How to Navigate 70.3 Buenos Aires
Honestly, this race was more of an impulsive decision based on some nudging by Jackson Laundry, the desire for adventure and some key aspects which made this race appetizing. For one, South America is only 1 hour ahead of Florida’s time zone, so it wouldn’t be a terrible jet lag scenario. Also, at the time, the travel arrangements didn’t seem too daunting – Hell, they never do months out from a race. I managed to find a direct flight to Argentina via Miami (4ish hour drive) for around $800 with 2 one-way rental cars for under $100 – sounds good eh? Well, it really wasn’t a bad deal considering I would be splitting a seriously awesome AirBnb location with Jack once we were set in country.
So the trip made sense, it wasn’t so expensive and the payout was great though 10thplace. Hell, even before IRONMAN Louisville I felt like I should certainly be able to nudge out 10thplace. Training was going well; the Florida weather was getting tolerable and overall I was feeling strong. After IM Louisville went south I was even more motivated to get here and rip it. Before I get to the overall race result and course details let me run you through some very very important aspects any triathlete must know when racing in Buenos Aires.
#1 – Rent a Car – The transportation system here (Uber, Taxi, Bus) is incredibly complicated for a foreigner to navigate. I say that because for 6 days we only came across 7 people who actually spoke English, zero of them being an Uber driver or Taxi driver. Heck, without Uber we would have been totally screwed, even though that was a bit of a shit show too. Anyway, a car would have eliminated 90% of the ass-pain because the airport is nearly 1 hour from the race site, the race expo was 30 min from the race site and if you want to swim, plan on 30 min each way too. A car would have really made our experience nice however there is a cost there too and associated risk because people do drive a bit nuts. However, if you’re aggressive and good in a clutch – a car is the way to go. It’s also important to know we stayed 500 meters from transition which made race day extremely awesome – but groceries, the pool, expo and eating in general a pain in the teat. Luckily we grabbed a ride with Barney Matthews for the expo since he rented a car – otherwise it would have sucked again.
UBER – I think there is a lot of tension with Uber drivers and local cab drivers. Almost every driver messaged me beforehand asking for the location we were heading, almost like they didn’t know how to use the app and some even wanted me to pay cash after the ride was over. Now, they were generally safe and it was ridiculously cheap (6-8$ for 30 min drive) but there was a lot of waiting around and multiple cancelations.
#2 – Stay near or at Nordelta Centro Commercial – Basically Nordelta is a huge double layered security-type community. They check your license when you enter and each community has a set of guards to verify you’re not a Narco (I guess). Either way, it’s one of the safest communities in Buenos Aires and compared to the surroundings, it’s a whole new world. Jack found a 1 bedroom apartment which we made work with a floor mattress and honestly, it saved the trip from being a total pain at all times. We were still nearly 1 mile from food or groceries and couldn’t ride our bikes anywhere because honestly, they would have been stolen if left even marginally attended. If you have a car and stay at a hotel or Airbnb near Nordelta you’re set. You can even drive to the nice 50m Pool if you need to.
#3 – Arrive Friday – I came in weds evening which mean I still had to do some training before the race. Luckily I brought my feedback sports travel trainer because without that it would have been really unsafe to ride for 90min outside. A few more days at home would have been great for pre-race and yes it’s cutting it close to race day but honestly, getting to a pool for 2 days of swimming was just ugly. The pools were barely swimmable, hot and again – no one speaks English. We were incredibly lucky to arrive within 10 min of the pool opening since we had no idea on their hours. Also, they charge only 250 pesos for attending and swim caps are mandatory. Anyway, the probability of being annoyed about everything here would have been cut down. I mean we had 2 levels of security to go through every time we wanted to leave and most people had no clue who we were so they had to call our airBnb host each time….but I get why it’s necessary .
#4 – Food – We always managed to find good food and groceries. We went to a grocery store called Jumbo which was great as the Walmart was absolutely terrible. We also came across a few health food stores, bakeries and healthy places – and it was incredibly cheap. Each meal for two only cost $17-$22 and we never left hungry. Buying groceries for 5 days was nearly $78 but really had to be done – overall it was a great place to eat and find new food. I would say the most common food is a burger, steak, pastries and tons of café’s.
Honestly, if you would have asked me if I would come back when I finished this race it would have been a huge NO but now it’s just a “maybe”. I mean there were so many issues I’m sure the site-team had to deal with I cannot imagine how frustrated they must have been so they did a great job putting on this race in a very complicated area.
