When in Brazil – XTERRA Brazil Costa Verde
The Race: XTERRA Brazil Costa Verde
Distances: 1500m swim 25k mountain bike, 9k trail run
Products used: Blue Seventy Pointzero3, Specialized S-Works Stumpjumper 29er, Specialized Fast Trak tires, Rudy project Noyz glasses with photochromic lenses and helmet, GU brew and roctane gels, Avia Avi Stoltz.
Finish: 1st overall female
Nowhere does the XTERRA slogan, “Live More” ring true than Brazil. So much so, it should be rewritten, “Brazilians live more than anyone else,” or something like that.
Hence the reason I’ve been itching to head down south. I’d heard nothing but good things about racing Brazil, so when I got an unexpected offer it was one I couldn’t turn down.
Like most of us who hail from the US, I lack proficiency in other languages and Portuguese would be the eighth language (if you include Hawaiian) I’ve attempted to speak this year. So I stick to the bare minimum, hello – “Ola,” that’s easy, but more importantly, thank you – “Obrigado.”
A red-eye flight from DFW got me to Rio bright and early with the relief of someone standing at the arrivals gate holding up a sign “Emma Garrard” – a rare treat and one that undoubtedly makes anyone feel special.
A scenic coastal drive to the Portobello Resort and Safari followed. The hotel was my accommodations and the venue for XTERRA Costa Verde. The secluded beachfront resort is lined with palm trees looking out over the South Atlantic.
I saw all this tropicalness in photos and assumed it would would be super hot there packing beach clothes only to find the locals wearing jeans and jackets – after all, it is winter in the southern hemisphere. Still, an ideal temperature for racing.
Still in a red-eye haze I kept thinking “Am I really here? Is this really happening?”
Things seemed to only get better. My room overlooked the coast and staying there included three meals a day, lots of healthy fresh stuff including the essential tropical fruits – mango and papaya.
Needless to say, come race morning I was pretty relaxed, despite the techno beat that had started two days prior, reminding me I was time to race and well, party but here the words were synonymous.
I was hoping I’d have something good to celebrate come dusk.
We lined up ‘marathon style’ at the top of the beach for the start of the swim, about 10 across. I wasn’t the only female on the front line which had me worried I’d get trampled soccer-stadium style. Not the case. The start format alleviated the usual bottle necking at the first buoy. The swim was two laps, a larger lap followed by an unexpected long beach run and a smaller inner loop. Non-wetsuits for pros, wetsuits for age groupers (see it really wasn’t that warm there) I never found a good set of feet on the swim but managed to come out of the water first – or so I thought.
Approximately a 15-mile loop, mostly flat, some smooth, some bumpy with lots of water crossings, most of which were ridable and lined with spectators some of who were cows.
A more technical part of the course was singletrack through the jungle and everything you’d expect: exotic fruit, vines, snakes, mud and slippery moss-covered rocks. This was all on the ‘Safari’ part of the resort. I ran the faster-rolling Specialized Fast Traks on my Stumpjumper for the faster sections. They also shed the mud fine. I rode the technical sections smoother than pre-riding despite some almost necessary dismount, hike-a-bike sections.
Similar terrain to the bike, it was part flat and fast, part flat and rough and part and really really steep, muddy, off-camber jungle goodness. And don’t forget that water crossing.
I was about 95 percent sure I was in the lead at the start of the run, so I was excited. This would be my first XTERRA pro win, and what better place to take the victory than in Brazil?
But I had a tough run to get through first. The first 4k was all about turn over, a giant mud pit marked the halfway point where I’d learned from experienced racers it was best to take the Avi Stoltz off to run through to save running the rest of the race with one shoe on.
I knew the second half of the run would be twice as hard and take twice as long, but at the same time it was more interesting. Hills so steep I used my hands to climb up followed by equally steep descents, thus the reason I opted for a trail shoe.
Not having a great understanding of Portuguese, I was pleased to here ‘primeiro’ before hitting the final stretch of pavement toward the finish where I followed a honking moto all the way in.
Felipe Mollet won the men’s race, with South African Lieuwe Boonstra in second; he claimed it to be his farewell triathlon. Brian Smith was leading when he suffered an unfixable mechanical and DNF. Perhaps infected by the energy in Brazil or his own craziness, Brian signed up for the evening 50k having never raced more than a half marathon before.
THE 4TH LEG
When I crossed the finish line it was a full-on, to be expected, Speedo and thong beach party, and I’m not talking about Havaianas variety. Many competed in the open water swim challenge or were one of the 2,000 people racing in either the 50k/18k/9k night runs if they hadn’t raced the triathlon.
In Brazil, it doesn’t matter how you do in the race if you don’t hold your own at the party. The crowd had been going full gas since 6am, kids included. Was it really going to live up to my expectations? Absolutely.
I didn’t want to live up to the reputation of going to bed early so I could get up and train boring seriousness some expect from pro athletes.
I had a good reason to celebrate but really didn’t need one, after all I was in Brazil.
Fast forward, feeling somewhat out of place because we’re the only non-Brazilians in the crowd who don’t know the lyrics to songs played by the popular band onstage. Kids are falling asleep standing up, but it’s not bedtime yet, even if you’re six. Gotta teach ‘em young here.
I put in a valiant effort which resulted in being called a ‘white belt.’ Bummed with the current exchange rate I’d say that’s a ‘black belt’ in the US.
I got to sleep in, but the kids had to wake up early do the XTERRA kids races. I mustered up enough energy to play a game of beach volleyball (really need to work on this before I return to Brazil) and beach soccer (or futbol) where I had one of those I-can’t-believe-I’m-playing-soccer-on-the-beach-in-Brazil-this-is-awesome-moments.
There’s no doubt the energy in Brazil is infectious. Something I hope we all can experience and bring a little home.
I’ll part ways with a couple more Portuguese words courtesy of google translate: