I signed up for IronPunta in Uruguay, to travel and spend time with my family and compete in a small race of 200 competitors which included my brother Alex, participating in his first ever ironman, and my uncle Jorge, whom I raced my first Ironman in Brazil with in 2008. I also took it as an opportunity to take a break from the competitive stress that can become one’s own goals. I used it as a chance to remind myself why I started doing triathlons in the first place…satisfaction in overcoming a tough personal challenge, enjoying good health, and remembering how fortunate I am to live such a lifestyle.
The race team consisted of Uncle Jorge, racing his 2nd Ironman of 2010 and 6th in total. He previously completed Ironman Brazil 5 times…his latest in May 2010, with a time of 13:52.
Alex Pickering, competing in his first ever Ironman, whose triathlon experience consisted of 2-3 short distance triathlons and the Bracebridge half iron swim-bike only. Oddly enough, on race day morning, he appeared to be the least nervous of everyone.
Me, competing in my 2nd Ironman of the year, and racing in my 4th Ironman to date.
Then we had the support crew consisting of my cousin Ignacio Pickering (son of Jorge) and my dad, Ricardo Pickering. Though not competing in the race, they were still an important part of the team’s moral, especially during final hours of the race when their shouts of encouragement play such a key role in keeping your spirits high and your legs turning over.
Punta Del Este, Uruguay
Punta del Este is an upscale resort on the southern tip of Uruguay, about 140 km east of Montevideo. Although the town has a year-round population of about 7 300, the summer tourist boom often boosts the population by an extra 500 000. Luckily for us, the race is held about a month before the “temporada” or tourist season begins. As far as vacations go, Punta del Este is an absolute treasure. The beaches, restaurants, sights, and weather don’t get much better than this, and the price of accommodations and food are about half to a third of what you would normally pay in Canada or the USA.
We left from Buenos Aires, Argentina, 4 days before the race and drove the 720km scenic drive. The road trip was fun, even though the five of us crammed into the Zafira with our 3 bikes, dozen or more bags and race wheels/equipment, we shared a lot of laughs and had a good time checking out the scenic roads.
Once we arrived we checked into our two 2 bedroom apartments. Jorge, Ignacio and Alex in one, pops and I in the other. For the rest of the week leading up to the race we did our daily swims in the ocean, ate healthy and delicious meals from our favorite restaurant “la nueva avenida” and enjoyed the family time together. We rented scooters, toured the city, explored the beaches, and ate more delicious foods. It was a difficult challenge passing on dessert prior to the race…we did however have the occasional cup of coffee with “media lunas calentitas” and man were they good!
On Saturday we went to the pre-race expo and information session, where they told us about the course, and what to expect on Sunday. Then they fed us from the buffet. An assortment of fresh stuffed pastas, fresh vegetables and salads. I must say it was first class and the host hotel “El Conrad” did an excellent job of keeping the athletes well fed.
Ok so enough about the eating, lets get to the meat and potatoes already….
Wake up time was 4:20am and breakfast was at 4:45am in our apartment. I served my secret home made triathlon special pancakes. Imagine if you will, the 5 of us in the kitchen drinking coffees and literally laughing our heads off at how terribly we all slept that night, blasting “Gonna Fly Now” from the Rocky Soundtrack. I have never seen a group so happy the morning of a big race. Especially Alex, less than 2 hours away from his first Ironman, completely composed and ready for the day.
Remember, come race day, the training and hard work is already done, all you can do is give it your best, control the controllables, not worry about the rest, and enjoy the experience.
So, we made our way down to the transition area with all our bags of stuff for the long day ahead. We were well organized with our swim, bike, run, special needs bags, and nutritional needs for the race. We got marked, pumped up our tires to pressure, and headed to the beach for the start of the swim.
6:30am we were on the beach and it was really really calm….as if we were the only competitors there….actually, we were the only competitors there. To fully appreciate this you must visualize the South American way of life…being on time means 20-30 minutes late for pretty much everything. I was half expecting the race to actually start at 7:30 since it had been advertised as 7am. Finally around 6:45ish people started showing up and were jumping in the ocean to get in a quick warm up before the start. We did the same and had a pretty long warm up actually….and then I was swimming simply to keep warm as the cool morning air was enough to keep me shivering right up until 7am.
