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Maui XTERRA® World Championships for Buff® Athlete Danica Bonello Spiteri

Published by Danica Bonello Spiteri in Sport · 5/11/2014 22:10:10

An early wake up call to an amazing sunrise on DT Fleming beach in Kapula on the majestic Hawaiian island of Maui was well worth it in itself. But it was race day and the beach was buzzing with activity. The Hawaiian blessing was given prior to race start, with the elite field heading off first. The men started two minutes later, but mother nature knew better as she threw massive waves at the men. I literally saw grown men start the race, turn round and run back to the beach (but they returned into the water), whilst others who swam into the waves were simply washed ashore anyway. The women’s wave started two minutes after the men’s and I put in my racing experience into this swim, as there was a strong underwater current, so simply swimming in a straight line to the buoys was not ideal.

I had a pretty decent swim(1.5km in 25min.02secs), emerging in 6th place overall in the women (out of 166). A run across the sandy beach and a 400m uphill run to transition, followed by picking up my mountain bike and off onto the hills. The first 5 miles were a constant climb up hills, mud, grass, slippery roots and a topping of heat and high humidity was the call. It took approx 50minutes to complete this section, including bits of having to get off the bike (due to the slippery, steep, muddy sections), and pushing it up, whilst trying to grasp a foothold on the mud. Riding at the top of the devil’s ridge was amazing, at the top of the mountain, with stunning sea views well worth it. But no time to waste, as steep, winding technical descents awaited.  This was an Achilles heel for me, but I performed to my best ability, attempting to stay on my bike rather than getting flung off it, as I saw quite a few athletes do. The rest of the bike section was unrelenting with a zillion turns, twists, climbs and all, with not a single section of plain straight track, making even drinking fluids quite a challenge. The sun kept pelting down on my back so lots of fluids, sugars and salts were the call of the day to ensure completion of the race. After a gruelling 30km and 1,000m of climbing (lasting 2hr20mins), I arrived back at transition, deposited my bike, trail shoes on and knew I was facing a stiff run.

The challenge ahead was a 5km steep climb followed by a 5km technical descent. I knew I had lost quite abit of time on the bike, and I needed to grasp back as much as I could on the run. I set off at a steady pace, not too fast, knowing what lay ahead of me, but knowing that my running ability was a forte of mine. But my legs had other plans. The bike had taken its toll. I started to run, passing lots of men, who were literally walking even on the mild ascents. In the really steep ascents I started to cramp and fatigue and I was literally reduced to walking some sections of it. My quads were burning like never before. I never cramped in this manner, and I knew this was all down to neuromuscular fatigue (no, dehydration, salts etc are all wrong ideologies for my cramping, I was fine). I attempted to stretch my left quad and bang, a stabbing pain of a cramped hamstring spun into action. My hamstring has never ever cramped before in my life! Ok, calmed down, got that stretched out too, continue running, continue picking up the pace gradually.

Next up was jumping over a tree trunk. Peanuts I thought as I love that terrain. Right foot up, left foot up and Bang, hamstring cramped again, had to stretch it out whilst standing on the tree trunk as I could not move. Brilliant spot, right in front of a camera!  (don’t they love catching such action!), but I was helpless at that point!  Reaching the top of the ascents was a godsend. Now the downhills. I knew the downhills could be worse for cramping due to the eccentric action of the muscles, but I also knew that I can descend very well and gain lots of valuable time. So I listened to the latter. I let myself go, let gravity take me down the twists and turns, 180 degrees turns clambering over rocks and roots. I was flying past athletes at this stage and loving it. At the 8km mark we were faced with the only 400m asphalt section of the race. But it lay at a 15% gradient! I looked up at the men ahead of me. Walking. I semi-ran it up, legs behaved and finally it was the last section. Last kilometre, but still descending, cross a stream, jump onto a rock, crawl under a tree trunk. Run some more. Run past a skeleton the organisers happily put up for Halloween, and onto DT Fleming beach once more.
It’s a 600m sandy beach run and I spotted another female ahead of me. I dug in, legs burning in lactic acid, I knew I was running faster than her. I Beat her on the sand, then ran the final 300m ascent to the finish line covering the 10km trail run in 52mins! 3hours 42minutes of effort. I had the 6th fastest run from all the females. I wish I hadn’t cramped at all, so as to have run faster. But I eventually learnt I was 4th in my age group.  It was a solid effort. I realised that Xterra racing is so much harder than normal triathlon and it’s something that I will need to work for much harder. But knowledge and experience in Maui are an asset and have whet my apetite for more Xterra events. I know my weaknesses and strengths. Lots of mountain biking coming up with my lovely friends! I thank my sponsors for their constant support from Buff® headwear, BBB bike parts, Inverse Clothing and Ecco Sports. Season 2014 now over. Holiday mode on marvellous Maui, swimming with green turtles (and waving at them!), surfing, eating ice-cream and best of all, spending quality time with my husband.

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