Inaugural Ironman Cartagena 70.3 Triathlon (Colombia)

Cartagena, Colombia 2016

What an incredible weekend I just had. Not sure what happened…I went for a weekend of exercise and returned as if I had just returned from a month of vacation. I came back overly happy!

Sometime early last year after some hard thinking and after my first 70.3 I signed up for the inaugural 70.3 here in Colombia. I took my time deciding for various reasons. I wanted to run it because it would be the first ever Ironman race in Colombia and that alone was very appealing and it was to be held in Cartagena de Indias, a beautiful historic port city so of course the race and photos would be beautiful. Knowing Cartagena as hotter than Panama is where I was unsure. Did I want to race in a hellishly hot place for 5-6 hours with humidity…obviously I had to think that through. Even though I was quite worried about the heat in Cartagena I managed to sign up. I think being the first ever was a huge pull for me, plus Cartagena is well Cartagena. If you do not know the city, do go, even if it is hot!

I started training back in September, kind of late on my end. Many friends had already been training the whole year for this race…I just couldn´t do that, I had other races to focus on, other injuries to mend, etc…3 months seems to be my thing for these races.

Imagine training for 3 months for 3 different sports just to go race for 1 day…kind of seems ridiculous, right. Well they say the work has to be put in and when it is you are ready and race day is just when you finally get your medal for all those months of hard work. It is not the test because you already know you are capable, the race is simply the gran finale to enjoy and well finish for that well deserved race medal.

For me the weekend was so amazing for the people. I stayed in Bocagrande in a hotel where my old team was staying and they were nice enough to include me in the final trainings for race day. Yes, for triathlon you train up to the last minute, all light but still training. 2 days before (Friday) I ran alone testing the humidity, it was there but i felt fine, later with the team we biked 30 minutes making sure there was no problems since we had to take the bike apart and put it back together to get to the race (I had to fix the brakes but otherwise it was ready to ride), then after we swam (I felt really comfy). Then Saturday we ran to the expo for check-in and then later dropped bikes off (they stay overnight in the Transition Zone). Besides the fact that my old team included me but also I just loved the energy at this race. It was the first in Colombia, so athletes were very happy and proud and many were new to triathlon and this distance so the energy was very high. Having a race in the Country you live is so much better then my first race in Chile, I ran into people I had met on other teams, at the pool, who worked in my building, friends from social media, etc (In Pucon I did meet people, don’t get me wrong). In addition I kept meeting more people there for the race, before, during and after. I met a Brazilian team at the hotel, friends of friends from my old team and other teams, met people at the expo, met people before the swim, on the bike, and on the run. there were even friends from Panama who came for the race. It was just an overall great experience. I think for me it really made me feel at home, something I had struggled with for the past year. I felt like I finally had friends, I was not alone, and I fit in finally. In addition to this feeling that I was longing for was the fact that I reached all my goals set for this race.

Race day breakdown:
Having been my second race, and my first with tons of errors I was determined to improve lots. In my previous race I made errors in transition (time wasted), errors in the swim (got lost), errors on the bike (no tools, brakes broke), errors even on the run (slow first lap).

I had struggled so much on swim confidence during this training season, strength on the bike, and I didn’t focus on running at all. I wanted a time of 5 hours 30 min, under 50 min swim (that was the time I was at recently and swimming I was really more interested in feeling confident and comfortable than anything else), under 3 hour on the bike (seemed easily do able, never timed myself), and under 1 hour 45 on the run since I felt slow I gave myself a good cushion.

Also interesting to mention, my fear for the heat miraculously disappeared a few weeks prior. I think I got to the point were I figured, I was not the only one racing, there were over 2300 athletes with the same problem and they were all going to race, I had trained for this and well I was going so I couldn’t let the heat really bug me now, and well I guess I thought I should be fine since I had lived 2 years in Panama (ja ja over 1.5 yrs ago…as if that made any difference now) and even ran a marathon there and felt fine with the heat and humidity.

