Interview by Elizabeth Anderson
ISSUE #10, April/May 2001 – Warm temperatures, beautiful scenery, and a challenging course have attracted hundreds of triathletes to the Pucon Triathlon in Chile since 1986. From its origins as a sprint distance race, it has extended into a half-Ironman course with worldwide success. Following the participation of Mark Allen, the race has attracted many international athletes including Scott Tinley, Simon Lessing, Chris Legh, Peter Reid, Mike Pigg, Paul Huddle, Jimmy Ricitello, Wes Hobson, Lori Bowden, Heather Fuhr, Paula Newby Fraser, Sian Welch, and Wendy Ingrahm. This year, triathletes Nicole and Timothy DeBoom were among those athletes who traveled to Chile to compete in the race. Here they talk to us about some of the aspects of their experience in Chile.
Did you both know that this race used to be a sprint distance race?
Nicole: Yes, this year was the first year it was a half-Ironman. So this year there were about three hundred that raced.
Tim: This year I think they did cap it. They were trying to see how the half-Ironman would turn out. It was very well run. The race director was really accommodating to all the athletes and the volunteers were great. There were more volunteers than competitors- twice as many! There were about 600-700 volunteers.
They all seemed pretty excited to be there, and see the athletes?
T: [laughs] Everyone was cheering for Mark Allen- even though he wasn’t racing. Everywhere we went, “Mark Allen’s in town. Mark Allen is in town.” So he is the legendary athlete everyone associates with this race or the sport, even down in Chile. He’s big down there. And Cristian Bustos. It was his retirement party.
N: This race, at least this year, was kind of centered around him.
T: I’ve known Cristian for a while, I think that’s part of the reason they invited me down there. They wanted his friends around him. It was his last race. Now he’s in the cookie business….. No, he’s like a movie star down there- I mean he can’t even walk down the street without being recognized.
So people are really into triathlon down in Chile, I mean if Cristian Bustos is like a movie star?
T: Oh definitely. They know triathlon very well. Matias is just as big. Matias Brain, he went to the Olympic Games representing Chile. He finished 7th at Pucon.
So did most of the Chileans know who you were? How were you received?
N: I think that Tim was recognized- they all knew who he was. Since it [triathlon] is bigger there than it is in the states, people knew who we were.
How did you both decide to add this race to your schedule this year?
T: Actually I’d heard amazing things about this race. I had been asked a few years in a row to go to this race, but it included three different races and you would be there for at least three weeks. But this year- this was just the best location, the best race and everyone was telling me I should go.
N: It was the coolest opportunity- I am so glad we were able to go. Since we were invited there- Why not go? It was amazing- the smoking volcano, black sand beaches. It was great to be in a different culture, too. We would have lunch at 6:oo, then at eight o’clock p.m. the beaches were packed. I liked the later schedule.
Did the race start later than usual?
T: Nine a.m. We were eating dinner at midnight the night before the race.
N: We had Manjar..(giggling) [Manjar or dulce de leche as it is sometimes called, is a delectable caramel-like treat which people eat on toast, with dessert, or just straight out of the jar. Chileans eat this stuff literally for breakfast, lunch and dinner!]
So- Manjar at midnight- a new pre-race strategy for you two? Did you both have some specific goals or expectations in mind for this race?
T: Expectations? Well, I think it was a great gauge to see where I was physically, a good indicator of how I felt, which was important for the race I have coming up in about eight weeks [Ironman Australia].
N: It was a perfect early season race. I was able to use this race to see where I was fitness wise. It was great because it forced me to do some early training and get back into things. I didn’t expect to do as well as I did- so I was really happy with my race.
Did the travel or climate affect your races?
N: The travel wasn’t that bad- we just slept a lot the first day we were there. The heat wasn’t that bad. I did not really feel it. It was about mid-eighties, there was plenty of water on the course so it wasn’t really an issue.
Not even coming from the 40 below zero temperatures that have been characteristic of Boulder this winter? Can you talk about the course a bit?
N: Okay let’s start from the beginning. The swim was two loops-
N: It was pretty cold, then they made us get out and run in the sand between loops- probably about a quarter mile run and the sand was extremely hot, so when we dove back in-my feet hurt so bad. And when we finished we had to run up the sand again -and then over some rocks. So my feet were pretty beat-up by the time the race had gotten under way.
