sábado, 12 de setembro de 2015

Dear visitor, 

Thank you for visiting this blog!

This blog tells the most important parts of all the training and racing in Ultraman Florida 2015.
I strongly recommend reading it in the chronological order:

The Training

The Preliminaries


Bike - 1st day 

Bike - 2nd day

The Long Run - 3rd day

If there´s any comment, sugestion or you want to contact me: lobueno@gmail.com .

For the Portuguese version of this blog click here.

domingo, 22 de fevereiro de 2015

3rd day - The Long Run

Waking up before 5 am to run a double marathon wouldn´t make 99% of the world´s population excited. For those 39 endorphine junkies and their crews there couldn´t be anything better in the world to do but to face the 84,4 km (52 mi). After 2 days of warming up with 10 km swimming and 423 km cycling it is just natural to run a double marathon!

Once again we got inside the Rock´n´Roll Van and headed to Clermont, the race start was somewhere close to the finish line from day 2.

It was completely dark when we got there. The temperature was much better than the previous 2 days, something about 13 C (55 F) and very little wind, ideal conditions to start a long run!

While racing on the Ironmen I´ve always had the impression that I was in a physical condition to face the first two days of the Ultraman, but not even half of the third day! Due to my body composition and athletic abilities I can honestly say that 90% of all the training I did during the 16 months prior to the Ultraman had only one goal: to finish the third day in less than 12 hours. "The Long Run" has a very unique and high dose of cruelty, very different and much worse than swimming and cycling. The bill presented to your body after the long run is much higher than the other sports due to all the impact.

We were called to make a circle and join hands again, just like we did on the 1st day. This time there was enough room for all the crews on the outer portion of the circle, there were so many special people around us! It was amazing to feel all that vibration and that positive energy! That moment seemed to pass very slowly, just like a slow motion video. Sway said another prayed and wished us good luck. Once again I felt butteflies in my stomach and my eyes were full of water. That day was the final test, I´ve never been so scared and happy at the same time, one of those things that you only have the oportunity to feel in a multi-stage race.

So much positive energy at this moment!

Little by little we lined up, everything was dark and we could only see some shadows, the camera flashes and a few headlamps. The very last countdown : 10, 9... 1, GOOOOOOO!!!

The first step of the double marathon

You can see the running course by clicking here:  http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6873062

The start was a light downhill. With the intent of warming up I started in a very easy pace.

On km 3 there was the 1st steep uphill. Some of the athletes started walking and so did I. I wasn´t going to attack those hills so soon, I was saving all the energy I could.

The beginning of the run was really nice, the vans were together and it was like a big party. The music on the vans were the best and everytime one of them passed by us they cheered us up.

The Crew and I decided that I´d run alone for the first few kms, this way I´d stablish a pace without any influence of anyone. After that someone from the Rock´n´Roll Crew would run with me.

After 4.5 km, at the  first dirt road, the Rock´n´Roll van finally appeared. I starter reloading with some GU Brew and gel every 30 minutes. Soon after Guilherme started running by my side and started his shift as a pacer.

Slowly the sun started to rise and some fantastic views were revealed. With 1 hour we had covered 8.7 km (5,4 mi). With all that hilly terrain the final time projection was to finish the race a little before 10 hours. We kept going our long journey that day.

We passed over the Florida Turnpike and when we looked right we were above the clouds!

So much beauty before sunrise...
... a lot o km to be run!'

We were in the same group with Arnaud and Miguel, depending on their pace we´d pass them or they´d pass us.

At km 10 there was a huge downhill, I decide to walk, I was still avoiding all that extra impact that we get on downhills. I was following Prof. Rogério Aviani´s advice: "Ultraman is slow and steady!"

Guilherme and I would talk about anything, from the houses we´d pass by to infamous jokes from the oil business (we both work in the same oil company). We´d do anything and everything to keep the atmosphere light and easy but still paid a lot of attention on the navigation and the pace.

After 10 km running beside me Guilherme entered the van while André started his shift as my pacer.

The Crew Captain in the end of his shift. 
André and I crossed finished the first half marathon in 2:26'. Steve King was there to register our passage, it was always good to see him and hear his voice, it was a sign that we had finished a good portion of the race. One question came to our mind: "How does he finds so many things to talk about?" Everytime we were close to him he was talking, telling about the athletes, the races, the times, the organizers, etc...

We´d walk everytime I had to eat or drink something, that was by the end of every km. The strategy was to have a GU Roctane gel every half hour and some GU Brew every km. It was working fine! Every hour I´d have some bread with jelly or a Powerbar.

