XTERRA Report: Barbi’s Big Adventure

It was two weeks ago today (wrote this on Sunday) that we were over on Maui for the XTERRA World Championships. We were there for two reasons. Barbi was doing the race for the first time and John and I were there to show and sell our UVEX line that we sell at Planet Sun. Shameless Marketing Plug! 🙂

I encouraged Barbi to write up a report of her XTERRA race so others could learn about it and she would have something to look back on 20+ years from now.

I will let Barbi tell the story in her words but first I want to comment. XTERRA is run by a group of first class people based right here in Honolulu in Team Unlimited. The venue and event itself are world class. The competitors are down to earth and the atmosphere is much like we're familiar with in the Ultra community. All good! I can see why people like Steve Dewald and many others keep going back to this event–it's fun!

I am very proud of what Barbi did, her commitment and attitude to have fun while achieving the goal she set out for, was awesome. The best part–the whole race can be done in less than it takes most of us to run one H.U.R.T. loop!  Photos are here. I apologize for the order or flow of the event not quite being correct. Trying to blend photos from two cameras. If you see a photo you want, let me know number and I can get it to you.  Click Slideshow in the upper right-hand corner to view the photos in a larger format.

Here's Barbi's story:

XTERRA 2008

In the true spirit of HURT, Bob has encouraged me to write my version of the 2008 XTERRA race report. The good part about writing about an off-road triathlon vs. 100 mile run is a report that includes 3 events, instead of one longggggg one, and since it’s off-road, the reader can anticipate the spillage of blood, guts, slime, etc…

The XTERRA Off-Road World Championship brings athletes from all corners of the world to compete in Maui. Pros and amateurs side by side, all having earned the right to be here. The Maui course has been described using many adjectives; hot, dry, grueling, treacherous, the toughest of all XTERRA courses.

I have dreamed of competing at XTERRA since I first heard about it
after my first off-road triathlon at Kualoa Ranch many years ago.
However, with young kids and a full-time job, it remained just a dream.
It was hard to train for multi-sport events, so I pretty much stuck to
running. Also, for those of you who know how I feel about swimming, the
thought of a mile swim seemed way too daunting of an undertaking.

Bob bought me a great mountain bike for our first Christmas in 2002; we rode together occasionally and I did a couple of off-road triathlons “just for fun” and to have the opportunity to ride out at Kualoa Ranch, one of my favorite places on earth. Bob, Paul Sibley and I also did an adventure race out there that involved a bike portion. The race swims were short, and I was consistently one of the last swimmers out of the water; that’s okay, it was just for fun.

Somewhere around March, 2008 Bob and I were riding a trail in Waimanalo and we ran into a friend that had taught us a mountain bike clinic prior to the adventure race. Robert Myint went riding past us, uphill, making it look sooo easy. He stopped to chat for a minute, and I mentioned to him that I would love to try to do XTERRA and he said “give me a call, I’d be happy to coach you”. Well, here it all began. Robert took Missy (long-time friend and training partner) and I out several times and started from the beginning. (learning how to ride straight by riding the basketball painted lines at the playground, learning how to jump over tree roots in the playground (where the grass is soft) setting up obstacle courses in the park (same soft grass!!) When we got the basics down Robert took us on the trail; very scary at first, but it got easier every time. I won’t bore with you with our extensive training; we just kept riding and climbing. I trained with several people, but mostly my dear husband Bob. Since we had 3 kids playing soccer on Saturdays, Bob would drag me out to Peacock Flats on Sundays and we would climb….ugh…couldn’t have done it without him, and Marcy Fleming (I’ll follow her butt anywhere, it makes you a much better rider!!), Judy Weitz (she is long and sooo strong) Scott Sullivan (the Cheryl Loomis of XTERRA training; 63 years young and he had his fastest time yet this year!!) and Rob (tall, quiet, with always the encouraging word) I biked and ran with this crazy group, in the rain, in the dark, in the heat of the day (XTERRA starts at 9:00 AM) We also had the support and often the company of several different members of the Mountain Biking Group we were now a part of with monthly ride and grinds and with lots of advice and encouragement along the way. The boys at the Bike Factory were always available for a quick “tweek” of my bike, and with lots of advice to offer.

Okay, we got the biking covered, I was finally able to ride up Peacock without stopping, and could transition to the run in deep sand, and up hills, with fair confidence. You see, the real deal about XTERRA is the 4hr cutoff to complete the swim/bike portion. All I really set out to do was make this cutoff; I have walked a 20 mile HURT loop, I knew I could walk the 11K+ run. I just had to make the cutoff. Was I worried about it? Every waking moment it seemed; the bike portion is so hard they say, it’s like doing 3 Peacocks they say, the climbing never ends they say, so many people crash, so many people have mechanical problems on the bike, the kiawe will tear up your tires, the “plunge” claimed 36 people last year (and they told me I had nothing to worry about!!)…. Sometimes I would lay awake at night and wonder if the pros have had so many problems and crashes, why should little old me be able to do it) WHY NOT??

