lot harder than the double wide gravel I’d been run on for training. One little victory for me was that the run course included a section called the Devonian drop which I was finally able to ride, but next year I have to conquer the coal seam!

We stayed at the Hostel Bear in Canmore which is a fantastic place as long as you get a room on the north side, or bring ear plugs. The trains that run through the back ally sound like you could touch them from your bunk. We got checked in and decided to go to a pig roast at the legion that promised pig, potato,  pasta salad, and beer; carb loading at its best and all for only $10 (plus beer). After a pretty good sleep, we left next morning at 7 am to setup T1 and T2 and listen to the mandatory pre-race meeting. After watching coach Dan demonstrate the bike/run transition in a speedo (whoa!) and everyone getting a yellow card warning from the ATA guy for not being friendly enough to volunteers (wtf?), it was time to get ready.

It was a gorgeous day, so me and Darren put our wetsuits on in the parking lot. Darren kept commenting on how casual the atmosphere was and he was right, it did feel unusually calm. I did some stretching and we caught the shuttle back down to the quarry for the start. One last check on the bike and then I made my way down to the beach , finished putting on my wetsuit and took a few practice strokes. The water wasn’t too cold and my breathing seemed really good. By all accounts this was going to be a great day, I kept singing some song stuck in my head and I wasn’t nervous, I was activated! They played “The Final Countdown”, then it was the final count down, and then we were off.  OMG….swimming is hard and I immediately thought “I’m not going to make it”, but I slid into some breathing every stroke, only went off course once or twice and managed to get out of the water not last. I stumbled over to transition and waited for the wetsuit strippers I’d heard so much about (See Schreiber 2009), but there weren’t any! Got my wetsuit off, got my bike stuff on, and got on the bike.

The bike started up to the Nordic centre on pavement which was a chance to catch my breath from swimming and find a good pace.  I heard Coach Dave’s voice in my head saying to ‘stay seated and spin up the hills on this course ‘cause there’s lots of climbing.’ Good advice as the course climbed all the way from the quarry up to the laundry chutes for the first decent.  When I got there, there was a traffic jam that threw me off. After a small crash, I ran down the rest and hopped back on the bike. The rest of the bike was good.  I rode hard where I could, and recovered where I could. I tried to eat some cliff bar at the beginning of the second lap, but it was too much work and I decided to just stick to the Gatorade. I finished the bike feeling pretty spent and wondering how the run was going to go, but transitioned quickly and got to it.

‘Should have done more bricks!’ was the thought as I sucked back a gel at the beginning of the run. I took it slow and told myself that I would NOT walk on the first lap (except at the aid stations). By the second lap I didn’t feel like walking anymore, but I also didn’t have enough to try to find out where Mark or Darren were.  My legs started to cramp on the last 500 m, but it didn’t matter because it was the home stretch. I finished in 2:59, Mark was 2:52 and Darren was 2:47 (full results here). I didn’t bonk, I didn’t crack, I didn’t cramp (until the very end), and I left everything I had on the course, so all in all it was a great day with great friends (PhotosMore Photos).


One response to “Xterra Alberta 2011, Off-Road Triathlon

  1. Nice report Derek. I am wondering if you can shed some light on the perception out there, among some of us, that the swimming leg of triathlons is a soak-in-the-tub compared to having to do two trail runs in a duathlon–any comment?

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