At km 26 I had a surprise. Sarah and Marc Lavoie were waiting for us to pass! I met Sarah through the Baylors, 4 days before. She´s one of those hardcore marathon runners that wake up at 3:30am to run, They had big signs and were cheering us up! It was so awesome!
Sarah on km 26 cheering. 
We passed through some more dirt roads. The care that The Crew had was so great! André would choose the best part of the road for me to run, this way I´d have a smaller chance of twisting my ankle. When I say that they are the best crew in the world I´m not joking!

At km 28 I unzipped the long sleeve jersey. the compression shirt and the arm coolers were enough at that temperature.

André ran with me up to km 31, that´s when Carol took over her shift and walked with me to the top of the hill we were. At the end of the hill there were my parents and the Baylors. Carol got inside the van and Dave started his shift.

Dave Baylor is "Mr Marathon Man", he´s got more than 20 marathons under his belt and always a good atitude to face these challenges that always seem to come up during these long races.

With these guys cheering us up it´was  a lot easier
to keep smiling all the way to the finish line..
Between km 31 and km 41 we had the company of my parents, Patty Baylor and Sarah and Marc. There was a lot of people there, Jessica, Edwin and Fiona were also running along. We passed by the shore of Lake Minneola, one of the most beautiful sites of the course. By then the sun was hot and merciless. In one of the refueling stops Carol put the sunscreen and I put the cape on my hat to protect my neck from all that sun.

Close to Lake Minneola.
We crossed the marathon mark with 5:05'. There was Mr, Steve King again with the microphone wishing us good luck. The final time projection was still close to 10 hours and I was feeling very good and very satisfied with that pace. I was being very careful were I´d step, specially when going from the sidewalk to the road or back to the sidewalk. We were keeping the same nutrition strategy. I love to play mind games on races and after the marathon mark I stopped counting up and started a countdown.

"Mr. Marathon Man" e I crossing the marathon mark.  
After km 44 I started drinking Red Bull. The GU Brew and the gels weren´t enough and I was on the edge with all that heat. I was partially worn out from running the 1st marathon and I needed something stronger than the sports drink. I´d have half a can of Red Bull every 2 km (1.2 mi).

At km 45 I caught the Brazilians Diogo and Renato. It was nice to see them and their crews were always encouraging us to keep going. Diogo´s legs seemed to be very stiff but he kept fighting.

Dave stopped for "maintenance" and André took over the shift just before entering US-27. That road has 4 lanes and it was hard for The Crew to give all the support. In order not to need someone crossing a 4 lane road André ran that part carying one bottle os sports drink.

Soon after the first uphill on US-27 I passed Jonathan, he seemed exausted. He was sitting on a chair with his crew giving him all the suport. He was in bad shape! We stopped to say a few encouragement words and kept going through the up and downhills of US-27.

After 5 km after we left the highway to a dirt road full of ups and downs. I ran on those roads the monday before. It was a road surrounded by orange trees with short and steep uphills. After 54 km running any small hill is a good excuse to walk a little and replenish the thirst with cold Red Bull or some cold sports drinks.

It was too hot, the temperature went all the way up to 28 C (83 F) and there wasn´t any sign it would get cooler while we were still running. It was so cold during the first 2 days and on the most dificult day (for me) it was so hot! I really hoped it was the opposite, hot during the first 2 days and cooler on the last. I was lucky that I trained a lot during the Brazilian summer at lunchtime with 35 C (95 C).

At km 55 The Crew took an extra shirt and my hat and soaked it in the cooled with ice cold water. That helped me a lot to cool down my motor and not overheat.

With the support of Ultrafriend André, 25 km to the finish line.
I also thought that Florida was completely flat.
On the Ultraman there are various time limits on the run, you have to run the first marathon under 6 hours and the 63,3 km (39 mi) under 9 hours.

The last cutoff, 63.3 km, I passed with 7:44'. That was a big relief to have more than one hour to spend in case things went wrong. When passing this point I felt there was nothing that could make me not finish it, even if I hit the wall and a bear crawled on my back I´d finish that last half marathon! So far, so good and my average heart rate was 119.

Guilherme postponed his shift as much as he could but André was already working extra hours and it was time for the Captain to step in.

From km 63 untill km 74 I was suffering in a paralel universe. I started to feel weak and even though I´d try to run I could only feel my legs heavier and heavier. Alessandro Muknicka passed me, we were running close to each other for the last 10 km. In one of the stops I made to drink and refresh he passed me with a very consistent pace. We only met again at the finish line.

We started running in a very nice neighbourhood and I couldn´t stand to try to run and feel so miserable. I decided that I´d walk untill I started to feel better. While walking I could enjoy the view of that neighbourhood, nice houses, lakes with fountains, wide sidewalks and nice backyards, a really nice place. While walking I had an extra gel, some bread with jelly and some coke. After 15 minutes I was already feeling better!