Okay, I gotta talk a little about the swim. Hate was not too harsh of a word to use when I referred to swimming. There was nothing positive about it, other than it felt good after a hot run or bike. But only for the first 5 minutes. I was sooo slow; I struggled with every stroke, with every breath. I had panic attacks, rushing for the shore after going only a couple hundred meters. I knew I needed help, but who and how? Masters programs were during family time, and I sank every time I tried to swim in a pool. I was back at square one, and feeling like I was getting nowhere, and was sure the swim would kill my chances to make the cutoff. Sooo, at our Firecracker run in July, I started talking to other swimmers. Guys like Steve Dewald and Gil Loomis both offered to help; okay, these guys can swim 6 miles, but how can they help me??? Gil took me to Kailua pool one day and in a matter of seconds, diagnosed my biggest problem. (My hands crossed) So I worked on my stroke and things got a little better. I worked up to being able to do a longer distance; still slow, but starting to get a little more comfortable in the water. So I thought I’d jump in the swim at the Lanikai Triathlon; only 500 meters. The gun went off and I immediately panicked, started hyperventilating, and barely survived the swim. Great….now what? I went back the next day and did the swim again, and was fine. I think it was the group start that freaked me out. Okay, time to hire a coach. I had heard about Chad Seymour, a friend had bought Kat a lesson, and she liked him. Now is a good time to tell you that I could not have done this race without Kat. Only Kat could understand what I felt about swimming. The fear, the panic. She doesn’t like swimming much either, but has persevered and forced herself to get out and do it. Poor Kat would listen to me call her with every swimming accomplishment I made. “Kat, I swam 1000m today!!” “Kat, I made it a mile today”!! “Kat, I got 3 minutes faster today!!” “Kat, I swam 3 windsocks today”. (That was a big one, Kat and I hate to swim away from shore) big deal, others would think; Kat celebrated every swimming milestone with me…I love her for that. Sooo, I hired Chad Seymour. He turned me into a swimmer. We trained every Monday at Kaimana beach at 5:45. We did what seemed at first like stupid drills, that I clumsily tried to do, and kept doing them. He would assign me “homework” each week, which I diligently did. What happened you say? I got better, I got faster, and most importantly I got comfortable and confident in the water. Chad has this way of swimming with you under water, and knowing exactly what to tell you, and how it feels, so you can fix it. He is a truly gifted swimmer and coach, and I look forward to working with him in the future to continue to improve my swim.

Okay, you’re bored, this was all really for my benefit, let’s get to the race. Wednesday had the best ever pre-race massage. Kept busy packing up all our gear and was ready to roll.

Thursday: Bob and I took the ferry over to Maui; the best and only way to travel. We took some motion sickness pills (just in case) and had an awesome trip over. I took a little nap and we arrived in Maui refreshed and ready to roll. Bob and his partner John were UVEX vendors at the race, so we spent the first few hours getting them all set up and I wandered around scoping things out. Okay, this was probably the most terrifying day. There was a huge screen playing last year’s race over and over again. I watched people crashing, fixing flats, bleeding limbs, ambulances, etc…OMG, what was I doing here???!!! The pros were all over the place in their matching outfits covered with sponsors, bike mechanics working on bikes worth more than my van, and then I met Barb Peterson (many time XTERRA World’s Competitor). Barb makes XTERRA jewelry and was showing off her bracelets. I fell in love with one of them and she asked me if I wanted one. I looked her in the eye and say, “Yes, but I can’t have it until I finish.” That was it; I knew I could do this. I saw Barb several more times before the race, wearing my bracelet, and she would wave it at me and say “come and get it”!!  I picked up my race packet, #375. Nice t-shirt, cool tattoos, getting a little more real now. I was the only person from our group that had arrived so far, Bob and John were busy, so I headed out onto the 4 mile practice bike course. It started with a steep climb; great….here we go. The terrain was nothing like I had every ridden before…loose lava rocks, kiawe everywhere, lots of dirt and sand, and did I mention loose lava rocks??!! I got through the practice course without a fall or a flat; since it’s not really that technical (no tight turns or sl
ippery roots that I was used to) I managed to open it up on the downhill and just let the bike go…so far so good. My brakes were squeaking, but they worked. Okay, if I could only do that for 16 more miles I had it in the bag!!…spent the rest of the day hanging out at the UVEX booth, meeting some cool people and trying not to panic…much…had an awesome sushi dinner with my hubby that night. Drank some Sake and went back to our beautiful suite at the Kea Lani hotel. Life is good…

