Sunday, December 9, 2012

Xterra Trail Half Marathon World Championships Race Report

In January 2011, Matt and I were in Oahu on vacation, taking a movie sites tour at Kualoa Ranch. It was amazingly beautiful. The tour guide mentioned that they had just held a half marathon on site in December. I immediately knew it was a race I had to do. The ranch is private, so you just can't go out and run it anytime you want to. I made a vow to come back.

It didn't happen in 2011, but we made it out this year, 2012. I booked frequent flyer tickets way back in April. I love Hawaii, so we weren't going just for the race, but the timing did revolve around it.

Here we are before the start. A group called Team XTREME parachuted in with a wounded warrior and his wife. It was pretty awesome. It was quite windy at the time, and the parachute with the wounded warrior actually missed the landing area, flew over the restrooms, and then I'm not sure what happened. They did emerge later, but when we went to look, it seems they must have ended up in a farming area.
 Some of the beautiful scenery at the start:

 The area where the parachutist seems to have landed:
 Here we are, taking off. I really must work on keeping my arms at 90 degrees and not overstriding.
At about mile 2, I ran into a queue at some single track and decided to get out my phone and take some pictures. I think all the rest are in reverse order:

Nearly finished!

And finished! (Wearing my Komen shirt. I realized about half way through the race that I was wearing it and spent awhile stressing about the fact that people would be thinking I was a terrible person. For the record, I participated in their Marathon for the Cure program in honor of my mother prior to the Planned Parenthood fiasco. The shirt was so filthy following the race that I trashed it.)

It was amazing course. So beautiful - but hard to look around too much because of the various rocks and roots all over the place. Nearly the entire course was rolling hills. I had thought we were going to the top of the cliffs, but it turns out there were just a lot of ups and downs, and we went through a pass to go between valleys. The course claims to have 2900 feet of elevation gain. I uploaded my gps data to various websites that show between 2000 and 3000 so I am not sure what to believe. I kind of think 3000 might be high because when I ran 10.5 miles and 2000 feet at Usery is took me 2:15 and this only took me 2:26. It is hard to know if I did much better than I expected or if the elevation gain just wasn't as much as claimed. How does one learn the truth?

Overall, I was a bit disappointed that it didn't rain during the event (I mean CIM got a downpour and the North Face Endurance Challenge half marathon was cancelled that same day). Trail running in the rain in a jungle would be super fun and up the bad ass factor so much. (I'll pretend I wasn't freaking out the night before the race about reading the description of the 1/4 mile descent involving ropes and thinking how treacherous it would be with water cascading down the mountain.) I was also disappointed that the course didn't actually go to the top of the mountains. However, I had a great time, and I wasn't even that sore afterwards. I can't say I trained a whole heck of a lot for that kind of elevation gain, so I'm guessing the lack of pounding on asphalt just makes a difference in that regard.

I previously thought that I wouldn't enjoy trail running as much because I hate to stop running in the middle of a race. But I really didn't mind walking up some of the hills (along with everybody else) - it was a welcome reprieve when I felt my legs could carry me no further otherwise. I also had to settle my pace during a lot of the single track (including walking) because it was have been rather douchey to try to pass people. We only let the 10K leaders pass. At one point a runner behind me told his buddies that he was enjoying the nice, casual pace we were doing. The last mile when the field finally opened up, I picked off some people, but even so, I felt as if I could only take teeny tiny steps, so I'm guessing that my slow paces earlier in the race probably helped me rather than hurt me. I'm pretty pleased with my time given all the elevation gain.

I highly recommend this race - so beautiful! Maybe not great if you are trying to PR because of the queues in the single track, but a great opportunity to get a unique view of some outstanding scenery.

Also, I totally failed to note that this race had a photo finish. They could not decide who won, so they awarded a tie for first place. I find it so crazy that after more than an hour, two people can finish at exactly the same time. I wish I'd been there to see that. (Hah.) Incidentally, one of the guys had apparently run off-course more than once...

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