Thursday, 16 June 2011

Xterra Brazil (Amazon adventure) 3rd

Sorry for so long without a race report. I have been training hard since the Corsica Xtri trying to get ready for Xterra Brazil which will be the end of part one of my season, before a short mid season break on a beach in Rio this week, and then onto Long distance road training for Alpe D'Huez tri and Challenge Henley.

Anyway, onto Brazil and in particular Manaus in the heart of the Amazon.

It certainly been like no other race i've ever done.

This is the race that put's the 'X' into Xterra!

The race wouldn't be put on without the support of CIGS, these are the specialist Jungle unit of the Brazilian army, and known as the most feared army for jungle warfare in the world, many other countries send their troops to CIGS for training. You don't mess with them.

We rocked up on Wednesday before the race on Saturday. As a foreign pro, you expect to help with the odd media commitment especially when the very kind organisers are paying for your hotel and air fare. So on the Thursday I was asked if I wanted to play 'a small game against a team from the army'. Hoping it wouldn't involve physical contact I agreed and met at the agreed time.... I'm not sure if some thing was lost in translation or they thought I'd say 'no' if i knew what it involved, but over the next 2 days I got involved in a televised game show competition with the army against Xterra athletes on a Brazilian TV channel watched by 30 million viewers! Not the best preperation, as we were being whisked off into the jungle at 6am each day and missing meals left, right and centre the day before the race, but certainly an experience, which included triathlon disciplines along with tree climbing, lighting fires and cooking eggs and also eating various grubs and beetles! I guess it made good TV!

Not knowing Portugese hasn't helped out here and there have been many frustrating days when we've felt totally lost, trying to explain simple things. We are also trying to get used to Brazilian time, which is a very loose concept, which means what you're arranging certainly won't happen before the quoted hour, probably 1-2 hours later and possibly not at all.

The best way to deal with BST (Brazilian Sort of Time) is to embrace it with a simple guessing game. Take last nights dinner, organised for 8:30pm. I guessed 8:45, Susan (my wife) guessed 8:50 and we left in the shuttle at 9:45pm, so she won.

Onto the race.....We were up at 3:30am! To meet at the CIGS base at 4am. The army organised these timings, so it ran pretty much on time. From the base we went on 6 coaches with fully millitary escorts and road blocks (yes serious, like a presidential convoy!, possibly not neccisary at 4am?) to a small village on the river Amazon. From here we got on Army Mosquito rapid deployment boats and took off down the river as the sun started rising. Amazing stuff!

The race was held at a special operations base, only reachable by boat, deep in the jungle and our bikes were transported in the day before.

We had a breakfast put on by the army at 6am, and the race started at 8am. Some journalists and adventurous athletes had gone for the full jungle experience, with a training course on survival and sleeping in hamocks etc.

The Brazilians are a damn fit bunch and take their sport pretty seriously. UK triathletes look fitter than the average guys on the street, but these Brazilians were super tanned, not an ounce of fat and really looked like they knew what they were doing! They have a very well supported Xterra national series in Brazil which has been going for several years.

As the gun went, they didn't mess around. It was a total bun fight on the swim with people pulling at your legs, trying to swim over you, the thought of the Pyranna's and Aligators that live in the waters didn't help either! The swim was led out by one of the relay teams that were using an Olympic swimmer! Next out of the water was Ben Allen from Australia who already made his mark last weekend in his first European Xterra with a podium place ahead of most of the favorites. I had a terrible swim and came out of the water in 13th place in the individuals with several relay members ahead of me too, most worryingly I was 5 minutes down and it wasn't going to plan.

Onto the bike and I was on a mission and halfway round the 30km bike I caught up to the 2nd place athlete, local Brazilian pro Felip Moletta, who is winning many of the Brazilian races and had a top 30 at the worlds last year in Maui. Felip obviously had the bit between his teeth in his home race and jumped on my back wheel in my slip stream. I was left with the difficult dilema of whether to tow him round to the end of the bike and keep chasing Ben or to play the tactical game and race for 2nd place and make Filip work with me. In the end I ended up towing him round and we'd gained 2 minutes on Ben, but it wouldn't be enough starting the run 3 minutes back still.

I felt great for the first 4km of the run and got away from Filip and thought I had 2nd in the bag, but the extreme heat and humidity was sapping my strength and Filip got back to me. With only 1km to go he made his move and i couldn't respond and I was left with 3rd place on the podium.

What a race though, you can't replicate it any where. After the race we visited the local tourist sights such as the meeting of the rivers, and saw Anaconda's, Sloth's and the like. It's been a great experience, but i'm looking forward to rest week on a beach in Riio and then the start of my long distance campaign.