Last weekend I was in Maui for the XTERRA Off-Road World Championship triathlon. I had received an entry via the “at-large” entries. This is a type of lottery to get into the race. I was one of about 60 in my age-group and going up against some of the best amateur triathletes from all over the world.
When we arrived at Kahalui airport I picked up my car and took off to the race course at the Ritz Carlton Kapalua. I walked into the expo and saw familiar faces of friends and fellow competitors. After I picked up my packet I went back outside in the hot sun to put together my bike. The talk of the day was all about how difficult the bike course was. Cliff had called me to tell me to load up on fluids and food for the pre-ride as it might take 3.5 hours at an easy pace. Ouch! I had just got off a plane 2 hours ago and now I was going straight to a ride in the heat and humidity.
On the course I was surprised at how technical it was in the first 30 minutes. Twisting and turning single-track with soft dirt and sand at some points. It felt more like a cyclocross race. I still had flight legs and the heat was staggering. I decided to hold off on the suffering and rode the first 4 miles of the course and took a cut-off to the last 4 miles. This ended up being a good call as the majority of the course otherwise was non-technical climbs and fun descents.
My reward for that day was to meet up with the family back at the Royal Lahaina and eat a great dinner at Kimo’s restaurant in downtown.
I woke up early with her on Friday morning with Nicole. We went for a 30 minute run on the beach. Most 30 minute runs are pretty uneventful. Not this one. I got down on one knee and proposed to her at the end of the run. Nicole is now my fiancé! A great way to start the day! She did say “Yes”!
As race day approached I focused on rest and hydration. The temps were reaching 85-92 degrees each day plus the humidity. On Friday I rested and enjoyed time with friends and family. On Saturday I did an a quick swim and run (aka chased Nicole around the course during her 10K Trail Run).
Race day was finally upon us. The awesome thing about this race is that it starts at 9am and it’s warm in the hours before. This makes it a lot easier to get up and out early to get ready. We arrived at the venue and I did my usual routine including transition set-up, obtained my swim cap, bike warm-up, brief run warm-up (and dynamic stretches), and brief swim at the start line. I was nervous and excited and couldn’t believe I was back in Maui for this race.
The amateur men started a couple minutes after the pro groups. I was lined up on the front line. When the 1 minute start an organized clap began amongst the group, it was really exciting. Then “Kahuna” Dave fired the traditional start canon and everything became very focused. The swim was the usual washing machine of bodies for the first 200 meters. I aimed toward the outer part of the first turn but it ended up being crowded there anyway. We made our way around the nearby left-turn buoy and headed toward the beach. I focused in a on 60-80 stroke accelerations with short 10 stroke rest periods. We hit the beach and sprinted the 50 meter beach run. Then back into the water for another swim to another bouy and back. My focus on stroke count seemed to work. I was steady, able to draft, and under control. When I hit the beach in 30 minutes I was ready to run into T2. It was an uphill run into a large uphill transition area. On my way out I found my self running next to my friend Cliff. This was encouraging because I’m usually a minute behind him at this point.
The bike begins with a steady climb on pavement. Good time to get the gloves on and try to find my legs. Then the real climb begins. As soon as we hit the trail we were faced with a steeper climb just wide enough to allow passing. I took advantage of that and so did others. The rest of the first 25 minutes was twisty, off-camber, soft grass/dirt surface. I was happy to feel better through here than I did on Wednesday. The upper part of the course involves a wider steady climb. As luck would have it, cloud cover blocked the sun and made the temperature more reasonable. I picked it up on the climb to take advantage of this. Soon I was reminded by a racer to look out because we had come to Razor Ridge at which the most amazing valley views are available. I took it in for a second and then moved on. The first descent went cleanly and quickly. Then began the next climb. The fatigue was inching in at this point but I made it through. The 2nd descent had a rough start. I reacted to a racer in front of me who began fish tailing. I went left, hit some foliage, then went right, and hit more foliage. When the dust settled we were both still on our bikes and on our way. No worries! The descent was wide and fun. I let it go and enjoyed the speed. No matter how much you try and spin on the downhill when the climb begins again the legs are almost always a little dead. It was at this point that it became a survival race. The rest of the course was full of twists and turns and brief but steep climbs. It was a lot of work for 8 miles.
If you’ve done a triathlon you know the feeling. Getting off the bike and on the run is not a fun transition. I also forgot my fuel for the run in transition. The first mile of the run was slow and steady my legs were blah. I was beginning to bonk a little. Since I had forgot my fuel (Clif Shots) I had to rely on Gatorade provided on the course. I do not recommend taking in course provided nutrition on race-day but I had no choice. Typically, you should only take in what you train with. The risk was worth it this time. The sugar in the Gatorade hit my system and I managed to get going. At the 3 mile mark the climbing flattened and I picked my pace up. I was also over-heating for much of the run. I dumped ice-water on myself at every water station and sipped Gatorade at each. It was really about staying ahead of the bonk at this point. I found my legs on the twisty down-grades and climbed a nasty rock scramble with about 1.3 miles to go. As I climbed the scramble the huge cement paved hill came into view. All I could bring myself to was a fast walk and thankfully everyone behind me couldn’t run it either. At the top, 1 mile to go. All downhill. So I went for it. When I got to beach I ran on the wet sand to keep my pace up. Just a couple hundred yards to go. When I heard Nicole’s voice, along with her sister and other friends I tried to smile. The final part was an uphill run to the finish. I ran to the finish with whatever I had. 4:00:58. I had planned on 3:30 to 4:30 to this was good! Raena put the finisher lei on me and the recovery and relaxing began!
What an awesome race! The course was unique in that it was made up of so many twisting, winding turns but it certainly receives my vote for one of the most difficult courses out there. Once again XTERRA put on a great event. I hope I can make it next year!