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Ironman New Zealand – A First Timers Race Report

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Many people who have been in the sport for years told me that Ironman New Zealand was one of the best Ironman races in the world. Whilst I have only spectated and reported on Ironman races in Australia and Kona this was the best one I have been to for a few reasons.

One is that I was racing my first Ironman. This could have made me slightly biased.

There of New Zealand's triathlon greats started the run together. Bevan Docherty, Terenzo Bozzone and Cameron Brown. Photo: Sophie Hayes

Three of New Zealand’s triathlon greats started the run together. Bevan Docherty, Terenzo Bozzone and Cameron Brown. Photo: Sophie Hayes

But if I step away from this fact and look at what makes an Ironman so great it still stacks up. The swim was in a lake that looks like an ocean the first time you see it. It is almost as big as Singapore in area (616 sq km compared to Singapore’s 716 sq km) and on race day in 2014 it was as smooth as a ‘lake’. The next great thing is that the water is crystal clear and you can even have a few mouthfuls while swimming to keep hydrated. And the crowds. They are everywhere. More supporters than I have seen at any Ironman before. On the bike course and run course they were everywhere. They never stopped cheering all day. There was nowhere in the race where you felt you were on your own. I know there are a couple of big races in Europe that attract massive crowds but I am talking about races in our region.

With my minimal approach to training the instructions from my coaches Spot Anderson and Deb Hazeldon of Bondi Fit was to take the entire race easy and make sure my heart rate was low. Through Trizone I have come in to touch with so many people who have let training for Ironman take over their lives. I used to look at the training that people were doing and could see that many age groupers were doing similar hours to some of the top pros. I wanted to enjoy the whole Ironman journey.

I have been lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Pete Jacobs on many occasions over the years either as Trizone or as the person that has rebuilt his website a couple of times or even as his ride back from Forster once. The one thing I have always heard from Pete, as many of you have, is to train to feel and make sure you are recovering and resting well. So with this in mind my plan was to have a life while training for my first Ironman. I was not chasing a Kona spot or a PB so there was no pressure. Of course there were plenty of people telling me I was going to do this time and that time. All much faster than what I had planned.

To put it simply I did one 2km open water swim a week in Wollongong Harbour with Alex Price’s AP10 squad. I went to Sydney once a week for the three weeks leading up to Ironman New Zealand to do a pool swim squad with Bondi Fit just to make sure I could do 4kms and as much as it pained Spot to acknowledge it I passed the test. He never said so but there was a faint smile as I dropped Reidy in the 20 or so 100s we did in one session. Sorry Reidy, but it makes my story sound better. I’ll leave the 50s swim off story for another day.

My bike training consisted of one long ride per week with the maximum distance being 156kms. I did my first ride over 100kms on Nov 24 and then didn’t do another ride over 100kms until Dec 26. I did a couple of  80-90km rides each week during December. My first proper long ride of around 140kms was on Jan 1st just 8 weeks before IMNZ. I then did one long ride a week during January. I was working 7 days a week in my new shop so going for long rides was proving difficult. Luckily my main employee David Mainwaring offered to open on Wednesdays and hold the fort which took the pressure off me having to open the shop and I managed to get a 140-150km ride in each week.

My run training started on January 6 with a very, very slow 10km run after having two months out with an achilles injury. In total I did 5 long runs of 17-23kms. I also did another 3 10km runs and a final 13km run with Spot and Deb 12 days before IMNZ.

I did do one serious day of training the Sunday after I did Challenge Melbourne with good mate Josh Henry in Nowra. This consisted of a 2:15 bike, 30min run, 1:00 bike, 30min run, 1:00 bike and a final 30min run. It was a tough and hot day with the temperature in the late 30s. All the running was done at a very slow pace as my Achilles was still giving me grief.

A fairly minimal training program to say the least but that was the plan. I never trained the day after a big session. The other thing I did well was sleep. I made sure I was getting 7-8 hours a night. I have an awesome memory foam mattresses from Ergoflex. These mattresses are amazing. They are hard to describe except to say that they are like one of those dream beds in a nice hotel that you wish you could take home. They are not overly expensive and you can buy them direct from Ergoflex for around the $900 mark depending on size.

On to IMNZ. I started the swim to the extreme left where there were mainly the people who were more intent on keeping away from the mayhem that goes on in a mass swim start. This worked perfectly. I had clear water for about 1km until I slowly moved in to the swim line. At the half way point I stopped and took a gel which I had slipped in to the back of my wetsuit. This was the other aspect of the day that I was not going to get wrong. Nutrition. Darryll Griffiths from Shotz Nutrition had given me a good plan and I knew from my race in Melbourne at the beginning or February that it should work.

Swim start IMNZ 2014 - Photo: Stef Hansen Australian Triathlete

Swim start IMNZ 2014 – Photo: Stef Hansen from Australian Triathlete Magazine

With about 500m to go in the swim I had clear water and was just cruising along. At this point someone started to tap on my feet and then on the back of my legs. I don’t mind people tapping on my feet but when they are almost on top of your legs it gets a bit annoying. So I stopped for a second to let them swim past. Big mistake. The reason I had clear water was that I had a line of about 20 people sitting on me. Then I spent the last 500m in a swim brawl with everyone trying to swim within a 3sqm area.

The run to transition was more like a hike but everyone had to do it so what did it matter! The crowds that lined the run to transition made it seem a lot easier. This was to be a pattern for the day. The crowds I mean. No matter where you were on the course the were crowds of supporters cheering you on. Keeping with my low heart rate strategy I mostly walked to transition and just let everyone else pass me as I enjoyed the moment.

