A Practical Guide to Racing in Maui
By Neal Henderson, MS CSCS
The XTERRA World Championship on Maui is approaching!
Once you arrive, get your bike together and then test it to ensure that everything is adjusted properly and working as close to perfect as you can get. Get out in the heat and acclimatize! Here are some specific recommendations for your final preparations.
If you've never swum in the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean, you're in for a real treat! Forget the wetsuit...the water is 72 degrees, and the swim will never be wetsuit legal. Be sure to bring goggles that have dark lenses. The sun is bright, and you're eyes will appreciate the shade. The clear water will allow you to see everything around you. You’ll be a little more buoyant than you are in fresh water. Not quite the effect of wearing a wetsuit, but it's close! If you're a little hesitant about the swim, attend the Swim Clinic on Friday morning at 9:00 am. Look for information about the clinic at registration.
Things to consider trying:
(And don't drink the ocean water...the salt will upset your stomach!)
Contrary to the title of Lance Armstrong's first book… it is about the bike. While the course is physically challenging with long climbs and bumpy descents, having a mechanical and flat-free ride is the key to a great race.
A few hints:
XTERRA sets up a practice course in the days before the race, as the actual race course is completely closed to all competitors until race day - violators will be immediately disqualified! Details will be given to you in your race packet.
Since you'll never know exactly what the course will be like, riding a few laps of the practice course can give you a little idea of what to expect. In general, lava rock is much lighter than typical rock and the lava rock usually has very sharp edges. Tires with thin sidewalls are at significant risk of being ripped to shreds. When riding downhill on a bed of lava rock, remember to go easy on the brakes and try to use some body-English (i.e. leaning) to steer. When you hit the brakes hard in this type of terrain, you tend to just slide the direction that you were going when you hit the brakes...not a pretty picture.
Finally, there are usually a fair number of dusty-silt sections on the course. The pockets of silt can be very deep, and if you don't keep your weight back you risk going head over the handlebars. Approach any powdery looking sections with caution, keeping your weight back and try to ride through them in a slightly bigger gear (like you would if you were riding through sand or snow).
Always bring along a multi-tool (and know how to use it), two spare tubes (and a patch kit).
Know how to fix flats and do some basic maintenance on your bike (like taking out chain links), and be sure that everything is secured in place! Finally, save a little energy on the bike, because you'll surely need it on the run!
Be sure to wear a shoe with some traction, as the variety of surfaces that run on is diverse. A slick racing flat may feel good on the limited paved sections, but you'll pay for the weight savings on sharp lava rocks. I've seen competitors with kiawe thorns stuck through their lightweight flats...all the way through the shoe and into their feet! As you leave the bike to run transition, you'll probably run through a trail section peppered with potentially ankle biting rocks embedded in the ground. Watch you're footing here, and throughout the rest of the course!
Everyone has a different theory about how best to run through the deep sand, and you’ll find that too on this course… best try it first. As you run through the Spooky Forest, watch out for low hanging branches, and trees that you have to step/hop over. If you're a skilled cross-country runner and can handle some hurdles, you may be able to keep clipping along through some of the trickier sections at a good pace. For those who may not be quite as sure-footed or coordinated, be sure to think twice before attempting to hop over some of the more challenging obstacles. The course will change this year, but the old formula always wins: Agility + balance + peripheral vision + conditioning = medal.
Other Do's and Don'ts:
Do enjoy your race!
Do be sure to eat at Maui Tacos at least once!
Do snorkel, and look for green sea turtles!
Do enjoy the pre-race and post-race dinners...they're awesome!
Do give Kahuna Dave and Janet big hugs when you finish (bonus if you're still sweaty and dirty) and thank them for putting on such a kick-ass race and series!
Do watch the sunrise from the top of Haleakala!
Do drive the Hana Highway all the way to Hana!
Do bring a great costume and wear it to the post-race party!
Do watch the windsurfers at Hookipa beach near Paia!
Do experience Halloween in Lahaina!
Don't be a poor sport if your race doesn't go as planned!
Don't stay indoors relaxing in the air conditioning until race day!
Don't touch any sea urchins... their spines are painful (and you'll swell up a lot)!
Don't surf where there's dead coral...its very sharp (12 stitches worth for me)!
Don't try to swim to Molokini... it's farther away than it looks!
Author Neal Henderson is an XTERRA pro and the Coordinator of the Sport Science program at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine. He teaches the XTERRA Swim Clinics with Raeleigh Tennant and Grant Holicky, and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org
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