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.

Xterra Philippines 1st

Last weekend saw the start of my 2011 international campaign, with the first of 4 races in Asia, and the first ever running of Xterra Philippines.

The whole race was a fantastic spectacle, from being greated like royalty at the airport in Cebu by local band, to being putup in one of the best hotels i've ever stayed in, an amazing pre race dinner hosted by the Governer of the Province with 200 local dancers putting on an amazing show in local dress, and finally the race itself, where the crowds lined the roads like you see in a mountain stage of the Tour de France (chanting songs and waving flags).
Competitors came from Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States to make it a truely international event.
The race started with a 1.5-kilometer swim in the Camotes Sea near the century old Liloan lighthouse, followed with a 32-kilometer mountain bike and finished with a 10-kilometer trail run through thousands of cheering spectators fronting the San Fernando Rey Parish Church and Papa Kits Marina where we ran on a 200m bamboo walkway above the water.
I was 5th out of the water behind some top local swimmers, onto the bike I was anxious to build as big a lead as possible because I have missed 10 days of run training trying to rest my calf from a recent injury. This plan worked perfectly and although I could still feel my calf injury on the run I was able to jog the run at 80% effort and hopefully not do any additional damage. The 2nd place male pro was the current Philippines 70.3 champion Neil Catiil. The womens race was won by World Champion Shonny Vanlandingham of the USA, ahead of European Champion Renata Bucher of Switzerland.
The race has already received a lot of publicity with 20+ journalists at the pre and post race press conferences. Thanks to an enthusiastic team of local volunteers this race will go from strength to strength in the next few years I'm sure.