Acquire the best possible equipment for open water swimming, mountain biking and trail running. Be aware this comes at a huge financial cost if you don't get sponsored in full.
Stick to a training structure and plan that you believe in and avoid running injuries at all cost!
Learn from the best in the business with regards to swimming, mountain biking and trail running.
Create a support team of individuals and coaches good enough to take you to world champs and win. All of them need to understand you and be very honest with you even if you don't like it.
The swim start went ok for me. I think Bryn Freeman gave me a good elbow in the face about 50m into the 1500m swim leg. I know Bryn from many other races and for that reason I forgave him within a split second but I can promise you, I made sure I kept my distance from him there after... I managed to turn at the first buoy with all the favorites for the race. From there on I was swimming at a strong effort but in control of my excursion in the water with the leading group.
Dan Hugo showing all of us his swimming pedigree managed to open up a 50 second gap to the leading group of men as he exited the water. Conrad Stoltz, Bradley Weiss, Brad Edwards and I came sprinting out of the water with a frantic cheer from the crowd. I knew I had to stay with Conrad as long as possible. He was my ticket to have a successful race. Something like; "stick with me and I will make you famous scenario". For those who don't know who Conrad Stoltz is, he is a 7x time Off Road Triathlon World Champion and probably the most successful Xterra athlete ever worldwide.
A few hundred meters into the bike leg of 28 km mountain biking (don't let the distances fool you), I was exactly where I needed to be, tailing Conrad. We started with a decent on a slippery hard surface gravel road. We both went too fast into the second major turn in the route. Conrad saved himself from falling, unfortunately lady luck wasn't smiling on me at that moment.
I fell and I came down hard onto mother earth. Funny, my first reaction was to make sure I get my bike and body out of the way for Bradley. Otherwise I might just be in another bike crash with him trying to swerve out of my way. I got back on the bike and decided to stick with Bradley for a while until I regained my composure. Bradley, who is a super talented athlete, pulled me all the way to Mountain Sanctuary Park. We managed to catch and pass Theo Blignaut in the same process. Bradley and I started the long rocky accent in Mountain Sanctuary together and by the end of the climb he managed to open a 10 second lead on me. To be honest, I wasn't worried. My form was really great and I knew my limit concerning the effort I could exert in a race like this. There still was a lot of cycling left and a monster 13 km trail run waiting for us...
Bradley, being just out of sight, unfortunately took a wrong turn at Mountain Sanctuary Campsite and this automatically placed me in 3rd position. I then passed Conrad Stoltz (he had to stop to fix a puncture) at the start of the Mountain Sanctuary single track and this meant that within a few minutes I moved up into second position.
In the meantime Dan managed to open up a 2:30 min gap on me. I raced at a strong effort from this point on for the remainder of the bike leg. This is something I will have to learn to change in the future. I still need to develop that pure speed, power and aggression on the bike. If the bike leg were to be double the distance we raced then I think my pace and effort would have been perfect. Going to Harry's single track then up to Ilhanti and then later on near the final decent of the bike course I was quite happy to be placed second overall. I didn't really wonder too much about Dan's lead over me and what was going on behind me. All I focused on was to finish 2nd and if Dan Hugo, for some reason picked up a bike problem or later on the run get some trouble I might manage to win the race. This does not mean that I did not try to beat Dan. It just meant that I was very honest with myself and realized that Dan was having a fantastic race. Thus I was just making sure I get myself back to the transition area in 2nd position. I came into transition trailing Dan by 3:30 or 4 minutes...not exactly sure.
The MONSTER tail run - a grueling 13 km rocky and rugged bushveld terrain...But it must be pointed out that the trail run goes through spectacular eco systems and scenery. It is a must trail run for any trail running enthusiast. You run down a dam wall (1.5 km mark), up a ravine in a dry stream (2 km mark), up a rocky valley to a pristine bushveld plateau (7 km mark).There after the real fun starts. You run down an extremely steep gravel road which is littered with coconut size loose rocks (9 km mark). It is so steep that you cannot control your speed once you start running. Every time your feet hits the ground it is a 50/50 chance you will slip or worse break an ankle... But again I have to emphasize the run leg is fun and a must. A true challenge!
I managed to have a solid run and keep my second position overall. Dan Hugo was phenomenal on the day. He truly is world class and such a calm headed and collective individual. I can still learn a lot from him in the manner he conducts his races. He was the best athlete on the day and deserved every credit he received for winning. It would have been a cracker of a race if Conrad did not pick up his mechanical problems (two punctures). He was really strong on the day and I know he wanted to win the race badly. Bradley Weiss and Theo Blignaut had to battle it out for the 3rd position on the run leg. Both of them are fantastic runners and athletes. Brad managed to putt in the second fastest run spilt on the day and that brought him home for 3rd place overall.
The Xterra proved to be a true world class show case. With fantastic race organizing involved and one of the biggest Xterra events in the world in terms of entries for the full and lite events.
Thank you to my fantastic support team. I am surrounded by the best team in the world. They are all down to earth individuals and as normal as you and me. But they are all specialists in their field of expertise: (I must still up my game to justify this level of support)
- Michelle Vlasakova (Swim coach – coach of multiple National swimmers)
- Lindsey Parry (Triathlon head coach – coach of multiple world champions)
- Ruan Deyzel and his team, Tony and Marcel (Mentor, bike fixer and mechanic, Mountain bike skills coach)
- Mike Fraser (Bike lender and good general supporter)
- Jarred Crous (Training partner - the best breast stroke swimmer in SA for 2013. Current 100m SA breast stroke champion - he gave me the believe to challenge anyone)
- Martin Botha (Right hand man and support crew at events)
- JP Nortje (Training partner and support crew)
- Thabang Madiba (Friend, athlete and training partner - He is the 2013 SA Trail Running Champion)
- Sterk Span Academy (300 plus fanatical supporters) – thanks to all the messages of encouragement.
1st Dan Hugo
2nd Nico Sterk
3rd Bradley Weiss
4th Theo Blignaut
5th Daniel Carlton