INDYCAR drivers are amongst the most fit athletes in the world of motorsports, having to endure tremendous G-forces on oval, road and street courses, often for hours on end.
There's little respite--other than caution periods--and the stress mandates these drivers be in exceptional physical condition.
Vitor Meira is among the more elite drivers in this class, as he competes--often with fellow Brazilian Tony Kanaan--in triathlon competition.
One race on Meira's "bucket list" has been the Ford Ironman Triathlon in Kona, Hawaii. This year Meira is finally getting to cross that one off his list by flying from Kentucky to Hawaii after this weekend's IndyCar Series race to swim, bicycle and run in his first full Ironman, lasting 140.6 miles.
The Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is actually older than the driver, born in 1979. The race began one year earlier in 1978.
Meira will compete in the Kentucky Indy 300 on October 2 on the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval. The next day he'll fly from nearby Cincinnati, Ohio to Honolulu and then on to Kona to prepare for his biggest physical challenge to date, since he began competing in triathlons as a way of staying fit for his day job.
The one-day endurance event takes place on the Big Island of Hawaii with a 2.4-mile swim that begins and ends at the Kailua Pier. The 112-mile bicycle course travels through scorching lava fields and along the picturesque Kohala coast. The full marathon-length 26.2-mile run places the athletes on the Queen Ka'ahumanu Highway, ending at Ali'i Drive's finish line.
After a couple of days rest following this endurance contest, Meira flies to Las Vegas on Tuesday the 11th to prepare for the IZOD IndyCar World Championship, taking place on the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway oval on October 16.
Meira's favorite part of the Ironman is the bicycle portion. "I think it is the most social," he said. "During training you can talk, and it's long. You can keep up with people who are faster and people who are slower can keep up with you by drafting. I'm not the best in running (in the triathlons) 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."
His least favorite portion is the swimming. "It is very lonely; you can't even hear music while you're doing it," Meira chuckled. "I do these races for fun, and swimming (for him) is not fun."
The goal is to finish and Meira doesn't think he'll have a problem with that. "I would be very happy if I finished in daylight, which would be around 11 hours. I think we start at 7am so if I finish in daylight I will be very happy."
© 2011 Anne Proffit