Debbie and I tried something new today. We did the XTERRA French River Triathlon in Oxford, Massachusetts, and had a blast. Despite being experienced off-road triathletes, we had never done an XTERRA race before.
We had heard good things about XTERRA races, but never made it to one. The Oxford location is only an hour from our home and those trails have previously hosted regional trail running and mountain biking events.
We had spectacular June weather with bright sunshine and an 8:00 A.M. start time temperature in the low-70’s Fahrenheit. It heated up pretty good; by the time we finished was in the mid-80’s. The water temperature in Carbuncle Pond was nearly 75 degrees, so very comfortable.
The course was billed as a 1/2 mile swim, 12 mile mountain bike, and a 5.5 mile trail run. My Strava data shows that it was more like 1,100 yards or 5/8ths of a mile swim–11.6 mile mountain bike–4.8 mile run. There were so many twists and turns on the bike course, that who knows what the actual distance was. Same goes for the run, though at the start, they said it would be a bit shorter than advertised. That was a bummer because the longer the bike and run, the better for me.
The swim start was a time trial start, which was also a first for me. We lined up in pairs and they started us two by two at three-second intervals until everyone was in the water. We did two laps of the triangular course. Carbuncle Pond was a bit mucky, but it was fine.
Last night, we drove up and pre-rode the mountain bike course. All I can say is that it was rugged. It was mostly flat, with a few punchy climbs, but it was very rocky and there were lots of roots. It was also very dusty. The trails get heavy motorbike use and the dirt was pulverized into a fine consistency. I’m glad it was dry. I heard that they had a deluge in 2015 and that it was a mudfest.
Our pre-ride was eventful because we drove up after work and didn’t get on our bikes until 7:30 P.M. By the time we finished, it was dark and past 9:00 P.M. We had to ride the last three miles on the road after bailing out on the trails, which were impossible to see. Still, seeing most of the course in advance was helpful. I was much happier riding the trails in daylight. I felt OK on the bike. I only ride rigid single speed and my Seven Sola SL was awesome, but a disadvantage on some sections of the course. Being so flat, I was frequently spun out with only one gear. Tomorrow and Monday, I’ll feel the back, neck, and arm pain from all of the pounding. I thought I could ride faster, but didn’t end up catching as many of the fast swimmers as I wanted to.
We didn’t see any of the run course in advance and it the hilly nature of it caught me by surprise. I was told it was “runnable” which technically, is true, though the hills I was running were slow. The trails were also quite rocky and full of roots. I haven’t been running very well. I got hammered by my rival, Jon Arellano, at this week’s Winding Trails Summer Tri Series Race #2. I had a big lead on him in week #1 and held him off, but this week, we were together coming out of T2, and he put 90 seconds to me in five kilometers on those fast trails.
So, today, I was happy that the French River course was hilly and technical because I’m better on the ups. I got caught by one guy on the run and couldn’t hang with him. He was flying. Then, I caught a few guys and a few more guys caught me. I noticed from the leg markings that two of them were in my age group. So, I pushed on the final few hills and got ahead of that small group.
I finished in 1:54:06, was 11th overall and 2nd in my age group, which is cool. Debbie had a good race too. I got to see her finish 3rd in her age group and 9th out of the women. She gained some valuable experience with the longer open water swim and the tough mountain bike course. We each earned a cookie for our efforts, which is good because we have two kids.
It was nice to see fellow Hartford Extended Area Triathletes teammates Doug Lord and Gabriel Jiran. Gabe got the best of me and took first in our age group. I was thankful that I pushed hard at the end because the third place finisher in our age group was only two seconds behind me. With the time trial swim start, you don’t know exactly where you stand, so you have to just keep pushing. We also got to spend some time with Barry, Carolyn, and Spencer Ralston. Spencer had a great race, finishing 2nd overall. He was bested by Dominic Gillen, an elite off-road triathlete. Third was Joshua Loren. The first woman was Kelli Montgomery. She was followed by Kathleen Wanat and Stephanie Landry.
MRA Multisport promoted the race and they did a good job. The best thing they had after the finish was watermelon! I ate a ton of it. The volunteers and workers were great. We did the Long Course triathlon, but they offered several variations, including a Short Course triathlon, a duathlon, and a Paddle triathlon.
We just might do this race again in the future. We will also consider additional XTERRA Series races, but as of now, have no plans.