An early wake up call to an amazing sunrise on DT Fleming beach in Kapula on the majestic Hawaiian island of Maui was well worth it in itself. But it was race day and the beach was buzzing with activity. The Hawaiian blessing was given prior to race start, with the elite field heading off first. The men started two minutes later, but mother nature knew better as she threw massive waves at the men. I literally saw grown men start the race, turn round and run back to the beach (but they returned into the water), whilst others who swam into the waves were simply washed ashore anyway. The women’s wave started two minutes after the men’s and I put in my racing experience into this swim, as there was a strong underwater current, so simply swimming in a straight line to the buoys was not ideal.
I had a pretty decent swim(1.5km in 25min.02secs), emerging in 6th place overall in the women (out of 166). A run across the sandy beach and a 400m uphill run to transition, followed by picking up my mountain bike and off onto the hills. The first 5 miles were a constant climb up hills, mud, grass, slippery roots and a topping of heat and high humidity was the call. It took approx 50minutes to complete this section, including bits of having to get off the bike (due to the slippery, steep, muddy sections), and pushing it up, whilst trying to grasp a foothold on the mud. Riding at the top of the devil’s ridge was amazing, at the top of the mountain, with stunning sea views well worth it. But no time to waste, as steep, winding technical descents awaited. This was an Achilles heel for me, but I performed to my best ability, attempting to stay on my bike rather than getting flung off it, as I saw quite a few athletes do. The rest of the bike section was unrelenting with a zillion turns, twists, climbs and all, with not a single section of plain straight track, making even drinking fluids quite a challenge. The sun kept pelting down on my back so lots of fluids, sugars and salts were the call of the day to ensure completion of the race. After a gruelling 30km and 1,000m of climbing (lasting 2hr20mins), I arrived back at transition, deposited my bike, trail shoes on and knew I was facing a stiff run.
The challenge ahead was a 5km steep climb followed by a 5km technical descent. I knew I had lost quite abit of time on the bike, and I needed to grasp back as much as I could on the run. I set off at a steady pace, not too fast, knowing what lay ahead of me, but knowing that my running ability was a forte of mine. But my legs had other plans. The bike had taken its toll. I started to run, passing lots of men, who were literally walking even on the mild ascents. In the really steep ascents I started to cramp and fatigue and I was literally reduced to walking some sections of it. My quads were burning like never before. I never cramped in this manner, and I knew this was all down to neuromuscular fatigue (no, dehydration, salts etc are all wrong ideologies for my cramping, I was fine). I attempted to stretch my left quad and bang, a stabbing pain of a cramped hamstring spun into action. My hamstring has never ever cramped before in my life! Ok, calmed down, got that stretched out too, continue running, continue picking up the pace gradually.
Next up was jumping over a tree trunk. Peanuts I thought as I love that terrain. Right foot up, left foot up and Bang, hamstring cramped again, had to stretch it out whilst standing on the tree trunk as I could not move. Brilliant spot, right in front of a camera! (don’t they love catching such action!), but I was helpless at that point! Reaching the top of the ascents was a godsend. Now the downhills. I knew the downhills could be worse for cramping due to the eccentric action of the muscles, but I also knew that I can descend very well and gain lots of valuable time. So I listened to the latter. I let myself go, let gravity take me down the twists and turns, 180 degrees turns clambering over rocks and roots. I was flying past athletes at this stage and loving it. At the 8km mark we were faced with the only 400m asphalt section of the race. But it lay at a 15% gradient! I looked up at the men ahead of me. Walking. I semi-
It’s a 600m sandy beach run and I spotted another female ahead of me. I dug in, legs burning in lactic acid, I knew I was running faster than her. I Beat her on the sand, then ran the final 300m ascent to the finish line covering the 10km trail run in 52mins! 3hours 42minutes of effort. I had the 6th fastest run from all the females. I wish I hadn’t cramped at all, so as to have run faster. But I eventually learnt I was 4th in my age group. It was a solid effort. I realised that Xterra racing is so much harder than normal triathlon and it’s something that I will need to work for much harder. But knowledge and experience in Maui are an asset and have whet my apetite for more Xterra events. I know my weaknesses and strengths. Lots of mountain biking coming up with my lovely friends! I thank my sponsors for their constant support from Buff® headwear, BBB bike parts, Inverse Clothing and Ecco Sports. Season 2014 now over. Holiday mode on marvellous Maui, swimming with green turtles (and waving at them!), surfing, eating ice-
So close and yet so far… Stage two at the Tour of Kosovo saw me as stage winner and wearer of the leader’s jersey... but 17km more than what was supposed to be a 130km stage ruined all Malta’s chances of glory. Cycle racing is such an unpredictable sport, one time you feel like you cannot take anymore and a second later you are riding up front leading the race and gaining time on the peloton.
