Makena Beach, Maui
Every aspect of the Xterra Wolrd Championships is awesome. I have been too many great races but this one has so many extras that make it unique. The Xterra website makes great videos and has great and flavorful descriptions of the coure. If you're interested my account here goes:
The race was guarded by these Hawaiian Warriors. I dare you to jump the gun.
I'm smart enough not to take any lava rock home from the island. Instead I took home kiawe thorns. Madame Pele must like me because by rights I should have flatted.
Some would say tubeless tires saved my race but I like to believe it was Pele. I"m learning so much about the physical and mechanical parts of mountain biking. Instead of an inner tube in my tire I have goop. When the thorn went in, the goop sealed around it. If I had an inner tube, it would have popped. Note...let air pressure out of tire before removing the thorn. I didn't know this for the first thorn. We removed it and sealant erupted like lava from a volcano. I'm not sad one bit about this. It added to the post race celebration.
This guy was under buoy #3 when I warmed up on Saturday. How's that for awesome?
The course was 1500 m swim with a short run in the sand between loops. It was my favorite race swim ever. It was the first time I didn't want the swim to end. The water was clear and beautiful. I think I swim better in clear, calm water, at sea level. The clear water allowed me see my hands and arms so I could correct my form. Not having rip roaring chop at altitude made it so easy to breathe. It was a real treat. Not to pass judgement but if you don't like this swim, something is wrong with you.
I figured I would need all the energy I could muster on the bike and the run. I focused on swimming as relaxed as possible an not offing myself. Not sure that was the best tactic but it made for 30 minutes of enjoyable swimming.
Tim loved the swim too. His 2000 meters of freestyle twice a week must have paid off . He came out of the race in good time. I was a bit back, but not nearly as far back as I have been on other occassions. It was a good swim for me. I have a couple theories on why I had such a good swim. One is the quality of the water but the more reasonable is the stamped on numbers. After 4 years of triathlon and 3 full Ironmans I finally got body marked with more than a Sharpie. I must have hit the big time.
The bike course is everything it is described to be. Some define love as the refusal to give up. If so, then I love the course. It was challenging. I wasn't able to "race it" super well as I was gaining lava riding skills and confidence as I rode. I was lucky enough to ride the short practice course with some amazing females on Saturday. Thank you to San Diego's finest Xterra athletes Jessica, Lesley, and Tammy for sharing your secrets and skills. I think I was more nervous about riding with these standouts than the race course itself. They taught me the best was to handle loose lava. DON'T BRAKE. This was reinforced at the mandantory athlete's meeting. Usually athletes meetings are a snore but this was the most entertaining, important, and insightful prerace meeting ever been. Kapuna Dave the race director showed a film of the bike course. He gave instructions of what to expect in each section. He explained why braking in the loose lava makes your bike fishtail. He also showed a picture of two goat skulls. He said they would mark the bottom of the 8 K descent called "The Plunge". I will never stop loving how moutain bikers affectionatley name parts of courses.
The good thing about the practice loop was I learned a good bit about manuvering in the loose lava. The bad was it really was loose. It really made me give Pele a lot of respect. It psyched me out a bit. I figured out ways of controlling my speed by braking in the sections leading up to loose lava and by making my cornering really wide on the decent. This killed a lot of speed without using the brakes and allowed me to stay in control. Someday, I'll ride that course and look for areas to pick up speed but first thing first. Each time I passed it took me forever to muster the confidence. Passing required the ability to leave the good line and ride through rougher terrain. I wished I had a rear view mirror as trying to look over my shoulder to make sure I wasn't cutting anybody off was hard. I don't know if my tactics were good ones but if I make the video it will be not be in the crashing section.
There is a fair amount of climbing on the course. It's manageable though. It seemed to ride best when I spun seated at a higher cadence in a lower gear. Pushing a bigger gear just made the lava pull my wheels around. I thought spinning an easy gear would allow me to run really fast. That was before the 8K decent called "The Plunge". I actually loved " The Plunge" It felt like skiing down a long sweeping ski run and making turns in the high tuck position. Descending the plunge required a lot of static arm and quad strength to hold the body back on the bike while. Experience, fitness, skill and strength would help me with this. Jack hammering before running hill repeats wearing a garbage bag would be a good training plan.
Tim and I would have loved to ride the course again during our stay. It would have been fun to take in the views, relive the moments, and plan for future races. The course is special and riding is for race day only.
Like the bike you can only run the full course on race day. We went back and ran "The Spooky Forest" section, the beaches and the lava rock again later in the week. It seemed much easier. I'd like to think that I have developed lava running skills but we all know why that is.
Tim left his hydration pack on for the run. Probably wasn't a bad idea. I don't know if it was lack of coordination due to fatigue or the nature of the terrain. I had a tough time refilling my water bottle on the run. It only took in one gel on the run. It was really hard work getting the gel out of my pocket and I really didn't think there was any blood flow to my gut to digest it anyway.
The first three miles of the run are up. It starts gently and gets steeper. After mile three you have a nice long descent on a trail. The descent saved my day! The climb got progressively harder and hotter for me. I didn't really know how long I would climb before I had any "recovery" and how long I could endure it. There were lots of people walking. It didn't look like running was much faster in some spots. I walked more than I preferred to but I just felt like I could exceed my limits and I knew I still had sand and lava ahead. A 35 year old Brazilian triathlete with veins popping out everywhere was walking. I figured if he was walking I should be walking :) Maybe I could have pushed through it, but maybe I would have collapsed. I was happy for the down hill. I made decent time while recovering some energy for the challenges that were to come. I knew I'd be fine in those sections. I had an emergency plan. Sand is tough to run in, but if I felt really terrible I would just run in the ocean and refresh myself with a quick dip. Luckily I didn't need to. The Spooky Forest was really cool. Lots of down trees to leap over. I wasn't leaping to aggressively at that point. I was hanging on for dear life but I still appreciated the course. Finally it was on to the lava rock. Even with 300 yards to go I don't think anybody is sure they will make it. Quite frankly not everybody does make it.