Taupo Half Ironman 2014

The start of the NZ summer triathlon season is here! On Saturday I competed in the Taupo Half Ironman, finishing my racing for 2014, but starting to build into the 2015 season.

I didn't go into it with any expectations. I just wanted to enjoy the race and also see if my body had recovered from the shut down at Xterra Worlds and Augusta Adventure races. I had a big break after those races, so I hadn't really done any real training for this race. I am a competitive person though so I was going out there to beat everyone I could.

Race day came and it is probably the first time I have ever been smiling when the 4am alarm clock went off. With Clare, one of my athletes, racing her first half Ironman I wasn't really focusing on myself. Instead I was just trying to make the morning a bit more fun, as I know it can be a very daunting time. Heading down to the race start and it was pretty cold. It was clear though so I knew it would heat up soon enough...

The lake was pretty cold so I didn't head in for too long a warm up. And when the swim is 2km long you have enough time to find your rhythm. There was a bit of confusion at the start this year. It was pretty hard to hear the organiser yelling the time splits until the start. I heard the one minute to go call, but I could tell most of those around me didn't. This meant I had a great start off the line, with a lot of athletes hesitating for a second when the gun went. I felt awesome in the swim and swam my own pace until the halfway mark when I caught another two athletes and formed a small group. I stayed with these two guys, moving to the front near the end of the swim as I was feeling pretty good. Out of the water and I had a great run to transition. Unfortunately my actual transition wasn't that fast...something to work on before Tauarnga! Out onto the bike and I got carried away a bit early on. I felt good but I know I wasn't going to hold it with the form I was in. I caught another couple of guys and worked together for quite a while. Riding in this pack frustrated me quite a bit as I felt that I wasn't able to ride my own effort with one guy keeping coming into the draft zone, passing me and then easing off. We always seemed to drop down a couple of k's an hour when this happened and was upsetting my rhythm. I put in a few surges to try and drop the other two but every time I did he would come around me and slow down.

Chris Sanson was flying and caught us at about the 30km mark. I was happy as I was hoping this was my ticket out of this group. We both put in a few big surges towards the 45km mark but weren't able to shake anyone. After the turn I decided to just sit 10m behind the others and let them set the tempo. Unfortunately I didn't realise one of the guys was starting to crack and Chris had established a small gap. I tried to close the 150m gap but he was pushing and I was starting to fade. My power slowly but surely started to drop and I switched my focus to finishing the last 20km of the ride as best I could and get ready for the run. I

finished with the other two but had a slick transition and was out onto the run ahead, with Chris (guessing) a couple of minutes ahead. I was feeling pretty stuffed from the ride so settled into a comfortable pace that I hoped I would be able to hold to the finish. One of the guys caught and passed me but I wasn't worried at all. I just wanted to pace my own race. Towards the end of the first lap I started to feel better and felt good until the 15km mark. I had a plan of attacking the last 5km but I could tell I was starting to run really inconsistently. I would be flying, then creeping, and then flying again. That doesn't produce great run splits unfortunately so I tried to hang tough to the finish and hold 8th. I was catching Hamish Hammond at the end but didn't manage to reel him in so 8th it was. I'm pretty happy with that. Off hardly any training to finish in 4.14 and have a 1.22 run split I was content with how it went knowing that when I put the training in I will go faster! Next up is the Tauranga Half Ironman on the 10th of January. Hopefully I don't eat to much over Christmas...

Hope you all have an awesome holiday break!

Augusta Adventure Festival

Immediately after the Xterra World Champs in Hawaii I was on an Air New Zealand plane back to Auckland and then onto Perth to get ready for the Augusta Adventure Fest. It was a pretty short turn around with only six days before the race, and around 30 hours of travelling, something I have not experienced before, but was an awesome experience. It is quite a lucky thing that I enjoy travelling...

Once in Perth I had a night by myself before the rest of the NZ Team (Sam Manson and Emma McCosh) arrived and we headed down to Augusta and Margaret River. It was a very relaxed feel in the team throughout the week as we were also joined by two athletes at the top of their game, Dougal Allan and Braden Currie which was awesome to be able to hang out and chat with those guys.

The course down in Augusta is awesome. Starting with a rugged 13.5km trail run over boulders and along beaches you then get to the ocean swim. After swimming for 2km between two reefs you have another 800m of running that takes you to the 13km ocean ski section where you head out through the break into the ocean. Once back on land you face a fast 26km mountain bike section and then finish with another soft sand beach run to the finish. It is a tough course!

I was a wee bit nervous heading into this race, as I had never paddled in the ocean before, let along paddle out through breaking waves, and also I had no idea how I was going to feel on race day after Xterra Worlds six days beforehand.

Race day came and I just tried to treat it like any other race. I stoked up on GU Energy gels and drinks as I knew it was going to be a long day, made sure my Merida Big Nine team was running perfect, and headed down to the start. 

