Another big learning curve (or thats what I'll try to take out of it to try find some positive) at Xterra Malaysia today where I finished 7th.
To provide some background into the race two weeks ago heading into Xterra Danao I was on the back of some really good training after Rotorua where I felt like I was finally starting to find my stride again after last year’s injury as well as hitting some decent numbers on the bike. In addition, and probably most importantly I was in a really good head space which I hadn't really been in all season when racing and was looking forward to two solid races back-to-back and battling it over some insane courses.
Unfortunately as we know I ended up in hospital all last weekend so wasn't totally sure how I'd be heading into today's race. For the first few days over here at beautiful Langkawi in Malaysia, I took it pretty easy as I felt my body was still on the edge and not totally recovered. As the race neared my body started to pick up in energy and thought missing last week’s race could be a blessing in disguise as from all accounts Xterra Danao was absolutely brutal and certainly would have taken a toll on those who raced (which was pretty much the entire pro field).
Having arrived at Langkawi early with a number of the other pro's, we thought we'd take the opportunity to familiarise ourselves with the course over the 5 days. However, the days on the island only served to create frustrations towards the event organsier who had provided a course map only 80% accurate (course directors personal words) and mostly unmarked until race morning. As such we were all unable to learn the course which meant it would either be dangerous or unfair whilst we raced in blind. What we did know though, was there'd be a ridiculous final bike climb (or should we say hike-a-bike climb) where for 20min we were all left to push/carry our bikes) and one (or maybe two-or three????) similarly brutal climbs on the run.
Race morning I was feeling good, but had both uncertainy how my body would hold up or whether my bike would actually make it through to the finish after my left crank arm decided to call it a day with the alloy sleeve inside the carbon crank coming loose on race eve. Thankfully the awesome local bike shops DIY which involved slipping some soft drink to limit the play and gluing it held (I was given 50/50 for it to hold but without the option of a replacement it was the only option). Onto the swim though, I initially felt good and positioned myself at the back of Kieran and Brad. As the swim went on though I lost ground to them and exited in 5th in no mans. After a smooth transition to the bike, I knew I'd have push hard from the start if I had any chance of bridging forward. After the first 15min on my own I was thankfully joined by Alex Hunt who I able to pace off and feel like I was in a race rather than just time trialing as is so often the case in offroad racing where you can go the entire race without seeing another athlete after the swim.
Once we got to the hike-a-bike hill, Alex's experience and strength showed through and left me behind to battle the hill on the own where the doubt in my head started to creep back in. After a maybe 5-10min David Ballasteros passed me comfortably and I had nothing to go with him. Once over the hill, the race directors incompetence shown through where I rejoined both Alex and David after the became lost. Together, like three amegos we all descended the hill playing guessing games to find the route down. After becoming lost multiple times, we managed to exit the jungle at the bottom of the hill in close proximity where we guess we were meant to and eventually ended up in T2 where I wasn't sure whether we'd be first, or last in there. Luckily we entered in 5th, 6th and 7th where we should've (I will add that from talking with all other pro athletes, everyone became lost and disoriented where we still have no idea where the course was actually meant to go).
Despite benefiting over Alex and David’s misfortune of getting lost due to the poor course markings, as exiting T2 I struggled to hold in my frustrations (which we'd forecasted would happen) and ended up wasting vital energy ranting at officials and letting it get inside my head. As I pushed onto the run, I had a small lead on the pair and pushed hard knowing that based on chasers hike-a-bike climbing ability I'd need to push the pace on the flats and try and get a decent lead into the hills. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to create a gap more than maybe 50m and once at the first climb my fatigued body started going backwards and lost contact to the pair. For the remainder of the race I was alone to battle it out with the jungle 1-on-1 where my ear unfortunately lost one battle with a 'spikey' vine that decided to shred it in pure defiance.
Out of the jungle and down the road to finish the last 1km on the white Langkawi beaches, I crossed the line in 7th with a bloodied ear, frustrated and disappointed head, and fatiguedt body. Hopefully next time I'll be able to better direct my frustrations at racing rather than others incompetence.
Huge shout out to all the pro's who made the trip so much fun and making a stance against poor event organisation. Standing united and as a single voice will be our best bet to try and develop this into an amazing sport at the professional level that I think it has the capability of but in some aspects is still a long way off. And of course a massive thank you to my amazing sponsors Intune Sports and Health, Protector Aluminium, Dare2Tri, Clifbar, Protein Supplies Australia, Flight Centre Sports and Events, and Fisiocrem who without their support I wouldn't make it over here to race so get around them and send some love back.
