World Championships: Xterra Maui 2016

Survival versus winning

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It had been a fairly good lead up to the Xterra World Champs. Having qualified in April, 2016 at the Australasian Champs, it was the main goal for the year. I’ve always enjoyed racing more than training and therefore worked in different events from a half marathon running race to a Cyclocross (50min circuit race), and a Duathlon to test the legs running off a bike. Feeling confident after a win at Duathlon, I fly over with big goals – to podium in my category. I’d seen past results and figured I could, on paper, achieve it.   I finished 4th in the World in Olympic Distance Triathlon and that 10secs, did leave some unfinished business!

 

Flying in over Maui was epic. The rugged coastline and features of the rippled mountains was breathtaking. The heat hit us like a furnace, coming from Melbourne! But one week pre in Maui, as adaptation.

It was a pretty fun week. I wanted to conserve the energy and not get too nervoMuddy course! us. We played on the putting green, went out for dinner and did some training sessions on the course. The bike just climbs for the first 8 miles and it was a bit slushy in sections but rideable and for the first time in ages I wore a heart rate monitor just to get some idea of how taxing the course will be. The heat was punishing around 10am until the afternoon and hydration
was also going to be key.

Xterra puts on a great event. The Friday night was the Champions dinner and it honoured challenged athletes, athletes returning for their 21st race in Maui, and 2 major awards. It got you pretty pumped to be amongst it and that this was a World Championships of many nations present.

 

My sleep pattern was a little off, with naps in the afternoon and sometimes wide awake at midnight. I’m a firm believer in the night before the night before. Usually it can be restless the night before so Friday was a good sleep.

Sunday morning, RACE day. I got everything in its place on the rack, checked and rechecked, camelback, gloves, gels, shoes bike and running.

Xterra Maui transition area

Xterra Maui transition area

The speedsuit on, goggles and cap in hand, it was down to the beach. We were greeted by pretty big shore breakers! Athletes lined up for blessings by Hawaiian elders. I prayed that the day be good to all. On the swim start, I stood on the shore line to the far right, observing a rip and avoiding the centre crush. All women started together after the men’s waves. The horn sounded, I ran in and bang, a wave hit me and I was sliding across seabed rocks. Luckily not cut up, but hard to stand on and unable to grip, if dived under. I had to swim across and then out. I lost time and I watched the orange caps through the sets of waves. I breathed, reset and went for it. Once I got into a rhythm I felt strong in the water. It was an “M” shaped swim and coming back to the beach I worked hard, knowing it was a small run around flags before hitting the 2nd half. I coasted in but couldn’t get that ride that in that seemed to be ever present when swimming out!

I ran up the 150m slight incline to transition area. I had no idea what position I was in but knew I needed to get some ground. It had rained pretty hard that last few days and it was expected to be tough to ride quite a few sections of the course. When it started climbing early on, I could feel the heart rate at a red zone. I changed gears and noticed mud already building up around the rear wheel creating more resistance. I jumped off and pushing my bike I was surrounded by men from earlier waves and other women. One lucky, pre race add on, was some bolts at the front of my mountain bike shoes. A quirky Canadian, Fraser, innovated them, using a hack saw to the right length! Well they came in very handy, as other slip-slided around trying to heave their bike and self up clay inclines. No sooner would you jump on but it had clumped again, forcing you to stop and remove the mud by hand. I grabbed a stick to wipe of the tyre walls and push through the clearance front and back. This continued throughout the bike leg. I was frustrated by how much time was lost and not catching others, I was beginning to reassess what the goal was…which became JUST FINISH! I took one downhill section, that if you braked the back end would slide side ways, so I let it rip and not sure how I didn’t end up in the trees! I also ate mud pretty bad, which came up a big purple melon on my leg the next day!   But I survived and managed to wear off the cable of my front derailleur and every inch of the bike was clad in mud. I also had red clay from head to toe. I laughed as I rode in just joyous to be off the bike and in one piece, of sorts. I came out for the run and it was brutal with a steep climb within the first few miles. I walked, gulped water and Gatorade. I was spent and the legs just wouldn’t go. I just calmy walked as people passed me. I knew I’d get there and at 800m I did. It was a slow jog, with a few more walks on very steep sections, then I got it. I hit the rhythm and had to capitalize. I was still a bit weary that the dehydration and energy was in low reserve and to not red line it. I was constant self talk and I often drew on that I was a runner and this is the part to bring it home. I passed quite a few, but I knew so much time was lost on the swim and bike. I still walked through each drink station ensuring I got in the fluids and part of a gel. It’s hard to digest when you’re cooked, the body wants to just lie down, not move, not eat.