T1 was my first experience of an Ironman change tent. I swum in togs, budgie smugglers, speedos, whatever you want to call them under my wetsuit. I had never ridden 180kms before so I wanted to make sure that I did not come off the bike with rashes that were going to bother me on the run. So with this in mind I wanted to ride in my cycling gear that I had always used on my long training rides (which maxed out at 156km). My T1 took forever and finally after 9mins I was out on to the bike course. On the bike I wanted to keep my heart rate as close to 140bpm as possible for the first 10kms. I am sure I was passed by half the field in those first 10kms as I gently cycled away from Taupo. I chatted for a bit with a few competitors and rode with Kristy from HPT for a bit at the start. Kristy had a great race by the looks of it.

I was told by many that the bike course in New Zealand was tough. A bit of undulation, a couple of decent hills and apparently the road surface was rough. I found the hills, a bit of head wind but never found the legendary rough road surface. It was no where near as bad as the straights at Port Macquarie and the road between Nowra and Braidwood on the South Coast of New South Wales that I did all my training on was rougher. I was happy with what I found in Taupo.

My coach Deb caught me at about 8kms so I decided that if I rode with her for the bike that would give me the pace that I was looking for. It was great to be able to ride with someone you knew in another country. Although, we are both Kiwis so it really wasn’t another country. We ended up in a pace line that stayed together for around 135kms until the final turnaround. I still had plently of energy to burn so I decided to try and put some time in to Deb as I knew at the pace I was planning on running she was going to kick by butt on the run. Most of the guys that had been riding with us had been pushing the limit so they slowly dropped off as the pace picked up in to a head wind and uphill on the way home.

I passed 156km and then was riding in to uncharted territory. I wondered what it would be like when I finished the 180kms. I felt great though and my heart rate was staying between 145 and 160bpm which is very low for me. Over shorter distances I would normally be in the 170-180 vicinity. I ended up leaving a couple of gels out as I just did not feel like I needed them all.

Out on the bike at IMNZ 2014

Out on the bike at IMNZ 2014

Right throughout the bike course there were crowds of people at every intersection in the countryside and at the far turnaround. There were campervans , cars and people that looked like veterans supporters. It was like no Ironman I had been to in Australia. It is something you have to experience to see what I mean.

I came in to T2 and my legs felt fine. The first few steps were a bit wobbly but by the time I had grabbed my bag I was good to go. In the tent I changed in to my Skinfit two piece trisuit. I went for this because the pants are unbelievable to run in. They have a decent pocket at the back and are silky smooth. I have never had any rubbing in them. The Skinfit top also has a couple of great pockets. I put my shoes and new socks on, then realised I had forgotten to put my vaseline on. So off they came. I was in no rush so it didn’t bother me. I grabbed all my stuff. I took a full cap instead of a peak so I could put ice in it to keep my temp down on the run. This is something I do on all hot long runs and find it helps considerably. Alex Price from AP10 wrote a great piece on keeping your body cool in hotter races. Read it here. I follow it now and what a difference!

One more ‘stop’ before I left the transition then as I turned left out of the tent I discovered the buffet at the aid station in the bike area. There were chocolate chip cookies, chippies, pretzels, lollies, coke all laid out on these tables. I suppose IMNZ was celebrating its 30th birthday so why not put on a birthday spread. After taking advantage of this bounty I headed out on to the run. I ran at 5:50 for the first couple of kms until I felt comfortable then settled in to a 5:30 run pace that I planned to do for the marathon. The only flaw to this plan was that my other strategy was to run very slow with small steps up each hill so I wouldn’t overload my achilles and possibly blow it up. The flaw in this plan was that there were numerous hills on each of the three 14km laps. This took some of the wind out of my rhythm. I also bumped in to a couple of people I hadn’t seen for a while. Unfortunately they were both walking so I felt obliged to stop and have a catch up. I was in no rush so why not.

The crowds on the run course were unbelievable. The Kiwis and in particular the people of Taupo certainly knew how to throw a party and make the event as memorable as possible for the athletes.

I saw the 30km sign come up and felt great but wondered if I was going to hit some mysterious wall. I didn’t and just kept turning my legs over with small steps but a higher cadence. At no time in the run did I hit the wall. In hind sight I wouldn’t have taken the nutrition belt with four bottles. I just wasn’t burning enough fuel to really need it. The on course electrolyte probably would have been sufficient.

Knowing that there were my favourite New Zealand chocloate chip cookies at each aid station I made sure I grabbed one each time. Not sure Mr Giffiths would approve but I was doing my first Ironman and having a ball. Mr Giffins would have been happy.

A warm welcome! What a great experience.

A warm welcome! What a great experience.

In the final two kms on the run I happened upon Gordon Bell, one half or the brains trust behind the Nepean Triathlon. We chatted for a bit and got Gordon running again as he tried to get rid of the cramps that he was struggling with. He then started to surge on me with a km to go. What was he thinking? Then cramps took over again and we finished our own races.

It was great to have so much support from friends and family during the race especially on the run. I had my family from Australia and New Zealand there. I think they were more excited about the whole thing than I was.

I pulled up well the next day with no stiffness in my legs and was walking fine. That was until I got stung by a bee under the foot which then proceeded to swell up and I could hardly walk.

