My podium at XTERRA Italy 2011
by Carla van Huyssteen
There is a time in any “serious” athlete’s career that you need to spread your wings and tread the unfamiliar and uncertain arena of international racing. Better athletes, harder courses, longer travelling time and much less certainty of any success…
I felt that it was such a time in my sporting career that I needed to challenge myself and take the leap into international Xterra racing. In 2010 I had a taste of the intensity of the racing at the Xterra Switzerland, and with a good result at the race (fourth PRO), I was motivated to race the whole 2011 European XTERRA Series, with XTERRA Italy being the opening race.
After a very disappointing non-start (known as a did not start or DNS) at the ITU World Cross Triathlon Championships in Spain just a few weeks ago, I was a bit nervous going into this race only 3 weeks after being down and out for a week with the flu. But there was no turning back and a strong mind was most important element for the final prep before departing for Sardinia, Italy.
Sardinia, an exceptionally beautiful island off the coast of Italy was the greatest venue I have ever raced at. Although it was a 24h travel(flights and transit time), it was more than worth the while when I finally walked onto the white washed Mediterranean beach with crystal clear water that would be the race start of the Xterra on Sunday 29 May.
The XTERRA, a 1.5km swim, 34km mountain bike and a 10km beach run, was described as one of the most scenic but toughest routes on the circuit and definitely did not disappoint. After arriving in Sardinia on Friday evening I had Saturday to recover from the traveling, find the race venue, register, scout the race route, all while trying to stay hydrated and out of the extreme heat. It was a harder task than it seemed. But after all was done for the day, all I had left to do was relax and focus on the race to come.
With the transition area buzzing, I racked my bike, checked my gear (INOV-8 racers of choice: F-lite 195) for the last time. After a good warm up, nervously I jogged into the elite holding bin, glancing at the quality line up of athletes standing around me, I suddenly felt privileged to be in Sardinia, racing alongside the PROs (Renate Bucher, Carina Wasle, Olivier Marceau) living the dream.
The Pros were led into the water first, and got a few meters ahead of the age group athletes, which made the swim start a bit more bearable. A quick countdown and we were off!
From the start the intensity was high and I tried to swim as hard as I could but by the end of the first lap I knew it was going to be a tough day of racing! It was a wetsuit swim and luckily I had my SAILFISH G-RANGE wetsuit to keep me afloat as I wasn’t feeling fish-like myself in the water, but I entered T1 third Pro female and just tried to keep the intensity high and not lose focus.
The bike route was very tough; quality long climbs, steep loose rocky descends, hike-a-bike sections and a bit of smooth forest roads, all mixed together to produce a really hard 16km loop. I was passed by Renate Bucher and Carina Wasle, and tried my best not to lose any more positions. It took me about half a lap get into a good rhythm and by the end of the second lap I had kept my position, but had no idea how the bike leg had placed the girls in front of me, so when I ran out of T2 I decided I had to keep a good fast cadence and catch as many people as I can, men and woman! The run route took us through some bush sections next to the beach and then wound onto the beach, stunning but hard to run on!!
I saw Jacky Slack from GB just in front of me and suddenly my motivation doubled, upping my pace I caught her and then passed Carina Wasle at 7km and I tried not to look back and just up the pace over the last few kilometres. Running down the finishing chute it hit me for the first time, I had a podium position in a European XTERRA and I was overwhelmed! I couldn’t stop smiling and babbling like a little kid!
The excitement was drawn out by a TV interview and very well presented awards ceremony. Suddenly I went from a nobody from South Africa to being the new kid to watch out for, a great, satisfying feeling!
Now back to reality and working hard towards my next race, XTERRA FRANCE!