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Xterra World Championships 2012 - A race against Mother Nature

9am Sunday 28th October Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.

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This has been my dream race since I first started triathlon. It is the ultimate test on the toughest course, against the worlds best triathletes. The start list was complied of a sold-out field of 725 racers including 65 professionals and 650+ amateurs representing 31 countries & 42 U.S. states, all of which had qualified at one of the Xterra World Tour races in Brazil, Canada, Philippines, Czech Republic, France, Guam, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Saipan, South Africa, Switzerland and Alabama, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and Virginia in the United States. the Pros had turned out in force with numerous Olympians, World and European champions.

The race itself starts with a rough sea 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) swim that starts in front of
the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, a 30-kilometer (18.6-miles) mountain bike that climbs more than 3,000 feet up and down the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains, and a 10-kilometer (6.1-miles) trail run that climbs and traverses forest trails, finishing with a calf busting run along the beach and up to the finish.

All week I had been watching the swim conditions at Flemming Beach and anticipating a large swell and shore break for race day.  To make things more interesting, the day before the race, a tsunami was triggered off the western coast of Canada and was scheduled to hit Hawaii at 10:30 PM Saturday night. Luckily it was mostly a non-event but not until after several hours of warning sirens and mandatory evacuations.

Race morning we received word that the race was on.  The swell was hitting Flemming Beach pretty hard and the tsunami had pulled lots of sediment and debris into the ocean, changing the clear blue water to dark, churning whirlpool. I have never raced in such rough conditions, and it certainly didn’t play to my strenghts! However, it was the same for everyone and meant I was going to have to push hard through traffic on the start of the bike leg. I knew I had done the right preparation, so it was a case of getting into a rhythm and picking my way through the field of riders. The course was so technical and steep it would have been easy to go off too fast and not have anything left for the tough and windy open sections in the second half of the course. There was some spectacular parts to the course but the scenery wasn’t something to be concerned with as one lapse in concentration would mean crashing hard in the loose and dusty conditions. By the second half of the bike I had worked myself into some clear air and could attack the fast rocky decents touching some eye watering speeds in the process. Finally I hit the bike return, a twisty and surprisingly difficult section of undulating sandy singletrack, this is where a certain Lance Armstrong lost the race last year when he crashed hard.

Out of T2 and into the run, I felt surprisingly strong and dug in for the first 2.5 miles which climbed through the steep bamboo and jungle trails. I was moving well and making up places all the time, by the lagoon at the top of the course I knew the hard part was out of the way. I could now let the brakes off and fly the decents, carrying what momentum I could when the trail inevitably headed skyward again. With one mile to go it started to dawn on me that there was only the short beach section to contend and then the relief and euphoria of the finish line. I dug in and managed to summon a sprint finish crossing the line arms held high with a huge grin from ear to ear.

I finished 18th from the 63 other athletes in my age group. Not the position I had hoped for when leaving the UK. However, I know on the day I gave what there was to give in my body and soul and had completed the toughest off road triathlon in the World. I draw consolation from the fact that I was one of only two age group athletes from the UK to achieve qualification and race, I had the 4th fastest run split, but also from the undeniably high calibre of all the athletes who took part.

I would like to thank all the people and organisations who helped me make this dream possible. You all know who you are, and you all ROCK! This was for you.

My wife Anne and son Sam

USN, Cannondale, Compressport, Schwalbe, Inov-8, Dorset Cereals, TF Tuned Shox, ZeroD

Endura, 2 Pure and Countryside

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