Costa Rica (and Alcatraz)

“Es Leo?” I heard a spectator ask my lead cyclist. (Is that Leo?)

“No.” he said.

“De donde es?” (Where’s he from?)


First of all, I’m pretty sure gringo isn’t a nationality but let’s set that aside for now. The point is, who is this Leo fellow, and why do people think I’m him? Why it’s the legendary Costa Rican triathlete Leonardo Chacon Corrales of course. Who else would be winning the first ever Costa Rica 70.3? Seriously, though – this man is a big deal in Costa Rica. He went to the Olympics twice and raced ITU for at least 15 years, including the time I was on the circuit. From the eyes of the young American team on the ground at these ITU World Cups it was hard not to aggrandize his character. Leo often had a camera crew following him around, so we assumed he was on a Costa Rican reality TV show of some sort. And if he didn’t have his own reality TV show, he should have. I’d watch it. Also, we were under the impression he only traveled by chopper. OK we made that last part up.

Anyways, the point is that to most of the spectators in Playas del Coco last weekend it was incomprehensible that anyone other than Leo would be winning this race. “It surprised me that Leo came in fourth, but that is life sometimes,” said one Leo fan. But this is only his 2nd 70.3, and I chatted with him pre-race and he is coming off a stress fracture, so kudos to him for finishing.

Case and point, a video of Leo passing out has 3x the views of the video of me winning the race. Grande!
Exhibit A: a video of Leo passing out has 3x the views of the video of me winning the race. Grande!

However, I can say with certainty that even though Leo didn’t win, Costa Rica went crazy for the first Ironman 70.3 race in their country this past weekend. This goes down as my favorite finish chute to date:

The race itself wasn’t complicated – with a warm ocean swim (83F) and hot and humid ambient temps I knew this could easily become a race of attrition. The front group (Carlos Quinchara, Felipe Vande Wyngard, and Leo) rode hard from the start so I knew almost immediately it was going to become a running race. I got all of my nutrition and hydration down on the bike and blasted the first 10k of the run to open up a three minute gap, then made sure to survive to the finish line in the brutal Costa Rican humidity.

Photo by Wagner Araujo
The swim course was kinda nice. Photo by Wagner Araujo
T-shirts are hard to sign. And once you sign one t-shirt you have to sign all the t-shirts. ALL the t-shirts.
Gringo squad.
Interviewing for a cameo on Leo’s reality TV show.

On another note I raced Escape from Alcatraz the week prior, except there was no escaping this year. Massive snow melt caused strong currents to develop, and this combined with high winds forced the race organization to cancel the swim. So for the first time in the history of the event the San Francisco Belle didn’t even leave the dock. To be fair the water did look pretty crazy so it was the right decision. Given the field of super-swimmers lined up to race, not having the swim certainly helped me, so no complaints from me. After a TT start I had a decent ride and the third fastest run of the day and was pleasantly surprised to get fourth amongst a star-studded field.

Photo by Tim Carlson/Slowtwitch
Photo by Tim Carlson/Slowtwitch.
Running with Mau Mendez - nice day for a race in San Francisco except for the 30mph winds.
Running with Mau Mendez – nice day for a race in San Francisco except for the 30mph winds. Photo by Sunny Margerum/HOKA ONE ONE.

Next up for me is defending my title at Challenge Iceland in July.