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XTERRA World Championships 2013: Lessons in Preparation and Physics

Someone kill me.

–> My thoughts 15min into the bike with the sun burning up my face. Or as Kathy Waite so aptly described…it felt like there were flames coming out of my jersey and engulfing my head.

Heat acclimatization fail.

I ran* 10min slower than last year despite huge improvements in my fitness and ended up in the med tent soon after I struggled across the finish line. (*and by run I mean walk)

Me during the run (just kidding its a cool giant Maui snail)

Me during the run (just kidding its a cool giant Maui snail)

My impression of this event: this race is the worst!!! A slightly biased view because this race is the worst for me, exposing and magnifying all of my weaknesses: hills, heat, and lack of rocks/technical elements.

However, this year instead of dreading the difficulty of the event I tried to rise to the occasion – working hard all season, gearing almost all of my training and racing around one goal: Have a solid race at world champs, improve my race resume and obtain some support/sponsorship allowing me to continue racing XTERRA.

And therefore the result of my race was extraordinarily disappointing for 2 main reasons: I felt it was a poor reflection of the progress I had made this season and secondly realizing that XTERRA is an unsustainable pursuit for me over the next few years. There’s a reason there were only 5 Canadians under the age of 30 competing in Maui…well there are a lot of reasons but that’s a topic for another blog entitled something like The Sociocultural Determinants of Performance !

All depressing thoughts aside…I went through a massive learning curve this season that will no doubt benefit me in whatever area I pursue.

Specifically, after racing in Maui I gained a new appreciation of preparation and physics:


If you miss one piece of the puzzle at a major event, it’s all over.

For me (and Danelle) the missing piece was not giving our bodies a chance to adapt to the extreme heat and humidity coming from BC where 10degC had started to feel comfortable.

Because I screwed that up it did not matter that this season I got rid of my car, underwent a colonscopy and endoscopy to investigate why I wasn’t absorbing iron, followed a diet of <50g of carbs for 2 weeks to fix my stomach problems, avoided wine/bread/wheat/chocolate for 2 months before Maui, missed one of my best friends weddings because I couldn’t afford the plane ticket and the time off training, reorganized my work schedule to balance my stress and recovery, fired my coach in September so that I had enough cash to buy a plane ticket to HI, and lived in a constant state of fatigue balancing training and my physiotherapy practice.


And there are no shortage of these kinds of stories in triathlon  – maybe you choose the wrong tires, you flat or your wheel falls off your bike (Sara @ Ironman world champs!), someone else crashes you out, or you look down for ½ a second then hit a speed bump and crash into a barrier…at the Olympics. Usually you fail more times than you succeed in sport. Doesn’t mean your effort to get to the start line is any less meaningful than the person who won.


Imagine this basic physics question –

2 females get onto their bikes and ride up a steep mountain for 2 hours. One weighs 100lbs, the other 140lbs. How much more work does the 140lbs female have to do to keep up with the 100lbs female?

Because I haven’t done physics since 1st year biomechanics, I am not going to try to answer this question with numbers, but in my experience the answer is: A LOT more work for the 140lbs female!!

The evidence is in the results. By appearance, the top-5 female finishers all look to be less than 115lbs.

If the amount of climbing on this course is not balanced with rock gardens, skinny bridges, and/or logs then I think we should split the pro category into girls who weigh <135lbs and girls who weigh >135lbs. Although I would prefer the former option.

It was hard to ignore controversy over the bike course this year. Danelle describes the XTERRA world champs being called the current ITU vacation spot in her race report.

Adding insult to injury, the XTERRA crew and outside media have been promoting the athletes who arrive at both USA and World championships with little to no mountain bike experience. See Conrad’s blog for a newspaper clip of the women’s champ who reportedly rode a mountain bike only 12 times before the race.

In my opinion, idolizing such athletes (who are no doubt very talented triathletes) is disrespectful to the competitors who have spent endless hours on a mountain bike perfecting skills and dirt-specific bike handling.

Creating a mountain bike course that can accommodate 800 competitors as well as highlight both technical skills and fitness is a very difficult task. I just hope the sport continues to evolve as an event that requires true off-roading capabilities.

A frustrating end to the XTERRA season for a bunch of us off-roaders.

The continuous learning and application involved in sport is what keeps me motivated and is the reason I started this blog. Our culture tends to focus on winning and we only notice people when they have magically appeared at the top of their game, disregarding the logistics and struggle required to get there. I hope my posts at least get the point across about how difficult it is to race triathlon in Canada.

So if nothing else, this year has been a wonderful character building experience.

Quote from an interview with author Malcolm Gladwell

Quote from an interview with author Malcolm Gladwell


Russ Hays Bike Shop for supporting my antics all season

Synergy Health Centre for employing me!! Otherwise I’d be living out of the cardboard box I packed my bike in 🙂 …and to all the amazing clinicians I get to work with and get treated by. I haven’t been as healthy as I am now for close to 6 years. Health before performance!

Houshang Amiri and the Pacific Cycling Centre. For all the knowledge and tricks I picked up this year. Hopefully all those bike miles will pay off in the future.

Josiah Middaugh – a coach I might be able to stick with! For picking up my program last minute whilst getting ready for XTERRA USA Champs – ie. chatting with me while driving from Vail to Utah 3 days before the race, taking the overall USA points series, then having my training ready for Monday. Amazing! And for making training fun and motivating again.

Looking back at the trip and this season…even though for the next little while I will have to continue to take the bus and eat white rice as my meals, it seems a bit silly to complain about my triathlete problems…

Sunset @ Napili Bay

Sunset @ Napili Bay

Although Maui in October is pretty great, I will happily stay put in Victoria for another year or two and refine my skills and hill climbing capabilities 🙂

Elk lake

Elk lake

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Sorry to hear about your sub optimal race experience. It’s sad that the world champs are missing a true mountain biking component. Hope to see you on the race circuit next year.

    November 12, 2013
    • No shortage of Canadian melt-downs in Maui 🙂 Hopefully Ill be back on the tour sooner than later

      November 13, 2013
  2. Also, regarding the physics question, a 40 lb (or 18.14 kg) difference in racers for a course with 1,000m in climbing corresponds to a gravitational potential energy difference of 18.1 kg * 9.8 m/s^2 * 1,000 m = 177,772 Joules. Assuming the climbing takes one hour (3,600 seconds), that’s 177,772 Joules / 3,600 seconds, a whopping 49 WATT DIFFERENCE!

    November 13, 2013
    • haha! Awesome thanks for that! Now I have some objective goals to motivate me through the offseason 🙂

      November 20, 2013

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