Mack Clarkson- back on track in 2014

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Great to see Mack back racing after a nasty injury forced him on the sidelines for 2013 he has made an amazing comeback to racing winning a medal at the World Xterra Champs and last weekend won an Australian off road triathlon title, read Mack race report below.

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Xterra Off Road Triathlon World Championships

(1.5k Swim, 30.4K Mtb bike, 9.5k Trail run)

So it all started at Xterra Anglesea Off Road Triathlon.

I had just completed the final grueling run leg which included a 4k stretch of running on soft sand when a fellow competitor came up to me and said “I think you’ve won your AG which means you will get a slot to the World Xterra Off road triathlon champs.”

When is it I asked?

“October 26th

Hmm a week before Noosa, what the hell, 23 hours of total flying, 4 planes, then a plane & bus to Noosa the next day, I’ll be right!

So after a winter season of posted and designated training sessions it was soon time to board the plane to Hawaii. The whole tribe was coming too and Jimmy our youngest was particularly excited telling anyone who cared to listen we were going to “Hawarley”.

On flying out we heard that Hurricane Ana had just hit the Hawaii islands and I was thinking no she hasn’t arrived yet! At least it happened last weekend and not next weekend I thought. We finally arrived in Maui after a mad rush to our connected flight at Honolulu airport.

Upon arriving in Maui it was a typical Maui day for that time of year being pretty warm and humid which was reassuring after the hurricane talk.

The drive from the airport along the coast up to Kaanapali on the north side was quite spectacular. I was quite taken back by how close the road is to the ocean and we passed many small shore breaks where people were Stand Up Paddle boarding. Through Lahaina we took a left into our outrigger accommodation in Kaanapali at the Maui Eldorado, which is situated on a beautiful lush golf course and only a 5 minute walk down to the ocean. The accommodation was nice and roomy which is ideal when you have a wife, 2 kids and a bike with you.

On the Thursday I rode the bike course and it all seemed ok, you could tell the course had been subjected to a little bit of rain. 10km’s in and the heavens opened up and the rain started to really bucket down. Clearly the systems from Hurricane Ana were still passing through as heavy rain this time of year is pretty unusual. I continued to ride but witnessed the ride course turn muddier and boggier. Before too long both my wheels had completely seized up on my steed due to the amount of mud. Riders (and nearly me) were falling off all over the place. Thankfully an Xterra motorbike official appeared and told everyone to get off the course and explained a quick exit route back to the road.

The only highlight from the practice ride was talking to Brendan Sexton in the line whilst lining up to use the hoses. The amount of mud on the course was a bit unsettling to all competitors and Dan Hugo explained it best during the pro press conference Friday night when he said you don’t want it to turn into a race where it favours the riders who simply have the most clearance from wheel to frame.

The muddy conditions sent a flurry of people to the mechanics at the Expo either wanting different tyres for muddy conditions or needing a repair due to the impact the mud was having on the equipment and the subsequent high pressure hosing required to get the mud off.

 

From Thursday through to race day we all just prayed it would not rain and the course would dry up in time.

After an average sleep, race day arrived and it was time to all pile into the hired SUV and drive the 10 minutes to the race site. The transition area was located in the large lawn area between the beach and the paleaceous Carlton Ritz resort. I was a little bit more nervous than usual as it had been a while since I have done a big race, I’ve never completed in a world championship, and I knew there were family, friends and people from work tuning into the race website to follow me online.

I just wanted to put on a good showing and didn’t really think too much about my finishing order. I thought if I put in a solid effort without too many mishaps I could potentially snag a top 10 finish or if I had a blinder a top 5.

I was pretty chilled shortly before the start as I watched the pros go first into the lumpy seas. They had a 2 minutes lead off before the entire AG men field start, with the entire women AG field starting 1 minute behind us.

Finally the hooter sounded and into the drink we went. I managed to get a pretty good start with a fair bit of clear water and I remember thinking how good is this but as we got closer to the first turning can the usual rough and tumble proceeded and it was on for a young and old! The sea was all over the place so I found it hard to get into a rhythm but everyone else was in the same predicament.