Harbor swim exit

SWIM
This race was split into waves by age and gender. I was a bit worried about starting around so many people, but hey we are all women, no one really wanted to start so close to anyone and we just wanted to get it over with. First off, the swim started late, everyone’s thought was oh no this is bad, as the sun was going to get even hotter. I for some reason was very relaxed and just happy we were group 8 and not group 20 something. Originally our thought was that the cannon they blasted was not ready and that was why we were late. Might I say the cannon sure got you ready and pumped to go race! The real reason is that the roads for the bike had not yet been cleared, typical Colombia (Latin), those who were supposed to do that arrived late.

Finally our turn to swim, this was a in water start, so we had to jump in from the dock next to the convention center and float around until it was our turn. Something new for me but I was fine with it. I was even fine swimming next to others, originally worried for elbow to the face or people grabbing me, whatever bad could happen, but nothing ever happened and I actually liked swimming next to other women like this, for me it felt competitive and I went with it and enjoyed. The majority of the swim I was away from the bouys to avoid any problems and excess people. In general there were others but not really that many to worry about.

The swim was basic an out and back, big rectangle, tons of bouys so you were never lost, it was in the bay (many worried that it would be filthy since so many boats dock there, it was ok, not super clean but the only trash I found were leaves from trees, definitely not clear water but fine to swim), only a few waves on the return, and ended right along side the Buque Gloria, Colombia´s gorgeous old military ship. The exit was up some stairs and then a somewhat long run to transition.

From the start, I felt comfortable, I also felt really happy. Something I definitely did not expect. I think I swam with a smile or maybe a laugh the whole time, I know impossible but really I enjoyed the swim a lot. I ended up finishing in 49 minutes, I didn’t know this until after the race when someone showed me. I don’t swim with a watch, hardly ever, so I had no clue that I had met my goal for the swim.:D By the way this is not a fast time, if I was fast I would be in the 30s for the swim but Iike I said I really just wanted to feel comfortable and this was definitely achieved so I am super happy about this.

In my first race the goal was just to survive and get out of the water, this time it was to actually feel comfy swimming, and now that I achieved this turns out I really like triathlon and Now we can focus on speed :P!

BIKE
This was a gorgeous route out on the road that leads to Bucaramanga, an out and back. It is fairly flat and did have some wind on the return. There were several bridges leaving Cartagena that were good to slow down a bit on and there were some small hills, followed by a long steep hill right before the turn around, but nothing crazy for the girl from Bogota…ha ha.

Scenery went from walled city, ocean, swamp, tabletop mountains, jungle, little towns with kids lining the road yelling termo *water bottle, and of course sun, sun, sun but with a nice breeze the whole time I hardly noticed it was hot. What I did notice were the kids, so cute, tons of them lining the road and cheering / asking for water bottles. I did not give them mine since I felt I needed the hydration but I saw others who did toss them a bottle or two.

The bike I finished in 2:50, right below my goal time 😀 Unlike many Colombian’s I had not done the route beforehand and everything was new and great. I really enjoyed the ride. As usual I had a tiny issue on the bike, this time an unexpected guest, called an avispa, decided to sting me *hornet. I tried to find the stinger but failed so I stopped at the medical tent, maybe a 1-2 min stop and we removed it, it had not entered the skin yet, perfect, and I headed off again…not allergic.

This time on the bike I had placed my shoes on the pedals before the race and successfully ran out of transition, jumped on and rode off, where as last time I did not try this trick and I definitely lost some time.

Interesting fact, on the ride, in my age group I started out 53 and of females 218 and after the ride I finished 15th in age group and 80 among females… wait until you see what happened on the run!

The hot wall of Cartagena

RUN
The run was 21km below the sun around noon in the Ciudad Murallada (Historic Walled City). We ran a route full of energy and many turns two times and then headed to the finish line. Towards the end of the loop was a part where you ran up onto the wall for a few minutes. Going up onto the wall was probably the best and worst part because it was directly under the sun, the only hill per se but it was very historic and up there were sponges provided by DHL which were uber useful in the heat!

The route might have been confusing because of so many turns, and it turns out that the Pros actually got lost, well really they were redirected mistakenly, and did not finish 21km but instead between 11km and 16km and in the end the organizers had to give awards to the 2 distance groups. One of my good friends here competed in the Elite field and completed the 21km only because of some bike problems which made him arrive late and miss all this drama, I think he is still trying to get prize money since he was one of 2 who completed the whole 70.3.

