Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Ironman Brazil #9 of 30!

Ironman Brazil

I rested for a few days after Ironman Houston and just slept. Sunday was a day alone in my hotel room with the lights out.  I wasn’t going home between events this time around.  With my next race being in Brazil, I would have had to leave Utah after one day of being home.  So, in an attempt to save money on bike shipping, I stayed in Houston an extra day and then headed to Brazil.  I have raced on back to back weekends before, but this would be the first time I would head to an event without going home.  I miss my family a lot when I travel.  A positive here is that I can get some really good recovery sleep if I don’t shoot straight home.

I’m gonna piss and moan about the airline bike check fees again, so skip this section if I am beating a dead horse.  Or e-mail me on how to piss and moan to the right people who can change this.  I have come to grips that I am going to be charged for my bike when I travel, BUT if you are going to charge cyclist and stick it to us for traveling with our bikes I would just like a little consistency.  I’m not even talking about consistency within the industry, but within a company.  The airline staffs are not properly trained and don’t know exactly what to charge, and sometimes they make it up as they go.  A few weeks ago, when I flew United, I was charged $150.... this time I was charged $200.  AND, in the security line, I asked the guy beside me how much he was charged for his bike (with a different attendant) on the exact same flight, he said.... $100!  So I wonder what it is????..... $100, $150, or $200??  The mystery remains..... ok, I am done for now.

I stopped in Rio before heading to Floriannopolis and had a 10-hour layover there.  Having spent some time in terminals this year, I didn’t have any desire to hang out in this one for 10 hours.  I struggled to find an information desk with an agent who spoke English.  I finally found a guy who gave me the skinny on the cheapest way to get out into the city and up to the ‘Christo’ (famous giant statue of Christ).  The statue has been upgraded to one of the ‘wonders’ of the world.  Not knowing if I was ever going to be back in Rio, I set out to see it.  I had my map.... and a piece of paper with the bus numbers I needed to take to get there.  I learned a few things today about the bus system in Rio... The main thing I learned was that if you want to get off the bus at a stop, you needed to ring the bell... Well, the problem was I didn’t know when I needed to get off till I had passed it.  The stops weren’t clearly marked, OH AND I CAN’T READ PORTUGUESE - you just kind of had to know where to get off OR READ PORTUGUESE.  I missed my first stop by a lot and was now way off course.  There was a million buses at each stop and just like you had to ring when you wanted off the bus, you had to flag the bus if you wanted it to stop for you.  This system seemed to be working just fine, if you knew what bus you wanted and could read the signs to get off in time.  I was now off course and my bus numbers I had written down didn’t make much sense.  I poked my head in a few shops until I found a good english speaker in a hair salon.  Armed with a new set of bus numbers, I grabbed a drink and an apple and headed to the Cristo!  A few bus changes later and I had made it!  The tour bus took us 2/3’s up to a lookout area where we had some pretty spectacular views of the Christo above and the city below.  I spent about 15 minutes here before heading to the top.  The statue was huge and impressive.  I was glad I had taken the time to go see it.  I snapped a few quick pictures, took in the views and headed back on my journey to get back to the airport.  Turned out getting back to the airport would be more of a challenge then getting to the Cristo (which I failed at;).  It wasn’t a matter of just taking the same bus numbers back to the airport, different routes altogether.  I figured out that more young people spoke English than the older generations.  I assume they are learning it in school.  I went from bus to bus looking for a young local who could guide me to my next bus.  It ended up being about 5 buses back to the airport.  I got to see a lot of the city this way and got back to the airport with about 90 minutes to spare - great day!

Just like you see in the movies (all of Brazil isn't like this)

I like it here.... I'm tall- ha ha!

