Patagonman Xtreme Triathlon: “Heaven on Earth”

So this was my third time doing an Xtri race from the Xtri Circuit. Norseman 2016, Celtman 2018 and now Patagonman Xtri. So first of all, I want to say that the organization put one of the best races in the world. You get by far the most thrilling experience of Extreme Triathlons. The beauty of the landscapes are breathtaking. The race course is challenging on every leg. Cold water swim, bike course with a hard elevation profile and a very tough trail running course. I’m sure this race will began to be a sold out pretty soon.

Preparation for this race began very early on the year. That meant doing a lot of hills on the bike and doing at least once a week hill climbing to improve trail running skills. Cold water swim? Well, probably because our sea here in the Pacific is always cold, I was less worried of the cold water. I didn’t do too much except a couple of open water sessions a few months before the race.

Support Team

If you’re new to Xtreme Triathlons, one of the main differences between regular triathlons and Xtri is the need of a support team. My support team this year consisted on 3 people. Only one of them is allowed to provide direct support to you. That means, access to T1 and T2 and assistance with nutrition. Besides that, he is allowed to accompany you in the last 12K of the marathon.

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Support Team: Romano Moreno, Valentina Valdés and María Elena Parra

Race Week

Without getting into too much details we arrived on Wednesday to Puerto Chacabuco. A small town where the race begins. It’s a point to point race, which means that you start in one city and end the race on another place.

The weather in Patagonia is very unpredictable. You can get all seasons in one day. It rained every day for 2 weeks and we knew getting a nice sunshine on race day was going to be a miracle. For that matter, you need to have plan A, B and C for clothing selection. The advantage of having a support team is that you can have garment options standing by in case the weather changes abruptly.

So it rained every day. Did a couple of training sessions; swim, bike and run. On Friday everyone got together for a Social Swim which gave me the chance to test water temperature and meet the other athletes.

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Riding on extreme weather
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Friday Social Swim
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Social Swim with other Athletes. Water Temperature 9.6ºC

As week went on, weather forecast for race day began to look promising. Amazingly, a sunshine day with good temperature was becoming a reality. This was a Miracle.

Race Day

The alarm woke me at 2 am or better said, it reming me to get out of bed because I didn’t sleep a minute that night. The tension was really building during those last days.

Bike check in at 3:30 am and board the Ferry Boat at 4 am. We were at walking distance from T1 so it all went very smoothly. My support team came along with me. Rack the bike and then suit up for Ferry Boat boarding. Starting at night made a whole different atmosphere. Tense but at the same time happy to face day ahead of us. It was going to be an incredible experience.

 

The Jump

Time to board the boat. Say goodbye to my team and promise to meet them 90 minutes later. Once on the boat, the tension increased minute by minute. I gathered with some friends and talked about anything to clear thoughts. It was cold already and  I decided to start warming up my arms before hitting the water. I took a while to reach the drop zone. Once there, it took another while to put Kayaks in the water and get the Crew with cameras ready. The Main deck opened it’s door and cold water from a hose was thrown to us. I was cold and found unnecessary to catch more cold before jumping into the fjiord. People approached the jumping spot and started to throw themselves into the dark. This was it. I knew there was no turning back so I switched my mind to race mode and care less about cold water. Once in the water, I swam quickly to the kayaks that marked the start line. To be honest with you, it was really cold. I moved my arms and legs constantly to keep muscles moving. The body was ok, it was my face that felt cold.

There was no count down or I didn’t here any. The Ferry made it’s loud horn sound and it was race on.

The Swim

I started hard and settled in a good pace after a few minutes. Very few people around me. It was easy to navigate, the water was very still, just like a giant pool. There was this big Navy boat ahead of us that marked a right turn that would lead us to the coast. I saw a few swimmers ahead of me. Didn’t know my position but I knew probably around the first 5. The light in the sky started to show the first signs of dawn. It was really magical. One of the most beautiful moments of my racing career. I started to catch the swimmers ahead of me. Too many colors in the coast made a bit confusing where the swim exit was. Nevertheless, I found myself exiting the water in third place with a big smile in my face.

A crowd of people cheering on the way to T1 made me feel like a rock star. Once there Romano(my support) helped me to remove gloves, wetsuit and boots. It took a while to undress and put on the cycling shorts and jacket. I decided to stay warm on top as it was still chilly, I had the option of removing the sleeves in case it got to warm. Opened sky, very few clouds, conditions were amazing.

