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Feb 23, 2023

How Much Training, Discipline and Sacrifice Goes Into Pre-Race Events?

In every discipline or sport there are stringent guidelines for coming out among the top finishers. And the paddlers in this year’s Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge are no different. In fact, because the race spans four days, it puts an even greater burden on them to ensure that they are in top shape to be able to even survive the one-hundred-and-eighty-mile journey. One of our news teams traveled west to take a sneak peek on the type of training that paddlers put in prior to the big event. It’s a lot of discipline and sacrifice that’s required to do well on the river. Marion Ali found two teams on the river in Esperanza Village. Here’s her report in tonight’s episode of Belize on Reel.


Marion Ali, Reporting

It’s only a few days before the Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, and since the race was introduced in 1998, throngs of Belizeans look forward to cheering on their favourite canoe teams. In turn, the teams put on display their best performance for their fans. Earlier this week, we met with two of them along the Macal River in Cayo, putting in valuable training. Koop Sheet Metal has snagged the title four times, so for them, pride is a big factor.


Carlos Linares

Carlos Linares, Captain, Koop Sheet Metal Team

“We started to train from November. We try to train three times a week, which is Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday. So basically we were just working like four hours and a half, like every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday doing paddling. We usually train like the first leg of the race, which is from San Ignacio to Banana Bank. So that’s what like everyone normally trains.”


Marion Ali

“Okay. That’s the longest leg. Uh, it’s not the longest, but it’s the toughest, like due to all the rapids and the low water. So that’s what takes up all the energy.”


But since the race is just a week from now, the teams don’t normally paddle long distances. It’s part of training 101, to do shorter distances and sprints to keep the muscles In top form. Team Captain for Koop Sheet Metal, Carlos Linares told us that they also try to put in other forms of physical exercise during the training period.

Carlos Linares

“We’ve already put in all the training we could, so right now we’re just focusing on, you know, getting hydrated, well rested and by Friday we will go. It’s about probably from here to baking pot ferry, like an hour or something. We don’t want to do nothing more than that. We did gym like two months, then we quit that, so we just focus more on paddling and some other techniques. And then other days we’ll run or do push-ups or something else.”


But team coach, Elvin Penner said that the team did not take the other physical fitness training serious before entering other canoe races this year, and it showed in the results.


Elvin Penner

Elvin Penner, Coach/Sponsor, Koop Sheet Metal Team

“I don’t think they have done the best they can yet. This is the Koop Sheet Metal male team – first time they’re paddling together as a team so the expectations are not as high. They did some running but they didn’t see the importance of it so they didn’t continue, so the first few races that we lost, they realized that wow, we should have gone back to the gym.”


The rule of thumb is the lighter the team, the better. But aside from the hours in the gym and time spent on the river training, there needs to also be strict discipline.


Carlos Linares

“We want to be in the water like probably like ten minutes or seven, so we’ll be up like from, I’d say from six a.m., So we’ll just, you know, have a small breakfast or something and just mix the Gatorade, gather up the paddles, make sure we have everything ready for that – training.”


And then there are the sacrifices that must be made.


Carlos Linares

“I have a family, right, so I have my common-law wife and my little girl. So I don’t spend much time off with them during the day, but, and at the night I was working as a bartender, but then part-time, so I quit that because then I wasn’t getting my enough rest, right. After paddling I would go straight in to work nine, ten hours. You got to sacrifice if you want something, you know. Nothing comes easy.”

Easy might not be a good adjective to describe the race for The Hive team either. It’s a trio of youths all under the age of eighteen. Their captain, Efrain Cruz, told us that they are in it for the fun of it, and they are learning about the river in the process.


Efrain Cruz

Efrain Cruz, Captain, The Hive Team

“When we go, we try to take all the rapids and don’t try to go in the backwater because if you go in the backwater, the it’ll slow you down. So we take the rapid. The waves are too big for us.”


Marion Ali

“So there must be something that draws you to this kind of event. Is it the – you do it for the fun of it?”


Efrain Cruz

“Yes, Miss, love of the sport.”


But fun and prizes aside, the event was conceptualized back in 1998 for other reasons, according to organizer, Roberto Harrison.


Roberto Harrison

Roberto Harrison, Organizer, Belikin La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge

“We have noticed quite a bit of destruction of the riverbank due to agricultural development, mostly. There’s a lot of pollution on the river still and this is contributed by the different communities that populate the riverbank. So we ought to be creating more awareness, outside of the race, to mitigate these issues that are still prevalent on the river.”


Discouraging pollution of the river and its banks might require an educational campaign. The river is often times littered with debris, whether from floods or human activity. Linares finds that when the tides are low, such as he expects for this year’s race, the debris impacts the paddlers.


Carlos Linares

“It seems like this year it’s going to be pretty low, lower than last year.”


Marion Ali

“Which means what for you?”

Carlos Linares

“It’s an advantage for the lighter teams, you know, because the heavier team, they got to be careful for not to break their can canoe. And even though we’re lighter, but we got to be on the lookout for stones, sticks, because the lower the river gets, the more, you know, the stones come out, sticks, you know, sometimes you could pass over them, but due to the water, sometimes, you know, the river, the route changes, so you got to go around.”


Today Koop Sheet Metal and The Hives had a friendly sprint for our camera. It was an opportunity for the upcoming youths to send a message.


Efrain Cruz

“We’re coming up strong or in a few years, we’re gonna win them.”      


Marion Ali

“Not this year ? No, no, not this year. (Laughs)”


Carlos Linares

“I feel proud of them, you know, they’re the future of paddling. They’re very young. They stand a good chance to win, but I mean the category is different. They’re fast, so, yeah, but the race will tell about that. Then I would like to take this time to give a big thank you to our sponsors: Koop Sheet Metal, Universal Hardware, Twin Town Clinic, you know, Dr. Mike, we want to thank him a lot for all the vitamins and stuff he provided for us. Yeah and then we would like to give a huge thank you to Mr. Elvin. You know, like he did, he went all out for us. He took time out of his busy days, you know, to be there with us.”


Marion Ali for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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