Vitor Meira’s Bucket List Gets Shorter
MIAMI Sept. 28, 2011—Bucket List: Compete in the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii. Check! Vitor Meira will be able to do just that the evening of Saturday, October 8th when he will have completed the 2011 Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.
Meira, who drives A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply No. 14 in the IZOD IndyCar Series, is also an amateur triathlete. Although he has competed in many Ironman 70.3 events including last year’s Ironman World Championship 70.3 in Clearwater, Fla. (another bucket list item checked off), he will be competing in his first full Ironman (140.6 miles). Fearless, he is starting with the Indy 500 of triathlons! Such is the stature of the Ironman World Championship event which began in 1978, the year after Meira was born.
Following the Kentucky Indy 300 on Oct. 2 at Kentucky Speedway, Meira will fly the next day from Cincinnati, Ohio to Honolulu and on to Kona to prep for what will be his biggest physical challenge to date since he began competing in triathlons as a means of staying fit for his actual profession—race car driver.
The one day endurance event takes place on the Big Island of Hawaii. The 2.4-mile swim begins and ends at Kailua Pier. The 112-mile bike course travels through scorching lava fields and along the Kohala Coast. The 26.2-mile run takes athletes on the Queen Ka’ahumanu Highway, ending at Ali’i Drive to the cheers of thousands of spectators at the finish line.
After a couple days of rest, Meira will fly to Las Vegas that Tuesday to prepare for the IZOD IndyCar World Championships which take place at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Sunday, Oct. 16.
Meira took a few minutes to answer the following questions about what promises to be a most memorable experience for the personable Brazilian.
When did you first hear about the Ironman competition in Kona?
VM: “A long time ago, I can’t say exactly when but as a teenager I knew about Ironman as a fan or enthusiast already. I wasn’t doing triathlons at the time—I started doing those when I was around 18. Then I stopped for a long time and came back when IndyCar went to road courses and everybody had to up their physical fitness, and I had to intensify my training. One thing led to another and I began doing triathlons again for fun.”
What is your schedule after Kentucky?
VM: “I leave from Kentucky on Monday morning and I get to Hawaii Monday night. I will start setting up the Trek bike and we will have a lot of media things to do leading up to the race. We’re going to go through the course, bike portions of the course and run portions of the course—the parts that are historically the most difficult. We’ll probably go on the bike twice and maybe run twice and swim every day, an easy swim. So we will go there and relax and learn as much as possible about the course, sleep, eat well and wait for the race. After the race which is Saturday, on Sunday I will be laid down most of the day and we will have therapeutic massages scheduled in the morning and afternoon. We’ll have massages on Monday too along with fluid replenishment. The massages flush the lactic acid away and push the blood through the joints. The massages are a recovery tool. On Tuesday I fly to Vegas and get there at noon.”
When you go through the course, it is similar to the track walk preparation you do at an IndyCar road course or street race?
VM: “It is totally opposite. The knowledge you acquire is different. There you want to know here is uphill a lot, here it is windy, the asphalt here is not so good, it’s rough. For IndyCar, it’s different. You look at lines, things you can do to get faster and you’re talking about a foot or two. In triathlon, you have to see the bigger picture, what tire pressures you’re going to need and what kind of wheels you’re going to use because of the wind.”
How are you training for it?
VM: “There are several ways to train. The way I do my training is with a very successful triathlete in Brazil. We work very closely together and he goes through my data, the stuff I do, and we plan my workout around the racing schedule. We do it two weeks at a time. One day prior to being in the car is always a rest day. When it is a long trip, I only run because it’s the easiest, and I try to optimize biking while I’m in Miami. I bike long distances when I’m home in Miami. There are weeks of volume and there are weeks of intensity; it all depends on what you want to accomplish. For example, when I do a lot of volume work- I go for a four to 5 five hour ride or run two to three hours. When it is intensity, it’s interval training and it’s much shorter. I did a lot of the volume training from April through July. In August we changed to interval training to build speed. Now that the interval work is done, I start tapering. Tapering is the time you stop doing a lot of long exercise and stop putting fatigue on your body and start fueling up for the race.”
Do you have a special diet?
VM: “Not really. I don’t eat carbohydrates at night except for a couple days before an Indycar race which is when I start adding a lot of carbs. I try to not eat any sugar or anything fried. I don’t do anything weird, it’s just normal, healthy eating.”
What is your favorite part of the Ironman?
VM: “What I like the most is the bike. I think it is the most social. During training you can talk, it’s long. You can keep up with people who are faster and people who are slower can keep up with you by drafting. It’s more social so that’s why I like it the most. I run well, I think I have a body build that is good for running. I’m not the best in running because I didn’t spend a lot of time on running because of my Achilles tendonitis last year, so I would say my biking is my best event.”
And your least favorite?
VM: “Swimming. [chuckles] It is very lonely, you can’t even hear music while you’re doing it. Again, I do triathlons for fun, I am not a professional so I don’t get that intense about it. So I want to have a little bit of fun and swimming is not fun.”
What is your goal?
VM: “The goal is to finish and I don’t think I will have any problem with that. I would be very happy if I finished in daylight which would be around 11 hours. I think we start around 7 a.m. so if I finish in daylight, I will be very happy.”
How long does it take to recover?
VM: “If you are trying to recover your legs for optimal triathlon fitness, it will take a couple to three weeks because the muscle tissue on the legs takes a long time. But blood-wise and hydration and your normal system, it’s pretty quick—two or three days if you do it properly. You’re not going to have the legs [to run] but we won’t need it. We don’t use our arms at all other than swimming but compared to the legs, there is no stress to the arms.”
How do you recover?
VM: “Rest, hydrate, eat and use the tools you can to recover like ice baths right afterwards to stop inflammation—sit in it for ten minutes if you can. It stings at first but you get used to it. You follow up with massage therapy the next day to flush out the lactic acid. And basically you eat well, drink, and sleep. It’s better to eat healthy because your body can digest it better but I’m sure I’ll eat a lot of junk. I’m going to deserve it.”
What will it mean to you to compete in Kona?
VM: “It was always on my bucket list. If you like triathlons, it’s the same as the 500. For professional triathletes to compete or win in Kona, it’s the same for us as drivers to compete or win in Indianapolis. So that’s how big it is. I’m glad to be part of it and to be able to experience it. I can’t compete for any kind of win but I’m going to enjoy myself and the whole experience.”