Thursday, 10 July 2014

Xterra France; Mud, sweat and tears

I don’t like making excuses. I will push myself to the point of no return until someone will make me stop. I believe I have reached that point. I am tired and I am not performing. My body is in lock down and no matter how hard I train, how much I push and how much I want it, no improvement is being made. It is with huge disappointment for me to now say, no more, time to refresh, get some tests done and see how I can bounce back from this. I have never hurt more in a race than in Xterra France last weekend, mentally and physically. I love this event; it radiates passion for the outdoors, Xterra, and adventure. The Charboniers truly stepped it up another level this year by adding an awesome MTB ramp as part of the race on top of little technical obstacles throughout the whole course. It required athletes to be 100% focussed the entire way. With its 1600m of climbing over 38km on the bike and 300m of climbing on the run, this race is already one of the toughest, if not, the toughest race on the Xterra circuit. This doesn’t stop athletes entering though, sold out pretty much immediately after going online, this is also one of the biggest, if not the biggest off road triathlon in the world, with around 1000 athletes on course in the main Xterra event. The organisation is faultless, the ambiance buzzing, and no matter what the weather does, the course is a whole lot of fun in the dry or the wet! This race has to be on the bucket list for anyone owning a MTB, trail runners or loving an adventure!
Nico post bike recce

The day before the race it had been bucketing down and when Nico, Asa, Alex and me went for a course recce it was a mud fest. The winter months in Scotland had been paying off for me, and I was riding better in the wet then I had ever been before, slipping and sliding like a true Euro athlete!! Having been previously afraid of this bike course I was  loving it, riding with a big smile on my face I was looking forward to the day ahead. Compared to the year before I was a different mountain biker!

Waking up tired on race morning wasn’t the best feeling, I felt like I could sleep for a whole month and with race start at 2pm, may be my body started to go in too much of relaxation mode whilst spending most of the morning sleeping.

The hellish swim start

The swim in Xterra France is always a nightmare for weak swimmers with a 1000 athletes starting at the same time, I was prepared for this however and swam about 3min faster on the same course than I had done the year before making me coming out of the water full with confidence. Unfortunately I was now mid pack on the bike course and was forced to walk most of the hills due to riders stopping in front of me. It is a long event I thought and stayed positive, knowing I could make up a lot of time on the 2nd lap. I didn’t make any mistakes on the downhill and I think I passed about 70 people in the one descent, I was happy.
Starting the 2nd lap and it was time to push. Very quickly my lungs were burning and I started to feel dizzy. My chest tightened and it was a real struggle, I was getting overtaken by girls I had passed on the first lap and I couldn’t stay positive. Good friend Flo Dannah was flying past me and I tried to stick on her wheel, she looked super strong and climbed effortless whilst I was near death trying to keep up with her. I thought I was going to pass out and dropped the pace.

The hardest thing was not understanding what was happening, I had trained so solidly, I had improved so much but on race day when the pressure was on, my body fell apart. As I started the run my legs still felt fine but I was now wheezing in my breathing and my whole chest felt like a thousand elephants were jumping on top of it. I reached Nico on the course and stopped, I was nearly in tears, he asked me what was going on but I couldn’t talk. “just go easy, finish the race for training” and of I went, a combination of walking and running, watching girls passing me without being able to do anything about it. I was in a continuous battle with myself wanting to quit. Knowing I would feel worse for not finishing the race I kept on going. It was the worst sensation ever, not being able to breathe, feeling so heavy chested and knowing I was dropping further and further back in the field. I was embarrassed by it. Disappointment at all levels.

I reached the finish line in distress and tried to find a quiet place to regain my thoughts. Back in the transition zone I run into Flo who comforted me. Not long after that Kathrin showed up giving me a big hug. I love these girls. Kathrin had just won the biggest, toughest, longest race on the tour and still took the time to check if I was ok. "I was looking for you, Nico said you weren't well" she says. "did you win?" I ask, "yes she says with a big smile" Unstoppable!! this was her 3rd Victory in a row and I am happy I was there to witness each and every one of them! After a season riddled with bad luck last year, Carina Wassle was back on top with a great 2nd place, and Renata fighting to the bitter end for 3rd place.
The organicoach team had a struggling day with Asa crashing on the bike, spending time in hospital needing 10 sutures and suffering 3 broken ribs missing prize giving, the man still managed to come 5th! Alex came 3rd in her AG and Francois had an off day.

Asa Shaw celebrating his 30th birthday
I must admit this has been a bitter pill to swallow, I had huge expectations for this season and it is not happening for me. Finding a new hobby like breeding Goldfish or playing chess has been on my mind. I love the sport however, spending time with the people in it and the places where it has taken me. I love training and the feeling of getting stronger and overcoming new challenges all the time. So instead of concentrating on problems, I have decided I will work on finding solutions with the aim of coming back stronger than ever. Its time to stop, get my health checked out, and recover. "this is not normal" says Nico. "We need to fix you"
"when the world says "give up" Hope whispers "try it one more time"











  1. You can't always get what you want
    You can't always get what you want
    You can't always get what you want
    But if you try sometimes you just might find ( Mick Jagger and Ketih Richards of the Stones song, also true !)

    You'll get what you need

  2. Hang in there Nienke, you're amazing. You don't have to win to be amazing. This is so tough what you are doing. We believe in you. One day you'll see us on the side-line cheering you on. Your mind is stronger than your body, you can do this :-)