I arrived in Florianapolis at night and had high hopes there would be someone there to pick me up.  I came out of the baggage area and sure enough there was a guy holding a sign that said “Jamez Lawrence”  Close enough!  He missed the memo that I would be traveling with a big bike box.  I had to take the top of the box off and the wheels out of the case.  I then flipped the top over and put the bottom in the top.  Once we  did this the case fit in the back seat of the car.  This taxi ride was an awkward one.  He didn’t speak a word of English and I didn’t speak a word of Portuguese.  We tried a few times to say something but ultimately we ended up sitting there in silence with me looking out the dark window trying to see what I could see.  I arrived at the gated hotel and was dropped curbside.  I went in hoping to be in the right spot.  I went to the desk, gave them my name and success, I was in the right spot.  The desk guy didn’t speak English either and we struggled through the check in process.  I figured it was similar to most check in processes and got the job done. 

This wasn’t a hotel like in the US, but rather it was like a large house with smaller rooms.  He showed me my room and I quickly went to bed.  I was on a budget, so I had to make sure that I didn’t sleep through the free breakfast offered by the hotel.  I was worried about sleeping through it with the time changes.  My alarm went off and I woke up groggy and still tired from the travel.  I found the breakfast and it wasn’t what I was accustomed to.  It was fruit platters, baskets of bread and an assortment of coffee and juices.  I ate all the fruit I could eat and ate lots of bread to get in my carbs to build my glycogen stores.  At breakfast, I met a few guys from Argentina.  One of them spoke broken English but he and I were able to communicate.  These guys quickly became my best friends.  They had a car, one of them spoke more English than I spoke Portuguese and they seemed normal!  They invited me to lunch and to the group swim down at the race start later that day.  The lunch place they found was a perfect spot and turned out to be my daily lunch stop.  It was a a bigger hotel (like the ones we have back home) and for lunch they put out a buffet style meal.  You would go down the line filling your plate with a variety of foods that fit your eye, and stomach for that matter.  Once at the end of the line a guy weighed your plate and you payed that amount.  It turned out to be really reasonable for a full plate for food, around 8 dollars.  I quickly learned to choose lighter but filling foods.  I would chose rice over pasta and chicken breast with no bones over a drumstick.  This helped me get the max amount for my money!  My daily eating routine would become the free “breakfast” supplied by the hotel, the buffet style lunch and an inexpensive salad for dinner to get me back around to the free breakfast.  :)

The area was beautiful and my hotel was only one block away from the beach.  I went for a nice walk on the beach to shake out my tired legs from Texas, just a few days before.  I headed down to check-in with my new friends and got all checked in for the race.  I didn’t have any issues with language and they gave all the English speakers numbers close to each other.  When we checked in, we had an English speaker there to help us.  In the afternoon, I hooked up with a pro from Russia named Andre and we headed out on a bike ride to loosen up the legs and get some blood flow.

In preparation for this trip, and many others, I networked to find people who may be able to connect me with others, who are willing to help me along on my journey.  This is a huge part of surviving this year.  I contacted my friend Jerom Thurston, who served an LDS mission in Brazil and asked if he would reach out to his friends in the country and see if there was anyone that would be willing to host me while in town.  Sure enough, a friend of a friend was doing the race and offered to let me stay in his room with him and his mom.  It ended up being a room with a small side room, that had another couple of beds in it.  This is where I stayed.  His name was BRUNO!  This was going to be Bruno’s first Ironman and I was hopeful that I would be able to help him through the day in return for his support on my journey.  Bruno came in and spoke very good English!  I knew the rest of the week was going to go very smooth.  Bruno and his mom arrived late and when they did, we all went out to eat and get to know one another.  His mom didn’t speak much English, but the two of them turned out to be awesome people.  This trip was made perfect because of them!!

