Monday, February 9, 2015

Pucòn 70.3

Having never been to South America, when Luke asked if I wanted to race Pucòn 70.3 4 weeks after Ironman Western Australia, I obviously said, "YES!". Pucòn has been on my race bucket list after watching the adventures and hearing rave reviews from Linsey Corbin & Ben Hoffman. The tricky bit is that a mid-january race can be difficult to get in shape for for us northern hemispherites. Not to be deterred, though, I knew that if I put in a couple of strong weeks of training in January, my Iron-fitness would carry me through and I'd hopefully make a couple of fitness deposits in the bank for 2015.
Getting to Pucòn, Chile is quite the haul, but if it goes smoothly (as our travel did), it's not so bad. I think we were in the 24-hr door to door ballpark. We flew from San Diego -> Houston ->Santiago -> Temuco, Chile. From Temuco, Pucòn is about a 90 minute drive along the beautiful Chilean countryside. Wynne did great and we stamped her passport in her 5th continent!
Instead of the typical effusive paragraphs of race rundown, I'll a top 10 things to know about a triathlete's trip to Pucòn 70.3 (and you'll get the idea of my race along the way... tricky, eh?)

1) The snowcapped Villarica Volcano flanks the town of Pucòn and makes for some serious "take your breath away" backdrops for your race photos. You can go hike this volcano (& slide down on a sled!) but we weren't able to- I don't think Wynne is ready for ice picks, crampons, and helmets in case of lava flow).
We admired the volcano from the comfortd of Pucòn village
2) South Americans LOVE triathlon. The race energy was INSANE all week and it felt much more like a full Ironman event where the pre-race dinner and festivities were all top-notch and very well attended. The Chileans were incredibly enthusiastic spectators and especially encouraging of females.. It was awesome! Luke was like a celebrity there and he signed more autographs than in Kona.
3) If you like meat, proceed directly to Chile! The town of Pucòn is incredibly cute and reminds me of a ski village, but its not a ski village. Throughout the walking streets, there are dozens of traditional Chilean restaurants with outdoor grills (Churrascarias) where they cook amazing meats to order. We definitely got our iron stores nice and high pre-race!


4) The swim takes place in Lago Villarico which is brisk, but not freezing. Definitely wetsuit legal. The swim course is awesome and the lake was calm for our race morning. I had a less than stellar swim in the beautiful Lago Villarica (one of those swims where I assumed it must have been long until I saw everyone else's swim times and realized it, well, wasn't)
Katya & I doing run recon pre-race. The swim is in that cove in Lago Villarica
5) The bike course isn't super technical or hilly, but you have very long shallow gradients (almost false-flat-like) to work with. I like these kinds of "climbs" because you can really get into a groove with your power. (I had possibly my best-ever bike split- 4th fastest female and "just" 3-4 minutes off the top bike splits which is a huge improvement for me). I think my improvement is a combination of a few things... solid coaching by Luke, my new Scott Plasma 5 w/ ENVE 6.7s, and finally a few really consistent months of training. My bike performance at Pucòn was almost good enough to make me forget my horrendous swim.
No pics of me on the bike, so you get one of Luke. Picture this as a female, but I was probably more aero ;)
6) The run course is HILLY. There are 4 steep (but not too long) hills on each loop of the 3-lap run course, so you do the math. I came off the bike in 6th, ran into 5th, ran off course (and back into 6th) and eventually back into 5th. I didn't feel great on the run, but I got it done and in the end was happy with my day. I got to see Luke a few times on the out-n-back loops. I could tell he was suffering, but he pulled home with a solid 4th.
On the run in my new Endura race kit. Photo: Wagner Araujo
Luke gettin' up the hills on the run... 
my fave pic- Luke & I crossing paths on the run!
7) When in Chile, drink the local specialty- Pisco Sours! (I had one, but honestly it wasn't my favorite...tastes a bit like a margarita with no ice).
Toasting w/ friends post-race: Mojitos & Pisco Sours
8) The village of Pucòn is very tourist -friendly, though most people do not speak English! Brushing up on your Spanish is a must, especially if you're a picky eater (I'm not, so I got plenty of surprises). I loved seeing a thriving tourism community that was not primarily fueled by US or European tourists. The Chileans and other South Americans vacation here. I loved this as, in contrast, when in Mexico, you feel as though there are hardly any Mexican tourists and the Americans (& our culture) take over much more, making the experience feel a bit less authentic
Wynne loved Pucòn and Chileans LOVE babies. It was so welcoming!
9) Also on the tourist-friendly note, Pucòn is a great walking town. No need to have a rental car unless you're looking to explore beyond the town (which you should if you stay a bit longer.. The volcano treks and hot springs look incredible but we didn't have time)

10) Just put it on your bucket list!

Thank you to my amazing sponsors and to the race organization for making Pucòn 70.3 possible.. And now, it's almost time for our next adventure... back to Australia in 6 days!

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