I left Seattle on Wednesday, which was great luck since my visa had just been approved on Tuesday. Victor had to pick it up for me in San Francisco, so the luck was in the fact that we were both on the same flight from Dallas to Sao Palo. Our trip to Florianopolis ended up taking about 40 hours. At 3am when we finally got to our hotel room there was very little conversation before Victor Matt and I were all passed out.
That was Friday morning. The race was Sunday at 10am, and we used every moment to recover from the travel and prepare to race. Aside from a press conference Friday morning, my days consisted entirely of feasting on the excellent Brazilian food, light training, and lots of sleeping. It was great.
This race is pretty unique. It is a 3 stage race. Each stage consists of a 250m swim, a 4k (4 lap, draft legal) bike, and a 1300m (2 lap) run. The stages went of 10am, 10:30am, and 11am, and all 18 athletes did each stage. The points ere given out in each stage so that 18 points go to 1st, on down to 1 point for 18th. The top team leaves with all the glory, which is a pretty good prize considering the race was broadcast live all over South America, and rebroadcast later that day in Brazil.
Here’s how it all went down (from my perspective, there were also 38,000 people watching on the course, so I’m sure you can find a few other versions).
Round 1: The camera men were taking their lives into their own hands by standing in front of 18 adrenaline rushed men charging into the surf. The sprint down the beach was intense, and I was solidly mid-pack by the time we got into the water. I passed a few guys, but finished the swim right next to my teammate Victor Plata, and about 30 seconds back from the leaders (which included our other teammate, Matt Chrabot). Matt took off on the bike and caught the leader, but then he fell while cornering. He got right back on his bike and finished strong, but his leg was scraped up and his thumb sprained. He still finished ahead of Victor and me.
Round 2: The big white buoy we had gone around the first round blew away, so we were supposed to use a yellow mooring buoy instead. What they didn’t tell us is that the yellow buoy was really hard. I found that out when I was about five feet downwind of it. A wave passed and as the buoy fell from peak to trough it blew toward me and nearly knocked me out. One minute I was swimming, the next I was floating on my back in a daze as about five people swam by. After making sure I was not dying, I started swimming again, but it was pretty much up to Vic and Matt to carry the torch for round 2. Matt came back from his fall and managed another strong finish, and together with Victor’s consistency, our team was in third place going into the final round. First was Brazil and was out of reach, but in second were the Canadians with less than 10 points over us.
Round 3: I swam much better. I came out of the water about 5 yards behind a red Speedo that said "Chrabot" on it, but between the beach run and transition that was the last I saw of my teammate. Victor was next to me for part of the swim, but managed to get tangled in one of the buoy’s anchor lines. While Matt rode with the leaders I was stuck in no man’s land with an Austrian, and Victor was in a substantial chase pack. Going into the run Matt and I were battling to stay ahead of Canadians, but failed. We were both out sprinted in the final 300 meters.
The final score: Brazil 141, Canada 76, USA 71.
My goal was to have fun, and I met that expectation. I also raced pretty well. I had a great weekend, and the fact that every round felt stronger than the previous is a great sign. I am definitely eager for the real season to begin: April 19th in Mazatlan Mexico.
The best part of the trip was definitely getting to know the other athletes. Victor, I discovered, is a great story teller. I was entertained for hours on end while gorging myself on the best papayas I have ever had. Someday, when he’s done being a lawyer, he’ll write a book about all his adventures. I would like to be the first person to recommend reading it.