January 27, 2009

Volcano Alert System

I'll just let the photos do the talking here...

San Alfonso Del Mar

I got to swim in the WORLD’S LARGEST SWIMMING POOL!!!! The pool is a gorgeous blue and stretches on forever and ever…the length is 1,013 meters, so just over 1K. The width varies up to about 300 meters and is 3-9 feet deep, so much water! They pump water in from the Pacific Ocean, then treat it and warm it up. The temp was probably about 70 degrees, and the neighboring ocean a chilly sub-60,so when you would swim past the incoming water you would freeze! San Alfonso is a private gated resort near Algarrobo. It has 9 huge condominium buildings, restaurants , a grocery store, a gym and several outdoor sports facilities (soccer fields, playgrounds, tennis courts, driving range), a temperature controlled beach (the big pyramid in the pictures), and activities going on all day long…its quite the place. The pool is so big that non-motorized boats are allowed on it…so there were sailboats, kayakers, paragliding, paddleboats, and rafts. In addition there are several water activites, such as trampolines and superballs.

The superballs cracked me up! They would put kids inside a deflated plastic ball, Velcro it up, then blow it up with a leave blower, then they would let the kids go. It was like a human hamster wheel on top of the water! Most of the kids would stand maybe 2 seconds before falling flat on their faces, but I did see a few that could really get going and jet across a section of the pool. Crazy things people think of, who knows what will be next!

The first day I was there, Yasmine and her parents came with me. (she raced in Vina del Mar too) So we headed out to explore the pool. We swam a little over 4K, just 4 lenghts! We got to one end and there was a gigantic water slide, always one looking for fun, I said ‘come on let’s go!’. We climbed to the top and I was surrounded my 10 year olds. :) The guy working at the top told us we had to take our goggles off or put them on our forheads and told us to be sure to cross our hands across our chests for safety. I was like, wow, we are going to fly down this thing! Unfortunately, that was not the case…but fun anways. Then it was back in the pool for a 1K jont to the other end. Yasmines parents were eating at a restraint at that end so we swam right up to the window where they were sitting. It was like we were the dolphins at an aquarium restaurant. :) After our swim we hung out on the beach and then Yasmine and her parents had to take off for the airport. I set up my trainer (yes, I drug my trainer all the way to chile!!!) on the balcony and got a little spin in, oh what a view I had! Cooked me a little dinner and then fell asleep to the waves crashing on the beach.

The next day I woke up and went for a run. There was a path that surrounded the whole resort that was about 3K long, 1K of which separated the pool from the beach. Then it was back to my trainer on the balcony. The superball kids were right outside my condo so I laughed at them, people watched, enjoyed watching the waves, and rocked out to my Ipod. Then it was time for another swim. I debated doing the great 100x100s set…since it would only be 10 lengths! But since I was recovering from race #1 and getting ready for race #2, I opted for a 5K instead. It was pretty windy and there was a considerable difference in the roughness of the water at opposite ends. One end was wavey and the other smooth as glass. I even put up a good fight in a ‘race’ against a sailboat that was heading into the wind. After my day of working out, it was time to chill out and relax on the beach and enjoy the sun being out until after 9! Then it was time to pack up and get ready to head to my next destination: Pucon.

Villarica Volcano

Dominating the landscape of Pucon, is the active, snow-covered Villarica Volcano. I’d been gazing at it for days while swimming, biking, running, and just walking around Pucon. So on the Tuesday following the race, I decided to climb it! I went with an awesome group: about 10 triathletes from Brazil and Argentina including Ana Lidia Borba (4th woman pro) and her aunt Roberta and Oscar Galindez (men’s pro champ) and his son Thomas. We signed up with a local shop, Sol & Nieve, and our guides were the best!

The day started out by meeting at the shop at 6:30am…yes very early in Chile (and for me too!) I had a 25min walk from my hotel and made it to the shop just in time. However, along the way, the 'watering trucks' were out. Basically a huge fire hose on a truck that they were using to water allt he flowers...I guess they are not used to people being out at this early hour in the moring, so I ended up getting sprayed and watered, along with my camera. What a start to the day!