By the time I re-started to run I had only 10 km left. The Rock´n´Roll Crew decided to make smaller shifts as pacers. I started to push the pace a little and my heart rate went up to 130 bpm. The music in the Rock´n´Roll Van was loud and they played the best of Classic Rock"

Miguel Angel, one of the Spaniards, was just in front of us in km 9 and he was having a hard time. His crew would stop their van every 200m to give him support. We stopped a little bit to encourage him. His crew was out of the van talking to him, they all wished us good luck when we left. This kind of "Ohana" spirit is very hard to find in other races.

2 km later I caught the Jeep that was supporting Hans Siemelink. I was very focused in maintaining that pace and I was enjoying every minute of that last stretch of the race. Every time the van would stop they´d give me some coke and soak my hat and the shirt in iced water to keep the motor cool.

1 more km and we ran into Hans standing on the side of the road waiting for the last red light. Some volunteers were there to help. We exchanged a few words and he said everything was fine. We both were happy to be so close to the end. A little later Carol entered the van and Dave started his last shift as a pacer. It was such a good feeling everytime they´d stop, that loud music and it felt like a party.

Dave and I talked a little on those few kms. It is amazing how some few word can have such a big meaning. He told me that before starting that day he felt that his limit was the marathon, but after spending the day running with us he was starting to feel that the marathon wasn´t the limit anymore. "Maybe there´s something else to be found beyond the marathon, Mr Marathon Man!" - I said.

I was thrilled and couldn´t believe that. Dave was the guy that introduced me to road running when I was 12 in a 7 km run in North Park, Pittsburgh-PA. I ran the first quarter mile and dragged myself for the rest of it and I was completely exausted in the end. Now he was telling me that he was thinking to go beyond the marathon?!?! That was mind blowing!

We made the last curve and entered the final 3.4 km at Lake Butler Blvd. a very calm street with no traffic. It was great to spend those last moments with "my" crew. We spent those days together in a very intense way, not only that but they also followed my training through all the phases and donated very generously their time, care and love in a journey that made me able to cross the finish line that was just a few kms from there. Aloha, Ohana and Kokua are really the best words to express what you´ve done for me and various other ultramen.

With 2 km left the Van took a left turn because it was a dead end for cars. Carol stayed with me for the next km. The van appeared again and Patty Baylor took the wheel. I had the whole crew running by my side.

The thrill to get to the end of that mission was amazing, my legs were moving by themselves, it felt like I was floating on those last meters. For 16 months I trained hard, went to bed late and woke up early, overcame my laziness, didn´t meet a lot of friends, didn´t travel and made a lot of sacrifices to be able to put all this volume of training.

During the training  I imagined that moment many times and I could (almost) bet that I would end up crying but that didn´t happen. I can´t explain why I didn´t cry. I was thrilled and it felt really good to see those four running by my side, I felt in peace with myself and it was a moment of fullness, impossible to describe in words. Together, we made an impecable work, we fought a good fight and we kept the faith. No, we weren´t the first ones to go through the finish line but we made the best we could with our gifts... and best of all, we were a few meters from the finish line!

And we finally were able to see the finish line. We could hear Mr. Steve King´s unmistakable voice once again and that was one more time the sign that stage would be over soon. Carol handed me the Brazilian flag that we bought months ago specially for that moment. As I wrapped around that flag I thought about all the people that were far but at the same time were so close to me during all the battle against many elements of nature, cold, heat, wind, uphills and, more than all of them, the battle agains that voice inside my head that says "Don´t do it. Better to not even try. It´s too hard, too long. You will fail!"

I stepped on the green carpet and...

I can only imagine if I had a chance to go back in time and talk to myself in 1993, I was 13, and started to race in triathlons. Would I believe if I was told back then that I was going to finish and Ultraman? Not only that but I´d finish strong? I don´t know if I´d believe if I was told that. But that´s exactly what happened. Those were 3 days that brought back that same magical feeling that I had when I was getting to know triathlon.

After crossing the finish line I could finally give everybody a big hug and thank them for everything they´d done for me. It felt so good and the party only got bigger every time one more finisher would cross that finish line.

Bernardo had a fantastic run, he was the fourth place overall, he was waiting for us on the finish line for a long time. Muknicka was on the massage table. Renato came soon after me, finishing in seventh overall. Diogo got the seventeenth place. It was very nice to see all of them finishing strong, some pains and muscle cramps but we were in a pretty good overall conditions.

