Images courtesy Professional Triathletes Organisation

By Kent Gray/Tri NZ
Rebecca Clarke is trying hard not to get ahead of herself. Kyle Smith admits he has found it altogether tougher trying to get over himself.

Welcome to the rollercoaster of emotions that come standard with competing in elite endurance triathlon,  an obsession that only intensifies when the season’s ultimate goal looms ominously on the horizon.

While Clarke is feeding off the high of a top 10 at last weekend’s PTO U.S. Open, Smith has desperately attempted to park his disappointing 24th place finish in Dallas. Resetting for the Ironman World Championships in Kona is clearly a complicated matter whichever side of the build-up result ledger you’re on.

Clarke was thrilled with her eighth placing in sweltering Irvine, Texas, finishing the 100km race in 3:47:00, a performance that has her buzzing for her Kona debut. The $20,000 PTO payday helps too, quite literally, because competing in the Ironman of all Ironman races on the ‘Big Island’ isn’t for the fiscally feint of heart.

“Firstly it [race day in Dallas] was hot so I very relieved to see the finish line and stoked to cross in eight place behind Olympic medallists and world champions,” said Clarke after finishing just under 10 minutes adrift of Aussie winner Ashleigh Gentle.

“It has given me a lot of confidence going into Kona that I can race well in hot conditions. A lot of girls who have previously raced at Kona said this race was hotter and we were also running a faster pace over the 100km distance, which is positive to hear.”

Post PTO Dallas, Clarke headed back to her temporary training base in Woodlands, Texas for one “last week solid weekend of training” before entering her taper and departing for Hawaii.

“Super excited to head to Kona shortly and finish the season strong there but this doesn’t change expectations,” said Clarke.

“I will just focus on executing my own race to the best of my ability and that may mean top 10 or top 20 depending on how race plays out. Again it’s all about just pacing well in the heat and being patient.”

Patience has been a tough virtue for Smith to find in the aftermath of the men’s race won by American Collin Chartier in 3:29:28 – 12mins 10s ahead of Smith who faded on the 18km run but admits he had run out of juice long before that.

“Today was well.. shit,” Smith said on social media afterwards.

“Started off feeling flat and got progressively worst. But you know what. Death before DNF.

“I’m not here to make excuses but just wanted to say thank you for everyone who supported me out on course and everyone who makes this possible. Sponsors, friends, family. Yeah, thank you for your support. I’ll be back soon.”

Smith was good on his promise, returning to Instagram a few days later.

“I gave myself a day or two to be pissed off. Then I got over myself, reflected, adjusted and got back to work. Two weeks to go.”

Like pretty much everyone in the tri community, Smith is amping for Kona where he’ll line up with fellow Kiwi Braden Currie in the elite men’s race on October 8. Currie was third behind Norwegian legend Kristian Blummenfelt and Canadian strongman Lionel Sanders last year.

The women’s race featuring Clarke goes two days earlier and the 33-year-old Aucklander is clearly in countdown mode.

“Waking up every day with a smile  on my face to get the final work done and excitement levels building .”

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