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Team Oaxaca 2007 – Chronicle of the South

Stories begin with an indefinite time, once upon a time… This history began November 1, 2000. The time has left tracks on this webpage witness of the transformations. To work in a country and a particular state, out of joint, or with many realities-Oaxaca, with a structural language and a grammar so far away from the worldwide language of success, has been a CHALLENGE. It continues to be. Through the years, I left guidelines of this odyssey, The Invention of America, Fighting for Physical Alphabetism, Attitude to achieve, Rhythm of an Adventure, and Reflections of a Coach. Our last encounter marked the first participation of a team member at the 2006 Junior Triathlon World Championship in Lausanne. We faced the XXI century in facts. It was something similar to Simon Whitfield’s metaphor (Triathlon Olympic champion 2000):

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE Dear Javier Gomez, I stole your transition sign, the one that says GOMEZ #1 Spain. I will be hanging this on my training room wall, you’ll be hearing from me.

Ruth was living for the first time the WORLD reality. She began her tangible ascent, learning to give the best of her, and to create outside her scope, that is to say, out of her reality. To learn to be competitive is to be attentive to the minimum details.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE My narrative is going to be for whoever is living in our planet, something outside reality, psychotic. However, what I am going to narrate happened. In the Summer of 2007, after returning from our trip between United States and Canada, Ruth finally dared to live something impossible for the locals, which actually only belongs to the "campesino’s" class. Even though she knew how to ride her bicycle since the age of eight, she was finally daring to take her mountain bike to school and training, without the fear of what people could say or think. At 17, she finally was moving by herself, nobody leaving and picking her up at the door. She began to live without the enormous barriers that condition and limit most of the middle-class children and youth in the city. Most of the people in Oaxaca follow the rule of the least effort, looking how to take advantage of the system (or culture). Ruth looked for the conditions to think without snobbish behaviors or barriers. A teammate accompanied her in this adventure. She was finally experiencing a little from the reality shared with Glenn’s family, my friends from Switzerland, and the Canadian society in the last three years. A new panorama was opened. Ruth had in her room what Simon narrated: the competitive real world, perhaps the minimum necessary to begin to live the experience as an apprentice of being a champion.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE What happened this year? Returning from the first Worlds was a decisive and painful moment. We began to work on the limitations imposed by her own culture and family (coach Brackin speaks about it regarding Kirsty Coventry), South of the Rio Grande as Claude Levi-Strauss said. We were trying to think about the cultural reality. We looked in retrospection how we can imagine and perceive the limitations hidden and how those limitations stop further development. While in countries like Canada and Germany, they promote riding your bicycle to move to school and work, as a whole integral formation that goes from improving your physical training, to contributing to the environment and saving money; riding a bike or walking one or two blocks in Oaxaca are totally strange to people’s mind. It represents effort and sweat. The culture of hard work and effort does not exist in Oaxaca: to walk two blocks or to work hard expose "your poverty". Parents dropped the boy in private school at the door creating a frightful row of cars. What you see are parents with individual thoughts trying to take advantage or "win" a spot in the terrible chaos. To get the last most expensive car in spite of not having a house is a reality. Sometimes it is also in spite of the well-being and sacrificing the whole family to pretend with such vehicle. To go against those patterns without having "excuses" not to do it (they never lack), it is a gigantic step in the culture where this team has grown.

A week ago, Sergio Santos, Vanessa Fernandes’ coach, visited Mexico and commented to the young triathletes at the High Performance Center (CNAR); you must learn to work hard. Young boys and girls who see their parents or people working hard will get the best heritage. Obviously, I am talking about a real context of work, very far from the reality of Oaxaca where the team was born and developed. Perhaps this passion for hard work is the example given to team members during those seven years. Hardly it is taking profile with some members after those years. Our philosophy of hard work goes against a culture where "doing less," "creating trouble," and taking advantage are the ways to look for a place or a handle. Teaching effort and constancy has cost some team members to leave. To be convinced of another way of living, based on daily efforts, is to be on daily contradiction between the school, house, street mess and the values set by the team. Contradictions exist between those two poles, the team rhythm and the no rhythm of Oaxaca, added to a terribly deficient educational system. (There are numerous reports about the education in Mexico).

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE In the fall of 2006, Ruth began the long way for empowerment. She initiated the learning how, appropriating the experiences of facing the competitive reality outside Mexico. Two weeks ago, she won the 2007 sportsmanship from the state. However, the first great step was her liberation of mind, the capacity to observe and see lucidly, allowing constructing new ideas systematically. To move the quality standards up ant towards the reality she wanted to create. To be at the worldwide level gets increasingly difficult. It requires an education of attention to details. A half of a second is enough for the fastest swimmer or the peloton to escape. Even, the best runners get away if one has a slow transition and is not first out of the bike in the group.