The start of the race is both awesome and scary. Running down a rock face it funnels you down onto smaller boulders which you pick your own line through. I had a good start off the line and was in 4th once we got to the technical part. I felt comfortable and ran with Sam, Dougal and Ben Allen. It stayed like this for the first 4-5km but then again all of a sudden I felt terrible. My pace slowed dramatically and I knew that my body still wasn't right, it was going to be a case of getting through the day. I had both good and bad parts for the rest of the race. Enjoying the scenery, not falling out of my kayak going out through the waves or the entire paddle, and being the only person to ride the steepest sandy of the climb were the highlights, the low being how my body felt whilst trying to push hard. It was clear that I wasn't going fast, but I still tried to push as I was representing Team NZ and knowing that after this race I was going into an off-season break. 

I crossed the line in 9th overall but was just happy to have survived the course and that I was fortunate enough to have raced in such an awesome location. I must say a huge thanks to the Rapid Ascent Team for running the event. As part of Team NZ I was extremely well looked after. I hope that I am able to come back in the future, experience it again and have a good race to compete with the Aussie team!

Xterra World Champs 2014

The Xterra World Champs were my main focus for this year. The race that I hoped to be my best at, and try and compete up with the top in our sport. Unfortunately sport and especially Triathlon doesn't always turn out as you hoped or planned.

I had what I thought was a great build up. I'd done some longer racing in China and then had a good preparation for this race and then the Augusta Adventure Festival which was the following weekend. I went over to Hawaii 10 days before the race to get used to the heat again and get a bit of training in before the big day. This year Hawaii threw in a surprise with a hurricane approaching the islands. It caused a few disruptions but considering what it could have been we were very lucky it just passed around the islands. I felt awesome for the first five days we had there. I have raced in the heat a lot this year and wasn't bothered by it which was quite different to other years. My last key sessions went well and I was stoked with how I was feeling. Unfortunately in the last few days before the race something seemed to change and my body went from feeling awesome to terrible. I tried to do what I thought was right in the days leading up to the race to try and change how I was feeling and get back to top form. Race day came around and I was hopeful that I would feel good. The rain from the hurricane had passed and the track was running perfectly...lucky because halfway through the week the course was both unrideable and unrunable with the clay mud being both sticky and extremely slippery.

The swim on race day was rough. The roughest open water swim I have ever done and a contrast to the days previous at the beach where it had been relatively calm. I had a great start though and after 400m out at the first buoy I was in the first bunch. I was feeling good and then all of a sudden I wasn't. I don't know why but I just felt weak. I was out of breath and just to continue swimming was hard. I got to the short beach run, tried to take it a bit easier and thought maybe I had gone out a bit hard and if I recover I should feel good soon. It didn't though and I struggled through the rest of the swim, going slower and slower and couldn't wait to get onto the bike. 

In my head I was hoping for a miracle and that I would feel amazing on the bike. Again this didn't happen. I was pushing as hard as I could but didn't have any of the power or punch that I usually have. That sucks when the bike course has over 3000 feet of climbing! Pulling out crossed my mind but I hadn't come this way to DNF, especially not with the amazing team of people and sponsors I have behind me. Even if I was having a bad race I still had to finish. I rode the rest of the bike at a steady pace and tried to enjoy the last downhill which was definitely an improvement to the other years. I can't wait to get to that part of the course and be able to 'race' it next year. 

Out onto the run and more of the same. A bit of walking thrown in on the steep parts so that I could keep going. The run in Hawaii is brutal with 5km of climbing and then 5km back down, all in the heat of the day and all pretty steep. After what seemed like a VERY long run, I finally made it to the finish, quickly got some ice and then headed over to a quiet spot with Monique to process my thoughts on what had just happened. 

It's amazing what you feel straight after a race when something like this happens. This isn't the first time I have gone through disappointment at the world champs in Hawaii. In 2009 I passed out one kilometre from the finish as joint leader of the Under 19 race. But this was different. That year I pushed myself so hard, was feeling good on the day, but didn't get my nutrition or hydration quite right. This year I couldn't push hard at all and that was frustrating. Immediately after the race I was frustrated, angry but also immediately determined and motivated to come back next year and show what I am truly capable of. 

After a few weeks reflecting on the race and the build up I am still not 100% sure why everything went wrong. I have my thoughts, and have listened to a few people close to me, and I know that this is an experience I have to learn from so that it doesn't happen again.  Passing out in 2009 was probably the biggest learning curve I have had in racing, and I know that this will be another, allowing me to come back next year and put down a performance that my sponsors, supporters, family, friends and I can be proud of. I am looking forward to the path I take in 2015 that I know will help me be at my best at the 2015 Xterra World Champs.

A huge thanks to all of my sponsors and supporters that made this trip possible!

South Head Challenge

A few weeks before Xterra Worlds, I competed in the first round of the Auckland Multisport Champs, the South Head Challenge. I needed to do a race before heading to Hawaii and this looked like a good one consisting of 11km kayak, 25km mountain bike and then a 10km run. There was also a good field with Stu Lynch and Sam Manson lining up so I knew there would be good competition for the top spot. 

