In 2018, XTERRA and OOFOS partnered to launch the “OOFOS Great Descents Series,” which recognizes a dedicated downhill section of XTERRA courses to highlight the benefit of recovery, which your legs will need after screaming down those hills.
It’s tough to imagine a more adventurous trail running course than the 21K at Kualoa Ranch, home to the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship on December 2, 2018. The trails through Kaaawa Valley and up the spine of Pu'u Ohulehule are truly world championship material. You will be tested not just on the climbs – one is affectionately named “The Death March” – but also on the descents. All told, the 21K demands about 2800 feet of climbing. And we all know that what goes up, must come back down.
At Trail Run Worlds, the OOFOS Great Descent begins with a steep scramble down from the highest point of the race dubbed "Pualoa Pass", which is about 700 feet above the starting line, towards the base of the valley below. Just before mile 10, you will begin the descent which is so steep and slippery that you will be glad there is a rope there to guide you. You might also need to cling to a tree or two as this part of the course is notoriously muddy after a good rain.
The first 300 feet drop in elevation happens at a very steep grade, which some of the elites will take at an almost freefall pace, trusting in their training and their instincts to stay upright. As the race progresses, however, this downhill section can be a bit of a logjam as the mud gets kicked up and cautious runners slow down. Because this is Hawaii, this Great Descent is a perfect opportunity to practice the Aloha spirit.
The good news is that this steep slope is only a quarter of a mile long. By the time you hit mile 10.5, you will be stomping the mud off your shoes and onto a glorious and green downhill ride which will carry you all the way into the finish line. So relax your shoulders, take a deep breath and enjoy the sweet single track back into the Kaaawa Valley, where Kalei Waiwaiole’s voice will guide you into the finish chute.
While your quads will be burning from the steep downhill grade, your OOFOS will also soothe the beating your dogs will take while running up. The highest point of the course (between mile 9 and 10) is the fourth climb of the race – and we have saved the best for last. Affectionately called “The March of Death," the fourth big climb in the 21K takes you about 550 feet up in about a mile.
"It’s tough,” said last year’s third-place finisher, Teylar Adelsberger. “I read the course description and it talked about the 'March of Death,' so there were multiple times when I thought, OK, I'm on it right now. And then I kept going and thought, maybe I'm on it right now? Then I got there and I was like, nope, this one's it."
You want to know a secret about the XTERRA Trail Run World Championship? No matter if you’re sliding down on your backside or power hiking up the steep grades, you are going to be happier here than in just about any other race you will ever run. For one thing, you are in Hawaii, and the views you will gain will make up for any pain encountered on the way there. For another thing, Kualoa Ranch is normally closed to the public, so running the 21K course is basically like a secret pass into paradise, not to mention that you will be running through several movie sets along your journey to the finish line. Jurassic Park, Windtalkers, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, Tears of the Sun, 50 First Dates, and LOST were all filmed in this magical location.
Our advice is that you remember how hard you worked to get here and recognize that you earned this trip through the Kaaawa Valley. Encourage your fellow XTERRA Warriors and enjoy the ride. We’ll see you at the finish line!