Saturday, 19 November 2016

Xterra World Champs and end of year summary

I've been meaning to catch up on the blog for a few weeks since getting back from Maui but with being busy at work and Open University studying there really hasn't been much spare time.
So, on to the Maui trip.......the first few days in Maui were knackering. Both me and Ali didn't really realise just how tired we were but we were just chilling and getting over the travel. The accommodation booked through AirBnB was a lovely little condo in Napili Ridge about 5 minutes walk from a gorgeous sandy beach overlooking Molokai island and about a 5min drive from the race venue....perfect. Add to that a small reef about 50m off the beach out housing some Green turtles and lots of brightly coloured fish and this made for perfect snorkelling.
I wasn't able to train since crashing in Xterra Denmark and I was hoping to blag my way though the World Champs. My knee would be painful the day after any exercise so I recce'd the run course early in the week with Ian Blackie-Smith and a an easy ride on the first and last section of the bike course. I managed to ride the full bike course at a steady pace on the day the course opened and managed to snap my chain FFS! It was brand new after rusting up overnight in the bike bag after the Danish race. To say I was unimpressed was in understatement. £25 down the drain then another £50 to spent in Hawaii........nothing in Hawaii is cheap! Even local produce is expensive. I saw a women pay over £10 for a local pineapple and breakfast on the first day cost over £30...yep not $'s. Effing Brexit didn't help matters! Anyway I digress......

Recce ride ....taking in the views
Swimming training was possible but I'm shit scared of sharks and 20 miles down the coast a women was attacked by a Tiger shark and our condo owner messaged me to take care. Despite this I always feel safer in numbers and ben Allen and Jacqui Slack offered the British squad and some friends the opportunity to practice getting in and out of the surf. While Ben was explaining what to do I noticed a pod of Spinner dolphins about 100 metres out and had to interrupt......sorry Teacher, us brits just don't get that view every day!

I also attended the European Tour podium medallist ceremony to receive my gold medal and tour winners jersey from Nico Lebrun and Dave 'Kahuna' Nicholson. Big smiles to know this was my first full season. EUROPEAN TOUR WINNER! get in!

Two days before the race and the bike has been polished and lubed and ready to go then the heavens opened with rain. It rains a lot in the Hawaiian Islands but the sun comes up and dries it away, usually, but incy wincy spider wasn't climbing any spout. For two days it rained, and rained and rained. This was Xterra Switzerland, France and Denmark all over again but without my fitness to counter the off bike lugging up hill jaunts. No breaks for World Championships race then. Then just to make it more interesting the surf gets up big time making it rougher than an unstable twin-tub.
race morning comes and rice pudding downed then off to rack up and have a traditional Hawaiian blessing by Clifford Naeole. It was really quite spiritual and focussing to have this and I'll take anything to get me through this course.

The swim was OK but non-wetsuit so no opportunity to wear my Xterra Vortex Pro but I did get myself a new funky looking Xterra Valor speedsuit (my hardly used Xterra Velocity speedsuit is for me!). I came out in about 28 minutes and everyone's times are going to be down on normal. I race up the hill into T1 were I usually make up some time.....WTF do some people do in transition is beyond me....get in, get out.

The surf doesn't look big but...6ft waves!

Now comes the tricky bit.....I know its going to be tough and muddy but ffs this was ridiculous. The first 8 miles took over 90 minutes and at one point I was picking the mud out of the wheels and chainset then trying to ride only by the time I leapt onto the saddle the wheels had clogged up again. At one point there was a group of riders taking the piss and laughing and joking about the prospect of a new format..1500m swim:26.2 miles hikeabike. Walking was common and carrying the bike inevitable if you wanted to get to the top of a hill without dragging a 20kg mud bike. Some riders obviously could ride through it and for sure I need to learn to ride in mud, or at least learn how others are doing it. different tyres for starters. Narrow apparently are better and maybe I should consider a Cannondale Leftie to free up some front fork space. Something to consider but for now money dictates I stick with my Scott.

Mud, mud, mud!

