Sunday, 15 September 2013

Xterra England 2013 2nd place

Sorry for the lack of blogging in the last couple of years.

This race was my world champs of 2013.

I have lived about 3 miles from the course since I was about 4 years old, until recently when I moved 25 miles away in neighbouring Berkshire.

Since the demise of the UK round in Wales, I have worked with several potential organisers to get an event back in this country, and I had almost given up hope when Mark contacted me and tried to sell the Cranleigh idea. He didn't need to sell it, I was already in!

Yesterday it all came together and now the stress and excitment has worn off I feel quite emmotional.

It was a funny race for me, and in many ways not suited to my strengths.

The swim was about 1700m which is  200m long, which being my weakness, meant I had even more of a catch up job to do than usual. Having Richard Stannard swimming with Ben Allen just increased the speed at the front and they both started the bike with over 4 minutes lead on me.

I didn't immediately feel good on the bike and the Frenchman Francois Carloni who exited the swim with me pulled away at the start of the bike. It took me a while to get me spanky white brand new Lake shoes tightened and get in the zone. I decided to race in my Lake aero helmet as we were getting round the 15km lap in about 35 minutes, given all the slow technical sections this meant there was a lot of the course where we were doing over 30km/h which is road bike speeds and aerodynamics come into play. Even if it didn't help it was a pschological boost and a talking point. As I found out later, the seconds were going to matter!

I caught Francois halfway round lap 1 and we worked together well, catching more riders in front of us. Then we were caught ourselves by a flying spaniard Hector Guerra (the current European series leader). We tried to work as a trio, carving our way through the lapped riders, who were very courteuous, thanks everyone! The only riders ahead of us now were Ben Allen leading and the talented cross country runner Yeray Luxem from Belgium.

Towards the end of the bike Hector attacked from our group, Francois crashed behind me on a fast slippery corner and injured himself, leaving me on my own and struggling a bit.

I composed myself, necked a Maxifuel Viper gel and tried back in a decent pedalling cadence on the Rotor rings. I could see Hector ahead and he had caught Yeray. I don't know if his earlier attack had taken some of his energy or if he was saving himself for the run, but I started clawing my way back. I took some big risks in the final technical section and manged to get with the duo as we entered T2 for the start of the run.

Yeray had a great transition and set off like a rocket, soon out of sight.

I had been struggling with a niggling achillies injury for the last week (huge thanks to my physio's Care for Health for helping get it better) and hadn't run at all for 6 days. It was either going to be a fantastic run on fresh legs or a limp to the finish. Luckily it was the former.

Hector sat behind me most of the first lap of the 2 lap run. I knew I couldn't be running that bad if he wasn't running away from me. Then on the major climb he decided to go and I had no answer. On the rutted descent that followed I started gaining on him again and caught him and then without really attacking I had a small gap. As I started lap 2 my parents shouted I had 30m on Hector. This put me in 3rd on the podium. I had given up on catching Yeray and he was totally out of sight, but i just ran on fear of being caught and losing my podium position.

As I approached the final km of the race, I was feeling safe in my 3rd place, but I didn't let up for a second. I had no idea that Yeray was having a melt down ahead. I exited the final wooded section and there was was, I had to do a double take, as he was only 50m ahead with 400m to the line. Unfortunately the Belgiun supporters let him know I was coming and I couldn't use the element of surprise. What I did have was the home crowd down the finishing straight, which seemed to go on for ever, and I needed it to as I inched closer to him. I don't think I've ever had such support and such a dramatic finish as I collapsed across the line to claim second place.

I was so relieved than I had been able to run and had been in great shape, and that the event had been a success with worthy winners in both Ben Allen and Jacquie Slack. Now the relief is turning to happiness as I look back on a fanstic weekend.

Please do check out the TV coverage on Sunday 22nd September on channel 4, and then repeats on both Sky Sports and Eurosport.

Thanks as ever to all sponsors that let me compete at this level. Hopefully the coverage of all of your products on these TV show will repay your support this year!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Challenge Henley Iron distance event 10th pro

After a 3 month build up and countless miles training on the bike, run and in the water, it was finally race day.

Apart from a stressful last couple of weeks trying to sort out an ankle injury, the build up had been great, I know i am in great form currently in all disciplines.

