Sam Gardner is back! Find out how he got on at XTERRA Motatapu

sam gardner get muddy

Thought Sam Gardner had retired? Think again! The UK’s most successful off-road triathlete EVER has made permanent move to New Zealand and is re-energised to race again.

He was in action this weekend at XTERRA Motatapu, one of the hardest XTERRA races on the circuit and coming in 5th. Check out this report and find out what Sam has been up to now he is back on the circuit. Over to Sam!

Since moving to New Zealand I’ve found a surge of inspiration to start training.

As Richie Campbell can testify when I had to walk in an Xterra England course recce jog in August, I was starting my training from a pretty low base line! By Christmas I was starting to feel like my old self and did a local road triathlon in Whanganui and finished 2nd.

Then in January I headed over to Australia for he Wildside mtb stage race, where I finished 2nd overall and won the final stage. I then did the Pioneer 7 day stage race on the South Island and got 4th overall with a best stage position of 3rd. Then coming 2nd in 2 road cycling events in the last couple of weeks completed my build up for my first Xterra for almost a year ‘Xterra Motatapu’.

I’d read about this event over the years and seen the stunning photographs. It has a reputation for being the hardest and certainly the longest Xterra event in the World.

It starts in Lake Wanaka on New Zealands South Island with a 1900 m swim in the lake, then onto a point to point mountain bike ride finishing in historic Arrowtown. This ride is only open to the public one day a year and goes through a very famous celebrities private Estate. Characterised by its 20 or more river crossings, the views, especially down the gorge at the end are out of this world.

The final 15km run is steeped in history as you run the ‘miners trail’, used by gold miners 100 years ago. Sheer vertical drops keep you concentrated as you wind up and down rocky valleys.

I had an average swim and after an awful transition get my wetsuit over my timing chip I set about trying to trying to catch the leaders.

For the first time in months I had absolutely nothing in my legs. I think it was the effects of the cold, and after about 10km I finally started feeling good again. Towards the end of the bike I was feeling great and passing the elite field of the mountain bike race. I came into T2 in 3rd but only a few seconds down on the leaders.

The run was always going to be survival for me. An achillies injury had meant I’d barely run for 6 weeks and I just concentrated on trying to be as kind to my achillies as possible. At 3km to go I was still holding 3rd place and some prize money was in sight but another km later my podium hopes were dashed and I dragged my weary body to the line in 5th.

Never have I done an off road triathlon over 4 hours and I certainly feel it now the following day.

A great event though and well worth the long journey from the UK, especially if you fancy combining it with a holiday in God’s country.

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