In today’s blog, we uncover the story of one of the mast inspiring first triathlon race stories ever. This athlete came to Davey Black from a strong swimming and water polo background with the intention of developing into a competitive triathlete. He brought the best of himself and became a very valuable member of the team. With every training session he became known and loved by the club and the Triathlon community.
Dario recently competed in the Sunshine Coast 70.3 Ironman event with the goal of finishing and learning a lot from his first ever triathlon. Dario finished the race, but it was not without a lot of turmoil, and it will be a race that will live on in Davey Black folklore for many years to come.
This story begins in February 2022. Dario Della Femina, arrived from Italy as an Engineer on the Westgate Tunnel project in the city of Melbourne. He decided that this was a good opportunity to pursue his interest in triathlon. That is when he decided to contact Coach Steve Davis for the very first time.
“I couldn’t understand it all, but I decided to give it a go” – Dario.
The more he trained, the more he got to love the routine and the club environment. With the help of some teammates and coaches, he took on everything he was told about triathlon. From the different distances to racing strategies, from the rules to the nutrition and hydration requirements. Dario went from a fitness enthusiast to a brave triathlete always ready to face the challenge. He put in 110% at every session and the more he trained, the more he fell in love with the Australian triathlon community, the teams, the adrenaline and the challenge. That’s when he decided to race Sunshine Coast 70.3.
“I wanted to live the experience with my Australian Friends.” – Dario.
But Dario’s road to race day was far from smooth, and it took a community to get him through to the finish line.
The journey to Sunshine Coast
With the help of one of his teammates, Dario packed a bike and used the extra space in his borrowed bike bag to pack the rest of his race day gear. Trisuit, bike shoes, helmet, socks, wetsuit, goggles nutrition and hydration all went into the bike bag. He then jumped in an Uber and headed to the airport, caught his flight and landed safely on the Sunshine Coast.
The good news is that the bike bag arrived safely. The bad news is that it had arrived at Sydney airport, 1018 kms to the south of where it was supposed to land in the Sunshine Coast. Not knowing what to do, Dario messaged his team and everyone jumped into action. Those in Sunshine Coast and Melbourne did everything possible to find a new bike for Dario. Thanks to the amazing Davey Black triathlon community, a borrowed bike, helmet, goggles, nutrition and hydration were sourced for Dario within a few hours. It was then only matter of buying the few things like a tri suit and runners to get to the start line in good enough condition to race.
(Triathlon Rule: Try not to bring anything new to race day.)
“I had to buy a new Trisuit, new running shoes, new socks, nutrition…” – Dario
With a major catastrophe averted, it was just matter of getting to the start line, when our protagonist noticed one small detail. His goggles were missing. With the help of another Davey Black athlete at the race, they searched, all while the clock ticked down to race start time.
“I think he managed to stay calm for a long time.” – Troy (Davey Black athlete)
A long time indeed. Dario took his bag and upended it, spreading his gear out in desperate search og the illusive goggles. With just a few minutes to spare and running out of time, he decided he would swim without them and he repacked his kit bag.
“I came too far to turn back now, I’ll swim without goggles if I have to.” – Dario.
While putting the last piece of clothing back into his bag, he noticed a side pocked in his bag, and low and behold, the goggles were found! Without much time to spare, he to the start line. Maybe it was the adrenaline, or the nerves, but Dario managed a time of 31:38min for the 1.9km swim without a wetsuit. It was a great start, and Dario went to T1 in good spirits. After all that had happened, it finally looked like his luck had changed.
Bike: 90 kms 2:41:52
Leaving the chaos behind, it was time to focus on the bike leg. 90 kms on a borrowed bike. A borrowed bike with borrowed clip on tri bars. With clip on tri bars that had been put on in transition that morning. Despite it all and still full of adrenaline, he managed to surpass every expectation, his first 50 kms were at an extraordinary pace.
Everything finally looked like it was going according to plan, when life decided to send a new obstacle. The bike’s derailleur got stuck, leaving our athlete stuck in the smallest possible ring of his cassette, and the biggest chain ring. This unusual combination meant that Dario could still ride to the finish line, but every single pedal stroke would burn his legs.
“That was when I thought if I had to give up, too many things had happened by that point.” – Dario
Digging deep, Dario managed to finish the second half of the bike leg. It was now just the half marathon in brand new shoes to go!
Run: 21.1 kms – 1:49:39
Dario defined the run in one single word: PAINFUL. Not only were his legs burnt from the effort and mechanical failure on the bike, but the new shoes started to rub and cause blisters.
“I remembered what my coaches said, and I started swinging my arms as much as I could.” – Dario
On the last lap, seeing his friends and teammates, Dario dug even deeper. He crossed that finish line, leaving all the frustration, all the effort and finally ready to celebrate. In just a few steps after crossing the finish line, and with a sense of happiness and relief, Dario grabbed that medal, the one he had been dreaming for so long.
“DARIO DELLA FEMINA, GREAT WORK!!!” – Ironman 70.3 Announcer.
After his amazing adventure, Dario walked with a smile on his face towards the beach for a moment of rest and relaxation. He had a little lie down and closed his eyes for a moment. He then woke up 2 hours later in the sand with the medal in his hand.
“If I had been on my own, I wouldn’t have finished.” – Dario
This race was certainly memorable, for both Dario, those teammates racing and his coaches and teammates back home watching it all unfold in the chat groups. Despite the frustration, the chaos and the obstacles, Dario showed himself and everyone around what he is made of. His body took him to the start line. His mind took him across the obstacles and his spirit was the one in charging of bringing this true champion to the finish line.
Arrivederci Dario! This team will forever remember you, and we look forward to eventually crossing paths with you again. From Australia, we will be following your journey in Ironman 70.3 Sardegna.
“I have already been two times to Australia, I will be back.” – Dario