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2014 XTERRA Trail Run World Championship – Kualoa Ranch, Oahu, Hawaii

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 9.16.53 AMThe 2014 World Champion titles were claimed by a world class mountain runner and a world champion obstacle racer. Patrick Smyth of Salt Lake City, Utah defended and won his second XTERRA title ahead of Brett Hales and David Roche. Kimber Maddox of Eugene, Oregon added to her 2014 win streak after the Warrior Dash World Championship with the women’s title ahead of Allie McLaughlin and Megan Roche. Unfortunately both of the top Canadian runners, Lucy Smith and Marilyn Arsenault of Victoria, BC, were not able to compete due to illness.

The 21km course hosted more than 1500 runners from 20 countries and 40 states. The day was picture perfect, with cool temperatures in the morning quickly turning into typical Hawaiian heat and humidity midway through the race. The weather was quite rainy during the week and the single track sections remained quite wet. The main roads were hard packed and fast but then the off camber single track sections were slippery and the last main descent was a unique challenge.

The men’s race stretched early, as Smyth pushed the pace with an aggressive 5:00 uphill first mile to push the pace early in the men’s race. The XTERRA Trail Run National Champion, Hales held strong in second with Smyth’s Nike teammate taking a strong third. “It was an adventure for sure,” said Smyth.  “It was fun, it had a lot of elements – tough, difficult, crazy, and I had Brett chasing me the whole time. He was on my heels for probably five miles.  I didn’t break away until we were on the other side of the mountain.  It was tougher than last year so I was really surprised I ran close to the same time (Note; he ran exactly one-second slower than last year).  Coming over the ridge and descending it was a lot more slippery this year.  Last year I was able to mob down that hill, but this year I actually have rope burns from holding on to the rope for dear life.  I was just trying to stay on my feet, and even as we got out of there it was a little dicey.  There’s no way I would’ve run close to as fast as I did this year without someone chasing me like Brett was today.  That improved my performance for sure, having him on my heels.”

“Mile 9 to 10, it pitched straight up! It was like climbing a ladder to get up that mountain,” explained Hales.  “Then that downhill, I was debating whether to stay on my feet or jump on my butt and slide down.  I probably would’ve gone faster if I turned it into a slip-n-slide.”

“It was so hard, but in an amazing way,” said David Roche.  “Neither my wife nor I had ever been to a medical tent after a race and today we both went in.  It was very romantic.”

In the women’s race it was mountain running phenom Allie McLaughlin taking out the race for the first six miles. At the midway point of the race, Maddox took the lead with McLaughlin trailing closely until the long climb where Maddox started to pull away. “It was a beautiful course but it was a tough day for me,” said McLaughlin.  “The first half was awesome. I felt really good. Think we were averaging like 6:25/6:30’s and then … about six miles in (Mattox) caught me on one of the hills and it was in the sun … and I don’t want to say that’s when I hit the wall, but that’s certainly when it got tougher.  I hung on for a while and then let her go and she got out of sight.” Despite a significant spill on the steep downhill trail section, Maddox held on to win with McLaughlin running in for second. “It was exciting, quite the experience,” said Mattox.  “I’ve only done one other trail race which was XTERRA Nationals and this one was a lot more technical than I’ve ever experienced.  On that muddy downhill I spent more time on my butt than I did on my feet but it was so fun and the views are just incredible.  When I got to the top of some of those climbs and looked out I thought ‘how lucky am I.”  No matter how much this hurts you’re in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  It was really fun.  Tough, but you’d get these little treats along the way to keep you moving.”

Megan Roche, McLaughlin’s USA Mountain Running teammate finished a strong season with third place. “We went to the hurt locker out there,” added Megan Roche.  “We’re not quite used to the heat and we were really pushing it, pushing the uphills and hammering the downhills and that combination was…”

Most of the top athletes admitted they did not catch many of the spectacular views out on course. From a much less competitive position, I managed to enjoy every minute from the top of the ridge. It is a very breathtaking run venue and an astonishingly difficult 21km course (for me anyway). I ran one of my slower times on the course but it was certainly expected. I did not plan to be competitive and with persistent illness I wasn’t.  No matter where you are at in your training, any trail racer or mountain runner would really enjoy the challenge of this course which, although physically demanding, is much more a technical challenge than one would expect. I would still come back to run this race again just because it is a unique opportunity on a stunning course that I think most people should try to take advantage of.