Getting to Bariloche was not easy. In order to make the flight as cheap as possible, it took us 47 hours of travel to get to there (including a night spent in a motel in Miami, so not all of it was traveling). We left our house a little before 7AM on Monday and arrived in Bariloche at 10AM (6AM our time) Wednesday. Adelaide and I spent the first few days walking around town, going on a few death training rides, and doing some easy swims. Since we ended up staying in a hotel with most of the other pros, we got to spend time hanging out with them, which was fun and different than all of my race experiences in the U.S.
Bariloche is nestled at the foothills of the southern Andes in Patagonia. The area is dominated by 205-square-foot lake Nahuel Huapi, with dozens of other large lakes and 7,000-foot snow capped peaks painting a beautiful Bob Ross landscape. The weather was a bit more harsh while we were there, with 20-30 mph gusts, rain, and cool temperatures.
The town itself is a major tourist destination, specifically for skiing in the winter, but during the other months it’s still packed with people roaming the streets buying chocolate and window shopping. It’s roughly the size of Boulder, at a little over 100,000 people, and like Boulder, it has grown rapidly in the past few years. According to one of our cab drivers, the population has doubled in the last decade, which explains the horrendous traffic situation the town has–hence the “death rides” mentioned earlier.
The lake was walled in by forests on either side, with a large cliff encroaching down all the way to the water’s edge out in front of us as we entered the water. At 10AM, the air was still cold, and a slight mist could be seen from our breath. The water was equally chilly, with good visibility and taste, not that I drank it on purpose. It was, by far, the most scenic swim venue I’ve ever seen.
After the start gun went off, as usual I found myself getting dropped from the leaders in the first 200 meters. I thought, so much for improving my swim over the winter, and hoped that my legs would show up for the bike despite it being so early in the season. Eventually I found someone’s feet who I could hang onto, and I sat there for the rest of the swim. At the half way point I felt like it was too easy and contemplated going around him, but thought better of it. I’d most likely go the same speed, but at a higher effort.
I didn’t know it at the time, but the two of us finished in 25:11, almost a minute faster than my best swim last year, and 1:45 down on the leaders.
This is after what I felt like was an easy swim. What the hell is wrong with me?
Most of the lead swimmers put on gloves and arm warmers. The roads were wet and the temperature was only in the mid to upper 40s, and in the process of putting on clothing, they lost 30-40 seconds, to my benefit. Once I was out of T1 and on the bike, I made quick work of the undulating terrain throughout the first part of the bike course. As mentioned before, the roads were wet, and combined with constant climbs and descents around blind corners in a dense forest, I was right at home. I may not have been the most daredevil cyclist, but compared to most triathletes I turn a bike around a corner pretty well.
By seven or eight miles, I had caught everyone except the leader, Torenzo Bozzone, who still had 20 seconds on me. At this point, Igor Amorelli was a few seconds back from me and after I took a long pull, he came around and closed the gap to Torenzo within a mile or two. We quickly formed a cohesive trio, taking fairly even pulls, despite my attempts to take the easier pulls and save my legs since I knew they were both superior runners.
On my way to the fastest bike split of the day on the Speed Phreak.
After those first 10 miles of fun roller coaster roads, the course straightened and flattened out quite a bit, though it was still somewhat interesting with a few minor rollers here and there. For additional motivation, not that I needed any, there were more spectators out on the roads than any other triathlon that I’ve done.
Half way through the bike course and our lead continued to grow on the first chaser, TJ Tollakson. I felt the first signs of fatigue, but kept taking my turns on the front since no one likes to be thought of as lazy. By now we had doubled back on the course and were passing through age groupers, which slowed us down in the corners and made things a bit dicey at times. I lost contact with Igor and Torenzo with 12 miles to go around a round-a-bout when I got stuck behind a group of other riders, and as I struggled making my way back up to them I realized how tired my legs were getting. So, with 10 miles to go I stopped pulling and “sat on,” if sitting seven bike lengths back can be called sitting on. My normalized power for the day ended up being 326, so nothing crazy but still pretty decent for March.
