KOHALA COAST — As the classic Mike Tyson quote goes, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth — or get a kiawe spike in their bike tire or slip on a loose trail rock.”
XTERRA Hawaii Island is as much about how athletes can handle the challenges that arise and the mental hurdles as it is about endurance — albeit the grueling .5-mile swim, 10-mile mountain bike and 3.1-mile trail run is a trek few have the guts or skill to take on.
Tai Scarbrough, a Hawaii County fireman, was the quickest on the course on Sunday during the second edition of the event, stopping the clock in 1 hour, 39 minutes and 58 seconds. On the women’s side, Karen Simontacc Brisson crossed first in a time of 2:01:10 to take the crown.
“Brutal,” Scarbrough said when asked to describe the race. “It’s really challenging. The objective is just to push, push, push. It’s hard to have plan for something like this. Luckily we had some calm water for the swim this morning. The run you’re pretty much winded the whole time. The bike has some fast sections, but it’s real technical. There’s also that kiawe factor and I was just hoping my tires hold up.”
Scarbrough finished second last year, getting caught by veteran Big Island triathlete Jose Graca on the trail run portion of the race. Graca didn’t participate this year but Scarbrough couldn’t rest on his laurels. Benjamin Kieffer finished less than a minute behind and Sergio Florian rounded out the overall male podium.
“[Graca] really pushed me to my limit last year on the run,” Scarbrough said. “But these guys gave me a run for my money too.”
Amanda Frost (2:05:58) and Amy Young (2:07:31) finished second and third among the women, respectively.
The event offered 25 slots to the XTERRA World Championship on Maui, which is more than double the length of the Big Island event. The championship includes a 1-mile swim, 20-mile mountain bike that traverses 3,500 feet of elevation on the lower slopes of the West Maui Mountains and a 6.5-mile trail run that spans the forest trails and beach sand on the Valley Isle. Scarbrough said he took on the test last year and was stunned by the challenge. He plans to do it again this year.
“It was so challenging. It was just a mud course. I had to hike the bike for half of it,” Scarbrough said. “I bonked and had to sit down and rub cramps out. It was super humbling.”
This year’s world championship is scheduled for Oct. 27.