Guatape, Colombia ITU Pan American Cup

I’m here in Edmonton, the capitol of Alberta, looking over the past few weeks down south. I’m really enjoying myself this year, and the past three weeks have been no exception. After Cartagena I flew to Guatape, a small mountain town near Medellin in Colombia. The week between races felt like an eternity because there was very little to do. The town of Guatape is beautiful. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and I loved riding my bike through the mountains. Guatape is in the middle of a man made lake where every piece of land shoots skyward or drops straight down. Nothing is flat, and there is very little land suitable for building on. Most of the buildings were precariously hanging off the side of a cliff waiting for a mudslide to whisk them into the lake.

Each day in Guatape I would eat breakfast with Arturo Garza and the twins from Puerto Rico, Melissa and Militza Rios (yes they look the same and have names that are very similar, it took me a few days to figure it out). Sometime before lunch I would go for a bike ride and a run, and finish with an afternoon swim in the lake. Between workouts I read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (if you haven’t read it, you need to.), wrote emails, called friends through Google Voice, and slept more than a lazy house cat. By the time race day crept up to us I was more than ready to race and head home to my family. Still there were things I wanted to do in Guatape that aren’t wise before a race, and I was glad for a 10am start time so I could spend the afternoon being a tourist.

The race itself was not as I had hoped. I lead the swim at a pace I thought was quite strong, but there were still about 15 men in the lead group for the bike. I first tried an immediate breakaway, but on the first of six 1km climbs I was caught. Every time we reached a hill the group would string out, but as soon as we crested and descended the string would ball back up. I put in far more than my fare share of the work because I didn’t want the chase pack to catch us, as did fellow American Nick Vandam. We worked hard. Then, with about 200 meters to go on the bike two Spanish men came to the front. Now, race etiquette says that if you’ve been sitting in the back the entire ride, you stay in the back into T2. At the very least leaches should NEVER take their first pull at the very end and block the people who did all the work. I was irritated, but these two Spanish riders were not done being rude. One of them was racked next to me in transition, he cut me off going to my space and carelessly racked his bike by one brake lever. The rest of his bike fell sideways and hung in such a way as to block my transition box and the space for my bike. I had to stop, hold my bike, move his bike, rack my bike, and only then I was able to reach my shoes and get my helmet in to the box. By the time I had my shoes on I was already 10 seconds back from the lead runners. Start speed on the run is already my weak point, and starting from that far back took me out of the run race. I was running by myself, and not feeling particularly good. I probably couldn’t have hung with the two Spaniards (they ended up 1st and 2nd) on that particular day, but I certainly would have like to start with them and try.

I ended up 7th, which was better than the previous week’s 10th place, but still not the result I was looking for, considering I felt good and I like to think tough courses suit me well. I’ve made the mistake of working more than my share before, but at this race I really though the hills would be an equalizer, making everyone in the pack work. Still, I swam quite well and rode strong. My run was sub-par, but overall it was a good experience. I learned and raced hard, which is what it’s all about.

After the race I tried to rent a jet ski, but the price tag was more than I was willing to pay after finishing short of the prize money. I did make it to climb the stairs to the top of Guatape’s scenic rock. It reminded me of Diamond Head monument in Honolulu, though the view was nothing like Hawaii. I also got to try a local dish called Bandeja Piasa, which includes red beans, rice, pork, ground meat, pork rind, fried egg, fried plantain, chorizo, arepa (corn bread type of thing), hogao sauce, black pudding (glad I didn’t know that at the time), and avacado. I bought a t-shirt, walked through a cathedral, and took the colorful, three-wheeled taxicabs around town. I don’t often get to be a tourist, and I felt that I needed it. Sitting around for a week doing nothing didn’t seem to help me run faster either, so I was hoping that relaxing and having fun would lead to a better race just six days later back home in Washington State.

It did, but that will be my next blog post, which I’ll publish before I race the Edmonton World Cup this weekend. Below is an image gallery from Guatape, click on the images to see the full size.

2 thoughts on “Guatape, Colombia ITU Pan American Cup

  1. Ben, nice meeting you in Guatape. Good luck the rest of the season, are you going to be in Buffalo?

  2. Great meeting you too! I’ll probably be in buffalo. My schedule for the rest of the season is still up in the air.

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