Monday, 29 October 2012

Xterra World Championship

My flight over to the island paradise of Hawaii was scheduled the day after the Auckland ITU worlds. This meant the after party of the Auckland Race had to be a bit restrained, not that many people feel like partying the night after a 5:00am wake up and a triathlon. The Air NZ flight to Honolulu was packed with other athletes, some returning after the Auckland race, but most heading to Maui for Xterra.

After the short 8 hour flight I arrived in Honolulu at 10:00. I had cheaped out on my plane tickets so didn’t get feed, so I was pretty keen to find some. The motel I booked was in the middle of an industrial area in Honolulu. There was nothing. The one petrol station was shut. I was roaming the streets around 11pm when I ran into another guy who I could only assume was on a similar quest. it , nothing open for food. Turns out he too was a kiwi on route to NY city. We did a little research on his iphone and bingo, Wendys restaurant 1.5miles away. After the hike and salivating over what to get from the menu, we tried ordering from the drive through, since the restaurant part was shut. The manager gave us a big palm, “no service unless you are in a vehicle”. You have got to be kidding me! I found a vending machine and ate some nuts for dinner.

I booked a flight to Maui at 8am. The following morning. Why on earth did I do that. Honestly. Check in to the place I was staying was 3pm leaving an awkward 5 hours of wandering with my bags. Luckily I managed to get the hotel to keep my bike bag.
I was Wednesday and time for registration / opening of the courses. The place I was staying (Lahaina) was about 15km south of the resort where Xterra was happening. Sounded fine to me, 15km wazrm up and down each day. Riding out to the course was super hot. At 9am in the morning the sun was beating down hard and it was already 28+ degrees. Bit of a change coming from the NZ winter. I registered and set out for a bike course reccie. The Xterra bike course is long hot and has a lot of elevation change. While the trails are not overly technical riding some of the off camber corners and the loose soil conditions takes a bit of getting used to. The riding reminded me most of dry queensland type condition. Semi Dessert like land. The ride around the course took around 2 hours. I was not pushing hard but battling to settle my heart rate under my threshold level. I felt like I was soft pedalling but my heart was racing. I came out of the ride dehydrated and a little demoralised to be honest.
After my 15km warm down in the afternoon sun, I got back to the hotel and I was smashed. I lay down for a few hours feet up and AC blasting. Maybe this isn’t going to be so easy!

Triathletes and most athletes I suppose are a commonly plagued by self doubt. Doubts about your training, form, performances play havoc with ones mind. That ride hit me mentally more than anything. Maybe the Triathlon in Auckland was not such a good idea. The recovery time was short and I would not be ready for Xterra. Then I remembered why I do triathlons. Who gives a crap im just here to have some fun.
After a good sleep, some macdonalds for breakfast I was off to Kapalua for a run of the race course. On the way out I couldn’t help by antagonise some roadies by drafting them for about 10km. I even rolled through doing some turns with my backpack on and running atire. They were getting agitated and tried some legitimate attacks, with out of the saddle sprinting on liitle rising. Each time I pulled them in to receive a dirty look.
The run course is knarly. 3 miles of uphill, hellishinsly steep in parts followed by a slalom downhill smashfest with off camber corners tree truck hurdles, the works. The run was good, I really enjoyed the course running the uphills at tempo and taking downhills easy. In hindsight I think I did this wrong. The swim was topped off by a swim in the ocean.
That arvo, I rolled on over to the Lahaina Aquatic centre for a few laps of the pool. Got to say, swimming in a outdoor pool in 30 degree heat is awesome. A far cry from crowded, ,dark, over chlorinated pools in Auckland. Overall a good day of training.

I was still keen to have another go at the bike course and since I didn’t have much else on the cards, I decided to give it a crack early the next morning trying to escape the worst of the heat. I rode out, stopping in for oatmeal and coffee (breakfast of champions) on route. Being 2 days from the event, I really needed to take it easy so was spinning hard on the uphills trying to keep the heart rate low. Immediately I could feel the body working a bit more normally, with a usual range of hr for the perceived effort. I. don’t know if I was acclimatising to the heat, if it was just cooler or if I had recovered a bit better. The ride went a lot better and I started to feel a bit more confident about the course. Anyways a step in the right direction.
Struggling for things to do and being ADD, I found a scooter hire place and got one for the afternoon. I missioning over to the other side of the island in search of a famous kite surfing beach I had read about. Just following my nose I found the beach. Holy shit!

It dawned on me I had committed a crime. Bringing a mountain bike over to Maui to ride stinking hot, dusty, average trails when a kiting spot like this was just sitting there. 20knots of consistent on shore breeze, not a cloud in the sky, beautiful beach with flat water and the occasional 3 foot wave / ramp. Not a mistake I will repeat.

The rest of day involved a litre of coffee, about $4 of gas (2 tanks) and some quality exploration. It would be fair to say the scooter was tiny but I did manage to get her up to 45 Mph drafting a truck on the aero position. People must have laughed seeing me. Tucked up in the aero position in stubbies on a scooter.

The Saturday was the day before the race and I didn’t want to do anything to strenuous. I hired another scooter and embarked on a mission around the northern volcano. I stopped off at the event site for a quick swim at DT Flemmings beach. There was some quality shore break rolling in, hitting 5 -6 foot during the sets. Perfect. I went for a short 700m swim and then watched apprehensive athletes trying to time their entry into the water. Quite funny at time.