For the record I swum 1:06, T1 9min, bike 5:37, T2 8min then a 4:17 run. As I said it was a cruisy day with the plan to take away a wonderful memory.

Over the next week I did the Illawarra Triathlon Clubs aquathon on the Wednesday night, the Kembla Joggers Cross Country on the Saturday (which my business sponsors) and the Olympic distance triathlon in Wollongong on the Sunday. The sole aim of this race was to beat my coach. Coach Deb did the Wollongong triathlon as did Tony Golden who was also in New Zealand racing the Ironman. Time for us all to take a chill pill I think.

Anyway nothing is going to happen over the next couple of weeks then it will be a focus on Port Stephens Olympic distance in May to battle it out again.

A huge thanks to Ironman New Zealand for giving me the opportunity to experience my first ever Ironman on home soil.

Mizuno for some great running shoes. Their new range is one of the biggest sellers in my shop now. Because we let all of our clients test run before they buy the Mizuno’s are selling themselves.

I love training with Bondi Fit when I can. Coaches Spot Anderson and Deb Hazeldon have been great to work with. Not sure they would say the same the about me. I am not sure I am an ideal athlete to coach. But they give it a good crack.

I still love my Cell Bike TT. I have had 6 bikes from Cell now and never had a problem. Their latest top end road bike is pretty damn good and getting some good reviews. The engine on the bike is the biggest thing.

I firmly believe that my Huub Archimedes wetsuit is the main reason why I swim better than I should based on my training. I have been swimming in them for a couple of years now and I always come away with a better time in races than I really should. I think that annoys Spot a bit.

Finally Shotz Nutrition is another reason why I come through my races in much better shape than I really should. I competed in Melbourne at the start of Feb and off two long runs, cruised the race. I firmly believe that my nutrition plan, which is very simple, sees me come out better than expected.

Until next year when I will attempt to go faster…

 

 

Karl is a keen age group triathlete who races more than he trains. Good life balance! Karl works in the media industry in Australia and is passionate about the sport of triathlon.

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Ironman Announces First Full Distance Event In Ireland

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Ironman announced today the addition of its first full distance event in Ireland, Ironman Ireland, Cork. The inaugural race will take place on June 23, 2019.

“Ironman is an incredibly prestigious sporting competition held in locations throughout the world. Now, for the first time in Ireland, Cork will host a full-distance Ironman competition starting in 2019. Youghal will be centre stage for the next three years as we showcase our beautiful beaches, historic towns and world-renowned hospitality to a world-wide audience. I am delighted to welcome Ironman to Cork,” said Cllr Declan Hurley, Mayor of the County of Cork.

The race will be held in Youghal, Co. Cork which is located approximately 45 minutes west of Cork city and Cork International Airport. Youghal is a coastal fishing town on the southern coast of Ireland and a fortified seaport since the fifth century. It is also Ireland’s second oldest town. Cork International Airport offers direct transatlantic services in addition to its extensive European access routes, along with modern motorway access from Ireland’s capital city, Dublin (2-hour drive). Youghal is perfectly situated to stage an iconic triathlon.

The race will get underway with a 3.8km (2.4-mile) swim with a rolling start from the golden and sandy, Claycastle beach in Youghal Bay, that gently shelves into the Celtic Sea. This is within walking distance of Youghal Town.

A two-lap 180km (112-mile) bike course is next. Starting off through the centre of Youghal town, a climb of the famous Windmill Hill awaits the cyclists as a first challenge, which undoubtedly will also become a spectator hotspot. The cyclists will then encounter a combination of flat country roads and undulating coastal roads with magnificent sea views of Youghal Bay, Ballycotton Island and Cork Harbour. This breathtaking course goes around County Cork, into the town of Midleton (home to the famous Jameson Distillery) and will rise to a max elevation of 190m above Midleton before a technical drop back into Youghal.

The 42km (26.2-mile) run course will be the highlight of this event. This will be a flat four-lap run course through the centre of the historical town of Youghal, taking in Youghal Harbour and the famous Clock Gate Tower. Athletes will run under the arch of the Clock Gate Tower in the centre of town during each lap before finally running under the Ironman finishing arch in Market Square.

Speaking about the event, Tim Lucey, Chief Executive Cork County Council said: “Cork County Council is especially proud to join forces with Ironman which will bring an economic boost estimated to be over seven million Euro to the local economy. But the impact is much more than that; we have the opportunity to promote East Cork but go even further into all that Cork has to offer. We will showcase sport but most importantly of all, we will showcase community spirit. This will be an event that invests in both people and place and I look forward to what will be an amazing experience.”

“It has always been our goal to establish a full-distance event in Ireland. Now, building on the success of Ironman 70.3 Dún Laoghaire we are excited to add Ironman Ireland, Cork,” said Oliver Schieck, Regional Director Ironman UK & Ireland. “This race is a remarkable combination of a stunning race course with a beautiful landscape as a backdrop. We are looking forward to welcoming Irish and international athletes to the inaugural edition in June 2019.”

Ironman Ireland, Cork will be a qualifier for the 2019 Ironman World Championship being held in Kailua-Kona, Hawai’i.

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Elite Field Of Professional Triathletes Set To Compete In 2018 Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon

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The pro field for the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon set to take place on Sunday, June 3. The line-up includes 2016 Rio Olympian Ben Kanute, Olympian Jarrod Shoemaker (USA), Olympian Ryan Fisher (AUS), Olympian Paula Findlay (CAN), 2018 Surf City Escape Triathlon winner Jason West and more.

