By Tony Orru
Standard Distance, June 2nd 2014, Pontevedra Spain
October 2013 I qualified for the 2014 ITU Duathlon World Championship, I was very happy for both the qualification and the destination. Spain was hosting the event in Pontevedra; one of the Top European Destination for multisport. Pontevedra is one of the places in Europe where many talented duathletes and triathletes, such as Javier Gomez Noya, train and compete.
Tony exploring the race expo
Race day was kind of surreal for me. I woke up and dressed. I was very honored and touched to be there, wearing my Team USA Tri Suit..
The run course was a 2.5 K loop through the historical down town with something like 16 ninety degree curves, some sections with cobble stones, and some streets where very narrow. It was tough.
The atmosphere was the one you expect in such kind of events: focused. At the start I exchanged few words with some American teammates, but the atmosphere was tense and no jokes; just people focusing on what they were about to do.
They race director called us to the mark and the bang went off almost immediately. The pace was furious. We completed the track section and left the Athletic Stadium to the streets of Pontevedra leading to begin the first of the four 2.5 K loops. Out there it was such a cacophony: people were screaming and yelling in many different languages; flags, whistles, trumps, drums and whatever you can use to make a noise. I remember all the Americans on the course saying Go USA, Go Orru!!!, The support crew of Team USA was absolutely fantastic and were doing their best encouraging all the athletes.
Crowds lining the streets for the 2014 ITU Duathlon World Championship
For two hours and thirty-three minutes my head reached a concentration level as never before. I do not have memories of the surroundings. It was a kind of tunnel vision. The race was incredibly tough. I remember reading 200 heart beats per minute during the first 10 k and reaching 52 miles per hour on a crazy descent with the bike. I gave everything.
Tony on the run in Pontevedra
Toward the end of the race, the Head of Team USA gave me a small American Flag and I carried it with pride all the way to the finish line. After crossing the line I was overwhelmed by the emotions. I remember some American athletes giving me a hug and a lot of people with tears in their eyes, including myself, and then I remember myself singing the US National Anthem.
Team USA is a big family; it is hard to realize that until you have the experience. From the first minute I walked into the Team USA hotel I felt I was part of something special.
Team USA is one of the largest National Team at the ITU events with more than 200 athletes plus family members and friends. It is a lot of people with a lot of different needs, questions and problems, especially considering that we were in a foreign Country. The Team USA hospitality team was first rate: they were constantly giving us updates, and any sort of information and support.
Team USA mechanics were just awesome. They put my bike together and did whatever was necessary. I do not think those guys slept too much during those days as they had more than 200 bikes to deal with.
Team USA physiotherapists and physicians treated us like pros. They were skipping lunch and working extra hours nonstop to help everyone.
We had briefings, updates, course recons, tips, warnings and whatever was necessary to make our experience a successful story to tell.
Some lessons I learned competing in an ITU event:
- Try to be at the race location as early as possible to get used to the place, climate conditions and most important the course;
- Try to simulate/reproduce during the preparation time at home the characteristics of the course, such as terrain and elevation.
- Try to rest as much as possible before race day. There are many distractions/tasks when travelling and competing abroad, including a lot of logistic on site that take energy and time.
- Avoid overstress and possible injuries due to overtraining. I lost a month because of a plantar fasciitis.
- Stay at the main hotel with Team USA to get the benefits and support of the Team USA crew.
- Go to and pay attention to all briefings and updates. ITU officials are extremely strict in enforcing the rules and deadlines.
- The European field it is very competitive.