Emma Garrard XTERRA Southeast Championships Race Report

By USA Triathlon | June 22, 2009, 6:37 p.m. (ET)

emma swimAthlete Name: Emma Garrard
Event Name: XTERRA Southeast Championships
Event Location: Pelham, Alabama
Event Distance: XTERRA off-road triathlon, 1.5k swim 20-mile mountain bike and 10k trail run
Finish Place: Overall – 5th pro          

Just minutes before the start of the XTERRA Southeast Cup Triathlon, Conrad Stoltz, the defending champion and overall leader in the series, choked on his words as he clenched the mic and shared his memories of Steve Larsen. “I’d like to dedicate this race to Steve,” Stoltz said.

The race started with a two-lap, 1,500-meter swim in Double Oak Lake at Oak Mountain State Park, a 9,940 acre park of wooded ridges and lots of single-track. The weather was ideal, overcast and threatening to rain and the cool temperatures meant a wetsuit swim for age-groupers but still a non-wetsuit dip for the pros.

I got off to my usual slow start, but by the time I got to the first buoy I was swimming with Lesley Patterson. I pulled the remainder of the first lap and she led again to the first buoy on the second lap before I took the lead all the way to transition. I was the second woman out of the water, which was huge for me. I think I’m a little better at non-wetsuit swims, but I also owe some thanks to my recent swim analysis.

emma bikeThe start of the bike was lots of twists and turns through the woods; not too tricky but difficult for passing. Once we hit the road, an hour into the race, I was passed by a few pro women including Shonny V who flashed a smile and words of encouragement. I gave some words back through a mouthful of energy gel. There was a 2- or 3-mile climb before another 6 miles of mostly descent. The most technical section, “Blood Rock,” a series of rock drop offs (see photos), came up quickly and was the only part of the course with spectators. I rode the section well on my Blue Ryno as the spectators cheered. It wasn’t long until I was back in transition, trying to focus on what I was doing, not what Jamie Whitmore was saying while announcing.

Heading out on the run the first few miles are the same as the bike and relatively flat. My legs weren’t as ‘fresh’ as I imagined them being so I tried to pretend I was just doing a running race that day and that made me feel better. I was running with no other racers in sight and had a minor scare when I saw no course markers and feared the worst – taking a wrong turn – but I soon saw a racer up ahead and took a sigh of relief. I had to smile at the dog I ran by at one of the feeds lapping up the spilled Gatorade on the ground. Next was a series of very steep climbs (too many to count) all in the woods. I started to see more racers which motivated me a little along with the fact that super-runner Danelle Kabush hadn’t passed me yet. By then it had started raining, which was quite refreshing on the climbs but made the downhills slippy. I soon caught a glimpse of Jenny Smith (5th place = money) on the hill ahead. I worked to close the gap but she picked up the pace and I feared a Vegas repeat (6th place finish 15 seconds off of 5th). I managed to catch her on a steep descent. My INOV-8 XTalons worked perfectly on the course. I ran hard fearing I would get bumped back to 6th but finished strong and held on to my “on the grass next to the podium” 5th place for the first time in a summer XTERRA race with a time of roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Overall it was a good race.  I got to experience 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th place! The finish moved me up to 4th place in the U.S. standings and No. 2 American.