Challenge of Ironman World Championship 70.3 up next for Meira: Vitor Meira will plunge into the 64-degree Gulf of Mexico about 6:50 a.m. Nov. 13 for a 1.2-mile swim. He'll then efficiently transition to his bike for a 56-mile ride in and around Clearwater, Fla., and return to Pier 60 to shed his helmet and set off on a 13.1-mile run on a course that includes a 12 percent grade. All of his own accord.
The IZOD IndyCar Series driver is looking forward to the Foster Grant Ironman World Championship 70.3 adventure alongside more than 1,800 professionals and fellow amateurs.
"This was actually on my bucket list," said Meira, who was invited to participate in May. "I'm really honored to accept this invitation to participate in the World Championship 70.3. Not only is the training part of what I do for racing, the running, biking and all the preparation, but I also always like it. It's going to be a cool experience."
Two weeks ago, Meira prepped for the event by participating in the inaugural Rohto Ironman Miami 70.3 along with Tony Kanaan (who also will compete in Clearwater) and Bruno Junqueira. In early May -- a dozen hours after finishing 10th in a grueling race in the No. 14 ABC Supply Co. car for A.J. Foyt Racing -- at Kansas Speedway he joined the crowd for the start of another triathlon near his Miami home. Meira also participated in a triathlon in Chile earlier this year and completed a mini-marathon in May.
"At first I thought, 'What did I just agree to?' because there are a bunch of people who are going to be watching," he says. "Most of the competitors are professionals and there are a lot of people who qualified that are very fast. There also are a lot of people who won a lottery to get in. But that passed and I can't wait to get there."
Meira "got the triathlon buzz" by watching on TV and following the exploits of fellow Brazilians Leandro Macedo and Alexander Manzan, who competed around the globe. Meira hooked into his first triathlon in 2001, and will be in the age 30-34 division in the upcoming endurance race.
"For me, you are there for yourself and not because you're going to beat one, two, or three other guys," Meira says. "You want to prove what you are capable of to yourself; like how far you can push yourself."
He's pushed hard in training in all three disciplines since before the completion of the IZOD IndyCar Series season Oct. 2, concentrating on cardio development and endurance. Meira was in the gym more during the physically demanding road/street course segments of the racing schedule.
"I've been training intervals a lot -- 20 days of intervals and then put in a lot of volume afterward," Meira says. "With intervals, you build speed and then you concentrate on endurance. Swimming is where I lose percentage-wise more time than the others. Bike is what I'm the best at and running I'm OK, and I want to change that.
"I've been running a lot more and running is where you make or lose the time. But running does wear you out. If you go for a 90k bike ride you get tired, but if you go for a 13k run you really get tired. I try to put in about 10,000 meters a week."
A return to high-energy training and triathlon competition - in addition to the 17-race IZOD IndyCar Series season -- was an outgrowth of Meira's rehabilitation from fractured vertebrae suffered in a May 2009 crash during the Indianapolis 500.
"I had a lot of time at home training and trying to get healthy the right way," says Meira, who finished 12th in the series championship this year. "A lot of times you don't have the time to do it right, and I was able to take it step by step. When you get hurt, you want to come back even harder, and that's what I was trying to do.
"After a month (in June 2009), I had to walk for an hour. Just walk. That's all. I could go to the gym, but I couldn't put any weight on my spine, so things that I was doing were pulling instead of pushing. The second part of it was swimming."
Swimming might not be Meira's strong suit ("Not only the waves but the water is much heavier. You go slow and get tired faster and the salt bothers you.") but it's another challenge to meet head on.
"It's a great hobby, and it's something that while I'm doing it I can learn about myself and I can use that in the race," he says.