The kayak was on Lake Ototoa, a small lake at the northern end of Woodhill forest. I had an awesome start to the paddle and after 5-6km was only a couple of minutes down on Stu and Sam. I started to fatigue though and gave up another six minutes in the second half to have a considerable deficit to make up on the bike and run. Onto the bike and I felt good straight away. It was all on rolling gravel roads but I was managing to punch over the short climbs and hold my speed. At the end of the first lap (two lap course) I caught a few guys in the top 10, and then into the second lap I began passing quite a few people bunched together. Right at the end of the bike I moved into 3rd, with only Sam and Stu ahead. Stu had a good gap (five minutes) but Sam was only 30 seconds ahead as I ran out of transition. I knew Sam was a good runner but I was feeling strong and quickly caught him after a couple of kilometres. I sat behind him for a few hundred metres to recover before I put in a little burst and managed to get a gap. I was feeling great and just trying to go as fast as I could to see if I could get a bit closer to Stu. Stu was moving quickly out front thought and held me off by a good couple of minutes, as I managed to hold onto 2nd, with Sam in 3rd. 

I was happy with how the race went as I had the fastest bike and run splits, and my kayak is slowly improving. Good signs for Xterra Worlds and Augusta Adventure Fest!

Wulong Mountain Quest & Suqian Adventure - China

A few months ago, Mark 'Cabin' Leishman and Sam Clark came to me asking whether I would be keen to do a couple of big team multisport races in China. I had always been interested in this type of racing and thought that this wasn't a bad time to learn to kayak and to see whether I enjoyed these races. After a few months of kayaking and some longer bike and run sessions we were heading to China to compete in two prestigious races as part of Black Dirt Adventure. We also had the super strong Simone Maier joining us to make up our four person team. 

Our first race was the Wulong Mountain Quest, which is probably the most prestigious team multisport race in the world. Over four days we completed about 17 hours of racing. The team performed really well in the bike and run stages, but our kayaking (with myself and Cabin being weak paddlers) meant that we would always lose significant time on the water. We were consistent every day though and managed to hold onto 5th place throughout the race. The area surrounding Wulong was incredible, something totally different for me and something which I hope I am able to experience again. My highlight had to be learning to abseil, starting in a scene from Transformers four, and day three where we went head to head with Red Bull (the Usshers, Trevor Voyce and Stu Lynch) in the bike stage where we climbed for a couple of hours. Awesome to be battling with people like that. I admittedly struggled with the Chinese food, and found it hard to eat the required amount of food to race for four days straight. It meant that I had an extremely tough last day. I had been strong in the first three days but the heat, lack of proper nutrition for me, and some dodgy bus rides made me feel pretty sick. I was lucky to be towed through the last day to make it to the finish. I don't think I have ever run as slow for 20k as I did that day...I will learn for next time though...

Immediately after Wulong we headed to Nanjing for a few days of 'R&R'. This was probably the worst part of the trip for me. I really struggled with the humidity and smog and felt terrible. It was a relief once we got on the bus and headed to Suqian for the last race. This race was 'only' one day, the only thing was that it was supposedly meant to take the WHOLE day. I have never raced in anything over six hours so it was going to be something entirely new to me. 

We didn't do much leading up to the race, allowing our bodies to recover from Wulong and be ready to go for the race. The only thing we did do was roller blading as this race had a 20km section. It's fair to say that three roller blades before the race is not enough...I was pretty terrible but luckily the race was flat so I managed to get through it.

The race consisted of a 2km swim, 20km kayak, 20km roller blade, 60km mountain bike, 2km run and abseil (100m building abseil), 35km kayak, 60km mountain bike and then a 40km run (if you chose the right route) to finish. It's fair to say I don't have too many fond memories of this race. The entire area was dead flat, we finished and started each stage at the same place, and it was muggy and hot. I was fine for the first 10 hours but then started to struggle on the last mountain bike and just managed to survive the run. The team was strong though and we managed to start out at a steady pace and hold it through the day. As is usual in these sorts of races, everyone goes through good and bad patches (both physically and mentally) but I thought our team did an awesome job of keeping each other focused and motivated. The kayak stages were the longest, both being out and back made for a mentally challenging stage. I was always happy to get on the bikes, although on the second one I was struggling to eat or drink anything, not good when you have to run a near marathon next! The run was long. Luckily it was at night which I thought made it a bit easier and the temperature dropped. After 17 hours of racing, we finally made it to the finish. I don't think I have ever been more happy to get to finish before. I was in a pretty bad place, as I could barely walk and felt really sick from trying to eat enough to fuel for the day.

We ended up 7th overall which I thought was an awesome effort considering I had never done anything like that before, and the kayak stages were so long. Finally it it time to relax and head back to New Zealand before  beginning my prep for Xterra Worlds in late October. Can't wait!

