Tojo Lazzari is a para-triathlete who represents Ireland in this great sport. He tells us about his experience achieving second place in the ITU World Cup in Florida.
From The Flu to Number 2
Soon after I arrived home from racing in Rotterdam I received a phone call from my coach and manager Eamonn Tilly. He said one short sentence that filled me with excitement but also got all the cogs working in my brain. He said, ‘‘do you want to race in Florida?’’ I said "Of course! I'd love to! But… I'm working, no chance of time off… I will also have to ask my family…." I said I would ring back as soon as I know more.
After a long time wheeling and dealing with my boss, I was granted the week off in return for many extra hours of hard labour and to make up the time lost by slaving away over the midterm break. Next, I had to get the green light from my other half Natalia and my super cute newborn daughter Yana. I asked Yana to pass on the message to mum, then booked the flight!
10 days before my flight I was hit hard with the flu. I was devastated because my training had been going so well; I had been hitting all my targets and hadn’t missed a workout but now I was in a bad way. I told Eamonn I was sick and he just said don’t worry, don’t do any training, rest and recover, chat soon.
I was just getting over the flu when I arrived in the USA. Sarasota, FL is a beautiful place, the people are so nice and the race venue - Nathan Benderson Park - was a perfect location to host a triathlon. The course suited me well but it was seriously hot and humid, conditions we Irish are not to familiar with. We were also informed that the swim had been cancelled, which meant my chances at winning a medal just increased dramatically as I’m not a fantastic swimmer.
On the day of the race it was 33 degrees Celsius (91 F) with 98% humidity. I went through the usual pre-race routine: check everything - check in - keep cool - hydrate - warm up and go to the toilet about 1000 times.
We were off! I felt rough, 100 meters in my throat was burning and I was roasting hot, but I told myself the others must be dying as well so I kept the pressure on and made it into transition first. I necked a bottle of salty surgery water as I knew I would need it to get though the rest of the race.
Transition went well and I left on the bike the same time as Oliver from Austria, a legend of an athlete but also a lovely guy. The bike course consisted of 3 laps around the lake within the park. I could see Oliver getting away from me so I dug deep and kept pushing the peddles. Up one side of the lake there was a very strong headwind but a super tailwind down the other side. On the last lap I couldn’t wait for the pain to end but this pain would only be replaced by a new more intense pain on the run!
The bike was fast and I finished a minute or so after Oliver. I heard the commentator shout his name as he left transition and I was entering, I was second! I knew I had a great chance if could hold it together on the run.
2km in I was in another world, the intense heat and pushing myself to the max had brought my mind into a state of deliriousness, I just kept putting one foot in front of another and tried to catch up with the man in the red trisuit in the distance.
I grabbed bottles of cold water at every water station and just covered myself, the shock would bring me round and cool me off for a few seconds until the water evaporated and I was just as hot as I had been before. I kept pushing. I knew a lot of guys were chasing me down. I passed an athlete who went off 1 minute before us in another category. He looked like a guy who had been lost in the desert for a long time, I shouted some words of encouragement and kept going.
I crossed the line in second place! I was never so happy to cross the line, very hot, dizzy and exhausted, suddenly I lost the ability to walk let alone run, with the help of the support crew I was covered in cold towels and led to an ice bath which brought me back to life.
My Friend Havard from Denmark came 3rd soon after me, and that was it, we went out for dinner, cheesecake and a well earned Guinness.
I'm so thankful to everyone that helped me this year, I couldn't train and race without the support from my family, coach, sponsors, Velocity Bikes, Lough Allen Adventure and triathlon Ireland. Currently, I'm really looking forward to putting in hours of training over the winter so I can come back stronger. If you believe you will achieve and I'm a believer. Bring on 2018!