|San Juan 70.3 Puerto Rico March 2011|
When deciding my race schedule for this year, I was wanting to find warm weather races and then this new 70.3 popped up on the schedule….and I thought ‘Beauty’ (Aussie term for good/great/terrific).Not only have I always wanted to go there but it is warm and they have surf! What a trifecta!
I was fortunate enough to have a home stay for the race. After a long day of travel, I finally arrived before 10pm and Jay met me at the airport to take me to their house. I can’t say enough about what a lovely family they are and how nice they were to me and made me feel so welcome….they did tease the size of the coffee I drank but got me to try traditional Puerto Rican style/sized (baby size)….and it was good!
I have been so lucky to have had great homestays my entire career and Jay, Vicki, Jay Jay and Diego kept my lucky streak going.
Oscar was also staying with us so the next morning Jay (as I learnt is a very well-known local), Oscar and I ran down to the swim, swam the course then ran home. It was a great way to wake up the travel legs and see the town. The ocean was a perfect swimsuit temperature, clear and clean.
We went to a great local organic café for lunch then went and registered for the event. Jay met us there and I am not kidding when I say, at least every second person stopped to say hi to him and have a chat. It became a joke towards the end because even riding through town on our bikes, people yelled from their cars to say hi. The locals are very friendly and welcome you with open arms.
We pre road half of the bike course the day before the race and I have never seen so many iguanas on the side of the road in my life. They were huge...actually some of them not as there was a lot of road kill! Once you get through town, then the industrial area, you ride right along the ocean road then turn toward the tropical rainforest looking mountains before turning around and doing the loop again.
Race day was overcast and windy until half way through the bike then the sun finally showed itself which I was hoping for. The hotter the better for me
I love non wetsuit open water swims so this was perfect. We started in a lagoon then swam out under a bridge into more open water (where it got a little choppy due to the wind and being closer to the open ocean) and exited on the other side, ran around a hotel and into T2 (a beautiful old stadium called Sixto Escobar Stadium-named after Sixto Escobar the Puerto Rican Professional and World Champion boxer)) and out on to the bike course.
Apparently the government had done a lot of work to the roads to make them smoother and covered up many potholes for the race, so the surface was pretty good and the local athletes were wrapped (as it meant nice training for them in the future). The ride was great as it was a fair race with no drafting going on and no age group men messing with the female pros.
Onto the run and temperature was warm now and the winds still gusting. The run followed the ocean, passing the San Felipe del Morro fortress on our right (spectacular).
We then headed down a cobble stoned road and under the ‘door’ or passage called ‘La Puerta de San Juan’ along the base of the forte (at the water’s edge),
to the turn around and back up and along the coast road, passing Old San Juan on our right and into T2 to turn around and do it all over again.
When we were running along the water’s edge near the forte, all I could think of was of the comment made it our race briefing ‘watch out for the feral cats that live along there’. So, to me ,feral cats could attack you if they are hungry enough or don’t like you being in their territory….and how big are these feral cats anyway….what if one latches onto my ankle….then I saw one….it was a regular kitty cat that bolted away as soon as it saw me! And as I later learned, these are street cats, which the Old San Juan locals feed and look after. It is like they are everyone’s cats and certainly won’t attack you anymore than your own cat!
It was a solid run course and I felt ok considering it was my first 70.3 for the year and came in 2nd so I was a happy camper!
The spectators along the run course were yelling, cheering, ringing cow bells and really lit the town up as tourists were wondering what was going on in the middle of their vacation!
After the finish line they had set up a big ice pool and I was the first to try it out with fresh bags of ice still stuck together….until the volunteers saw what I was doing and decided to break it all and spread it around me…I lasted about 30secs!!! My feet were aching and I was chilled already so it had done its job then to drug testing!
My host family was down there waiting for Jay to come in so I hung out with them for a bit then Jay and I rode back to their house, ate, and got clean and chilled!
The following day Jay, Vicki, Jay Jay and Diego took Oscar and I for a tour through Old San Juan which was awesome. The streets look like the hills of San Francisco but more historical due to the cobble stoned streets, older buildings (although off similar shape and size) and fortes, sculptures, church’s etc.
The Cathedral of San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico
The entire grass field around the front of the forte was covered in families flying kites together and having picnics. In Puerto Rico they are not allowed to start work until 11am on a Sunday so families can spend the morning together….pretty cool old fashioned beliefs are law A kite nearly took our heads off as a kid crashed it right in front of us and another came down right in front of a car wheel…maybe we should have had our helmets on!
We walked down some of the streets where we had run the day before but it all looked so different…a lot quieter and prettier (as I didn’t really see the ocean view from the top).
We had lunch at the Parrot Café and the food was delicious. Jay ordered Plantain Nachos (beef)….the BEST ever nachos I have ever had in my life, followed by bbq’d vegetables in a spinach tortilla with some other flavor in there that set it off!
Then we quick footed it home, Vicki made me one last Puerto Rican style coffee for the road, grabbed my gear and took off for the airport for my flight home to SD.
The experience that I had in San Juan with the local people, my homestay, the race that Rev3 puts on, will always be a special memory for me. Thanks San Juan!