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Aston Wailea Resort, Maui, Hawaii
October 11, 1998

Sunday’s big event on the island of Maui finally arrived when more than 200 pro and amateur athletes lined up on the shores of the Aston Wailea Resort to begin several hours of pure pain and endurance. It was sunny, calm and a perfect day for swimming, mountain biking and trail running.

Mountain biking God Ned Overend did good for his off-road brethren as he finally took a powerful win, beating a world-class triathlete field with superior MTB-ing. Even last week’s Ironman winner Peter Reid couldn’t match Nedly’s knobby prowess.

In the women’s field it was Sue Latshaw who hammered to the win, beating out favorite (and mountain biker) Lesley Tomlinson with a strong effort on the bike and a steady run. It all went off like a well-oiled military operation, exactly like this:

"A local priestess blesses the race on the shores of Maui, blowing into the conch shell and wishing the racers a bon voyage..."

0830: A local priestess blesses the race on the shores of Maui, blowing into the conch shell and wishing the racers a bon voyage. Meanwhile hundreds of rubber- headed athletes tug at their speedos, awaiting their nine o’clock start.

0900: The gun goes off as a hoard of swimmers take to the .9 mile open ocean swim. With a chopper whipping up water overhead and hundreds of fans teetering on shore, the race is underway, guests of the nearby Four Seasons no doubt wondering what all the disturbance is.

0915: Last year’s winner Mike Pigg is 10th out of the water, followed closely by wonder woman Wendy Ingraham and Jimmy Riccitello. Ned Overend, who last year was way behind at this point, is 43rd out of the water, and Sue Latshaw is 47th.

After running up the beach to awaiting mountain bikes, athletes pull on shorts, gloves, helmets and shoes for the pending 18-mile bike portion. The decisive third of the race is about to take place.

Meanwhile, the press corp runs to their awaiting "chauffeur-driven van," a blue Ford Econoline piloted by photographer Jim Safford. Flying over dusty dirt roads, a score of jolted scribes and photogs arrive to witness the bike portion firsthand.

0930: Only a short distance into the bike portion at the steep Heartbreak Hill, Overend has already moved into 6th place, breathing down the neck of the leading pro. He rides up what most of the traditional triathletes must walk, and soon drops his wobbly chasers on the rough rocky road above the blue ocean.

1015: Latshaw, who rode up the hill as the first woman pro, is chased by Uli Blank and Caroline Rahner, as mountain bike phenom Lesley Tomlinson tries to make up for her predictably slow swim.

Back into the van - fly over more fireroad to catch the riders at the bike/run transition, as mountain biking’s Peter Graves flies overhead in a second chopper, no doubt loving the view.

1045: Overend finishes the mountain bike portion several minutes ahead of Riccitello, who is neck and neck with Wes Hobson. Michael Tobin chases a couple minutes back. Latshaw continues to lead the women, followed by Blank and Caroline Rahner.

Get in the van, drive up the road to intercept the runners on the Makena Beach.

1100: With the race’s finish only 25 minutes away, Overend maintains his lead over the soft sand and rocky coves of the Maui’s coastline to stay ahead of Wes Hobson. Overend staves off any possible running attacks by running the dirt paths and beaches smoothly, while Hobson and Tobin are forced to chase the champion mountain biker to no avail.

1124: Overend finishes the race first, finally winning what for the past two years have only yielded podium positions. Last year’s winner Mike Pigg takes 4th.

Latshaw, who dnf’d from last week’s Ironman, made up for it on this smaller island by racing for the win and holding off the German Uli Blank by nearly two minutes. Caroline Rahner also holds onto her position in the run, finishing 3rd for the day.

1330: After a small awards ceremony, athletes pool their cash to buy some sixers and play football on the grassy luau grounds. You’d never know they just tortured themselves for hours in the hot south pacific sun.

1900: Time for an awards dinner and dancing. Nice speeches, great coconut routine by Shari Kain (who didn’t race this year) and presentation of medals and leis all around. The guys from Nissan seem impressed, and everyone says they’ll be back next year.

Next year’s race will take place on Halloween, once again the weekend following Ironman. The field will no doubt be even bigger and the event even better. Meanwhile, stay tuned for information on a local series in your neck of the woods. Aloha!

Ari Cheren, for The Mountain Zone