RATS Winter Duathon

The day after the Manawahe 6 hour adventure race, myself, Cabin and Sonia, decided that one race for the weekend wasn't enough so we jumped into the RATS Duathlon, a short 4.5km run, 15km mtb, 3km run. 

Riding out to the race I could tell I was tired from the day before. I went for a little run before the race though and felt pretty good running. The plan for the day then was to go out hard on the first run and hope I start to feel a bit better on the bike.

I got a good start and got a small gap, feeling pretty good. Lewis Ryan had gone out hard behind me and was trying to stick with me. I kept increasing the pace and soon I couldn't hear or see him behind me, but I knew that smart Cabin would be pacing himself, so I had to be careful.

I felt awesome at the end of the run and had managed to get a good gap going into the ride with Cabin and Lewis behind. I had a pretty steady ride and extended my gap, but only by a little bit, the boys behind were having a good battle and pushing each other to catch me.

Into the last run and I was feeling pretty tired, but luckily I had a good gap so I didn't have to push it too much. I managed to take the win with Cabin in 2nd and Lewis in 3rd. Another good weekend banked, and everything seems to be looking good leading into Black Dirt Adventure's trip to China!

 

Manawahe Six Hour Adventure

It's fair to say I was looking forward to this race ever since the last 6 hour race in Kawerau. Racing as Black Dirt Adventure we had a strong team with myself, Sam Clark, Cabin and Sonia teaming up. 

The night before the race we discovered just how tough this race would be. It would be a two stage race, starting with a one hour fifteen ride, and then the rest all on foot through the Rotoma Forest. The longest I have ever run was the marathon, and that was a few years ago, so having to run for around four and a half hours scared me.

We had a decent ride, coming in a few minutes down on a few teams who had gone out hard. We knew the run would be the decider though so we took it a bit easier. Into the run and we made a good decision early on to bush bash a steep section of forest, and cut a lot of running out! This saved us a huge amount of time and set us up well for the rest of the run. The biggest section of the run was an out and back that had some seriously steep and technical track. It hurt going out to the furtherest part but it was awesome coming back! We nailed every check point on the way out and hadn't seen any team come back past, so we knew we would have been one of the first teams, but you never know in the type of racing! 

Coming back and I got a bit of a wake up call. I was running, looking down at the map, on a wide open track and unfortunately didn't see a solid over hanging branch. I ran straight into it with my face, and ended up on the ground pretty quickly. Luckily I hadn't damaged my teeth, broken any bones, or knocked myself out, but I had a bit of blood coming from some pretty gashed lips. Not the nicest thing to do...

We nailed the rest of the check points on the way back, and after four and a half hours of running, crossed the finish line, and taking the win. Stoked.

It had been an epic, epic day and another great opportunity to race together before heading to China in a few weeks time!

Tauhura Half Marathon

After a big week of training I decided the best thing to do, just to make sure I was completely destroyed, was to enter an off-road half marathon in Taupo! 

With GU Energy NZ a main sponsor I was keen to head down there and support the race, and it's not too often that you are able to run around the Mt. Tauhura area.

I lined up pretty flat after a few big days in training, and luckily when we started the pace wasn't too fast so I was able to hold back in around 8th and warm into the race. At around 3km in (mostly downhill until then), I started to feel pretty good so moved closer to the front and when we got to around 5km in, the three of us at the front surged and got away from around 10 behind. We had a big out and back section and we started to pull away from the others behind. Looking at the pace we were running I was getting a bit nervous as to whether I would be able to hold it for the rest of the race...my Magellan Switch was getting splits of around 3.15-3.20 minute kilometres on the undulating trails/gravel roads, which isn't made for fast running!

After the out and back section (uphill going out and downhill coming back) the three of us were still together heading into the last 10km. We turned off the main gravel road and into a very steep, undulating single track, and one of the guys started surging and opening a small gap. I was running third, hoping to save a bit of energy, but I could tell the guy in second was starting to fatigue prety badly. After yo-yoing off the guy at the front, the 10m gap started to turn to 20, then 30 and then out of sight at around 100m. I knew I had to come round this guy if I wanted to win, the only problem was that I didn't know if I could. We still had to 6km to go, and I was already on my limit. I decided to give it a try though so surged around this guy and set about trying to hunt the leader down. The trail flattened out which was good for me, and I was able to make ground up on the leader and with 4km to go I was side by side with him. 

I had been warned about the big hill at the end of the race and with 3km to go we hit the bottom of it. I could tell that this guy was strong on the hills, but I told myself that if I hung with him I would back myself to win with the last kilometre of the race being steep downhill to the finish. I managed to hold him for half of the two kilometre climb, but he slowly pulled away and at the top had 30 seconds on me. I was starting to blow and wasn't able to pull him back down the hill, easing off to save my legs from the impact of running hard down hill. 

