Friday, 27 June 2014

Xterra Greece, the awakening of a peacefull mountainous village by crazy off-road fanatics

 Whilst travelling to Greece I had a very bad race at the European Championships fresh in my head. This memory was worsened by the news of being dropped by the Dutch Elite team for the World Championships. If it was up to me I would have turned my car around and hid under a rock somewhere for a while. But my life loving coach was waiting for me in Greece with the only expectation of me to finish the race. Which with the state of mind I was in was a challenge in itself. If it was  up to me I was ready for retirement.

I was travelling with fellow athletes and friends James Walker, Johnny Perry, Llewellyn Holmes and Louise Fox. We had rented a couple of cars together in Greece from which we had to endure a long journey on Greek roads to the little village of Lake Plastira where the race was held. Very quickly I snapped out of my sulking mood whilst hanging out with my “Xterra Family” during our little road trip.

Lake Plastiras (Greek: Λίμνη Πλαστήρα) also called Tavropos Reservoir (Greek: Τεχνητή Λίμνη Ταυρωπού) is an artificial lake fed by Tavropos (Megdovas) river, located in Karditsa regional unit, near the city of Karditsa, Greece. The lake is named after the Greek general and politician Nikolaos Plastiras, who was the first to visualize the construction of an artificial lake in the area.Today the lake holds up to 400 million cubic meters of fresh water. It is used for irrigation and as a power source of a hydroelectric plant,[1] but also as the main water source to the city of Karditsa. Due to its altitude (one of the highest in Europe) the Tavropos Reservoir is a popular tourist resort in Greece, as the formed landscape is quite unique. A perfect little place for an Xterra!

I immediately fell in love with the location on arrival, its beautiful surroundings and peacefulness dipped in the Xterra spirit made for a very warm welcome by all the locals and a very easy acclimatisation. After a long day travelling, Louise and I decided to have a swim in the lake and on our walk down run into Xterra Legend Sam Gardner (also Louise’s Coach) travelling athlete Will Kelsal and his girlfriend, and super star, good friend Helena Erbenova. Old friendships were reinforced, new friendships were made in typical Xterra style and I was very happy to be here and not hiding under a rock somewhere back in Scotland.

Xterra Greece Head boss Konstantinos Koumargialis had done an absolute amazing job with the course, accommodation arrangements, food availability, everything was very well organized and he together with all the organisers involved made sure we were happy and well looked after. Nothing was too much for these Greek stars. I was living the dream for a few days!!
team Organicoach

The following days I took the advice of Nico and spend my time practicing the course with my friends without worrying about the race and I absolutely loved it. The bike course was great; it took us right up in the hills with nice long climbs, spectacular scenery and great single track. In typical Xterra style stories started to develop; vicious dogs chasing athletes on their bikes, massive turtles escaping death in near collisions with riders, giant snakes held under control by reptile whisperer Nico Lebrun on the run course saving Kathrin Muller from being attacked.

Helena and Kostas
I really enjoyed spending some quality time with Helena, she had been teaching her daughter English which had improved her own language skills immensely and given her a lot of confidence in engaging in any form of conversation. I met her properly last year in Italy, and having always been in awe of her athletic performances it was great to get to know her as a person and learn about her day to day life. I find it very interesting you can connect with people coming from such different cultures and backgrounds; share a sense of humour and outlook on life even though there might be a slight language barrier. It’s a spirit which is recognisable and the key in forming strong friendships.
Xterra Greece Crew

As usual race day arrived way too early. Nerves took over and as much as I tried to fight it and Nico trying to talk confidence in me, my last race was so fresh on my memory and as much as I loved this course I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. A talk with Nico the night before made me feel slightly more settled. “we are taking a step back, it’s about finishing tomorrow, I will chase you with stick if I have to!!”

Walking into transition on race day, the pro racks had given our own name cards with our national flag on it, I loved this little detail, so very cool!! Nothing to really write home about my performance other than that I didn’t completely lose my head this time.  It was great to have Nico on course helping me with the race. I managed to swim ok,  on the bike I was wondering why I was breathing so hard without my legs hurting and on the run I had Nico’s wife Alex who was having a great race breathing in my neck which motivated me to keep pushing. I ended up making a lot of mistakes which was a bit frustrating. But I did what I came to do, I finished. I finished in 6th place.
Helena, Kathrin and me
I walked straight into the always positive Kathrin Muller at the finish line. She had another stellar performance for the win. She has always so much energy to give and it was great to be in her company whilst being slightly disappointed after another underperformance from me. A great chick she is.

A race recap with Nico reinforced what we already suspected. “after seeing you today I know it’s nothing physical he said, your training performance and race performance don’t match, we have to find a way to unlock your body”
Francois winning
The organicoach team did brilliantly with Francois Carloni winning the race and Rory Downie coming 4th and Alex winning her AG! It’s always nice to see people who really deserve it do so well!! In the females it was Kathrin smashing it with Helena coming second and Brigitta Poor for the first time on the podium in 3rd! It was nice to meet Brigitta properly in Greece after seeing glimpses of her at races last year. She had an amazing race for 4th at the European Champs and now another great performance. My roomie Louise Fox had a very good race coming 4th.The Xterra podium was personalised with cool Xterra trophies for the top 7, another small touch of Kostas and something which put this race miles above others.
Coach Nico
A great few days with awesome people, the love is back, I am not quitting yet. It is time to train the mind. Next stop Xterra France.

"always believe that something wonderful is about to happen"






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