When there was one hour left, Mr Steve King asked those that were able, to meet the athletes that were still on the course and cheer them up, encourage them, because some were going to come very close to the 12 hour cut off. Guilherme and André left running on their new assignment. I told Steve King not to worry, I sent two of the best men and they would take care of everything. Luckly not only them but lots of others also anwered Steve King´s call. Watch below Jonathan Oldfield crossing the finish line. He was the closest to the cutoff of all the athletes, since Ultraman started in 1983!

sábado, 21 de fevereiro de 2015

2nd day - Bike

I didn´t sleep well at night. I was anxious and all the preocupation didn´t let me sleep well. I still kept myself in bed and relaxed, I didn´t look the watch to see what time it was, but it was still too early to get up. I only got up when the alarm went off.

We left the hotel a little before 6 am, it was freezin' cold! We had breakfast inside the van, on the way to the starting line. The start was in the same place where we finished on the day before.

We got there half an hour before the start and there were only 5 teams already there, We did the check-in, re-assembled the bike wheels outside the van and went back inside, where the temperature was much better than the outside, that was around 6 C (40 F).

Little by little the other teams arrived as the day was getting clearer, it took so long for the sunrise that it seemed the sun was as lazy as we were to get out of the van.

With 15 minutes left I started to dress the racing clothes, I used exactly the same clothes I had the day before (they were washed right after I got to the hotel the day before, some case you are wondering). With 10 minutes before the race start I was out of the car and rode a little in the parking lot to check everything. The rear view mirror (mandatory item) wasn´t staying in the right place. The Crew Captain fixed it, with all his ability, a Mechanical Engineer degree and some duct tape.

Mechanical Engineer and Crew Captain fixing the mirror. 
We lined up in the same order we arrived the day before. Renato Valler, a brazilian from Piracicaba was still the 1st place. The atmosphere wasn´t so tense as the day before but we knew it was going to be a tough day to get through. 275 km (171 mi) is a long way to bike! Trung passed checking all the athletes and bikes and he cleared us to go.

Minutes before the start.
Laughing a little before the start of the coldest 275 km ever ridden by me!
Renato Valler in the pole position with the Brazilian colors
and a helmet inspired by Ayrton Senna´s helmet

There were people shouting and a lot of noise before the start. The crews, race directors and volunteers really put a lot of energy cheering for us and keeping our spirits high during the entire race, even when we were in trouble.

There was a countdown, 10, 9,...2,1,GOOOOO! We got on the FL520 highway slowly. Billy Edwards had the best bike split on the day before and took off soon. Nobody went behind or tried to catch him. All the other riders formed a big peloton. There were clear instructions about drafting, it would be tolerated during the first 10 miles because it was a mass start. Trying to be very careful I stayed among the first 4 on the peloton even taking the lead for some time. Triathletes are beings that lack the ability to ride in a peloton, this is made much worse when we talk about ultra-distance-triathletes.

Leaving the starting line.
The peloton on FL-520.
After leaving the highway we´d ride through secondary roads, with much less traffic. Most of the crews were waiting on the right hand curve, just after leaving the FL520. Some volunteers were there giving instructions to break the peloton and spread out!

Even though the race directors were pretty clear about drafting it seemed that some people didn´t understand (or pretended not to understand) the rules. I was riding close to Renato at aproximately the same pace but we kept more than the "legal" distance between us. After a few miles I told some of the competitors that were drafting on my wheel or Renato´s that the "drafting tolerated zone" was over. I was totally ignored and they were even closer to us. I really didn´t expect this kind of behaviour from someone that qualified for Ultraman. In other races (such as Ironman Brazil) maybe people haven´t figured out that triathlon´s all about overcoming your own limits and dificulties, by the rules, that kind of attitude is unaceptable! (my "old school" point of view) No matter what, I wasn´t going to spend time preaching and playing the race official´s role. It was so clear that they were drafting that the exact moment the first race official passed us  they were told do give more distance from me and Renato. The result was that the athletes that were drafting arrived more than one hour after us.

A few miles after leaving FL520

About 40 km into the race we crossed with Toni Marsal, one of the Spanish athletes, going the wrong way. The Crew in the Rock´n´Roll van  stopped Toni and corrected his direction. Guilherme called his team and they were in trouble, they had their car stuck in the mud. A little time later one of the race officials came on a scooter to tell Toni about his team while me, Renato and him were waiting for a green light. Immediately after the race official confirmed that our crews could give Toni a hand  we told him to ask our crews whatever he needed.

The Ultraman uses three Hawaiian words as it´s motto: Aloha (love), Ohana (family) and Kokua (help). Due to the misfortune of Toni´s team the Rock´n´Roll was able to apply this motto for real. The Spanish athlete was "adopted" by our team for the next few hours, untill his team was 100% operational again.