Midway through the stage I found myself in difficulty trying to keep up the pace on a relatively short incline, I thought it was the end of my day as this was not the kind of terrain I struggle on. Somehow after much chasing with some other riders we managed to get back in the peloton. My legs were burning with the effort but I was glad to be back in the race. All of a sudden I see three riders dash to the font, still trying to catch my breath I seized the moment and I went onto their chase and cover their attack, my reasoning was that I didn’t have much to survive so I was just using what was left in me to help my team. I looked back and I saw that we had opening a sizable gap. It was chaos up front: cameramen, photographers, police, sirens and team cars. We smashed onto the pedals like crazy trying to stay out enough till the end of the race. This move meant that my team mates did not have to do any work saving valuable energy in the event we were caught. However other teams had other plans for us and soon our margin started to diminish. After some 10km we were sucked back into the bunch and the pace slowed a bit down (which meant more attacks are coming our way)
One Albanian rider surges ahead and opens a couple of hundred metres, there was no response from the peloton. It wasn’t just me that was getting tired. So… you guessed it. I went again, this time on my own. I was going faster than before, I tucked in my aero position and hammered onto the pedals as if the finish line was just round the corner. I saw the Albanian rider in front of me and all I could think of was to chase him down. All of a sudden a familiar voice... Charlie Greens is here… His body half out of the window… Kurragg Etienne Kuragg Etienne!!! He was throwing energy at me and I was going even faster. This also meant that I had gained one minute on the peloton.
I was on a planet of my own as I drew closer to the Albanian rider who was leading the race. I caught his back wheel and drafted him for not more than 10 seconds and took the front again. He sat on my wheel but I was not willing to take any passengers if he did not collaborate, I dropped him in a slight incline and now it was just me and the final 7km climb to the finish. I had been out for some 50kms and at the 132km mark I took my last gel. I had a margin of 2.5 minutes more than enough to take the jersey and the stage. 137km and I see a sign 10kms to go…. Not a good sign as I was no fresher than 10km before. I started the hill to the finish still keeping a strong steady tempo… 5km to go still holding strong another couple of kilometres and I my legs went numb. The tank was empty... Still thinking I could pull this one I dug deep into my reserves but now I was going slow and with 2km to go I was caught by a German rider (not any German rider... he had placed second a week earlier in the German hill climb championships). I squeezed everything out as I was passed by more riders. Jason and Maurice came by, I felt the world falling on me as I could feel their disappointment, I just couldn’t keep their pace as I told Charlie who was still encouraging me (still half out of the car) to follow them to the finish. Another switchback and I see the finish line, I heard Christian coming from behind me as he pushed me through the final metres across the line. The physical pain was over… I looked at my computer; it read 147km… 17km more than what we were meant to do…. It was a tough pill to swallow…. My team mates were incredible… they were not just sitting pretty in the bunch but blocking off riders in order to slow the pace down. It was an epic ride that I felt it was worth sharing. It was all or nothing, I got nothing just the will to do it all over again and fail another time. In sports if you keep knocking on the door long enough it finally opens.
The race, which took place in adverse weather conditions, saw current National Champion Keith Galea retain his crown and National Duathlon Champion Michelle Vella Wood crowned new female National Triathlon Champion, breaking Danica Bonello Spiteri's sever year unbeaten reign.
Galea won his third National Title, retaining his crown for the second year running winning the race in a time of 2:03:20. Leading from the word go, Galea suffered what could have been a major setback due to a puncture in the cycle leg. This however did not adversely affect Galea's performance even though he had to stop and change tyre in transition. Galea kept the lead and won comfortably with a four minute advancte over second placed Fabio Spirteri who clocked in an overall time of 2:06:17. Third place was secured by veteran David Galea who was fresh from his Age Group win in the Vulcano Standard Distance Triathlon in Sicily last weekend.
In the females' category, Danica Bonello Spiteri had a fine showing in the swim, coming out of the water a good 2minutes 20 seconds before contendors Michelle Vella Wood and Hannah Pace, but Vella Wood started to narrow the gap in the bike segment and over taking Bonello Spiteri in the run to win the title in 2:11:44. Vella Wood's win today showed her consistency in her performance throughout the season which saw her also clinch the National Duathlon Championships and the B'Kara St. Joseph Sprint Series. Bonello Spiteri crossed the finish line after 2:14:52 securing second place. U23 Triathlete Hannah Pace had a fine showing clocking 2:17:39 a securing a podium finish in what was her third Standard Distance race of her triathlon career.
