I’m not gonna lie, in my short professional triathlete career I haven’t been to such rock bottom as now. What I begun in hopes of it being my most successful pro season yet, it’s been nothing but a disappointment so far. I feel like throwing in the towel and moving on, but I’m reminded that the athlete’s life is far from smooth sailing, and some of the biggest successes often come after the lowest moments.
Let’s rewind a bit.
Over the winter I pursued an opportunity with Challenge Family in being their first ever (if not only for a previous partnership with multi world champ Chris ‘Macca’ McCormack) professional athlete ambassador for the organization, and committed to focusing my 2017 season to the Challenge Family European season bonus. I decided to pursue this route for a variety of reasons:
- I was dissatisfied with the Ironman stronghold in the US, and felt undervalued as a "non big name" pro. Being a professional didn't feel like such.
- My most memorable race experiences came from racing the few Challenge Family events in North America: Canada, Aruba, and California. At those events I really felt valued as a professional athlete, and the race organizations truly valued our presence there.
- I am Italian, but just happen to live in the US. I didn't discover triathlon till after I left Italy years ago, so I never did triathlons in Europe. I was thrilled in trying to make a name for myself in my homecountry.
So, I left my acquired home base of Boulder, which I've called home for the past 4 years. It was with a heavy heart, as I was leaving my friends, girlfriend, training partners and life as I’d known it. Life is made of sacrifices though, and was ready for the challenges & adventures ahead.
I decided to race my first event of the 2017 Euro campaign en route to my home-base in Italy, at Challenge Gran Canaria in the Canary Islands of Spain on April 25, as they’re geographically situated en route from the US to Europe.
-- CHALLENGE GRAN CANARIA (April 25) --
Long story short, I had an awful race.
- I led out of the water in my new TYR swim gear, in front of a double olympic gold medalist. (I couldn't string out the swim like I often can, so that's kinda a BAD too)
- I got to stay at the Mogan Gran Canaria
- It was my career-first placing out of the prize money
- I was jet-lagged from getting there 2 days prior to the race, and packing & planning a 7 month intercontinental trip beforehand must have taken its toll.
- The bike course was the gnarliest piece of road I'd ever ridden, all along the cliffs high above the Ocean, with straight ups & straight downs, and never a flat section (as you can see in the pics below, always out of the aero position!). Not only does this not suit my strengths, but after crashing over the winter and getting a concussion, I was too tentative on the downhills.
- Since the bike course was so hard, it took us a good 30' longer than any other half-distance bike course. I ran out of nutrition & hydration at the 2h mark, and couldn't fill up for another 15k. I went in a hole, which I carried thru the run.
- They say it takes the body 1 day per time-zone crossed to get over jet-lag.
- Pre-ride the course and know the course profile before signing up to a race
- Carry extra nutrition
After a disappointing first showing (which I brushed off as a ‘rust-buster’), I eagerly repacked finally en route to my parents’ house in Italy, which I would call my home base for the season.
As expected, I have been struggling a bit to get my new life going here. Italy and the US couldn't be any different counties. Also it doesn't help that I'm a bit of a creature of habit, and after 10 years living alone abroad in the USA, living in my childhood home with my family (who doesn't know triathlon), has been a shock. After years training in Boulder, it's also been challenging to find proper training grounds & some company on all those long training hours required for middle/long distance triathlon.
Needless to say, my mind hasn’t been quite in the right place.
-- CHALLENGE RIMINI (May 7) --
After 2 weeks in my "new old" home in Italy, I drove to Challenge Rimini on the Italian Adriatic coast, which was set to be my first ever race on Italian soil. I was excited, and the race directors were just as stoked. I had also been collaborating with the race in creating content (race tips for participants).
Another long story short: the race was another disaster.
- I flatted 30k into the ride. Pit-stop didn't seal the slashed tire, and there was no tech support. My career first mechanical and DNF. Especially sad was that my brother, sister, and good friend Rocco had made the trip to see me race
- Stranded on the side of the road, I witnessed some blatant drafting and a lack of race officials
- I led out of the water (but yet again couldn't string out the swim, which is BAD)
- I got to meet race director Alessandro and his wife Romina, and some of the italian pro triathletes
- My wetsuit swimming is not on par to my non-wetsuit swim. New wetsuit might be a bit small, so I ordered a size up (size M). Will conduct wetsuit tests once new one gets here.
- Bad luck happens.
-- CHALLENGE SALOU (May 28) --
The next race on the Challenge Family calendar was Challenge Salou on the Costa Brava of Spain on May 28, 3 weeks later.
- I had my career worst swim, for the first time ever getting dropped by someone in the water. I believe it has to do with my new wetsuit this year being too small, and unfortunately the size up had gotten stuck in customs...
- I got stuck in the chase group, which made for an annoying ride, with lots in the 10-men group getting a free ride
- On the run I was sorta stuck in one gear, probably due to the long-distance training I've been putting in recently
- Wetsuit swimming doesn't seem to suit me, so I will have to work on that, as in these very "tight" European races with lots of good swimmers, it'll be critical to be able to put a gap out of the water!
Next up for me will be my long-distance racing debut at Challenge Venice on June 11 (this Sunday!).
I trust all the training & hard work I’ve put in has to come to the surface at some point, so trucking along!
Thanks for following along.
(All pics courtesy Jose Luis Hourcade www.joseluishourcade.com)