“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that will feature pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com.
When I first met brothers Francisco and José Gonzalez at the Ironman World Championship in Kona last October – as mutual guests of pro Linsey Corbin and her husband Chris at a casual pre-race barbeque – I felt an immediate bond of friendship. It’s something common among triathletes that share a passion for endurance sports, but the Gonzalez brothers also exude a warmth and helpfulness characteristic of people in their home country of Chile. It was because of Francisco and José, members of Santiago’s Club Deportiva Universidad Católica triathlon team, that I was introduced to the Ironman 70.3 Pucón race organizers and ultimately received an invitation to cover this year’s event in South America. While there I was fortunate to attend a post-race celebration at nearby Calafquén Lake (where the Gonzalez family spends the month of January at their lake house, enjoying the outdoors during Chile’s summer season) with the Gonzalez brothers’ extended family, teammates and a few of the pro athletes they’ve befriended.
Thirty-two-year-old Francisco, who lives in Chile’s capital city of Santiago with his wife Andrea and their 16-month-old daughter Blanquita (Blanca), was the second overall age-group finisher (and the first Chilean) in Sunday’s 70.3 race. His brother José (nine years Francisco’s senior) did not compete due to a nagging injury, however he is also an accomplished athlete. Francisco and José both raced Kona in 2012, finishing in 9:36:50 and 9:41:59 respectively. Francisco also boasts a 2009 Kona finish on his athletic resume. And while Monday’s celebration was more about relaxing with family and friends and enjoying an incredible array of food, wine and waterfront entertainment than about triathlon talk, Francisco and I took a few minutes to chat about living the multisport lifestyle in Chile.
Triathlete.com: Tell me what life is like as an age group triathlete in Chile. How would you describe the triathlon vibe in your country?
FG: I’m kind of a classic age grouper here. I’ll try to explain to you what it means to be a triathlete here in Chile. I feel that sometimes to be an age grouper here is kind of rough, because in Chile we don’t have a huge culture from sport. We are just starting to get a culture for triathletes, so sometimes some people look at me like I’m something weird! But most of the time they look at me like, “Oh, he’s doing something great. I would like to do that sometime!” And some of them try to do it – the Olympic distance or whatever. So triathlon is getting more popular in Chile. And it is sometimes hard to be an age grouper because you have to split your time with your family, your job, training and resting. Lucky for me that my wife really likes the sport and likes me being an athlete! Also, in this season [summer in Chile] it’s kind of easy, but training in Santiago in winter is hard because the days are so short and cold.
Triathlete.com: Is your work supportive of your triathlon hobby?
FG: For work we develop commercial centers. It is a family company, so my schedule is kind of flexible. What I don’t do in the morning I can do in the evening.
Triathlete.com: Are there many races available to triathletes here, or do you have to travel if you want to compete frequently?
FG: There are some here. The only big one is Pucón, but there are other Olympic and half ironman distance races. The oldest race after Pucón is only four years old, but the sport is getting bigger.
Triathlete.com: Do you have any trouble getting access to the latest gear and equipment?
FG: No, it is easy but it’s a little bit expensive!
Triathlete.com: Do you and José train together?
FG: We always make the same schedule for training and travel. José is almost the same level as me. He is faster at the bike but we always train together. I’m faster at swimming and we are similar at running. So always one of us is one minute up, then the other is one minute up, and it goes like that.
Triathlete.com: What has been your greatest accomplishment in the sport so far?
FG: I don’t know because at all the races I try to get something good from it. For example if I can tell you about yesterday, I would like to say that my bike, for me, wasn’t a really good time. It was very windy and I had to think a lot and worry a lot about the power meter. But I used my head a lot, and that gave me experience I will use in some other race. Also Ironman Brazil last year was good for me. 9:12:58 was my time, and I think it was one of the top four or top five times ever in an Ironman for an age grouper from Chile.
Triathlete.com: What are your future triathlon goals?
FG: Maybe I will race Arizona this year, and hopefully Kona in 2014 if I go good in Arizona. I would like someday to attack nine hours!