Sarah Piampiano, who left her full time job in finance and made a splash on the long course triathlon scene with her win in 2012 at Ironman 70.3 New Orleans, is looking to make an even greater impact on the sport in 2014. We were lucky enough to talk to the Purplepatch Fitness athlete after her second place finish at Ironman 70.3 Pucon this past weekend (she also finished second in Pucon in 2013) about her about the race and her big plans for 2014.
WITSUP: How was the racing atmosphere for the first race of the year? Is there a more relaxed feel with everyone starting off 2014?
SARAH PIAMPIANO: The atmosphere is Pucon is 90% of the reason that I returned to race there again this year. That region of Chile is simply stunning with crystal lakes, rugged mountains, snow-capped volcanos, beautiful farm country and rivers running all around you. They coin it as “The Most Beautiful Race In The World” and it if it is not – it is pretty darn close. Add to that the amazing atmosphere. People are so happy to be there and be racing and the vibe is so positive and supportive. The race organisers work very hard to make it an event for the whole family. They have a “promotional” race as well as a few kids races leading up to the day. The pasta dinner has special entertainment and the post race party is the best one I have seen on the circuit! It is a special event to be part of.
And yeah – I do think there is a relaxed feel for many pros. Most of us are just coming off breaks from training for our 2013 season as well as the few extra cookies around the holidays. On race day I am out there giving 100% of what I have, but after the race I am also able to kick back and really enjoy the experience, which sometimes can be difficult in the middle and end of the season if a race doesn’t go quite as you would hope or you have to immediately switch the focus back to recovery and training. That all being said, the country really gets behind the Chilean pros that are racing and so I think they build into this race with a bit more focus and intensity. It adds excitement to the racing and creates a very unique environment for everyone.
SP: The course really does live up to all of the hype and is as amazing as it is challenging. The swim is in Lake Villarica, which is a stunning, stunning lake at the base of a large volcano. The water is such a beautiful color and is clear and the perfect temperature for a wetsuit swim – not too cold and not too warm! Last year the waters were very rough in the morning so it made for slower swim times, but this year the lake was calm and ideal swim conditions. The bike is a two loop course. It isn’t too challenging – once you are out of town there is a long gradual assent, a bit of flat through the countryside, and then at the turn around you head back to town to start your second loop. Usually the winds come from the North so there is a head and cross wind out and a tail wind back. The wind is really what dictates how challenging the bike will be. The run is hard – it is a three loop course with hill after hill after hill. It is probably the hardest run course I have raced on. But, it is also a very rewarding run, with some amazing views of the lake and the volcano. And…the crowd support is the best I have seen for a 70.3 race. The town gets so into it!
W: This is the second year you’ve done the early season race at Pucon, does the ability to train outdoors year round in California influence your race selection (a big difference from Maine too!)?
SP: Being able to train year round doesn’t have that much of an impact on my race selection. Last year I chose Pucon because I was racing Ironman Melbourne in March and I needed to get a race under my belt before I went to race a full IM. Pucon sort of just fit with what we were looking for – race experience without too much pressure because of where it is in the season. But… I fell in love with this race and so I wanted to make sure we fit it into my calendar again this year – really just to be part of such a great event!
SP: Haha! Yes – Valentina knows how to race this course and it is a pleasure to see her win. The Chileans love her and they really get behind her throughout the weekend – it is quite a unique experience to race in a place where every spectator is routing for one person to win! I think it is an important race for her from that aspect and seeing her do so well really does add to the experience for us all. And it helps with the publicity and attention that the race receives within the country – something that is always a positive for our beloved sport! That being said I am, of course, a competitor and I do want to win! So yes! I hope to be back in 2015 and take another crack!!
W: What are your plans for this year? After declining a slot in 2013, is Kona going to be a focus for you in 2014?
SP: I feel as though 2014 is a very important year for me from a performance perspective, with my sponsors, and in terms of establishing my brand. Declining Kona last year was tough in many ways, but I have never looked back and questioned that decision. I feel it was 100% the right choice for me given where I was and what I needed from a training standpoint. This year I want to go to Kona and I want to perform. We all know what Kona can do to the very best athletes on any given day, but my hope is to go into that race in the best shape of my life and believing in myself and what I am capable of on race day. Kona is certainly one of my focuses for this year, but I have some other goals and things I’d like to achieve – like winning an Ironman and showing strong consistency in my performances. I need to take another step up. And then with that comes some goals in the swim, bike and run. Matt has actually helped me partner up with a new strength coach this year and I’m going to be spending the winter really working on the new program we have developed as well as with a PT to try to address some key weaknesses.
W: What’s up next for you in 2014?
SP: I am heading to Hawaii for a training camp in a few weeks with Matt and the Purplepatch pro squad through the middle of February. Then from there I’ll be back in LA for a good chunk of time. My next races will be in April – Galveston 70.3 and then New Orleans 70.3 back to back, then St. George in May all leading into Ironman Texas. It’s a bit of a different structure for me this year in terms of timing and structure of my races and schedule, but I’m really excited to see how it turns out!
Ironman 70.3 Pucon placings
1st – Valentina Carvallo
2nd – Sarah Piampiano
3rd – Dede Griesbauer
Text by Kelly Gallagher
Photos supplied by athlete and www.atletas.info