Though the Xterra season is long, being from a Northern Nation, I usually feel like I get into my best shape every year near the end of the season after lots of outdoor riding etc all summer. As per usual, Xterra Nationals went fairly well and I was continuing to build that fitness a little in the 5 weeks up to Worlds. Having moved the family out to Victoria, B.C. (back to my homeland :)) on Labour Day Weekend, I’ve also thoroughly been enjoying the new training grounds! I’m now looking forward to a snow free winter, apart from weekend excursions up to Mt Washington for our ski fixes!.
I was counting my lucky stars after having avoided the two rounds of colds my kids have gone through since school started. The day before I flew to Maui, I had a light head cold and was feeling tired but still had good energy in training. Wednesday was travel day and with a gong show of flight cancellations/changes and late arrival, sleep was less than ideal. Thursday I felt like crap and rode an hour on the course. I was a big grumpy pants but from past experience I knew I always feel terrible my first day in Maui with the jet lag and the heat. So it was hard to tell the difference between being ill and adjusting to hot Maui. With congestion and a scratchy throat I wasn’t sleeping well but thought maybe I had a real cold beat by Friday morning when I headed out for early run. But by that evening my sore throat was back in full force and by Saturday morning my cold was in my ears and voice. Fun times! I enjoyed a little swim practice that day and just tried to rest. It was World Champs and there was nothing to do but race!! Heck, nothing to recover for afterwards! Except maybe the post-race party….
I was more than happy that race morning started with relatively calm waters. After being full on “scorpioned” by the waves crashing at last year’s swim exit, the few 2 footer waves at this year’s start were nothing! I was excited to get going. The canon went off and into the washing machine I dove with the rest of the Pros in our 2 minute head start over the other 700 or so amateur men (wave start 2) and amateur women (wave start 3). I had some feet until close to the first buoy (500m out) but was sort of alone for the rest of the swim until many of the green capped age group men were going by me. I came out of the water unscathed, phew!
Onto the bike, the first 3 miles was likely the hardest part. Unlike last year, this time we rode the first 3 miles of the run course, which meant a lot of steep, sandy ups in the full sun. The bike course was rumoured to be almost two miles longer than last year so I knew pacing would be key. My teammate Shonny passed me in the first few miles and I tried to hang with her but failed. She went on to ride the fastest bike split of the day and finish 8th overall. I focused on racing within myself – whatever that meant for the day – and found myself around a lot of the same guys for the rest of the race. When I wasn’t shooting out snot rockets (sorry, gross), or coughing now and then, over the two hours on the bike I made a few catches and actually quite enjoyed the somewhat twisty sections of the last few miles of the course and was making bigger ground on peeps there.
At the start of the run, Melanie, Carina, Kathrin Mueller of Germany, were all within site. So was our amazing young (17 years old) Luna teammate, Hanna Rae Finchamp, who went on to win the overall amateur title. It was a sufferfest as always, but I felt I had at least got the hydration part right for the run. Apparently with the trade winds dying down for a few days it was hotter than usual. Although sick, I actually felt like I still had a little more spark in my legs than I did after last year’s severe leg cramping incident coming out of the swim. But not feeling 100% definitely put me out of contention for my goal of the day – a top 10 after last year’s disappointment.
In the end, I managed 16th in one of the toughest Pro fields ever. Every year, the competition gets stronger. We had a new women’s winner this year – Nicky Samuels of New Zealand, who won handily by 2.5 minutes over Lesley Paterson (2010 & 2011 World Champ). Lesley out sprinted Flora Duffy of Bermuda for 2nd. Barbara Riveros (runner-up last year) was fourth. AND….drum roll….Emma Garrard rounded out the podium in 5th to win the Pro Mom category :), on her first season back with a 10-month old son! Full results can be found here.
So I’m disappointed for sure!! Although I did manage a 5th place finish on this course the first year it moved from Makena beach in 2011, I still miss and prefer the old course. While full of lava rocks and the dreaded thorns on the side, the old course actually required some balancing skills, decent bike handling, and a serious amount of momentum to ride well. I think it is a little sad that this new course is getting dubbed the “ITU Vacation race”. I know our women’s winner is an amazing athlete but it doesn’t look good when the official Xterra race report, quotes this:
“Samuels, 30, who raced for New Zealand at the London Olympics and normally focuses on ITU road events, said she practiced her mountain biking for only three weeks prior to this race. Still, she was able to post the second-fastest bike split among the females at 1:49:36.”
Maybe one day Xterra will consider doing some proper trail building in Maui or even moving the Worlds venue around like many of us have suggested. If not, it is still the toughest race of the year, for length, climbing, and conditions – heat and surf – but not for technical riding – a triathlon that was originally meant for mountain bikers….hmmmm.
As always, a HUGE thanks to Luna Pro team manager (Waldek, also doubling as team photographer) and team mechanic (Chris), for all the amazing race support. Thanks to Chris V. and Brandi also for the amazing support during the race. Thanks to Katie, Debby, and Brandi for being such awesome housemates at Napili Point. I think my ribs and abs were more sore from laughing than from race exertion and coughing! Now time to get healthy enjoy the official off-season!