I feel its all going to hell– It was my response when my coach asked me how I was feeling the day before the race. I had used a lot of time the last day to sort out the technical issues with my new gear. My tubeless front wheel started leaking only two days before the race and none of the three bicycle stores in Coyhaique had spare parts for tubeless or a tube with long enough valve to put in. On the last ride before the race, my gears started flipping the chain over the big ring and there I sat on the grass, waiting to test the gears for the 15thtime after the hard-working bike mechanics from Patagonia Cycles tried all the tricks on the book to adjust it. The really big issue was still my right hip muscle, Gluteus Medius, which got tight after less than 5 minutes of running and painful after 15. It felt like everything was falling apart.
The technical issues got resolved to a satisfying standard. After consulting with my physiotherapist in Norway, Jenny started working hard with her elbow in my hip, and while it got quite sore, we hoped it would prevent it from tightening up too much. At 01:25 A.M. (no, its not a typo) the alarm clock woke me up and 20 minutes later we were on the way from Coyhaique to Puerto Chacabuco where the swim started. I was ready to race.
The very warm weather the last days reaching as much as 29 degrees Celsius, had turned. It was closer to 13 degrees and hard blowing wind. It made the organizer delay the start for a half hour and go for option B in the swim course. Still 3800m but more sheltered from the wind. The water turned out far warmer than expected with my estimate at 17 degrees, at least. I was glad I opted to use only the neoprene balaclava and not the socks or gloves. As the ferry blew its horn I went out hard, without really pushing beyond sustainable effort, and keeping my head cool and technique good. I held similar speed to a guy on my right for 3 – 4 minutes before I decided to do the wise thing and get on his feet. It saves energy and if I feel very strong on the later part of the swim I can charge of in front and we will both have a faster swim. He held a good pace and I did not feel I had the swimming strength to swim past and push harder. I came out of the swim right on his feet as nr. 4, in a time of 51:01. My best swim ever, with a good margin. Especially when it was still rough water, despite going to the more sheltered route.
«You are right behind Mauricio; you are going to catch him quickly»; someone shouted as I went out of transition. My race strategy was aggressive and I went out hard. It turned out I went out slightly too hard, as in my mind I was only a minute behind and getting visual contact with Mauricio, was possible rather fast with a hard charging start. In reality, I was 3,5 minutes behind him and it was unrealistic to bridge the gap quick. I should have kept my cool and followed my watt goal plan, instead of pushing 20-30 watts over. The gap got smaller until we got to the first mountain after around 60 kilometres, then he took more than 1 minutes of my time, with only 15 minutes of riding. Great, I thought as I had been cycling the mountain steady. He is burning the matches early. Then the gap increased more and more as we got further. Not so great after all. Knowing Mauricio as a great swimmer and a superb runner, gaping time on the bike was my only possibility to beat him. I wanted to take 10 – 15 minutes of the bike. Now he was on the way to taking 10 – 15 minutes of my bike. At 68km we crossed the most critical part of the bike course. Road work on that stretch meant one 200m and another 100m stretch of gravel road, in a fast decent. It was a big risk of puncture and I was happy to go for the tubeless tire setup and disc brakes as I passed it fast, secure and without any punctures. The tarmac until that point is rough, but not dangerous. After that point, passing Coyhayque, the tarmac becomes much smoother, but more dangerous, as there pot holes in the road coming suddenly. With the wind in our backs, we were close to flying in terms of speed. I was still feeling strong but continued losing time. The surroundings were out of this world magnificent, but I knew I should focus on keeping my head down and on the potential potholes in the road. When we started the long climb after around 130 km I was not feeling strong anymore and the sun came out frying me up. My hip started to feel sore. Running out of water didn’t help either. It was a dark patch in the race and I was ready to cave in. It had been a very long race season for sure with my first race in April, and maybe I was more tired than I thought I was, and today just wasn’t my day.
When I got close to the last downhill section I got passed by the local hero, Jose Luis Rodriguez, or Pipo as he is called. He is not just a random dude doing a triathlon. He is a pro cyclist with a 10thplace in U23 TT World Championship on his résumé. The guy CAN ride. It’s funny how a competitor can pick me up from the hole of misery to fight mode. My watts increased from 220 to 300 as I got on his wheel (in draft-legal distance of course). I knew that he knew the upcoming downhill well and wanted to see where and how fast he hit the turns. The strong and unstable wind made the decent sketchy, but I felt confident with my disc brakes and my local “guide” in front. My aero position and the Morf-Tech bars also made me able to catch up the loss I had in the turns when to road stretched out. As we came into T2 together I could see, to my big surprise, that Mauricio was running out. The last time I got the time gap I was 7 minutes back(!). He can’t be feeling super fresh was my thought.