**PS I will post some race photos once they come in
After the last couple of races abroad that both involved flight chaos, to say I was happy to race in my 'backyard' would be an understatement as for once I had the opportunity to not only have seen the course, but also practiced it multiple times.
Race morning was awesome.! Got to wake up in my own bed before a short 15min drive to the course. Sure beat my last race in Saipan where I spent 20hrs of the preceding 24hrs to race start on the plane!
After a few days of threatening weather, race conditions were pretty much perfect with some nice moisture in the trails to improve grip on what only a week ago was almost a sandy dust bowl and cool the air temp down after a hot Qld summer.
As for the race, the late inclusion of 2 x Olympian Courtney Atkinson alongside national cross-tri champions Ben Allan and Max Neumann meant it would be the strongest offroad tri field to assemble in Qld. Having the swim in the fresh-water dam and against such strong competitors meant I was always going to lose time and need my local track knowledge to make up the lost ground. However, I exited the swim about 3:30min down which was a lot further back than hoped. Straight away onto the bike I tried to find my legs and rhythm for the course to starting pulling the guys back, however, a simple early morning error where I forgot to set tyre pressures kept playing on my mind and caused me to constantly miss lines that only a week earlier I felt like I was riding on rails. Once the head was back in the game though after the first lap I felt as though I'd still be able to pull time back. 500m to T2 and I'd finally caught Max so both hit T2 side-by-side in 3rd position.
Out on the run I felt good, but simply didn't have the legs to keep up with Max who went on to narrowly miss out on running Courtney down for the win. In the end I comfortably held onto 4th but didn't have the legs to get near Ben for 3rd.
Congrats to Courtney, Max and Ben for filling the top 3 spots and look forward to having another hit out with the same guys next weekend at the Xterra Asia-Pacific champs in Jervis Bay.
Too say I was excited to get my maiden Xterra World Tour win only 13 months after joining the pro ranks would be an understatement, however just getting to the event was a race in itself.
Following a heavy few months of continuing to build my business back on the Sunshine Coast, it was only a last minute decision on Tuesday to race. The plan was fairly straight forward and involved flying out Thursday and arriving in the early hours Friday. On paper this would allow me to do a short pre-course ride and run familiarisation if I was feeling up to it. However, after arriving at the airport Thursday my race and travel plans were thrown completely upside down.
I arrived at the airport the early morning to take a domestic flight to Sydney, before departing for Seoul and eventually Saipan. At check in in though, the airline staff member at the domestic terminal decided she knew international travel rules best and decided to hold me back while she read up on passport travel validity (she was concerned as I was flying back into Australia with less than 6 months (5 months and 29days) on my passport). As she took her time, she also took my last remaining minutes to check in for the my first flight and as a result ruined my chance of getting to Saipan on Friday.
Quickly on the phone to the airline, it was apparent they wouldn't take responsible for their staffs action and would be of no assistant in re-routing my journey. My only other option would be to buy another ticket, however without having a spare $3000 this wasn't going to happen. Luckily though, the travel agents at Flightcentre had somehow found out what had happened and offered to put me on a similar flight the following day. The next issue was that now I was flying out a day later, I would be arriving in Saipan with less than 6 months on my passport and therefore would need a new passport to travel. Thankfully, the staff at the passports office considered my case and at 4pm Thursday I knew I'd now be racing again.
2:30am Friday the alarm goes off and I head to Brisbane for attempt 2 at racing Xterra Saipan. 23 hours later and tired I arrive in the pitch black of the Saipan early hours to be greeted by my homestay Nicky. With less than 5 hours to race start by the time we got back to the house, I had no time to sleep as I had to build my bike and get prepped both mentally and physically for the race.
5:45am I arrive at race start and I still haven't seen any of Saipan other than the dark night sky's let alone the bike or run course. 6am the sun starts to rise and shows off the beauty of Saipan and it's clear waters, white sandy beaches and majestic mountains.
6:30am and it's time to put my journey behind me and game face on. With low tide and shallow waters the swim ended up being more of a porpoise race with some swimming. Thankfully this suited me and I was able to gain a couple of minute lead heading into T1. With only little knowledge of the bike course and advice to take the downhills easy, I expected to be caught on the bike. However, as I headed back into transition I still had the lead and hadn't seen anyone since the swim.
