Xterra NZ is by far my favorite race of the year. The combination of racing at home on the tracks I know, with a big crowd and field always seems to lift my performance and I was hoping this year would be no different! I was 3rd pro last year so was definitely looking to get back on the podium!
After the long trip back from Saipan (which included an outside nights sleep at Cairns Airport), I arrived home on Monday night, giving me a few days to recover and get a few sessions in before race day. Early on in the week I was pretty tired and fatigued, but I started to feel better the day before the race.
There was an awesome field lining up this year, headlined by Conrad Stoltz and Ben Allen. It's always helpful to be racing these guys and compare yourself to them to see what you need to work on to be the best. I was amped up for the race and the weather was playing it's part with it raining the whole week leading in to the race, which would make for muddy and slippery tracks. Perfect!
Race day came around quickly and we started with a quick 1000m swim. I had a really good swim and came out in 10th, but more importantly only 50 seconds down on the front. I could see Conrad in transition but as soon as we hit the road it was clear he was flying, pulling out of sight quickly. I wasn't feeling great for the first big climb up Hill Road and Frontal, but started to come right just before Billy T. I was hoping to make some time in the tracks and had a great run down Billy T and G Rock and came into Chestnut Link with two in sight just ahead. I quickly caught and passed them, moving into 3rd overall behind Conrad and Ben. I had another awesome run down Split Ends and back along the Green Lake to come into transition one minute down on Ben, and three on Conrad.
Bouyed by the crowd I set off on the two lap run around the blue lake (my favourite Xterra run) at a quick pace, hoping I could sustain it, as that was the only was I would be able to move up from 3rd. It was working and at the end of the first lap of the lake (which I ran in just under 21.20) I was only 30 seconds down on Ben. I felt good for the first half of the second lap until the tough stair section, where I managed to run them, but left me pretty stuffed for the false flat part next. I kept pushing though, hoping that Ben was hurting too. Unfortunately he wasn't and was pulling away from me. I had given it everything but was maybe a bit to optimisitc about how fast I could run.
I managed to hang onto third and make the podium for the second year in a row. Something to be proud of. Already looking forward to this race next year and hopefully taking the top step. But next up is Xterra Asia-Pacific Champs in Jervis Bay in two weeks time.
Huge thanks to my sponsors who make this possible. I have the best equipment to help me compete at the top level and couldn't do it without them: Magellan GPS, Merida Bikes, Bike Barn, Blue Seventy, GU Energy and Rotorua, NZ.