There were lots of crashes and broken chains etc. all over the course and I given that I was well out of the top ten I offered my chain tool David Hui (Maui) with a broken bike. He was very grateful and I figured Karma might help me. After 8 miles the course was ride-able and with some fast bits. I managed a top speed of 35mph but my overall average was a pitiful 6-something mph. laughable really if it wasn't he world champs and a local training ride. I managed to take a few riders on the way back down hill to T2 and managed to run most of the course which heads uphill for 3 miles. My knee was playing up now and lifting my left leg was not easy going uphill. Downhill was better with gravity and I tried to run on my forefoot to limit ground contact time and keep the pressure of my knee. It seemed to work and the new trainers I had bought for mud, Salomon Talon 200, were great. they were also good for the 200m beach run just before the finishing chute.

Racing to the shower.... heading out of T1 and to the hills

I had estimated a 3:30hrs race and finished in 4:37hrs. I had hoped for top ten and to maintain my Xterra record so far. I have always been ahead of Christophe Maury in the head to heads but he was having a great race and I clearly wasn't and I can only compare the past.  I was 1st in Greece when Frank was 2nd and Christophe 3rd. In Maui I was 31st, Frank 12th and Christophe 18th. It is what it is but I am disappointed and set myself realistic and achievable goal. This time I failed to do that but with good reason.
One thing about Xterra is that everyone is so friendly. This year I have raced with some great guys and made loads of new friend, home and abroad. The elite or professional athletes are so down to earth too. I'm 48 year old now but on occasion I've been mixing it up with the pro's and after the race we all chat and all get just excited about our races. The World Champs was no different to any other race this year except the standard was greater. Sebastian Kienle, fresh (?) from 2nd at Kona was there as was Ben Hoffman (4th) aiming for the double but it was ben who took the overall time honours with his 7th place again Seb's 11th. Last years winner Josiah Middaugh was 5th this time and all eyes were on Ruben Ruzafa to take the top spot with the slippery MTB course suiting him. ben Allen led the swim but it was the amazing 21 year Mauricio (Mau) Mendez  who overtook Ruben at speed during the run and posted the best split to take the World Championships by two minutes. Its difficult to see how anyone will cope with him over the next few years with age and speed on his side. He also won Los Cabos 70.3 the week after! Oh to be young again.

Maui wasn't all about the race although that was the reason for going but Ali and I took in some of the sights. Haleakala is the highest point and we could see Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, the volcanoes on Big Island, 80 and 100 miles away above the clouds.  I love wildlife and we went looking for Jackson's chameleons at Kula and Nene geese on the top of Haleakala but we were disappointed. We had plenty of Cane toads around the condo and massive snails which may have been the invasive African Giant snails. One thing we may have to do is go back again out of race season to see the whales migrate between the islands.

Chief supporter Ali and me on top of the world.

Xterra Maui was an awesome experience and injured or not I was always going to go and complete the course. This year has been a sharp learning curve transitioning from road triathlon to off-road. Seven Xterra races in seven different countries has made me feel like a pro-athlete without the race winnings or rest periods and training periodization. Bank of Stephenson has taken a big hit this year but you only live once and cant take it with you. Its all about experiences and taking advantage of what you've got at this moment in time because you never know when the luck runs out. Life is too short so take advantage and lay down some memories. There have been some incidents this year that have given me food for thought and made me appreciate what I have. Some people will know who or what I'm writing about and some people just aren't here anymore to read this and they are in my mind a lot and were when I was racing. Xterra Motto.....'Live more'....and I will to the best my finances will allow.

European Tour 2016  - Winner medal and jersey....1st season too! proud and chuffed to bits
So now I'm back I'm getting sorted with physiotherapy for my knee which is cracking and popping and seems to be the patellar tracking. X-ray didn't show any major damage or fractures and one course of acupuncture so far seems to have helped a little.
2017 will be less travelling due to our wedding but there is London marathon to train for and 70.3 Dublin on the cards along with a few more Xterra but for now its a little more down time and recover and rehab.

Big thanks must go to Ali for following around Europe this year and too all the support from family and friends whilst we have been away. Thanks to Chris Stirling for putting me onto CurraNZ tht has eliminated DOMS and to Ian Blackie-Smith for helping us when the hire care keys went for a drive without us in Denmark! To Christophe for the competition. Xterra Wetsuits UK for the Xterra Vector Pro that gave me some great times in the wetsuit races, Malta, Greece and France etc.

Roll on 2017!

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