First of all, why Sri Lanka? I honestly can’t think in any more complicated place to get from Chile than this wonderful island in the middle of the Indic Ocean. Well, I always had Sri Lanka as a “nice to go” destination since my times living in Asia, and somehow I knew there was a 70.3 race there around this time of the year. Well, I was preparing Bariloche as my first of the two “A” races of the year, when suddenly I had to travel to India for business in February, so on the one hand this business trip was going to be very bad for my training heading to Bariloche, but on the other I remembered about this race in Colombo, so I checked it, manage my biz trip to make it coincide with the race, registered, booked hotel, and there I was, heading to Colombo for my new “A” race of the year.
Why “A”? First, because Bariloche was going to be difficult after this trip; second, I thought the start list could be more affordable if I wanted to get a shot for the WCs. So I investigated the race, it was a non wetsuit swim in the sea, flat bike and run courses, but very humid and hot. I also received the start list a couple weeks prior to the race and realized there were about 5 or 6 guys that I had no chance at all, and another 5 or 6 more affordable. So assuming that some of the faster guys already had a slot, there might be little but some chances if I performed well.
Well, things went unexpectedly a very different way.
Colombo is a very nice place, although chaotic and poor, people is very friendly, place is safe and with lots of natural beauty. I didn’t really enjoyed the place very much though, I tried to concentrate so much in resting and feeding well, that I didn’t have a good time in the days prior to the race. Anyways, race day arrived and I felt well prepared for a good performance.
The race started early in the morning, about 6:15 AM, and I was in the water just a couple of minutes after the start. Swim portion was ok, but longer. My watch registered about 2200 meters, even I feel I swam quite straight. I did 39 minutes (1:48/100m in 2200 meters) and I was out 8 in my age group, which was actually very good for my plans.
As said before, the bike course was totally flat, and there was not much wind too. But since it’s a small race most of the time I biked alone, especially in the first lap (out of a total of 3). Starting the second lap I caught a good train that was going a bit faster than me, so although I struggled a little to keep behind at distance, I thought it was a good strategy to burn legs a little more for this extra speed. Anyways, close to the end of this second lap I decided to let them go, I was thinking in the run portion that was going to be very hot, so better save some legs.
And this is when it happens.
By Km 57 I was going fast, with tail wind, and hit a hole, probably in a moment of low concentration and maybe doing something like feeding or changing position so I was not fully gripped to the handlebars. I just remember 3 things: the first one losing total control of the bike, she was going right while I was flying left, this was the first time in my life that I felt that. Second I remember hitting hard with my helmet to the pavement. And third I remember lying on the ground and sitting up to check no other competitors could hit me.
Help arrived immediately. Some volunteers and police came to assist me. I realized I had several injuries all over my left side of the body, with especially big wounds on knee, hip, elbow and hand. But probably because of the heat of the race I didn’t feel that bad, and didn’t really feel much pain in my wounds. They just looked bad and bleeding. Still, I decided to quit, my initial thoughts were that the main purpose of the trip was business - I had some important meetings in Mumbai the morning after - so I was not going to put that in risk. So I asked the volunteers how could I get to transition, and they told me they would call an ambulance.
So when they mentioned ambulance, I thought about hospitals, medical exams, maybe some procedures, and I had to take a flight that night to Mumbai. Maybe I was not going to have time to pick and pack my bike, other stuff, and so on. So I told them I would bike back to transition. No ambulance please!!! So the police escort me these 3 kms back to transition, and I was just easy pedaling, because I was going there just to pick my bags and leave. Actually my helmet was kind of broken because I could not fix it well in my head.
So when arriving to transition, I was just thinking how could I have traveled all the way and not going back with my medal, I also was able to fix the helmet (though the visor was lost), but above all things I thought in my kids, I was going to do this for them, I’m no quitter and this is an example for them, because besides wounds were ugly I didn’t really feel bad, so there was no reason not to finish the race. So the race director came and told me it was ok to continue if I wanted, I said yes, put my helmet back on, and start pedaling again. There was a big crowd watching and I received a huge ovation when back in the race. It was very emotional.
Of course A, B and C plans were off, so I’d just tried to enjoy and finish. So the third 30 km lap I did it very easy, took my time in T2 especially to clean my wounds, and started running. It was funny that my trisuit was broken from hip to my private parts, leaving no space for imagination, so I had to use my bib number to cover while running. I had no idea about the time I was doing, and stopped in every single aid station to refresh, hydrate and so on. The run was still tough because it was very hot and humid, but eventually I finished the race in 5:33 hours. 11th place in my age group.
Later that day, I was also able to pack all my stuff, traveled to Mumbai, finished my business meetings successfully, and now flying back home writing this report. I was so lucky.
Reflecting on what happened, it could have been much worse. Any broken bone, or lose of consciousness (actually I don’t know if I lose consciousness for a few seconds), or anything just a bit worse than what I got, I could have finished in any public hospital in Sri Lanka, unable to attend my meetings in India, literally at the other side of the world from home. I was so lucky.
So my take always from this experience: first, race close to home and in places where you feel comfortable if something happens; second, don’t mix business with racing again; and third no more “A” races, at least for the time being, besides I’m not having a good time when taking things too seriously, actually I’ve performed much better when more relaxed.
So well, Bariloche is cancelled, I will have to take some time off to recover my wounds, and I hope I can come back to form to have a more relaxed race in Panama City in May.
A big thanks to my coach Phil with whom I have learn a lot, a huge kiss to my wife Pamela that is always pushing me to achieve big things in this wonderful sport, and of course to Serena, Bruno, Patito, and Rafi that are my inspiration.