This weekend I started off the 2009 season with one of the most fun races in Triathlon. It was the 2009 Fast Triathlon in Brazil. The field consists of six three-man teams, each from separate countries. The countries invited were Brazil, France, Argentina, Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Our US Team of Victor Plata, Matt Chrabot and myself moved up one podium step from last year, claiming second, just 20 points behind the winning Brazilian Team. Last year, we were about 60 points behind Brazil, and 10 points behind Canada. All three of us improved, but I think Matt and Victor would agree the â€œMost Improvedâ€ award goes to me (MVP definitely goes to Matt, and Victor can have â€œMost Consistentâ€).
The format of this race is unique. It consists of three individual triathlons, each with a 250m swim, 4km bike, and 1300m run. Each round took approximately 10 to 12 minutes, and we were given about equal rest between rounds The Fast Triathlon is a huge spectator event in Brazil, and is broadcast live on national television. Before the race the media conducted interviews of the athletes, and for the past two days we have seen ourselves on television during the commercial breaks. Itâ€™s amazing to be treated like a star with fans asking for an autograph, pictures, or any kind of proof that they indeed stood next to us. I drew the line when I was begged for one of my K-Swiss water bottles. â€œNo, I need those!â€ Check out some of the video coverage from the race here.
In the first round I found myself nearly last into the water. Matt was just in front of me, and Victor was to his side. Out of the water, I was 5th, but Matt came from behind and we mounted our bikes together just behind the front pack. Soon we were in a group of about eight athletes, and just behind the lead motorcycle, so we sat in and waited for the run. Matt nearly won the round with his run, but faded slightly and ended up third, while I sank to 7th or 8th, just in front of a Frenchman.
Then in the second round I hit the water with the leaders, exited 3rd, and passed the leader from Brazil to mount my bike alongside the French champion swimmer, Benjamin Sanson. This time the lead group was only 4 until another Frenchman and Matt bridged up. On the run I stayed ahead of each of the Frenchmen and improved on my first-round run. I sprinted over the line for a photo finish with one of the Mexicans. My arm may have crossed the line first, but the results arenâ€™t yet available. I was 5th or 6th. Matt finished 2nd, and Victor finished right behind me, ahead of the 2nd pack.
For the final round there was nothing to lose, so every team was willing to take chances. Somehow Paulo Miyasiro from Brazil and Benjamin Sanson made a 50m gap out of the water over the next swimmer: myself. Iâ€™m actually still confused how it happened, because as we rounded the final buoy I was on Benjaminâ€™s feet, but the next time I spotted they were both already nearing the beach! I would say it was a wave, but there was not a lot of surf. While I was racing through transition, Miyasiro hopped onto the wheel of the lead motorcycle and even Sanson couldnâ€™t stay with them. I waited for more riders to work with me, but rather than forming a small chase pack, the entire field became one at the end of the first lap and the two men remained off the front, with Sanson dangling in no manâ€™s land. On the third lap (of five) another Frenchman made a strong attack and gained almost 10 seconds on the group. We left him sitting in front until the final lap, then reeled him back in. Again I ran faster than the previous round. Matt stayed in the game for another top three finish, and Victor and I finished 6th and 7th respectively.
This was a much stronger race than last year, and itâ€™s great to see that my fitness after a month of base training is good enough to race next to the Brazilians in the peak of their summer season. Next week I will really put my early season training to the test with the Santos International Triathlon, just a 45 minute bike ride from here. If my improvement over last yearâ€™s Fast Triathlon is any indication of whatâ€™s on the horizon, 2009 is going to be a much better year.