The new official coach of the Escape Triathlon Series Andy Potts will also be competing. Potts represented the United States in the 2004 Olympics, is a seven-time IRONMAN champion, 28-time IRONMAN 70.3 champion, and a six-time Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon champion.

“I am super excited about my new role as the Escape Triathlon Series coach and look forward to competing this year and supporting all levels of participants as they work to accomplish their goals,” said Potts.

The pros will join 2,000 amateur triathletes for the 38th year of this annual event. Athletes have qualified to race through the newly-formed Escape Triathlon Series. 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon Champions Ben Kanute and Lauren Goss will attempt to defend their titles. The full list of professional triathletes set to compete in the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon includes:

Men

  • Kevin Collington (USA)
  • Brian Duffy Jr. (USA)
  • Robbie Deckard (USA)
  • Cameron Dye (USA)
  • Ryan Fisher (AUS)
  • Ben Kanute (USA)
  • Eric Lagerstrom (USA)
  • Garrick Loewen (CAN)
  • Andy Potts (USA)
  • Jarrod Shoemaker (USA)
  • Jason West (USA)
  • Timothy Winslow (USA)
  • Matthew Wisthoff (USA)

Women

  • Liz Baugher (USA)
  • Paula Findlay (CAN)
  • Lauren Goss (USA)
  • Sarah Haskins (USA)
  • Alicia Kaye (CAN)
  • Caroline Shannon (USA)
  • Erin Storie (USA)
  • Lindsey Jerdonek (USA)

Top triathletes from around the world will take over the streets and waters of San Francisco for the 2018 Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon on a course showcasing the beauty of the city. Triathletes will hit the water at 7:30 a.m. to embark on a challenging 1.5-mile swim from Alcatraz Island to the shoreline of Marina Green, an 18-mile twisting bike ride through the Presidio, and an 8-mile trail run out to Baker Beach and up the infamous 400-plus step Sand Ladder. To finish the race, triathletes will follow a path back under the Golden Gate Bridge, pass Crissy Field, and finish on the grass at Marina Green. Fans can experience the excitement at Marina Green, where the swim exit, athlete transition area and finish line are easily visible.

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Middaugh, Paterson win XTERRA Oak Mountain

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Josiah Middaugh and Lesley Paterson captured the 13th annual XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road triathlon elite titles on a beautiful day at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama this morning.

It’s the third straight year Middaugh has won this race and his fifth win in six years on this course.  For Paterson, it’s her fourth victory here since 2012, and for both, their first big XTERRA win of 2018.

In the men’s race Ian King was first man out of the water in 21:11, followed closely by Karsten Madsen, Branden Rakita, Rom Akerson, and Victor Arenas.  Middaugh came of the 1.5-kilometer swim in 23:56, nearly three-minutes behind the leaders, and quickly went to work on the bike.

“I had quite a deficit out of the swim and had to remind myself to just keep pushing all the time,” said the reigning XTERRA Pan Am Tour Champ, who posted the fastest 30km bike split of the day in 1:20:56.  “For me to get to the front, it’s max effort every chance I get.”

Middaugh was able to pass six of the eight guys ahead of him by the end of the bike, all but race leader Rom Akerson (pictured below) and Karsten Madsen.

“Toward the end of the bike, I was hearing I was within one-minute but I still couldn’t see anybody, and then I heard I was 35 seconds behind but still couldn’t see anybody, and then finally I saw Karsten at the very end there,” said Middaugh.  “I thought Rom must have been another minute up the trail, but when I came out of the bike-to-run transition we were all in there together, 1,2, 3.”

When Middaugh speaks of Max effort, the final quarter-mile of the bike was a perfect example, as he reeled-in 10-15 seconds by hammering the final stretch.

“You have take time whenever you can,” he said.  “Coming in on the road, I saw Karsten starting to take his shoes off and I thought, I’m going hard for another 10 seconds.”

At the start of the two-lap 10km trail run around Double Oak Lake it was an exciting three-man chase and then another all-out effort by Middaugh propelled him into the lead about half-mile into it.

“Right away on the run we were all pushing hard but I was able to take the lead just before the start of the single track. Karsten and I were pretty much sprinting to that spot,” he said.  “I was thinking if I can get in first then I can hit all those little rollers and start working the hills and just hope to wear him down. So, it worked. I wanted to put a gap on him early because when you’re feeling good, you don’t know how long it’s going to last. You can go from feeling real good to real bad, real quick.”

Middaugh crushed the run in 39:04.  The only other sub 40-minute run came from XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series leader Kieran McPherson, who had the best split of the day in 38:50 and ultimately finished 5th.

His winning time was 2:23:56, more than one-minute ahead of Madsen who finished in second for the second straight year behind Middaugh.

“That was by far the worst I’ve felt all through a race, but I persevered,” said Madsen, who won XTERRA Uruguay two weeks ago and was second to Kieran McPerson at XTERRA Brazil last week.  “Three races in three weeks is just about one of the hardest things I’ve done. All this week I could barely train because my legs were so sore and tired, but this course gives me confidence and I used the ability I have in single track riding to keep in contention. I was trying to best Josiah today but he’s such a veteran racer and he found that extra gear.”

Madsen, who sits in second on the Pan Am Pro Series after six events, added that the bump-n-grind style of racing at the park today was a thrill … “That’s XTERRA,” he said. “When it’s close and competitive like that, it’s absolutely phenomenal.”

