Posts Tagged ‘Rio de Janeiro’

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triathlons in Rio

Monday 14 May, 2018

Now that I may have completed my last triathlon in Brazil yesterday, I think it’s time to file my race report for the race I’ve done the most times in my life.  I’ll try and be as objective as possible and not get too emotional about it.

Finding triathlons here has not been easy.  I have not found a centralized resource like trifind etc., so I’ve had to search for triathlons in different cities where I think they might take place.  Sao Paulo is bigger, so there are more races there, but I haven’t wanted to travel that far to race.  There are a number of places that I think would be great triathlon venues, like Buzios, Niteroi, and Petropolis, and many of them held races when Brazil was in major growth mode.  But when the economy crashed in 2015, they all disappeared.  Consequently, I’ve ended up doing the same race 8 times.

I’ve also looked for & found 30 triathlon clubs in the greater metropolitan Rio area, but found none that offer anything remotely social.  All the clubs here offer are different training regimens, usually early a.m. before the bad guys come out, & nothing more.  It makes me appreciate the Chicago Triathlon Club so much-the mix of workouts & social interaction I thought was great.  Maybe the Brazilians are so social on an ongoing basis, they don’t feel the need to be social with triathlon-buds.

Registering for a tri here is quite a bit more arduous than in the U.S.  It’s not until this year the race I’ve done even accepted credit cards, & they were so skeptical of foreigners, they had to call me to verify my identification before they accepted me into the race.  I’m not sure that a foreigner can even register for a race here because they require data that only locals possess (CPF number).

In their defense, packet pickup is just as much of a pain as it is with many other races.  I’ve had to drive 45 minutes-1 hour out to Recreio to pick up my race packet in about 2 minutes.  One race done at the same venue but put together by another organizer had packet pick-up at a sporting goods store only 1/2-way out there, so that was an improvement.

Getting to the race became a challenge when my GPS kept sending me back to a road that was closed for the race over & over again.  Because the street signs don’t actually contain the names of the streets, (they just point you in the general direction…Centro, Recreio, Barra, etc.), I’ve driven around in circles and had to show up late for races after they started because I went crazy getting lost the morning of a race. Now I know how to find my way there, but that’s just because I learned by trial & (lots of) error.

The transition area is pretty well situated, with numbered slots for all of the participants.  It’s on a bumpy cobblestone parking lot, but that’s workable.  You aren’t allowed to leave your bag with your bike, so you’re required to check in your bag with everything you won’t be using for the race.

Open water swims in the Atlantic Ocean leave you open to lots of variability.  The swim in the race I’ve done in Recreio takes place on either side of a peninsula: races have been on both sides.  On either side, at some point you end up swimming into the sun, which makes sighting much more difficult.  Yesterday the surf was the strongest it’s ever been, and thus I had my slowest swim ever, 28:40 for 750 meters.  I was thrown around like a rag-doll in the waves coming in & out near the shore-normally I take 10 minutes less than that.

The bike is flat, right along the shore, 20K for the sprint.  The only potential difficulty is the wind.  Yesterday it was at my back going out & in my face on the way back in.  My 1st half time was normal, 22 mins, but I lost about 6 minutes coming back, so my bike was slow too.

The run is flat & along the shore too, out & back for 5K.  My time was a little slow, but not as slow as I thought I’d be.  I’ve developed a parameniscal cyst on my left knee, which is a result of a slightly torn cartilage in my knee, so I knew I wouldn’t match prior running times.

Here’s where I need to divulge, for the 1st time in my tri-career, I was dq’ed.  My most egregious infraction was running on the grass next to the road for the run.  Apparently if I had asked permission before the race to save my knees by running on the grass, I would have been OK, but after doing this the 7 previous time, I didn’t know if was an issue.  I was also busted for 3 other indiscretions, but I’m still not sure what they were.  Between the bike and the run, they actually made me wait 1:30 in the penalty box, just as if I were in an ice hockey game.  Before the race, I was asked to remove the rack on the back of my bike when it was deemed a safety hazard if someone fell on it, but because no one had tools for me to remove it, I was granted an exemption.

Everyone gets a medal, and race winners even get prize money.  As an age-grouper, it’s been even more competitive here.  In the U.S., I usually come in in the upper 1/2 of my age group-here I usually come in near the bottom.  That’s OK, as long as I don’t lose too much time.  Until this race, I haven’t.  Post-race nutrition consists of a lot of fruits, bananas, watermelon, oranges.

On the whole, I’ve enjoyed my triathlons here.  I would just liked to have been able to do a wider variety of races.

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awe-inspiring paralympic athletes

Monday 12 September, 2016

I checked out the women’s paralympic triathlon & couldn’t help but write about it. These women are so inspirational, they are beyond description, but I’ll give it a try. I’ve done a lot of sprint triathlons in my day, but I haven’t overcome a fraction of what these women have. What I saw today blew me away.

Let’s start with the swim. The 1st race was for women who are physically challenged, so swimming with 1 arm or 1 leg is difficult, but do-able. The tough part is getting in & out of the water, so they had helpers get racers to their prosthetics coming out of the water. The 2nd race was for blind racers, so they had to do the whole race, swim included, tethered to a guide. That has got to be tough.

Then they move to the bike. This portion probably has the fewest differences between Olympic & Paralympic athletes for the physically-challenged. However, the blind racers rode on tandem bikes, so a strong guide could be a big advantage.

In the run, we get to the hard part. We have a long way to go to get prosthetics to work well. I don’t know how Oscar Pretorius did it-the prosthetics these women used didn’t allow them to run anything like a normal runner. Their gaits were very unbalanced, which puts lots of strain on the leg that does function normally. The breakdown over time must be very difficult to deal with & they must suffer from overuse injuries galore.