Heading out of transition I knew I had 1.5-2 minute lead, but certainly not the race win already. Straight away I tried to settle into an early rhythm as I didn't know how long my body could keep going after the flight. 3km into the run and disaster strikes for the first time. LOST! Somewhere I've managed to take a wrong turn, I hesitantly turn around and start calling for directions or for my closest competitor but my yells go unanswered. Finally after back tracking and trying a few more trails through the jungle I find another arrow and I'm on way again. 7km and disaster hits again. This time it's a pitch black tunnel and I'm stuck with no idea where to go. I stand around for what feels like an age, and start yelling again for directions. After no answer, I almost consider defeat and decide to wait for the next athlete to catch and tag on with them. However, again no one answers and I decide I'm not going spend 50hours in transit to give up this easily. Knowing I need to get through the tunnel, I drag one arm down the wall to track where it goes. The wall turns right after a while and there's light at the end of the tunnel. I pop back out into day light only to find it leads me straight into thick jungle and not part of the run. I quickly trace my way back to the tunnel entrance and frustratingly call for help again. No answer. Well now this is good as clearly I've been gaining time on my closest competitor, but now I just have to find my way out. Left wall this time and there's a left turn and light again, but more importantly another arrow.
Finally, I hit the beach with only a few km to go and still no ones in sight behind. At this point I knew as long as I stay on track I should hold on for win. Eventually the beach curves around and the finish chute is in sight, a few high fives and I've got the race win!!
Sunday’s race marked my first Olympic distance and non-drafting race completed in well over two years, and it was good to be back racing them to say the least despite how much they hurt. After putting down some quality training after my last race and no real taper, I used the Landesliga race (a few Divs lower than Bundesliga racing) as a training hit-out in prep for this weekends Olympic distance Bundesliga 2. race in Eutin.
The swim was only 1000m instead of the usual 1500 and was held in a pool for something different. Typical as always for me when swimming laps, it didn’t take me long to loose count how far I’d swum. When nearing what I thought was maybe 900m I stopped to talk in broken Deutsch and English with the official to figure out how far I’d swam. Few seconds lost and 200m to go, I put my head back into the water to finish off the swim which I exited in second position about 30 secs down to the leader in a distance lane.
Despite the weather being considerably better than the previous two races (today was around 15deg), I opted for the cautious approach and wore a jacket on the bike after previously struggling significantly whenever the mercury dropped. Blustering conditions meant it was never going to be a smooth return to non-drafting triathlon especially with a jacket blowing about and only a road bike with short bar extensions to try and hide from the wind and stay aero. On tired legs I pushed hard (7th fastest bike split) but in the end lost 3-4mins to the fastest rider who passed me early on the bike. At the end of the bike I transitioned onto the run in 5th closely behind 3rd and 4th.
Into transition and it was a complete mess up. Don’t know whether I knocked one of my shoes when entering with the bike or someone else already had, however all I know is that after putting on my first shoe there wasn’t a second to be seen anywhere. After spending a few minutes scanning everywhere in front of me and thinking I was going to have to pull out, I turned around to find it sitting all alone a few metres behind me (ok so maybe I exaggerated a little with the time as it was probably only 10-15sec in reality, but sure felt a lot longer).
Onto the run and I quickly moved into 3rd within the first few hundred metres and had 2nd place in my sight only a hundred or so metres ahead. During the first lap was told 1st was only 30 seconds ahead so planned to gradually keep pulling in 2nd before hopefully pushing for the leader. By the 4km point I had caught my rabbit in front and thought the leader shouldn’t be too far ahead. The following lap I could no longer see someone ahead and was pretty sure I heard from my team that I was now in 1st place. As I couldn’t see someone ahead I believed it to be true and thought that maybe the leader had pulled out, or I’d somehow managed to pass him stealthily without realizing it. With a key Bundesliga 2. race the following weekend and several blisters starting to form on both feet I decided to conserve the legs a little and not try and extend my lead to the runner behind.
By the start of the final lap things had changed and was now informed the leader was 1:10min in front. With 2.5km to go I knew I probably wouldn’t be able to pull back that margin without going into the red zone which would potentially negatively effect the following weekends performance, so held my pace.
In the end I happily crossed the line in 2nd place 2:10min down from the winner (think the 1:10min down must’ve been miscommunicated and that was more likely over 2:10min down).
Lots of positives to take such as fastest run of the day (35:25min) and numerous lessons re-learnt that I’d probably forgotten after so long out of racing such as needing to accustom your feet to running without socks.
