19 April 2009

Disappointing effort at Xterra

The placing tells a disappointing story.

40th of 46 in the open men category or 86th of 111 men overall.

Setting up pre race.

I was reasonably confident going into the race, a 26 km Mountain Bike Race through the famed Whakarewarewa Forest, at Rotorua and was being raced as part Xterra festival. I hadn't done a huge amount of mileage on the bike in training, but in recent weeks and had increased my distances. I no illusions of posting a stunning result but I did think I could post a respectable result.

The one area that I was light on was actual off road training in true mountain bike trails. Only two rides in the last two months, one of around 20 km. I wasn't too concerned at this as I thought I has coped reasonably well on that ride. I was more concerned with spending ample time on the bike and riding some hills once a week to build strength hill climbing.

The race started near the shore of Rotorua's Blue Lake and we were straight away climbing back up the hill by road for perhaps a mile before heading into the forest. I placed my self near the back of the field at the start and settled into an easy pace for the first mile, feeling pretty comfortable going up the hill (again I did most of my training in road).


We entered the forest and the track was now a rough and rocky but flat 4wd track. Though wary of the loose surface I was able to maintain my position through this section of the trail.

It was not long before we came to our first climb of the day. This hill was one of those demoralising hills that never seemed to end. Aptly named Hill Road, it snaked its way skywards, twisting and turning, as all the while you hoped that just around the next corner it would be over.

Ahead of me other riders were already walking their bikes a sure sign that others were too feeling some pain. Subconsciously I think I must have taken that as a sign that it was alright to do the same, as before long I too found myself walking up the hill. Thinking back now I must have only been climbing for minutes and it frustrates me that I gave in so early, perhaps only ten minutes into the race, and lacked the fight to continue riding up this hill.

Eventually the 4wd track linked with a single dirt track but the climb continued onwards and upwards through the Redwoods, via a series of switchbacks. I managed to get back on the bike temporarily through this section but still fatigued from the walk up the hill I was in no shape to push the pace and was again walking before I reached the top. I enjoyed the chance to regain my breath while negotiating the tight and technical downhill section that followed.

Photo by Rengber
The terrain of the Whakarewarewa forest, with its huge hill climbs and long challenging downhills, is so different to what we have at Woodhill in Auckland which though also forested is much more gently rolling terrain with small climbs and downhills and all on a nice sandy base.

Once on the flat again I soon caught two speedsters who had zoomed past me on the downhill. The flat soon gave may to another hill and the two in front were soon walking. Being a single track and still in no mood to try a passing manoeuvre I also elected to walk it.

Before long the single track linked with a 4wd track again. Straight away I was on my bike and from that point I didn't look back. I rode strongly all the way to the top of this climb, picking up a few other riders as I went. Over the other side and it was another enjoyable downhill which soon gave way to a fast section of flat quite open trail.

As I reached the shores of the Green Lake, I knew now I could push on to the finish and I and continued to make good time along this flat and open section of forestry road. I then successfully negotiated the final climb over the hill back to the southern end of the Blue Lake after which it was all downhill to the finish at the northern end of the lake.

My finish time was 2:08:50 which placed me 86th of 111 men overall or 40th of 46 in my division of men under 40.

Finished at last.

Looking back on why I ran out of puff going up Hill Road, clearly a lack of hill training is a factor and also terrain specific training. Two off road rides in the preceding two months was not enough preparation. I'm also afraid that I just lacked sufficient mental toughness to keep going. I will learn from that and next time I'm in a similar position I'll be challenging myself to carry on.

I'm not sure where to from here just yet. There's no more Mountain Biking events around locally over the winter so that might be getting a bit of a rest. I need to come up with something quick though as know I must stay active.

On a more positive note it was a great weekend away with the family. Michelle enjoyed taking in the racing at the Lake and the boys enjoyed the kids playground and other activities the organiser had set up for them. More on what else we got up to next time.


Zach April 21, 2009 at 12:01 PM  

MTB skills can erode fast if you don't use them. I prefer mtb races to any other, and find that I really need to keep on top of that type of handling.

The best training for mtb type races, other than riding the mtb, is any type of repeat. It helps shoot your HR through the roof, and then recover quickly. At least, it works for me.

Chad in the AZ Desert April 21, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

Zach is right. Every race requires the training to be specific to the course in order to perform your best. But now it's time to put it behind you and find that next race on the calendar.

Bruce April 21, 2009 at 8:48 PM  

thanks for those comments guys.

Ewen April 21, 2009 at 9:52 PM  

You did OK considering it was your first race! A race of 2 hours+ is a solid endurance test.

As far as walking, sometimes on the really tough hills, I reckon walking would be just as quick. Otherwise, it's down to practise like Zach and Chad said - find some really steep hills and practise riding up in the low gears.

Good luck in finding something to keep you active over winter!

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