Ironman triathlon competition can only be described as a test of true grit: 140.6 miles of grueling biking, swimming and running.
So schoolteacher Ricardo Chacin is taking on more than a test of character by attempting to be the first Trinidad and Tobago athlete to complete not one, but two Ironman competitions in eight days.
Chacin fulfilled a childhood dream last year when he completed the Ford Ironman Cozumel in 13 hours, 31 minutes and 21 seconds in Mexico last November. His new dream is to put his body on the line at Zurich on July 15 and then Bolton on July 22.
Put into context, Chacin's ambitions are quite high. The event pedals off with a 2.4 mile ride, followed by a 112-mile swim and last, a full marathon run—26.2 miles.
The 42-year-old, who teaches Spanish at St Anthony's College, is realistic about his expectations, and is not looking to win his age group. Instead he is hoping to inspire the next generation of T&T Ironman athletes.
"There have not been very many of us Trinidadians who have done Ironman," Chacin told the Express in an interview last week. "I wanted to stand out among the crowds and be different. I wanted to do two of these things in one week."
Despite picking up triathlon relatively late in his athletic life, Chacin's dream of competing in the Ironman began long before. The Ironman series piqued his interest as a child after watching a race on television.
By his own admission, though he played a number of sports, he has "never been great at anything". He played "B Team" football and cricket for Fatima College, as well as first team squash. That was as far as his athletic career went.
"I got into drinking smoking and partying and then I went abroad," he explained. "I still loved to swim and run, things of use, but nothing really structured. I got older, came back to Trinidad and got married and just around when my first son was born, said I would give up the smoking and get healthier."
So Chacin tried his hand at his first triathlon, and finished second to last: ahead of a disqualified competitor.
It motivated him to try harder, and after a chat with Jason Gooding, he joined Rainbow Warriors club. Still fascinated, he decided to try the longer distances, going for an Ironman 70.3—half the distance of an Ironman race—in Michigan.
Now with two full races ahead of him, Chacin is trying to raise his near $35,000 budget for the trip. Apart from support from friends and fundraising events, such as a barbecue and curry-cue, he is also seeking assistance from the office of the Prime Minister, having already received a "substantial amount" from then Minister of Works, Jack Warner.
Like any serious athlete, Chacin has had to make many sacrifices--dietary, time and otherwise. But his determination keeps him going.
"Sometimes you want to go out there and you just don't feel like it," he said. "You know you should be out there doing some work, whether a short run or long ride or easy swim, but your mind says 'stay here in the air conditioned room, don't go for a four-hour ride'. Or 'go see your kids, go to the beach'."
Currently Chacin is a certified community level coach, but he is trying to gain experience and get International Triathlon Union (ITU) certified to be able to help the next generation of triathlon athletes.
"I want to be able in the future to use my experience in triathlon to help to produce an athlete in Trinidad who can race with the best," he said. "My experience in these events would certainly help (them) with (their) Ironman career."
But for now Chacin's main focus is to conquer the Ironman, and then do it again.