Thanks to Till Pastor (25th) at PV-Triathlon Witten for driving me to another race aswell as being a great team mate alongside Mark Koster (45th) and Martin Herrmann (76th). Also special thanks to my sponsors Team Rocket Science Sport, Xosize and Intunesports as well as my coach Sean Foster at Fluid Movements Sports.
Following a disappointing personal performance in Gladbeck the weekend before, I'd hoped that my first adventure to east Germany would bring me some better luck.
For the week leading up, Berlin had been promising sunshine and 17-20degree. However, and unfortunately for someone who doesn't have the best track record in cold conditions, as the race drew closer, so did the rain and clouds.
Being a little more prepared than in Gladbeck, I returned to my old pre-race routine and did my run warm-up before heading to the race which ensured that I'd have sufficient time for a quality swim warm-up. As the water temp was around only 16degs I opted for a good 5-10mins of tether band work before jumping in the water 10mins before race start to get my stroke working.
In the end I lost time to most of the guys I’d ridden with and finished 53rd from 77 finishes. Although not a result I’d normally be happy with, it was the first race I’d actually finished in 26months after a number of injury set-backs so it was good just get a time next my name instead of a DNF. Also, despite the conditions and far from best result it was great to be back racing especially in a field that included London Olympian Marek Jaskolka who ended up winning overall on the day. Additionally our team ended up finishing 3rd due to great performances by Danny Friese (3rd), Renning Elischer (7th), Tom Havekes (17th) and Jan Stratman (35th) so that was great to get up on the podium with the team for the present
As with all triathlon swim starts, it was chaotic it resembled more of a Chinese ninja fighting scene with flying arms, fists and feet than that of the graceful 1500m that you would've once witnessed Kieran Perkins swim. Thankfully with the aid of my Rocket Science wetsuit I had an ok swim despite a few mental lapses and exited the water around mid-field in the 4th pack.
Out on the bike I luckily had a little more power in the legs than the previous week as our group pushed to make up time on the leaders. Despite the zero visibility from the extensive amount of water and dirt flicking into our eyes (pretty sure there’s still some sand in my eyes a few days later) our group thankfully managed to stay upright with no crashes .
By the end of the bike, groups 1 and 2 had come together and we'd picked up a pack in front meaning that I went into transition in the second group with around another 30 guys for the start of the run.
During transition I lost a little time as I struggled to communicate with my frozen fingers to undo the helmet strap. Onto the run and things didn’t get much better than they were in transition for an Australian not accustomed to racing in Artic conditions. For the first 3km I couldn't feel my legs, but more frustratingly felt like I had straight jacket around my lungs every time I breathed.
After injuries had held me back from racing in Europe for the past few years, I've finally made it back to Europe for the 2013 season where I'll compete for Champion Systems Team Witten in the German Bundesliga North.
I arrived at my base in Witten a week before my first Bundesliga race. My first week back in Europe in quiet a few years was spent pretty low key as I'd unfortunately caught a slight cold/flu from either the flight or my first swim session over here which was done in the freezing cold. Come race day though I'd managed to be feeling a lot better, however the same couldn't be said for the weather.
For quiet some time I'd been looking forward to the seasons opening race in Gladbeck as it wasn't your normal style of individual triathlon race. Instead it was a five man team time-trial with the teams 4th athlete across the line counting as the teams time. My Witten team consisted of several top German athletes (Christian Thomas, Valentin Lenz, Eike) and Croatian athlete Matija Lukina. With all athletes on the team regular Bundesliga div1 athlete's other than myself, we had a pretty strong team.
The swim leg was held in a pool and we'd sorted out an order that should allow us all to stay together. Unfortunately though my race didn't go to plan and I lost contact within the first few hundred metres of the swim. Following the swim my team waited in transition where we started the bike altogether. Unfortunately out on the bike and in the cold and wet conditions my race didn't improve. At the start of the final lap on the bike my bodies battle with the cold became too much and started shutting down and as a result I was dropped by my team for the second time that day. As result I had to abandon the race and suffer having another DNF against my name. In the end the team battled on without me and managed to finish 8th which was perhaps a little lower than hoped.
Thanks to everyone at PV-Triathlon Team Witten who supported me during the race, and especially my team mates for helping me get over my poor performance and start to my European tri career.
Brodie Gardner is a professional triathlete primarily focusing on Xterra and Cross-Triathlon racing. In addition, he has a Masters in Exercise Physiology, Honours in Sports Science and has a long working history with elite athletes and the general population.