Friday May 25, 2012

I slept in as much as I could trying to get all the sleep possible.  This was a tough time zone change for me.  My body lives on Mountain Standard Time (MST) and this was 3 hours earlier.  So when we woke up at 7 in the morning, it was like waking up 4 am.  Race day was going to be fun having to wake up at 4:30 local time, meaning 1:30am MST.  I helped Bruno put his bike together and then we headed back to the expo and check-in so that Bruno could get all checked in.  There was a tri magazine there at the expo.  Bruno introduced me and told them my story and why I was in Brazil racing.  They loved the story and did an on the spot interview with me to appear in the next edition.  I will let you know when it comes out..... not that most of you or me will be able to read it.  Once back at the hotel, Bruno and I jumped in the ocean for a quick swim.  The water was warm but dark.  Visibility was not very good but the water still felt fast.  My arm felt ok and I had a good feeling about Sundays swim.  After the swim we went for a quick run around the neighborhoods to see if we could find a laundry mat so I could wash some clothes.  On the way back home, we found some good shops and I picked up a few small items for the girls.  I picked out some handmade bracelets and a feather earring each.  These would be a hit for sure!!!!  Lunch was again at the buffet and the remainder of the day was getting our bags all set for race day and relaxing.  At night, we headed out to the athlete dinner and party.  We picked up Andre and headed to the feast.  It is pretty much the same spread at most IM pre race dinners... heaps of cheap pasta, green salad and bread.  The place was packed and the energy was rocking.  This is the only Ironman event in South America, so everyone from all the surrounding countries comes to get in their fix of Ironman.  The race sells out within minutes every year!

Saturday May 26, 2012

Today was very uneventful, as the day before an Ironman should be.  Bruno and I didn’t have much to do, so we took off to the local mall to see what we could see.  Bruno wanted to buy Sunny a pair of Brazilian flip flops.  The mall was pretty big and Americanized.  I was good to walk around and mix with the locals.  We did the final adjustments to our bikes, finished getting our gear bags ready and headed down to check everything in before taking the rest of the day off.  We had assigned check-in times, mine being the last check in time of 7pm.  I went with Bruno, with all my stuff, thinking it would be no big deal to check in early.  Typically they assign check-in times for a little bit of ‘crowd control’.  This prevents everyone showing up at the same time to check in.  These guys wouldn’t budge... not even a minute.  There was no way, no matter how much pleading I did, using the language barrier as an excuse as to why I was there early.  I simply wasn’t getting my bike or my bags anywhere close to transition till 7 pm or after!!  Defeated, I sat there with my things and waited for Bruno to check in all his gear.  Two hours later, I returned to the same spot and talked to the same guy.  The clock had struck 7 and magically I was granted entry into transition area.  I guess sometimes I just have to follow the rules!  Upon returning to the hotel, Bruno’s mom had ordered us all dinner.  We sat and enjoyed our last meal.  Bruno seemed calm, but I could tell he was nervous.

Sunday May 27th 2012

We woke up early (I hate waking up early), and the hotel staff had breakfast out for all the athletes.  Pretty much every room was occupied by an athlete and the staff really got behind us on this race week. I ate my normal Rockit Fuel and had some fruit.  We arrived at the race site and the place was buzzing!  Brazil loves it’s Ironman racing.  A quick walk through transition to check the bikes and transition bags.  All systems go!!!  I put on my Blue Seventy wetsuit and headed to the swim start.  The morning was perfect and the waters were calm.  The sunrise was awesome, as all the athletes corralled into a small pen.  We crammed 2500 athletes into a small area on the beach waiting for the gun to go off.  We were standing there and Bruno turned around to the two guys behind us and said

“He’s right here”

I asked what that was all about and Bruno said that the group of guys behind us was asking in any of them had seen the ‘Iron Cowboy’.  ‘The guy doing 30 Ironman races’.  I guess it is time to grow my beard back.....

The pros were standing in the water 30 meters ahead of us and we all were standing on the beach.  BOOM sounds the canon and we are off.  The mass of people push towards the water and flop into the ocean.  I lined myself up on the far right of the pack and again to my surprise found clear water.  I guess my past experiences are paying off, as I am really learning to navigate these crowded waters.  The swim course was unique and was in the shape of an M.  We would do one side of the M of loop before getting out of the water, crossing a timing chip and diving in to do the second part of the M or second loop.  With the wetsuit and salt water combination this made for fast swim times.  I posted a years best of 1 hour and 11 minutes - yahoo!

