Most of you reading this will know that the early stages of this year didn't go how I had wanted. I didn't have a great race at Xterra New Zealand, and had terrible luck when I travelled overseas for Xterra Cebu in the Philippines and the Xterra Asia Pacific Champs in Langkawi, Malaysia, where I picked up a pretty aggressive stomach bug which left me unable to compete.
I took a bit of time off after this trip and decided that for the rest of 2017 my focus would be on getting my strength and fitness to a higher level than I have ever had. That meant one thing for me: no overseas campaign racing. My goal would be to have on training and focusing on the important New Zealand races on the calendar.
So over the winter season I focused on training, throwing in a few local races for a bit of fun and different stimulus. They went ok, winning a local duathlon, finishing 2nd in two, and 5th in the first Nduro Winter Series race. The results didn't worry me, all I was focusing on was the performance, and making sure I was progressing from race to race. Over the past few months I have seen a huge progression and decided that I would test myself at the Coromandel Classic to see exactly where I am at.
I raced the Coromandel Classic last year and it's fair to say it smashed me. It's a tough two day race, and with close to 50km of running, it requires a lot of strength to get through. Going into this years race I felt I was much fitter than last time, and in the days leading up to the race I was excited about how I would perform after feeling pretty good in sessions.
Despite being thrown a curve ball at race briefing where we were told TT bikes wouldn't be allowed in the bunch (and we were starting with a bunch ride for the first stage), I had a great first day. In the short 30km first stage I rode at the front as to not be in the bunch and headed into the 21km off road run with about 10 others, closely separated. The run started with a big 6km climb, rising just over 500m in elevation. I felt really good at the start and decided to run a steady tempo to the top and see what happened. Halfway up the slippery and rocky climb and I was on my own in front with a few chasers a couple of hundred metres back. I was feeling good so kept the rhythm going over the top and was first into the descent. Coming out at the bottom we had about another five or six kilometres of flat gravel road to run, and at the end of every straight I couldn't see anyone close behind. I was pretty excited about how I was feeling and keen to get back on the bike for the final stage of day one - a 35km road ride from Whangamata to Tairua. I rode a steady tempo, not pushing too hard, knowing that day two was the harder day, but also not waiting around for anyone. I crossed the line in just under three and a half hours for day one, taking the win in the Duathlon and also beating all the teams and multisporters (before they got in their kayak at the end).
The rest of the day was spent recovering in the motel and getting ready for Day Two. Day Two was going to be the longer day, starting with a 50km road bike, 15km up hill mountain bike stage and finishing with a 23km run which sounded pretty tough. I was looking forward to this day though as it had a bit more climbing (especially the MTB) and knew that would suit me pretty well. The first ride was pretty steady, although I put a few surges in their to keep the pace higher.
The multisporters had started 30 minutes before us, meaning that we would get onto the MTB stage at roughly the same time (as they had to paddle before the MTB). I was excited by this as hopefully it might give me a few targets to chase. This is exactly how it worked out. I was 5th overall onto the MTB stage, chasing the top multisporters who started a couple of minutes ahead of me. I rode this stage pretty hard and at around the 25 minute mark I managed to take the overall lead. Over the next 20 minutes of the stage I kept pushing, opening the gap to over a minute heading into the long run. From the notes we had been given, it sounded like it would be a tough run. I slightly underestimated just how tough it would be. I only managed to get through six or seven kilometres in the first hour. It was either straight up or down in the slipperiest and muddiest conditions on the most technical track I had ever run (most of it was actually walking!). About halfway through and the track opened up a bit, allowing for a better rhythm and a faster pace. I was still in the lead and couldn't hear or see anyone behind, so just ran a steady pace, knowing that the run was going to take a lot longer than the two hours fastest time that had been predicted. After two hours and 43 minutes of running I finally popped out into Thames and crossed the line. That was a tough way to finish the race, and despite being pretty fatigued from it, I was pretty happy with how the weekend had gone.
Since the race I've been in recovery mode but I'm looking forward to getting back into the training, and building up for my next race: the Motu Duathlon. Motu will be a new event for me as somehow I've never raced it over all the years. I'm excited to go and experience it, and continue building on the foundation I've laid over the last few months. Right now though it's back to training!