Cuenca expat is a winner in Salinas triathlon

May 14, 2024 | 0 comments

By Chase Squires

Cuenca expat Paul Amos took on all comers – ocean, asphalt, jellyfish, and landslides – to return to the mountains with gold in hand.

Cuenca expat Paul Amos stands on the champion’s podium in Salinas after his triathlon victory May 5. (Photo courtesy of Paul Amos)

Amos took first place in his age group in the Olympic distance “5150” triathlon May 5 in Salinas, part of the prestigious Ironman brand group of races. He finished in just under 2 hours and 39 minutes, beating his nearest age group challenger by more than nine minutes in a race that included a 1.5 kilometer ocean swim (nearly a mile), a 40 kilometer bike trek (just under 25 miles) and a 10 kilometer run (6.2 miles).

This, less than two years after major knee surgery to repair cartilage and a torn meniscus. He also managed to get hit by a car in January while training on his bike in Cuenca.

“I’m a pretty strong swimmer, so my strategy was to get out there and crush the swim,” he said after his return to Cuenca. “Then I try to keep my place on the bike, and finally just hold on for the run.”

The strategy worked as he cruised to a win in the 55 to 59-year-old division, his first year eligible in the grouping.

But nothing about the race was easy for Amos.

The jellyfish were unwelcomed “participants” in the ocean swim, stinging swimmers repeatedly as they crashed through the surf. Amos took his share.

“It feels like a needle of alcohol being injected into your body. It stings like heck,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do. I wore a speed suit, but that still leaves your arms and legs uncovered. You can’t see them, you can’t avoid them, but you know when you’ve run into one.”

Amos began the sport 11 years ago, living in the Philadelphia area where he was a researcher at the University of Pennsylvania. A longtime runner, he had knee problems and couldn’t run for a while, so he took up cycling. And, as a strong swimmer and former lifeguard, he was encouraged by friends in the sport to put the three together and take up triathlon racing.

The sport combining swimming, cycling, and running is popular throughout Ecuador. Living and training at Cuenca’s high altitude was a bonus, he said.

“I run a lot faster and easier at sea level,” Amos said. “I felt like I was breathing normally, even with the extra effort of racing.”

Amos said for anyone interested in the sport, Cuenca has plenty of bike shops that can help with the equipment, and there are several pools to train for the swim (he trains at the Coliseo Jefferson Perez Quezada at 12 de Abril and Unidad Nacional, a pool open to the public for a small daily fee). Although prior to a race, he suggests a trip to the coast to get used to the Ocean swim, which involves currents, waves, and, of course, jellyfish.

The race wasn’t his only challenge. After the podium, his return home was delayed several days by landslides that closed the route through the Cajas from this month’s rains.

Amos, backed with support from Cuenca’s popular Inca Lounge and Bistro and Morlaco’s Tacos, is already training for his next challenge, July’s Half Ironman triathlon in Manta, a longer distance with a bigger international presence. Replicas of his Team Inca racing gear are available by emailing him directly.

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