Months of base preparation with lots of miles, schoolwork, and the little understanding of the surroundings, but with the unconditional support of the teammates draw 2006-7 season. Ruth had NUMBER ONE in her room, motto of our team. In December 2006, during a camp, she defined her goals: to win the Mexican National, to win races at the triathlon national circuit, to be in the first five at the Panamerican and the Worlds. The clock marked the time, and the mind sharpened the art of war. Hard work began. The main enemies were not her rivals, but herself, her mind, her attention and the decisions made. 2007 was defined under an intense work of refining the mind. Our first encounter was Valle de Bravo in March, a first place and a first analysis of our 2007 development. Ruth left the water first, won, but did not run as she could, not even explore what she has inside. The race against the clock was taking place; the art of war against her just started: sharpening her mind, thinking and reflecting. More attention. She needed to hear her inner voice and let express her whole potential. Ixtapa followed in May with the World Aquathlon Championships, the second checking before the Nationals. The starting line was just one group, juniors and elites together, and from the first meters, Ruth was running at the front with Kelly Cook and Sarah Groff behind, both North Americans of elite category.

In the ocean, she let them go, but came back running to finish 22 seconds from the second elite, winning the Aquathlon Junior World Championship. Our challenge continued, to work on the fear to stick with the best, to sharpen this fundamental attention, to swim on the feet of those swimmers. We needed more rhythm in the head, to work against doubts, to believe, to be more focus. Two weeks later, the National were at the door in Veracruz. Ruth competed in aquathlon and triathlon. In the first event, aquathlon distances shorter than the official ones, Ruth, in spite of winning in her category 16-17, did not manage to win the general category 16-19 years. Once again, we talked about the inner monster.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE Two days later, May 26, a strange day, rain, angry ocean, waves, inner storm, the gong of the exit sounded. You can be with the first and only fast swimmer. Believe it. What followed was Ruth’s own fight. About 10 seconds of difference with the first swimmer, and the race against the clock started. After a bike lap of 4k, they were together. The rest was easy. The head little by little had learned to hold, to suffer. Ruth won her category by more than three minutes and the general by almost two minutes. The first macrocycle ended and the road to the second Worlds followed. Hamburg was at the end of August. On the other hand, Ruth’s teammates were continuing their own learning. The sport is beautiful; it does not allow cheating. Several of them had gotten podiums in events at the national series. However, they did not manage to be where they should at the National Championship. The second best in the event was Ruth’s teammate who had allowed himself to share the rides in the "prohibited city."

Summer of 2007 was used to gain international experience, being the goal of the team since 2004. One of the objectives was to depart with another junior, nevertheless, for mainly cultural reasons it did not occur. To work on the culture requires outer experience to be able to feed the group and to make education alive. In June, we had three races in a row trying to gain confidence. Des Moines arrived on June 16. Each race is another world for the apprentice. Ruth let the wheel of a companion to go. Only the rage to win, in a terribly humid and hot day, allowed her to sign NUMBER ONE. One week later, Ruth participated at the Panamerican in Edmonton and surrounded the second place, throwing literally the fear at the running portion of the race. Coach Carter in the film of the same name speaks about the fear to shine. There was more to think about and even more to do. The races trip ended with the Canadian Junior Championship June 30 with a fourth place and a following training camp. There were more details to polish: concentration, relaxation, believing, and letting go.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE Hamburg ended the competitions for the year along with the last national event of Veracruz. A slip with the wetsuit and the chip in the transition, made Ruth lose her fifth place that without a doubt she would have been able to obtain. Dr House would say that it was not an accident. She ran the fourth split of the day with a 17:04 for 5k. She finished third continental, first Latin American and 19th of the world. Finally, in Veracruz, we were with the team united for the last race of the season. Ruth won by more than four minutes. Three of her teammates also qualified for the 2008 Nationals.

Behind those numbers, dates and names, a complex narrative exists. This narrative goes further than the famous Mexican motto, "yes I can," or the story above. The education of mental abilities is fundamental. In particular, let us speak about education to attention, the long process of concentrating during the task, the capacity of tolerating frustration while one is performing and not obtaining the awaited results. In addition, let add the gigantic work towards discipline, focus and constancy to raise the quality standards (or even to learn what World quality standards are), the hygiene of life, resting and having an optimal nutrition. All this represents enormous challenges facing by the families, which habits are not with our time, very far away from the hot oats bowl waiting for Glenn before training and cooked by his father at 4am. This is also very far from the protein shakes taken by Vanessa Fernandes ten minutes after each training session. Finally, passing those principles to the team, to each member, to each own life is the last and real challenge. Certain behavior happens while I am present, and once the "eye of consciousness" disappears, the old habits come back. Growing up is several steps back again, "Zucaritas" (corn flakes with sugar) is the same in the grammar and vocabulary than "hot oat." Attitudes, like being part of the classroom mess, lack of interest for what they are doing, not doing homework, or arriving late, are there again, normal. Something considered abnormal attitudes for any competitive society. It is a LONG contradictory process with the Oaxacan culture and education in general. To convince and to shave just a little the big resistance is to go against current everyday life, and adding not having anything sustainable that gives testimony of what you have lived and seen in the competitive world. In a certain way, THIS IS MY TESTIMONY.