Monday, 27 February 2012

Xterrea - done and dusted

The definition of Xterrea - A rough, tough and extreme adventure race. This is not a true definition, this has just a been made up. However, I think it is a fair reflection of the race to an outside person.

So the next question is: what does an Xterrea race entail? It starts with a leisurely 400m swim (in hind sight was not so bad) onto a 12.6 km MTB ride finishing off with a decent 5km trail run.

How was it you may ask? It was tough, to say the least. The swim was a staggered start and was surprisingly manageable, which is a good thing that's all I can say. Four hundred metres doesn't sound like much but when you see and do it, not forgetting the other contestants who really enjoy punching and kicking, it seems a little longer. However, I was pretty pleased with my result in the mid field getting out of the water and onto the transition.

The transition area is a strange place, you want to do the change as fast as possible, but you also want to gather your thoughts, your breath and prepare for the next leg of the race. I'm not sure what is the best advice for the transition section, so we'll leave that to the pros.

After the transition, it was onto the the MTB stage, 12.6km of soft sand and.....well that was about it, just soft sand. Generally I am always up for a good MTB ride and I enjoy the technical and the tough bits. I know it will lead to the exciting parts of the track generally. Unfortunately, this MTB course left a very mixed feeling for me, as well as physical damage, but we will get to that. The reason for this mixed feeling is that I can't make my mind up and say if it was good or bad. It starts off with a fairly simple flat, which has a gradual climb, so far so good. But here is where the mixed feeling starts. The gradual up is not difficult, it's the soft beach sand which makes it difficult. Now anyone who has ridden on soft sand will know that this is not fun at all and is worse than being stuck in mud and going nowhere, with soft sand, is to say you are going nowhere slowly!

The bad news is that the MTB course comprised about 60% or maybe even more of the soft sand sections. There was of course the usual jeep track and even that good old, solid downhill, where you can pick up nice speed and think you can go full force... As I found out, it was not true on this occasion. I am fairly strong on the downhill and pretty confident when I see them however, this time the downhill decided to bite back, and bite back hard it did. One second I am passing the first water point and the next my bike decides to show me what a 180 degree turn feels like, and well...hello gravel, sand and pain! After being checked out and making sure the stallion was ok, thank goodness it was, it was off to finish the rest of the course.

The single track in the MTB was the second part which now changed my mind on how I felt about it, as it was a superb single track through the forest and defiantly worth the wait, not worth the pain though. This started to set in now. Anyhow, finishing the MTB route, it was off to to the last leg, the 5km trail run.

By the start of the trail run, I could already tell it was going to be a tough leg for myself. Never mind the pounding hip or the cut up arm, the heat was already in full swing now. This was causing extremely uncomfortable cramps which were just around the corner. Five kilometres may not seem long, but when you are in pain, cramping and you feel like it's the sahara, it becomes a distance that you can't wait to end. After a bit of running here and fair amount of walking there, I crossed the finish line which I was relieved to see.

I was happy. No doubt it was a good race, it was definitely challenging and doing all three disciplines makes you try and strategise how you will take on each course.

Even though the MTB section was tough and some might have not found it enjoyable, like I said it was a very mixed feeling course, overall it is a good event and it allows you to experience trails that is not common to many people whether you are a trail runner or a MTBer. This event is an exciting event and I will definitely do it again.

Till next time and always,

Stay Dirty

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