Friday: slept in and went down to the race site to check out the swim course. It was a typical beautiful Maui day and I had a wonderful swim out to the first marker and back. When I got out to the first buoy, I realized that the second buoy was not that far away, it looked much further from shore. This was a big mental thing for me; I knew the farthest part of the swim was to the first buoy, and then it was cake from there. The water was warm, crystal clear, deep and with plenty of pretty fish to look at. The only part I was worried about was the 500+ other people that were starting with me. Chad told me to start on the far side, put my head down, and do one of the relaxing drills he taught me for the first 200 meters. This was my plan. I dashed off to work at our Maui Outreach Clinic. Got paid for a full days work and the hospital paid for my round trip ferry. It was a good distraction and I looked forward to picking up Kat at the airport after work. I still couldn’t believe that Kat was coming to watch me race. She led Paul to believe that she was coming to see him, but I knew better. What better fun than to stand in the sun for 5 hours and cheer Barbi on!!! Bob and I went to dinner with Kat, Paul, and two of our crazy friends, Clayton and Norm (who had nothing better to do than come and cheer us on) Lots of fun. Back to the hotel for a long soak in the deep tub, and a good night sleep. I was still feeling a little freaked out about the whole thing, but with all of these people here to cheer me on, I knew I couldn’t disappoint them. I was going to give it my best shot. BTW, Bob called me earlier and said that Carl Brooks had arrived to help work on bikes and cheer the Oahu group on. I immediately called him, told him about my brakes, and that I was freaking out, and could he please do a once-over on my bike. Of course he said yes. Whew, feeling better already.

Saturday: got up with Bob to go and cheer him and Kat, Clayton, Norm and Jacob Dewald compete in the XTERRA 10K Trail Run. They pretty much ran the same course I would be running, so it was fun to listen to them try to describe the course to me, without making it sound that hard. (Even though I know they wanted to tell me the beach run was a @#$%^) While they were running, Steve Dewald walked me around the area, showing me where we would come out of the water, the transition area, and where we would head out and come back on the ride and run. This was sooo helpful, thank you Steve so much for your great advice and encouragement. You were my calming influence. I dropped my bike off with Carl and headed off at 10:00 to a panel of Pros having an open forum for questions about the “Art of XTERRA”. Here I found out from Melanie McQuaid that a girl had been taken by ambulance to Maui Memorial due to a bad man-o-war sting and there was a possibility we may not swim tomorrow. Okay, some of you may know I had some MAJOR issues during training with stings and jelly fish and would have preferred not to have acquired this tidbit of information. 3 time Pro Conrad Stoltz pulls me aside and asks me, “If I get stung, will I be able to finish the race”? I looked him in the eye and said, “Absolutely; if I get stung I will most certainly continue to finish the race”. I knew that would not stop me, yet I knew I would think about it. Before getting some lunch, I dragged my friend Rob out to run part of the course with me. Melanie McQuaid said it would help during the run to be able to visualize the finish, know how much further you had to go and to pump up the adrenalin by running under the finish banner. She was right!! This helped so much, and I focused mentally on this picture of finishing in my mind many, many times. Pre-race dinner. WOW!! Food was pretty good, drank lots of water. The most memorable part was when Jamie Whitmore got up on stage and spoke. Jamie is a 3 time XTERRA World Champion and since last year’s race was diagnosed with Cancer, has had 2 major surgeries, and is heading for a third soon. Through her tears, Jamie encouraged us to keep going, even when we think we can’t, to do it for her. It was heart wrenching to see her cry and not be able to race this year. I know I would have her in my thoughts tomorrow, race day.

Sunday: slept pretty good. Got up at 5:30 and started the eating, drinking, stretching and bathroom rituals. PB and banana, my favorite and chocolate soy milk started the day off right. Arrived at the transition area, Bob dashed off to help John for a bit, while I set up my area. I immediately knew I would have a lucky day, as Meg Fisher (a Challenged Athlete with one leg) had her transition area set up right next to mine. I got to meet Meg the day before and she is a pistol!! (Canadian to boot!!) Its not every day that you see 3 legs in a transition area!! Clayton, the sweetheart, followed me everywhere, taking pictures and keeping me calm. He held my stuff for me while I pee’d, waited in line with me to get my number markings, took more pictures, and walked me down to the beach so I could get in the water. It was a very hot, very sunny day, and I was sweating already. The water felt so good, my stroke felt strong, my thoughts were if I could just draft off some faster swimmers, I could make the time cutoff!! An underwater camera guy filmed me while I swam, than was pretty cool. Then Bob, Kat, and the rest of the Oahu gang arrived. We took more pictures, received blessings from the Kahuna and walked down to the swim start. The helicopters were in place, the camera crew got in the water and on jet skis, everything was ready. Bob and Kat were right there with me when the cannon went off. I got in right away and just started swimming….all I saw was bubbles and I felt them pulling me along…no kicks in the head, no goggles getting whacked, just bubbles. I felt calm and strong. I hardly looked up, trusting the “bubbles” knew where they were going. Before I knew it we were rounding the first buoy, wow that was really fast I thought. I just kept tickling the feet of the guy in front of me, kept following the bubbles and had the fastest 750m split of my life!! 15minutes!! (I had guessed it would take me 19 or 20) A quick jog along the sand, hearing Bob and friends cheering me on, then back in the water. My second lap was slower as I lost my draft when I had to whack a man-o-war off my arm!! It was minor, only around my wrist, no problem. I finished the swim with a smile and ran to get my bike.

