Jennifer Walrath is a member of District Multisport, originally from Nebraska and can sheer a sheep (fun fact). She shared her experience of getting a podium spot at the Havana 70.3 event held February 25, 2017.
Ah, Cuba. I had been meaning to go for some time and finally pulled the trigger - and I loved it! It is a beautiful country with good rum, fun fruits, and tasty pork and fish dishes. And thanks to Chris, we stayed in a casa with a great view of the ocean. Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the country, though, were the Cuban people. They were friendly and helpful, and no one laughed at me as I practiced my Spanish.
On the flip side, as Chris said many a time before we left, one does need to pack patience when traveling to Cuba. There is a lack of certain amenities and some dysfunctionality at times. Race wise, before the swim, for example, race officials waffled back and forth more than once about whether the swim would be wetsuit legal. Ultimately, it was, but many a person got lots of practice donning and removing their wetsuit. Along similar lines, it was not easy to find suitable pre-race food (hence Marcie's pre-race breakfast of seafood pizza), and there were only two pre-race port-a-johns for approximately 600 racers (definitely NOT a good situation).
All of that said, I would go back to Cuba in a heartbeat, and if you can, you should, too!
For those keen to read more, on to the race...
The Swim: We swam in the canals at Marina Hemingway. Easy sighting, for the most part, though some unexpected currents made things a bit more challenging. T1 was a short run from the swim exit. A new thing for me, everything in transition had to be kept in a bag. I'm told that this is customary for full Ironman distance races, so I considered it good practice for Placid.
The Bike: The course made its way through a busy part of Havana before heading out of town on a large highway (think interstate). It was hillier than one would expect on an island, but more long grades and false flats than difficult climbs. Road conditions were a little dicey at times, and there was a lot of exhaust in the air that made breathing rather unpleasant. Safety-wise, I would say that it was a more stressful bike than usual. The course was more or less closed, and there were volunteers and police along the route to control car and foot traffic, but people and cars still crossed the course at the most inopportune of times - and seemed not to appreciate how fast riders were going. Thankfully, I only saw close calls, no accidents, and overall, it was a rather fast and well-supported course. There was cold water at the aid stations, which was monster awesome.
The Run: As you might imagine, it was HOT. Someone described it as running on the surface of the sun, and it certainly felt that way. The run was entirely on the Malecon, which is a road in Havana with several miles of an uninterrupted view of the ocean. Alas, the view could not make up for the burning of the hot, hot sun. There was no shade, and unlike the bike, the water at the aid stations was warm. There also was no ice to be found - except around mile 8, where one woman held out a small grocery bag of ice. I grabbed a handful and exclaimed something along the lines of, "Oh yeah! That's the stuff!" They probably thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. Pretty sure that one handful of ice got me to the finish line!
The Finish: Sweet, sweet victory. And a mad (slightly rickety) dash to cold water and blessed SHADE. I reunited with Chris at the massage tent and a lovely Cuban woman gave me a Thai-style massage. She is my Cuban hero.
Whew. So that's it! I'm sure that I forgot lots of things, and happily will regale anyone who wants to listen with more tales of Cuba and the race. Few photos - Chris finishing, my podium moment, and the DM racing crew enjoying some post-race beach time.
Finally, HUGE thanks to Chris, Philip, and Marcie for being great travel buddies, and thanks to everyone who cheered us on there and from afar!
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