The 2006 World Championships Cherry On Top Of My Sundae

Maui No Ka Oi…. Maui is the best!  How true is that?  The Xterra World Championships is held annually at this amazing paradise in the middle of the Pacific.  Each year the race lives up to its reputation as a challenging, unpredictable and unforgiving venue.  Extensive rain left the course strewn with huge boulders, ruts and grass.  The weather was beautiful during the week but by Sunday high winds made the swim choppy with some decent swells and on race day the thermostat was turned up quite a bit compared to the rest of the week.  The result?  Gaps on the swim as weaker swimmers were weeded out, carnage of crashes and flats on the bike course and complete meltdowns by very talented runners in the last portions of the run on the beach as they approached the finish.  Epic, brutal, unforgiving and “not fit for man or beast” are some of the descriptions of this race.  Never has this race ever been longer or harder than this year and I am absolutely stunned to have had the race I did on Sunday.  I think I had wings.  Maybe there was invisible force field protecting me from my near disasters on the bike course, of which there were many.  Whatever it was, I managed to leave no doubt as to who brought the best form to Worlds this year.  I knew it could be good but I didn’t know just how good my form was.  An eight minute margin to second was well above my expectations and I can go into the off season totally satisfied that the work, sacrifices and plans I made this year were the right ones.  Flippin’ sweet!

The weeks after Tahoe are tough on all of us.  It is getting late in the season.  Most of us go home to fairly crappy weather.  I had an amazing altitude camp in Gunnison that I believe set me up with an amazing aerobic base to go home and sharpen.  However, it is very tough to motivate at the end of a long year.  I come home to all the cyclists and triathletes enjoying the beginning of their off season and I am just winding up for the big show. Thank you to the group at Pacificsport for being there for me since my swim needed help- Neil, Craig and Pat rock.  Thanks to Palmer, Virge, Johnny and the boys at Broadmead for the amazing mountain bike rides… I so needed you guys and having those rides behind me gave me the confidence to stick like glue to the men around me, on the ups and the downs!  When my swim and bike start going good then my run comes around.  I think it was only four days before I started my taper that my run finally showed up to the party.  I had this amazing run at Mt Work where I ran an hour then punched it straight uphill on a trail that really is meant for hiking.  When I did that run I knew it… I knew I could take anyone on if necessary in the last leg of the race.  Thanks Cliff for those last four run workouts because I think they tipped the balance.

I can’t stress enough how important confidence is.  If you think you can win, with conviction, it will take quite a bit to wrestle that victory out of your hands.  That is how I came to Hawaii.  I was absolutely certain that race was mine to take.  I was nervous of the uncontrollable situations like mechanicals or crashes, but the brand new 2007 XTR group, the brand new Maxxis Larsons on a brand new Orbea Alma with all brand new Titec and Fizik magic was not to be messed with.  Bomb proof is how I would describe that bike.  I think about 10 giant boulders hit me on the course, I bottomed out my tire and new XTR rim on a rock TWICE and I sketched out completely off balance at least five times but saved it.  The race was not without incident but as I said, I was not to be denied.

 I arrived Wednesday night into Hawaii and spent Thursday running well and swimming very crappy.  I got caught in the dark riding my bike that evening and when I turned back to the hotel some locals in a pickup truck drove behind me with their lights on to light my way the whole way back to the hotel.  Maui No Ka Oi!  I love this island and the people here… that was so nice, thank you!  Friday I went back to the pool to redeem myself from the crap on Thursday and set some new records for me in the pool.  Okay, swimming is good, check!  Run was good, check!  That night I had a wonderful meal with the Burt family, with Lizzie Burt creating the perfect pre race meal for us of butterfish, shrimp, tuna poke and a yummy salad for us.  I left the dinner with a couple wicked recipe books named "High Fit, Low Fat" so now I am armed with reasons to keep chiseled.  Saturday I went for a spin with Brent and we did a pickup for about 8 minutes and I was starting to feel some badass snap in the legs… the whole game was on.  Brent told me I was faster than last year and I knew he was right. It was showtime!  That night I received beautiful gifts sent from my friend Roberta and her mother in Sardinia that almost made me cry.  This sport is not about just competition, it is about sharing experiences with people from around the world and it is so amazing the people you will meet!

