Art's Pantagonman Race Report

Congratulations to NRG athlete Art Chasovskykh on his race in Patagonia this past weekend, what an experience! Here is his race report

This past Sunday we traveled to Patagonia, Chile for the extreme, Iron distance - Patagonman. I was selected for it through lottery draw back in April. This is the race where every discipline is extreme and one relies solely on a support person to provide you with nutrition, water, shoulder to cry on.

With unrest in Chile we were a bit concerned staying in Santiago for a night, but had no choice as everything was booked, and also there were no flights to Patagonia after the time we arrived. Once in Santiago however, everything seemed normal, “South American normal”. We were taking afternoon stroll through the park and everything seemed to be very peaceful. Patricia was taking a picture of some famous rock or something and I saw a crowd of people running. I told her maybe we should get out of here, she pretended not to hear me and proceeded with picture #56 of the rock. Only when she saw through the camera objective smoke grenade flying we moved and started to walk back. Unfortunately, the wind was blowing in our direction and very soon we started crying and our throats got very irritated. Being tear-gassed was a bitter experience, however, another first!

The next day we arrived to Patagonia. I consider myself somewhat well-traveled, yet Patagonia is definitely THE most stunning, scenic and breathtaking place I've been to.
The bike was built with no issues (something that rarely happens to me) and I even had a chance to ride it a bit. Everything was set for the race.

Now, this is being my 4th iron distance in 54 weeks beside two (5h+) SwimRun events, a marathon and the most training load ever this season, I wasn't going to nor was capable of racing it hard. This race was just for the pleasure of pain and suffering - we are on vacation after all.

THE SWIM. Goal - make just one the ferry.
The start was in Puerto Chacabuco where we got on board of a ferry at 4:30 a.m., ride into fjord and start the race. The air temperature was 10C and water was 9.4C. I aimed to stay as warm as possible until the jump. People were so eager to get off the ferry, but from the first jumpers to the last one (me) it took 15+ min. And that's the time you are spending in not-quite-jacuzzi-like water.

Bro tip: Do everything you can to stay warm. Swing your arms, move your legs, hang out by the engine room of the ferry, pee in your wetsuit (totally not my case).

It was about 50m swim from the ferry to the start, and since I was the last one off the ferry, they gave the start horn pretty much right after I jumped. No big deal, just have to meat-grind through the entire field. One of the requirements of the swim was to wear swim buoy with a light in it, so it was very easy to see everyone. After about 800m of hard swimming (to be warm) I found myself in a lead group of three - lead group behind Tim Don, he was only competing with himself that day. I stayed with lead group for about 2k after which point things started to go "North". Toe cramp - disregard; calf cramp - shake it off; back spasm - abort the mission, SURVIVE, SURVIVE, SURVIVE! Looking at the snowy peaks of the mountains no matter which side I breathed didn't help with cold coping. If the swim was 500m longer not sure I could have made it.

I was so cold, I exited the water half conscious. Only the chute of people shepherded me to the direction I was supposed to go until Patry picked me up. I practiced swimming in Lake O in November few times prior the race, but usually I got in the car after the practice swim without taking wetsuit off and drove directly to a hot bath at home. Here, it was a different scenario. I had no control of my limbs, the core was shaking, and the mind was absent.
I don't know how Patricia did it, but she managed to undress me from the swimsuits and into full bike gear, periodically throwing hot liquid down my throat. This was the longest T1 ever (a.k.a. Saturday morning Wilcox social)

THE BIKE. Goal - not to break any bones.

Once I got on the bike I thought riding it would be impossible due to the magnitude of shaking I was going through, but eventually it got better.
The bike course was very tough, with lots of altitude gain coming in the latter part, lots of road work, cobble stones and very strong wind. Now, for those of you who haven't ridden with me on Wilcox sessions, how do I put this so everyone understands - I suck on the bike. For you roadies out there, 2900m elevation gain might seem like Tuesday's breakfast, for me it was quite brutal ordeal.

Bro tip: Never take cycling advice from me.

However, as I mentioned before, I wasn't racing, and this is very liberating feeling knowing that I don't have to keep an eye on watts and pace too much and just enjoy the day. I stopped to refuel/chat with Patry five times not caring about the clock; was out of my aero bars to enjoy the view more often than I would usually be; slowed down when I didn’t feel like pushing hard. My only goal was to make it in one piece to T2, which came to a challenge when I hit one of the construction points on the road. The front wheel wobbled in the rocks and over the bars I went. But it wasn't a nasty fall, more of a warm embrace with the Earth that took my knee and front bottle, no biggie, still on goal.
The last 15k of the bike was steep downhill with lots of switchbacks and very strong wind and unbelievable views of the mountains. So, for adrenaline seekers out there, THIS IS AMAZING. Also nice way to finish the bike.

There are no changing tents in transitions so expect to see lots of nudity. Also your support collects all your gear after each transition, so no standing in lines after the race to pick up the bike - nice!

THE RUN. Goal – make it to the offseason.

The run was point to point 42.8k with almost 900m of elevation with 75% of it coming in 3-8km, so it was a lot of uphill in the beginning. Also 41k of the run was on a very hard trail, sometimes single track, crossing brooks and tiny lakes.

Bro tip: Take time to enjoy the surroundings. This is the race like no other and 86 seconds won’t cost you a Kona slot.

I didn’t feel too wasted after the bike and legs were moving fast on the run. Still not racing though, I was picking up a lot of people. I guess if you killed yourself on the bike to much, walking those 42k would be veeeeery lonely, no matter how stunning the nature is all around.
The strategy was to power walk every steep hill, run on the flats and open up the strides going downhill – the strategy was working perfectly. I saw a couple of guys running uphill in the beginning - which was practically a race suicide; one of them finished an hour after me, and I didn’t even see the second one finishing.

There were only 2 aid stations, one on the 10th k and the other one on the 20th k where you can get some water and a Gatorade. No orange slices every kilometer, no warm broth and no mariachi bands to entertain you. Just you and your demons.
At the 30th k you meet your support person and have the option to run to the finish together. It was very tempting to stop and just take a shuttle bus back to the finish, but seeing Patricia gave me a second wind and the last 12k were the fastest out of the whole run. 7k to go I was coming down the hill and saw two guys about 600m and 800m ahead of me. I know I wasn’t racing, but once I saw those chicos the targets were locked and the pace was fast. I ran them down with about 3k to go. Opened up a gap big enough so Patricia (who was waiting for me 1.5k from the finish) and I could cross the line together. And so we did! I rang the bell and was pronounced a Patagonman.

This was a spectacular race, but definitely not a PB friendly. In fact I finished 3.5 hours slower than my best Ironman time. Also, ran the slowest marathon on record, yet probably the one I am most proud of, with negative splits and picking up 70% of the people who were ahead of me after the bike.

The main success factors for races like this, in my opinion, is to be resilient and extremely resourceful. There should be zero expectation that everything will go according to the plan. Also, your support crew is absolutely crucial. I can’t thank Patricia enough, she did splendidly!

There is no way to describe the beauty of Patagonia I would strongly recommend you to visit it one day!

Thank you for reading!


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