As I mentioned before we went to 2 pools (list pools) and they were just tough to manage but really, it’s all they have here so it was nice to at least swim. The expo was in a place called the Docks and it was super nice, the pro meeting was a bit basic and for a championship race, I was a bit let-down with the set-up. The briefing went off okay but the head referee for IRONMAN wasn’t even there and really….which is odd for a championship race. There is a lot of money up for grabs so you’d think the extra attention would be put on the rules. Thankfully there was a warm up swim the day before the race but honestly, I don’t think it was worth it or a smart call. The water was seriously some of the dirtiest I’ve ever been in. Totally brown sludge everywhere with tastes of fuel and fertilizer made it something gross that is still affecting me even now. Anyway, the race-site was cool with a great spread, lot’s of security and overall they did put on a great event AT the actual race.
Swim – We had a water temperature of 20.9 or so, nearly 1 degree and we’d have been non-wetsuit. It was a bit warm at the end but I guess a wetsuit prevented more bodily contact with that water. So, the big problem of the day started with the swim. We had our warm up, que’d up at the start line while some dude finished his warm up within 10 sec of the gun start. Seriously, this guy went out about 150m within 2min of the start for a warm up – sigh. Anyway, as the announcer is counting down and all these guys are creeping forward before the start – about 5 dudes took off and got about 2 body lengths out before the rest of us went off the cannon. That was totally crap and honestly, made it a bit tough to nail the right position. Oh well right, those guys should be DQ’d but….that’ll never happen. I ended up grabbing a set of bad feet, meaning the dude was being dropped by the group and when I went to pass the gap was just 4 body lengths too long….sigh….all alone, 1 min off the group. It didn’t really matter because it all came together on the bike.
Bike – Transition was pretty long and we had our stuff in the blue/red bags and yes, I ran by my helmet bag for another 30 sec loss. I came onto the bike course in top 10 and quickly applied some watts, but didn’t really like the way they felt. A few weeks prior at IRONMAN Louisville I was ripping 310ish watts for at least 30 min at the start and felt unstoppable but 290 felt like a freaking grind. Also, my stomach felt like it was either a puke situation or maybe I magically ate a pizza in transition. Seriously, my belly was a messy bloat fest but yes in fact, it did go away with some massive burps. Honestly, I knew this race was going to be a bit dirty on the bike. 2,000+ athletes on a course where we share 1 lane at a time. It was going to be SOO packed on the 2ndlap. The roads were mostly crap, full of big speed tables and thick painted white lines….but not as bad as it was in Peru. I kinda liked it being a bit hectic but that’s just me. Positions 6-12 basically came together by the middle of the last lap and honestly I have no idea how no one crashed. We were blasting by people going 5 mph slower and 3 abreast, barely staying in our lane, avoiding oncoming traffic. It was super super sketchy on the second lap. I’m pretty sure I saw about 3-4 pelotons of Age Group athletes and yes, even a pace line. I started feeling better after 60k and power was manageable but still super low and it’s all I could manage. I think there were 9 x 180 degree turns which put us all at a dead stop, meaning this course is not fast….or actually safe. But if you’re smart, shoot the gaps and avoid water bottles on the ground – all good. I’m 100% sure the top 10 guys all had gone off course at least once….unless they had the lead moto.
Run – Off the bike I was just not confident but knew I was gonna give her. I’m gonna be super honest and say my run fitness on the back half of this year is just not good – for whatever reason. I have been racing a lot, traveling a lot etc but man – I just have been shit off the bike since August. Back to the drawing board eh? It’s something that is of the utmost importance for 2019 or I’m like, retiring. I was good for about 5k and then I just didn’t have any juice in the legs. Energy was fine and my head was clear but my HR was 180 and I Was stuck at 4:25 min/km and feeling busted up below the hips. I saw the top 10 run away from me and then eventually ran into Barney, who was dealing with some stomach issues. We ran in the last 3km together chatting and honestly, I’m super glad he was there. Man, I finished 11th and 1 position outside of the money and a small bonus…..so my airfare would have been covered. I think that’s the biggest bummer since that was like….all I needed to do, finish top 10. I love this sport and appreciate more than anything this opportunity but man, I was a bit deflated moving into IRONMAN Arizona in 12 days or so…..I need some mojo in the next few days. Oh and the run course was great btw – super super awesome volunteers.
Putting a race on in Buenos Aires must have been such a huge challenge and I know everyone did their best to make the course great – so I’m very thankful for that. I just wish they referee’s would have brought back the swim due to the false start, the bike course would have been a bit safer and the first aid station on the run wasn’t like…over 3km away. I’ll be back for this race IF we have the same place to stay AND have a rental car – otherwise, man it’s just a tough one to get to but that means only the determined athletes will make it. Jackson also managed to sell his bike to an Argentinian so that’s great. The bottom line is, the people here were absolutely accommodating and friendly, willing to help us even though my Spanish was very sparse. If you can learn some before you get here, it’ll help you tremendously. Thank you Argentina – I’ll be in Chile racing in Dec so….I’ll be nearby soon!