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Xterra Denmark European Championships
The final stop on the Xterra European Tour was held at Mons Klint, Denmark. An absolutely beautiful part of the world, that out of all the places I have been to this year I really want to go back to. Ok so the weather probably made a bit of a difference, but it was so quiet and peaceful that it is also made for a fantastic place to relax for a few days after the race.
I was pretty nervous heading into this race. I’d had a great week of training (on the turbo!) before we left, but having had such a terrible race in Poland and not enough Xterra racing behind me to put it down as a one off, I was lacking quite a lot of confidence.
At least we had plenty of time to practise on the course before the race without doing too much. The days before the race went by fairly quickly and it is probably the first Xterra I have done where I felt my prep had gone well. Although having said that, nothing prepares you for running up 500 steps…twice!
I felt good on race day, ready. Another feeling I have never felt before an Xterra! Down the 500 steps to the swim start, a last minute panic over where to leave my shoes and I was good to go. I love a sea swim, ok, I don’t love a sea swim, but as a strong swimmer I know it gives me an advantage so I’ll take it. The swim was a 2 lap anti-clockwise triangular loop. I started far right so I was able to get clear water (and also protect my ribs). I found clear water fairly quickly which is how I like it.
Out the swim and time to tackle the 500 steps to transition. These did not seem too bad when I’d walked/jogged up the day before, but put a wetsuit on and try racing up them and they soon become pretty hard!
I was first out of the water and onto the bike but had no idea of the time gap to the other girls. I knew Brigitta would likely be nearby and I spent the first lap of the bike expecting to be caught. The bike course was 4 laps of 7.5km with a mix of everything. Gradual climbs, steep climbs, fast decents, single track, and I actually found myself really enjoying it. It wasn’t until I could see Brigitta catching me at the end of the 3rd lap that I remembered I was in a race. I then had a choice to make, wait for her to catch and stick with her or try and push on and make some time. Easy decision, I’d made it this far at the front of the race and would quite like to stay here, plus I knew I would likely need some time on her going into the run. So head down I pushed on and came into transition with around a 25 second lead. So I soon lost most of that when I got a piece of wood chipping stuck in my running shoe as I was putting it on but there was no way I was going to tackle the run with my foot hurting before I even started.
The run, 2 laps around the top of the cliff, 1 lap down 500 steps, along the beach, back up the same 500 steps we had at the start to the finish line. Probably the hardest run course I have ever done. I thought the first 2 laps were hard enough and was looking forward to a break whilst running down the steps on the final loop. These steps were so small and steep that you have to place one foot on each step and just move your feet as quickly as possible. I also knew that Lizzie was catching and all I could think was, get me to the steps and I can hold her off. Realistically I had no idea that would be the case but it kept me going. Down the steps and onto the beach where I thought that I would finally be able to get into my run stride. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be. Now when I say beach, it was more of a fist size pebble beach which just zapped any energy that you might have left in your legs.
Perfect for the second ascent of the 500 steps. I reached the bottom of the steps still in second position and couldn’t see Lizzie but by this point I had nothing left in my legs and there was no hope for me running up the steps. More of a very glamorous scramble on all 4’s. Now I was prepared to run if I needed to. I kept checking behind me but I wasn’t able to see her, so the death march continued. That was until I saw Doug about 150 steps from the top shouting at me to run else I would be caught. I wasn’t sure how, as Lizzie wasn’t in sight but maybe I’d missed something. I poured everything I could into getting up those last stairs and crossed the line in second place. Turns out I had 45 seconds to play with but I’ll let Doug off for making me suffer unnecessarily. I was unbelievably happy that after all the mistakes I’d made in racing this year I’d finally managed to pull it off and get a result that I was happy with.
So that concludes my first year of adventures in the World of Xterra racing. For now I’m taking a couple of weeks off. I have since found out that I had actually fractured my ribs in my crash the week before Poland, so I’m cutting myself a bit of slack. I am going to enjoy my rest, but I am also excited to start training again for some more fun next year.
image credits: Rob Sharp and Carel du Plesis