“I remember my race on Sunday up to about 2 miles of the run to go. The run was 3.5 miles up and 2.5 miles down. I believe at some point on the descent things went haywire.”
Three-time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid was minutes away from her 4th XTERRA World Title when the wheels came off. From both an athlete’s and reporter’s point of view, it was hard to watch the drama of the moment, especially knowing the finish line was so close.
“I am quite certain that having my race end within yards of the finish line is the worst ever DNF. Losing the World Championships within meters of the line is still easier than a DNF. This is a hard one to process for me. Why? Where did I go wrong?” posted Melanie today (Tuesday) on her website, RacerGirl.com.
I spoke with Melanie a few days before the race. She was diplomatic and respectful about her chances of winning and used humor to brush aside the enormity of the race. (Video Interview) There was no doubt she was the race favorite going into Sunday’s 16th annual XTERRA World Championship in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii.
McQuaid’s main competition, the 2010 XTERRA World Champion, Shonny Vanlandingham recently underwent ACL surgey and was watching from the sidelines and the 2009 XTERRA World Champion, Julie Dibens was out with a foot injury. Even though she Melanie finished 11th last year and all signs pointed to a first place finish this year.
Here’s Melanie describing what happened on Sunday afternoon.
“I went out to war to find out how hard, how fast and how strong I could be. I gave it everything and in the end Lesley Paterson proved the strongest on the day. Of course in hindsight I wonder what I might have changed to have things turn out different. I had created a big gap… what if I had slowed more at aid stations, what if and what if?? At the end of it all, aside from addressing hydration with more vigor, I really wouldn’t change a thing with my race execution. I was the strongest I have been in a long time, I raced brilliantly for 99% of the day and I found my limit to my performance. On that day there was only less to give, not more, and that is the best way to be satisfied with your race, your career, or anything in your life. If you always give it absolutely 100% you really can never have any regrets. That approach will only bring you experiences and performances that remind you that you were really living and performing at your maximum potential.”
In true athletic drama, the announcer began giving the crowd updates on Melanie’s progress. He called out that Melanie was in the lead but Lesley Paterson (eventual race winner) was gaining ground fast. Then he announced Melanie had been passed, not once, but twice. It wasn’t until the third woman had crossed the finish line that the crowd was informed Melanie was in serious trouble.
“Quick, quick, we need our medical, medical at the bike transition right now, please. Melanie is down. We need our medical crew please.”
Standing in the finishing chute with the rest of the media, it was hard to see exactly where Melanie was down. The transition area wasn’t that far away. It was literally 50 yards from the finish line down a grassy hillside. But since fans lined the final half mile of the run course from the beach to the finish line, it was nearly impossible to see her.
Melanie wrote, “I saw some video of me staggering through the creek section just before the sand. It looks like I can’t see where the trail goes and I am having trouble balancing. I made it across the sand as I was told that with the help of some friends cheering me I made it to the grassy lawn in front of the Ritz where I faced a short run uphill to the finish line. I was told that I staggered, took a few wobbly steps, grabbed the fencing and tried to get myself to the line. I also was told I refused medical attention and jumped out of the golf cart they were trying to use to get me to the line. I am proud of myself to even know what the right thing to do is when I am completely out of it – FINISH!! However, I was incapable of finishing. I had found my limits on that day.” Continue reading on her website Here.
After the third woman crossed the line, I ran down to where Melanie was laying and rolled my video camera. Here’s exclusive Footage of the moments when Melanie was carried off by volunteers and medical staff. In the background you can hear the fans shouting words of support and encouragment for such a courage effort.