After 22.5km (it was a bit long) and with around 600m vertical climbing done, I hit the finish in 2nd, happy with how I ran but pretty smashed from the week of training and the race to top it off. All good training though and after a bit of recovery I will come out of it stronger!

Maungatautari Classic

After doing the 3D Multisport race in Rotorua, and learning to kayak (and having one) IU thought it would be a good chance to have a look on the race calender for races I had never heard about, or never had been able to do before as I didn't compete in multisport. Sam Clark sent me a message a couple of weeks before this race, saying that it was an awesome race to do, and would be good training for our team racing in China. I did a bit of research and pretty quickly decided I liked the sound of the event, and that I had to race. 

The Maungatautari Classic is a pretty decent length race, consisting of a 35km road bike, 15km trail run OVER a mountain, 15km road bike, and then a 10km kayak to finish you off.

It was a pretty cool day in Cambridge to start but we knew that with no clouds it was going to turn into a cracker of a day. We started out as a big bunch on the ride and everyone stuck together for the first 10km. Shortly after ten of us rode off the front, and at the next decent hill the group split in two, with five riders going off the front including myself, Sam Clark and Rob Creasy. I know Rob is an awesome runner so I was pretty keen to get rid of him before we got to the first transition. 

Sam was setting a pretty decent tempo on the front, and when we got to a steep, one kilometre climb, I decided it was time to attack and try and get away with Sam. The plan worked and myself and Sam, along with a guy called Simon from Auckland, rode away from Rob and the other guy in the group. We kept the pace high and extended our gap heading into T1. I was first to reach our running gear and had a pretty quick transition to get a small gap and head into the mountain first. 

The first kilometre was gradual uphill, before the gnarly stuff started as we turned into the singletrack. We were running the OLD track over the mountain which was epic. Rooty, muddy, steep, it was one of the coolest trails I have ever run. We were literally climbing for parts of the track (now I know whythey make you take a first aid pack), and the pace was extremely slow. I had a good gap though and couldn't see or hear anyone behind me. I reached the top of the climb to come out surrounded by fog and couldn't see more then five metres, I bet the view would have been amazing! 

I flew down the otherside (going from tree to tree) to come out and then find we had to go up another hill which was longer, steeper and more technical. It was towards the top of this climb that I made a crucial mistake. All the other track options that we could have taken had been taped off until this point. I was in race mode and had tunnel vision for the track and followed it right to the top, only to be greeted by no distinct options for a track to follow. I could see what I thought was an over-grown track so followed it for a couple of hundred metres down the other side, for it to suddenly end. Sure I was going the right way (and scared to turn around and be caught) I bush bashed my way down a bit further, only to find a cliff and no way down. Damm it. Back up to the top I go, and hopefully to see someone else and discuss where to go. Still no one at the top. Ran back down the track to find foot prints going along a different track that I hadn't even seen. They had red markers out, but as I am colour blind, I didn't notice them in all the green bush. Damm.

I was pretty annoyed, having gone from leading to losing at least 10 minutes. I set off just to finish the race, thinking I was surely out of it. Strangely though, after about 10 minutes of running I got a glimpse of Rob. I caught and passed him pretty quickly and heard I was now only around 8 minutes down on the leader. I was feeling pretty good so thought I may as well smash the rest of the run. The next marshall said I was only five mins down on the leader and two behind 3rd. I continued to smash it, and caught 3rd quickly, and set about chasing the leaders down. I couldn't believe it but another couple of kilometres down the track I caught them. I was taking a few risks on the descents, but I seem to be good at running the technical stuff, and was moving a lot faster then Sam and a team runner. As I passed them we came out onto a wide open path, which turned into a road, and had another 3km to run. I put a bit more time into them and got onto the 2nd bike in first. 

I was pretty shattered on the bike from the run, but knew I had to keep pushing to at least try and hold off Sam on the paddle. I got to the kayak and couldn't see Sam behind me, so guessed I had five minutes (turned out it was perfectly five). I felt smashed paddling, but kept trying to be consistent. My muscles aren't used to doing this that much yet, and with being fatigued before I got into the boat, I knew it would be a long paddle. I managed to hold off Sam for around 7km, before he blew past, and I blew up. I crawled to the finish in 2nd, having some horrible problems with my glutes after being in the boat for an hour. We had a last 200m uphill run to the finish waiting for us out of the kayaks...which I walked.

It's fair to say this was one awesome race, but one which chewed me up and spit me back out absolutely shattered... I can't wait to come back and give it another crack!

Kawerau Six Hour Adventure - Black Dirt Adventure

The Kawerau 6hr Adventure Race was my first adventure race and was also the first race for our new team Black Dirt Adventure which features myself, Mark 'Cabin' Leishman and Sam Clark. Joining us for this race as a guest athlete was previous Elite MTB National Champ and NZXC member Dirk Peters. 

We were pretty relaxed heading in to the race as it was just a good hitout to work as a team and also get some base training under our belt. Sam Clark was a legend with setting up all the maps so the rest of us just needed to turn up on race day and follow his lead. 