We donned our hiking boots and grabbed our backpack full of equipment (ice pick, crampons, pants, jacket, boot/shin covers, ‘diaper’, plastic sled, helmet, water, and snacks.) We had a 30min drive to the base and once we arrived we found out that the lifts were not working so we would have to hike up to the ‘start.’ Off we went in our single file line. This first part was not snow covered, so that meant we were hiking up loose volcanic rock (basically like very loose black gravel.) It was extremely hard to get your footing and after about 45min of climbing, I looked up and it seemed like we hadn’t gone anywhere despite passing several other climbers. At this point I was thinking…Why am I doing this? Isn’t this supposed to be fun? I guess at least I figured out that I am not meant to be a mountaineer! So I kept on hiking and tried to enjoy the view and journey. Another 45 min later and we finally reached the top of the lift, boy it sure would have been funner to ride that thing up! We took a short break and re-applied our sunscreen since the sun was blazing and we just reached the snow level which would increase the intensity due to snow reflection.

Our guide showed us how to use our ice picks: wow, me with a snow pick :). He showed us how to catch ourselves if we fell and started to slide, how to switch depending on which direction we were climbing, and how to get good footing in the snow. Off we went again, this time on snow rather than lava! Thank goodness the beginning was pretty mellow and not too steep. This gave us the opportunity to get some ice/snow climbing experience before the tougher sections. Once we hit the snow, I was loving it! It didn’t take long for my mind to start thinking I’d like to hike the Himalayas or even Mt. Everest :). It was basically like climbing stairs since the ice and snow was relatively soft. You would dig your foot in and then step up. I slipped a few times and luckily regained my balance quickly. At times snow or lava rocks would fall from above and come swooshing by…I did not want that to be me! In some places the trail we were working out way up was dug out and the snow walls were looming above my head, easily 10 ft high. But for most of the time we were on the ‘top’ of the snow on the sheer edge of the mountain. We had a few breaks on the snowy section and they were great look-outs. We finally reached the peak, 2840ft, and we were on top of the world! You could see all around, in all directions. And then if you looked towards the center you could look down in the crater. It was pretty wild to peer over the edge and see the smoke forming at the bottom of the crater. A few times it began to rumble and you could feel the ground move ever so slightly. I guess the last time it erupted was in 1984, but just two years ago it was spraying lava. Our guide said it was mind-blowing to see the lava shoot up when you were just standing feet from the crater.

Now it was time to make our way back down. We got all suited up in our gear and it was time to go rip-roaring down the mountain side. We learned how to use our icepicks as either a brake or to help us go faster. We were seated on a plastic board (basically a small butt sled) with our legs out in front. Our legs could also be used as a brake. We would go down a section, laughing the entire way, and then hike over to another section. After a few runs our guide said I was ‘muy loco’ and said ‘no brakes!’ So, with my ice pick held high above my head and my legs lifted up off the ground, I went hurtling down. I started to lose a bit of control and did a 1080, then I was going down sideways, then backwards, and then at the bottom everyone was yelling ‘slow down!’ Thank goodness I was able to come to an abrupt stop. As you can imagine, with 10 triathletes, the race was on and it was oh so much fun! (I have some great video of the slide down plus the smoking/rumbling volcano and and am working on figuring out how to upload!)
And then for the final part of our descent…back to the lava. It actually turned out to be one hundred times better than the hiking up the lava. Since it was so loose, there was not much impact, and once you got going it was hard to stop. Once again, we got a bit competitive and the 1.5 hr hike up only took about 15 min on the way down!

Thanks to my incredible group, I had a fun filled adventure. And yes guys, I will be working on my Portuguese! Can’t wait to do it again next year!!!

Swim around the Peninsula

When we were up on the top of the Volcano peering over the edge, you could see the peninsula part of Pucon (the hilly part of the run course) sticking out in the Lake. Oscar told us that last year he swam around it…a little 6K jaunt. Ana and I decided we’d do it the following day before flying home.

We went down to the beach around 8:00am…and since all the Chileans were still sound asleep, there was not a sole around. No one was on the beach or water! And the lake was smooth as glass! The lake was probably 68-70 and the perfect temperature for me and my Aquaman. The water in the lake is the run-off from the Volcano and it is crystal clear. The views were incredible. As we rouned the end of the peninsula we were headed straight towards the Volcano! Breath-taking!!!! We finished the 6K swim in just under 1:30. And then it was just a short walk back to the hotel! I ran back to my hotel and hopped on my bike for one last ride…well, at least until next year!