We went  through some very beautifil places close to Lake Monroe. The trees with the airplants formed a tunnel. It was a very different environment from the plains or moutains I had been training.

The air plant tunnels close to Lake Monroe.
The  Rock´n´Roll Van on the back of the photo with the world´s best crew!

By the time we went by km 90 the temperature was much better, it warmed up to 10 C (50 F) and I could feel my fingertips again. My feet would still be frozen and I didn´t feel anything below my ankle till the end of the day.

With 100 km into the race we formed a small group, distant only a few hundred feet from each other, John Kilburn, myself, Renato, Toni and Bernardo. We were able to see each other´s  vans while they were leapfroging. Each time one of the vans would pass us they´d cheer us, Sometimes I´d catch whoever was in front of me or I´d be caught by somebody that was behind me on the red lights. Well in the "Aloha, Ohana and Kokua" spirit everytime we stopped close to another we´d exchange some encouragement words.

Ther pace that I had set was very steady and tranquil, my heart beat was kept a little under 130 bpm and the net average speed was a little over 31 km/h (19,3 mph). The support Crew was amazingly precise and fast on refueling and supporting me. Whatever I needed, whenever I needed their response was almost instantaneous, that was a major factor for getting to the finish line fast.

With 140 km into the race I stopped to relieve my bladder. Another good sign that all the vital functions were working well and I was well hidrated. Just as I got back on my bike the left shoe escaped from the clipless pedal. That was weird since made no lateral movement to release my foot from the pedal.

At km 150 I asked for a sandwich with bread, jelly and cheese, it tasted delicious but... 10 km later I felt it flowback and started to feel a little weak. It seemed that the sandwich stopped the energy absoption and something was going wrong. At the next red light I stopped beside the van and told them that we´d need to go to "plan B" and get me a coke bottle!

At the red light I also checked the sole of my left shoe shoe. There was a crack in the cleat and that´s why my feet unclipped from the pedals a few km before. After the green light I tested the cleat and confirmed that if I pulled the pedal too strong the cleat wouldn´t stay clipped in the pedal. With the left cleat in that condition I´d have to take it easier on the uphills that would come.

20 minutes after drinking coke I was feeling better already and my energy levels were back to normal.

On Dewey Robins Rd we started the only "out-and-back" portion on that day, that´s where the hills started to appear. The race directors were cruel enough to put the hilly portion of the race on the final 100 km (60 mi). I was able to see Chris Isakson (2nd) and John Kilburn (3rd), Billy Edwards (1st) was way way ahead! At the turnaround there was "UltraMom" Jane Bockus, simply the nicest lady, taking notes of our numbers and cheering us up!

After the turnaround I stopped to take the windbreaker off, the temperature was above 15 C (60F). While Carol was helping me, André refueled the fuel cell with coke and GU Brew. It seemed like I was doing a pit stop in a Formula 1 race. Even though we were having so much fun they took their job very seriously..

After getting on the bike again we crossed with Toni. His team was back,  supporting him.

Dewey Robins Rd. the beginning of the hills.

From km 200 on we had uphills, downhills and it was such a relief to get through Sugarloaf Mountain Rd. That uphill is the biggest in the bike course and I really had to do some grinding to get to the end of it with a Triathlon Bike and still look good for the pictures. The last 100 km were a little harder to ride with a Triathlon Bike but the terrain before that it is pretty flat and I thought it was worth to ride a TT because of all the comfort and the extra-speed we get from it.

Grinding through Sugarloaf  Mountain Rd...
And still looking good!

Sugarloaf Rd. was definately the hardest uphill but after that some others would come. Some shorter but even steeper. A special one that made me suffer a lot was "The Wall", I climbed it doing zigs and zags so steep it was. By then I wasn´t going to attack the hills, I had spent too much energy that day and I was trying to relax a little and save some of the energy left for the double marathon on the next day. Luckly all the care I had with the cleats made my shoes stay clipped all the time on the pedal.

At km 232 the GPS screen went blank, that was too bad I had to restart it. I wasn´t able to keep that ride in only one file. On the first and second day I uploaded the race course on the Garmin 910XT and I had absolutely no problem with the navigation. 

From Sugarloaf (km 220) until km 250 the pavement was really rough and it wasn´t very comfortable to stay in the aerobars due to all the vibration. The front tire (700x20) had 155 psi and was bouncing a lot. The downhills were short and very steep, I´d easily get over 60 km/h (40 mph), the best thing to do was to hold the handlebars firmly and pay a lot of attention on the road. A little lack of attention could seriously compromise the next day.

