It’s been a week since the race and I’ve had time to reflect back on the whole experience. I’ve shared a lot of it with friends, clients and fellow mountain bikers. All of whom have made me feel very proud that I persevered with my training, the workouts, the racing and recovery needed to make it through a very long season.
Last years’ race saw a lot of human and mechanical carnage. Deep cuts from the insidious lava, mangled derailleurs, broken chains, twisted rims, ripped sidewalls, flats and more flats. I was more concerned about flatting than I was about finishing. I became obsessed with the question “How much pressure should I put in my tires!” The course is unlike any I have ever ridden. I’m used to riding roots, rocks and shale. Obstacles that pretty much stay in place. Here, in Maui, the terrain is mostly deep red sand with loose lava rocks that jump up to meet you. You can be cruising down a downhill at warp speed and all of a sudden you fishtail, the bike goes out of control and then you’re crashing into the kiave thorn bushes and more lava rocks.
With this said, and having just raced at Xterra nationals in Lake Tahoe 3 weeks prior, my goal was to not race but to experience the Xterra World Championships. I was here to have fun, not get injured and to cross the finish line with a smile.
During the few days leading up to the race I had a chance to acclimate to the heat and full sun. Since the mountain bike course was on private property, we weren’t allowed to pre-ride it. But we were given permission to ride part of the run course. Maui, though beautiful in some areas, is mostly arid, barren except for scrub and kiave thorn bushes and unshaded.
kiave thorn bushes seem to be everywhere. On the side of the trail, in the middle of the trail, basically everywhere. It was recommended that I switch from a lightweight tube that punctures easy to something new to me – slime tubes. These tubes are self-sealing and help prevent flats, except when you don’t seat them correctly. Needless to say, I was unaware of how to use them and preceded to pinch flat within the first 3 miles of my pre-ride. I was dumfounded and thought about nothing else for the next few days.
It was at the pre-race dinner that I was unbelievably lucky to have met up with Ken (also from NY state) who took the time to explain why I flatted and what to do. I followed his advice and needless to say – I was calm and confident that I wouldn’t be on the side of the trail fixing a flat!
1.5k. 2 laps with a 50m run on the beach between laps. 3 foot swells with a slight current from the north The swim was counterclockwise so I positioned myself way off to the right so that I wasn’t swimming against the current. I was able to catch a draft off a group of swimmers who swam just a little bit faster than I do on my own. No elbow bashing or rude swimming. So I kicked back and enjoyed the swim portion of the race. I didn’t see the turtles that usually hang out in the area but I did see the scuba TV crew. That was kind of cool.
The Mountain Bike
Almost 20 miles of double track. Somehow it was almost all uphill! Or so it seemed. I rode the first major uphill aka HeartBreak Hill (4-5 miles long) somewhat comfortably. Unsure of what was to come I had previously decided to ride the course conservatively. So I stuck with my plan. Good thing I did. The course got much harder.
After HeartBreak Hill, there were a lot of rollers. I was still doing okay. But then came Ned’s climb. Another 4 miles of steep uphill. Full sun and tired legs. It actually was less stressful to push the bike than to ride some sections. But the reward was the downhill. A section called The Plunge. Infamous for the number of people it takes out each year, I was somewhat nervous. But since I was towards the back of the pack, I had an almost clear line down this steep, loose section. I got to ride it without worries. What a hoot! Cleaned it! but the ride wasn’t finished, I still had another 6 miles of downs and ups to get back to the transition area.
I mention this transition because I made the time cut-off. A true concern. As I was leaving transition to begin the run, race director Dave Nichols (the Big Kahuna) was there to give me a big hug, encouragement and a kick in the butt to keep running. I knew then that I would finish the race.
7 miles of uphill (actually 3 miles of it at the very beginning), red sand and lava (lots of it), downhill, running on the beach, through Spooky Forest, through a lava field, more beach and then the finish. I was one of the last finishers but the remaining spectators and crew were amazing. Cheering me on with such enthusiasm they truly made me feel special. Whit who puts everything into his commentating/announcing, was there at the finish line to greet me with the best finish ever.
I proud to say “I Finished!” Thirty five athletes did not. I placed 8 out of 10 in my age group (45-49). 114 out of 131 women. This was truly the most difficult race I have ever done. Could I have raced harder – yes. Does it matter – no. I had a wonderful experience – A true celebration of life!