We recently had the opportunity to chat with Hawaii native Staci Lovell, teenage XTERRA triathlete, about how she is handling this year’s challenges and preparing for the future, as well as a bit about her passion, advice, favorite gear and reef safe sunscreen! Kōkua proudly sponsors Staci, a soon-to-be senior at Kealakehe High School on Big Island and currently ranked #18 in her division (ages 15-19). The XTERRA World Championships held in Maui is considered to be the world’s premiere off-road triathlon consisting of a 1.5K ocean water swim, followed by a grueling 32K mountain bike, and finishing off with a brutal 10K mountain trail run and a last stretch of deep hot beach sand.
Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
A: “I’m a 17-year-old XTERRA triathlete from Kona, Big Island. I have been competing on the XTERRA World Circuit for two years. I was the youngest female competitor at the XTERRA World Championships held in Maui when I started at age 15. I just finished my junior year at Kealakehe High School. I actually just got back from the mainland and am finishing up my 2-week quarantine here on the Big Island.” “Since my junior year ended 2 months early, I have been taking online courses at Arizona State University for this summer. I’m just trying to keep myself educated.“
Q: Why is competing on the XTERRA World Circuit your passion?
A: “I really enjoy the challenge that comes with it. It’s not a sport that everyone does, so it gives me an identity and allows me to have fun. I enjoy seeing my times get faster and small things like being able to cross a finish line after a long race. It has pushed me to my physical limits, like when I collapsed at the finish line at the XTERRA Asia Pacific Championship in Taiwan. I learn so much every time and always prove to myself that I can keep on going.”
Q: How has your life changed since the lockdown?
A: “Usually, I travel a lot. Before I left on this past trip, I had not stayed put on the island for more than 6 consecutive months.” “Not everything has changed though. I’m still working and going to the beach every day.”
Q: What is your training routine like these days?
A: “Lately training has been more difficult due to COVID-19. Everything is shut down and there are no races. For me, and probably some other athletes, it’s been difficult to have the motivation that you need to train as hard as usual. “ “However, lately, I have been going for a run in the morning and end the day with a strength workout. Right now, it has been hard to get in swims because the pool hasn’t been open. ” “I am definitely still training and it is a big part of my life, but I am also eager for racing to come back. Despite all of XTERRA’s events being cancelled for the year, I’m hoping that I can get ready for the Honolulu Triathlon, which is still scheduled for November 15, 2020.”
Q: Does training in Hawaii better prepare you for racing?
A: “I think that I have a big home field advantage, especially for the XTERRA World Championships in Maui. I train in the humidity and heat all the time like it’s normal, and I don’t think anything of it until I hear other triathletes talking about how difficult it is.”
Q: What are your triathlon goals for this year?
A: “I hate saying it, but to be completely honest my only goal is to have a race this year. It’s hard to have a goal when there’s nothing to look forward to. I’ll probably do a few timed 5k’s and 10k’s or timed 20-mile bike rides. Obviously, it would be a goal to PR each time, but as far as race goals, there are none because there are no races.”
Q: How do you prepare yourself for a race?
A: “Sometimes I train with other people, but usually by myself. I will start training 4-5 months before a race. Usually it will be easy because I will keep training the whole season, and I just keep building and building and building for the World Championships. About 3 months before, I start to train more vigorously.“
Q: What are your long-term goals with XTERRA and triathlon?
A: “That gets difficult because I don’t know how much I will be able to compete once I’m in college. I might end up going to college for track, so that also makes it more difficult. My overall goal would be to turn pro, but only if it’s fitting and if I’m able to make it work.” “As far as goals for other age groups, I want to become the world champion for my age group!”
Q: What is your favorite piece of gear?
A: “My mountain bike! It’s my favorite event in the triathlon. Running is my favorite workout because it is so freeing, but usually I have a lot of fun on the mountain bike in the races. I take a lot of pride in my bike, and I put a lot of time into making sure that it is nice, running and clean.”
Q: What advice would you give to someone younger than you who wants to compete?
A: “Keep pushing no matter what. If you have a bad race or bad result... if you don’t feel fast enough, it doesn’t matter. Some people just take time to push through and understand that in order to get good, you need to go through those hard times. I would say that is the most important thing, and mental toughness is more important that physical toughness when it comes to racing.”
Q: What is your experience with Kōkua Sun Care?
A: “It’s my favorite! I started using Kōkua Sun Care about 2 years ago. My mom was the one who originally bought it. Growing up in Hawaii we always have different sunscreens everywhere. I really loved Kōkua and found through experience that it’s the best zinc sunscreen for what I do. It feels good going on and it endures as much as I have to endure in all kinds of conditions. I love the company. I think that it has all the right messages, and it’s a great product because it’s a natural and reef safe sunscreen with high quality ingredients, some grown right here in Hawaii – I LOVE THAT!”
Lastly… It’s been an honor to sponsor Staci and cheer her on as she meets challenges head on with grace and determination and rises through the ranks of the XTERRA World circuit. We are excited to have her as part of the Kōkua team and witness her future successes.