Further up the coast, the surf was amazing. Hundreds of surfers were out ripping. The roads up around the north of Maui become fun. Less like an American highway, more like a coriander road, twisty and steep, which coincidentally become a whole lot more fun on a scooter. Some of the up hills were a bit of a struggle, with speed dropping down around the 10mph mark, the point where I was considering jumping off and pushing. The roads got down to a single lane a some points. A particularly funny moment happened when about 5 cars in each direction met each other on a narrow bit. No one was taking charge of the situation and it ended up in this odd, retarded stalemate where everyone just decided the road was blocked and there was nothing to be done. I couldn’t believe it, and couldn’t help wander how different the outcome would be if the same situation happened in NZ. Luckily I was on a scooter, wished them well and burned off into the sunset chuckling.

That night was the opening ceremony at the Ritz. Finally we got to see what the high entry fee goes towards. The Xterra folks do a really good job at branding their outfit and giving it that family club sort of feel. Noticing that sort of marketing more and more with sporting companies. Before the night was up there was one further curveball to be thrown into the mix. An Earthquake just off the Canadian coast had raised a Tsunami Warning for the Hawaiian islands.

TSUNAMI!!!, everyone drive some where. Traffic on the way home was crazy. The place I was staying in Lahaina was inside the evacuation zone. I could hear people getting evacuated from my hotel, I switched off the light and didn’t answer the door. Ill take my chances thanks guys. Could use the swim training anyways.

I woke up to everything as per usual. Tsunami warning had been lifted. Excellent, meaning they wont cancel the swim. I jumped on the bike stopping at macdonalds for the customery oatmeal and coffee combo. What is it with lines and this country. The body marking line was several hundred metres long and took over 30minutes before I could rack the bike. I don’t understand body marking. What is the purpose of numbering the arms and legs with irritating ink/permanent marking when we have number on both the bike and run race belt. Seems like a hangover from pre race number days where men wore only speedos and drawing pins where deemed to dangerous.

I love the swim start and with a little surf even better. A few duck dives and we were away. All the pre race nerves converted into an intense burst. The first bouy rounding got interesting. Think it was about 6 wide and was in the middle. A bit of a scrum but I got round fine. Apparently there were dophines swimming a couple of metres under the bouy, I missed them because I was too busy avoiding getting kicked in the face.

Onto the bike and the first hill on the course is steep. I found myself immediately reeling some people in. The first bit of single track had a lot of traffic and I knew I had to not fall into the trap of becoming complacent behind someone. Going into the first technical downhill section I caught up to a pro who was struggling. He was really nursing the bike down the section, any slower and you would be sliding on your arse…Dude did a front flip in front of me landing with his $10,000 bike parking slap bang across the trail. I thought this is bull, so bunny hopped over his front wheel and I was free. Moving onto the extended climbs is were I made the most progress, reeling in some of the competition.

The Downhills although not particularly challenging were still fun - hitting around 65 km/h. Doesn’t seem to fast when you compare to road, but on a water rutted dirt road with water bars and patches of loose sand that shit is getting pretty real. Full Aero tuck as id practised on the scooter. I might include scooter riding on my training montage when I make it.

Towards the end of the ride, a group of 4 age groupers formed. Olly Shaw, myself and a couple other young guys. Going into the last section of single track, I wanted to put some pressure on one of the riders so started to push the pace a bit surging and so on. Going through one of the tighter sections I clipped a handle bar on a tree and went down. The others all past. Ended up coming into transition a couple seconds after the others sporting some fast becoming ‘customery’ blood down the leg. it’s an intimidation tactic I use, nothing to do with my gumbiness.

Running off the bike at first appeared all good, but as the trail started climbing, my legs were fried. The run is incredibly difficult after the 30km of climbing you’ve just done on the bike. The first 3 miles of the course are essentially up hill, with some steep sections which make you cringe just looking at them. Once at the 3 mile mark, its back down the hill, except for a nasty pinch right near the end. I was getting past all over the shop, notably by A flying Leslie Patterson, Cabin cranking some extreme downhill speed and Barbara Riveros came powering past me on the pinch, I tried to follow here at the top and try and match her downhill speed but she immediately put 20m on me within a few seconds.

I battled through to the end. The beach was pretty much torture and the last uphill section to the finish line I was on my last legs. I felt a huge sense of relief crossing the finish line. The Hula girls stuck a Lay around my neck, and the weight of the flowers knocked me to the ground. The ice cold water and wet towels were like heaven. I could not stand up straight. That was one of the hardest races ive done.
Although I would have liked to win my age group I am happy with a 3rd place. I came in as the 8th amateur and 40th overall including the Pro field. Got a sweet medal to add to the trophy cabinet. 2nd fastest bike split in the amateur race. (everyone knows thats what really matters :p) Results are here: As a side note, i ended up achiveing my goal of beating Barbara Riveros because of the 2 min head start the pro field got on us. Pride is in tack.

Sorry about the length, that’s what happens when you have 6 hours hanging at the airport with a bike bag stopping you from going anywhere.
 Sporting a sweet pink bandage to draw attention to the fact i am a rookie!

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