Multisports: Injured defending champ feeling the pressure

By Peter Thornton

The Xterra Auckland run and walk series concludes at Hunua Regional Park next weekend.
The Xterra Auckland run and walk series concludes at Hunua Regional Park next weekend.

Pressure is a funny thing. Some sportspeople are mindful of it while others couldn't care less.

Take Troy Harold for example. The 42-year-old is feeling the heat ahead of the final Xterra Auckland run and walk series at Hunua Regional Park next weekend.

Harold won the Super-Long Masters 40-49 Section in 2011 and wants to defend his title but an injury in recent weeks has thrown that into jeopardy.

"It meant a lot to me to win last year's Masters Section, so it would be awesome to back it up again," said the 2012 leader of the Super-Long series.

He was unable to compete in the fourth event of the series at Whitford Park as he has been carrying an injury.

"Yes I'm feeling the pressure," he said. "Especially when I am also trying to gain points for my Kids Creations corporate-family team and my injury isn't helping.

Hopefully I can make up for it at Hunua."

He believed Ron King, Simon Phillips and Graeme Watts are his biggest threats to his title defence.

Meanwhile Kristen Baker, the leader in the Women's Super-Long for the 20-38 age division, couldn't be more relaxed about her title chances.

Baker loves running and has recently taken to triathlon in the Olympic and half ironman distances.

She laughed at the suggestion there was any pressure on her ahead of the final event.

"Oh I hadn't even considered I would win it," said the 30-year-old commercial development analyst at Fonterra.

"I just do it for fun. I'm pretty sure there is no prize for first. There is no pressure at all. You don't even know where you are coming in the race till the results come out anyway."

Baker has been a regular in the Xterra series for the past four years and she has seen it grow exponentially in that time where around 1000 athletes turn up for the off-road experience.

"It's a bit of a social outing," she said. "I get to catch up with friends at Xterra who I don't see much. It has grown a huge amount, from a small group of unshaven multi-sporters to a very large and truly diverse group of entrants."

Baker, who is training for the Abel Tasman 36km off road run in September, has an attitude that sums up what the series is all about.

"It's fun because everyone can do it, you get to run in places you wouldn't otherwise and the runs themselves are a huge challenge.

"The team atmosphere is great, it's not super competitive and the people are so friendly."

Harold said he loves the Xterra series because "they are well organised events with like-minded people, enjoying good competition in great locations".

Just like their varying outlook on winning the series, Baker and Harold have very different training regimes.

Harold said he "never runs enough, twice a week at best" while Baker is training nine to 12 hours a week which equates to around five or six runs and one to two rides on her bike.

The favourites for the respective titles are different in many ways but they share the love of running.

Their advice for newcomers looking to take on the final Xterra event for 2012 or begin fresh in 2013 was, as you'd expect, very different.

"Do much more training than I do," said Harold matter-of-factly.

Baker's tips were more in depth: "Take two or three gels [or some kind of fuel]. Over two hours is a long time to be running and off road courses are hard work. I hit the wall at Riverhead and felt like I was floating for the last 45 minutes.

"Don't go out too fast - you will never run a PB by sprinting the first 5km so put some time in the bank. Have fun - take a friend, chat to the people around you, take in the scenery. That's what it's all about."

- NZ Herald

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