There was 1 runner who stuck out to me: Rakel Mateo Uriarte of Spain. She came in dead last @ 1:40:33-the distances were shortened from the “Olympic” distance, so this was essentially a sprint triathlon-but she was still a winner to me because she was the only athlete who had the impairment she did. The International Triathlon Union says she was in an accident in 2001 which left her left leg paralyzed.  She hadn’t participated in triathlon before her accident, but picked it up to keep moving. I didn’t see her come out of the water on the swim, but the result of her challenge was that she couldn’t pedal the bike with both legs, which meant she had to pedal the whole race with just her right leg.  To top it off, she did the whole run on crutches…& she did the race in about the same time I do my sprint triathlons.  Granted I’m a slow old man, but completing races with her challenges blows my mind.  The mental fortitude this woman must have must be incredible.  I can’t imagine the strength & endurance she must have to complete these races.

The USA did well.  American Grace Norman won the PT4 race.  The Americans swept the PT2 race, with Alyssa Seely winning the gold, Hailey Danisewicz taking the silver, & Melissa Stockwell bringing home the bronze.  The PT5 race was a heartbreaker for American Elizabeth Baker, who came so close to earning a medal, but just fell short, literally. She came out of the water 6th, then moved up to 4th on the bike.  Then on the run, with 100 meters to go, she had pulled into 3rd place, primed for a bronze medal, but then the Brit Melissa Reid overtook her, when Elizabeth unceremoniously fell, sealing her 4th place finish in the race, after Reid.  She might not have known that Reid was catching up on her.  She couldn’t see her because she’s blind, but I would bet her guide was keeping her fully informed along the way.  My heart goes out to her, & falling was the final indignity, but their exciting finish got the most applause of the day.

I realize these paralympic races are fodder for platitudes, but in this case, I think the praise is warranted.  I do these races, so I know how hard they are.  I can recognize the difficulties they must overcome to compete at the level they do.  These women have inspired me & I’ll keep their challenges in mind when I start to bitch & moan about my next race almost a month from now in October.

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my $.02 on Rio2016

Monday 22 August, 2016

Now that the Rio2016 Olympics are done & the Olympians & fans are heading home, it’s time to reflect on how it worked out for Rio de Janeiro. When I arrived in Rio a year ago, the prognostications were not good. The Globo newspaper media empire spelled out 5 Grand (large) Obstacles:

  1. Metro/subway-the new subway line which was being built to provide transportation to & from the Olympic park was planned for completion only a month before the games were to begin, a small window to correct problems, if required. Then a few months ago, that window was further reduced to just 5 days before the Olympics start, making any last minute changes of any consequence impossible. Remarkably, the subway opened, took passengers to the events, & was little problem @ all.
  2. H2O-much has been made of the quality of the water in the lagoon and Guanabarra Bay where the rowing & sailing events were held, respectively. The goal was to clean 80% of the water by the time the games begin, but sanitation only advanced to clean 50% of the waste being dumped into the water supply. That’s much more than was in the past, but short of the goal of 80%. I only read of 1 Belgian Olympic sailor who became ill after falling in & possibly ingesting some water, hardly an epidemic, & arguably within statistical norms. While the water quality is still @ an unacceptable level, it didn’t result in any calamities @ the Olympics.
  3. 4, & 5 Stadia for cycling, rowing, & track & field: were behind schedule, but completed on time without incident.

Since that article was published, a few other issues arose which impacted Rio2016 significantly:

  • zika virus: despite not rising to the levels of recent past epidemics & being out-of-season by the time the Olympics arrived, zika was deemed a threat to the health of all who dared to come to Brazil to watch the games live. There was no outbreak & zika seemed to be a non-issue during the games.
  • political crisis: President Dilma Rousseff was impeached, which created lots of political stability & the threat of uprisings, etc. during the Olympics. While Brazil will continue to be in a holding pattern until a new president is elected in 2018, there have been no major repercussions from this calamity.
  • economic crisis: as a result of the political crisis, Brazil’s economy has taken a nose dive, as indicated by a fall in the currency, the Real, of 30% in 6 months, from R$3.2/US$ to R$4.1/$US. investment has fallen, & unemployment has spiked. This made financing the completion of the projects for the games questionable, but again, all venues were completed on time.

True to form, the Brazilians pulled it off, by cramming @ the last minute, but they got it done.  The question is “What will be the long-term outcome of the Rio2016 Olympic games?”  Will Rio become another economic success propelled by the Olympics, like Barcelona & Seoul, or create a lot of white elephants, as in Beijing or Montreal, or even worse, lead to an economic downfall, as has been hypothesized about Athens, Greece.  London took the Olympic opportunity to rehabilitate an underdeveloped part of town to rejuvenate it & make that area a desirable place to live.  When I lived in Munich, they left the Olympic housing as residences for college students.  Rio will leave a different legacy.  While the subway extension & rejuvenation of the Praca Maua port area will benefit all of the population, the Olympic village is being converted into luxury condominiums for sale to the highest bidder.  Many of the venues were temporary structures, probably being deconstructed already as we speak.  The economic development organization of the Rio city government, Rio Negocios, held a series of events highlighting different industries in & around Rio, but I think they were probably disappointed with the international level of interest in their events.  The aftermath of the 2014 World Cup does not bode well.  New stadia now stand empty & a number of infrastructure projects were never completed, in some cases creating risks with what does remain.

I enjoyed being in Rio while the games were taking place: see pix:

…& I hope that Rio recognizes many positive benefits as a result of hosting the games.  I’m just skeptical that enough change will have taken place for the rest of the world to appreciate what a beautiful place this can be.