Brazilians Igor Amorelli and Pamella Oliveira claimed victories at the inaugural IRONMAN 70.3 Florianópolis. Colorado professional triathlete Nicole Valentine joined the strong field and shares some of her experiences.
It was a little like getting pushed out of an airplane when you are clinging desperately onto the side, your stomach is turning, and you are not quite ready to jump. It was the first race of the season for me and I was not quite ready physically or mentally. But I knew I needed to dive in and get back into race mode.
A poorly handled off season, including a lot of travel and an injury, led to a slow start this year. It has been a painful battle to get back into shape. I felt like I was digging myself into a hole and seeing little progress.
That’s how it tends to go. You put in the work, day after day, and often see zero returns or feel like you are going backwards. And then all of a sudden, things begin to click. So, I was banking on being ready for the race.
Not this time. Although I wasn’t quite race ready, it was an incredible experience to race in Brazil and to participate in this inaugural event.
This was my second time racing in Brazil and I knew I would face fierce competition. The country, which boasts a love of sports, hosts a large number of top-notch athletes. Coming off their summer of training and racing, the field would be in peak shape.
I was taking the plunge by heading to Brazil to face off with the local favorites on their home turf. And traveling to Brazil is tough. It took me over twenty hours of travel each way, including three flights to get from Denver to Florianópolis. This required some race travel strategy.
I was lucky to have a host family for my stay and they were absolutely incredible! I couldn’t have been greeted by warmer hosts and I loved the week of immersion into the Brazilian lifestyle and culture. I stayed with them while preparing for and then recovering from the race. The coffee and cuisine were superb. I enjoyed my favorites: Mandioca, rice, beans, lots of fresh fruit (guava, papaya, white pineapple, mango, bananas) and vegetables, and coconut water.
The race director, Carlos Galvão, ran an extremely well-organized race, drawing from his experience putting on IRONMAN Florianópolis, the South American Championship race held in a nearby location every May. In fact, the 70.3 race followed more of an IRONMAN format with the transitions. We had a changing tent run by volunteers and bags for our bike and run equipment, as opposed to placing everything next to the bike in the transition area.
On race day, the ocean was unbelievably choppy and made for a very exciting swim start. It was shallow for several meters with strong waves and a heavy break. We had to get out through the waves to where it was deep enough to start swimming.
This was one of the harder swims I’ve done – both with the technical difficulty of getting in and out through the waves and the rough ocean water. It was not a wetsuit swim for the pros as the water was quite warm. We had huge swells the entire swim where I often lost sight of the buoys as well as the other women around me. I thrashed through the waves during the women’s pro start and got in beside two other women. However, on the way out I lost them among the huge swells and ended up doing most of the swim trailing them. It was a huge effort to get out of the water and back on shore with the waves crashing over and hauling me back.
The race favorite, Brazilian ex-Olympian Pâmella Oliveira, had a very strong swim and established a lead which she managed to maintain the rest of the day on the bike and run.
The transition from the beach through T1 was fairly long as transitions go. My Garmin recorded over a third of a mile from the beach to the changing tent and then through the transition area.
The bike course was along the main highway where one lane had been shut down for the race. On-ramps, overpasses, a tunnel, and several U-turns made for an exhilarating and fast course. I took the first U-turn a bit too fast and nearly slid into the camera crew as they stopped their motorcycle just ahead of me.
In the end, I did the bike leg with few competitors nearby and only the occasional motorcycle passing. I could see the other female pros strung out, not far ahead of me, on the few out-and-backs and managed to pass one.
Oliveira held off the others with the third fastest bike split.
Local favorite Igor Amorelli established his lead in the men’s field with a race-best bike split of 2:03:04.
It was a hot and humid day of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit, to be expected in Brazil, which made for a challenging run. The run course consisted of three loops and lots of spectator support in town. The course was lined in typical Brazilian fashion with rowdy spectators chanting and yelling. It was a treat to race in Brazil.
In the men’s competition, Amorelli finished the race in 3:46:47, with a 3:36 margin of victory over Boulder pro triathlete Tim O’Donnell, 5:03 over third place Juri Vinuto of Brazil, and 6:12 over fourth place Santiago Ascenço of Brazil who had the race-best run split of 1:11:27.
In the women’s race, Oliviera managed to narrowly hold off fellow Brazilians Beatriz Neres and Bruna Mahn. Oliviera finished in 4:23:04 with an 11-second victory over Mahn and 1:56 over Neres. I managed a solid, but not spectacular run of 1:28:55, to finish in fifth place, over nine minutes down from Oliviera.
All in all, it was an absolutely thrilling experience and a great challenge to race again in Brazil. If you are interested in racing abroad, check out my article on how to make your next IRONMAN a destination race vacation!
1. Igor Amorelli (BRA) 3:46:47 S 23:16 T1 2:20 B 2:03:04 T2 1:00 R 1:17:09
2. Tim O’Donnell (USA) 3:50:23 S 22:49 T1 2:27 B 2:08:15 T2 1:26 R 1:15:28
3. Juri Vinuto (BRA) 3:51:50 S 23:09 T1 2:08 B 2:12:49 T2 1:12 R 1:12:34
4. Santiago Ascenco (BRA) 3:52:59 S 25:25 T1 2:30 B 2:12:40 T2 00:59 R 1:11:27
5. Fernando Toldi (BRA) 3:54:21 S 23:17 T1 2:22 B 2:07:48 T2 1:17 R 1:19:38
6. Luiz Francisco Paiva Ferreira (BRA) 3:58:27 S 22:46 T1 2:32 B 2:09:07 T2 1:11 R 1:22:53
7. Bruno Joaquim (BRA) 3:58:37 S 22:45 T1 2:35 B 2:08:04 T2 1:09 R 1:24:05
8. Felipe Manente (BRA) 4:06:59 S 27:08 T1 2:33 B 2:15:35 T2 1:15 R 1:20:31
9. Alan Baucco (USA) 4:08:50 S 24:17 T1 2:37 B 2:18:30 T2 1:25 R 1:21:54
10. Fellipe Santos (BRA) 4:13:28 S 23:25 T1 2:28 B 2:16:50 T2 1:23 R 1:29:25
1. Pamella Oliveira (BRA) 4:23:04 S 24:25 T1 2:42 B 2:28:55 T2 1:10 R 1:25:54
2. Bruna Mahn (BRA) 4:23:15 T1 2:43 S 28:30 T1 2:43 B 2:26:57 T2 1:13 R 1:23:53
3. Beatriz Neres (BRA) 4:24:00 S 27:43 T1 2:56 B 2:28:19 T2 1:13 R 1:23:51
4. Luiza Cravo (BRA) 4:24:39 S 28:47 T1 2:50 B 2:29:40 T2 1:11 R 1:22:13
5. Nicole Valentine (USA) 4:32:42 S 29:57 T1 2:50 B 2:29:45 T2 1:16 R 1:28:55
6. Mariana Borges De Andrade (BRA) 4:44:13 S 28:45 T1 3:03 B 2:37:20 T2 00:58 R 1:34:08