Coming into shore I got on a wave which dumped me on to the beach and I remember thinking shit my race could be over before it even begun but managed to regain my composure and realise I was ok. I looked at my watch and saw 24 something as I got out of the water so was happy with that given the lumpy conditions. Officially 25.37 by the time I crossed the timing mat up near transition. This put me 12th in my AG. After a careful and uneventful transition it was time to take on the first long climb of the bike course. The first 15k was mainly up with a few little flat sections for short relief. It is definitely a climber’s course and I was feeling ok about my climbing ability, with the increased flexibility I had gained in my lower back over the last few months. There were lots of riders to negotiate but I told myself to be patient and not go too hard too early. I slowly pipped rider after rider and at about the 15k mark the course opened up a lot more and the amount of riders had thinned out considerably. I started to really enjoy being in the race at that stage and I was riding with another 40-44 competitor from Australia who I knew was a solid performer so things weren’t looking too bad. After a few words we started a longish descent and I started to pull away. It was also great knowing that most of the climbing was done and it was time for a bit of speed and bike handling which I enjoy.

Every now and I again I would come up on a competitor and go past and the odd one would go past me. There was still some climbing sections to go but nothing like we had already done. I rode up to a woman with red hair and recognised it to be an elite Australian female Charlotte McShane. What I didn’t know was that I would see her again later in the day…

With about 2 miles to go descending back down to transition my front brake completely failed, which meant I only had a back brake. This wasn’t ideal but these things happen in racing and at least I was able to continue. Having only a rear brake meant I had to ride a little differently and take all the speed out before I hit the corners and then roll through. I had a couple of rear tail slide outs and my quads would contract due to the sudden different movement as I tried to desperately keep upright.

I was having so much fun before this happened so it did put a little dampener on an otherwise fun bike course as I stressed about my current predicament.

 

I was relieved to get back on the road to the transition and put the last couple of miles behind me and have a solid crack on the run.

I was still feeling pretty well hydrated as the aid stations were fantastic and I was conscious to drink regularly even if it meant stopping or slowly right down. I stopped twice on the bike to take gels. The water was icy cold as was the sports drink. The water biddons at each bike station was handy just to pour over one’s self. The wind also assisted cooling down the body temp once wet.

 

I remember coming into transition and seeing not too many bikes which was a nice sight.

As I ran out of transition and back up the hill Anna yelled out “wow great bike leg”

Bike split – 1.47.30

I had managed to ride my way into 4th in my AG.

The first 4.5 km’s of the run were all uphill but I knew this as it was the first section of the bike course. Anna had done the exact same run the day before and told me once you get to the top the rest is mainly back downhill into transition except for one killer bitumen hill.

I put myself into lockdown mode and just concentrated on putting one leg in front of the other. It was a hard slog but I knew I was on the last leg and every step was getting me closer to home. It was getting hot but once again the drink stations were fantastic and there were lots of them on the run leg.

I was generally passing people or holding position when I heard someone come up from behind me and then pass and it was Charlotte McShane and I thought to myself fair enough she is very light and an elite ITU athlete after all! My goal was to try and minimise her lead knowing I had a 2 minute lead before she over took me to try and beat her overall. I didn’t know where I was coming in my AG so it was good motivational tool to keep the pressure on.

It was good feeling to reach the summit and then my next thought was to get over this last bitumen hill on the way back home. I got to the last hill and it didn’t disappoint. It was very steep and I just told myself not to walk. I passed a couple of people going up the hill and once I was at the top I knew the rest of the run was either flat or down hill along the side of a cannon and river back to the beach and the finish line.

After a short beach run I knew the finish line was close so I picked it up along the grass lawn of the Carlton Ritz to the finish along the finish straight.

It was a satisfying feeling to reach the finish line knowing I had a solid race after all the expectation and travel to get there. I found Anna and she excitedly told me I think you’ve come third. WTF! Podium!? I didn’t expect that.

After hugging the family it was time to watch another friend and ex Nuna tri club member Penny Hosekn who I had trained with on the mtb alot to prepare for the event. There was a great outdoor bar we could sit in and watch competitors finish and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of contemptment. I could really kick back now and enjoy the rest of the time in Hawaii with the family.

Penny had a solid race also and was high fiving us with a big smile on her face as she came down towards the finish.

I managed to run 45.48 for the 10k which was the 2nd fastest run in my category. Oh and yes I managed to beat Charlotte McShane…… by 24 seconds….!

Have to say thanks to Top Gear Cycles for their support with my cycling needs, my publicist Stephen Rosbrook and the NTC family and of course the family for coming with me and making it a great holiday.

 

Fun facts!

823 people entered the race

86 in 40-44 male category.

Ride course

Elevation gain   – 1032m

Max elevation – 411m

 

Run course

Elevation gain – 313m

Max elevation – 220m