The Xterra World Champs is always my biggest race of the year. This year I headed over to Maui, Hawaii, for my 7th attempt. Having had a disappointing performance at this event in 2014, I was keen to use the lessons learned from that day and redeem myself with a top race this year.
After competing in the Xterra USA Champs in mid September, I headed back home to Rotorua to recover and then get my last big block of training in for Worlds. Training went well, even fitting in a local 12 hour mountain bike team race which went well, putting out some of the most consistent and fastest laps over the day, and I headed over to Maui feeling fresh and confident.
I went over early this year to try and get as used to the heat as I possibly could. Coming from New Zealand I definitely take a while to start feeling good in the heat and humidity so I was pretty happy to go early and get more training done on the island than I have ever managed before. I had a great time in the lead in to the race, doing a bit of training with Jacqui Slack and staying with a couple of mates from New Zealand. The atmosphere going into the race was awesome. For the first time ever at this race, I was excited to be racing and just seeing how I would go after a great build up and some good races earlier in the year, against the best guys in the world. This year in particular I thought there was a very talented, deep field, and the fight for the top 10 would be brutal.
Standing on the start line and the usual nerves were replaced with excitement. I lined up pretty far to the right hand side, hoping to stay clear of the usual fight for places that goes on in the middle of the pack. I had a clear run to the first buoy and managed to get on a good pair of feet after the first turn. I swum conservatively, relatively happy with the progress we were making, and trying to save as much as I could for later in the race. Heading out onto the bike I heard I was around 30 seconds down on last years champ Ruben Rufaza and two minutes down on the main lead group.
I got to work early on the bike, finding clear ground for the first undulating and twisty 20 minute climb and made up some places quickly on my Santa Cruz Tallboy. Just after the 5 mile mark (up on Razor Ridge) I managed to pass Branden Rakita and then Sam Osborne and moved closer to the top 10. I felt good hunting the athletes down but after this I had a piece of misfortune. Coming into the first aid station I was yelling out ''water, water - two bottles." Unfortunately after I had grabbed the first and put it in my bottle cage, I grabbed the second one and began pouring it over myself before drinking it and realised they had given me Gatorade. At the next major climb I checked the other bottle and it to was Gatorade. I knew I had to keep drinking (to avoid a repeat of 2009 when I passed out on the run) but Gatorade really doesn't sit well with me. There's a reason I choose to use GU Energy products, and that's because they are the only product that I can have a good tasting carbohydrate drink and it sit comfortably while I race at 100%. I have tried many others brands drinks (including gels) and haven't found another one that suits my body as well.
Immediately after drinking the Gatorade I could tell my body was going to refuse it. Halfway after the biggest climb in the race and it started coming back up. I decided to only take sips of it until the next aid station (a good 25 minutes away) to try and get a bit of fluid in. I managed to get some water at the next aid station which helped a lot and I was able to take in some more of my GU gels, heading into the last major climb and then the 20 odd minutes of twisty, undulating single track back to transition. I passed Ben Hoffman and Ben Allen in this time and felt pretty good heading into the last section of the bike, now just inside the top 10.
Coming off the bike I could tell I was less than a minute down on 6th and well within a chance of a great result if I could put together a fast run, something I had been working hard to achieve. I felt good for the first few minutes running uphill but then could tell that something wasn't quite right. I went from feeling strong to weak in only a couple of minutes and quickly the run was turning into one of survival for me. Ben Allen and Hoffman came back past me towards the top of the climb, both running well, but I was barely moving, just hoping I would have some fast legs for the downhill and hopefully maintain my place, now 12th.
I felt a little better on the downhill but still not great, taking my time through aid stations to make sure I got in as much fluid as I could to complement my gels. On the last big climb of the run (I call it 'The Wall' - a 250m steep section on a concrete road in the baking hot sun) I was caught by another athlete. I gave it my all to stay with him and hung on down the last descent where we went back past Ben Allen who had rolled his ankle on the descent. Coming into the last beach section he created a small gap and was able to hold it to the finish, with myself struggling up the finish chute just behind him to claim 12th elite, a placing that I am proud of considering the circumstances, but still having the 'what if's' had I nailed my nutrition plan and the run.
I wasn't in a great place at the finish of the race, definitely suffering from mild dehydration and the heat. It had been a hot day for the race, with barely any clouds while we were out racing, making for brutal conditions. I spent a while in the medical tent getting brought back to normality before heading out and celebrating finishing this tough race with Matt Backler (4th in 35-39 age group) and Lydia Hale (2nd in 30-34 age group) who I stayed with. A great trip is now finished and I am already planning my 2016 assault. It was inspiring to see Josiah Middaugh win the Elite race after 15 years of trying. I hope I am able to get there one day to!
A huge thanks to my incredible supporters:
Santa Cruz Bicycles - I rode the Tallboy CC for this race. The perfect bike for this course as although it's not technically hard, it is pretty bumpy!
Rotorua, New Zealand - The perfect training ground for Xterra racing. Beautiful lakes and pools, and amazing trails for mountian biking and running. Couldn't have it any better!
GU Energy - Although I wasn't able to nail my nutrition plan with the circumstances, I know I am taking in the best nutrition with the Roctane gels and powder!
Marmot - I only used the visor on race day but their gear was perfect for the heat in Hawaii while running or relaxing on the beach.
Smith Optics - I used the Overtake helmet with Pivlock Arena glasses, keeping me cool and my vision clear.
Maxxis - I (along with nearly the entire field) chose the Maxxis Ikon tyre for this course. Perfectly suited for it's fast rolling and grippy attributes.
Prologo - I use the Prologo Nago Evo X10, a light and comfortable saddle.
Evoc - The ultimate travel luggage. Reliable, light and incredibly well designed these bags make travelling so much less stressful!
RATS - The ultimate local Triathlon club in Rotorua!
Plus my team behind me:
Richard Ussher; Mark Leishman; my parents Deryck and Sally; my brothers Nelson and Jeremy; my girlfriend Monique Avery and all those who support me.
I am now having a quick break from racing and training but am already planning my 2016 season!