World XTERRA Age-Group Championships

My win in the female 25-29 age group at the World Xterra Championships in Maui put me on top of the podium, albeit with a broken nose, alongside the other GB medallists and also my room-mates, Peter Hawkins and Llewellyn Holmes, as well as Julie Dibens who did it for GB once again!

My preparation for the race couldn’t have been better. I’d managed to squeeze in a bit of time off between changing jobs and spent September honing my mountain bike skills in the adventure lovers paradise that is Whistler, Canada. In September, I competed in some of the toughest mountain bike and trail running races I’ve ever done and was crowned Whistler’s Queen of Pain!

I arrived in Hawaii early to watch my best buddy Chrissie in the Ironman. Of course the little superstar won again which spurred me on even more for the Xterra. Although I did pick up sinusitis from the vog (volcanic fog) on Kona but I followed Chrissie’s advice to the letter and quickly got better so arrived on Maui fighting fit and ready to race.

Emma with broken nose ©

I probably got a little too excited on my first training ride and slashed my tyres on some sharp volcanic rock. Thank goodness it happened then rather than race day, as it would have been game over. The long walk back to the car made me realise the truth behind the stories about needing the luck of the Hawaiian gods! Next stop, the bike shop to stock up with new tyres, slime, tubes and CO2 to make sure, no matter what, I would finish!

Race morning was hot, hot, hot. I set up transition as normal except with the addition of some bike gloves and a Camelback and a swanky new pair of Oakley sunglasses. At least I looked the part – Chrissie’s little pink number from TYR and a go faster blueseventy point zero three swim skin! I had no excuse and had to do the business! It was a beach start with around 600 pros, age groupers and the physically challenged all hitting the water at the same time. Needless to say the swim/drown to the first buoy was like a Friday night pub brawl – but it still didn’t feel as intense and manic as it does in normal standard distance triathlons – maybe mountain bikers are more chilled and relaxed – and I managed to escape from the water into T1 relatively unscathed!

Once on my sturdy steed, I felt full of beans but I tried not to get too carried away, as I knew the heat might take it out of me. Although the scenery was absolutely amazing, this was more than outweighed by the pain of the bike course. Brutal doesn’t come close to describing it. It’s torture. You can’t pre-ride the course so you have no idea what’s coming next and the bumping and jolting on the volcanic rock is relentless. This was adventure and challenge at its very best – and I loved it!

We’d all been warned about the long, sharp thorns that can pierce your tyre in a pedal stroke and unfortunately I picked up some about half way through. To my horror air started hissing out my back tyre but fortunately the slime sealed it. The Hawaiian puncture gods were smiling on me! Others weren’t so fortunate and many struggled with tubes or resorted to biking back on their rim. Stolz, last year’s winner, was no exception.

The final descent into T2 was fast and furious. I was feeling strong but I felt cramp coming on in my quads. Not a nice feeling when you know you have over an hour of hilly trail running to do over rough volcanic rock, sand and forest in over 30 degree heat. As soon as my feet touched the ground both legs spasmed, argh! I ran at a snail’s pace for the first five minutes and then, thank goodness, my running legs came back and I had no problems after that. Well, not with my legs anyway, more with my nose… I was ducking and diving up and over the fallen trees in ‘Spooky Forest’ and all of a sudden, bang! I’d collided head-on with a tree trunk, I’d broken my nose and I was flat on my back on the trail seeing stars. I managed to scramble up and after a few awkward, dizzy steps I was back on the trail and running home.

I didn’t realise I’d won until the finishing straight when my friends were cheering me on. Despite feeling utterly beaten up, it was such a fantastic feeling to cross the finish line and complete my first Xterra World Champs, as the 25-29 age group winner.

The legendary fancy dress Halloween after-party didn’t disappoint. All the pros and amateurs had fun sharing stories and dancing the night away! Arriving back into cold, wet London was a bit of a come-down from Hawaii so next year can’t come soon enough! A big thank you to the BRAT Club for first introducing me to triathlon and for giving me never ending help and support, Chrissie for all the freebies and for encouraging me to have a go at Xterra, to Mark Bender at Six Physio for fixing me after I broke my sternum last year and also to the Sigma Sport boys in Hampton Wick for helping me out this year!

Report published on tri247 here

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