The battle for third was equally amazing. Rom Akerson, who beat Josiah and Karsten to win XTERRA Costa Rica in March, was in position to finish third but went the wrong way for a few strides just before the finish chute and ended up in a sprint finish with Brian Smith.

“Rom and I were pretty close together all the way around until we got a quarter of a mile into the single track on the second lap,” said Smith. “He went by me and I said, “Great job, go ahead,” and I thought it was all over at that point. Then we got to the dam and he stopped to get water and I was close again, but he was still 10 seconds ahead. The finish wasn’t even going to be close, but he went left and had to run back towards me to get back on course and we ended up together down the finish chute. I gave it everything I could and got it by a lean at the line.”

Akerson, who was the first man into the bike-to-run transition, felt like he let one slip away today.

“I came off the bike and into transition first and then went out on the run and Josiah and Karsten caught me and they were running hard, but nothing I can’t normally keep up with. It was a fast pace, but nothing too hard, and then a couple hundred meters before the end of the first lap I got this pain in my chest, like a cramp or something.  I had to stop and sit down and put water on my head. I couldn’t even breath,” Akerson explained.  “I started running again and then Brian caught me and we ran together and ultimately he beat me over the line at the end there. It was a race I should have won today. I had it in my pocket.”

McPherson, who won at XTERRA Brazil last week, finished just 21-seconds behind in fifth.

Elite Men

Place  Name Time Points
1 Josiah Middaugh, USA 2:23:56 100
2 Karsten Madsen, CAN 2:25:16 90
3 Brian Smith, USA 2:27:25 82
4 Rom Akerson, CRC 2:27:26 75
5 Kieran McPherson, NZL 2:27:46 69
6 Sam Long, USA 2:30:41 63
7 Branden Rakita, USA 2:33:05 58
8 Will Kelsay, USA 2:34:36 53
9 Brent Mattison, USA 2:34:58 49
10 Will Ross, USA 2:37:44 45
11 Ian King, USA 2:38:35 41
12 Alex Roberts, NZL 2:38:49 37
13 Victor Arenas, COL 2:42:25 34
14 Humberto Rivera, USA 2:44:41 31
15 Ryan DeCook, USA 2:45:14 28
16 Jimmy Archer 3:08:44 NP

 

In the women’s race Erin Storie, who was competing in her first-ever XTERRA, posted the fastest women’s swim of the day in 21:26, better than all but five elite men. Fabiola Corona, Jessie Koltz, and Julie Baker were next, a little over two minutes back, then Paterson in fifth.

It didn’t take long for the two-time XTERRA World Champ to get into the mix upfront.

“I got out there and felt really good and I had a lot of fight in me today,” said Paterson, who was second to Jacqui Allen at XTERRA Tahiti last week.  “I caught up to Julie Baker who had the lead at the top of the climb and then we went back and forth on a bunch of the trail until we got to the road and I put in an attack down Johnson Mountain trail and kind of managed to get 30 seconds coming into transition.”

Paterson added to her lead by posting the fastest run split of the day and finished in 2:47:50, more than three minutes ahead of Baker.

“I tried to give Lesley a little race,” smiled Baker (pictured above).  “We traded a bit on the bike but she was really strong, and had a super run. I just do the best I can.  But ya know, it’s fun.  It’s like a vacation coming here, I just felt great as soon as I got here.”

Paterson was quick to agree, adding that “It’s so beautiful, the terrain is amazing, the people are amazing. It’s just an incredible place.”

Corona, a four-time XTERRA Mexico Champ, went back-and-forth with Kara LaPoint on the run and was able to pull away to take third by about 30 seconds. She was ecstatic with the result.

“It was amazing, I love this course, the bike is awesome,” she exclaimed.  “Kara passed me on the first lap of the run and I was like, OK, I’m in 4th place, but then I thought, no, all my family is here and they spent too much for the hotel and the flights for me to finish fourth. Fourth place is like a chocolate medal for me, not bronze. So, I caught a second wind and caught Kara then threw down a big sprint. For me, third place here is like first place, like gold.”

With the win Corona moves into third place in the Pan Am Pro Series behind Carito Nieva and Kelli Montgomery with six races to go.

LaPoint had a great race and gave it everything she had to finish in fourth, while Jessie Koltz finished in fifth.

Elite Women

Place Name Time Points
1 Lesley Paterson, GBR 2:47:50 100
2 Julie Baker, USA 2:51:25 90
3 Fabiola Corona, MEX 2:56:31 82
4 Kara LaPoint, USA 2:57:03 75
5 Jessica Koltz, USA 2:59:26 69
6 Katie Button, CAN 3:01:15 63
7 Erin Storie, USA 3:02:04 58
8 Anne Usher, USA 3:08:12 53
9 Kelli Montgomery, USA 3:10:54 49
10 Heather Zimchek-Dunn, USA 3:14:08 45
11 Rebecca Blatt, USA 3:44:25 41

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XTERRA Oak Mountain lures all-star field to Shelby County, Alabama

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The XTERRA Pan America Pro Series takes shape this weekend at Oak Mountain State Park in Shelby County, Alabama as America’s best elites host all-stars from Canada, Costa Rica, Mexico, Colombia, New Zealand and Scotland.

The 13th annual XTERRA Oak Mountain off-road tri is race number six of 12 in the international racing series, and the first championship event in the U.S. this season.