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Romano my support crew at T1

The Bike

The first 60K were pretty flat. My legs were still wet and a bit cold, but I knew this will pass after a while. Found hard to settle on my target power. Quads felt a bit hard but I forced myself to reach the watts I needed to produce. I saw 2 or 3 athletes ahead of me. Within the first hour I passed them one by one. Quads still felt hard. I ignored the pain and kept on pushing. Around 50K I decided to make a brief stop to the toilet. I made the decision of loosing 2 minutes and ride comfortably than spent 6 hours on the saddle feeling miserable. Back on the bike and surprisingly my quads stopped hurting!! It seems the brief stop also helped to stretch the legs. My support crew yelled “You’re fifth”. That really gave me a burst of energy and more motivation to fight on the bike.

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My legs felt hard in the beginning
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The first 60K were pretty flat

 

Around the city of Coyhaique the roads were still under construction. We had to ride over some gaps of dirt roads. This was the main concern as I didn’t want to loose time by getting a flat. So basically I just rode very slow and safely over those sections choosing carefully where to put the wheels. Some guy went Kamikaze and passed me really fast on those sections. I didn’t care. Better be safe than sorry. I knew I would catch him later. And I did.

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Support Team in Action

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Some few sections were under Construction

After Coyhaique the course became harder and harder. More climbing to do. Still feeling good and keeping my power output steady. The beauty of the landscape helped to keep the thoughts away from pain. Last efforts until the last 15K which were all downhill.

The Run

Arriving to Cerro Castillo where T2 was located was amazing. The downhill was incredibly fast. Later I checked the Garmin data and I even got sections where I was flying at 80Km/h!!!

Transition was really smooth. Romano got all the gear organized and in 2 minutes I was hitting the trails.

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Smooth Transition at Cerro Castillo

By the time I was beginning the Marathon, the temperature had increased considerably. I knew it would get a bit hot so carrying extra fluids on my backpack was wise.

The first section was flat, then there was this huge hill that I ran with no problems as my legs were fresh. I didn’t push too much as saving energy was the best strategy. A few more kilometers of flat and then this huge hill came into sight. This was the toughest section of the run. No more roads for a while, this was 100% trail running. All uphill, I didn’t bother to run it. Walking was for sure the best choice. Once on top, I started to pick a good running pace. Always holding back a bit as I knew I had a long way to go. One athlete caught me and passed me really fast. I didn’t care as he was running a lot more faster than me. All of a sudden I found myself in front of a big pond of water. I knew about it as athletes from last year’s edition had warned me about it. Getting my shoes wet was not a good idea. So I carried a pair of sandals and extra socks in my backpack to pass the obstacle. Again, wise decision. It was really refreshing… I would have stayed there all afternoon but I was racing… Quickly change back to shoes and dry socks. Back running again.

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Getting my shoes wet was not a good idea

Downhill for a while and then I got into a gravel road which would lead all the way until Puerto Ibañez City, where the finish line was.

At 10K I reached the first aid station. I stopped briefly and had some cups of fluids. Then back into the run. It was all rolling from now on. Some sections had really steep hills which I chose to walk to save energy. At 15K I found myself with the most stunning views of Patagonia. It got me really emotional and decided to take some footage while running. I just couldn’t forgive myself if I didn’t.

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At 15K I found myself with the most stunning views of Patagonia
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It got me really emotional and decided to take some footage while running

By the time I passed this amazing spot, fatigue and heat started to kick in. A few more kilometers and Aid Station 2 appeared. This was 20K and I was not feeling great. I really had to fight my demons on this part. There were moments where I really thought I couldn’t run anymore. I had one gel and kept going focusing on reaching 30K mark, where Romano would be waiting for me. Support is allowed to run along with you from that point to the finish line.

By the time I reached 30K I had drank all my fluids and I was desperate for water. Romano filled my backpack and that gave another burst of energy. So we hit the road again for the final stretch of the run. It was good to have him run along with me. Talking about anything would help me to deal with the struggle of pain I was going through. After passing some stunning waterfalls, the road became flat. We were about 7K from the finish line and I must say this was the hardest part for me. The road seemed endless. It was dry and monotonous. I felt like I was not moving at all. At last, the gravel road turned into concrete. This was the final 2K to the finish line. We ran together side by side, no one in front, no one behind. I knew I was in sixth place and that was gold for an old guy like me. Last meters enjoying the views of the lake and the cheering of the crowd. Hitting the bell at the finish line was incredible.

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I want to thank my support team, Romano, Vale and Mane. This was really team work. I couldn’t have done it without you. My coach Armando Galarraga from Meru Endurance Team which prepared me for this tough crazy race. My Sponsors Merrell Chile, Youtopia Club, Altered Bikes Specialized, Xterra Chile, Slimbar.

Finally, the organization for putting this Epic Race in our beautiful country. I have raced all around the world and I’m sure Patagonman will soon become a Must Do Race for every crazy athlete like me.

 

 

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