DC Triathlon Club

2020 Member Spotlight – Raniel Hidalgo

January, 2020

How did you get involved in triathlons?

My initial inspiration came on a lazy afternoon while watching the Kona Ironman World Championships on TV. I recall being impressed with the slow motion footage showcasing the athletes, their cool looking aero bikes, and the sheer determination to grind through that marathon (all coupled with the epic “superhero” music soundtrack). At the time, I was looking for new ways to maintain fitness beyond my sporadic running and the occasional pick-up basketball game. I simply wasn’t doing enough to keep my weight in check and triathlon seemed like a very cool thing to get into. Although I still had to overcome my inability to swim beyond two laps, and I didn’t own a road bike!

What was your first triathlon?

My first triathlon was the 2012 Great South Bay Sprint Triathlon in Long Island NY. Like many of us starting out in this sport I was truly terrified of my first OWS. The rookie experience during the swim did not disappoint! I vividly recall choppy waves, being unable to properly sight, getting kicked in the face, and swimming over somebody that was heading perpendicular to the rest of us. I somehow made it through that ridiculous OWS leg and blasted through the bike and the run with a big goofy smile on my face (all after losing a contact lens from the earlier facial kick). That was the beginning of getting hooked on this sport!

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made in a triathlon?

My biggest mistake was overestimating the abilities of my bladder (drinking way too much water before the start of a race), at the Columbia Olympic Triathlon (Columbia MD). About 1/3 through the bike course, my mindset quickly went into finding any isolated location on the course for relief. Luckily I spotted a lone porta potty tucked away on a road side construction lot, which I had to cut off about 3 unhappy fellow cyclists to get to! Now before every race I make it a point to visit the potties immediately after my transition spot is set up!

Any memorable races or experience?

Aside from experiencing the amazing camaraderie and motivation from seeing other DC Tri Club members at the races, my most memorable race experience was seeing my wife and young daughters near the finish line of my first IM 70.3 (Atlantic City NJ). Having my family’s support throughout my training and especially on race day is such a rewarding experience! Although our sport is largely an individual endeavor, I’m appreciative of my team of family/friends that motivate and inspire throughout the race season.

What do you enjoy outside of triathlon?

Outside of triathlon, I’ve really come to enjoy mountain biking. I’m also into weight lifting and yoga to maintain strength, balance, and being mindful of the body from all of the impact from triathlon training.

How did you get into mountain biking?

After 5 years of triathlon and road biking, I got back into mountain biking as a way of mixing things up throughout the training season. It has since become a major passion, as I’ll continue to mountain bike throughout the year (including temps well below freezing). I was into BMX riding when growing up, and mountain biking brings back the kid in me when flying down quick descents and rolling off of big drops. In mountain biking, you have to be mentally locked into the trail and your surroundings in order to stay efficient, moving, and most importantly upright! It’s an exhilarating experience that can’t be duplicated on a road bike, and arguably a tad safer since you’re not dealing with cars buzzing besides you. I hope to incorporate my experience mountain biking into an Xterra Off Road triathlon and an Enduro Race in the near future!

What are some of your favorite trails?

My hands down favorite trails in the DC Area are at the Fountainhead regional park in Lorton VA. It’s about 14 total miles of scenic, yet intense riding with certain technical sections that continue to kick my butt. Other favorites include Schaeffer Farms in Germantown MD, and both Meadowood and Laurel Hill (also in Lorton) where I bring friends who are just starting out in mountain biking.

Does it help with cross training?

Mountain biking has definitely helped as a cross training exercise for triathlon. I’ve found that occasionally replacing my shorter road bike training rides with a good mountain biking session has helped build both power and efficiency in my pedaling technique. I attribute this to the quick pedaling bursts required for steep climbs (think consistent Zone 5’s). Also being able to navigate over obstacles and cornering around sharp turns has brought my bike handling skills to another level. Nothing will match the endurance training you get from being on the road, but mixing in it up with being on trails keeps the workouts fresh and exciting!

Any fun facts about yourself that you’d like to share?

(spoiler alert) Like many of us Star Wars fans, I cannot stop smiling at pictures of Baby Yoda!