I enjoyed the last 2 miles of the run and tried to put on the brave face as I ran along the sand and up to the finish line. Maui finish line handstand-finishI had a feeble attempt of a hand stand and then spoke to Tommy from Xterra TV. Tom is with my first Triathlon club back at Hills and it was pretty cool to be interviewed by a fellow Aussie in another country. I met Matt and lay on the ground eating potato chips and nuts. Craving salt big time! He had hung out all day, never knowing when I might emerge form the bush! Support crew do it tough, especially when a race blows out by more than an hour! So 5hours later I had finished and as the medal had engraved, I was a survivor.

Was I happy with the result? I was happy to have got to the start line, to know I did a really good preparation, with a big thanks to a program and support from Grant Giles. I was unhappy by the fact that I just couldn’t execute what I had done in training. It felt like the bike didn’t enable the chance to really attack it. Also nutrition wise, I was under done with intake, given it was so much longer out there in the heat. So in honesty 10th in my category is good, all things considering. Will I race Xterra Maui again? Probably no. Like Ironman, I found it was a struggle and just finishing a race isn’t enough, not when I’ve won events and really raced them, throughout my athletic career. Personally, I get the thrill out of a tactical race, a sprint finish, going faster than I have before. So where to from here… I’ve always wanted to run a Marathon, not sure the distance suits me, given a middle distance background but it’s a bucket list thing. I’ve only ever completed one within an Ironman, after 180k bike really isn’t Marathon running! Another part of me has really enjoyed mountain biking and Australia hosts the World Champs in Cairns in 2017…..Decisions!

Maui Golf So there is no sign of taking it easy yet… Keeping focussed and a goal is what life for me has been about and without it, there is a piece missing. Right now, it is time to chill, enjoy just riding and running for its sake and maybe even a casual swim in there too. Hey, I might have to work on my Golf skills too!

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GUESS WHO’S BACK?

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Sunday, 28th August: Victorian Duathlon Race 3, National Qualifier, 1st overall female!  BOOM!

It’s great to be back racing and even better to find some form to take home the win at Victorian Duathlon Series Race, Richmond. I left the racing scene completely in 2014/15. I had chronic achilles injury and ironically, as a coach, I didn’t look after this too well and ignored the pain for too long.  It was period where running was keeping me from sinking.  I had to stop completely and I had no real goals or drive to race again, so I wasn’t inclined to cross train or do something that felt less than that runner’s high.

I needed a goal, some sort of focus to just get training.  I’ve always been a racer, not the best trainer.  So the  challenge was set: Australian Xterra Championships, April 2016. I’d actually entered the year before, ended up in hospital, so no racing and was pretty shattered not to get to the startline. Come 2016, new goals, new mindset to racing and training: I’d found some contentment just riding in the bush on the mountain bike and entered a 100k race, the Otway Odyssey, just to get amongst the race atmosphere again and go to the best trails in Victoria.  It reignited the ever burning flame, to race again.  My preparation was underdone for Aus Xterra Championships, but I was determined to make it to the start and better still, the finish line.  With the support of my partner, Matt, and family at the finish line, it was an emotional day.  They also knew how big this was just to race again.  I placed 2nd in my category and was 2nd overall female (non professional).   That was the ticket to go to World Xterra Championships in Maui, October 2016.   I started training under the guidance and tailored training program from Aeromax’s Grant Giles.