Heading out on the bike, I remembered what the pros advised. Use this road time to take in lots of fluids and eat something. It’s a lot harder to eat once on uneven terrain. I focused on spinning my pedals, and watched the ground move underneath me. One uphill at a time, looking forward to every downhill. I did not fall; in fact I only got off the bike to walk up the steep sections. I was surprised to see people walking downhill!! That’s the only time you get a break I thought. Okay, so that “break” involves flying down steep, loose, rocky terrain that jars every bone in your body and beats up your quads, but its still sooo much better than climbing. Not only that, but its sooo much fun!! Rear tires fish tailing in the loose terrain, rocks jumping out in front of you, shocks rattling…that’s why we do this stuff!! I asked a guy as I was switching a bottle at the aid station when the “plunge” was coming up; he laughed at me and said, “You’ve already ridden it”!! No way, I thought. That wasn’t so bad; I looked at my watch, figured I had only a little further and knew at that moment that I was going to do this thing.  So
mehow, thanks to my Stan’s tubeless tire system, and my new thick walled tires (worth the extra weight, for sure) I managed to crank out the bike ride with time to spare. I had done it.

Okay, now that I had made the cutoff, I didn’t plan on walking the 11+K run (even though I said that earlier; I had passed Missy and Marcy on the bike, and knew they were coming to run me down!!) So off I ran with the biggest smile on my face. I ate a bunch of stuff (Roctane, Sharkies, Bloks, lytes) and drank a bottle. Smart runner…thanks to my HURT training, I knew how to eat, drink, and pee on the Piilani Hwy in true Loomis style (try doing it in a one-piece tri-suit Cheryl!!) Many other runners were already cramping (I shared a GU and bloks with them) but I had no troubles. I focused on trying to run as much as possible uphill (Steve assured me it was only 2 ½ miles uphill) and whenever I stopped to walk (which I had to do a little, sorry Steve) I immediately thought of Jamie Whitmore, and started to run again. I passed several runners on the uphill thinking of Jamie. Clayton and Norm drove by me at the start of the run, cheering me on and told me Kat was waiting at Makena Beach for me. (If you know Kat, you know she dislikes being in the sun even more than swimming, so I thought I’d better hurry up before she melts!) I finally made it to the downhill (which was way more fun on the bike, my legs were toast) and trotted my way to Makena Beach. There was Kat, waiting for me, yelling, “I don’t stand out in the sun for just anyone”!! To add, dearest Paul was dragged along for all of this, poor guy. Probably thinking, Kat, you need to find yourself some faster friends!! Kat ran the length of Makena with me (the water at this point, looked very inviting) then yelled “we’ll see you at the finish”. Wow, yes you will. I knew I had it in the bag. I was sooo tired at this point, but thanks to my previous day’s practice run, I knew exactly where I was, and how much farther I had to go. I headed up the beach to the entrance of the “spooky forest”. To you HURT members that have ran any part of the HURT course at night, those Maui folks don’t know “spooky”. Anyway, it’s a fun up and over downed kiawe trees, ducking under low branches (it pays to be short) and then back to another sandy stretch. My calves started cramping pretty bad at this point, but I was almost there. I came off the beach and there was “Kahuna Dave” XTERRA guru cheering me on. Up the paved path to the finish area….I could see the clock, hear the music, hear the voices…it was magical….I’m crying again…there was the lei lady, Bob, Marcy, Judy, Rob, Scott, John, Kat, and Barb Peterson, who put my XTERRA bracelet on my wrist and said “CONGRATULATIONS”.

I’ve run marathons, a couple of triple treks (okay, those were hard too), but never have I pushed my body to this extreme. I had to learn how to mountain bike and I had to learn how to swim…without the help of my teachers and my friends, and most of all my partner in life, Bob, I would never been able to say “ I am an XTERRA World Champion”!!

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