I on the other hand had no problems, I ran fairly fast although I did not finish as quick as I could have but I did meet my goal time, so all good :D. The first lap I was just checking it out and didn´t notice too much except lots of turns where as on the second lap I knew where I was going, felt comfortable and did notice some stuff. The second lap became fun for this reason, I finally noticed the bands playing local cumbia music and the runners dancing/ running as they went by, soooo good these vibes! Then I also met a French guy who lives in Panama and we almost finished together, but he was a bit faster, which is funny since he came up to me and said, ¨Hey, I like your pace, can I join you and we can finish together?¨I said sure but in the end I just couldn´t keep up sadly, but he was nice company and a good hug at the finish.

This race being in the heat was quite different than the last and it felt different then the times when I ran in Panama. A few reasons, the loop concept which made it accessible for people to cheer the athletes on multiple times, I definitely heard many cheers, mainly Go Endurance, because my uniform is from the team and many family members and others were on the course. Another important point is that there were plenty of water stops on the route. I used every one of them about 4 times (2 loop 2x). I don´t think I drank much of it but the majority ended up on my head, neck, arms, legs, etc. So much agua that it took the shoes 2 days to dry and are now so clean it is as if I have never used them before…lol. So happy athlete here.

P.S. Here I passed logically even more people and ended up 6th in my age group and 30 overall female athlete. If you ask me that is a huge jump (218 to 30) and looks like I will continue to focus on swimming!

Results: http://www.ironman.com/triathlon/events /americas/ironman-70.3/cartagena/result s.aspx?rd=20161204&race=cartagena70 .3&bidid=812&detail=1#axzz4Ux7H beWl

That about sums up my race.

I did want to mention something that became evident at this race although it has nothing to really do with the race itself but refers to what I mention at the start. I came back from this race as if I returned from a long vacation. There obviously was no vacation, in fact it was a quick trip which should have and probably did wear me out. Even with this I came back soo happy and the reason for this is that it finally clicked….What you ask? Well me and living in Colombia! It was here precisely that I finally felt at home. Living in Colombia, especially Bogota has been quite the challenge for me, maybe you have seen me mention it in other blogs or spoke with me but maybe not.

Adapting to living here has been far from easy and I have now lived here for 1.5 years….which is amazing since it was far from easy and it took 1 year and 4 months for this click to happen so you can imagine the FELICIDAD – HAPPINESS this brings to my soul. So at this race I finally felt as if I belonged here, I think it is interesting that it went along with the challenges from triathlon also which I started when I arrived in Colombia.

In a short recap, I spent the first 8 months or so in Colombia working on a project that took lots of my time and energy and at the same time I was training so basically I had no life. I successful finished the project and races but I was ooo so not happy here. At 6 months I was actually crying and thinking of giving up but to me it felt like a waste to only make it 6 months so I promised to give it at least a year knowing that changes were coming and should be making life easier/better. Luckily those changes came but those first 6 months left a mark and at 1 year in September I was just confused and numb as to whether I still wanted to stay or now wanted to go. Turns out I got another year visa and I am here and I thank God I have gotten to this point. Basically life started to change in early October 2016 when I started to find out I had friends that I didn´t know I even had. I started racing and running into people I knew and we bonded at the races (maybe not all were races) but the peak was definitely in Cartagena as I saw so many people I had bonded with over the year or 1.5 years. It was truly amazing and such a great way to end the year. I hope this feeling sticks around and keeps confusing me as to what to do because IT FEELS AMAZING!

To my friends out there reading, just remember, although I might not see you often, I sure think about you a lot, miss you a lot and you do mean so, so much to me (even if you are far away you always cross my mind – even if I don´t call),. Without you life would suck, as I have learned (probably several times in my life but thankfully the bad moments seem to disappear when the great moments arrive).

With this post I wish you all an excellent 2017.

Siempre adelante.

Pucon 70.3 Race Report (Chile)

Taupo 70.3 Race Report (New Zealand)

Ironman Australia Trip Report (1st IM)

1 year living and working in Bogota (Colombia)

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