Wearing their Team USA uniforms on April 26, Doug Levens, John Bazaar, and Alex Orcutt felt a sense of pride walking in the Parade of Nations to kick off the 2019 International Triathlon Union World Championships in Pontevedra, Spain. After shining in national races, the Cheshire residents had earned the opportunity to represent their country and compete against people from different cultures.
“I felt really happy that I was able to go on the trip,” said Bazaar, a senior at Hamden Hall Country Day School. “I put a lot of training into getting better and it was great to see the results.”
The parade was a preview of big things to come. First, on April 27, Bazaar and Orcutt placed third and 14th, respectively, in the 16-19 age division in the duathlon. After coaching the teenagers, Levens competed in the aquathlon and finished 17th in the 45-49 division.
“It was awesome to get to see where we stack up against the world’s best,” stated Levens.
Having watched his wife take part in triathlons, Levens became interested in racing back in 2004.
“I bought a bike and got a swim membership,” recalled Levens. “Our kids watched us compete and they wanted to do it, too.”
To work with his kids, Levens got certified as a coach and started a Cheshire summer camp in 2010. From there, he formed the Nutmeg Youth Triathlon Team seven years ago.
“I was doing camps for fun and then parents asked if there was a year-round program they could join,” explained Levens. “It was good to see that the kids wanted to train for more than one week of the year.”
Orcutt and Bazaar are among 50 people competing for NYTT. Orcutt, who grew up playing rugby, was drawn to the multi-skill aspect of triathlons.
“I like to run, swim, and bike. It is nice to train with friends and push each other,” stated Orcutt, a 2019 Cheshire High School graduate.
Starting out as a swimmer, Bazaar developed a passion for triathlons through Levens’ summer camp.
“Doug was very nice at the camp,” recalled Bazaar. “He wanted you to keep coming back throughout the week.”
While growing up as triathletes, Bazarr and Orcutt both successfully adjusted to junior duathlons consisting of a 5-kilometer run, a 20-kilometer bike, and a 2.5-kilometer run.
“In 2017, I went to compete in a triathlon in Westville, Massachusetts, but when I got there, the water was announced as contaminated, so they made it into a duathlon,” recalled Orcutt. “It was slightly unexpected, but exciting.”
Last year, Orcutt and Bazaar joined CHS senior Francis Simpatico in signing up for the Duathlon National Championship in Greenville, South Carolina. After competing in the 15-19 division, the boys were standing at the finish line when they learned that they had qualified for the World Championship.
“It was a shocking moment,” reflected Bazaar.
Levens was proud of his athletes, but due to the financial cost of going to Spain, he wasn’t sure about attending the world competition. After speaking with parents and his family, he decided to make the trip into a vacation with his wife and also try to join Bazaar and Simpatico on Team USA.
In researching online, Levens chose to register for the 2018 Aquathlon National Championship in Miami, Florida. The competition consisted of a 1,000-meter swim and a 5K run.
“I just had to place in the top 10 to qualify for the world championship,” stated Levens. “I wasn’t in peak condition, but thought that I was in good enough shape to make the cut.”
In November of last year, he met his goal by finishing fourth for the men’s 45-49 age group.
“It is definitely a lot more competitive on the national level,” stated Levens. “It is all of the best local people thrown together.”
Levens feels that running is his favorite part of races.
“I started swimming as an adult, so I’m not as good as the people who’ve been doing it since they were kids,” stated Levens.
After committing to the world competition, the Cheshire group trained from last fall through April of this year. While traveling abroad prior to the trip, Orcutt brought (?) core workouts so that he could stay in shape.
“I was able to go on runs and also do swim workouts for cross training,” added Orcutt.
Traveling with their families, Bazaar, Orcutt, and Levens left for Spain a couple of days early to get used to being in Pontevedra. To start the trip, the group stayed in a house.
“We were 30 minutes away from the race course, so John and I could go on runs. We would get lost on trips and then find our way home,” said Orcutt, who used his knowledge of Spanish to speak for his travel group.
While the boys enjoyed running together, cycling was made difficult by the fact that they didn’t get their bikes until the day before the race.
“We went through two airlines, so we had to communicate back and forth to get our bikes,” reflected Bazaar. “It was coming down to the wire when we finally got them. We were prepared to get a rental.”
After getting their equipment, the friends practiced on the race course, which consisted of six miles uphill and another six miles down.
“We were cycling 45 miles per hour on the way down and it was tough for me because I hadn’t done that on concrete before,” stated Orcutt.
The friends both felt nervous on race day. Bazaar recalls being thrown off by how fast people went out to start the race, but he kept his composure.
“The competition is about the whole race, not just the first run,” stated Bazaar. “On the bike portion, I put my head down and caught a lot of people in front of me. It (the hill) wasn’t as steep as people made it out to be. I didn’t have to change gears (on my bike) too much.”
After his tough start, Bazaar rallied to finish the event with a bronze medal.
“I knew that he was going to do well,” stated Orcutt. “To see him make it on the podium made me feel really proud.”
In placing 14th, Orcutt felt that he had a strong race.
“My uphill bike was really good and then some people caught me on the way down. I was also able to catch people on the run,” stated Orcutt.
Bazaar and Orcutt went home after their race, but Levens and his wife stayed in Spain for the aquathlon event on May 2. Levens hoped to finish in the top 10, but felt that a strong water current and cold temperatures on the swim portion factored into his placing 17th.
“I couldn’t feel my feet at the start of the run,” recalled Levens. “I still placed second in my age group (for American men).”
Levens doesn’t plan to compete nationally again this year, but would like to try again in a few years. In starting his experience at the University of Denver this fall, Orcutt continues to enjoy running and swimming. And Bazaar, who is currently running for Levens on the Hamden Hall boys’ cross country team, wants to return for next year’s Duathlon World Championship.
“I know that I have the ability to do better,” added Bazaar.