Months ago, when I first arrived in New Zealand, I signed up for the XTERRA Motatapu as a goal race to train for in my first “Double Summer” (back to back summer seasons). I Imagined quiet hours of intervals in Christchurch, hammering out the work needed to get me to the start line. But when our plans to stay in Christchurch changed, I was faced with the challenge of training while traveling around New Zealand. What seemed impossible, soon became a beautiful part of the journey.
I swam in beautiful lakes, oceans and dozens of pools, it’s a very cool way to train. Check out my other post about making the most of swim training on the road here.
Race Day: The swim is my biggest struggle. The gun went off, we stampeded into the water and I hammered through my first hundred meters. Panic set in strong. I either wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was or these racers were really fast. Either way, that was a slow, zig-zagged effort.
Mountain Bike (47k):
Of all disciplines I felt really strong on the bike. We bagged huge days in the last few months. From bike packing the Saint James Trail to the point to point Wakamarina, to Rotorua heaven, my legs felt strong. My only note for the coming season, I need to put more structure into training on the bike. Yep, Intervals…
Race Day: The Motatapu trail itself is closed to the public outside of the race, so I rode the 47k blind. Watching others do a fair bit of blind racing lately, (Kate, Shane, Shaun and Marissa - You have my utmost respect) this was by far the most fun part of the race. The terrain was fairly consistent, gorgeous and fast rolling. A serious highlight was the challenge of the river crossings. We did dozens of them. Some up to 50 meters long, some fork stanchions deep. Because my swim was so mediocre, I left everything out on the trail trying to gain back time on the bike. I passed so many people that I rode the last few kilometres on sheer adrenaline.
Trail Run (15k):
Training for the trail run, just as with the other disciplines, was difficult. In traditional training most sessions are some form of interval work but travel requires creativity. I turned most hikes into runs with scenic exploring missions.
Race Day: Shortly after I made the switch over to my trail runners, I rounded the corner out of transition, hit Tobin’s Track climb and suddenly felt awful. Legs were dead, totally out of gas. A few women passed me. There goes podium and here comes the dark moments of my race. Should I go on? Could I go on? I started to walk. I weighed my options as I slogged up the steep track. Pulling up the feeling of my first DNF, from a bike race last year, I decided to keep going - even if I had to walk the whole thing. I hated the idea of not finishing a race. From walk, to slow jog to decent pace, I tackled the full 15k. The views were just as stunning as the bike and the trail was significantly more challenging. On more than one occasion I used rope or railing to traverse the trail, scaled ladder-like climbs and of course sloshed through a second lap of deep river crossings.
Sunburnt, soaked from river crossings and totally exhausted, I ran the last 1/2 kilometre with my dear friend Shaun (Frysie), nearly in tears of joy to be so close to finishing. He peeled out then Marissa and my partner Dan met me with open arms on the other side of the finish arches. What a stupendous support crew. The Motatapu was an incredible experience and has me hungry to try more like it in the future!