In the men’s chase all eyes are on reigning and two-time XTERRA Pan America Tour Champion Josiah Middaugh. The 2015 XTERRA World Champion from Colorado is in his 18th season of XTERRA racing and turns 40 this July, but is showing no signs of slowing down.  

I have a long history with Oak Mountain State Park and have experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows here,” said Middaugh, who has won four of the last five and finished in the top three nine times here in Alabama.  “Since fracturing my patella in 2006 and the resulting surgery, I have made amends with the course and had a handful of good performances.”

One of those modestly-stated ‘good performances’ came last year when Middaugh came out of the water more than two minutes back of the leaders but posted the fastest bike split and then chased down Mexico’s Paco Serrano and Canadian Karsten Madsen on the run to take the win.

“I know I will need to bring my A-game to the race because there is little room for error on that course as time gaps are usually tight,” he said.

Madsen, who finished as the runner-up just 41-seconds behind Middaugh last year, is one of several men in the field looking to take down the reigning champ.

“Alabama is a very special place for me, and last year this race truly was my best performance of the season,” said Madsen, who so far this year has finished 3rd at XTERRA Costa Rica, won XTERRA Uruguay, and placed 2nd at XTERRA Brazil last weekend.  “This course suits my skill set because I ride technical single track at a premier level and this course rewards that. I’m in the best shape of my life and doing things in training that are giving strong indications that some massive things will come if I stay the course. My history on this course is long, but this year will be the first time I go into the race with massive travel and races behind me. Still, I have to win on this course before I’m done with XTERRA! There will be some very tough completion, but the man to be beat is Josiah. It’s a big task.”

Just a few days ago Kieran McPherson from New Zealand, the current XTERRA Pan Am Pro Series points leader, outran Madsen to take the tape at XTERRA Brazil. It was his second win of the season following his victory at XTERRA Argentina in March.

“I was ecstatic to get my first Gold level XTERRA win and excited to come to Oak Mountain and see if I can grab another one,” said McPherson, who placed sixth last year on this course.

Another big threat for Middaugh comes from 12-year XTERRA veteran Rom Akerson, who beat him to win XTERRA Costa Rica in March.

“I’m feeling super strong and looking forward to this event,” said Akerson, who last raced here 10 years ago and finished 7th in a crowded elite field. “My goal is to do my best, but I always aim to win. I know it’s a super technical course and I’m stoked to race with these guys, especially Josiah, I look up to him a lot.”

One of the other chief competitors for Middaugh is a man he coaches, Brian Smith, who posted the fastest run split last year to finish fourth.

“Love the Oak Mountain course,” said Smith. “I love the woods and the roots, it’s not like the riding we have here in Gunnison, Colorado. It reminds me of where I grew up in upstate New York.  I am hoping to nail the race like I did last year and step it up to a top three finish.  Josiah is coaching me again and has me in good form.”

Another perennial top five guy and back for more is Branden Rakita.

“It’s one of my top two favorite courses on the circuit,” said Rakita, who finished runner-up in the Pan Am Pro Series last year. “Oak Mountain will be the first race where we will really learn where everyone stands. Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil have all had a good number of strong guys, but Alabama is the first race with everyone there and it will only ratchet up the race intensity that much more. You know you had a really good race if you land on the podium in this one.”

The dark horse for Saturday may be a youngster named Sam Long. He has a couple top three showings at altitude in Colorado, but this race will be a whole new experience for the 22-year-old.

“I don’t know the course at ‘Bama at all,” said Long. “I have heard it is technical and hot, and to prepare for it I am doing a training camp in Moab. I look forward to the challenge of the course and the season; but more importantly to the fun that awaits and the camaraderie with my fellow racers.  I’m hoping for a big year on the XTERRA scene. I believe I am in a better place physically and mentally than I have ever been before and am curious to see how I will do. My goal for the season is to be on the top step at one of these races. I think it is feasible and will try to do it at every race, but with the level of competition I will be very happy if I can do it just once.”

ELITE MEN’S START LIST

2018 Rank/2017 Rank – Name, Nationality

1/3 – Kieran McPherson, NZL
2/14 – Karsten Madsen, CAN
4/2 – Branden Rakita, USA
6/NR – Alex Roberts, NZL
10/NR – Rom Akerson, CRC
13/1 – Josiah Middaugh, USA
20/NR – Humberto Rivera, USA
28/20 – Ian King, USA
NR/4 – Brian Smith, USA
NR/9 – Sam Long, USA
NR/NR – Jimmy Archer
NR/NR – Victor Arenas
NR/NR – Will Kelsay
NR/NR – Brent Mattison
NR/NR – Humberto Rivera, USA
NR/NR – Will Ross

In the women’s race two-time XTERRA World Champ Lesley Paterson is looking to shake-off some early season rust and show the XTERRA world what she’s capable of. The “Scottish Rocket” has won this race three times, including in 2012 when XTERRA hosted the ITU Cross Tri World Champs at Oak Mountain.

“I just love this place, and have such wonderful memories here,” said Paterson, who finished second to Jacqui Allen at XTERRA Tahiti last weekend. “It’s an amazing picturesque course, and I’ve got the best homestay ever with my buddy Don. We’ve become very close friends across the years and I use this race as an excuse to come see him. Plus, this will be my hubby’s first time here so I’m excited to show him around and sign him up for the trail run!”

Paterson placed second to Suzie Snyder last year, and Julie Baker was third. Baker is back, and with a best-in-class swim will have the chance to lead Saturday’s race from wire-to-wire.

