I raced an XTERRA triathlon on the weekend, the XTERRA Motatapu, which is one of the longer ones on the XTERRA race circuit. It's a 2km (notoriously long 2km, mind you!) swim, 47km mountain bike and 15k mountain run. About the toughness of a half-ironman, but with quadruple the DOMS afterward due to the downhill running!
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a mountain biker! I got my first ever mountain bike last May, rode non-technical stuff on it throughout the winter (June-July-Aug), didn't touch it after that, then 4 weeks before the Motatapu, learned as much as I could about mountain biking to keep my shit together for the race. Not ideal, but the XTERRA wasn't a focus. It might be next year, as I so thoroughly enjoyed myself!
Swim: not a bad swim, just 2-3 mins off the pro times, but I was seriously unfocussed here. Goggles fogging up, driving me crazy, cold water, etc.
Bike: oh dear lord, I was terrified. All I'd heard about the race was that there were many many river crossings, some thigh deep. And that in the last 10km of the race, there were several hundred meter steep drop offs that, should you fall, you wouldn't survive. This is what the race director repeated again in the race briefing the morning of. Dear lord. But I got on the bike, and was nailing people on all the uphills, and then getting re-passed again on all the downhills. I just didn't have the skill or confidence to let the bike flooooow without being on the brakes whenever the track tilted down. Very unfortunate, as the time lost on all the downhills cost me my XTERRA world champs slot and at least 10min overall. BUT, it was my first off-road triathlon, and I was absolutely amazed with myself that I did all the river crossings, only falling off half-way through the 2-3 biggest and scariest ones. Yes, I screamed, cried, and yelled: "OH MY GOD, holy shit" and other numerous expletives throughout each one, but I am just stoked I did them!
Run: Starting in Arrowtown, we run on flat trails for about 3 minutes before the path heads up, up, up. We run up the Tobins track, which I just easily jogged up (Mt Iron hill reps pay off, don't they??), then a wee couple minute downhill break, then we cross a stile to head onto a goat track that goes up up up, but it's a tiny track and tilted at an angle. Awkward! Continued to just spin the wee legs up. Then it just gets mad steep up. It is 9k's uphill, topping out at 1060m elevation or so? Just higher than the Crown Range rd. And then it is an absolutely quad-bashing 6k's down, with the first 2 or so being barely runnable slippery tussock and the last 4k being gravelly and more "bomb-down-able"! I bombed down. Throughout the entire run, I was nailing people, moving fast, and I wasn't putting in as much effort as I could. I got to the top thinking: oh shit, I should have worked harder!!
I was really scared of this race and the course especially going in. I am a road triathlete, never done any off-road racing, and I expected it to get impossibly hard around each corner. I was holding back throughout the entire bike ride, and again on the run, thinking I'd soon be crawling on hands and knees, better save the energy for when that happens! But it never did! So, I'll revisit this race next year and drop 30 minutes off my time, minimum. That's the goal! As for mountain biking, practice practice practice. My strength is there, my confidence downhill is not.
In the end, I was 2nd in my AG (with 1st getting the XTERRA Maui slot, 4 mins ahead of me), I was the 6th amateur female and I was 10th female overall (4 pros). Nicky, my coach, current XTERRA world champion, won by a million miles with none of the other female pros even coming close (and not many guys, either, she was 5th OA). Stud!
Happy with my effort on the day, but frustrated with how I was more mentally limited than physically limited in my own abilities.