Ahh, harvest: crisp fall mornings that give way to the smell of freshly-crushed grapes, rolling hillside vineyards tinged with brilliant crimson hues, palm trees clicking softly in the breeze above a warm sandy beach . . .
Wait a second. Palm trees?
Okay, I confess. I ditched our team during harvest. I’m not good for much more than sorting grapes or rinsing bins anyway (although Brian DID let me use my oversized feet to gently squish some Pinot Meunier this year.) Instead I try to support them by offering food and company (and yes, taking some of the silly pictures that have graced our Facebook page in recent weeks). I felt pretty guilty heading to the tropics with everyone still working such long hours in an effort to coax the best of Mother Nature’s gifts, but I too was given a gift, and there was only one place to enjoy it . . . . MAUI.
Ironically, it was not rest or relaxation that tempted me, but the opportunity to get my butt kicked by some of the world’s fittest athletes. The XTERRA World Championship is the annual culmination of an off-road triathlon series that draws qualified competitors from around the globe, and it was truly an honor to be one of them.
As a first-year triathlete, it was more than a little intimidating to be out there with such talented, experienced (okay, totally ripped) bodies. In the days leading up to the event, however, I was once again reminded what a friendly, collaborative scene XTERRA really is, and by the time the race rolled around, I was ready to enjoy myself.
The event began with an ocean swim – two 750m laps separated by a beach run. I’m not a great swimmer, so my goal was not to swallow too much salt water. It was a televized event, and at one point during the second lap, I looked down amongst all the churning water to see a guy in scuba gear on the ocean floor with a camera pointed up at me! I managed a thumbs up, but saved the smile for my transition to the mountain bike (always my favorite part). The 19-mile course went up the side of Haleakala, Maui’s 10,000-foot volcano, just below the island’s only winery at Ulupalakua. Pineapple wine, anyone?
I took it easy on the climbs and tried not to crash on the sharp lava rocks while taking in the spectacular views on the descents.
The 7-mile run took us back up the mountain, then down to the water for a beach run, including a treacherous stretch of rocky tidepools. I was happy to make it through with both ankles still firmly attached, and even happier when they slapped two icy cold towels on my head at the finish line!
It was an incredible, unforgettable experience . . . many thanks to our team for supporting my extra-varietal affairs while powering through the final throes of harvest (an endurance event in itself). Stay tuned next month for the recap of my first Ironman on 11/22. In the meantime, if anybody has tips or fun stories from past racing experiences, please send ’em my way! Mahalo.