Where to begin?
Yesterday, the La Paz Pan American Cup was finally upon us. It seemed like it would never come. Lucky for all of us racing, and our 3pm start time, it was hot, really hot yesterday. My sunblock had melted off of me before the race even started.
In order to get to the race start, we all piled on a little boat and drove up the Parana River (up current) to the beach. We lined up on the beach, in total chaos, no ITU rules were followed here, and ran head first into the brown water. I took it out really hard and had clean water and no one around me for the first 200m. However, as much as I had tried to move right, into the faster current, I was still caught by the girls who had lined up far right and were just being dragged down current.
With the force of the current, you had to be sure to overshoot the buoy because otherwise you would find yourself on the wrong side in a current you simply could not turn around and swim against. I was swimming in the top 4 through the 500m mark when we turned back into the current to swim upstream. Tight against the wall, and dealing with the added wake of the motorboats, we all fought to make it back up to the top of the loop.
After rounding the top buoy, I headed back downstream, again fighting the current to try to get myself on the right side of the out most buoy. Even as I tried to over shoot it, I got sucked into it and pulled under the water. I found myself, under the water, wrapped around the buoy, being pinned to it. I struggled free, and sure to come up on the correct side of the buoy, kept swimming. The man in the kayak next to me was unsure of my condition and I had to give him a thumbs up while swimming to ease his concern.
I ended up coming out of the water in 6th. I had a great transition, trouble getting my shoes on, and then settled, the best I could, into the cycling leg. I wanted to push but found my legs a bit flat. My small group of 3 turned into 4 and then about 10. We kept losing time because no one wanted to work. Coming off the bike there were only 2 athletes up the road ahead of the massive group. I had the fastest transition on the day and took off. That did not last very long as the heat hit me and my body shut down. From there, it was a mental struggle to keep going and to not fall over. Ultimately, I fell from 4th to 14th and ended up missing points by all of maybe 20 seconds.
So, the end result was not pleasing, but there were some positive elements. We, myself and 4 other athletes, filed a petition to the ITU against the race, when we were informed that almost 1/2 of the field failed to navigate the swim course properly and thus gained a significant advantage over those of us who swam the course in its entirety. I don't know that anything will come of the petition, but it needed to be submitted since it probably had a fairly significant impact on the race.
Now, I am back in Santiago. After an 8 hour bus ride from La Paz to Buenos Aires last night, which included the bus breaking down for about 45 minutes in the middle of nowhere, I spent the morning in Buenos Aires with Helen doing a little sight seeing and shopping. I then headed off to the airport on my long journey back to New York City. In about 13 hours I will finally be back on the ground in the US after roughly 30 hours in transit.
It has been an adventure and was made so much more enjoyable by my amazing homestay in La Paz and, of course, my partner in crime Helen Tucker.