I’ve been home from China for one day and already I’ve found myself hunting the web for events to fill the time between now and our next team event at the end of August. I figured there is no fitness quite like “race fitness”. I want to make sure I am race fit for the Wulong Mountain Quest where our Team NZ Adventure goal is to win. For this to happen we’d all need to be in absolute top form. It is like the unofficial world champs of stage racing over there and all the fastest teams show up. It would be wonderful if we could win.
I realised as I was hunting for events that many of them I have already done. I get most excited about events I have never done or events I have performed poorly in previously and want to return and improve in. What I think we athletes are all guilty of a lot of the time is ‘always facing forward’. Sometimes I reckon it is healthy to stop and take a look back. When all we do is face forward we miss a lot of opportunities to realise what we have achieved. We also lose out on the unique chances to learn and grow and feel proud and grateful, often afforded by looking back. So tonight, instead of planning ahead I am taking heed of my coach Val’s advice and taking a look back at the past year of my racing career. It’s a tricky thing to do in a country infected by tall poppies syndrome, but I am comfortable with realising my own success and not only this, I reckon we all need to do a much better job of realising our own success. While you think back on yours, I’ll go first?
A year ago (almost to the day) I was crowned the Australasian Multisport Champion for 2013 at the Thermatech 3D Rotorua event. This probably remains the highlight of my career to date. I felt proud to hold this title in a land full of multisport talent and I was thrilled to take the great Richard Ussher on and beat him in the sport he has perfected for over a decade. I’ll never forget this day.
I took a month off after 3D Rotorua and spent time with Amy. We visited her family around Victoria in Australia and drove the Great Ocean Road. I returned to training in July and was comfortably beaten by my good mate Braden Currie in Queenstown’s Peak to Peak multisport race, an event I have won 3 times before. It was time to nail some quality training before the Wulong Mountain Quest in China.
About 3 weeks before flying to China I was rung by my idol of the sport Nathan Fa’avae and asked to fly with his team Seagate to Brazil in a few days’ time and race the Ecomotion expedition race. Over the ensuing 24 hours I said no more times than I remember but deep down I knew two things: 1) Nathan wasn’t listening and 2) I would always regret it if I didn’t take my opportunity to compete with one of the greatest teams the sport has seen. So off we went to Brazil where we’d eventually finish 2nd in what turned out to be a hell of a tough 127-odd hours of racing. Sophie, Trevor and Nathan probably deserved a much better result, but I felt tremendously proud of the way we’d competed hard to the end despite some major set-backs early on. Nathan had lost his mother just weeks earlier and his focus, skill set and team approach left impressions on me that’ll last a lifetime. I learned so much that week.
Back from Brazil for a week or so then off to China felt like a quick turnaround. The Wulong Mountain Quest delivered another tough and competitive race. Things didn’t go so well for our team as Jacob Roberts had a nasty mountain bike crash and never recovered. His crash looked so nasty that Glen and I were left wondering how we’d get a helicopter to the scene quickly, but no sooner had Jacob gone off the hill side and he was limping back to his broken bike and trying to continue. We were just relieved he was still alive! The days following were very hard for him as he continued on bravely and we faded back to 4th place by the finish.
The weeks following Wulong were pretty quiet. I managed to score another spot with Seagate in a 12 hour Adventure Race at Lake Clearwater and win my 3rd Big Day at the Office multisport race in Methven. I also managed second place behind Braden at the Tri-nations multisport champs in Augusta, Western Australia. Somewhere along the final weeks leading into Amy and my wedding in December I made a decision that surprised even myself: I’d race Challenge Wanaka in January.
The Challenge Wanaka iron-distance triathlon would make a welcome change from the Speight’s Coast to Coast which has consumed my summer for each of the past 6 years. I hadn’t done a triathlon before and wasn’t a good swimmer, but that didn’t seem to be a major obstacle. I just needed to swim a bit and find a triathlon or two before the big day to cut my teeth.
I won the Lake Hayes triathlon and the Dunstan triathlon over the New Year’s period which gave me some much needed self-belief because I had decided to race Challenge as a pro athlete (quite funny to think of myself as a “pro”). The race went well and I enjoyed the swim more than I expected. I had the fastest bike split by 6 minutes and ran well enough to finish 3rd overall. This was one cool day in my racing life and a very pleasing result:
After Challenge I enjoyed not doing the Speight’s Coast to Coast (so much that I don’t plan to do it next year either) and went on to win my 5th Goldrush title and the Wenzhou Outdoor Challenge in China with Team NZ Adventure. I also went up to Wellington and had my first crack at the Wellington Crazyman race which has been on the to-do list for a few years. I won and broke the record which was fantastic, especially after the disappointment the weekend before when I had bike mechanical issues and faded to 18th place in the Contact Epic Lake Hawea mountain bike race after 3 wins in the past 3 years.
So here I am, just back from a 2nd placing with Team NZ Adventure at China’s Pengzhou Outdoor Challenge. Reflecting on the past 12 months. A year that has involved racing from 2 to 127 hours. In expedition races, stage races, multisport races, bike races and triathlons. Training and racing across the sports of running, mountain biking, kayaking, road cycling, swimming and roller blading (I am a little ashamed by that last one). Not to mention some events which involve skiing, rafting, abseiling, caving and just about anything the Chinese event organisers can dream up.
While it is likely I will wake tomorrow and return to the forward-facing mentality, I have enjoyed this evening’s effort to look backwards. It has left me feeling proud of course, but more than anything grateful. I feel grateful to Amy and my family for their support. To my coach Val for always being there and giving direction and guidance. To my team mates in Team NZ Adventure and their families for sharing an ambitious vision together. To my sponsors for allowing my access to the best gear and resources. In four months I will be a dad and things might change in a weird and wonderful way. For now though, I feel proud of the past 12 months. And grateful.
Ok, your turn…