Xterra Brazil, Ilhabela
3rd, a very long way back
Having blogged about the savagery on bike and run here on an island with nothing flat but the ocean’s horizon, right on the 8am scheduled start time deep grey clouds appeared along with white caps and a light spitting rain, ensuring the swim would not be out done by bike and run, 10ft pier jump not withstanding.
None was more surprised and frowning than I, having checked the weather ten days in the past three days at least. Hourly updates, the whole hog. I was trying to decide on tires and opted for the it-will-stay-dry option of Fast Traks. I shouldn’t have had much time to brood, but since transition check-in was a bottle neck, the start got pushed back to 820ish. Weather, delay, queue – if I were frowning I’d have been a lonely frown. Brazilian culture is a deeply positive one. It’s fantastic to sense it, then observe it and be drawn to it. This pre race observation would be a theme for a the day.
I thrived in the very rough sea, getting clear and noted a 30sec lead onto the pier to Conrad Stoltz in second. The pier was lined three deep for a raucous mid swim moment of happiness before launching like a doomed sailor off the plank into a near spring low tide. Being no brave soul I was glad not to have to dive, which is barely manageable at high tide. Quite a fun swim feature, certainly more enjoyable than the wavy water swallow breathing I was into for the rest of it.
I made good headway onto the bike, dodging locals commuters who felt the coned off lane was safer for their use as well. It hadn’t got wet, but was a little more moist than tacky. I was glad for the tire hold out though, and just as I started to ease into more confident space re equipment, I noted a faint click on my left cleat. I immediately dismissed the possibility, knowing the implications, knowing the likely probability considering I changed shoes a week ago…
By the time it was real loose, perhaps 8km in, I tried to way up my options. Best case was begging an Allen key set, which I did not have, for Stoltz – who likely would. When he caught up at the foot of a little hike a bike I asked, and a sympathetic Afrikaans replied “ek het alles behalwe”. Seems he too was cautious for the 1000m elevation gain of a ride.
Soon after I could not power equally, and then could not un-clip at a hike a bike portage. Having toppled over like an empty sack of potatoes I did a three sixty with my shoes. The ship is sinking. At the top of that portage I couldn’t engage the cleat again, after inspection appreciated the dilemma of a one missing screw.
Let me tell you this is a positively less than desirable sight. My only thought other than panic for the crazy descent quickly approaching, was that Dylan was not going to be very impressed. I’d be facing a mouthful later. These must be the only bolts he would not have checked. If you are not a cyclist – this idea might seem ridiculous and it is, but these bolts get a lot of tension on them, such that whenever you redo them, you must one, apply a grease of sorts and two, tighten again after a week of riding. On the up side, I’ll be doing both these going forward. Always.
My one option prior to losing one of two bolts was to stop and wait for third place in the hope that they were carrying a three mil. But if they then were not… I decided to keep running the ups and nursing the descents, with a saddle gripped between my thighs.
Most frustrating was not getting to enjoy the most incredible section of forest riding I’ve ever done. I was like a unwilling child dragged through the grocery store by a marching mother.
The pedaling I could do was very asymmetrical. But I did manage to get up some climbs, and could move through the flats to T2 alright. By this point the relief was immense, plenty better than the once worst case scenario. Only a the young Brazilian defending Champion from 2012 was off the bike 30sec back from my battered stride.
A favourite race moment was an audible moment when leaving transition to the crowd’s over enthusiastic cheering, which change tone to a of a lower octave indicating error. To which I looked up and round and realised I had should not be heading out the swim entry. So such a fun interactive moment, one to remember. There is apparently nearly 3000 entrants across all of the weekend events, such that there was plenty vibe about.
We ascend what could just as well be steps, but is somehow a road every car would use in first gear. For this I was able to hold my own, but the lad dropped from the summit in a free fall of sorts. Touching ground and leaf only when needing to change direction, well so it sounded. Brilliant trail run fun, just a pity of my fragile state and lack of speed. And so it was.
Stoltz getting back on the board with a deserving effort on an extreme course. Felipe is a local icon and got the loudest applause for his successful hunt. I’m real pleased for his result. And I, well I best bare that Brazilian attitude despite deep frustrations and regret.
What remains is the story of Dylan. For all his sandbagging he swam like the athlete of old and apparently jumped the pier in the top ten. Having some spectacular starts before, much to our amusement at an implode, this time he hung tough and biked well. I got to cheer the man across the last of beach sand. Joyful pride. His schedule as international mechanic is not accommodating to an active lifestyle and I so respect his effort to keep moving. He could have been on Ilhabela and just supported, but he rose to the occasion. Salute. Hopefully not our last, and hopefully a story you can relate to and take inspiration from.
A few Caipirinha’s are scheduled before Monday’s depart. And then some much needed tlc at home. Hoping I can correct my niggle and imbalances before the Oyster Festival, which is the next gig.
Last word goes to Bernardo Fonseca and his team, for bringing us out to Ilhabela and producing an excellent adventure. Classy and well rounded detail – your events remain world class. Congrats to the entire team.
I promised myself in 2006 than I would return and win here. So seems I’ll be returning. Anyone keen to join?
– All images thanks to Jonine, the missus of Dylan.