ITU Cross Tri 2016 NZ Flag

It’s the end of a six month journey from qualifying at Xterra to racing in the Snowy Mountains. What a ride!

My motivation for this event was a combination of experiencing a new landscape, giving myself a winter training challenge that suited my likes/strengths, and sharing the experience with a great bunch of people. For me all boxes were ticked and it was a really great experience all round (even if it was tough training through winter sometimes!).

Rebecca Speirs Lizzie Bunckenberg Susanah Sharpe Rebecca Rocke Kathryn Bunckenberg


Rebecca Speirs, Susannah Sharpe, Rebecca Rocke at the finish line

Conditions were great for the women’s race, air temp was around 21 degrees and water temp was 18.  It was a slightly overcast day so also ideal for the run and here wasn’t much wind. I placed 9th/20 in the W40-44 age group in 3hrs 40 mins which I was very happy with. I felt like I’d given my best effort and got the best out of myself on the day. I was 4th out of the swim, 13th on the bike (my weakest link!) and 7th on the run. The winning time in my age group was 3 hrs 11 mins and 8th place was around 3 mins ahead of me (results).

I was pretty surprised by the swim result, but also stoked that the technique training I’ve done this year had really paid off (special thanks to Lucy from Capital Sports Performance).  Lucy’s words in my head also stopped me from panicking a few mins in – we got very hot waiting at the start in our wetsuits and around 200m in I felt like it was hard to breathe, which is unusual for me, I don’t normally get bothered by the washing machine starts at tris. I made a conscious decision to stay calm just focus on my stroke, hand entry position, head position, keeping the kicking strong, try and draft and not worry about where I was in the field.  It all came right before too long and then by the second lap I felt great, nice and solid and strong in my stroke.

The bike course was a bit more technical in places than I decided I was comfortable racing clip-in pedals so I just made the call early in the week I would ride it on flats, as the course didn’t have any long hill climbs. This strategy worked well as I sailed through parts some people close behind me stumbled with and I felt confident about the whole course, plus had a very fast T2! I would have lost a little power doing this but I think not enough to have changed my placing, so it was the right call for me.

The cornering technique session I’d had a few weeks before and race simulations on the Colonial Knob tracks all helped me with handling the course as fast as possible too. Biking has always been my weakest link in a tri and I would probably have benefited from a few longer hill climbs in the course, like at Xterra, but it is what is is! Compared to Northern Hemisphere athletes it’s also a bit tougher for the antipodeans to get as much ride training volume in over winter on the trails than if the event was at the end of summer, but this is just something we have to suck up!

On the bike

A process goal for the event was to even/negative-split the laps, which I did on the swim and bike but not quite on the run – I went out a little faster on the first lap but there wasn’t too much in it (only a min or so difference between laps) and I think this was related to there being more people around to chase or chasing me on the first lap, which I like. The run was definitely tough and the part I enjoyed the most as I liked doing all the obstacles!  The parkour classes I took this year really paid off and helped me feel confident leaping over obstacles.

On the run

Rock climb on the run

It was good being there a few days before to suss out the lines to take over the rocks, rest up, and soak up the atmosphere. I felt strong the whole way through due to my nutrition plan working really well and this felt like a win too.

two Rebecca pre-riding course

Lake Crackenback

From Wellington the Bunckenberg twins Lizzie and Kathryn placed 2nd and 3rd in the women’s 20-24 and were asked to compete in one of the mixed team relays for NZ – which were a mix of elites and age groupers. This was a fun race to watch. Christian Davey from Capital Sports Performance also placed 3rd in the men’s 18-19 age group. In the elite men’s race Braden Currie from NZ placed 3rd, Sam Osbourne, 7th, Oli Shaw 8th.  Lizzie Orchard from NZ placed 6th (Tri NZ race report).

Following racing the Wellington crew enjoyed a tramp up Australia’s highest mountain on Mt Kosciuszko (2228m) – there was still snow on the top. This was a really fun afternoon out and an awesome way to round off the week with such great company.

Mt Kosci

Tony and Christian also found an alternative use for my emergency blanket…


So what’s next? Basically, mixing it up over Summer and not taking anything too seriously!


I have a couple of exciting mountain biking adventures planned with some great groups of people on the West Cost Wilderness Trail and Old Ghost Road. I am pretty excited about these as I’ve been wanting to do them for some time.  I’m also looking forward to riding the Moto Trails and Rameka Track over the Christmas break and the doing some longer MTB rides around the Wellington area as part of the build up to the Old Ghost Road.

On the tri front, I’ve looking to do a couple of sprint distance tris – the January Scorcher for fun and the Sea to Sky Challenge in April which looks like a great event and should suit me very well with a purely uphill bike section! I also want to see if I can defend my 2016 title at the local Splash and Dash series, which is one of my top favourite Wellington events and a lot of fun.

After summer I think I just want to keep things simple with a focus on faster running, and having a bit more time to do some more resistance and mobility training which I enjoy and I think becomes increasingly important as you get a bit older. Some mobility goals are that I’d love to be able to squat all the way down without lifting my heels and be able to do a cat jump at parkour.  I recently started using the Trigger Point techniques to work on my flexibility and can already see and feel improvements from just a few weeks – I am getting a lower squat and a little closer to being able to get my feet up on an obstacle for a cat jump.  Keen to take this further and see what happens, and I think there would be a crossover benefit to running too – it’s already had the bonus of helping my running feel freer.

So into 2017 I’d really like to see how much I can improve my 5k time and also do a couple of trail and road running events that appeal – I’m thinking maybe the Dun Run and the Keri Keri half marathon would be cool.

NZ Team Photo

Thanks to everyone who has helped me on my Snowy Mountains journey in some shape or form. When you list it out it’s amazing how many people and groups have been involved:

  • Capital Sports Performance, especially coaching from Gene MacNaught. Lucy Cotterill’s swim technique sessions, James Hardaker’s circuit sessions and the club’s dedicated supporters Philippa Hawthorne and Cathi Davey who help lot of things happen
  • Ali Dennis’s Fitness Goals swim squad and fantastic supportive community around it
  • Scottish harriers club for the winter harrier season races which were good cross country and race practice
  • Great massage from Rob at Functional Bodyworks
  • Race and general nutrition from Becky Jones
  • MTB servicing and advice from Burkes Cycles
  • Super helpful group travel bookings from BCD Travel
  • MTB skills training from MTB Skills clinic
  • Maumahara from Sports and Pain clinic for helping me improve my glute strength and sort out some muscle  imbalances this winter – this helped a lot on the run
  • Spencer Barley’s super fun parkour classes
  • Habit gym for helping me keep strong and flexible with the TRX, yoga and pilates classes I enjoy
  • Susannah Sharpe for being a great training buddy
  • And most of all to Neil my partner for putting up with me generally while I’ve been training!