It was a big step up from my soft, sleeping in, go for a half hour run or a casual ride to the cafe or brewery.  With Worlds now a reality and having raced for Australia 4 times, placing 4th and 5th, there is unfinished business.  I locked in a great sponsorship with Temple Brewery Company after a chance meeting at the Melburn Roobaix.   A really good fit given I am known to enjoy a crafty brew or 3 after a race!  Summit Cycles Fitzroy jumped on board and have kept my 3 bikes ticking over beautifully, provided expert set up and hooked up some great deals through their suppliers.  So the journey has begun, once again!!

The race on Sunday was a test of strength.  In my usual, maybe too casual style, I rocked up with a road bike, no race wheels or tri bars, racked it up next to Carbon TT, disc wheel set ups! IMG_0302

I backed myself to run pretty well, but I got it handed to me on the first run, when we set out at a cracking 3:25 pace.  I was 2nd into transition and rode pretty strong, trying to get a bit more aero, but I was regretting no race wheels! I got onto the final run with some chasing to do. Matt gave me the 20 sec split behind first, so it was game on. I visualised that this was the World Champs and how bad did I want to win. Well it worked, I hit the lead and brought it home.  In the grand scheme, not a big race, but a big mental boost and added a bit more fire to the eternal flame –“Soul Runner” #trailtomaui

Sydney to Surf…hardest conditions yet

I ventured to Sydney for the City to Surf this year. I recently discovered race bibs from 1990 onwards (that would be considered a collector’s item or simply just hoarding!).  I had skipped a few bibs recently, so it was time to add to the collection and a personalised one with seeded start, was certain to top the collection.

Seeded start!

To be positioned in the front row is both a blessing and a curse, because I went out like a Bolt, sitting in 2nd until 5km (not the plan pre-race!). I had good mileage in the legs but lacking the hill work, I knew I had to capitalise on the limited flat sections.  I quickly fell back into 5th and when my mate, Mitch, went past me wearing a Business Suit, I thought uh oh!  I got some form at the the top of Heartbreak Hill, where I witnessed a young guy lose his shoe! He contemplated for the next 400m, whether to go back and get it, but just kept on running! It was a good distraction, as by now we had hit furious head winds.  I tried to tuck in behind anyone, but came out to full force to grab cups from the drink stations.  It was hectic! The sight of Bondi Beach is a huge spur on, as too, the great crowds that line the course.

I finished in 51:27, 6th place and a minute PB, so all in all it was good, despite my hard out, blow up style of racing.

Next stop was the Sunshine Coast Marathon and Community Run.  It was a first time for Mooloolaba, my old stomping ground when I was a triathlete. I always look forward to returning, you can’t ocean views on a run and jumping in straight after! It was a magic few days, soaking up the view from the Mantra (massive thanks to the organisers and the hotel, it was just bliss!)  Race day was: blue skies and all smiles. I kept a big grin on to at least 3km, where I started to suffer in the heat and clinged onto 3rd place.  Surprisingly, my time was an equal personal best, so happy with the result.  A massive congrats to Adam Fitzy Fitzakerly, who aced his debut marathon with a win in 2:29!  It’s now time to regroup with Zatopek and National Track Series, the focus for Summer….but it will be tough, I can’t wait to race! Thanks to Wishing Photography  for the action shot:

Early stages of Sunshine Coast 10km

Finding form amongst Aussies off to Olympics!