Canada’s best hope comes from Katie Button, the 2016 XTERRA Victoria Champ.

“I always enjoy riding at Oak Mountain. It’s different than what I have at home so offers some novel challenges, like the twisty flat trails that require a lot of focus to keep your momentum going,” said Button. “As my first race of the season, I’m looking to set a benchmark for myself and hopefully keep moving forward from here for the rest of the year.”

Kara LaPoint, last year’s Pan Am Pro Series runner-up, and Kelli Montgomery, who won XTERRA Costa Rica in March, are both coming off back-to-back weekends of racing at XTERRA Uruguay and XTERRA Brazil, and are hoping the legs and lungs can handle the travel.

“I’m hoping my body comes around after a pretty rough last few days with racing sick in Brazil, and a lot of hard travel as I continue to recover from that bout of illness,” said LaPoint, who is currently 5th in the Pan Am Pro Series standings. “I’ve definitely put myself through the ringer this week, but I’ve still got some time to get totally healthy and freshen up before Saturday. This has always been one of my favorite stops on the tour. It’s fun, fast, intense, and challenging racing, and without a doubt one of the best bike courses out there. I’ll be gunning for a podium finish and hope to keep moving up in the tour standings.”

As for Montgomery, who is sitting in second place in the Pan Am standings, she doesn’t think survival will be a problem, saying “I survived XTERRA Brazil, and that was the hardest XTERRA course I’ve ever done.”

Former Olympian Fabiola Corona from Mexico, who finished as the runner-up at XTERRA Chile then won XTERRA Argentina a week later in March, said she’s ready for the challenge, “I put a big focus on the XTERRA Pan America Tour this year and am really excited to come out and race at Oak Mountain.

The dark horse for the women could be Erin Storie, who will be competing in her first-ever XTERRA race because she wanted to try a different style of racing.  Plus, my husband is graduating from Army Officer school in Fort Benning, so I can see his graduation and race in the same weekend,” she added.

Storie has an impressive road triathlon racing resume that includes winning the 2013 USA Triathlon Collegiate Club National Championship and finishing third in the 2014 ITU Under-23 World Championships.  She is also a two-time U23 national champion and two-time USA Triathlon U23 Athlete of the Year.  It will certainly be interesting to see how that speed on tarmac translates to the tricky trails at Oak Mountain State Park.

ELITE WOMEN’S START LIST

2018 Rank/2017 Rank – Name, Nationality

2/22 – Kelli Montgomery, USA
4/19 – Fabiola Corona
5/2 – Kara LaPoint
12/11 – Jessica Koltz, USA
13/NR – Rebecca Blatt, USA
NR/5 – Lesley Paterson, GBR
NR/6 – Julie Baker, USA
NR/10 – Katie Button, CAN
NR/13 – Heather Zimchek-Dunn, USA
NR/18 – Anne Usher, USA
NR/NR – Erin Storie, USA

Find elite race updates on twitter @xterraoffroad this Saturday, May 19, starting at 9am CDT, and login to Facebook for photos, videos and more all week long.

All-time XTERRA Oak Mountain Elite Champions

Year – Men’s Winner/Women’s Winner

2006 – Brent McMahan/Melanie McQuaid
2007 – Conrad Stoltz/Jamie Whitmore
2008 – Conrad Stoltz/Shonny Vanlandingham
2009 – Conrad Stoltz/Melanie McQuaid
2010 – Conrad Stoltz/Shonny Vanlandingham
2011 – Conrad Stoltz/Melanie McQuaid
2012 – Conrad Stoltz/Lesley Paterson
2013 – Josiah Middaugh/Lesley Paterson
2014 – Josiah Middaugh/Flora Duffy
2015 – Braden Currie/Lesley Paterson
2016 – Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder
2017 – Josiah Middaugh/Suzie Snyder

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Dylan Mcneice And Yvonne Van Vlerken Take The Lead In Challenge Family World Bonus

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Per Bittner and Yvonne van Vlerken both take the titles at Challenge Aruba. Image by: Eric Wynn

After the first five of our CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus races, Dylan McNeice from New Zealand has taken the lead with 500 points after his strong win at CHALLENGETAIWAN. The female standings are currently dominated by the Dutch Yvonne van Vlerken. She not only took the victory at CHALLENGEGRANCANARIA and CHALLENGERICCIONE but also earned an additional 75 points at CHALLENGEROMA. Yvonne is currently leading the table with a total 575 points!

As you are probably already aware, the CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus is the pro athlete bonus scheme we use for our races worldwide. The initiative provides professional athletes with the opportunity to race for a share of the $165k end-of-season bonus in addition to the prize purses of the individual races. Athletes are only able to count their best six CHALLENGEFAMILYraces during the season, of which no more than two can be full distance races.

McNeice is currently leading the male standings but Pablo Gonzales from Spain is close behind in second place. Right now, and thanks to his amazing results in CHALLENGEGRANCANARIA and CHALLENGEROMA, he has a total of 475 points. Fredrik Croneborg from Sweden came second at CHALLENGETAIWAN, which earned him 400 points and a swift move to third place in the male ranking.

The female Dutch athlete and current leader of the CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus, Yvonne van Vlerken, is being chased by Julia Grant from New Zealand. Julia won CHALLENGETAIWAN and promptly earned 500 points for her victory. She’s now 75 points behind Van Vlerken. Alyssa Godesky from the USA earned an instant 400 points after her second place at CHALLENGETAIWAN and is currently holding third position in the CHALLENGEFAMILY World Bonus.

