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  • Race Report: ITU World Paratriathlon – Manaus, Brazil – Chris Frost
  • Chris FrostFor my last race of the season I booked a long flight to the Amazon jungle in search of adventure and world ranking points. Actually, that’s not true. It was all about the race and the points really. Adventure would have to take a back seat.
    With the World Championships done and dusted and the last European race of the season in Madrid in September, it’s fair to say that a lot of athletes were already on a break before pre-season training begins for 2015. There were seven countries represented on the start line in my class, in a field of twenty, but only two other Europeans had made the trip. World ranking points are on offer for the first six places in ITU races, which makes picking up points incredibly difficult, especially in Europe where the fields are the strongest. For me this race represented a good opportunity to earn points in order to get a place on the start line in major races next year.
    I flew out on the Tuesday before Saturday’s race in order to get acclimatised as far as possible. The city of Manaus (where England played Italy in their opening game of the World Cup) is known for its heat and humidity. In the run up to the race it was clear that, while the temperature stayed fairly constantly in the low 30s, the humidity could fluctuate very significantly. On the Wednesday morning I tried a loosening run out on the course, with a few race-pace efforts thrown in, and was in absolute pieces after about 3km. Hydration was clearly going to be very important and I crossed off the idea of a sight-seeing boat trip up the Amazon in favour of far less exciting race preparation regime of eating, sleeping and light training in race conditions. I even turned off the air conditioning in my hotel room.
    The day before the race they announced that it was going to be on live TV. The consequence of this was that the start time was to be moved from a relatively cool 0700 to a significantly warmer 1045. This was a river swim, but the Rio Negra is so wide at this point that there is no noticeable current and the water temperature was around 28 degrees so no wetsuits. It was a shallow water start just off the ‘beach’ and I ploughed off as best I could in the wake of Marcello Collett the Brazilian Paralympic swimmer, who is the fastest swimmer racing the ITU circuit at the moment and is clearly part-man, part-speedboat! I got myself some clear water and exited the swim without any major mishaps for the 550m run up the beach and then up the winding concrete path into transition. I had practiced this run a couple of times in the preceding days and saw it as a good opportunity to make up some ground on the faster swimmers – which it proved to be and I took back several places from the swim.
    Out on the bike, the course was four laps of a long flat drag with a dead turn at either end. The course suited me perfectly and I just got my down on the bars and powered away, gradually reeling a few guys in and taking on fluids to get me through the last leg of the race. As I reached the end of the fourth lap I could see Collett exiting transition and, as there was only one bike in transition when I got there, that meant that I as second. I had PB’d the bike leg, finally getting under 30 mins for a 20km (it was 29:59) and I guessed that I was within around 90 seconds of him going into the run, which meant that he was within range.
    As soon as I got out onto the run course I realised how tough this was going to be. It was nearly midday, with little shade and very humid. I just tried to concentrate on keeping my legs turning over quickly and focussed on Collett ahead. However, by the end of the first of the three laps I had pretty much reeled him in, before seeing my number on the run penalty board. I can only guess that this was for going the wrong way around some cones at the beginning of the course. I pulled up at the penalty box to serve a 10 second stop-go penalty and watched Collet pull away again, but had caught him once more shortly into the second lap and then started to look out for the stronger runners in the field to try to work out if they were gaining. Out on the third lap it became clear that, barring Devon Locke moment, I could take the win if I just kept going and I actually managed to enjoy crossing the line for a change, to take my first ITU race win and 250 world ranking points.
    My run split (including the penalty) was 20:58, which was well below par, but turned out to be over a minute quicker than anyone else in the field, which suggests to me that my acclimatisation and hydration strategy paid off. I finished around 2:30 ahead of Collett, with the Japanese, Sato, in third. Several athletes collapsed due to the heat, either on the course or in the finish area, which took on the appearance of a disaster zone for a short while!
    That’s my last race of the season and I now have a couple of weeks off before pre-season training begins again. I’m looking forward to doing it all again next year.

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