At international sports meets they often talk of the loathed "wooden" medal. 4th place. The dreaded position where the athlete is close, but not close enough and misses the silverwear. That was us on Saturday, as the our efforts at the 10th edition of XTERRA NZ resulted in a pair of 4th places. Dissapointed? In some repects we are; but in the context of the events we are really pretty stoked.
The swim start is always chaos. Hidden amongst that washing machine deep inside the mess, both of us struggled a little this year. Nic has worked hard on the swim and her time showed that improvement. Mine is back to where it has been, but on Saturday I struggled with the "violence" of the swim. Normally calm and composed I'll admit I got a little flustered. Struggled to get into any rythym, and was a tad dissapointed to give up 3 1/2min to eventual winner Ben Allen (and more than 2 to arch rival and good mate Scott Thorne). We left ourselves some work to do.
Giving up those sort of margins to an athlete like Ben Allen, or Jacqui Slack in the womens; you had better have a phenomenal Bike/Run up your sleeve. Ours turned out pretty good, but not quite enough. Going to work early on Hill Rd I was delighted at the forward progress I was making. While I may have missed the summers racing, key workouts in the last 3 weeks have brought us to speed at the right time. By the turn it to Billy T I was up to 7th and thus gave me a relatively clear run at the single track. The arm held up ok and with only one crash forcing me to pull my head in I rode through the field and off the bike in 3rd.
I have to praise the courtesy of the guys I caught who made no fuss of giving me room to pass and get on with the job. Quite the contrast of what happens back in the field. From all reports it was quite frustrating at times for Nic. What is it about middle aged men that makes them refuse to pull over for women... when clearly if they caught you, you must be going slower? Pull over, let them pass, then try to follow. You might learn something. It just makes the bike splits of both Nic and Annika Smail all that more impressive.
The run is never easy. Nic had ridden up to 2nd, just 40sec off the lead and the bit between her teeth. She ran strong, and was looking great until 2.5km from the end an ever tightening calf gave way. She struggled to the finish but couldn't hold out a charging Annika, and Lizzie Orchard. Gutted at what might've been. But philosophical that she is back to being competitive at the highest level.
3rd off the bike with Graeme O'Grady for company. 2min+ down on Scott, and 1min30 behind Ben Allen. I went out hard, figuring an all or nothing mentality. Having torn a calf muscle 3 weeks earlier and therefore not training (the run) in the build up I had no idea what to expect. While Graeme dissapeared into the distance I just foccussed on turnover and technique. I didn't feel I was moving that quick, but my gasps for oxygen indicated otherwise. 2.5km to go and I glimpsed Scott. Gaining steadily I just hoped he woudn't see me coming, I got to about 30m of him before he glimsed me and surged with 500m to go. I tried to respond but started stumbling... forced to regroup and hang on for 4th. The fastest Bike/Run combo of the race. 11sec back from 3rd, and approx 2:30 down on the win. It wasn't such a bad day.
On paper, my worst result in 6 years. The reality? Given the depth of the field and the injuries of the last few months, it was probably one of best performances yet in my 8yrs of XTERRA NZ. Looking at splits Nic's result (even with the injury) would have won her the race in 2009 (last time we raced this version of the course). Great to see the improvement in the quality of the athletes taking on the challenge.
Of course one of the highlights for us of this 10th anniversay XTERRA NZ, was the launch of Black Dirt Racing as a wider team. It was awesome all the support we got and the compliments on the concept and the brand. We were certainly noticed. Great to be able to help our mates, and a huge congrats to our team mates on their results. And we certainly enjoyed more than a few well earned Crouchers that evening
The full list being... Cabin 4th, John Gray 8th (7th Pro), Matt Randall 15th (2nd in 30-34), Tony the Tiger Keith 22nd (2nd in 35-39), and of course Nic in 4th. Not sure whats next for the team. But rest assured it'll stay true to our values of enjoying what we do. Until next time....