6 minute read

From Ecuador to Montréal, to Jordan

Each athlete’s story is different. I shared mine with them, and I’m now sharing it with you.

The past few weeks have been quite busy with work and training. I had promised you a recap of my Salinas ITU World Cup Triathlon competition, so here it is with along with a quick update on my preparation for my next competition.

I left Montreal on August 25, heading for Salinas, Ecuador. I was super excited to have the opportunity to race for the second time at the World Cup level. Even though I knew the race was going to be tough, I felt great and was excited with the idea of competing alongside top athletes in the field.

I arrived in Salinas on August 25th at 10:00pm. Climate-wise, it was humid (80%) but not too hot with 26°C. I had dinner and then hit the rack.

 

ITU Development team and athletes

Photo by Wagner Araujo / ITU Media.

Wednesday morning I met with the ITU team. I was happy to meet new athletes, coaches, and managers from different parts of the world like Aruba, Serbia, Cuba, Hungary, Germany, Mexico, and Ecuador. We had great support from a coaching, accommodation, food, and logistics standpoint.

I trained over the next days and took a break on Thursday – I slept all I could because I really needed the rest. On that day, each athlete had an individual meeting with the director, manager, and the head coach of ITU team. They wanted to find out more about our lives and training, and wanted to figure out the best way to support us through the upcoming years until Tokyo 2020. Each athlete’s story is different. I shared mine with them, and I’m now sharing it with you.

My story

Making one’s way to the Olympics requires not only talent, passion, courage and determination, but also many hours of training. An athlete aspiring to make the Olympic team needs to train at least 35 hours a week. What’s more, expenses can be quite considerable: nutritious food, food supplements, clothing and equipment for the three disciplines (swim, bike, run), fees and travel expenses for competitions and, of course, working with the best possible coaches and health professionals, such as a massage therapists, chiropractors and nutritionists.

To pursue my Olympic dream, I have to work three jobs and had to put my university studies on hold. So this is challenging. It’s challenging also because I had to leave my homeland, Syria. My brother and I came to Canada in 2011 at the onset of the Syrian crisis. The rest of my family currently live in Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

Yes, I may have many obstacles to overcome to make it to Tokyo 2020, but I’m only at the beginning of my journey and I’m certainly determined to put in the effort.

The ITU Team has been and is really working hard to support me, and will be following up with my performance and consistency. I must tell you that this is encouraging.

Back to Salinas

Getting back to Salinas. I had a great training session on the Friday. I felt confident and ready. I did some short speed “race pace” training for all swim, bike, and run and I was feeling good.

Saturday, was activation day. We went for bike and swim familiarization. This is where I started to feel nervous and pumped, and all the race visualization became extra serious.

Race Day in Salinas

Sunday was race day. The race start was 9:30 am. I began to warm up around 8:15 am. I felt really good and pumped, and definitely nervous especially in the transition area while setting up my bike. I headed to the start line and stood alongside 53 athletes – the best in the Triathlon World. The 750m swim started with a big battle. It was fast and crazy getting to the first buoy and there was a lot of punching, pushing and leg grabbing. I lost my goggles three times and had to adjust them each time. All of this made the breathing difficult up until the last 300m when the group started to spread out. This is when I finally got some space to swim my way to the first pack. I exited the water with Matthew McElroy, from the USA, who finished second in this race.

 

Photos by ITU Media.

The run to the transition area was almost 400m at max speed. My legs felt heavy. I got to T1 with the last 3 athletes of the front pack. But I quickly realized that the first pack was not for me. Not this time. I kept on pushing strong with what I had in the tank, and my first 2km on the bike was all-out. I had to work really hard to keep up with the second pack. I kept this up until the second lap. I then sprinted and lead to bridge the gap between the pack and two guys who tried to break away. Unfortunately, I took the lead for longer than what I should have – that portion of the course was uphill and we were facing the wind. 45 seconds later my legs gave up. I realized I had tired myself. After half a lap, the chasing pack caught up to the leading pack and became a big group of cyclists. I was by myself for one lap at km 5, fighting alone until the third pack caught up to me. We entered the transition area pretty much all at the same time.

 

Photo by ITU Media.

My legs felt really heavy after this intense bike ride and the run was going to be tough. However, I stayed focused and gave it my all. I crossed the finish line with nothing left in me. I didn’t even have enough energy to walk. What a tough race it was, and what a great learning experience it was. I did not get the results I was aiming for, but I’ve learned a couple of lessons in Salinas. And I can tell you that I’ll apply my learnings in my future competitions.

Getting ready for my next challenge

I’m now getting ready for my next race. On November 18, I’ll be competing at the 2016 ITU West Asian Triathlon Championships – Sprint distance (750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run), in Aqaba City, Jordan.

Over the past weeks, I’ve been training hard to prepare for this race. In an ideal world, I should train at least 35 hours to be as strong as I can be, but this is difficult because I also have to work. That said, I make the most of every minute I have to train and to become a better athlete. I know the road to Tokyo is not easy and will require hard work.

I thank all of you, as well as my parents, team #Mo2Tokyo, the ITU, the SYRIAN Triathlon Federation, and coaches Kyla and Javier, and everyone who stands by me and supports me. Tomorrow always will look better.

 

✌️ Mohamad

   

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