Race Report: Xterra Sky High, Grafton Lakes, NY; Sunday July 17, 2011

July 18, 2011 - 2:08pm by Anonymous (not verified)

For an Xterra race it is smart to pre-ride the bike course and having a look at the run course might help as well. I couldn’t make it to upstate NY on Saturday so I ended up leaving 3:30 am (!) for an almost 3 hour drive. All this for a race that takes less than 2 hours; you must think I’m crazy or stupid or both. I thought that a few times for sure, but on the upside, there wasn’t really that much traffic…

Anyway, I arrive very early for my standards, almost 2 hours before the start of the race. Instead of making sure I get the best spot in transition I’m just wandering around which results in having to pick a spot in the sandy part of transition instead of the more preferable grass side. Another lesson learned… I had never done this Xterra race before and as said had no idea about the course other than website info and an earlier text message from a friend reading ”fast easy course”. Right…

The race director likes to spice it up a bit and thus the swim start is “Le Mans” style: you run ~ 300 yards on the beach before starting the first lap of swimming (~ 500 yards). Next you run another ~ 400 yards after exiting the water to the start of the second swim lap. Nice way of getting your heart rate sky high (pun intended) before actually getting in the water.

The bike course starts on some very fast gravel fire road for a mile or two, followed by a loose gravel and rocks climb which is less than half a mile long. Then the fun part arrives with some relatively technical single track, lots of ups and downs, plenty of rocks and roots. The last part of the bike course consisted of two loops around a smaller lake. This requires having a volunteer mark your bike number when doing the first of two little loops. This turned out to be less hassle than I expected. The little loop was almost all single track, plenty of rock gardens though and an occasional spot that could send you off of your bike if not paying attention. Besides the relative lack of climbing I think this is what an Xterra mountain bike course should be like, expect it needs to be longer! Not only because I like it but also because it was not even close to the advertised 20 km (it was closer to 9 miles so maybe 15 km).

And then came the run… oh boy… right out of transition you need to run up a boulder and jump off on the other side. It’s only a couple of feet high but the spectators enjoy watching it. The run course starts and ends on the beach. In between were a number of miles of tiptoeing over/on/between rocks and roots. There was also a climb up and down the same hill as the bike course but it was the “technical” single track running that blew most people away. It didn’t so much a number on your legs as it did on your brain! No time for looking up even a second! It made me loose any perception of distance as well. The finish is pretty cool as you have to run a stretch on the beach, and there are quite some folks out cheering. I had my best Xterra result ever (5th overall).

Post-race was fairly standard: not too many food options and not too much going on besides waiting for the final results and applauding athletes reaching the finish. Decent raffle though, and the usual chatting with fellow athletes but a BBQ would have made it perfect. In the end getting up early and driving that far was totally worth it!