Xterra has always been a favourite race of mine. The vibe is great, the course is super technical and whenever you are struggling – there are great views.
This was my 4th Xterra – but my first after joining MTD and doing a spot of real triathlon training. I can certainly confirm that if you are fit and prepared, racing is SO much better.
Previously I’d always used triathlons as a way to get fit for rowing or trail running etc etc – but it really does make a difference if you do triathlon training for triathlons and thanks to Kent and Claire’s guidance, I had a super race.
My swim wasn’t anything to write home about, but at least I came out of the water in the top half of the field – which makes a difference on this bike course. My first transition was super speedy, for me at least, (someone who used to faf with suncream and chatty supporters) and I was excited to get going on the bike.
The Grabouw Xterra is famous/infamous for its mountain bike course, with some really tricky sections and the added difficulty of being stuck behind all the ‘’ace” swimmers on the single track. It made a huge difference riding the route the week before – as for once, I could actually pace myself properly and knew how many climbs I still had to get over before the end.
As those of you I’ve chatted with during road rides know .. I love mountain biking and was very excited to do some “real” riding on this course. I was pretty far back at the beginning of the ride and knew that I’d have to race as hard as I could to steal as many places as possible before the run – where I normally struggle up the relentless hills. I went out hard and was luckily slowed down on some of the early uphill single track–which forced a bit of recovery time. I also passed a good mate whom I wasn’t expecting to, and that added a bit of extra fuel to my legs.
After the initial bunching the rest of the course was relatively clear. I managed to really push on the road sections and got myself into good positions for the single track. I was like a little kid on the downhills with the hugest grin on my face, trying to jump over anything I could find – it was a strange feeling being properly prepared for a race! Miraculously I had no mechanicals, even though I was incredibly demanding of my poor gears (Thanks Brett!).
In the last few metres of the bike with the “you’ve definitely gone out to hard demons” closing in, I passed Robin Williams, another mate, and someone who I really wanted to try and challenge. This gave me an additional boost. She is a superb runner though (I had been properly schooled the last time we started a run leg together with me having a spectacular blow out) .. and I knew I had to be wiser this time around. Although I passed Robs shortly after transition, I held back for the first 1-2 kms of the run which just what my legs needed. I then had to pick up the pace (expect on those horrible hills) as I was sure Robs would be hot on my heels. In the last few kms, I put in a really hard push, thanks to all those intervals, and finished a few minutes ahead of her. I was very chuffed as I had managed to claim the 10th spot in the ladies category and 1st in my age group.
It was really inspirational to come in and see that the winning lady, Flora Duffy had absolutely rocked a 7th place overall finish – and supremely “chicked” all but 6 guys.
All in all it was a good day out and great to have the MTD team racing and cheering along the course. I think the bug has bitten – and although I was more than an hour behind the winner it’s a lot closer than I was last time. I may even start calling myself a triathlete.