Pucon 70.3

More Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/triusa/Pucon703Race?feat=directlink

Alright a brief race summary for the real reason I was in Chile! First of all thanks to Pedro, the town of Pucon, my fellow competitiors, and all of the hard-working and super spirited volunteers and fans. You all made the race fun and memorable!
The race started at 9:00am at Lake Villarica. The pros had a 1min headstart before the age-groupers started. Since we were starting with the guys, which I am not quite used to yet, I wanted to have a fast start. Well, I tried to go fast but it seemed like everyone else was going faster. I got beat up a little bit and just stayed calm and focused. After about 200 meters I got into a good rhythm and tried to start swimming people down (it seemed like there were tons of people in front of me!) As we rounded the first bouy, I really started to feel good and made my move. Coming in after lap 1, there were four men up ahead, and then me. On the 100 mtr run on the beach, ouch, one guy passed me. As I dove in for lap 2, I was determined to stay with him. We worked together for a little bit and then I took over and lead the rest of the way. I was the 1st woman out of the water by quite a bit and the 5th person overall! A very quick transition and it was time to get comfy and go hard on my bike.

The bike was 2 out-and-back loops that were deceivingly tough. The wind gradually built and coming back on lap two was like riding into a wall! I tried to stay steady and hit my nutrition. I had no idea where the next girls were, because by the time I reached the first turn around, the age-groupers were mixed in. At the start of the 2nd lap, my legs were feeling quite fatigued and I just couldn’t seem to push a big gear. That is when I realized I was ‘out of shape’ and that racing 2 weeks in a row in January with my level of fitness was not the smartest thing! Oh well, what could I do? I was in the middle of a race! So I decided to bring the effort down a notch and stay steady and make sure my legs could handle the run. Heather and Lindsey caught me about 35 miles into the bike. I tried to go with them, but felt like the effort was just a bit too much. So I backed off stuck with my plan of racing smart for where I was fitness-wise. I came into transition in 3rd place. I wanted to hold this and hopefully make a move on the girls up ahead.

The run was 3 laps, 3 very challenging laps. By far the hardest run my little legs have ever scene in a race! Each lap is 7K long with 5K of rolling hills through the Peninsula and a 2K flat section through town. Those hills were tough! Up, up, up and down, down, down. I was so grateful for all the cheering volunteers and spectators!!! Again on the run, I wanted to stay smart and make it to the finish line in good condition. I saw Heather and Lindsey duking it out and they were gaining on me a little each lap. I had a solid lead on the girls behind, so ended up going into a bit of a cruise mode. Don’t get me wrong, I was hurting going up those hills! But just not totally killing myself. So, I stayed in 3rd place the entire run and was happy to make the podium for the 2nd week in a row!

My new favorite place in the world: Pucon, Chile!!!

More Photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/triusa/Pucon?feat=directlink

I have been asked by tons of people what my favorite place is that I’ve traveled. I’ve always answered Madeira, a Portuguese island out in the Atlantic Ocean. However, after my recent travels, I have a new favorite: Pucon, Chile!!! When I was thinking about this, I thought about how lucky I am to have traveled so much: Japan (3 times), Spain, Mexico (several times), Canada, Austria, Germany, South Africa (twice), Thailand, Honduras, Argentina (twice), Brazil (3 times), England, Hungary, and probably a few more that I missed. I’d actually been to Chile 2 years ago for an ITU race in Villarica, the sister city to Pucon located only 15min away. I remember when we were there that we heard there was a half Ironman race in Pucon the week before our race. At the time I was still in my Ironmans and 70.3s are crazy! I had no desire to do anything longer than an Olympic distance. Fast forward two years and I’m actually back in Pucon for my third 70.3! Since I spent over two weeks in Chile, 8 of those days in Pucon, I got a real taste of the culture.

The people were so friendly and outgoing! And they have quite the lifestyle…stay up until the early morning hours and then sleep in until 11! The breakfast at my hotel did not even START until 9am (in the US they are over by then!) and went until 11:30…and I never saw anyone down there at 9 J. I could go bike and run and the roads would be traffic free in the mornings…and the views while riding were remarkable. Our post race dinner started at 10:30pm! And desert wasn’t served until midnight…and that was followed by the discotec!