The support i've had in the last week has been amazing. Care for Health in Godalming have had me in for Physio, Chiro' and taping me up to keep me running on an almost daily basis. Pro feet in Fulham were making me new orthotics on the Thursday before the race. My buddie's Sam and Cozza have been massaging and generally putting me in all sorts of pain getting my flexibility right. From not being able to run for an hour 2 weeks before the event I got round a marathon injury free on the day. Thanks everyone, just sorry I didn't get the result I felt i should have given the shape I was in.

I had a pretty good swim, coming out of the water in 55 minutes in a nice group with various other pro's and in 15th place overall. However in T1 I could already tell how cold I was, I could barely remove my wetsuit and get my arm warmers on.

Onto the bike and it took me 2 miles to get my gloves on, my fingers and forearms were so cold. I didn't want to drink as the cold fluid going down my throat was chilling me from the inside too. I was having trouble eating as each bar or gel was taking a minute to open as my hands were so cold.

For the first hour I rode pretty strongly and kept the leaders at a similar gap, and tried to hold the gap to a pack of 6 riders a few minutes ahead of me. I was going through the field and into 9th place. I started to force food into me, knowing that I needed the calories. Nearing half distance I faded slightly and the power wasn't there, and although I carried on gaining places I knew things weren't going right. I had been going so much better in training.

Amazingly, when I hit the run I felt a new lease of life. I think that suddenly my arms had warmed up and I was generating some heat again. My first lap I felt good, and i was running past the 1/2 Ironman competitors like they were standing still. I was eating at every feed station and keeping the energy coming in, however starting the second run lap my legs felt heavier. I thought I'd run through it and get better again, but it wasn't happening, and eventually I was just strugglnig to put one foot in front of the other.

I was confident of running sub 3 hours for the marathon off the bike, having run a 78 minute half marathon off the bike a few weeks ago and felt fresh at the end, but in the end people were coming past me left, right and centre. Luckily all on lower laps or on relay teams.

How I only lost 3 places I'll never know, but I finished 10th pro and 11th overall. Despite a 3hr50min marathon!! Given that is my first ever marathon, I guess that's my current PB!

I feel a bit better about the result today, yesterday I didn't answer my phone, texts or emails all evening I was so upset.

I think I'm trying to do these long distance races with the short distance attitude, and for an olympic distance event or even a half IM, you're only in the water for twenty something minutes and don't lose as much heat and attacking the bike warms you back up. Not so in a full distance.

The future.... Well I'm certainly not desperate to sign up for another IM just yet, and if I do, it will be some where warm. Being very lean (especially at the moment) all my best results have come in hot climates and I've never raced well in the cold. If i recover well in the next few weeks, i'll look to race the Xterra worlds in Maui.

Thanks again for all the support from sponsors, friends and family. Sam

Friday, 29 July 2011

Full view||Back to messagesMarlow triathlon 1st and Alp D'Huez Long distance tri (14th overall and first Brit)‏

It's been a long time since my last report, but i've been busy racing.

Since Brazil I had a 2 week break and then I did a couple of Wednesday evening races in the F3 series. Where I got a win and a second place.

I then did an Olympic distance race, The Marlow triathlon, the following weekend, which is becoming a big event and went well with another win.

This Wednesday I did Alpe D'Huez long course triathlon as part of my Challenge Henley training.

The distances were 2.2km Swim, 112km Bike (over 3 major Cols, including Alp D'Huez at the end) and finishing with a Half Marathon at altitude.

With 2000 competitors, including many international pro's it was a true quality field. I started pretty steadily after having a bad time 2 years ago and blowing up at 4.5hrs.

This year I got to the foot of Alp D'Huez in 30th place and feeling really strong, I then threw caution to the wind and climbed into 14th place by the top of the climb.

On the run I held this position to finish top Brit and boosted my confidence with a 6hr plus race, 6 weeks before my first Iron distance event.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Xterra Brazil (Amazon adventure) 3rd

Sorry for so long without a race report. I have been training hard since the Corsica Xtri trying to get ready for Xterra Brazil which will be the end of part one of my season, before a short mid season break on a beach in Rio this week, and then onto Long distance road training for Alpe D'Huez tri and Challenge Henley.

Anyway, onto Brazil and in particular Manaus in the heart of the Amazon.

It certainly been like no other race i've ever done.

This is the race that put's the 'X' into Xterra!

The race wouldn't be put on without the support of CIGS, these are the specialist Jungle unit of the Brazilian army, and known as the most feared army for jungle warfare in the world, many other countries send their troops to CIGS for training. You don't mess with them.

