I worked until lunchtime then Ali collected me from work to drive straight to Manchester airport ( then benefits of living close to a major airport) and we sailed through the Jet2 check-in procedure and they even allowed me to take two CO2 gas cannisters for my tyres. We even had some time, due to a slight delay, to grab some luch in the priority lounge we have tickets for from our bank account privileges.
Arriving a few hours later Prague and picked up the hire care we drove north to Zittau which is positioned just inside the German border a few km from Czech Republic and Poland. We got to the Airbnb booked appartment around 10pm and we thought it was a joke or they were showing us the store rooms. The appartment looked lovely on the website but the reality was the opposite. It was an empty shell. We stopped the night in shock and shivered most of the night as there were no duvets or proper blankets. The next morning we got on to Airbnb and left to the race venue at O-see to recce the 36km and 10km single lap bike and run courses. Not ideal prep the day before a championship race but I've used up all my annual leave this year to fit in the series and score points for the European Tour.
|minimalist transition. ...No wetsuit boohoo!|
Race day weather was beautiful after a murky start and the swim was non-wetsuit and non-swim skin....gutted! I love swimming in my wetsuit and I love the feel of water against my skin too too but I had a two piece race outfit that isn't conducive to not being covered in neoprene. Lesson learnt! I'm not sure why the German triathlon federation do not allow swimskins though. I thought I got an OK start but I was cold and Christophe Maury 'The Frenchman', one of main Euro Tour chasers was alongside me. I am usually a few minutes ahead in the swim and already I'm thinking its not going to be a great day or Christophe has improved dramatically.
Onto the bike, I started well but my saddle bag was heavier with spares than usual (I NEEDED to finish in the points for this race) with extra bits and it dropped into my rear wheel. I stopped, re-fitted, and set off again only for it to happen again. Each time Christophe pulled ahead and I was forced to take the saddle bag and put it down my top and carry it to the finish. In any other race I might have been tempted to ditch it and collect it later but I need to come in the top at most to secure the European Tour for the 45-49 AG (last year I was 4th in my first Xterra). So for the next 16-18 miles I was riding, and constantly adjusting, a kilogram of spares trying to work its way out of my tri top like a wriggling joey in a kangroo. Ironically the steep down hill sections were the easiest as I was bent so far forward and I had it up near my neck. There were some scary sections of downhill and a fair few crashes. There was also a couple of sections of uphill that were impossible to ride and on one section I was walking quicker than the riders.
T2 was a beautiful sight, an artificial ramp to conquer and leap of the bike and get into my trainers for the scorching hot run was a blessing that I had made it back without serious injury or race ending mechanical. I just need to get into the points.
Straight out of T2 was the 'Mother-in-law', an artificial obstacle of steps and hay bales (piccy below) before heading up a grassy bank, traversing left and up the grass pyramid and out onto the course of tracks and trails. As much as I was looking forward to the run my legs decided they weren't. They felt sluggish and I felt drained.
|The 'Mother-in-Law' on the way out of T2 stay left|
Was I dehydrated and tired? I think so, but that's racing.....some you win some you lose and you suffer all of them and keep plugging onwards. I kept telling myself I was racing for medals and points and it was impossible to know where you are in the race. I heard third elite male finish just after I was starting my run so I knew I was maybe 45 mins behind the elite men (they started ahead of the Elite ladies and the age groupers) which is probably a little more than I would have liked but I was already 3 minutes down on my swim time and who knows what I lost on the bike, but I usually make up a few places on the run. I was catching some runners and after about 7km I caught Christophe and went past with friendly, but a fierce-fully competitive, gesture. This was just before we headed into the 'nature park'. For those uninitiated to German way this means a a nudist beach. It's slightly unnerving to be racing through a nudist park but part and parcel of Germany I guess and it reminded me of the quadrathlon Ali and I did in Germany a few years ago when my sister and family came to watch. Young children and nudists don't mix well!
The temperature was in the mid 30's by now and the local fire crew had set up a hose at the end of the nudist area. I normally avoid getting my shoes wet in races but this is Xterra, you are meant to get wet and muddy, in fact the courses are usually designed to make you muddy and wet, and it was very hot so I ran through the edge and headed up the last big hill. By now there was only 2km to go and suddenly Christophe is on my shoulder again so I surged again and heard him say 'no Mat, don't do this to me' in a comical almost desperate way that proves our combative nature. I decided to go for it there and then and managed to pull out 16-sec by the end of the race and we made our friendship again afterwards.
I had no idea where we finished overall but after a massage and some alcohol free beer recovery drink and food I found out that I had come 8th in my age group with Christophe 9th. It was enough points to win the European Tour with a few spare although for some reason I was still unsure. Maybe it was disbelief that I had sealed the tour. The winner of our age group was in a different league and 30 minutes ahead of us among the pro times...maybe he was pro in an earlier life? Who knows? I was disappointed overall with the way my race went from start to finish but you have to take the rough with the smooth sometimes. No individual medal...in fact ten minutes away from the medals but I got the overall series.
So with one race left in the Xterra European tour we head to Mons Klint in Denmark next weekend with a 112 point lead. It's another gold race so 100 points for a win are up for grabs so I expect a good field of competitors. Christophe is considering coming too despite him having 2nd place in the tour pretty much secure. Ali is also racing her first Xterra. I'm sure I've mentioned it before that this year I feel like a pro in the sense that I've done a full series of travelling but without the race money, faster times and without the sleep and training commitments but I've done what I set out to do......firstly qualify for the Xterra World Championships in Maui and secondly, after consideration and my first win, take on the series for experience and win it. Hopefully in 2017 I can ride off-road a lot faster although financially this years reacing has been expensive and next year will be just as expensive with getting married, honeymoon and races. They are prioritised Ali! ;-)
Winning the series was a dream at times but would not have been possible without the support from my chief supporter and wife-to-be,Ali, and without being physically rebuilt after all the injuries and niggles by Jane Murray, Sports therapist, at Peter Bennett's Physiotherapy Clinic..Steve Austin eat your bionic heart out.. Other notable mentions and thanks should go to Chris Stirling for recommending CurraNZ which helps amazingly with the serious DOMS I used to get, I can't believe how excited by this I am! Marc Preece should get a mention for selling me his old Scott 910 MTB which is considerably lighter than my Cyclescheme Whyte 629 bike but also for recommending Xterra UK last year which was my first off road experience. All the other competitors incuding Christophe for the motivation to race to the finish line. Xterra Wetsuits UK get a special mention for providing me with a Vector Pro wetsuit that I just love swimming in. Roll on next weekend! Thanks for reading.
Race results for 2015..
- Xterra Malta 3rd April 1st
- Manchester Marathon 10th April 2hrs 55min 15sec
- Xterra Greece 7th May 1st
- Outlaw half-ironman 29th May 4th
- Xterra Switzerland 25th June 6th
- Xterra France 3rd July 10th
- Outlaw ironman 24th July 1st new (AG record - 9hr 38min)
- Xterra Germany 20th August 8th
- Xterra Nordic(Denmark) 4th September
- Chesterfield half marathon 2nd October
- Xterra World Champs(Maui) 23rd October