I had first raced at the Pucon Ironman 70.3 two years ago and it went straight to the top for my favorite races list. This classic event has been around for a long time and is definitely one I would encourage every triathlete to experience. It isn’t just the event itself but the location, the town, the people and the atmosphere that make it so enjoyable and fun. I was disappointed to miss the race in 2014 because I had just completed a 6 day, 1300km charity ride in Australia a week prior and obviously Beth was pregnant so we stayed home in California. When the opportunity to travel to the 2015 race came several months ago I mentioned it to Beth and it didn’t take much convincing on my part for her to agree. I will probably never arrive in Pucon in good race shape as it is tough to start racing so early in the season and post holidays. I will continue to compete at this race in the future regardless because I think the enjoyment factor of racing for the pure love of it will win out on me and I think it puts a positive step forward going into the rest of the year.

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We woke on race morning and I instantly wanted to go back to sleep. The five hour time change from California was brutal and I clearly hadn’t adjusted yet. I needed some caffeine in the system and fast. Time seemed to fly by from that point and all of a sudden I found myself standing on the start line looking out over Lago Villarica and it’s stunning surrounds. I was hoping that my swim dramas of 2014 were behind me and I was determined to start the new year with a fresh attitude and outlook. Swim training had been going well leading into the race and I was more than confident that I would be in the lead group at this event. To my frustration,once again hyperventilation issues saw me exit the swim behind the leaders, but I knew I could ride myself back into the race.

I set out on my bike like a man on a mission and was riding a lot harder than I would normally for the half distance. In 2015 I have teamed up with some awesome new sponsors and my new Enve Smart System 8.9 wheels felt incredible under my Scott Plasma. I was really impressed with my new Endura Sprint speed suit as well and both definitely contributed to my fast bike split. Soon enough I had caught and passed several guys and had moved into the top 5. At the first turn around I saw that I had made up significant time and relaxed a bit to recover and regroup to keep pushing on the second lap. I was able to move into third by the time I had completed the first 45km and was into second by about 65km when I passed fellow Aussie Richie Cunningham. That jut left one man to catch, last years Pucon 70.3 champion, Felipe Barraza. As we entered the final few kilometers I made the pass for the lead and entered transition with a slim advantage. The Pucon transition area is like non-other and the long 500m run with your bike is tough after a hard 90km ride.

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I racked my bike and Felipe pulled up right beside me only a second later. The Chilean fans were going wild and there was a huge roar as we both set off together onto the run. Felipe sprinted ahead straight away and I was going to have to ease my way into the run in order to get myself around the hilly 21km. The one downside of coming out of off-season to this event is it requires really good run fitness and leg speed and I was lacking both. I knew with the advantage I had off the bike I would still be a good chance for the podium but I had to run smart. Richie passed me quickly as well and I was relegated to third. It wasn’t long till I made the first u-turn and I would be able to see the advantage I had to work with on the chasers. A group of four or five athletes were storming down the hill as I struggled my way up and it appeared I had just under four minutes to play with if I wanted to keep my podium position. I wasn’t moving well on the hilly sections and the downhills were as equally challenging as the uphills but I felt solid on the flatter sections and tried to push as much as I could.

On the second lap of the run I got to see Beth out there and she was running really well (surprise surprise). It looked like she had 4th in her sights which was exciting. It wasn’t long until I was on the last lap and I was going to have to run the hills well if I was to hold off the hard charging Mario de Eliza. The last time up the longest and hardest hill on the course I felt like I was barely moving and I knew there was no hope I was going to hold him off. I tried to run the downhills harder than before but my legs wouldn’t turn over. At 19km Mario made the pass and I had no response. I didn’t have much energy left in the tank but I tried to enjoy the last town section into the finish. The atmosphere is amazing and definitely unique to Chile. I crossed the line in 4th place in 4.05. Not the greatest start to the year but solid all things being considered.

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I was stoked to see Beth finish 5th despite a little detour off course for a few minutes at the end of the first lap of the run. Although her swim split wasn’t what she hoped for her strong bike split of 2.34 was very encouraging, showing that she is gaining more and more strength following her time off during pregnancy.

Unfortunately there was no time this year for us to stay and enjoy Pucon post race and we were soon back on the plane bound for California. A big thanks has to go out to Cristian and his team for producing such a world class event and giving Beth and I the opportunity to experience the most beautiful race in the world. Ignacia for taking care of our daughter which allowed us to both train and race during our time in Chile. Also a huge thanks to my sponsors for going above and beyond during the holiday period to have us set to race so early in the season. I will update you with some new exciting sponsorship announcements in the next few days.

Herbalife Ironman 70.3 Pucon
Pucon, Chile
January 11, 2015
S 1.2 mi. / B 56 mi. / R 13.1 mi.

Results

Men

1. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 3:59:33
2. Felipe Barraza (CHL) 4:00:53
3. Mario de Elias (ARG) 4:04:27
4. Luke McKenzie (AUS) 4:05:15
5. Felipe Van de Wyngard (CHL) 4:09.39

Author Luke McKenzie

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