Meet Manny Huerta

Manny Huerta finished 2010 as the 3rd placed American in ITU rankings. A political refugee born in Cuba, he fled his native country when he was 13 and moved to Miami with his family to pursue the American Dream. He ran cross-country at Florida Atlantic University and is a former U23 national champion. He is striving to represent the USA at the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Slowtwitch: What does your 2011 season look like and what are your goals?

Manny: In 2011 I’ll be racing all over the place, mainly focusing on the ITU World Championship Series, USAT‘s new draft legal series, and I’ll be adding some Olympic non drafting races as well, like Rev3 Costa Rica and Life Time Fitness.

ST: How do you like the non-drafting races?

Manny: I love them. I did a couple of halfs in 2009. That’s how got into triathlons as a teenager. I want to mix both non-drafting and ITU this season.

ST: Last year you were 4th at La Paz and in 2008 you were first. You're starting you're 2011 season there on January 16th. What are you hoping for?

Manny: I go to La Paz every year for two reasons. First of all it’s a great race, awesome people and a great organization. Second, I usually stay in Argentina for a training camp to escape the North American winter and I love it down there. It reminds me a bit of my childhood back in Cuba, the food, the language and the people. In 2008 when I won there it was pretty cool. It was my first ITU win so I’m hoping to win again and celebrate with the locals.

ST: You’ve traditionally raced well in South America. What is it about South American races that you do so well?

Manny: Going back to South America is always very special. It reminds me of where I come from.

ST: You come from a very unique background; you mentioned you left Cuba when you were 13 as a political refugee. What was it like fleeing the country and ultimately arriving in America?

Manny: Well good and bad. My family and I left everything behind to come to America for a better life, looking for freedom. The bad part is that we also had to leave behind most of my family and friends and I haven’t been back since. I don’t know if I will ever be allowed to go back.

ST: With that in mind, what would it mean to you to earn a US Olympic spot for 2012?

Manny: It would be awesome, all my hard work paying off. I know that I need to take it to another level to earn a spot for the US Olympic team but I’m on the right track. Last time I made it only to the Olympic trials but I learned a lot from that experience and I believe this will favor me a lot.

ST: What can you tell us about your training in 2010? There were rumors that you spent a significant amount of time training at altitude. How do you think that helped you?

Manny: I had a good training camp set up last year and I’ll be doing the same this year. I moved to Costa Rica and I was living in a farm in a volcano around 10,000 feet high, but most of my training I did was at a lower altitude. I also teamed up with my new coach Roberto Solano and the Hypoxic Tri Team. The first couple of weeks were tough but once your body gets used to it you don’t even notice. If a Sherpa can climb Mount Everest often, Manny can climb his volcano daily.

ST: At the Hamburg WCS you placed 13th in an extremely competitive field. To what do you credit your success there?

Manny: Yes, Hamburg was my best race but I injured myself there on the last lap of the run. That pretty much set me back for the rest of the season. My running was coming along well and I was ready to have my best race for World Champs but that was not the case. Right now I know how to get back to that kind of shape and by the time the WCS circuit starts in April in Sydney I will be performing at that level or better.

ST: How would you describe the intensity throughout an ITU race?

Manny: It’s a flog fest. You’ve got guys constantly going all out and if it slows down a bit someone goes and I love that about this sport, it makes it more fun. The swims are getting faster and more aggressive every time. The bike is starting to matter a bit more with successful breakaway. On the run if you want to hit the top 10 you have to run under 30:30 for the 10k

ST: Most age groupers can make a reasonable estimation on where they'll finish in relation to their AG field. What's it like lining up at ITU races with 60+ men knowing that almost all of them have a legit chance of securing a top 10

Manny: This means that you have to prepare for races well and do very specific training (high intensity and lots of speed). 10 seconds could mean 5 spots at the end of the race and it will only get more competitive.

ST: What role do sponsors play in a professional's career?

Manny: Right now I’m still looking for sponsors, so anyone out there who wants to help me on my way through Olympic trials and the Olympic Games feel free to contact me. I have started a blog where I keep all my fans in the US and around the world updated on what I’m up to: races, training, crazy stories, and yes the volcano. This is also a great way to support and market my sponsors.

ST: Are there any specific areas where you still need sponsor support?

Manny: Pretty much in every area. At the moment I’m part of team elite with Powerbar. They’ve been supporting me since 2008 and I love their products. I also have OGK helmets out of Japan the lightest and safest helmet in the market. They will be selling soon in America so check out their website.

ST: What advice would you have to a triathlete who is striving to compete for age group wins?

Manny: Consistency it’s the key to success in this sport, you learn that and you will have many wins.

Check out Manny Huerta’s blog here: