Xterra Maui World Championships Off-road Triathlon set for Sunday in Kapalua
KAPALUA – The unique challenge of the Xterra Maui World Championships Off-road Triathlon takes off Sunday, Oct. 27, at the beautiful, yet foreboding, landscape and ocean setting surrounding the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua here on the West Side.
Approximately 850 of the world’s heartiest triathletes – pre-qualified through sanctioned events across the country and worldwide from as far away as Africa – have set their sights on the Kapalua competition that celebrates its 24th running this Sunday.
Xterra Maui began at Wailea/Makena in 1996 with 125 rugged athletes -most with strong mountain biking backgrounds – competing in the 1.5-kilometer swim, 30K mountain bike course and 10K trail and beach run.
The Makena/Wailea swim portion was characterized as “mellow,” but the bike and run events in the merciless sun and heat of South Maui, and the run across jagged rock lava flows spiked with notorious kiawe thorns, took its toll on the racers.
“I remember a bad crash I had on the bike (at a Wailea/Makena event), got to the finish line dirty, bloody, with deep cuts from head to toe. Medics took me to a first aid tent, like a MASH unit, where I saw people there getting IV liquids, broken bones fixed, and bruised bodies getting treatment,” said Lahaina resident Steve Fisher, an Xterra Maui veteran competitor, along with fellow West Sider Gerry Clark, of all 24 events.
Nonetheless, Xterra Maui now had gained a better worldwide reputation. The event was moved to the lush environs of Kapalua and the foothills of the Valley Isle’s wettest slopes at Pu’u Kukui. That was seven years ago, and the off-road race has now topped out at 850 competitors.
But Kapalua presents a whole new set of challenges for the racers.
“The swim portion of the race at Fleming Beach can be treacherous as the north swells are starting up, and many of the racers do not have experience in the ocean and are terrified with the waves,” said Fisher. “Many injuries and broken bones happen there. The bike can be a wet jungle, a rainy mudfest, and look like they were mudwrestling upslope from the Ritz.”
“The run is an uphill gain of 1,000 feet and then downhill, which can be as slippery as running full-throttle on ice and then across the soft sand of Fleming Beach to the final leg uphill to the Ritz,” he continued.
“If this race were held in Europe, 25,000 people would be watching. Xterra Maui is way bigger around the world than people realize, and it is an honor for me to be involved in Xterra Maui, as I give a great deal of respect to the athletes that travel to compete in this event. It is televised throughout the USA and worldwide, and only the Maui Marathon has more athletes that travel here to compete,” Fisher said.