We rocked up on Wednesday before the race on Saturday. As a foreign pro, you expect to help with the odd media commitment especially when the very kind organisers are paying for your hotel and air fare. So on the Thursday I was asked if I wanted to play 'a small game against a team from the army'. Hoping it wouldn't involve physical contact I agreed and met at the agreed time.... I'm not sure if some thing was lost in translation or they thought I'd say 'no' if i knew what it involved, but over the next 2 days I got involved in a televised game show competition with the army against Xterra athletes on a Brazilian TV channel watched by 30 million viewers! Not the best preperation, as we were being whisked off into the jungle at 6am each day and missing meals left, right and centre the day before the race, but certainly an experience, which included triathlon disciplines along with tree climbing, lighting fires and cooking eggs and also eating various grubs and beetles! I guess it made good TV!

Not knowing Portugese hasn't helped out here and there have been many frustrating days when we've felt totally lost, trying to explain simple things. We are also trying to get used to Brazilian time, which is a very loose concept, which means what you're arranging certainly won't happen before the quoted hour, probably 1-2 hours later and possibly not at all.

The best way to deal with BST (Brazilian Sort of Time) is to embrace it with a simple guessing game. Take last nights dinner, organised for 8:30pm. I guessed 8:45, Susan (my wife) guessed 8:50 and we left in the shuttle at 9:45pm, so she won.

Onto the race.....We were up at 3:30am! To meet at the CIGS base at 4am. The army organised these timings, so it ran pretty much on time. From the base we went on 6 coaches with fully millitary escorts and road blocks (yes serious, like a presidential convoy!, possibly not neccisary at 4am?) to a small village on the river Amazon. From here we got on Army Mosquito rapid deployment boats and took off down the river as the sun started rising. Amazing stuff!

The race was held at a special operations base, only reachable by boat, deep in the jungle and our bikes were transported in the day before.

We had a breakfast put on by the army at 6am, and the race started at 8am. Some journalists and adventurous athletes had gone for the full jungle experience, with a training course on survival and sleeping in hamocks etc.

The Brazilians are a damn fit bunch and take their sport pretty seriously. UK triathletes look fitter than the average guys on the street, but these Brazilians were super tanned, not an ounce of fat and really looked like they knew what they were doing! They have a very well supported Xterra national series in Brazil which has been going for several years.

As the gun went, they didn't mess around. It was a total bun fight on the swim with people pulling at your legs, trying to swim over you, the thought of the Pyranna's and Aligators that live in the waters didn't help either! The swim was led out by one of the relay teams that were using an Olympic swimmer! Next out of the water was Ben Allen from Australia who already made his mark last weekend in his first European Xterra with a podium place ahead of most of the favorites. I had a terrible swim and came out of the water in 13th place in the individuals with several relay members ahead of me too, most worryingly I was 5 minutes down and it wasn't going to plan.

Onto the bike and I was on a mission and halfway round the 30km bike I caught up to the 2nd place athlete, local Brazilian pro Felip Moletta, who is winning many of the Brazilian races and had a top 30 at the worlds last year in Maui. Felip obviously had the bit between his teeth in his home race and jumped on my back wheel in my slip stream. I was left with the difficult dilema of whether to tow him round to the end of the bike and keep chasing Ben or to play the tactical game and race for 2nd place and make Filip work with me. In the end I ended up towing him round and we'd gained 2 minutes on Ben, but it wouldn't be enough starting the run 3 minutes back still.

I felt great for the first 4km of the run and got away from Filip and thought I had 2nd in the bag, but the extreme heat and humidity was sapping my strength and Filip got back to me. With only 1km to go he made his move and i couldn't respond and I was left with 3rd place on the podium.

What a race though, you can't replicate it any where. After the race we visited the local tourist sights such as the meeting of the rivers, and saw Anaconda's, Sloth's and the like. It's been a great experience, but i'm looking forward to rest week on a beach in Riio and then the start of my long distance campaign.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Spring mission complete Xterra Guam 1st. 4 wins out of 4 races‏

I'll be brief after my epic last race report, and also because the after party starts in 30 minutes, and i've changed my flight home to be there as I was originally flying home tonight.

After my crash last week and 3 weeks of pretty intense hard racing, I chilled a bit more here in Guam in the build up to my final early season race.

I didn't have a bad swim, exiting the water in about 6th place I think, and ahead of my main competition, rival Takahiro Ogasawara from Japan.