Upcoming

The next opportunity to earn points is CHALLENGELISBOA. This race takes place in Portugal on the 19th May 2018. The $165k end-of-season bonus will pay five deep across both male and female with the top-ranked Pro taking home $30k. Second place will carry a bonus of $20k, third, fourth and fifth positions will pay $15k, $12k and $5k accordingly. Ranking will be decided through a fair points system based on placings earned. This system is explained fully here:

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Jake Birtwhistle finds the tiger in his tank for stunning WTS Yokohama silver

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Tasmania’s Commonwealth Games hero Jake Birtwhistle has continued his outstanding form to charge home for a stirring silver medal in today’s World Triathlon Series race in Yokohama.

The 24-year-old who won Australia’s first medal of the Games – silver in a frantic finish on day one on the Gold Coast before spearheading the Mixed Relay to gold – again dug deep to run from third to second inside the last kilometre.

But not even Birtwhistle could catch today’s winner, two-time ITU world champion, Spain’s Mario Mola who stole the race from the outset of the run.

Mola was never headed in one of the most impressive 10km run legs of recent times, to sprint away with the gold, well ahead of the fast finishing Birtwhistle, who had claimed another Spaniard in Fernando Alarza in a dramatic fight for silver.

Birtwhistle came out of the pack four kilometres into the run and looked comfortable enough running on Alarza’s shoulder.

In the warm afternoon sun, the durable Spaniard found his second wind and opened up what looked like a commanding lead and with Mola well ahead – a Spanish 1-2 finish beckoned.

But Birtwhistle wasn’t going away and had other ideas, producing the kind of tactic he has often used in his spectacular climb up the ITU rankings, pouncing like his “Tassie Tiger” nickname suggests racing away for a remarkable silver medal.

It was Birtwhistle who ran his way into the hearts of Aussie sports fans on the Gold Coast last month with his satisfying silver behind South African Henri Schoeman, who failed to finish today’s race, before anchoring Australia to a spectacular gold medal in the Mixed Relay with Ashleigh Gentle, Gillian Backhouse and Matthew Hauser.

After today’s race Birtwhistle claimed he was “probably credentialed to talk about sprint finishes” which were quickly becoming his specialty – and a handy one at that.

“I’m becoming a bit of a sprint specialist now I guess,” said Birtwhistle, who revealed he had been “training solo” in Launceston since the Games.

“I thought I was spent in what was my first Olympic Distance race since last November.

“But I just dig deep and found something over those closing stages and I’m very happy to come away with the silver.

“With such a big group on the bike and the weather so warm it was pretty sketchy at times – and the most important thing was to stay safe and stay hydrated.”

Birtwhistle says his major goal for the season was the Commonwealth Games and with that box ticked it was now time to continue with a successful WTS season which will culminate in the Grand Final on the Gold Coast in September.

Birtwhistle is now sitting second in the WTS pointscore behind Mola with Alarza third.

In a great day for the Australians in the opening race of Olympic qualification period, Rio top 10 finisher Ryan Bailie was seventh and young gun Luke Willian – who like Birtwhistle made his Games debut last month, finished ninth, with another Rio Olympian Aaron Royle 19th and another youngster in Hauser (fourth on the Gold Coast) 22nd after coming out of the swim up front.

Earlier in the day Commonwealth Games Relay gold medallist Gentle produced a sizzling run to just miss the podium, finishing fourth, with Games team mates Charlotte McShane and fellow Mixed Relay golden girl Backhouse ninth and 11th respectively; Natalie Van Coevorden 14th and Emma Jeffcoat 17th.

The race saw defending WTS and Commonwealth Champion Flora Duffy (Bermuda) dominate the run to continue her incredible season ahead of Katie Zaferes (USA) with former World Champion Non Stanford (Great Britain) holding onto third ahead of Gentle.

The never-say-die Australian powered home on the run after she came out of the water in 34th position – leaving her well off the leaders and in a chase pack left to do a power of work and 1:15 behind the leading group of nine.

Undeterred, last year’s WTS silver medallist, got the bit between her teeth and ran past six runners – including three fellow Australians – Backhouse, Abu Dhabi WTS bronze medallist and training partner Van Coevorden and last week’s Chengdu World Cup winner Jeffcoat.

The third member of Australia’s Games team, McShane also produced a stirring 10km run to also come from the chase pack to finish 9th.

Gentle clocked the second fastest 10km split of the day with her 33.54 to finish 1.37 behind winner Flora Duffy (33.26) and got to within 21sec of bronze medallist Non Stanford (GBR) in third.

Meanwhile Albury’s Justin Godfrey continued his PTS3 category dominance with a season opening victory in the first round of the World Paratriathlon Series.

It was Godfrey’s 11th major international career victory and a 15th podium finish – his third win of 2018.

The 34-year-old triple world champion led the Australian contingent to a three medal haul in perfect conditions.

Other medals went to:

Newcastle’s Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Lauren Parker who finished with a hard fought silver – after leading for the first 3.5km of the 5km run leg and despite missing the finish shoot and having to push an extra 500 metres – which made no difference to the places.

And WA’s two-time ITU world champion Sally Pilbeam who was third in the PTS4 category.

In other results were: Nic Beveridge (6th PTWC); Sara Tait (6th PTWC); Brant Garvey (6th PTS2);Josh Kasulke (7th PTS5) and Jonathan Goerlach (7th PTVI).

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