After eating that sandwich at km 160 I stopped eating the powerbars, the only solid food was 3 or 4 bread slices with jelly (1 at a time). I drank a little more than what was planned of coke and GU Brew and had more Roctane gels. That way I could take my 300+ calories from carbohidrates without a lot of solid in my stomach,

On the las 20 km we were riding on streets and roads that we´d be running on the next day. It was a hilly terrain and a good prelude of what was  waiting for us. The Crew was keeping me updated with the results of the other riders. When I was in km 240 nobody had crossed the finish line yet. A little later Billy Edwards crossed the finish line, took the overall lead by almost 50 minutes. That was impressive!

With 10 km left I stopped for a little while, took the second cycling jersey off. The team left to the finish line. I rode those last kilometers cooling down and spinning the pedals in an easy gear. I was just enjoying the nice view of those neighborhoods and recovering my legs for the next day.

With the "Long Distance" jersey to finish the day looking good!

With only 2 curves left I could hear "The voice of Ultraman", Mr. Steve King, the race announcer that appeared a couple of times to cheer us up during that day.

My mom was waiting at the last curve and everyone else  was at the finish line. It was conforting to see all of them again, the Rock´n´Roll Crew, my parents, Patty and Dave Baylor and a surprise, Eric and Tina traveled from Naples to meet us there.

Crossing the finish line on the second day.
I was very happy and relieved to have finish the second day with the fourth best time and climbed one position, seventh overall. I was even more satisfied because I finished without any muscle cramps or major pain. That was a good sign that the effort I made was strong but not too strong.

The only pain I had was on my left big toe, as if the cycling shoe became smaller... go figure it out! A few days later that toenail turned black.

Sway, Carol, me, Guilherme, André and Trung after 277 km

In a few minutes I was already on the massage table with Ben, the same therapist from the day before. The massage was just like the last day. While I was in the massage table the Captain from Toni´s crew came to say "thank you" for the support we gave to Toni. It was a pleasure to help. That´s what "Kokua" is all about!

Recover massage for the double marathon on the next day.
Bernardo and Renato came a little after Toni and I could hear all that mess in Portuguese! I congratulated them and thanked their crews for cheering for me all the way.

We said goodbye, got into the van and headed to the hotel. I had one more of Endurox R4 and a Muscle Milk to start replenishing all that was spent during the day.

We arrived at the hotel and the Crew started cleaning the van. They removed all that cycling gear and left the van much lighter for the next day.

After a shower I had a big steak, loaded potato and a garden salad.

At 9 pm we turned off the light, we had to rest enough to face the double marathon on the following day.

Overall classification after the second day.

sexta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2015

1st day - Bike

After finishing the transition I got my bike, we were ready to get over those 148 km. My best guide, my heart rate monitor, was forgotten in the hotel. That was such a basic mistake! Things just didn´t go worse because cycling is my strongest discipline. I had to measure my effort depending only on my RPE. That´s not what I had planned and trained for. The plan was to have the heart rate monitor during all the bike and run.

The whole bike course is here http://ridewithgps.com/routes/6839972

In the beggining of the ride I had to stop at many stoplights, a punishment for someone wh´s eager to get over that cold day as fast as possible. I´d calm down and have some GU Brew or water on every stop.

After the first 2 km I couldn´t feel anything below my ankle. The temperature was too low (for someone that just arrived from Rio´s summer) and the wind chill made me feel even colder. I´d only feel my feet again back in the hotel.

At the airport there´s an "out and back" part of the course with almost 20 km, through this part I was able to see all the athletes that were in front of me, they seemed strong and consistent with their pace. I waved to them wishing good luck, some of them waved back. In a race as big and complex as the Ultraman if you want to finish strong you have to focus on your pace, not on other competitor´s. To overcome your own fears and pass through all the obstacles that are put in front of you. I guess by that time most of us already had that spirit.

On Narcoosee Road another "no feed zone" started, on these zones the crews are not allowed to feed the athlete due to the abscence of somewhere safe to stop the car and give us food/drinks. On the last turn before Narcoosee André was waiting for me with a full bottle of sports drinks and one powerbar, that would keep me nourished through the next 23 km (14 mi).

Narcoosee Rd. is very long and full of traffic, I lost the count of how many stop signs I had to stop. Whenever I´d see a red or yellow light I´d start stretching my legs and loosenning my muscles. Some red lights took too long to turn green, my patience was tested many times.

Grinding through the 148 km biking.
The Saint Cloud region was a nice sight, first of all because I was able to meet the Crew and refuel myself with more water, GU Brew, GU gel and powerbars. The second reason is because the car was able to follow me and stop right beside me in a couple of red lights. Carol got out of the car to talk to me, that was really nice! The third reason is because it is really a beautiful place, to pass by the shore of East Lake Tohopekaliga was good for sightseeing.

