XTerra Race Report - Alan Burton

As well as the Ironman World Champs in Hawaii, there is also the
off-road triathlon champs - Xterra World Champs in Maui. This year
marked 20 years of Xterra and this one turned out to be the most
challenging yet. The distances are 1500m rough water swim, 32km
mountain bike, 10k trail run.

Sounds like an Olympic distance triathlon right, nah, its much much
harder! To give you an idea, My PB for an Olympic road triathlon is
2hrs 6mins. I qualified for the worlds at the Xterra Asia Pacific
Champs at Jervis Bay in April in just under 3 hours. The same distance
at the World Champs took me 4hrs 45mins!

What can I say about the course, it was hilly, hot, technical and the
rain was plentiful in the week leading up to the race resulting in an
extremely muddy course. Everyone had to do the same so it turned into
a great bonding experience!

Swim

The water had been calm in the days leading up to the race but, of
course, typically on race day, the surf was immense. I like to tell
people the waves were 10ft high but I'm telling fibs, they were much
bigger than that!!! Water temperature was 26.9 degrees so no wetsuits
allowed. The swim was an out an back done twice, so we had to come out
of the water and run on the beach before getting back out through the
surf again.

I felt pretty good when I started and got out through the surf without
any problems and was making good progress until the first beach exit.
A massive wave hit me and I was flipped feet first overhead, triple
backflip into the sand bank. Ouch. Crazy stuff, onwards we go, until I
realised I'd lost my goggles. Shit. That meant I'd have to swim the
second lap blind. Ok then, off we go though the surf again. Mild panic
set in as I realised I'd never been in this situation before and the
waves were crashing down on top of me. It didn't help that some guy
pushed me under in a vain attempt to keep himself afloat!
Anyway after giving myself a talking to, I carried on. I'd lost the
group I was swimming with at this stage so it was just about trying to
stay on course given that I couldn't see a thing. I found out
afterward that I wasn't the only person to have lost my goggles, in
fact, spare googles were being handed out to people on the beach at
the first swim exit!! I obviously missed that!!
I was immensely glad when I got back to shore and got onto the bike.
Great, I thought, time to have some fun.

Bike

I rode the bike course a few days before the race and it was mostly
dry except for a few muddy patches under the trees. There was one
swamp that I had to get off and carry the bike through but otherwise
it was fine. That was before the rain started.
Back to race day and the entire first 8 miles of the bike course had
turned into that same swamp. Or at least thats what it felt like.
The bike course climbs through the West Maui Mountains for the first 8
miles or so. Some of the climbs are quite steep which is hard work in
dry conditions never mind muddy conditions. The mud mixed with lots of
mountain bikers had turned into sticky clay which mean't absolutely no
traction in places. There was a lot of pushing of bikes, a lot of
mechanicals, a lot of crashes, but also a lot of muddy fun. The eureka
moment was getting to the top of the bike course out of the tree lined
areas and reaching the dry ground. The sun had come out and dried out
the uncovered ground which was just as well as it was mostly downhill
from here. It was nice to get into a rhythm and I finally managed to
get past a lot of people who had overtaken me on the swim.

Run

I had been struggling with a bit of a calf strain so wasn't
particularly looking forward to running though lots of mud. As it
turned out the run course was almost disappointingly lacking in mud!
It was still pretty hard work as again it went uphill for the first
half and it was hot. The race started at 9am so 3 hours in and it was
a blazing 30+ degrees. I caught a few more people before getting to
the long descent down to the beach. It was a nice trail but I couldn't
really push the pace due to my calf. Not much else to report from the
run except when we reached the beach, we had to run across it before
reaching the finish line. Ouch.

I finally crossed the finish line in 4hrs 45 mins. Wow, wasn't
expecting that, my bike time was about an hour slower than my recce in
the days before so just goes to show how much the conditions affected
the race. Not my best race thats for sure but a memorable experience
all the same.