The race was a cool format, with four stages, and transition at the same place every time. We started with a bike rogaine, which ended up taking around 2 hours. The start was good but at the first activity a bit of miscommunication (our first mistae of the day) meant we were chasing for the rest of the race after losing around 15 mins straight away. After that though we were smooth. Sam leading and every one in tow. 

The next stage was a bike/run where only two people are allowed bikes, and the whole team is only allowed 100m apart. With Sam injured, he stayed on his bike so we shared three bikes between myself, Cabin and Dirk. That made for a lot of running over a 10km stage...

Then we were on to the hike where we were joined by Scott Green (our support crew) who was getting a bit bored always waiting for us at transition. The hike was awesome. Bush bashing, running up/down streams and gorges was fun and the two hours went pretty quick. We made a small mistake which cost us 10-15 mins again but it didn't matter at the end. 

Finally we were on to our bike for the last stage where we had a little battle for 2nd which we were able to take and some across the finish line in excatly six hours. 

It was invaluable experience racing as a team, and also in the rogaine style, as myself and Cabin need to improve our navigation skills (as well as our kayaking). 

Looking forward to our next Black Dirt Adventure race at the next 6hr race in Manawahe, late July

New Zealand Multisport Champs - 3D

3D Mutlisport Champs were never on my radar, especially considering how tired I was after Xterra Malaysia, until a week before the race where I thought now that I am able to kayak (some what) I may as well have a crack and see how I went. 

I lined up extremely nervous, hoping to get through the kayak and onto the bike without any trouble. After a cautious start I was away and felt alright. I held my own for the first 4.5km lap (still way behind the leaders) and was feeling alright until....at the last buoy on the lap I lost concentration and before I knew it, I was in the water next to my kayak. After a couple of attempts I was finally able to get back in and get going again, only with my pride and confidence dented. 

Finally I was out of the kayak (didn't fall out on the second lap!) and onto the bike. My legs felt horrible out of the kayak and I could barely run. On to the bike and I felt better and was able to push straight away. My plan was just to smash the bike and use the home course to my advantage. I had an awesome ride (and have to thank every one who let me past...I had to pass A LOT of people) and came out of the bike in 5th. 

I hadn't done much after Xterra Malaysia so I was unsure how the body would feel on the run. I headed out with Sam Manson who immediately smashed it and put a small gap into me. The 3D run is one of the hardest out there, with a big climb to start each 5.5km lap (two lap run). Sam pulled away up the climb but I still had him in sight and I bridged up to him through the undulating stuff at the end of the lap. This was as good as it would get though as I could tell the effort and my form level catching up with me. The second lap turned out to be pretty slow with Sam pulling away. 

On the descent I caught and passed Black Dirt Adventure team mate Sam Clark who had led off the bike, but was injured so couldn't run freely at all. Passing him, I moved in to 4th and managed to hold onto this position to the finish. I'm pretty happy and surprised at the level I was at considering my build up to the race, but also a little disappointed to just miss out on the podium. 

I am looking forward to improving my kayaking and coming back next year and having a real crack at this year.

Also as a result of this race I have been selected for the NZ team to travel to Perth and race the Augusta Adventure fest at the start of November! I can't wait for that race as it also includes a 2km swim which should suit me and negate the kayaking advantage of others...hopefully!

Xterra Malaysia

My last Xterra race for the first half of the season was Xterra Malaysia, ending my run of five races in six weeks, all in different countries. 

It has been awesome travelling and racing so much but its fair to say that by the time I arrived in Malaysia I was ready to go home and have a break. Mentally and physically I was on my limit and I was hoping I would be able to hold it together for one more week and end it on a high!

I arrived from Sydney on Tuesday early in the morning. After a few hiccups with getting to my hotel and checking in at Putrajaya I was able to relax. The focus of the week was to do small sessions to try and recover from the Asia-Pacific Champs and also to stay out of the heat as much as I could. I had been warned about the heat in Malaysia and sure enough it was intense. By far the hottest/muggiest place I have been to so far. 

Race week was awesome, staying with all the other athletes in a hotel only a couple of hundred metres from the start line, meant a relaxed week, socialising with everyone else and having a good time. For everyone it seemed that it was the last race in a big block and they were all looking forward to recovery! A huge thanks to Dave and the crew at Xterra Malaysia for their hospitality.

Unfortunately the day before the race I picked up a small stomach bug, even though I had been careful about the food I was eating over there. I guess my body was tired, and not used to the food and heat. 

The course was difficult. A VERY hot swim felt like you could barely move through the water. Onto the bike and the coolest part came straight away, in the form of a bike park that had awesome single track. I was gutted it didn't last longer. The rest of the ride was quite flat, with only a small climb and descent breaking up the flat dirt road riding. 

The run was an adventure. Over grown, steep tracks and quarry's made for a tough run where walking was essential in many places.