In Saipan I beat Oga' faily comfortably as he faded on the run badly. I set off on the bike a little bit complacent and got into what i thought was the lead, only to find out that I was 2 minutes down on a relay team with Guam Olympian and good friend Derrick Horton, Derrick had just returned from Australia trying to qualify for London 2012 Mountain bike and road race. I chased and caught Derrick at the midway point. Luckily this hare to chase mean't I stayed ahead of Oga'.

When i returned to transition 2 and started the run, i was amazed to see not Derrick behind me, but a fast moving Oga', probably only 2 minutes behind. The run is pretty fast for the first half with road and easy trails, then it descends a waterfall literally and follows a rocky river down stream, through bamboo forests, and then finishes skirting a beach to the finish line.

For the 2nd week in a row, I had to run really hard, especially for the first 4km. Luckily I felt ok and when i glanced back Oga' wasn't in sight. I eventually finished in 2hrs 30 mins, which was a couple of minutes quicker than last year but less than 3 minutes ahead of Oga'.

I'm looking forward to few weeks off racing now and getting back to my normal life.

Thanks for all the support this season. I have loads of footage of me with all your logos and products in news papers and on TV all over this part of the world. I'll scan some things in an email when i return to the UK and forward it around.

As an aside i thought i'd mention Mike Tree's charity which is raising money for the disaster in Japan. Tonight we are raising some money at the prize presentation for this great cause. Check out the site and please be generous.


Sunday, 20 March 2011

Tagaman middle distance triathlon 1st

The 3rd race in my Pacific tour was always going to be the hardest and the conditions we raced in weren't going to make it any easier. There was no question of not starting though. I was here to defend my title from last year, and also win the combined prize for the fastest combined time for Xterra Saipan and Tagaman, which is worth an extra $500US and 7 nights accommodation and Gold card treatment at the exclusive Pacific Islands Club resort. No storm was going to keep me from the buffet here in 2012!

I was awake most of the night before with a tropical storm blowing through the island, the noise of the rain and wind shaking our bedroom as we tried to sleep.

The main competition was likely to come from the Korean contingent who had brought 60 athletes and 12 professionals.

The swim started at 6am and immediately the ITU guys smashed it off the front of the pack like rockets. I was in all sorts of trouble in the strong current, and lost 3 minutes to the leaders in the 1st 1100m lap and a further 4 minutes on the 2nd lap.

Onto the bike and i'd gambled on using a disc wheel as the wind didn't seem too strong on the south side of the Island. After the first 10km start loop I had pulled back 1.5 minutes on the leaders but still lay 6 minutes down with 50km to go. I was frantically trying to do the math's in my head to work out if i'd hit the front before starting the run.

I'd had a really good running week in the week leading up to Tagaman, with 2 track sessions, a long run and a great 'Hash' run with the locals. This was making up for lost training with my recent injuries, but I was feeling stronger each session and my confidence was coming back.

Back on the bike ride I passed the point where i took the lead last year in 6th place and with no one even in sight on the straight road ahead. By this point the rain was pouring and the roads which are made of coral were getting very slippery. I didn't want to take any risks on the descents coming up at the North end of the Island and needed to make contact before then. On the 1km long climb at 35km I saw what i thought were the leaders with 4 riders tackling the slopes ahead of me, I worked hard and caught them all on the climb believing I was in the lead. The next descent i took at almost walking pace, so as not to crash. Approaching the furthest part of the course at 'bird island' I had a shock when i saw another rider coming towards me, possibly a minute ahead still. I work hard up the next climb from 'grotto' but still couldn't get him in my sights. With only a short super fast 35mph tail wind section back to the run start I did not have much time to reel him in.

The final dead turn was at 'Bansai cliffs' named after the Japanese soldiers and civilians who committed suicide here in the 2nd world war rather than being captured by the american troops. Coming down the hill towards the turn the wind was howling off the sea and with my disc wheel i was having trouble keeping the bike in a straight line. Rather than get the extra stability from holding the end of the handlebars, I kept in an aerodynamic tuck on the tri-bars, and then another gust hit me and i felt the whole back of the bike leave the ground and the next second I was sliding down the road on my head and back. Without the protection from my Limar aero helmet I wouldn't have got up again. I remember thinking how far I slid! Amazingly my bike was still pretty much in one piece, with a bent USE Tula bar extension and a few scratches. My skin suit was badly ripped on the left thigh and my brand new Bont shoes had lost a lot of Carbon. I got up and continued to the astonishment of the crowd watching, but i was pretty shaken and didn't feel safe riding on the aerobars all the way to Transition 2, so i lost even more time on the leader riding conservatively.