Swim 3.8k – 2 x 1900 meter laps in the ocean. The waters were calm, beautiful, and the jelly fish were not as abundant as in other ocean swims I have done in the past. With only 200 competitors, there was plenty of room for everyone to swim very comfortably. The biggest challenge on this day was sighting. The course was marked by 4 buoys, 2 at the start, 1 at the first right turn, and then another at the 2nd right turn leading back towards the initial two. As you took the third buoy and turned back towards the shore, the sun was coming up over the horizon. It was absolutely beautiful….except that when you are swimming out in the ocean and have 0% visibility as a result…then its a little less beautiful, and a little more annihilating. The first lap wasn’t too bad for me as I was able to follow the lead pack. As we exited the water and came around for the 2nd lap, I lost them in the first few hundred meters and was totally alone for the remainder. I ended up doing the 2nd lap a full 5 minutes slower than the first, not a big deal…but goes to show how important drafting and sighting are in the open water.
Chris – 1:05:50
Jorge – 1:27:10
Alex – 1:29:41
T1 – approximately a 200m run from the beach, up a wooden dock across the avenue and into the Conrad Hotel parking lot, used as the transition area. They had a little pool you could run through to clean the sand off your feet, and a wetsuit stripping team. They used little baskets for each competitor to keep your things in, and the bikes were racked on the opposing side of the changing tent. Everything was well organized and all went smoothly.
Bike 180k – 6 x 30km loops on the bike on a mostly closed course along the coastline from the Conrade Casino Hotel to “La Barra”, a small township nearby, and back. The bike course was actually pretty technical as it contained 8 turnarounds per lap. Multiply that by 6 laps and you are looking at 48 180 degree turns, some of which required you to slow right down to a stand still. Add to the mix a cloudless sky with a lot of Sun, a lot of heat, a solid sea breeze from the coast, and a few low grade but steady climbs and you’ve got it.
Overall I really enjoyed the bike course. At first I was a little worried that I would not enjoy the looped format, but I was mistaken. The format permitted one to know exactly what to expect, you got to see the other competitors numerous times per lap, you could judge if they were getting ahead or if you were making up time on people, you could check your lap splits and see if you were holding your pace. It also helped divide the long bike ride into small manageable pieces. Just another 30k to go…..no problem, I already did it 5 times…whats one more? and so on. The first couple of laps were fun, sunny, and I was holding a very steady pace. I was completing the 30km loops in just over 51 minutes…or at an average of 35km/h. After a few laps my pace started to slow…i finished the 180km bike course in 5:20 averaging just under 34km/h. In retrospect, I should have gone a little easier on the bike, as I hadn’t done too many long bike rides since my last Ironman in July. I was simply enjoying myself too much and wanted to continue pushing.
The best part of the course for us on this day was the fact that we saw each other about twice per lap. We gave each other shouts of encouragement on each passing. On my 3rd lap, I passed my brother Alex who was on his 2nd lap. I looked at him and gave him a pat on the back as I passed. He was relaxed, and sticking to the pace that he had trained to do. I told him “stick to the game plan, you are looking great”. He smiled and gave me the thumbs up and told me I was doing great too.
Chris – 5:20:19
Jorge – 5:55:00
Alex – 6:45:01
T2 – After finishing 5+ hours on the bike, it felt amazing to change into running gear and stretch out the old back. I used the porto-poties, slathered myself in sunscreen, grabbed my red bull, salt pills, gels, chomps, and my hat and out I went. A quick marathon was all that was left to complete.
