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Cozumel Triathlon takes place every year in September. It’s a very important event, both nationally and internationally, for athletes all over the world, forming part of the "Series Nacional" in Mexico, and also a leg of the Triathlon World Cup. In fact, this year it will be the last meet of the ITU (International Triathlon Union), very important for ambitious competitors who aim to qualify for next year’s World Cup, which will take place in Holland. As opposed to the World Cup, everybody can participate at the ITU event, and you can sign up according to your age category and distance. This year the ITU event takes place in the same place as the World Cup, on the quaint island of Cozumel, resulting in a week packed full of competitions and celebrations from the 11th- 18th of September. There will be a great deal of excitement in the air with events going on in such a complicated and tough discipline. Cozumel Triathlon this year is definitely not to be missed.
To us common mortals, those who can run 5 km look like superheroes, let alone those who compete in 3 disciplines (without taking a breaking, of course). The swimming leg is first, then the cycling, and finally the running. There are different levels based on distance: Sprint, which requires 750m, 20 km, 5 km respectively, and Standard (Olympic) which requires double the distances of the Sprint distance.
Is it crazy or a blessing!?
To us who love sport it is certainly a blessing, helping you to build on a mental strength which makes your body go beyond tiredness, or laziness.
As in any field, behind the scenes of any result there is always a lot of hard work, discipline and dedication; consistently training with no excuses, in all kinds of weather, just showing up and giving it your all.
As a matter of fact, training is the most important part if you want to get the results and pursue your goals, just like Manuel Rocamora, an amateur triathlete we bring to you as a true example of how by starting with pure passion, you can become a champion, and represent your flag. Manuel has been a triathlete for about 3 years now and has managed to achieve incredible results in such a short time, winning one of the first spots to qualify for the world championship in Chicago in 2015, and also for this year in Cozumel, in both the Sprint and Standard categories.
Manuel, when did you start training for triathlons and what made you decide to venture into such a challenging sport?
I always practiced sports when I lived in Spain. When I came here, at first I just enjoyed normal life, until a friend and I decided to take part in the Travesia Sagrada Maya event, which forced me to go back to the healthy habit of early morning training on a constant basis. It required such commitment and gave me such satisfaction that when it ended, my body wasn’t happy at all and demanded more activity! For this reason I decided to sign up with a group which was training for triathlons, with the intention of going a few days a week just to keep my body going. What I didn’t take into consideration was that I would start to become more and more involved, my body was getting accustomed to harsh training and kept asking me for more challenges. Besides, I am a very competitive person and at my first competition I won third place. The podium is really sought after, so when you get there once, you want to do more and more and win a higher place. Plus, as you feel better and better with your performance you want to be up there among the first three, and you can’t give up anymore.
Is it more of a competition against others or just against yourself?
I would definitely say both, because I keep track of all my times and compare them, in order to understand where I need to work harder and improve where I didn’t perform well. Inevitably you also measure yourself with the other athletes. So it is a little bit of both.
What is it that makes you get up every morning and go training without hesitation? What is your strongest motivation?
I am very lucky to belong to a great group, Triproa, in Cancun, with very nice people, where there is not only a good comradeship but also a healthy sense of competition between us, making it a good challenge for me every day and making me push myself harder and harder. This is clearly an important part in my motivation, the people I train with. And on the days I don’t train you’d better keep away from me, as I get very highly-strung! It has become a mental necessity, and that feeling of having missed something and falling behind the others who have trained, is not good. At the same time, it’s the same strength that you have inside which makes you keep running during a competition (even if you are exhausted) or if you see somebody in front of you and want to overtake him. You don’t feel the tiredness or pain because the only thing you want to feel is the pride when you step onto that podium, knowing that you gave it your best and that you performed better than the day before to become stronger than your fellow triathletes who you start to leave behind.
So, what would you suggest to those who are just starting out, or thinking about doing so? Is it necessary to be born competitive in order to practice triathlon?
