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4th Place at ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships

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XTERRA and the ITU joined forces on May 19th in Pelham, Alabama, USA in an event that doubled as both the ITU Cross Triathlon World Championship and the XTERRA Southeast Championship.  There was to be a lot of enthusiasm and excitement about the race on American soil and the chance to race on what was widely accepted as the most challenging and technical of all the Xterra courses. The race attracted over 400 athletes from 20 countries and 38 US States.

I travelled with fellow Brits and Elite Triathletes Richard Stannard and Llewellyn Holmes. Also attending was current female Xterra World Champion Lesley Paterson from Scotland. Plenty of knowledge and experience there for me to tap into.

The Brits arrived early to acclimatise ourselves to the heat and humidity of the deep South. This proved to be doubly wise as the bike course would need judicious practice for a fast and safe lap. The 19 mile single bike loop was made up of some of the most fantastic and enjoyable singletrack I have ever ridden, I can’t remember racing with a grin from ear to ear before, but the course was fantastic and finished with a 50m section called ‘Blood Rock’, not for the faint hearted!

The swim was in a beautiful and warm lake at the centre of a 10,000 acre national park and would consist of two 750m laps (they were longer than that!). Following the single bike loop was an undulating rocky and rooty two lap run around the lake measuring 10km in total.

Race day dawned all too quickly, but I knew I had prepared well and I felt strong if a little nervous. Representing your Country always adds to the tension, but the fantastic support from my sponsors this year also contributed to the pressure as I really wanted to perform well and help pay back their generosity.

I was hoping for an improved swim but it was solid if not spectacular, on a longer than specified swim and no wetsuits to speed us through the water. Transition was swift due to the absence of wetsuits and i couldn’t wait to get stuck into the bike lap. I progressed well and had taken several athletes on the tight and difficult to pass singletrack. We then hit the 3-4 mile climb that dragged up with several steep and loose technical sections. I had identified this as a place to attack where some would sit and grind to the top. Mission accomplished and a few more places gained including that of the South African National Champ Gustav Von Tromp. Next was a fast decent over rocky sections and back into the final singletrack and Blood Rock. Any mistakes would be punished with a DNF so speed but also caution was the name of the game. Out of the trees and into the bright sunshine for a fast road section to transition two.

I felt great from the start of the run and could feel the hard sessions back in the UK paying off as I passed more competitors. With a Km to go near disaster struck, I lost my footing on a downhill section and rolled my ankle badly. I knew not finishing was out of the question and just ploughed on. My body was full of energy gels, adrenaline and endorphines and they fuelled me across the finishing line in a blur of pain, excitement and relief.

My final position was 4th in my Age Group. I was initially disappointed as it was so close to a medal, but my goal leaving the UK was to finish top ten in a World Championships on foreign soil. I have thought long and hard about the race and I know that the gap to third was beyond me on the day. However, not in the future!

A great experience, in beautiful surroundings, with friends old and new, my bike and memories to cherish and tell mon son about. Happy days!

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My Cross Triathlon Triple Crown

Sometimes its good to keep things focused and not get pulled in too many different directions. Two years ago I concentrated on the Xterra European Tour and really felt the benefit of setting my stall out early and having a race shedule in place. This year the planning started early but due to the races I had identified and the qualifying critrera things remained quite fluid until an email on 21st March from British Triathlon. “You are receiving this message because you have qualified for the 2012 Shelby County ITU Cross Triathlon World Championships” followed shortly by another “You are receiving this message because you have qualified for the 2012 Den Haag ETU Cross Triathlon European Championships”

Well that was the World and European Championships confirmed and so why not add the British Champs in Coniston on 10th June which sat conveniently in the middle time wise. There was the backbone of my racing season all coming together nicely. There will be some other races to add, already confirmed is the Hitchin Hard Half Marathon which I last raced in 1984. I will probably also defend my podium place at the Brighton Big Dog 6hr MTB enduro in August.

I sit here now in Pelham Alabama USA and the first race in my upside down season is the biggest of my life and it is only 2 days away. It would be normal to race regularly over the desired distance before such a big race but, perhaps unsurprisingly winter open water triathlons aren’t that popular in the UK. So in at the deep end so to speak. I will have a week or so to aclimatise pre race in the US before doing battle with the Worlds best off road triathletes.

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Doing things differently

This winter I decided to do things a little different in terms of training. Instead of my usual endurance work coupled with racing cyclo cross and MTB, I decided to train consistently and not race at all. The idea was that it would give me the opportunity to train without having to rest/recover pre/post race, hence more hard work and less fun. I have missed racing over the winter but I have wanted to peak for specific events this year rather than trying to get race fit and maintain a plateau over a very long season.

I did race a couple of events but trained right up to the race, raced and then back into training with no recovery. This was just frustrating as it left me in a race situation with empty legs. Where I would normally kick and accelerate there was no punch. It was useful to hold a high tempo for a given race period, however I don’t like being passed by people in training, let alone in a race!

Interval and speed work has woken my legs up and the speed is nearly there again. I have also swum much more regularly with shorter sessions but overall higher milage across the week. This is more down to work and family committments, as swimming always seems to be the session I move around or compromise, perhaps because I don’t really enjoy it that much, unless its outside.

The weather of late has been a challenge too as I am not a person who gets on with exercise indoors. The real bonus for me has been my Cannondale SuperX Cyclocross bike, a bike at home on the road in filthy conditions but also comfortable being thrown about off road.

On the whole a solid off season that I hope bodes well for the races to come. Once again thanks to all my sponsors, friends and especially family for giving me the help, encouragement and hope for what might be. Whatever I achieve, it will be the best I can deliver and not a drop less!

 

 

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