Sunday, 11 September 2016

Six countries, six races,

Jeez, what a year! I've just got back from a weekend in Denmark racing the last of the Xterra European tour off road triathlons. To say it was tough would be an understatement. Longer in racing time than Xterra France but this one had a few mishaps that cost me more than a few minutes but the course was similar to Xterra UK 2015 or this years Xterra Switzerland......muddy!
We flew into Copenhagen from Manchester on Friday evening by EasyJet and in typical budget airlines we arrived late which meant getting to the accommodation in Stege at midnight.
Saturday morning I built mine and Ali's bikes, met up with Paul Breeze and Greg McNally then headed to Mons Klint for the bike recce.
The course was lovely and dry and not overly technical but a few tricky parts with roots to negotiate. Ali was planning her Xterra debut but decided that the course might be a bit tough for beginner status and downgraded to the sprint version. The final decline also led into a wooden berm that demanded speed and careful steering and above all commitment but there was also a chicken run for those not keen on trying the berm. I practised the berm a few times and decided I would do it on the race. Paul and I walked around the run course and again it was reasonably dry and potentially fast until you get to the second lap that took you down the steep wooden steps onto a rocky beach  before traversing the cliff face and up the final set of 497....yes, 497 steps, for the second time (the first was after the swim to get to T1) to the finish straight.
Just as UK and Switzerland, that evening the rain came and destroyed the course turning the tracks and forest into a slippery mud bath. Adding to the course destruction were the sprint course athletes who set off an hour before us. Unfortunately Ali was not one of them after waking up with a sore throat and chest infection but Paul was after having a few off's during practice.
Just before 1030 we headed down the steps to a small beach and into the choppy, and surprisingly warm, Baltic Sea to warm up for the 1500m swim. The swim was frantic as usual but I managed to find clear water for most of the swim but did get a kick under the chin on the turnaround for the second lap. Exiting the sea I had decided to run and strip to the waist as soon as possible then stop at the next available flat section between steps to take off my wetsuit. Getting out of the wetsuit early is easier when its wet and the steps were going to take 4-5 minutes.

In T1 I didn't hang about and was quickly out on the bike course trying to get ahead before the course gets trashed and make up time on the non swimmer MTB'ers.
The first lap went OK and I thought about trying to please the crowd by taking the wooden berm and even that was slippery

1st lap of the bike

but the second lap was horrendous and I was running in the mud more than riding as the course was just un-rideable at my current skill level. Small wins and big smiles came from getting up tiny greasy slippery mounds that would go unnoticed in the dry and I was glad the berm had been closed for safety reasons at the end because my gears and tyres were clogged with mud and I only had the 36/24 front ring and one gear at the back for about 5 miles so the only option was the chicken run.

2nd lap of the bike on the chicken run

out of T2 feeling OK but 6km later.....
T2 was pretty quick again and the first few kilometres of the run was hilly and slightly...yep, you've guessed it,....muddy, but not so bad...yet! Getting onto the tarmac section was a joy and I was getting into my stride and catching loads of runners but no sight of Greg who had overtaken me about 2km into the second bike lap.

heading for the bike and body wash
I started the second lap of the run with a drink of water and a cup of energy drink in the face. I wish they had said there was a difference. The second lap was now really slippery in the woods but I knew when I could get to the road it would be plain sailing. Unfortunately this is where it went horribly wrong and I bonked and ended up walking for kilometre or more.. Feeling dizzy and my vision blurring I was begging overtaking runners for food or gels and managed to get one. This is hardly the image of a Xterra warrior but perseverance and determination is and after getting down the steps to the beach I was able to run again and headed up the final 497 steps to the finish chute I managed to overtake 4-5 other warriors.

Far from being a great performance I still managed to finish 7th in the 45-49 age group and complete my race schedule of 6 Xterra races to win the Xterra European tour with 364 points, a lead of 165 points. It also meant that I maintained my personal objective of staying in the top ten in all Xterra races so far, something I hope to continue at world champs next month.

So the next couple of weeks are recover and getting on with my Open University course and final assignment (stressful!!) then sort out some training plan for the build up to Maui. I'm just ticking over commuting until i get the assignment but also having some massage courtesy of Jane Murray.
With the 'temporary' European Tour winners medal. There's a reason I'm wearing my Xterra Vector Pro wetsuit post-race on the podium but its a long and expensive story best forgotten.

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