My race day didn't get off to the best start. Straight away I felt average and ended up losing more time then normal in the swim. On to the bike and I was hoping that I would feel better but the opposite happened. I had nothing and after 30 minutes, breakfast started to come back out. This carried on for the whole ride and I had to focus on hydrating myself as I didn't want to go to sleep out on the course. My goal changed to just make it to the finish and hopefully still make top seven and stay in the money. I climbed off my bike and onto the run which turned out to be mostly walking apart from the flat/downhill parts. 

Mentally it was a very tough day but I stayed in there knowing that it was the last race I had to do for a while and I could rest after. Also there was still a bit of prize money up for grabs so I didn't want to give up.

I toughed the run out and somehow managed to hold onto 6th, way down on the front guys, but happy to just finish and now enjoy some rest. 

I have loved the past couple of months travelling and racing but now it is time to head home and rest up before starting the second half of the season where the goal is some Multisport races in China and then Xterra Worlds in Maui.

Xterra Asia Pacific Champs - Jervis Bay

After Xterra NZ I had a few days to relax over Easter at home before heading over to Jervis Bay, Australia with my mum and Josh Kenyon to take on the best at the Xterra Asia-Pacific Champs. 

There was big prizemoney for this race so, as expected, a stacked pro field turned up. We were lucky enough to be staying with Ben Allen and Jacqui Slack and family for our time their so we were sorted, staying only a few hundred metres away from the start. 

We arrived in Jervis Bay on Wednesday, after heading over directly from Rotorua to Sydney on Air New Zealand on the Tuesday (so convenient and easy flying from home), which meant we had a bit of time to get to know the course. The swim was two 750m laps in Jervis Bay which was generally pretty calm. I was most nervous about the sea life, after seeing dolphins playing in the waves only 20m off shore. Hopefully I wouldn't be last in the swim....

The bike was generally flat but had over 70% singletrack which made it pretty fun...although a bit more elevation gain would have been appreciated! The run was pretty long (13.5km) but very flat which was going to be interesting as most of the pros would have preferred a hillier course.

On race day and we got a bit of a surprise, the pros swim would be wetsuit illegal, while the amatuers would be allowed wetsuits. The water temperature was just above the 20 degree mark, so we were in swim skins. This didn't suit me as I knew I would lose a bit more time to the better swimmers without a wetsuit. 

I had a great start to the swim, and for the first 500m managed to stay with the main pack. Then the pace got picked up a bit and I got dropped. I really struggled on the second lap of the swim and was surprised to hear I was only 1.40 down on the front when I got off the beach. 

Out on the bike and I went out pretty hard. The first part was all roads so I knew I had to minimise my losses to the group ahead who would be working together. I wasn't feeling that great but hoped I would feel better a bit later on. Once into the singletrack I wasn't riding smoothly at all. I seemed to be clipping every tree and making stupid mistakes, just not able to get into the flow required to ride these tracks fast. I still managed to pull a few people back though so was slowly moving up the field. 

Once I got to the run I heard I was in 8th, with a couple of people only a couple of minutes ahead. I felt good early on in the run and managed to pull back Craig Evans. I still couldn't see anyone up ahead though so my motivation dropped a bit and with the run being constantly flat, my pace dropped. I had a flat patch for a few k's but then I started to feel better again and finished strongly in 7th. 

With the stacked field I was relatively happy with 7th, although not with my performance, and I know that if I had a good day I could have been further up the field. It's all experience though, and racing week in week out with these top guys is going to be beneficial for me in the future, no matter the result. 

Xterra NZ

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.

Xterra Saipan

After Xterra Guam, we had a week to recover before we were on the start line at Xterra Saipan. Saipan was an hour flight north of Guam and is a smaller island, with a population slightly smaller then Rotorua. I had heard a few things about this race, one obviously being the heat, but also how long and steep the climbs are on both the bike and run. 

We were able to check these out in the days leading into the race and we got what we expected. The climbs were brutal. Both steep and long, and in some places technical, they were going to be a challenge during the race. I liked it though, the bike and run were more technical and hillier then Guam so I was hoping that this would help me a bit more compared to the rest of the pro guys. Along with a harder course, a few more pros turned up to race including tow time defending champ Ben Allen and OIympian Olivier Marceau making a stacked field. 

Race week went quickly like usual and on Saturday we were up at 4am as the race starts at 7, so that we aren't racing in the heat of the day. We started with an awesome two lap 1500m swim, where we were able to dolphin dive for most of it (there is a huge reef around Saipan and it was low tide). This was pretty entertaining...I was passing people dolphin diving and then would start swimming to recover from that effort. I had a good swim and was out in a group from 4th-8th. 

Onto the bike and quickly we were onto the first climb where the group whittled down to just three including myself, Nico Sterk and Olivier Marceau. I wasn't feeling that great but we were keeping a good pace so I was just hoping I would be able to stay with them and make a move on the descent. Sure enoughw e stayed as a trio for over half, taking turns sharing the work on the climbs and flat bits. This worked well for me and once we were near the top of the big climb I made a decision to attack and get a gap, hoping to extend it on the big descent back to transition. This worked and by T2 I had over two minutes to Nico and Olivier, and was only 30 seconds down on Bradley Weiss in 3rd. 

