The 10th XTERRA Saipan Championships was one of the most unique races that has ever occurred. On Saturday morning, over 100 participants gathered at Micro Beach for the swim start. Race Director Kahuna changed the course from counter clockwise to clockwise as it was deemed a bit safer to swim with the current. With the 8.9 earthquake in Sendai, Japan the afternoon before, Saipan was on alert for a tsunami which affected the swim the next morning.
The water had receded on the first lap where swimmers could walk knee high in the sea. Some were dolphining as it was shallow enough but for those who swam a second lap, they experienced a whole different swim. The wave had grown to the point where all the swimmers drifted north with the strong current and the racers had to run back down the beach toward the transition point to the bike. The current and waves had transformed the beach to a whirlpool. Luckily, all the swimmers made it safely to the beach.
Like many previous XTERRA's, it rained on the morning of the race, leaving the roads slick and the trails slippery! At the start of the course, I caught Jackie on her way up to Navy Hill.
I watched the racers go down in the wireless section and then parked at the new Lamar where there's a new drop. XTERRA World Champion, Shonny Vanlandingham attacked the descent and made it look easy.
At the finish line, England's Sam Gardner took first place again and he was well ahead of his competitors, Oga san and Paul Chetwynd.
Shonny took first with Austrian Carina Wasle and Renata Bucher coming in second the third. Shonny was only 8 minutes behind Sam and was second overall! Waif-like Carina had the fastest run with a time of 55 minutes! Amazing!
All in all, the race was successful with few injuries. The most challenging part weighed in the hearts and minds of everyone as we contemplated the news of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Many of the Japanese athletes weren't able to race their very best as they were worried about their friends and relatives in Japan. As news of the devastation grows, we can only pray that the aftershocks will cease and the nuclear reactors will be disengaged, making Japan a safe place to live and visit.