I recently ventured to Sydney and I’ve finally managed to get it on paper (or web technically speaking!)……It was a big race in terms of the pedigree lining up. I would be in the company of 3 Olympians and Australian Representatives, taking on the Suncorp Bank Sydney Harbour 10km.  Due to my late decision to race, I sought advice from Gregor, my coach, as how to take on the challenge of 3 races in 3 weekends! His advice was simple, don’t race all three! It would mean mediocre results to race all three, just  focus on one. So the plan was: Gold Coast as a “tempo” run, then Sydney to be ‘an all out, go for broke race’ and Melbourne to be steady. The Sydney race attracted the big guns and as the media file went round on the email with everyone’s past results, I thought I’d scan through.  Let’s just say I was a little freaked out, feeling that I was going to be just making up numbers! By no means do I talk myself down, but realistically in a 2nd year back to running, I calculated that I was a good 3 mins off the top female runners over 10km!   I got through the Gold Coast, not feeling awesome, but I put that down to a night slept at a noisy backpacker and running 5km solid to the start line (to make it in time!!).  I had a really good week of training and as a confidence racer, that helps.  Arriving in Sydney, I had less than a dollar in my back account, talk about hungry to race and place! I knew top 10 would make get prize money, but ideally I wanted top 5. So how did I get this broke? Let’s just say , I am a spender on random things, bikes, old books, albums, vintage clothes (Op shops you will find me in absolute bliss!!).  Add to which, most runners have product sponsors, no cash, hence why they hold down jobs while racing professionally.  So Sydney on Saturday involved a light jog, a run technique session from a prize I gave out at Mini-Mos race, then media time.  So pretty busy, but good distraction.  I warmed up chatting with Marty Dent (off to the Olympics for Mens Marthon, go Marty!!) and felt pretty pumped. Gun goes and I am looking at 3 girls in front, holding just over 3min/km pace!! I went through close to 3:18, with Wes, I guy I coach by my side.  I felt good, like I had found that sweet spot of hard but efficient, a good rhythm.  I held position until 1 km to go. Just rounding under the Harbour Bridge and around some swanky hotel.  I had the “deepest fears, powerful beyond measure” in my head to stay strong!! I got pipped for 4th position but looked up to my absolute delight.. I had run 35mins!!! That was a 90sec PB, I was super stroked. More positively, was the volume still needs a lot of work on. I was running on good track speed, now it’s time for some endurance.  Lara Tamsett won, and in 2nd, Jess Trengrove.  She is another Marathoner off to the Olympics (it will only be her 2nd marathon), she is looking and feeling strong at this stage of her preparation. The mens race was Marty Dent, leading the way from Liam Adams and Russ Dessaix Chin.  Some great pics that wrap up one top weekend!

I met Gilly, pre race and chatted after, top Aussie!

Love when the finish line is in sight!

Ron Clarke, Warnie and Thorpie’s big shoe!

I recently spent time at the MCG Sport Museum, with former Olympian and Glenhuntly Aths man, Trevor Vincent.  He guided through a  quick tour of the place, looking at all themed areas, like “Olympics”, with medals, old shoes, and uniforms from Olympics that have passed.  I was like a kid in a lolly shop, so excited, heart racing and frothing at the mouth by the sight of my surroundings!  If I could nominate Heaven on Earth, it would be a beach and in 2nd place would be this MCG Sports Museum!  Interestingly, I went and saw Warnie (Shane Warne), not one of my favourite people to be honest.  However, he was set as a hologram with the lockers as a back drop, talking about career highs and lows.  My opinion has changed somewhat to recognise that he was a brilliant, fast and tactical thinker, within his trade of Cricket.  It made me think that some of the best in the world have personality traits that make them ‘invincible’.  I haven’t been number one in the world, however times I have won races, I certainly got such a buzz, as to do some pretty crazy stuff at after parties! There is a loss of in hibition when there is a feeling of high.  His life would have become one long after party, as always in the that adrenalin charged environment. No excuses for bad behaviour, but don’t you find it an interesting link in world’s best, acting out?  Hmm.  Moving along to Swimming, and to Ian Thorpe’s feet! I placed my shoe next his from the Olympics and two shoes could have fit in there! Amazing! I kicked a footy, I raced on a bike, listened to TV speak about his Olympic experience and met a fellow former distance runner, from NZ, Keith.  We chatted about methods of training and I listened intently, knowing these are men who have raced  in an era where Australia/NZ were at the forefront of distance running.  I was truly inspired and rode home very fast that day to put on my running shoes and RUN! ps. Thanks TV for asking Ron Clarke to sign my postcard of Ron holding the Olympic Torch, very special!

