If you saw Thomas and me on this parking lot, packing our tandem in a beat-up cardboard box, changing in a rush to catch our flight without having a chance to shower, you would understand all the charm and all the absurdities of Paratriathlon. This weekend we were in Florida for the 2017 Sarasota ITU Paratriathlon World Cup, the last race of our busy 2017 season. This was our first triathlon on the international circuit. We were both nervous, anxious to prove ourselves that we could hold our own against some of the best Para triathletes in the world.
But first, let me give you a few reasons why my guide Thomas is a bad a$$:
#1 He met me on Friday right after spending two hours in the emergency room, after being hit by a cab while he was commuting by bike
#2 When I asked how bad it was, he just responded that the bike was ok
#3 He never even considered not racing
#4 He can dismantle and pack a tandem in less than 15 minutes
Even if I worked really hard on improving my swim this winter, I was glad when they announced that this triathlon would be turned into a duathlon. They had to cancel the swim because of an unusual amount of blue-green algae in the water. But the humidity, the heat and the wind were going to slow us down.
We started with an aggressive run, arrived in transition in first place. I was happy to get on the bike, it would help me to cool off just a bit. The wind was so powerful that even when we were pushing like crazy, we couldn’t go above 21 miles per hour. I kept telling myself that all my opponents would have the same problem, but a part of me started to doubt.
When we finished the bike I made a rookie mistake. I unfastened my helmet too soon, the referees yelled at me and told us to stop in the penalty tent. The start of the second run was brutal, we were still in first place, but I felt terrible. I couldn’t push, I was overheating. Thomas poured several bottles of water on my head, but my heart rate stayed very high (zone 5). This was the moment for which I had been training all year, this was now or never. I kept talking to myself like a madman. During a U-turn, Thomas spotted the Venezuelan athlete in second place, estimated that he was about two minutes behind us. I became more confident, pushed a little more. The final mile was a blur, all I remember is my brain complaining about the heat.
Crossing the finish line with Thomas in first place was very special. He made many sacrifices to be there, probably spent more time with me than with his wife this past year, this was our celebration. Together, at this moment, we were proud of what we had accomplished. So yes, if you saw us on this parking lot a few minutes later, rushing to get to the airport, you would understand what it is to be an amateur athlete. It is a work of love, it is about friendship and determination. It is about sport in its purest form.