The bike course was pretty flat and fast with 2 climbs each way of this double out and back course.  I started the bike ride and found that my HR was under control and my speed was up.  I wondered how long this would last.  The bike course was breath taking and one of the best of the year.  I was mad at myself for NOT having my GoPro with me as there were some spectaculars shots!  I came kept running into a guys in a leopard print speedo that read “Budgie Smuggler’.  I had to laugh.  This guy was full of energy and fun to be around.  He talk to a lot of the athletes and had a fantastic energy about him.  Turns out he was from Australia and ended up getting a drafting penalty in the later stages of the second lap.  My low HR and good legs kept going throughout the day.  I rounded the first lap strong and continued to pour it on (under complete control coach) until the end of the bike.  I ended up posting the second fastest ride of the year (5:24) and felt pretty good heading into the run.  I was on the run course with a total race time of 6 hours and 46 minutes.  I could break 11 hours with a marathon time of 4:14 or less.  This I knew I could do.

I headed out onto the run with confidence.  The run was also unique with one larger 13 mile loop and 2 smaller 6.5 mile loops.  The first big loop had a few big climbs in it.  One hill was so steep that most all the athletes had to walk UP and DOWN it.  I was no exception and walked this section of the course.  Despite me feeling awesome and due to the walking of these hills, I found myself behind pace to break 11 hours.  I didn’t care and took the rest of the run in stride, staying under control and being smart with every step.  Breaking 11 hours would have just been a bonus, but not at all important.  I held a steady pace on the two smaller loops and crossed the finish line if 11:13 minutes, third best on the year.  I was VERY happy and I had broken 11:30 in the past two races, Texas and now Brazil.  I went and enjoyed some post race food and a post race massage.  I found Bruno’s mom and friends and asked how he was doing.  They said great, but that he has slowed to a walk.  We hung out and watched all the athletes cross the finish line and claim their Ironman glory.  Just past the 14 hour mark of the race, through the darkness, appeared Bruno with a big smile on his face.  Bruno, you are an Ironman!!!!!  Bruno was happy he had finished, but wished he had done better.  I coach a lot of athletes and all I can say is this - You have once chance to do your first Ironman!  Throw time goals out the window, put together a solid conservative race plan and execute it the best of your ability.  But the most important thing about your first Ironman, is that it should be fun, memorable and for the most par done with a smile on your face!  This is an experience that you will never forget!  After the race we headed out to a local joint and enjoyed some home made pizza.  The pizza tasted great, but by this time I was starving and anything would have been delicious!

Thank you Bruno and mom for all the incredible support during my stay in Brazil.  This trip was certainly made possible because of your generosity.  You will not be forgotten and I am honored to be apart of your first Ironman.  I plan to one day do this race again with Sunny and hope to see you there... but this time with an even bigger smile on your face.  In good spirits Bruno jokingly said “See I told you I would break twelve.....”  He smiled and said “I crossed before midnight!”

For some reason everyone covers their bikes... you get out of the water wet people... I've never understood this.


  1. Awesome race story! Wish I could've been there to interpret, but it sounds like you got by fine. Keep it up iron cowboy!

  2. I loooove this! Brazil looks lovely! That picture of all ya'll jumping in to swim takes my breath away!

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  4. looks like a fun adventure! were the bikes covered when you were checking them in? here in south florida they do that too in case it rains. keeps the bikes dry. but if they were like that on race day, i don't get it either...and i can imagine that brazil probably gets it's share of rain like we do here.

  5. You are amazin' Cowboy! Have a great time in Idaho! Love and Best wishes for all the success you have worked for! T and Niel