The food was yummy and relatively cheap. And since Pucon is the adventure capital of Chile there are several options to keep you busy: volcano hike, trekking, bike riding, rafting, kayaking, canopy tours, horse riding, and hydrotail to name a few. And if you would rather do something relaxing, you could chill out on the beach or spend day at the thermal spas!

Everyone in the town, from the residents to the tourist, are all active and very fit! Most people walk or ride bikes to get around. Instead of making a monthly trip to Wal-Mart/grocery store…they just pick up items for a day or two and carry it back home. That way they can pick up fresh fruit/vegetables and hot out of the oven bread. The product was delicious and could be found at vendors along pretty much any street. I did this quite a bit too and loved it…I am not looking forward to my first trip back to good ole wally world!

So if anyone is looking for an adventurous destination trip…I highly recommend Pucon!!!! Details of some of my journey through Pucon are above, enjoy!

January 11, 2009


Yes, Chile, not chilly....I am in Vina del Mar, Chile...where it is 90 degrees, sunny, and stays light outside until 9:15 pm! Its a very nice change from the snow and cold back in Colorado.

So you might be wondering, why in the world am I in Chile??? For a race, of course! I raced in the Vina del Mar ITU race this morning, and will be racing the Pucon 70.3 race next Sunday. And since I have a week to spare in between, I'll be going to San Alfonso del Mar, tomorrow, for two days. It is the home of the world's largest swimming pool and there was NO WAY I was going to pass that opportunity up! I am not sure if I'll have internet access once there, but hopefully I'll be able to get some cool pictures posted.

I've been practicing my espanol with the locals, which has been muy divertido. And they always get a kick out of my charades when I can't quite say the right thing. I actually ran into quite a few American today that came out to watch the race...I guess alot of people spend their winters over here, and I can see why! And the street perfomers here are not only really good, but they really perform, IN the street. Not along the street or walkways like in the US, but in front and between cars stopped at stoplights, pure craziness!

Alright, so about the race. Pre-race morning stuff was going good...until we discovered there were no Porta Potties...and the host hotel would not let us in so sent us over to an apartment building...they wouldn't let us in and sent us to a restaurant...that wouldn't let us in! Finally one of the other girls in the race took us to her hotel which was about 6 blocks away, Thank You Romina! When we got back to transition it was about 9:20 and we were supposed to start at 9:45, with introductions at 9:40. So Yasmine and I headed down to the beach, got our wetsuits on, and warmed up. When we get out of the water, no one is around! Come to find out, they delayed the start and we had another 40minutes...so I chilled out and stretched a bit.

There were some pretty good waves at the start that we had to dive under and then swim over, yeah, I love a wavey swim! The swim ended up being WAY short, oh well. I still came out with a good lead and got on my bike and took off. The course was 8 laps with a little bit of a hill about midway through. And there were dogs running all over the place: running out in front of me, next to me, and chasing me! I ended up gaining a little bit of time on the pack of 5 behind me and I was riding solo. On the 7th lap at one of the 180 turns (which was across a median, so very narrow) there was local just standing in the middle of it straddling his bike. I come whipping around, swerve to miss him, had to unclip and wobbled a bit. That got my heart racing, so I was good to go for the last 1.5 laps!

Then it was off on the run! The run was 4 loops of a 'squashed M'. So we went down to the end, half way back, then turned around and went back to the end, then all the way back to transition...and repeated 4 times. So on the 1st loop, I make it to the far end and start heading back. I follow the arrows on the ground and then there are 4 arrows looped around a circle with an X in it marked on the ground with two cones. I turn around there and run back to the end. Once I get there, an official on a motorcycle tells me I missed the turn and have to go back....the real turn around was farther up the road (and was not marked with arrows?????) so I ran for a little over an extra minute...and while I was doing that one of the girls from the pack behind me caught me. She got a little bit of a gap on me and I tried to stay close. On lap four I was gaining a little on her but she beat me by about 20 seconds (that's just a guess, I haven't seen the results yet.) So I started the year off with a 2nd place. Definitley would have liked to have had the win...but what can you do???? And all in all it was a good day and I felt pretty darn good for it being the beginning of the season and for not being in race shape!

Now I'm off to get some R&R, sunshine, and swimming as I get ready for next weeks race! Adios :)