Xterra World Championship Race Report

Awwww, Maui! Even though every year is a majorly important “race-cation” for me, I couldn’t help but stay pretty relaxed leading up to the race with a condo on the water with a lanai view like this…..

View from our Kahana condo with amazing sunsets every night!Steps away from the beach of the Lanai, take your pick!

And my two cutie pies having so much fun with my parents and husband along to help out….

Zoe and Nico enjoy their new inflatables in the pool with Grandma

With all the anticipation and hype surrounding the the new Xterra Worlds venue in Kapalua in West Maui, I was pleasantly surprised and downright excited for the race on Sunday by the time I had seen the whole course and race morning arrived. Many had said it was a good course for me and I was in full agreement! Well, the big day has come and gone, and even though I made the podium in 5th position, which was satisfying, overall I have to admit I am a little disappointed and expected more of myself. Here is how my race day story unfolded….

As I’ve heard many say in the world of triathlon, you can’t win the race in the swim, but you can lose the race in the swim, or at least I would agree you can put yourself out of contention in the swim. For me, the swim is the crazy, unpredictable part. You can be going great in a pool, but an open water swim with 670 some other people in slightly rough, ocean water with a strong current can be a tough one to navigate. I started the race in the middle of the line up on the beach, and got off to a pretty smooth start. As we neared the first buoy the chaos thickened, and I was punched in the head several times by some guy as I was working on my swim agressiveness and trying to herd him left in order to make the buoy. The current was pushing the whole pack too far left of the buoy so I arrived right in the middle of the angry lady on the surf board (ha!) yelling at everyone to get around the buoy. I obediently treaded water around the buoy trying to keep my head above water, while many others did not make it around and chose to or were forced to cut inside. Maybe there is a better way? Pontoon buoys? Maybe not making all the amateur racers wear swim caps the same color as the buoys could be a start to help sighting too? Anyway, after that crazy slow up at the first buoy I was swimming clear and managed to swim a straighter line back to the beach for the short sand run before lap number two. In the end I came out of the water at least two minutes slower than I would have liked and 5 minutes down on the top Pro women contenders – ouch! I would love it if the Pros could have a fairer and separate start like we did at the US Champs – but enough of my swim rant!

The masses are off, many drifting way too far left of the first buoy!

Off onto the bike, I had some passing to do! After patiently riding out a few bottle necks in the first few miles of twisty single track, and a quick stop to yank my seat back into place after the nose jacked up when I sat down too hard over a bump (whew!), I found my rythmn. The climbs were tough but all rideable, there were bits of fun twisty single track, shaded “jungle-like” sections, fast downhills spattered with small rock drops, grassy humps, red dust bowls, and smooth, super highway speed sections, nothing super technical by mountain bike standards but a good variety of everything, and just plain tough! All I did the whole ride was pass people and try and keep my lightweight self on fast wheels on the downhills. J-F gave me a split with 5 miles to go and I was disappointed to hear I was only in 9th at that point. I gave it all I could to T2, and luckily had a solid day on the bike with the 3rd fastest bike split of the day.

Coming in to transition at the end of the bike

I headed onto the run in 8th position just behind Erin Densham, a 2008 Triathlon Olympian from Australia. I thought great, she’s gotta be a fast runner so we can work together. And we did for the first mile or so going back and forth up the long uphill on the paved golf path but unfortunately once we hit the dirt she fell behind and I never saw her again. The run climbs were brutal and hot with only slight reprieves on soft grass, and dirt with plenty of fun non-stop cornering through tall shrubbery and trees. Up ahead I could see Carina Wasle of Austria, and eventually caught her before the top of the climbing. Once the long downhill sections started just before mile 4 I was having some difficulties really letting it go as I was getting a bit bonky and uncoordinated. With no one in sight, J-F (who was all over the course, bless his dehydrated self that day!), yelled at me to keep me running up the last VERY steep pavement climb before hitting the long single track descent back down to the beach. After making it across the rocky river bed and short beach section, I pushed up the last, long and grassy climb to the finish. I had to squeeze around the medic team hovered over a collapsed Melanie McQuaid about 300m from the finish. Unfortunately for Mel she came close to pacing her 110% effort perfectly to take the win but was overtaken by a system malfunction before she made it there.

The painfully slow, sandy, and HOT run across the beach!

With one past World Champion down for the count, and another two past champs out with injuries (my Luna teammate Shonny, last years champ out with an ACL tear and 3X World Champ Julie Dibens out with a foot injury), the 2011 title was wide open for a new winner, and my hat is off to the speedy Scot, Lesley Paterson for her amazing day and win. With a great day in all three disciplines, she charged to the finish with a smoking fast run that even outsplit the men’s champion of the day, Micheal Weiss!!

Womens podium – myself (5th), Marion Lorblanchet (2nd), Lesley Paterson (1st), Helena Erbenova (3rd), Renata Bucher (4th)

The same podium all cleaned up for the Awards banquet

All in all, as much as it was a sufferfest, it was motivating and I think I can even still say, fun to race a new Worlds course. With what I feel was a sub-par day I feel motivated to go back and give this same course another go a year from now! Thanks to my family for their support at this race as well as the LUNA team, and our team mechanic, Chris who was there to have my Orbea Alma 29er in perfect working condition. He also raced and bravely overcame a panicky swim to finish his day in the top half of his extremely competitive age category!

Congrats to everyone I know who put up great battles on this new, extremely challenging course! Many Canadians rocked it out there with lots of podiums – congrats to my Coach Cal who took the 40-44 World title AND to fellow Canadian and mom, Brandi Heisterman, who came an impressive 9th in the Pro women in her second ever Xterra and you can check out here story too on her blog!

Also get a look at the course by checking out a great 10 minute recap video of the race here.

And full results can be found here.

Now its no rest for the weary and jetlagged. I’m back in Calgary and have two weeks to recover and try and maintain some fumes of fitness for ITU Long Course Worlds in Las Vegas on November 5th….hmmmm, what will it be like to pin it for a 4k swim, 120km bike, and 30km run all in one day? Stay tuned for the final race report of 2011 still to come….

3 thoughts on “Xterra World Championship Race Report

  1. Hey Danelle,
    Your “subpar” is amazing!. Super proud and telling everyone we share some genes ( they don’t always believe me though)

  2. Congratulations on a great performance, Danelle! I enjoyed racing with you this past season. I hope you enjoy some down time before the serious training picks up again. You are an inspiration to me!

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