Posts Tagged ‘triathlon’

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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.