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OBRIGADA!!! Experience of a lifetime, Brazil.

Updated: Oct 22, 2018

Photo Credit: Aric Schwan; Paul Romero, Caio Vaz, Jono Schwan, Spencer Rathkamp, Zach Miller, Michele Yates

I've tried to write numerous blog posts without success, so I will give you my Brazil recap and then all the juicy stuff from the past 6 months in a different blog :) OBRIGADA (THANK YOU!), one of the many new cool words I learned while taking advantage of the opportunity to race for team USA in Brazil at the Rocky Man games this past November. Things certainly didn't go as planned in SO many ways, but that is what makes life exciting! The team was made up of Paul Romero (Team Leader), Zach Miller (men's mountain running), Michele Yates (women's marathon), Spencer Rathkamp (MTB) and (BMX), Caio Vaz (our 1 allowed international, he is from Brazil (Surf), and Jono Schwan (Skateboard). I also have to include Aric Schwan (Jono's dad and SUPER helper crew for all of us at this event)! The events, mountain running, marathon, skateboarding, surfing, BMX, mountain biking and then team outrigger canoe and team run... over 2 days time. The journey started out meeting up with TIME BOMB Zach Miller ( I say time bomb because he is such a reserved, laid back guy and then EXPLODES~ with some seriously sweet butt kicking!

Zach Miller - Photo Credit: Aric Schwan

Zach and I traveled together from Denver to Toronto (by the way their airport reminds me of a night club, wine bars and fancy seating everywhere in the international terminal!), then Toronto to Sao Paulo, then Sao Paulo to Rio De Janiero. LONG TRIP! ...but all went smoothly. One thing to keep in mind is you manners. One kiss on the cheek for Sao Paulo peeps and a kiss on each cheek for the Rio's. ;) Upon arrival (it was humid but not too hot actually.. forecast was calling for unseasonable RAIN). to Copacabana hotel, were taken by surprise when ordered to just pull up on the curb. Yup like squeeze in between this tree and the glass doors up on the tiled sidewalk. Small elevators (like normal coat room closets), took us up to our room. I'd be sharing with Paul and Zach. I took it like a champ :) ...or like a typical ultra runner. Kind of made me feel at home, like out on a mountain in a tent with the boys. 3 small twin size beds would be "home base" for us. We made it work well.. and even hung the American Flag from our mirror. Right out our window was honking horns, breaks screeching and the sound of hussle and bussle. Reminding me a lot of New York City ( I would later talk with a gentlemen actually from Brazil but lived in NYC 1/2 the time and described it the same but with a beach and hot!).. Rio has a bit more character I think. Little fruit smoothie bars were on every corner and vendors lined the streets. I found love for a blended Acai banana mixed smoothie which I could not get enough of and HIGHLY recommend if you visit. Zach and I also fell in love with BANANADAS!!!.. They were just these mushed together bananas with a light sugar coating :) We were only 2 blocks from the beach, boardwalk, and numerous activities going on. Anything from sitting and having tropical drinks or coconuts to plyometrics with a personal trainer.

Paul, Zach and I on the beach and boardwalk Copacabana

After settling in, we went out on shake out run and found us some coconuts! Muscle beach also exists in Rio... it's hidden behind that mountain area behind us in the above picture. Guys pumping iron and doing pull ups-seriously! Paul and I decided to bomb their workout and show them up a bit :)

Paul and I, muscle beach- Rio...yes my tank even says "Muscles and Mascara" :)

As the next day arrived and I thought to actually put on mascara.. I quickly learned, it would be difficult in Brazil! It's so humid there (like nothing you've experienced), that my mascara wouldn't dry it just kept giving me black eyes even though it was waterproof! Ha!Ha! We had the pre-event meeting that evening and the race director talked on...Jockey's with their horses and trainers would slowly trudge by not even 10 yards away from the elegant out door seating. The meeting was at the jockey club and actually really part of the "experience to remember too." It ended up being a late night for us, Paul informed us that that is how Brazil rolls... late :) FINALLY some good food in my tummy (including an acai night cap :), we hit the sack for a quick 5 hour nap before we had to be up to race. I slept hard but I had some serious stomach upset due to the watermelon juice we drank at the meeting the night before- SERIOUSLY I THOUGHT?!.. I eat at least 2 whole watermelons a week by myself.. and even have some aloe juice that has watermelon juice in it, so what is going on?! Uhg.. well it cleared out just in time to hammer down on the post card perfect beach course.