As we came out of T2, Torenzo dropped both of us immediately. Neither of us even tried staying with him for a second. A few minutes later, Igor came around me as my feet and legs refused to wake up. During those first few painful miles I thought of three things: 1) I need to start doing runs off the bike, 2) I need to start running more, and 3) there is no way I’m ever going to do a full distance race.
Thank you for the picture @pix4uhq!
The wind was bad every day we were in Bariloche, but right beside the lake it was atrocious. Going one direction I had a nice tail wind, but the other it was a consistent 20-mile-an-hour breeze, with gusts close to 30. Up until about mile six I’d been able to limit my gap to Igor to 20-30 seconds. Second place was within striking distance if I held it together. Then all of a sudden my legs fell to pieces. My legs turned from rubber into melted rubber and my pace began to drop. My breathing was no longer labored now that I was slowing, and my heart rate didn’t even feel that high. I’d fueled well during the bike with around 1,200 calories, and had been sipping 30-40 calories from my flask every mile during the run, but I was quickly losing energy, and TJ was closing the gap.
With four miles to go, I had two minutes on TJ, down from 3:50 at the start of the run, and 4:10 a few miles in after initially putting time into him. My legs grew worse and worse, and I battled the 2.5 mile head wind section now believing that I’d get caught. There was no way I could hold him off running close to seven minute miles, and I couldn’t get my legs going any faster. By the final turn around, with 1.5 miles to go, I only had one minute on him. I rallied and pushed the bad thoughts out of my head, forcing myself to believe that I was safe from being caught and that as long as I nailed the next mile I wouldn’t even have to run hard for the last half mile–a little reward for myself later if I ran as hard as I could now.
That thought process, combined with the tail wind, helped get me through that next mile. I turned a corner to run uphill towards the center of town, looked back, and saw TJ just 20 seconds behind. Fuck. This was going to hurt. I’d used up almost everything in that previous mile, but had had another 800 meters of headwind through the city center to get through.
I powered on, each step growing more angry at the thought of being passed, and more self-assured that there was no possible way that I could be caught. I fell across the line with a 17 second lead on TJ, and immediately collapsed on the ground, equally mentally exhausted as physically, since I’d been cracked for the last six miles straight. I’d believe I would be caught, get content with 4th, then a moment later become resolutely devout in the belief that I’d hold TJ off, then second guess myself again 300 meters later. Back and forth all the way to the line. Not the best mental strategy, I know.
Igor on the left, myself on the right, and Torenzo in the center. A week later Torenzo made it an incredible three in a row after winning Ironman New Zealand, Bariloche, and Campeche in a 15-day period.
After recovering and finally getting to be part of the podium ceremony, I headed down to watch Adelaide race. She finished 5th, which was her first time making money in triathlon. It was enough to pay for her plane ticket, or our taxes, or her new race wheels and E-tap, or all of the above depending on our level of excitement.
Before the race as we prepared in T1, Adelaide told me that I was going to come in top three and she was going to make money. If either one of those things had happened, it would have been a huge success, so the fact that both did meant it was double plus good. We spent the next few days in Bariloche doing tourist stuff and soaking in our accomplishments. Neither of us could have realistically hoped for a better start to the year. Thank you to my sponsors A-Squared Bikes, Vision Tech, CUORE of Swiss, and Hammer Nutrition. Also, thank you to my coach Chris Winn, as well as Matt and Nora, and Joss and Galen for watching Maybellene while we were gone.
The nightly chocolate ration grew by 25% each day.
The view from the cafe at the top of Cerro Campanario
You take a chairlift up and down to the cafe. Our legs didn’t complain.
There are plenty of old stray dogs to pet in Bariloche, and very few went un-petted.
Hiking on our last day. We were advised not to go on the trail because of strong winds that could cause trees to fall over.
We took this sign to say, “Don’t get an erection because it will cause you to lose your balance and fall off a cliff.”