In the Sprint category, the males' podium saw newcomer Wayne Spiteri win his first race clocking a time of 1:04:51. Graham Borg, who was also still fresh from a successful showing in the Vulcano Standard Distance in Scily, came in second place in 1:07:13 despite suffering a nasty fall due to the wet slippery roads. Mark Micallef came in third place in 1:09:31.
Michelle Scott from Great Britain, pipped Denise Buttigieg to first place in the Female Sprint category with only a two second difference in what was a very closely fought battle. Margaret Seguna, returning to triathlon after an injury came in third place in 1:21:11 thus ending her season on a very good note.
"As predicted the National Championships did not disappoint. From a participation level we had a record number of entries, from an athletic perspective we have seen a number of personal best times being registered and spectators were given the opportunity to watch some high level triathlon" said Cyprian Dalli, President of the Malta Triathlon Federation. "The National Championships are the culmination of the season of which we are satisfied with on many fronts. We hope that the growth our sport has enjoyed this season will continue to grow as the Federation now starts gearing up for the forthcoming season"
The Prize Giving ceremony took place immediately after the race and carried out by Mr. Mario Micallef, Director of Sports Malta Olympic Committee and Dr Stefan Buontempo, Parliamentary Secretary for Research & Innovation, Youth and Sports.
The Malta Triathlon Federation is greatly indebted to its partners and sponsors without which help the organisation of such events would not be possible -
BUFF® SPONSORS TRIATHLON NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS
The 2103 Triathlon season coming to a close with what promises to be a hard-
Triathlon Malta is also pleased to announce a partnership with BBB Bike Parts and Buff® Malta who will be the main partners of the most important event in the Maltese Triathlon Calendar.
In the men's segment, current National Champion and B'Kara St. Joseph Sprint Series winner Keith Galea, National Duathlon Champion Fabio Spiteri are expected to give some fine performances but athletes such as David Galea, Steve Chetcuti and Graham Borg are not to be underestimated in view of their consistent performances this season.
In the women's segment the fine form being showed by Duathlon Champion and B'Kara St. Joseph Sprint Series winner Michelle Vella Wood will make current Triathlon Champion Danica Bonello Spiteri work very hard in order to attempt retain her title.
Tough competition is also expected from the young Hannah Pace, winner of a Gold Medal at the European Triathlon Championships in Turkey in June as well as Johanna Calleja who has regained her form in the past races.
"The National Championships are the culmination of the season and we are expecting a very exciting race since there is no clear winner. This year has been a very special year for Triathlon Malta, where growth has been exceptional in all areas" said Cyprian Dalli, president of the Malta Triathlon Federation.
"We are also very happy with the recently signed partnership with BBB Parts and Buff® Malta, which will, through their quality products give a better experience to our athletes”
The Championships, which will be contested over a Standard Distance (1.5km swim, 40km cycle and 10km run), will be held on the Salina Coast Road.
A Sprint Distance (half Standard distance) will also be held and over 80 athletes have registered so far for this event. A strong presence of foreign athletes, hailing from the United Kingdom and Belgium is also expected.
“BBB Bike Parts and Buff® Malta would like to congratulate the team at the Malta Triathlon Federation for the massive leap forward that the sport has taken in the past year. The positive atmosphere and great results obtained by Maltese Triathletes makes us proud to be associated with such growth and development” said Etienne Bonello, local representative of BBB Bike Parts and Buff® Multifunctional Headwear.
“The partnering of such quality products with quality athletes is a winning situation for both and look forward to further strengthening this partnership”
The National Triathlon Championships are being supported by BBB Bike Parts Malta,
The general public is to be advised that throughout the duration of the race, from 7:45 till 10:45 the Salina Coast Road will be closed to traffic in order to ensure athletes' safety.
Motorists are thus kindly advised to take alternative routes. The Malta Triathlon Federation thanks the general public in advance for their support and understanding.
It is with great pleasure to announce our collaboration with Graham Sansone. Known as the Maltese Survivor, Graham has established himself as an expert in the field of Survival and Outdoor Adventure. Graham will be using Buff® products throughout his adventures starting from his next expedition in the Nebrodi Region of Sicily. He will be supplied with a range of Buff® headwear ranging from the Original Buff® together with the popular Polar Buff® as well as other models made specifically for the colder weather. The technical materials from which Buff® products are made of will offer the Maltese Survivor a good choice of garments to protect him from the most unforgiving weather conditions mother-
Graham will be giving us his views on the products as well as first hand feedback on his experience using Buff®