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Joanna Brown takes 10th in her first Xterra World Championship

Joanna Brown made her off-road debut this year at Milton, Ontario’s Mine Over Matter race, where she surprised herself with a second place finish. While Brown predominantly races on the ITU world cup and WTS circuit, she tackled the gruelling Xterra World Championship over the weekend and walked away with an impressive 10th place among the world’s best off-road triathletes, including now three-time off-road and 2016 ITU world champ Flora Duffy. 

What sort of prep did you do to prepare for the Xterra World Championship? How did you have to mix things up from your regular ITU training?

My prep for Xterra worlds wasn’t quite ideal as I am in school this fall and I had a good reminder after the first week just how difficult it is to attempt to train full time and go to school! I only had a few weeks to prep for Maui after finishing off my ITU and Major League Triathlon season. I was fortunate to be able to run with the Guelph Gryphon Varsity cross country team and we used those big hard runs as strength workouts. I was out mountain biking two to three times a week and swimming as we would normally train for ITU. I think the biggest mistake that I made was the type of training I did on the mountain bike… I was more concerned that the race would be overly technical but I needed to do more climbing and a bit more intensity as the biggest challenge with Maui is that you do over an hour of climbing during the bike.

What were your expectations heading into the race?

I really had no expectations going into Maui. I started to put a bit more pressure on myself when my training was going well but I kept having to pull myself back a bit and remind myself that I was doing this for fun! Maui was my second ever Xterra race and I started mountain biking this summer before Mine Over Matter. The pro women in the field were so strong with many years of experience behind them and I’m still in awe of their performances.

How did your race unfold?

My swim started off a bit rocky, as I’m sure it did for everyone! We had eight-foot waves to deal with and the way that the swim course was set up we had to go in and out of the waves twice. I got absolutely smashed by a wave coming in to the finish and that definitely shook me up a bit but I was still able to exit in third and I was out of transition in second. Everything was going pretty well at this point.

Credit: Georgia S Photography
Credit: Georgia S Photography

I knew that the bike course was going to be muddy as we had had a few days and nights of pouring rain but I didn’t quite know just how muddy it was going to be. I got my first taste of Hawaiian ice as soon as we entered the trails… I was sliding everywhere. I don’t think it really mattered what kind of tires you had yesterday as the mud was so thick that it just coated everything. The hills were so hard to get up because there was very little traction on the rear wheel and everything was so slick. I was trying to descend a very steep slope and I was knocked over by a competitor who tried to pass me in an extremely narrow section. This sent my flying and I landed on top of my bike. When I jumped back on my bike to start riding none of my gears were working. I pulled over a few times to try and clear out the mud and check out what was going on but it was useless… it was one gear for the rest of the ride. Luckily, I could coast down the hills and then just grind back up the uphills.

Credit: Georgia S Photography
Credit: Georgia S Photography

I was so relieved to get into T2 and on to the run. I was smashed! I don’t think I have ever been that tired going on to the run. I enjoyed the run through the forest and along the beach… and then I was done.

That was by far the hardest conditions and hardest triathlon I have ever raced in.

Are we going to see you move towards the off-road world more in the future? What are your general plans for your career over the next few years?

I would like to mix in some Xterra with my ITU races as I really enjoy the challenge of the off-road racing. It all depends on how it works out with my ITU season and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and look at next year yet. I still have a lot of things that I want to accomplish with draft-legal racing and Xterra to me is just such a fun and refreshing experience.

Are you happy with your finish?

I am happy that I finished! It was such a hard race. It was awesome to share this experience with my mom who is here in Maui with me, and it was an amazing way to finish off my 2016 season. It’s been a great year of building back up to fitness and I still have a long way to go but I enjoyed taking everything in yesterday and fighting to the finish line. I’m grateful to everyone that helped me get here… my trail boss Karsten (Madsen) and my coach Craig, my sponsors.

Joanna thanks her sponsors PwC Canada, Asics, Felt Bicycles, Nineteen Wetsuit, Infinit Nutrition, and Barista Coffee.