My work with Run Technique, you can check it out!

Yesterday I embarked on something different. Instead of the usual coaching session/workshop or seminar, I condensed it all to 2 hours, reduced the cost for all to attend, and donated $5 from every runner to “headspace”. headspace is a great initiative for providing support to 18-25 year olds experiencing mental health issues. The result: a […]

First season back on track: Olympic Trials

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2012 Melbourne Track Classic/ Olympic Trials Womens 5000m

This athletic’s season, was a fresh return to the track after a 12 year lay off.  It wasn’t exactly 12 years of bugger all, but in fact a busy and fairly successful time in triathlon.  I had no expectations coming back into track racing.  I had been doing events in triathlon ranging from 1hr to 4hr30, so to race events less then 20mins was totally different training.  Add to which, it is not what this body had adapted to, my whole physique was still carrying swimmer’s shoulders and cyclist’s quads!  (proof: on Facebook, my mate wrote “Quads” underneath me running on the track, not too offended Tim!).  If anything the goal in 2011/12 was to use running on the 400m track, as speed for road racing over 10km.  And race I did, actually over 20 of them in one summer season!  Over one week I managed to do 2 track races and 1 sprint triathlon, however the outcome the same every time: 2ND!! Maybe my success came from the pure love of running with a strong mind to win, even if the body on paper wasn’t ready to run that fast.  My first race back was a 1500m, I did it in 4:33, quicker then when I was 17 and racing track only.  So how did this happen?  The kick starter to returning to track was my coach, Gregor.  He got some speed in the old legs and importantly some strength.  He works hard and expects nothing less then 100% commitment.  I struggle with that, only because I love running at different places, not very structured and occasionally I jump on a moutain bike.  Plus I was now juggling two jobs but lucky enough they were in running coaching and retail.  I also spent the past few years studying running, as in biomechanics, strength and coaching.  It has helped “feel” my running and try to correct the weaknesses. The best teacher though is experience (of 20 years racing) and my coach! There is a certain greatness with Gregor and his squad.  Himself a former elite distance runner for Poland, he had different ideas and focusses on strength and speed throughout the season.  Falls Creek Camp in January definitely planted the seed to train well.  I unfortunately hurt my foot jumping off crates at Christmas (yeah I should grow up!) but got in cycling, running during the 2.5 weeks.  They paid off with a start in the Melbourne Track Classic/Olympic Trials were in March.  The women’s 5000m was 8:32pm (as per programme), and I was super pumped! (I’m in the blue singlet, next to Georgie Clarke).  Maybe it was the caffeine, or the fact that I was able to race again at a high level, an Olympic Trials.  The last time was in 1999, when I was a Junior Distance Runner.  13 years later, but somewhat stronger, mind and body, I stood on the blue track soaking up the lights talking to other girls racing.  My goal simply hoping to crack out a personal best (PB).  I had around sub 17mins in my head, but not sure if I had the volume to back that up.  The gun went and the pacer was aiming for “A” qualifier i.e. 3:05/km, very quick!  I hung on for as long as possible and as a few dropped out, the field split up.  Emily Brichacek went on to win comfortably from Lara Tamsett, and I was just super stoked I didn’t get lapped! My official time 16:56.43, I’d cracked 17 and that gave me more motivation to keep training and see what comes of it. I have nothing to lose, as now I run coach for my career, so it’s all part of the apprenticeship. Come what may!