Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Road to Maui - Xterra World Championships 2013

Maui Sunset....
The qualifying process…..
In order to get a spot in the X-Terra World Championships in Maui, you need to qualify, which usually means you have to win your age group at a qualifying event. There are qualifying races all over the world, but only one race in Australia. This was the first time an Xterra race had been held in Anglesea, so I decided to do it, just to support the event, as the previous Xterra event in Australia had clashed with the Keen 5-day Adventure Race. I had not planned on going to the World Champs at all as I had a pretty big year lined up already for Adventure Racing, but when I won my age category at Anglesea, somehow I caught the Xterra bug, so I convinced Jan to come too as she won her age as well.

Jan and I had visited Maui before and competed at Xterra World Champs 8 years ago after qualifying through an event in Rotorua NZ. Xterra is an off-road triathlon, and anything off-road is usually a lot tougher and more challenging than on road, as it’s a challenge against you and the elements, and that is definitely why I moved into more multisport events and AR following Maui Xterra in 2005. So, anyway, we knew the course would be tough, but two years ago the event moved from Makena Beach in the South West to DT Flemming Beach in the North West, so a good opportunity for a new challenge. I was also inspired by Xterra Legend Peter Wood, as I remembered he had said the course would suit me after he returned from the 2011 event. The fact that Peter was going to be racing again and trying to claim an 8th World Championship Title this year after suffering horrific injuries from a bike accident training for Coast to Coast played a big part in my decision to go back to Maui.

So fast forward 6 months and here we were in Maui again….
I had certainly not done the specific triathlon style training I had intended, as I had had been focussing on some major adventure races, including Geoquest and Hells Bells then somehow XPD got thrown in there as well. So this meant that the preparation for Xterra kept getting put off, however I did manage to get in some ocean swimming and a few swim/runs before we left. Peter took us over the bike course on the Thursday before the event, you sort of need to do it so you are prepared, but I would definitely not have liked to have ridden it any later than that, as it was hot, hilly and hard. I had certainly not anticipated just how much climbing was involved, and how hot it would be up there on the side of a mountain which happened to be an old pineapple plantation, turned old overgrown golf course.  I think it took 4 hrs to ride the course, which did have some awesome descents, and challenging undulating windy single-track for the final 10 k, but left us a bit tired and exhausted.  We jumped off the bikes and headed for the beach;  we jumped in and swam out to the close buoy. There were a few dumping waves on the beach and the water was quite rough, but buoyancy was great, so the swim felt very refreshing. The next day I decided to check out the run course, which meant a 20min cycle to and from the start from our accom. So I just decided to run the 5k course and leave the rest for race day as it was something like 40 degree in the sun that day, so again enjoyed a little swim afterwards.  The day before the race we had haircuts! Yes, haircuts…. this was a part of a charity fundraising initiative that is a part of the Xterra tradition…..and as I have so much hair a trim would make me much lighter!
Trek Superfly checks out Maui cliffs...
Race Day October 27th 2013
The race was due to start at 9am, so we set out on our bike for the start at about 7am, and arrived to find that the Transition area was almost full. We thought we had numbered racks, but that only meant that about 40 bikes were to fit between a certain area. I tried to find a spot for my bike in my area but did not have much luck, and just copped lots of death stares when I walked anywhere near a spot that had a bit of a space. Anyway I managed to slide into a small space and set up my gear, I felt like I must have forgotten something as everyone else seemed to have so much stuff and take up so much space. Jan and I wandered to the beach and waited for the start. It was hot… hot, so I jumped in the water, got wet and then sat in the shade waiting to start. We were the third wave – first was all Pro Men & Women, then was all men. We did not see Peter at all!
Kim eventually finds a spot for her bike and gear...

The cannon fired and we were off, and it was rough and choppy, but I was catching up to the green caps – the men, and by the time I got to the first turn I felt like a washing machine full of green caps, but not many white – women. We exited on the beach and re-entered for a shorter second half and before long I was running up to the TA, I could not believe how many men I had passed, so thought I must have had a reasonably OK swim. The run to the TA was all uphill, so getting sorted with Camelbak, socks, bike shoes, helmet, sunnies, gloves took a bit longer than I wanted, but best I have everything I thought! I ran out and jumped on my bike and began the climb, bitumen, grass and then trail. I passed a few younger girls right away and then a woman 50+ went powering past me, I chose to go at my pace. I managed to keep riding most of the way up, somehow passing lots of men as I went. I was so glad I had the new Trek P1 Superfly as it did exactly that…..’fly’up those hills. I passed one 45+ female competitor just before we got to the top of the first climb and did the rest of the bike ride surrounded by guys. Some went speeding past me on the downhills which I took what I would say cautiously……I don’t think I could actually see much through my sunnies because of the dust….so better to be safe than sorry! The last 10k was really tricky as there were lots of challenging tight turns, but still some nasty long steep climbs and short pinches, but this is where good technical riders were advantaged. I felt like my legs were now recovering ready for the run….and I was looking forward to it….even though it was very hot. After a flying downhill finish through a tunnel I was soon at the TA, and off my bike…..somehow I got out of my shoes with clip straps… a triathlon dismount it was, run to my rack, shoes on, belt on and on with the hat as I ran out. The start of the run was bitumen at first, and then onto the start of the bike course, I knew I would be near the top of the run course as we had already been near there. So I just ran as strongly as I could, I loved the technical single track bits as they were in the shade, before I knew it I was at the 2 mile mark and had passed 2 of the 5 water stations, where I poured water over my head, and sipped down some water with a gel. I felt great because I was continuously passing people all the way…and before I knew it I was on the descent! I just tried to run as fast as I could until I got to the part where I knew. I passed 2 pro females which gave me a lift as I had started 4 minuted behind. There were a few little logs to jump over, and a few sharp turns….not very technical at all really but most of it was downhill and in the shade. I knew I was nearing the end as I had the final climb up a bitumen road, and got passed by a 25 yrs girl. I tried to get in front on the final descent but the track was too narrow , but managed to get in front when we crossed the creek before the beach, only to be passed again on the sand….I had no more speed…..anyway I ran strongly all the way to the line.

I was greeted by the lovely Xterra Officials and a survivors badge and lei were placed over my head, along with a nice cool wet towel as I wandered up to the refreshments tent. I was pretty excited as I had raced hard and done well, I had no idea where I had placed, but there were not too many girls around at all…so I thought that was a good sign. I wandered back down to the beach, jumped in the water and cooled off……went and got my bike and gear from the TA and waited for Jan. I then saw Peter’s wife Carol who was waiting for Jan and Peter to finish. She told me she knew they were not far away, but Jan was in front of Peter. She congratulated me on my race and told me that I had won! “Really” I said. “Yes come and see” said Carol.  So we went to the results table where you could pick up a copy of your time and place…..and there it was Kim Beckinsale Number 812... 45-49 yrs Women 1st Place.

I was stoked! But we raced back to the finish to watch Jan come in, but no sign of Peter yet. Jan was glad to have finished as she had bike trouble, so that was disappointing, but she was pretty excited when I told her I had won. I went to back to watch Peter finish, Carol knew he was in the lead as she had been getting text updates throughout the race, and saw none of his competitors come through. So when he crossed the line, we were all so excited… Peter was now an 8 time World Xterra Champion!
Xterra survivors!
We celebrated that night at the Awards Ceremony, and received a hug and beer from The Big Kahuna Dave (CEO of Xterra) …..before heading up on stage to receive our World Champion Awards…..a special night with special people!  A special thanks to Jan for being a part of my Xterra experience, as I would not have taken up the opportunity to race without you there too..... Kim J