Run 42k – 4 x 10.5km loops on the most scenic runs I have ever experienced. The entire run was along the coastline. Starting on the main avenue near the swim start, all along the coastline, to the famous statue of the “dedos”, a monument to the drowned victims of the ocean, and then you looped back. The run had a little bit of everything a tired athlete could hope for to keep your mind occupied from the fatigue your body starts to feel. First you had the finishers area where most of the crowd was set up. A long strip with cheering spectators that were absolutely fantastic for raising your spirits. Each lap you would run just shy of the finish line and loop around back the way you came. There was a mist tent that you could run through to cool down a bit. The aid stations supplied coke, water, sponges, granola bars, fruit, Gatorade, and sandwiches. I relied mostly on the water and Gatorade, as I had my own salt pills, gels, red bulls and chomps. I was not going to repeat the experience I had in Korea where I had no nutrition for the run.
Again, the lap format was amazing. Shouts of encouragement and high fives from spectators and our team of supporters were in abundance. I saw my brother and uncle multiple times per lap. We would give each other high fives or pass of wet sponges to combat the heat from the blazing sunshine. The beaches that hugged the coastline had hundreds of people tanning and relaxing. Following this a long sidewalk strip through a shopping zone was filled with restaurants, where people ate outside at tables with umbrellas. The look of confusion on their faces as the tired, sweaty athletes ran past while they were enjoying their meals was amusing.
After a couple of laps, the sights start to loose their appeal however. The high fives from team Pickering are now too much effort. A simple nod of the head is all the energy we can afford to share with one and other. People start to slow down and walking becomes much much much much much more enticing. I did my first 21k in 1:40:20 and was on pace for a 10 hour Ironman. During the 3rd lap, a crucial moment came about. I ate a gel and a sudden wave of nausia came over my body. At first it was slight but within seconds my head was spinning in circles. I was on the verge of falling over and puking simultaneously, I was able to keep everything down but I came to a full stop. I needed to walk it off and walking felt really good. It was now a battle to get myself running again. I kept on walking for a good few minutes and then started jogging again. Strangely enough, after the race when I shared stories with uncle Jorge, he experienced a very similar 3rd lap. His first 2 laps were strong, and his 3rd lap was a tough mental battle with walking and suffering.
Finally as the 4th and final lap was at hand, all the walking re-energized me and I was able to maintain a light trot. My 2nd 21km took 2:03:10 and they were pretty uncomfortable. I knew I was no longer aiming for a 10hour day, but I still wanted to finish with a personal best time….so I was able to tough it out. Again, the exact same thoughts and situation was happening simultaneousness to uncle Jorge. He was also able to perceiver and push though the discomfort.
As soon as Jorge crossed the finish line…he puked. I was there to give him a big congratulatory hug…then he puked some more! We looked at the clock and it was still below 13hours. The smile on Jorge’s face was priceless…and then he puked one last time haha.
By the time he got his stomach under control, Alex was approaching the finish line. We could not believe it, he had the perfect day. He paced himself during the entire day. Despite his long bike ride, he conserved his energies and almost caught Jorge on the run. He finished only 14 minutes behind. As Alex ran across the finish line, I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of pride. He did everything exactly as planned and the results were fantastic. Best of all, he didn’t make the classic rookie mistake of going too hard too early and then suffering for the rest of the day.
Chris – 3:43:04
Jorge – 5:11:44
Alex – 4:33:54
This was a special experience for me as I had coached both Alex and Jorge through their training for this ironman. It felt as if I was finishing with them and I was very proud to see both finish healthy, happy, and with personal bests.
We each received our medals, t-shirts, and found a place on the grass to lie down and recover for a few minutes. Then after some cool drinks and post race snacks, we exchanged stories all the smiling faces congratulating each other on a job well done.
Results of the day:
|Name||Time||Place Overall||Division||Place Division|
What a FANTASTIC experience! All of us overcoming the challenges of the day, suffering, enjoying, pushing, and above all else, supporting each other and celebrating together as a team. Like the finishers T-shirt says in spanish “Yo termino lo que empiezo” (I finish what I start). A strong message and a proud accomplishment for all the competitors.
I look forward to the opportunities that the future may bring for team Pickering.
Thanks very much for taking the time to read the report and for your continued support.
Multi Media Links
Race day pictures can be found here
Video Highlights IronPunta 2010