Stephane’s take on his first XTERRA Maui

My first Kona was the easiest year ever & my first XTERRA was the hardest year ever. The mud was horrendous & the top of the course was closed two days before to allow it to dry a little.

I was feeling ready to go & recovered from Kona on Wednesday after the MTB training set until an ice cream I had in the evening decided different. This is not the first time I got really ill from an ice cream shop. Thursday in early hours of the morning until Thursday bed time was horrible & I could not stand on my two feet. I woke up on Friday feeling better & believing I could race on Sunday. I knew it would be touch & go but no way I was not gonna try!

Sunday morning I woke up still believing I could race so I just had a light brekky & did a light swim as warm up. The waves were huge, up to 6 feet. People were scared of getting in the water but Kate & I were excited to swim in that. If you swim in Torquay heaps, you are used to it. The starting waves were 5 mins apart starting with Elites. I was 3rd wave. I had a good start & was swimming near the lead with my good Aussie bud, Ryan O’Neill. I thought, feeling pretty good here, there is hope! The waves were no issues & the running on the beach half way was hard. They call this “An Australian exit” I got out of the water in 2nd M40-44 with Ryan but I got dropped straight away in the run up the hill to transition. My legs were like bricks & I knew right there that it might be a long day…keep positive I thought, you never know.

People started super fast in the first bike climb which was very steep. The new altered course replaced mud with asphalt for the first part of the bike course. I was puffing & sweating heaps & was trying to calm down & control my pace. Swallowing my ego by getting dropped is often a big thing too but there was a long day ahead still & I was feeling weak, so calm down I told myself, you might come good still. I was counting the M40-44 calves marks passing me & when Ryan O’Neill passed me, I was still 6th. Ryan is a great athlete without weaknesses but not known for his fast transitions.

I was struggling and feeling dizzy & weak by kilometre 7. I took me an hour to get there & the mud was horrendous. It was thick & heavy so that running or walking with your bike was the hardest thing to do uphill. But it was not possible to ride everywhere, too slippery & too much mud stopping the wheels from spinning. At kilometre 10, I stopped counting my place as it was well over 10th then & I stopped for a second to get a breath back, have a drink & have a massive pity party. I did not come here to participate, I wanted to podium so anything else was a fail!

Then the excuses took over in my head. I was in a world I hated, the world of negativity, excuses & weakness. My head was telling me “you have nothing to prove so stop”, “you’re are sick so pull out”, “you did not come here to get 50th”, “you did Kona so don’t push it”, “you did not train for this mud”, “you are weak & can’t even ride much so stop”, “pull out & come back next year”, “you did three good Worlds already so don’t show this bad result”.

I often tell my coaches athletes that they are their own enemy & I was here doing the same. Head space & attitude is everything when you race. I was my own worst enemy & I was trying to sabotage my XTERRA experience because of my ego & my elevated goal setting. After 12km on the bike, I stopped to have another break. I was feeling like crap. I had an headache & still dizzy so I ate some Cliff chews & started thinking about Charles Leduc, a good friend from Belgium who got told he could not race XTERRA this year because of heart issues. I focussed on switching my mind set to racing for Charles, having fun & getting to the finish. All of a sudden I did not care bout my time & place anymore & I became more positive again. I was still hurting like hell but I had a new purpose & I was even ready for Kate to catch me. The first female AG were passing me now so Kate should not be far, but she had a flat tyre & lost over 5min replacing it which cost her a medal. People were falling everywhere, some with broken bones, it was like ice skating! Some people even turned back to call it a day.

The last 10km, I rode with a Tahitian who had a busted collarbone. I even helped him pushed his bike up some hills. This was a very good thing for me. He was in more pain than me so it helped me too not to stay a victim of life. I thought, if he can finish, I can too. He must be hurting like hell so stop having a pity party for myself. I also passed Ryan O’Neill back as he was riding on a flat rear tyre. The last km of the course were actually enjoyable & I recovered a bit. Thank goodness there was two aid stations on the bike course. I walked into transition 2 to recover for the run. Sat down to put my shoes on & gave myself as a target to finish the race & to not walk again.

The run was as per bike, hard, steep, hot, muddy & so slippery. I just tried to do my own race without looking at my watch or the opposition. I was going by feel & was trying not to vomit each Gatorade I had. The new goal was set, now stick it. It is hard to be positive when you feel crap but I managed to run the entire way & the 4 aid stations were a savior! I finish in 5h21’ & 44th in my AG which is far from my goal but I am proud I stuck at it & I am now an XTERRA World Champ finisher.

Pulling out would have been so much easier & I had “the excuse” to justify myself but you gotta live with the failure & the decision to say stop. I loved the experience, it was hard core & for me this was harder than Kona where I was in control of everything & it all went smoothly. You learn heaps from days like these & yes, sport is like life, it is a roller coaster of emotions & things don’t always go your way.

Read more of Stephane’s Race Reports:

Stephane’s First Ironman Kona – Race Report

Stephane’s Ironman Western Australia Race Report

Diary of a World Championship Triathlete