T: Full wetsuits. Definitely. Then, the bike was two loops as well. It climbed out of town and was rolling from there, some good downhill sections on the way out, and a head wind. It was a rolling course- nothing terrible- but it wasn’t flat.
N: Not like Hawaii or anything- but it had some little hills.
T: And the run’s probably the hardest half-marathon course I’ve ever seen in my life. It was three loops. [laughs] The run went out on this peninsula of a National Park- two steps out of transition it’s like [Tim makes an angle with his hand that appears almost vertical – slight exaggeration?]
N: It was the hardest run I’ve ever done- I mean right out of transition. Immediately. It was straight up and straight down- the whole time. What percent grade would you say for the first hill Tim, ten?
T: At least. There was like a 2k reprieve through town. It was funny because I’d heard about the run course before. Tony (DeBoom) had told me that the first part of the course (in years previous) was really, really hilly. Then it flattened out a bit for the rest or the race. Well, we get there and they had obviously changed the course to make it the full 13 miles. They decided to make it a three-loop course- of the first section of the old run. I was really glad I didn’t see the course before the race. I got done with the first loop and I tried to warn Nicole when she was coming into transition.
N: And it was hot. They gave us water in bags. You break them over your self. I would call for Coke and they kept giving me this electrolyte replacement drink that sounded like “cola” so the language got a little lost.
T: The crowds were great. The way that the loops were set up was perfect because you could see the crowds and they could see you.
N: Except there wasn’t a lot of people on the hills which was good because usually people say “you look great” even though you are dying and you know it. Then the flatter part of the course it was through the central part of town.
T: It was a great little town, a resort town, and it was a mid-summer weekend so you had all these backpackers and campers coming through. Between the travelers and everyone else, I think there were about 10,000 people who watched parts of the race.
N: The streets were just packed with people. And then there were tons of people at the finish line. Then if you include the beach, there were even more people watching from there.
T: And you could see the volcano throughout the whole course.
Was it smoking?
N: Yes- you could see the smoke coming up. It’s cap is still at a peak, you
can see it’s glowing lava at night. It’s going to blow sometime soon.
And that would be the end of this race, huh? So Nicole, you finished second in a pretty strong women’s field. Can you tell me a bit about the dynamics out on the course, could you see the other women, or was it hard to get an idea of how you were faring?
N: With the field that was there-it was a good day. I swam with Wendy (Ingraham) who is just about the strongest swimmer out there for long course racing, so it was good for me. So we came out of the water together, but then I didn’t see anybody on the bike until the first turn-around, and then I just saw people after that and could gauge where they were.
So you knew you had a pretty good lead?
N: Yes, but it wasn’t huge. I didn’t want to push so hard that I would fall apart out there, so I kind of backed off at points. I knew Joanne King was nearby which would be a problem later in the run, other than that I didn’t see anybody that really concerned me at that point. During the run, again, I didn’t see anybody until the first turn-around and then Joanne King was much closer than I thought she would be already…and Barbara Buenhora was right behind her. So I was thinking, ‘Well, if this run continues to be this hard I am going to be at least third.’ But Joanne King passed me about thirty minutes into the run and then continued to put about two minutes per loop on me. Considering what good shape she is in, and what an amazing runner she is, I was pretty psyched with how I ran and the fact that I stayed strong and held off all those other girls.
Tim, you had a third place finish, how was your race?
T: Well, I didn’t really know what level of fitness the other men would have at this point in the season. I expected Chris Legh to be really fit because he was doing Ironman New Zealand four weeks after that. I came out of the water with everyone and then those guys took off on the bike. I just didn’t feel like I had the speed to go with them. I think I was stronger the second half of the bike because I definitely had the miles in my legs, but not the speed at that point. My run went well, I came off the bike and just thought, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ I moved in to third and was catching Chris Legh pretty quickly because he came off the bike about eight minutes up and his lead in the end was only about two minutes. So I had a good run. I think the race gave me a lot to focus on for the rest of the spring. I went into the race pretty tired, and afterwards I knew it was time to focus solely on preparation for an Ironman race, adding some more speed, more rest, etc.
Rest is key, all right. Do you think that you will both be going back next year to Pucon?
T: If they have us, I think we’ll go back- it was great.
N: I want to go back! All the athletes were fun to be around. There was also a big party at the end. We didn’t go, but the disco party after the awards ceremony is supposedly fantastic, maybe next year we¹ll have to hit that.
Tim and Nicole DeBoom at the disco? I guess we’ll have to wait and see, folks.