A little before accessing US-192, a highway full of traffic, I stopped to pee. It was a real relief and also a very good sign that all my vital functions were working well and I was hidrated.

After entering US-192 I was feeling very comfortable and well set in the position I was in, I had no problems or pains on my back or on my neck. I was able to stay in the aero position through all the 40 km we were in US-192. There was a crosswind coming from northeast that was a little annoying but the best I could do was to stay tight in the aero position. This part of the course is extremely flat, it is excelent to increase the average speed but at the same time you don´t get any breaks from downhills.

The Crew was with me supporting and doing their "leapfrogs". We finally got to the conclusion that we needed a contact for refueling every 7 km (15 min), with this period it was sure that I wouldn´t be caught without food or liquids for too long.
 After biking 63 km.

The last time I´d felt my feet was before mounting on the bike. The temperature was above 16 C (61 F) but the windchill was harsh. My hands were not as bad as my feet but that wasn´t a comfortable temperature to ride. It was very good to have the aero helmet, without many vents, and the visor in order to keep my head warm.

One of the last parts of the cycling was just after leaving US-192, that was a 30 km country road heading north. It was a lot better to bike there, much less traffic than the highway and we could enjoy the country atmosphere. The Crew was able to give close support and even though we had a strong headwind, the average speed didn´t drop too much. There´s no shoulder on this road but that wasn´t a problem because of the reduced traffic. After training in the plains between Macaé-Carapebus-Quissamã-Barra do Furado with the hard northeast wind, the Florida headwinds looked like a breeze.

Heading north, last 30 km.
I passed Ariel Heller, one of the UltraJews while he was doing some maintenance with his crew. Soon later he appeared in my rear view mirror. We biked a few hundred feet from each other, it was good to have somebody close, after 146 km I met only 3 of them.

The last part of the course was a small stretch of 6 km (4 mi) on highway 528, I was already in "cool down mode" and glad that we arrived before sunset. After the sun was gone the temperatures would go down and it would get much colder than it was.

It was thrilling to cross the finish line. The Crew arrived with me and the total day 1 time was 8:25'50" with the cycling time of 5:08'13". I ended up in 8th place, not bad at all! To me it was a true surprise to be among the top 10, my goal was still to finish the Ultraman within the 12 hour limit on each day, regardless of any place.

Crossing the finish line on the 1st day.
Recharging my energy after the finish line.
The Rock´n´Roll Crew + Sway,
race director and ultra-veteran in UM races.

It was very cold and I headed straight to the heated tent, I had no pains and no muscle cramps. Ben Keyes gave me a very good massage, aplying just the right pressure on the main muscles to increase blood flow and recover faster.

After the massage I went to the van and back to the hotel. During the trip to the hotel everybody had the impression that it was really good for the first day. In the van I took one dose of Endurox and another one of Muscle Milk. It was another marathon to update everybody with the facebook posts. It was so much positive energy in those messages from people all over!

After we arrived in the hotel I went to the shower while the Crew had a chicken breast, caesar salad and mashed potatoes ready for me. Soon later it was already time to lie down and rest, there was 275 km (171 mi) waiting for me on the next day!

1st day - The Swim

Friday finally came. Having the race start postponed to 09:00 made us able to get breakfast in the hotel. I couldn´t eat much, I was too nervous/anxious/tense. We left the hotel at 07:30 and got to the race site almost 1 hour before the start.

It was hard not to be worried with that temperature close to 0 C (32 F)! I went to the lake to feel the water temperature and I heard it was around 12 C (53 F), that wasn´t so bad since the water was hotter than the air. No matter what, that would be the the coldest open water swim I´d ever done.

Guilherme and I took the bike to the stands in the transition area and filled up the "fuel cell" with water and GU Brew, a sports drink with a higher carbohidrate concentration. With the cold weather I wouldn´t sweat so much but I´d still need those carbos.
Guilherme and André (back) taking the kayak to the water.
I got my wetsuit on, putting a lot of lubricant in it in order not to have much shafting. This could be very harmfull for the entire race. With the swim cap, gogles and gloves the checklist was OK, let´s go to the start line!

André had the kayak a few feet from the water. I pulled the kayak to the lake for him not to get wet. I showed him the detais of my wetsuit so he could locate me in the water. He rowed away and waited with the other 38 kayaks for the race start.

At the ramp we were asked to join hands in a circle because they´d make a prayer. Sway, the race director, read a few nice words, wishing us luck and evoking whatever entities we believed in to protect us, guide us and take us to the finish line 2 days later.