Paul Romero telling me to get my butt moving! Photo Credit: Aric Schwan

Although Rio is known for it's hot, humid climate, they were experiencing crazy, cooler rainy weather (which I enjoyed!).. but high winds and a bit of a long course would challenge all of us lady marathoners. Slow times with hard effort wouldn't portray what I wanted for a result, but it'd have to deal with it because tomorrow it was go time again- outrigger canoe and 10k team challenge. After finishing, we had just enough time to scope out the surf competition where waves and weather would also be a challenge for Caio, our USA surf competitor.

Caio Vaz Photo Credit: Aric Schwan

There was little or no food to nourish us as we all jumped in the car to make the few hour drive to support Spencer Rathkamp our men's mountain biker and bmx.

Spencer Rathkamp - Photo Credit: Aric Schwan

This hardcore dude would do back to back competitions for us but ran into some bad luck with two blown tires in the mountain bike and getting put in a crappy undeserved heat in the BMX. The totally awesome thing was, we got to see the mountain bike course, that of which will be the Olympic mountain biking course next year! After a solid dinner, bed time, we were up at it again bright and early to support Jono Schwan, one of the best skateboarders in the world at the ripe age of 18!

Jono Schwan - Photo Credit: Aric Schwan

Jono would rock it for us! Finishing 2nd place to help move us up in our team position. No time to waste for him either, he'd be the only one who would have to compete, then do the team outrigger canoe and team 10k run all in the same day.

First up, team outrigger canoe.

This was by far my favorite part of the trip. I fell in love with rowing as soon as our AWESOME steersman, Bob, showed us how it was done!

Bob showing me how to get it done! Photo Credit: Aric Schwan

A sigh of relief for me, it was going to be an in water start due to the weather conditions (those being a bit stormy, choppy, wavy waters). An out of water, push start was going to be a challenge for me given my height. In practice, I would miss the "jump in" due to my height trying to do my part in pushing the boat in all the way. I just had to learn quick that I could not run as far in as the guys in front of me! Anyways, all the teams were in the water trying to hold their mark. Before we knew it, we were paddling like crazy crashing into other boats as they crashed into us. A few hundred yards after the start of the race, team USA was in the water bobbing up and down like buoys wondering what the heck just happened. I can recall a short instance where I knew we were going over and I didn't want to get hit by the outrigger. I was sitting right behind the big beam. Once we did hit the water, we all knew our jobs (thanks to Bob who did a great job with us newbies in the canoe). However, they didn't seem to be working. We were in the water for 18 minutes! We were able to flip the canoe back over but the waves just kept filling the boat back up. FINALLY, we got it going again... making up 8 minutes that we lost! Not only did we succeed over the other boats that flipped (none of which were able to flip their's back over), we were able to pass a few teams too!

Spencer, Caio, Michele and Jono - not pictured - Zach who was umm...I don't know :)

Upon arrival to the shore, I was selected to jump out and run up the steps through the finish line for team USA. time to rest, we all quickly rinsed off and got our things together for the team run. I slammed a GU Energy gel with water and threw down a BANANADA then made my way to the crowded start.

And... we were off! All team members had to stay together.. umm that seemed fine until we all started and there is a hundred of us all wearing the same neon yellow jersey (yes everyone from every team)..and I didn't think to "Americanize" us in some way so I could tell who or which guys in front of me were my guys! ..So I ended up losing them for a bit as we all made the climb up a mountain. I felt at home and excitement though! The first time I got to get on a trail since I was there and I certainly had to make use of it. Losing the guys could have meant a penalty, although I was yelling to them and they were yelling back so they weren't too far and I just had to do some Tarzan and Jane action moves to make my way up to them, IT WAS AWESOME! Once together I was seriously impressed with these boys. Jono, Caio and Spencer were all nervous about their running ability. They killed it. I mean really..they all had down hill technical talent and they all held an excellent pace on the boardwalk and through the sand. But just to point out how awesome crazy this was...we ran through the Favelas, squeezing through the narrow "hallways" and dodging dogs, people playing cards on the sidewalk and stairs (a very humbling portion of the trip as well).

When we finally crossed that final finish line, we were spent. It was good enough for a 4th place team finish though! I was so proud of those boys. Zach held us all together at the end and I think I may have been noted as "team mom." :) A huge thanks to Paul Romero who put it all together and presented the opportunity to us, Bob- our steersman, no way we could have done it without him and I seriously found a new sport to love thanks to him, and of course Rocky Man Events #rockyman2015. Catch their videos and get all their stats here :


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