No it’s not really necessary. What you need to have is a passion for sports and the desire to enjoy them. If you look around during the competitions you see all kinds of people of every size and age, everybody participates to enjoy it, first and foremost; luckily, they are not all crazy like us, the ones who like to compete and win. For the majority it’s just a desire to have a good time and feel good about your body, because you are doing a sport. Lately, high-impact competitions such as marathons, ultra-marathons and iron-man have become popular, and sometimes without the right preparation, just for the sake of being cool. This is very dangerous and can lead to tragic accidents. It is a very hard sport and we need to prepare our bodies for such strenuous efforts, training in phases, step by step, so that our bodies get accustomed to it. If you know yourself and listen to your body, it tells you when it is time to move forward and set your limits higher or when it is time to rest and take a break, but there’s a process you need to follow, eating well and drinking properly, in order to avoid burnout. Find a balance between the goals that your mind tells you to reach and the pace that your body tells you to go at, pushing a little further, step by step. This would be my advice. Besides, there is the high-cost factor to keep in mind. It is a very expensive sport if you take it seriously and train every day. Running shoes wear out in 2 months, and you need to change them and buy good quality ones to avoid injuries; plus, the bike needs to be lighter in order to go faster, you will want to change the spare parts and so forth… So, yes, it’s quite expensive, and at an amateur level you are unlikely to find sponsors.
To be a good triathlete and get results, do you need to be good in all three disciplines, or it is enough if you are very good in one or two?
This is a much discussed topic, but if you are a great swimmer or a great long-distance runner, it doesn't mean you are also a great triathlete. It is necessary to be averagely good in all of them and learn to handle transition - the time between one discipline and the next, which still counts in the total timing – in a smart and fast manner. Running a 5k or 21k race only is not the same as running them after swimming and biking, when your body has already been through quite an effort. It’s very important to train all three of them in a balanced way and work on the transition timing. Most of all, at a professional level it is very important to reinforce the swimming part as it is the first leg of the competition. If you don’t position yourself well, you risk losing ground and falling behind at the first transition, making it more difficult to get back to the front.
What were your biggest challenge?
The World Championship in Chicago, without a doubt. It was very exciting to be there among all the countries, and representing my own flag was very flattering and emotional. It is very complicated to conquer the podium in these kinds of competitions because the best of each nation is there. It’s a situation where you show up and give the best of yourself. You get on the start line and enjoy yourself. I set a personal goal not to let anybody overtake me during the run. I knew that I wasn't going to reach the podium, but to be there and crossing the finish line made me feel like one of the professionals on that blue ITU carpet that we always see on TV. It was a great feeling even though I didn’t achieve my best time.
What is your next challenge?
This year I am going to compete in the ironman competition in Cozumel, and from there I will focus on long distance and participation in international events where I can also visit new countries and enjoy them. It will be more recreational and less competitive.
What is the route like in Cozumel, and how did you find it?
Cozumel route is quite hard for me because there is not much of a change in morphology. It is very flat and closed in, therefore there is no wind, and the heat and humidity are sometimes unbearable. For athletes from here or from tropical countries we are quite used to it, though it is still a challenge, but for those who come from cold places the temperature can make their race complicated. The good thing is that it is concentrated within one part of the city and there are many people supporting us and cheering us on at every corner. Also, Cozumel is very accustomed to these kinds of events as they have them all year around, and the locals are very much involved, participating actively and merrily.
And which category are you going to compete in for this ITU and World Championship?
I will do everything, Aquathlon, Sprint and Olympic Triathlons. As I am already here I will enjoy it all and I will take it as training for the half-Ironman which will take place in October, also in Cozumel.
Of course! What a silly question! I am not sure how you guys see it, but to me they are superheroes and I have so much respect for those who commit to a sport with such devotion and dedication. Well, many thanks to Manuel for his time, and good luck to you and all the athletes in the week of competitions in Cozumel.