Dispatch: The Passion Behind Ironman 70.3 Pucón

Friday evening in Pucón I had the opportunity to speak with Race Director Cristian Ulloa.

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“Dispatch” is an online column from Triathlete Editor-at-Large Holly Bennett that features pro updates, industry news, happenings afield and otherwise random reports related to multi-sport. Look for “Dispatch” every Thursday on Triathlete.com and check back throughout this weekend for updates from Pucón 70.3.

Friday evening in Pucón (after a short afternoon siesta, as I’m learning to go with the local flow) I had the opportunity to speak with Race Director Cristian Ulloa and José Manuel Vélez, Vice President of the Club Deportiva Universidad Católica (CDUC – www.lacatolica.cl), the organization that produces the Ironman 70.3 event. Ulloa, pictured here with his three children, Ignacia, Benjamin and Martín, is a long-time triathlete known to and beloved by all in the Chilean multisport community. He’s also an especially proud papa, as his son Martín secured his second victory at the kids’ race on Friday in the 17-19 year old category. This was Martín’s last eligible year to race as a junior and he holds aspirations of turning pro.

The CDUC is an organization that originated 75 years ago as a sports program at the Catholic University in Santiago (Chile’s main population hub). The group evolved over the years into its own entity that now boasts a massive campus complete with top rate training facilities, competition fields and coaching staff. Club members range in age from children to adults and comprise teams in 12 different sports, one of which is triathlon. There are approximately 1,500 team athlete members as well as 650 families that utilize the CDUC for recreational purposes. The organization also works with school sports leagues in their mission to encourage and promote athletics throughout Chile.

The passion for triathlon is evident among the CDUC triathlon team members who are out in force in Pucón to represent at their favorite race. One member – Francisco Gonzalez, easily one of Chile’s top age group athletes with whom I hope to chat at length for a later column – told me that some of his teammates race only once annually, training year-round specifically focused on success at the Pucón 70.3. Indeed, there’s a feeling here that the race is almost as meaningful as Ironman Hawaii to the South American competitors – and the club competition is surely as fierce as any battle on the big island. Years ago the creator of the website www.trichile.cl, Chile’s online portal to all things triathlon, began photographing the various triathlon club teams that race here prior to the Friday night pasta party. The clubs have experienced so much growth that the photographer is now forced to stand on a ladder to gain enough perspective to fit everyone into the image!

I also learned an interesting fact about the youth athletes of the CDUC. Thirty-six of the children that raced yesterday are visiting Pucón from their home city of Santiago as part of a two-week triathlon training camp. Much like a traditional summer camp, the kids stay in cabins where the older boys and girls mentor the younger ones while developing their swim, bike and run skills. They have the opportunity to participate in two races during the camp session – one the kids’ race that took place on Friday and the other a chance to qualify for their national youth team. While it’s obvious that the children have a blast at the camp and create powerful bonds of friendship with other campers who will remain their training partners and racing rivals for years to come, they certainly take their training seriously. In fact, the group was spotted on Friday afternoon logging a recovery run following the morning’s race. These kids are the passionate future of triathlon in Chile for sure!

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