Sunday I woke up before the alarm.  I was so excited… I could not wait to go race.  I had my Nature's Path oatmeal, my coffee, set up transition, checked tire pressure, body marked, did a bike warmup then headed to the swim.  We were delayed 15 minutes because there were so many people to get body marked but I wasn’t worried about it.  I lined up near Sybille hoping to stay on her feet.  When the gun went off I had a good start and stayed with Nico Pfizenmeier which I knew would be second group.  My run out of the water was terrible, that is how I ended up off the 21 minute group (sub 20 in a straight 1500m.. the time are slow because the time includes the long beach run and the run up to transition) and in the 22:30 group with is about a 20:30ish swim which I can be happy with, for now!  Candy rocked out in the swim and stayed with Sybille, so those two busted out of T1 about 90 seconds in front of me.  Jamie missed the group and ended up the same behind me. 

On the bike I caught both Candy and Sybille before the descent to Heartbreak Hill.  I found there was a lot more traffic on that climb and the ones following as I rode through the men who beat me on the swim so I was disappointed I did not clean more of the beginning of the course.  But as I rode higher I was feeling better and better so I managed to clean the especially steep sections further up the course.  The first third was average riding by me, the second third up to the steep Ned’s climb was getting good and the traverse at the end of the Plunge descent was some of the best riding I have ever done.  I was maintaining pace with some very strong men as we rode up the long road to the top of the Plunge and down that descent I just told myself "let it go, let it go!"  because braking would have been a disaster.  I was hammering the rolling terrain towards the finish, knowing I was setting an insane pace for me.  When I exited to the paved road to transition I finished a bottle, had a Gu and gave myself a break as I prepared for the run.

As I rode into the run transition I had no idea where the competition was but I was thinking that if there was no one with me at that point I could win the race.  I was sure that, if necessary, I would be able to outrun anyone.  I left transition with Michael Tobin and the two of us ran to the top of the climb on the run course together.  I picked my way down the rocky downhill to the beach.  On Makena beach I decided to run down by the water but this year the whole way was loose and slow.  Spooky Forest was fun with lots of new obstacles but Salt and Pepper beach was nasty with a gale force headwind, loose sand, then crazy lava sketchy rock garden waiting for you.  I was SO happy to hit the golf course and run the last 400 m to the finish.  Just as I approached the finish line Ross and Cal handed me two little Canadian flags that I could wave as I ran through the finish line.  It felt pretty great to defend my title and to also be the first person to win three titles.  Nice!  The only thing as exciting as my win was having my sister Canadian Danelle Kabush have a career race taking second place outrunning all of us.  Congratulations to Sybille for running her way to third, to Jenny for her solid fourth and Renata for rounding out the 2006 podium.  Unfortunately both Candy Angle and Jamie Whitmore did not finish the race due to crashes late on the bike course.  I wish they had been able to finish.

Congratulations to Hamish Carter and Olivier Marceau for a thrilling men’s race and to Seth, Josiah and Eneko for an impressive men’s podium.  Brent had an off day on the bike and despite the best run and swim splits ended up sixth on the day and Mike Vine had a catastrophic series of mechanicals ending his day fairly early.

So this year is in the history books.   I have another world title, a US National Championships win, a US Championships Series title, two more Regional Championships victories, a win at XTC Canada (next year’s Canadian nationals), another season with a worst finish being runner-up at an Xterra Championship event and two podiums at two mountain bike cross country events.  I would say a solid season when summarized.  I have a number of people to thank for their support because this kind of season is the result of teamwork.  Number one team member is Ross Taylor, my training partner and best friend, who makes this fun and keeps me on the right track all year long.  Thanks to Bill at Riders, Neil, Pat, Craig, Houshang and Cliff, all coaches in their own realm (Bill is my humility coach J).  Thanks to Saucony, Nature’s Path, Orbea Bicycles, Sundog Eyewear, Shimano, Maxxis Tires, Profile and Titec components, Fox Racing Shox, Aquaman Wetsuits, Gu Sports, Limar helmets, Fizik saddles, Speedo, Twin Six Clothing, Powertap, Computrainer, Rider’s Cycles and Pacificsport.  You guys comprise the best team an athlete could hope for and I thank you all over and over again!  Thanks to Team Unlimited for taking such good care of all of us athletes and for putting on a show and a party at the World Champs that cannot be beat.  It is the thrill of a lifetime to win at this race and I would recommend the attempt by everyone!

For me some off season r&r is on the menu starting with a surf vacation on Oahu’s north shore with my buddies Murray, Kirsten, Jay, Kate and of course, Ross.  I am off for now but soon I will be back with a new fistful of goals and some renewed energy to explore my potential as an athlete.  Aloha and thanks so much for reading!

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