This is late late late to the game, but I wanted to recap on the two races I did recently.
1. Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Half Marathon
2. Xterra Illinois Wilds
Keep in mind, I have done both these races before, and I rarely do the same race twice.
DWD Half Marathon was July 8th, 2017. The course was exactly the same as last year! I finished in 2:18, about 10 minutes faster than last year. I was expecting better, but keep in mind, I was in the middle of Ironman training at this point and in energy deficit. I was much more consistent. I hope to do the ultras next year! Still a wonderfully run race. 12.6 miles, still not 13.1, but close! The day was beautiful, couldn’t ask for anything better, low 60s start reaching upper 70s by the end.
The only complaint I had was that the food was not available at the end of the race, which I had to miss out on due to a wedding I had to be at that day. I had really like the food the year before. Once again, they held the Big Swell Swim out at the lake, so I could see people swimming below me when I reached the top. The big climb up was still bad, not as bad as I was last year, but still brutal! The hills were rolling, and fun! Everything was marked well.
Now to go back and review the highlights of Xterra. I had wanted to do ONE Xterra race at least this year, and I decided to go back and do the closest and best one I did last year, Xterra Illinois Wilds. I was glad to see more people at the event this year, and I hope the time of the year was better for other people (June 11th). The water temperature was 75 degrees! Wetsuit legal, my first long distance race where I could wear a wetsuit!! They had changed the course for the swim from last year. It wasn’t better, it wasn’t worse, same lake, same park. I guess it was because it was easier to get in and out of there? I was at the race with a good friend Marty, who has done Ironman Wisconsin, mad respect for him.
Arrived at the park early, the race start was 9am. I was grateful for this! The weather conditions were brutal. Starting temps were at 77°F! I was surprised it was wetsuit legal actually. Got transition set up. Race start was mass in water start, which was fun, just like last year. I was excited because this year the course was DRY (last year was a mud fest and my bike was ghost shifting to the easiest gear continuously the whole time). But I knew it was going to be super windy (not a big deal actually since the entire bike was in the woods on single track) and the temps were going to end up near mid 90s.
In short, I had the best swim of my life. I averaged 2:20 min/yd which was faster than I’d ever swam that distance ever. The lake was still amazing, very narrow, but healthy and nice. No weeds, no gunk. I finished the half mile swim I 20:48, which ended up being almost exactly ½ mile!! Very nice race people.
I got onto T1 and got out quickly even with a wetsuit I matched my time last year almost exactly. No outside help like wetsuit strippers, you’re on your own in Xterra. Out on the bike, I was so excited. It was going to be dry and a different race than last year when my bike was broken! Not.
Mile 1, I crashed. I rolled my eyes, I scuffed up my right leg pretty badly, but whatever (apparently I had also hit my head, although I don’t recall this, but my helmet says otherwise). I got back on my bike. Oh no. It started ghost shifting, just like it had the year before. A bike course mechanic caught up with me, I kept getting passed on the bike because I was not able to power up hills, or shift correctly to gears to help me move faster. I refused the help thinking nothing could help. I eventually got so frustrated I did finally ask. I kept turning the little barrel on the shifting cable. Making it better, making it worse. I finally got it to where I could shift three gears at a time. This was going to be a slow and terrible ride. Keeping on playing around for the rest of the course, I finally got about 4 more gears by the end. But there were some positives to take back from this: I beat my time from last year, and the course was 5 miles longer this year (the course was shortened last year due to the rain and mud). When I took my bike back to my mechanic, I did find out the derailleur bent on my crash and there wasn’t much more I could have done. Of course, not having an ideal bike and bad gearing set me up for a not so good run. But I kept the spirits up anyway. T2 was shorts and felt good about the time there. Spent 1:11 in T2 and I was off. HOT HOT HOT!
10:48 was my average pace on the hilly hot run. Once again, it was awesome trekking my way through the small zoological park there, seriously one of the best run courses! I beat my time last year again on the run. I was passing more people on the run, making up for the terrible bike. Ended up finishing in 3:18:13, 17.81 miles of all off road toughness.
The post race atmosphere was exciting and full of people. Everyone got a Bison (which were seen on course!). I was so glad they included that this year. I placed 2nd in my age group, so I got a bison with that! Of course, I also did this course because I had unfinished business there with the bike…well, again, I still have unfinished business! My next Xterra race will be Xterra Maui in October. Very nervous about that one, and will have my work cut out for me post IMWI in September! Enjoy the pictures!! Still highly recommend both these races.