Even before toeing the line in Kona, I'd been considering a trip down to Argentina for the new IRONMAN race in Mar del Plata, either to tag along with Sarah Piampiano or to race myself. If I wanted to qualify for Kona in 2018, it was pretty much my best option given work and other commitments... IM Florida has never appealed, Los Cabos and Arizona were non-starters due to my role with the Island House Triathlon and 2018 was already getting booked up with a role at the Purple Patch Kona Camp in April curtailing my ability to race IM Texas or Santa Rosa and my plan to race Challenge Roth in July ruling out most other IRONMAN qualifiers.
Despite the crappy race in Kona, I decided I wanted to try to qualify to race there again and registered for Mar del Plata and booked my flights to Buenos Aires. The race was set to take place seven weeks after Kona so I couldn't just wing the training and depend entirely on my Kona fitness.
Week 1 - The immediate focus was to recover from Kona. I remained on vacation in Hawaii the week after the race and I swam every day and even did a couple of short rides when the wind was not howling a gale... which it was most of the time!
Week 2 - Back in San Francisco and I returned to my regular routine but played things cautiously. Looking back I trained 16 hours that week but nothing was particularly challenging and I wasn't mentally ready to push yet... particularly on the bike.
Week 3 - I was starting to feel better and ramped the training a little more to 18 hours including a 4hr ride (75 miles), a 90 minute run (11 miles) and 20,000 yards of swimming. The ride and run would be my longest bike/runs between the two races.
Week 4 - Another week of consistent training, peaking at 18 hours but nothing super long... I even cut a few rides and runs short as I was beginning to feel a little fatigued.
Week 5 - Hello Bahamas! I left San Francisco for 10 days in the Bahamas as part of my role with the Island House Triathlon. Training was the last thing on my mind for most of the trip as the race typically requires long days, standing around on my feet followed by afternoons/evenings focused on media work. I did less than 6 hours of training and I drank a TON of wine!
|#paininparadise with Gwen Jorgensen, Beth McKenzie & Tammy Barker|
|post-race drinks with Beth McKenzie & Michelle Dillon|
|#paradise with Blanco|
Week 7 - Race week! Sarah and I flew to Argentina on Tuesday afternoon, arriving in Mar del Plata on Wednesday evening... SFO to Houston to Buenos Aires followed by a 6 hour car ride to Mar del Plata! It's a LOT of travel...
At this point, it would be remiss for me to not point out how I was feeling. I did not feel prepared to race an Ironman... particularly from a mental perspective. While being in the Bahamas with an array of fast triathletes might usually have inspired me, it had been a long season. I started training in January for IRONMAN South Africa and I was beginning to feel a little fried and ready to tune out triathlon for a few weeks. Even upon arrival in Mar del Plata, I was struggling to wrap my head around the fact that I would be racing an Ironman. The weather was unseasonably cold and windy and the surf was up, big time. In fact, I was convinced the swim would be cancelled having being pummeled by the surf in the days leading into the race. There was also talk of a day of mourning being announced in Argentina (out of respect for the missing 44 from the submarine crew) that could prompt the race organizers to cancel or shorten the race.
|Pre-riding the course with Sarah|
|Sharing my newly found course knowledge with Jen|
|Scenes from the bike course... check out those waves!|
|Steak (of course!) dinner with Sarah, Jen & James|
|Lining up for bike check-in... racing was beginning to feel real.|
I've become increasingly confident in my swim ability in the last two years so even though the rough water made me nervous, I figured my swim fitness (swimming ~18-20k/week) would help me in the choppy water. Mar del Plata was the roughest swim conditions that I've ever raced in so I was excited to see that I completed the first loop in 32 minutes since it was an intense swim. I was half-hoping they would direct me to transition, telling me that they had shortened the swim to one loop... but no, I was sent back into the water which was getting choppier as the wind picked up. The second loop was slower since it included the "Australian exit run", navigating around more swimmers and rougher waters.
|Exiting after lap 1 of the swim|
|Thank goodness I'm out of that water!|
|Gritting my teeth in the rainy conditions|
|Focused heading out for loop 2|
The start of the run felt GREAT. I saw that I was sub-8 pace in the first half mile and forced myself to slow and focus on 8:15-30 pace out to the first turnaround at 5km. That's when I realized why sub-8s had felt so easy... we had a screaming tailwind!
|Smiling... so must have been lap 1!|
When I returned for lap two, James updated me that the lead was down to 23 minutes. That started to make me nervous as I knew the split was *old news* as it had been three miles since I had last crossed a timing mat around the 16 mile marker. I told myself that I likely had a 15 minute lead with a lap to go so had to keep pushing.
|Things are getting tougher...|
|Sarah Piampiano IRONMAN Mar del Plata Champion|
|Heck yeah... the finish line in sight!|
|Post-race sweaty selfie 🙌|
There's plenty more I could write about the Mar del Plata race as a first year event, the town of Mar del Plata and the post-race libations and sight-seeing in Buenos Aires with Sarah... but I need to save those details for another post.