Starting the run I was 1.5 minutes down on the lead, with another 3 Korean pro's within 2 minutes of me. I had planned to put on socks if time permitted but in this case there certainly wasn't time, blisters would be a small problem compared to the mess of the rest of my body. Fuelled by adrenaline I threw on my Mizuno Wave Ronin 3 shoes, and rushed out of transition only to do 2 steps before a searing pain shot through my knee. I screamed in pain and hobbled into a walk as i reassessed the situation. I had almost an hours lead in the double competition as luck would have it as the other Xterra podium athletes had returned to Japan. How far were they behind me? How long would it take me to hobble 15km? How much did I want another year of PIC hospitality? As I worked out the math's yet again I realised that the pain had eased, so i started to try to jog again, I felt stiff and seizing up but not the searing pain when i took the first step.

Maybe i could run properly? 1/2 a mile into the run I passed Susan (my wife) and she shouted that i was 1 minute 50 back. however i was running light on my feet and actually feeling damn good. All i was thinking was technique and breathing.... Keep on your toes, fast leg cadence, relax the upper body..... At the 5km marker I was given another time check of 1 minute 2 seconds. He was now in my sights and at the turn around I used my watch and clocked the gap at 30 seconds. I smiled and did my 'I'm not hurting face' as he came past me in the other direction. I don't know if this psychological trick was going to work but it was worth a try. 2km later I took the lead and accelerated slightly so he couldn't get on my heels. As I approached the short finishing loop I was so relieved at the eventful day I was having, that i started celebrating a bit too early. Susan then told me that another of the Koreans was only 20 seconds behind. The job wasn't done yet but it was one of those rare running days when i always felt i had another gear if needed, so I got my focus back and finished the job off, winning by a minute or so at the end, taking my 3rd race in successive weeks and the PIC competition too.

Next week sees the final race in my Pacific tour with Xterra Guam, but for now I'm trying to grow my skin back and relax after a hectic day yesterday. Let's start worrying about Guam on Thursday....

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Xterra Saipan 1st

The race was over shadowed and dominated by the news of the earth quake and subsequent Tsunami in nearby Japan.

At 7:01pm the night before the race, the Tsunami was due to hit us, Hotels evacuated and everyone was phoning each other and panicing and making plans and Xterra cancelled the trail run.

Luckily the geographical features surrounding the Island took the force out of the wave and life continued pretty much as normal.

At the start of swim they changed the direction of the course due to the unusual current that morning. Having swum at that beach many times i had never seen anything like it. The sea changed each lap too, with the current totally changing direction. The spectators witnessed the sea receeding before large waves hit the shore, like mini Tsunami's which were undoubtably caused by the earthquake.

I had a reasonable swim exiting the water in 3rd place and as first male pro. Since the Philippines I have had a really bad stomach from bacteria in some dodgy ice which a few of us put in our drinks. I expected to be ill for 24hrs, but 6 days later I was in panic mode in the pharmacy trying to buy anything that might keep food in me.

With runner up for the last 2 years candian 'Mike Vine' absent, my biggest challenger was likely to be 'Oga-san' from Japan, who i have had severals battles with in the past at both Xterra Japan and Saipan.

With a lead out of the swim I tried to push home the advantage early and get 'out of sight out of mind'. I increased my lead to 3 minutes half way round the bike lap and finished the lap with a 7 minute lead. However I think i'd gone too hard, my legs were like jelly as i started the run and I knew my body wasn't absorbing the food as it should.

Halfway round the run and i was light headed and having trouble focusing on where i wanted to put my feet. Given the technical run course in Saipan, which goes through caves, down rocky gullys (you wouldn't walk down!), through dense jungle and bamboo forest and then finally finishes with a mile on a strength sapping soft sand beach, I could really do with having my faculties about me if I didn't want to end up in A and E like some of the other competitors.

I stopped at feed stations a bit longer to take on fluids and walked the trecherous sections, which wasn't much slower and gave a chance to recover. In the end I needn't have bothered as 'Oga' was having an even worse run and had been caught by the top 3 Pro women on the run. I won comfortably in the end in a slower time than last year but a win never the less.

Next week is Tagaman road triathlon, so I've got a week to get back on my Cannondale Slice Time trial bike and get used to the position and also to get back running, now my calf is totally healed.