I ran out with a hunters mind. The forecasted weather of 17 degrees and cloudy, was in reality 25 degrees and sunny. I had my running vest with 600ml of water and six Isogels with me. That should be sufficient for 30km of running without access to my own support as there was an aid station at 10km and 20km. I immediately drank one of the gels and after 20 minutes emptied the second. Then I discovered that I had no more gels. My plan of having six gels on the run was carefully planned, in my own head. I had put them in the vest, but they had fallen out during transport, and I had not clarified the plan with my support. From then on I was dependant on the nutrition on the two aid stations for the next two hours of running, which I had no clue what would bring. The first aid station had Powerade, which my stomach can’t tolerate very well. I took a cup and filled my bottle with water. The aid station at 20km luckily had coke, which works a lot better. I was seriously off my nutrition plan and really starting to overheat as I was running on the hilly and sandy trails. My mindset was positive still and I found my only option was to play my cards as best I could. It was supposed to be an adventure after all and I could not control 99 % of the factors as I can in Norseman. I had no clue what state Mauricio was in and was still hunting. The run was maybe the most entertaining 42km I have done. It was sandy and hilly, but not technically difficult and with a net negative height profile. The finish line was lower than the start point, which made the terrain marathon far easier than the run courses in Norseman and Swissman.
I was super happy to see my Jenny, Jonas and my driver Patricio at 30km and receive both mental support and physical energy in terms of gels. Mauricio had passed, 12 minutes earlier. My hope of catching him flew out the window. From early on the run I had been in no-man land in terms of competitors, but luckily I didn’t know it. Having an “Ikigai”, a reason to race is crucial for peak performance. Fighting for a win, or second or 42nd place for that matter is a great motivator for me. Running shoulder to shoulder with strong competitors brings out the best in me but without a realistic chance of changing the outcome of the race the motivation to push fell. I really enjoyed running the final 12 km as I had my support driving passed me and cheering me on. I had lost my “Ikigai” and could afford the rare luxury of soaking in the amazing scenery and reflect everything I should be grateful for. My hip, which got painful after only minutes the day before the race, had not caused me bigger problems after nine hours of racing. I had no technical issues, no severe energy/nutritional issues, despite getting in few calories during the run. I was close to the finish line and was still feeling good, in relative terms of course. When looking at the bigger picture of gratefulness I had also a lot to be thankful for. Be able to do the sport I love in one of the most beautiful places in the world, and having the support from the people I love the most. Support to live as a professional triathlete each day and actual support during races. I couldn’t and wouldn’t do the race and have this experience without them. I had a lot to be grateful for.
The “red carpet” towards the finish line in Patagonman was the longest I have seen. It was about 1,5 km straight line of tarmac road ending in Puerto Ibánez, only meters from the river Rio Ibánez. The atmosphere got increasingly electric as the finish line got closer. The locals along the road were very enthusiastic and supportive. As I got closer I could see Jonas had put on his “fast shoes”, as he calls a special pair of sneakers he believes is faster than the others. He fast ready to win together with me. We crossed the line, rang the bell and won second place.
My goal was to win and in that, I failed. Looking at the results Mauricio was dominating with a 20-minute margin after his world-class run. For me, this was not devastating; it was super inspiring and motivating. I put up a good performance, but know I can do much better. I had a break true in my swim performance lowering my PB from 55min to 51min and finally be able to transfer my increased speed in the pool, to outdoor race conditions. The bike position was very good, but also brand new and I have not finalized the cockpit as I want it to be in the future. Running in terrain and very hot conditions with less than normal access to fluids and nutrition was not ideal for me, and with a hip function 100 %, I see a big potential in performance increase there as well. Nor the weather or not doing the small mistakes above would have made me beat Mauricio on the race. With time and more work, however, I am certain I can reach that level.
The Patagonman Xtreme Triathlon turned out to be the epic race I dreamed of. Patagonia and the people living there are just awesome as my highest expectations. Doing the race and travelling in the area should be one every adventures triathletes bucket list. I cannot thank the organizers and their amazing volunteers enough. We will definitely go back for another adventure.