I was quick through transition and was out onto the run chasing Brad. I was pulling him back for the first few k's, before we hit the singletrack climb. It starts gradual but gets steeper and steeper as it goes. Brad was quick up the hill and pulled away from me. I was giving it everything but just wasn't able to hold him. I tried to conserve energy though and pushed through the very technical and rocky descent along a dry stream bed, and into some World War Two caves. I was making up time but by the end of the descent he had about 45 seconds. The last three k's were flat, along a few roads and a beach to finish. I kept pushing but wasn't able to pull Brad in, having to settle for 4th in a tight race. 

I loved the racing over there, against those top guys and know the gap between them and myself is getting smaller so with a bit more hard work I know I can be up there with the winners some time soon. It's time to head back to NZ though and get ready to race Xterra NZ in my hometown, on my course. Conrad Stoltz and Ben are coming (along with several more pros) so it is going to be huge! 

Xterra Guam

After watching these races unfold from New Zealand for the last few years, I was itching to get over to race Xterra Guam and Saipan and this year, alongside Mark 'Cabin" Leishman I was able to make the trip over and experience what every one had been saying about these amazing places.

Getting to Guam from NZ is definitely an experience with a few random flights but once we were there and checked in at the Sheraton we were able to see why it is rated so highly. The organisation around the race was awesome and they embraced all the pro athletes. 

Our pre-ride and run of the course both ended up being a mission...and ended up with cabin and myself riding the course backwards...

We were able to see the bike course though and that was the main thing. It had a few gradual climbs, and the rest was all over extremely loose, rocky terrain which was a bit of a challenge at race speed. 

The run was awesome. Like a trek in an Xterra race. Bush bashing, running down streams and a bit of flat fast stuff made something for everyone. I was loving it and looking forward to race day.

Race day arrived and I felt good. I had got in a bit of last minute of training after getting sick but the goal for these races was to use them to build towards Xterra NZ in a few weeks. I had a good swim and came out (which including swimming above coral reefs and a lot of sea life) in 5th. After an average transition I was out in 6th chasing those ahead. 

The bike starts with a long climb and I was able to get into a good rhythm and close the gap to 3rd and 4th. Once into the technical rocky stuff I closed the gap, but after 30 mins of riding (and having already gone through TWO drink bottles in the heat) I realised my main drink bottle of GU Roctane had slipped out of my bottle holder. I realised I had to slow down so I rode with 3rd and 4th until the next aid station (40 mins away). I grabbed a few bottles and then was away again coming into transition in 3rd.

I headed out onto the run trying to extend my gap so I was out of sight come the stream parts, where you can only see 15m ahead. I loved this section and running down a stream meant I was able to cool down. I had managed to extend my lead in 3rd but couldn't see 2nd so I kept my pace steady and didn't push into the red, as I had another race in the heat the following weekend.

I was stoked to come across the line in 3rd behind two South Africans Dan Hugo and Bradley Weiss and get the trip off to a good start.

Xterra Motatapu

I couldn't wait to race Xterra Motatapu and get into the Off-road Triathlon season. After this race I had another five races in seven weeks in different countries so I was looking to get off to a good start!

A couple of weeks leading into the race I ended up getting food poisoning which kept me out of training for a good week. It was touch and go whether I made the trip down south but with everything booked I decided I may as well head down and have a good time if I couldn't race.

I started feeling better once I got there though so decided to line up. With the help of Sam Thompson from NZXC I was on the start line and ready to go. My positive thinking about how I was going to go didn't eventuate at the start as I had a shocker swim, possibly my worst in years, after feeling weak and lacking any rhythm. It's not a nice place to be when you are getting smashed from all sides...

Things got a bit better on the bike though and I got into a good rhythm, even though it didn't feel comfortable. Not feeling 100%, I was able to slowly move up and come off the bike in 4th overall, and more importantly, only a few minutes down on 2nd. 

Surprisingly I felt decent on the run and quickly caught Patrick Harvey in third. I could see 2nd ahead but couldn't close the gap on the climb. The climb is a long one though and I thought if I conserved my energy for the steep and dodgy descent I might be able to catch him. Finally at the top of the climb (it is a LONG climb) I was able to relax and stride out on the descent. I seemed to be pulling him back quickly and caught and passed him halfway down. I kept pushing though knowing that at the bottom of the descent we still had to run 3km of roads/river crossings to the finish. 

I definitely struggled in the last couple of kilometres but managed to hold onto my 2nd place and cross the line exhausted behind Braden Currie. Not to bad considering, although I would have liked to be a bit closer to Braden and see if I could put him under any pressure. 

It was a good start to my racing season though and I;m looking forward to the next one, Xterra Guam!