Monday, October 30, 2006

The Finish Line

XTERRA 2006 World Championship: 22 countries and 36 states represented.
Wow- what an amazing race! I went from race mode to survivor mode about a dozen times in the 4hrs and 53 mins of the race.
We ate lunch in a Maui cafe today, Jack Johnston playing in the background, and reading the Maui News ( in the moment)...on the front page was a woman in a bikini cheering the XTERRA finishers on! The sports page read an interview with Melanie McQuaid, she has won the World Championship 3 times in the article, she had mentioned this year the bike course was the gnarliest it ever been! (she really didn't say gnarly...she used the word "toughest") ....of course it is, its the year SueAnne Clark qualifies! Whats pretty cool about Xterra World Championship, is that they do not allow the racers to pre-view the course AND they try to change it up a bit. Its not your typical mtn bike single track with twisty turns, tree roots, shadey trees, and dodgeable rocks you see mostly in the east coast course. It is a 4wheel-only, JEEP, 19 mile, in the desert, farm (maneur smelling), side of the mountain (with some incredible views), fire road with 60% climbs and 40% downhill. About 85% of this road is lava rock....some tracks are completely covered, and some are there just to annoy your back tire. With that...I had bike problems, but if you talk to most athletes, including the top finishers, they too had bike mechanical problems.... I saw a ton of tubeless flats & lots of people riding their bike with tubeless flats.
sidebar: I had a flat on the pre-ride a few days before the race. It was a needle....the course is covered in these needles. So with the recommendation of my coach Ken, I bought and replaced my tubes with slime tubes. It flats!
The rear derailer hit a rock on a descend and then got all jammed up in my wheel when I tried shifting down for the next hill...I went from racing to survivor mode....let the head games begin!
10 mins later got the chain back on & road in a high gear, this was not good for the climbs b/c I had to push the bike up. Or should I say I had to push the HORSE up the hill! This Kona Kikipu is a trail bike not a racing bike, its about 35lbs with 4 1/2 inches of travel. It was great on the downhills, but it totally SUCKED (up most of my energy) pushing that thing up hill. After 3 more pushing climbs in the big ring, I decided to fix the derailer as much as possible...adding about 10 more mins onto my time. The gears were slipping but I went back into racing mode. I happen to catch up to some of the women that passed me. ... and I passed the Russian.
The run (7 miles, including transition area): I took off pretty well....legs felt good to run, but I was extremely THIRSTY! So I stopped at every watering hole possible, the 2 mile hill in the sun got to me, the russian caught up to me (you can tell she runs marathons), once again back into survivor mode. I kept the russian in sight, I tried not to pass her until I was ready, but she slowed down due to a stitch in her side....and then I passed her....back into race mode. We hit the beach (about 5miles into the run), its a 1/4 mile stretch in the PLUSH sands. She passed me and my legs were running out of gas. I surrendered my mind and body to God. Back into survivor mode until I knew I was near the finish line...I ran and heard my friend Reina call out "come on in SueAnne!" And thats where i felt this rush of happiness as I approached the finish line. I threw my hat in the air, as if it were my graduation cap, and gave out the biggest smile from my HEART. What an accomplishment I just made! And I gave Reina a big & sweaty hug! She gave me a lei! My Xterra family were there to congratulate me, and my Mom(whom they all call "Mom") was very proud!
The post race dinner and costume party was a lot of fun too! Its really cool to have a room full of international athletes who all work hard, and party hard! And trying to get the pronuncation of their names down was a big challenge!
A lot of great athletes (& friends) did not get to finish the race because of major bike mechanical problems and/or injuries. 22 women in my age group started the race, and 17 finished. I placed 15th. Where I am, sometimes, frustrated with my overall time and placing, I am also very proud and grateful to have crossed the finish line in one piece. Every race I walk away with something to work on for the next race (season) : navigating in open water swims, bring MY bike to every race, and get some diesel- fuel legs to last the long haul.
I am looking forward to the 2007 season, I will be an official Xterra Ambassador Athlete.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Meet the Competition

Here they are, my competitors. We are not pros, but amature female athletes from all over the world duking it the ocean water, bike up the volcano, and run in the sun. I really don't look at it as who I need to beat out in a World Match, but more like paying a high entrance fee to do well among the best, and of course to have it professionally TIMED & TELEVISED. (that to me, is the scariest part)
Women 30-34
Alexia Droz Point Roberts, WA
Ashlie Angel Durango, CO
Elena Vorontsova Khabarovsk, Russia
Janell Petalver Hawaii Res. F Honolulu, HI
Jean Limpitlaw Luton, United Kingdom
Julie Bruckman Denver, CO
Kim Norman Wreyham, United Kingdom
Laura Home Santa Cruz, CA
Marilyn Chivers Johannesburg, South Africa
Mitsu Shippee Japan
Natarsha Jazepczyk BALGOWNIE, Australia
Nerea Martinez Spain
Nikki Struthers New Zealand
Rebecca Mckee Anchorage, AK
Rebecca Tschider Phoenix, AZ
Shelly Williams Sherman Village, CA
Sheryl Hanratty Hamilton, New Zealand
Sueanne Clark Bryn Mawr, PA
Virginie Mathis France
Yvonne Kraus Grubbenvorst, WA Netherlands

So I am putting Bryn Mawr, PA on the map!

A few words from my sponsor: Biketopia

flow like lava, float like a lilly, run like a gazelle, swim like shamu, think like a gladiator war is inevitable so fight the good fight and win by doing this: flow with me in the twisties and in the single track climb with Bruce, Whoop it up with Fitz, finish with J9 and a cold one. Don't take any wooden knickles from those west coast bleached blonde bimbos.
you're a winner nothing more, nothing less.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

6000ft to 8900ft

Xterra USA Championship was held in Lake Tahoe, 10/1/06 in Incline Village, NV. I love the feel of the town, the stores, the bike shop, the people, and the church (so peaceful). I would consider making this a place to live in the future.
This year I was representing the mid-atlantic. I improved 30 mins on my time, and yet I danced my legs off at the post race party. Tall tell sign, I did not give it all on my race. Where in Milwaukee, I could barely move my body in any direction. Leaving Tahoe ( and I will miss it), I was a little sore. Soooo...the elevation had influenced my race, yes. But I also think my frame of mind was a bigger influence. I was grinding it out and making some noises on my first climb up to the Flume Trail, took the Flume trail by storm, and then worked around the lake to another climb, where my legs just did not want to climb....or was it my mind? And what kind of pansy am I to hold onto the brakes on the descend of Tunnel Creek? I hate being soo afraid of ........well what is it I am afraid of? Losing control? more the thought of not being able to get on the bike again.
Tahoe represents more than just the Xterra USA Championship, the trip feels similiar to a family reunion. This has been my second year participating in the race, where there is a great connection to all the people who participate as well as run the race. I really enjoy watching the athletes improve and receive the recognition they deserve. The Xterra Tribe who runs the show are truly amazing and so dedicated to each athlete. I love being in the presence of greatness, and at Lake Tahoe this year, everywhere you turn there was greatness.