Sunday, April 3, 2011

Adventures of a Blonde in Chile Part 2: The Climb

For the second part of my Chilean adventure, I spent a week falling in love with the city of Valparaiso, the site of my second race. It only took me a day or so in the city to figure out something pretty awesome: as far as loving/enjoying their lives go, these people really get it. As I walked through the city each day, I loved to just stop and “people watch” for awhile. It wasn’t hard to spot a hello kiss on the cheek, a couple embracing, or a group of people laughing while eating their lunch at a local cafĂ©. The city had a certain energy about it which I feel rubbed off on me the longer I was in it. Once some of the locals realized that the girl with “pelo rubia”(blonde hair) could actually speak Spanish, I had some great conversations with a couple of people on how the simple things such as a great relationship with family, friends, and appreciation of nature were all you needed to really get the most out of life.

Another thing I noticed pretty quickly after arriving in Valparaiso was that the entire city was built on a hill, meaning that to get to anywhere you would have to climb up and down a couple hundred steps… a workout in itself (especially carrying a bike on your back)!!! A saying that I saw throughout city was “Como si la vida fuera a durar parasiempre,” which literally translates to “As if life would last forever.” However, this was anything but true for my time there. Although all I was doing was training (and working a little bit for my other job), it seemed like the days passed by very quickly (partially due to the time I had to take into account to climb up/down the stairs and the hills to get into the city to even begin my workouts). Before I knew it, the week was nearing an end meaning race morning was quickly approaching.

Race morning I woke up a little before my alarm and was amazed at how calm I felt. That never happens and I was honestly a little worried that there were no butterflies in my stomach. Because bagels don’t really exist in South America, I settled for a pre-race breakfast of a bread roll with honey, my usual banana, and some out-of-this-world hot chocolate that I made with the amazing Nestle chocolate powder that I bought on my first leg of the Chilean journey. After breakfast around 6am, my American teammate Lauren and I made our way down to the race site about 4k away from our apartment. As we biked into the race site, we were greeted by the familiar sound of American music, something that is common in most stores and restaurants in Chile although Spanish is the dominant language. After a nice long warmup (it was freezing!), I slipped into my Xterra wetsuit, excited to finally race in a wetsuit that fit me! The water was about 15 degrees celcius, so I had to make sure I gave myself enough time to warmup in it and try to keep up my circulation as best as possible.

The race started right on time and with the blast of a canon, I was off running from the beach into the Pacific Ocean. The first couple hundred meters were very congested but by the time I’d reached the first buoy, I was able to find some space and get into somewhat of a rhythm. I finished the first lap of the swim and as I ran around the buoy to begin the second lap I noticed that I was in about 5th or 6th place with a bit of a gap between myself and the front pack. After I dove back into the ocean to begin the second lap, I decided to put in a surge to try and catch the group. The waves were really whipping me around at this point and although I couldn’t see any feet in front of me, I hoped that I was gaining ground on the lead pack. There were a couple times where I sighted and the waves were so high that I couldn’t see the buoy so I continued swimming in a straight line. Then, once I saw a yellow buoy to the right of me, I figured I was too far left and swam to the right to correct my path. Just before I got to aforementioned buoy, I saw a kayak in front of me pointing to the left… turns out I had swam to the wrong buoy. Whoops! At this point I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, although in the moment I’m sure more of the latter occurred. So, I was forced to swim about 100 meters back to the other buoy to correct my course and not be disqualified before continuing on. Needless to say, I exited the water after my 1700 meter swim near last and was one of the last bikes left in transition.

On the first lap of the bike, I realized that I was about two and a half minutes down on the lead pack and tried to put in a surge to see if I could catch the pack that was forming a minute and a half up the road from me. After smashing the first couple of laps on the bike, I gained a little bit of ground but not enough to make huge dent into the gap. I soloed most of the bike and entered the transition for the run with two other girls.

As I headed out of transition, I immediately tried to start out with as fast a cadence as possible. I knew that most of the field was over 2 minutes up the road but like I said in my previous post, you never know who will have to serve penalties or who’s bonking up the road. Both the bike and run courses were fairly hilly, however, my legs were somehow still there and I was able to push the pace for most of the run and catch 6 girls along the way. After my huge mistake I ended up in 13th place, definitely frustrating but I crossed the finish line with a huge smile on my face as usual, just happy to be able to leave it all out there on the course and enjoy the day.

While I was a little sad to leave Chile and return home, I will forever treasure the memories that I have from this experience. From the waiters at the fancy restaurant who agreed to serve the triathletes that came in dressed in athletic clothes to the cute and fluffy stray dogs that adopted me for my daily runs along the coast, I will never forget you. So now, it’s back to Colorado and back to work. Let me leave you with this: “ It ain’t about how fast I get there, ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side, it’s the climb!” – Miley Cyrus

The Stairs

The day before my second race in Chile, I had the opportunity to take a walk further up Hector Calvo Joffre (the street I was living on for the week) and check out the house of Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet and diplomat. In 1971, Neruda won the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature and is considered by some to be the Hemingway of Chile. Being a Spanish minor in college, I studied Neruda’s works a great deal and was excited to learn more about his life and influences for his works. In college, I was programmed to churn out essays/poems/papers on a daily basis and since graduation, have rarely had a chance to write. However, something about the setting of Neruda's museum inspired me to write. So, I went to a nearby coffee shop and wrote this poem, my first in quite awhile… I’m no Shakespeare, but I hope you enjoy!

The Stairs by Amanda Hahn

Walking up the stairs of life,
Sometimes tension so thick you could cut through it with a knife.
The first few steps take gracefully,
Sit back, observe the world, just be.
Learning how to stand so tall,
You must keep your balance and fly, not fall.
Now you’re off and there’s no looking back,
No one behind you to pick up the slack.
Teachers will remind you to keep a steady pace,
Life’s a marathon after all, not a sprint race.
The time will arrive when you reach the middle of the stairs,
And what once didn’t matter now represents your deepest cares.
A family, a job, a college degree,
All will fall into place in time…you’ll see.
There may be obstacles when you reach this part of the stairs,
Some will support you, others give you glares.
Another step taken, another moment stolen from the day,
You’ve been on this staircase so long you’re beginning to say…
That this journey isn’t worth it and you’re ready to throw in the towel,
Yet you grit your teeth and smile even though you want to scowl.
Figures from your past walk faster up the way,
Reminding you of where you started and where you are today.
The steps grow steeper, your mind weaker as you near the top,
Your legs grow tired and you wonder if this grind will ever stop.
Life has thrown its curves at you,
And you threw something back…need a clue?
Your faith has pushed you to the end,
And along the way you’ve stored up advice to lend.
You’re knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door,
But don’t forget where you started – the floor.
As you approach your final stride,
These few rules you must abide…
Once you crest the last step, step aside,
And make sure to salute the staircase, the journey, the ride.

The end :)