2011 Xterra World Championship [Race Report]

Race Reports / Xterra
This was my last race of a very successful and exciting, but also long season. How was my body going to feel today after only having two weeks to recover from a very brutal race that took it out of me in more ways than one?
I stayed with a teammate and great friend, Tyler Voltz, who wasn’t feeling great two days leading into the race. Was I in danger of catching the same thing since my immune system was already extremely compromised? The morning of the race I could feel a scratchy feeling in my throat, was this going to affect my performance today?  Endless questions ran through my head as I ate breakfast and made my way to the car for the race.
Once we arrived we set up our transition area, Xterra’s transition area is extremely laid back compared to Ironman. Xterra athletes are more relaxed in general and willing to laugh and be social before the race vs. Ironman athletes. This is a huge contrast because, it is almost as if the race starts right when an Ironman athlete wakes up the morning of the race and god forbid they help you or even crack a smile… =)
I absolutely love Xterra for keeping even the World Championship low key because any race that I can go into without pressure allows me to do better!
After setting up transition and making a few new friends I got body marked and then it was time to wait for the start. I headed to the ocean and thank goodness it was calm waters. There had been predictions that a major storm was going to roll in the night prior bringing with it 7 foot waves. However, they were 1 foot waves at best, which was good for me since swimming is my weakest part of triathlon and Xterra.
I warmed up by swimming for about 10 minutes then headed to the beach for the traditional Hawaiian prayer and blessing. Then all the athletes lined up on the beach for a canon start. The professional males wore white caps, professional females were in pink, and the entire amateur field was in yellow. Tyler my teammate tapped me on the shoulder and said “hey, look its Lance Armstrong,” sure enough the pro male right next to us on the starting line was Lance! Dang! he looks different now; he has bulked up significantly since being in the Tour De France. What an experience to start a race with Lance Armstrong right beside you, this was truly special for me!
Bang, the canon erupted, leading to mass chaos as all the athletes ran to the water to start the swim loop of 750 meters. Once you completed your first loop you ran on the beach briefly before diving in the ocean again to do the same loop a second time making it a mile swim. I was proud of my swim because I managed to outpace a few of the professional women and exit the water before them, which normally never happens.
After the swim there is a short run up the beach to the transition area. I quickly got ready for the mountain bike and made a decent transition time. Next year, I need to work on getting this a little faster. Once on the mountain bike, I knew I would need to conserve some energy since the first 8 miles were predominately up hill. However, since I didn’t have an excellent swim I was still caught behind a few people who did not have good bike handling skills. The first two miles were really tight switchbacks and fast corners which lead to some people having to dismount their bikes. The problem was this section of the trail was very narrow and almost impossible to pass. So once they were off their bikes everyone behind them had to get off as well to avoid crashing. This caused everyone to lose their momentum and adds significant time to your race.
After a few miles on the bike it opened up to a jeep road which was my moment to shine. I was able to pass a ton of individuals on the climbs. Unfortunately, for every uphill there must be a downhill and this is where I lost a significant amount of time. I was getting destroyed on the downhills. Since I am fairly new at mountain biking, I still struggle descending at speed and maneuvering through technical terrain. Also, since the dirt was really dry and loose if you were following anyone downhill you couldn’t see a thing in front of you because of the massive dust cloud. At points, I asked myself, “Am I even still on the trail?” I had a 50 year old lady pass me on every downhill like I was standing still, she was telling me to lay off the breaks because I was killing my amazing performance. She was right, I had passed a vast amount of people the first half of the course and yet they were not working any harder than I but flying down with no fear. Since, Ironman was my main focus this year I had not been on my mountain bike for about three months prior to arriving in Maui. I know this contributed to my death-grip on the breaks. In the off season, I am going to work really hard on downhill and technical skills, so I can truly crush this course next year!
Once off the bike course, I knew it was my favorite part of Xterra, the trail run! This was a great run course with super challenging uphill and steep downhill sections. The first three miles were predominately climbing with a few short descents providing a break before the next major climb. After this you looped around a lake at the highest point on the course before making your way to a fast, steep and technical downhill section. I was passing tons of people on the run and I felt fantastic. It was funny because hurting in the Ironman so badly two weeks prior made this feel easy, “in comparison”!  “Only 6.9 miles, that’s not bad at all! I passed one male who said, “Girl, you are breathing really hard, you need to pace yourself, I don’t think you can keep that pace the entire time, you’re going to die out.” I told him I was fine and could hold the pace. He then replied, “You better not let me re-pass you on the run.” I said in a joking but stern voice, “oh, you won’t!” I continued to pass more and more people, only one male passed me on the entire run and it wasn’t the same male who committed to me earlier in the race.  I was having an incredible run and I knew I only had one mile to go. It was the hardest part of the run. There was a steep mud section that you had to use your hands to get up and over then you had a killer climb on the road. I was able to power up the hill and to the last downhill section. Finally, the trail kicked you out onto the beach and up the very last hill to the finish. Here, Kathy my teammate and great friend yelled at me to push as hard as I could. She is such a sweetheart and it was just the words I needed to hear, I ran as hard as I could passing four more males on this stretch alone. I crossed the line with such excitement. I had done it; I finished a fantastic year with a great race. I am the 2011, 20-24 year old female World Champion! But I am more excited about winning the Hawaiian Airlines Double, which is the female fastest combined Ironman and Xterra World Championship overall times. I am the only female in the world to complete Ironman 70.3, Ironman, and Xterra World Championships in 2011! 
Again, thank you to my sponsors, LifeQuest Transitions and Wheat Ridge Cyclery, without you this phenomenal adventure and unforgettable experience could have never been possible. Thank you to my family and friends for all your love and support. Thank you God, for guiding me down a truly glorious journey!
King James Version (KJV)- 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:
Danielle Mack is professional Triathlete residing in Boulder, Colorado. She found her passion for triathlons at a young age. However, it wasn’t until she turned sixteen did she really start training strictly for triathlons. Through various paths God has lead her through the years including Xterra’s and Adventure Racing she discovered her ultimate love, long course triathlons, especially Ironman’s!

1 Comment

  1. 26 October 11, 5:10am

    I am so proud of you! I love the race report and what a PERFECT Bible Verse at the end! I love it!

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