Last words of good luck from  Sway..
Oficial picture of the 39 just before race start.

Oficial pictures were taken and we slowly went to the water, we could cut the tension with a knife! The 10 second countdown started and before I could think I was diving in that cold water and starting the first phase of that journey.

10, 9, 8 ... 2, 1, GOOOOO!!!
The kayaks waiting for us.
Race start viewed from the transition area.

The start was very calm. I started in the back of the pack with no hurry. Very different from an Ironman race start, with 2000 athletes fighting for a little space, we rapidly pulled away from each other. The neoprene gloves and boots were full of water and were making too much drag. After I started moving, the body heat I was generating made me feel "not so cold" and that made me calm.

After about 400 m (440 yds) André appeared on my right side. I stopped to give him the gloves and boots. My feet was really cold but my hands soon got used to the temperature.

Our strategy was to André make all the navigation. With him on the Kayak he´d play the part of a "swim lane", just like in a swimming pool. That was the best strategy. I saw a lot of other athletes that had the kayaks in front or behind them that were swimming in zig-zags. 

The nutrition during the swim was done with a stop every 1000m (1100 yds), that was the same strategy I had during training. A sip of GU Brew, a GU Rocktane Gel every other stop. With 5000 m (5500 yds) I´d have half a sandwich with cheese and jelly. On the 3rd and 7th stop I´d have half a Powerbar.

We crossed the 1st 1000m with 17 minutes, a fast pace compared to what we were expecting. That made André worried. We planned to complete the 1000 m in 20 minutes. He asked me to take it easy, we still had 9000m (9900 yds) to go!

Lake Conway´s view, kayaks and athletes.
To swim 10000 m in Lake Conway it is necessary to swim very close to the margin, the biggest advantage of that was that it looked like a panoramic tour. I´d distract myself with every new house or backyard we´d pass by. In some open water races we swim so far from the shore that we have the feeling we´re not moving forward. Another great advantage was the possibility to see the bottom of the lake in many parts of the course. That gave me the feeling that I was really going somewhere. Some little fish and the vegetation would take my mind of all that distance swimming..

After 2000m we made the 2nd stop. It was almost under the bridge where many team crews were. Carol and Guilherme were there cheering for me. It was so good to see them!

Passing the 2000m mark.

We kept swimming/rowing and the lap times were still between 17 and 18 minutes/1000 m. With 5000 m we took a bigger break to eat the sandwich and re-apply more lube on my neck. After that even though I wasn´t feeling tired we slowed down a little. There was still a long way to the finish line and I´d play safe on the swim in order not to get burned out soon.

We postponed the 6000 m stop in some minutes, this way we´d stop under the bridge again and I´d have a few more seconds close to Carol and Guilherme.
The bridge with the crews cheering for us
Carol enjoying Florida´s "warm" weather while waiting for me and André

At the 6000m stop Guilherme told us that we were in 13th place. That was a good surprise! All that due to good nutrition, good pacing and the André´s perfect navigation.

Every stop we´d say a few words and André would make some tests to see if I was ok and not getting into hypothermal state. I´d count from 0 to 10 or 10 to 0 in portuguese and english. Even though that may seem silly all this preocupation showed how much the team was worried and commited to get to the finish line.
Where´s that buoy??? Has anyone seen it?

After about 8500m (9350 yds), before the last buoy, we were pretty close to the opposite shore in a very shallow part. I stood up and took a few steps with the water on my knee. It was good to vary the position and stretch my arms and shoulders a little bit. I talked a little with André and he showed me where the finish line was.

Following André´s orientations I did some breaststroke and some backstroke in order to change the movement a little.

I got out of the water after 5470 strokes, in 10th place overall and very, very satisfied and relieved (the Garmin 910XT counted every stroke, no kidding). In the last few days the swim made me very tense because of the low temperatures and it was finally over! The whole team, my parents, the Baylors and Phil Sagona were there, waiting and cheering for me at the ramp. As I was leaving the water Guilherme told me about the excelent results of the othe Brazilians, Renato was the first out of the water and Bernardo 4th.

The water exit.
The transition was in the back of the Rock´n´Roll van. They left the heater on and it was so good to be in a warm place! I removed the wetsuit and Carol helped me dry. The temperature rised to 9 C (48 F) but it was too cold to start biking wet. Being very careful in order not to get any cramps in the arms or shoulders I started to get dressed. Arm warmers, 2 cycling shirts, 1 wind breaker, a full finger glove and the compression socks. We opened the trunk of the car so that I could enjoy a little more of everybody´s company. Between one and another piece of clothing I´d get one more spoon of boiling hot cup noodles, delicious!

Renato leaving the water in 1st place