The night before the race
I have been trying to write a full race report about Ironman Cozumel and about our trip as a whole but as time goes on the motivation to add in all the trip details seems to be failing me so here is just my race report.
I went to Cozumel with the goal to qualify for Kona. It was a main focus for me leading up to the race. But, I also knew that Cozumel would present some challenges that would be out of my control. The big one being the weather. I was not sure how my body would do being that it was in the 30s – 40s here in NC. We headed to Mexico early to try to acclimate with the heat before the race. Luck was not on our side as ‘El Norte’ was in town keeping temperatures cool and the wind howling. El Norte also being the cause of the shorten swim for this Ironman. All in all, when I went to bed on Saturday night, I truly believed this was going to be my race. I was fit, prepared and motivated.
Our house all woke up early to start prepping for the race. It was nice to just sit around and relax a bit with friends before the long day ahead. Once we are all ready to go – we got a cab to the swim finish, which use to be the start as well until the changed the swim to a point to point. I made sure my bike was set up, put on sunscreen, put on my swim skin and turned in my morning clothes bag. We caught a shuttle to head 2 miles to the swim start.
This would be my first mass start I have ever done since IM Lake Placid used the new rolling swim start but, I felt pretty calm about it as there isn’t much you can do but battle it out and keep swimming. I didn’t have a time goal for the swim since it was shortened and I wasn’t sure how much the current would affect my time.
Once the pros went off, we had about 20 minutes before the gun would fire for us. All of the people who wanted to be in front headed right in the water but I knew I didn’t want to tread water for that long before we went off. Once it got down to about 8 minutes left – I made my way out and positioned myself towards the front half of the group and just tried to find some clean water.
The gun fired and of course it was a ton of bodies on top of each other trying to get going. It felt like you were in a big washing machine every time you looked up because all you saw was water splashing. I put my head in the water and just swam. There was definitely some elbows thrown and some slightly over kicking to get people off of me but after the first 5 minutes things started to settle down. I tried to stay an equal distance from shore for most of the swim but the race buoys had us zigzagging quite a bit. I felt fairly confident on how I was swimming and when I looked up, I finally saw the docks where we would be exiting. At this point though, I think the current switched a bit on us because it felt like eternity to actually get to the swim exit. We also had to swim around the entire dock and take a quick left to the exit…nothing major but would have been nice to have those details before. I exited the water and checked my watch and thought – that can’t be too bad and made my way through the changing tent and to my bike. Next up 112 miles of rain, wind, heat, and bike racing…or so it felt.
Cozumel is a three loop flat course. I knew that this bike course can have a lot of drafting because of how flat it is, but with a shortened swim the amount of people out on the course in packs on the first loop was insane. It was also somewhat dangerous. For the first loop, I knew my adrenaline would be high but I also wanted to stay conservative since it is a long way on a flat course where your legs never get a break. The first loop was packed and I felt like I was stuck in traffic the whole time with slow drivers in the left lane. Multiple times I had to go in the other lane to pass people because bikers were 4 across having a conversation. As I made it out to the South part of the Island where strong head winds are known to be, we were hit with some winds but also you could tell rain clouds were coming in. At this point, pelotons were flying by. I couldn’t stop shaking my head and just kind of laughing as a group would come up behind me with someone hanging on the back that I had passed 15 minutes prior like they were standing still and now they were being brought around the island like a passenger on a train. People can say all they want that they didn’t draft but when the packs come up it is nearly impossible to not get caught up in it for a little bit. As bad as the packs were on the first lap, I biked mostly alone on the second and third laps. As I came back into town finishing my first lap, I was pumped to see Jenny and Lori cheering near our condo and my legs felt great to start the 2nd lap.
2nd lap was pretty uneventful besides the significant winds that had picked up on the south end of the island. I had to be careful not to push my power on this section and constantly reminded myself it was about the run. I was taking a water bottle to pour on myself and Gatorade at every aid station along with a GU every 45 minutes. Seeing Jenny and Lori again was a great boost as I went into my third and final lap. I was feeling really good and felt like I was putting a good race together so far. The third lap was definitely the toughest, not necessarily because we were getting into the later miles but the head wind was the worst it had been and the aid stations started to run out of Gatorade. It was also getting tough riding alone, it would have been nice to have someone to at least legally draft and work with for the final section. Once I got to the end of the head wind and start back to T2 there was a long stretch where I didn’t have any water left to splash on myself and I had gone through all of my GU’s. I also started to think about how I hadn’t had to pee at all on the bike even with all of the liquids I had put in my body. I didn’t worry about it too much since most of my long rides I rarely have to pee. It was starting to get really hot out and my body was feeling it. Getting to the last aid station, I made sure to grab water and a fresh Gatorade to get to the finish.
Coming into T2, I was smiling from ear to ear. I felt like I had executed a really good bike. My power was where I wanted it to be, I felt I passed a lot of people in my age group (after the race I found out I came off the bike in 2nd place in my age group) and I was setting myself up to have a great run. I guess I am not a very good psychic…
I headed out on the run and immediately grabbed a water bag to splash on myself because I could feel the heat right away. The run course was three out and backs. It’s great for spectators but definitely a mental battle when most of the course wasn’t shaded. I can’t say I was feeling fantastic while running down the first out and back but I kept telling myself things change quickly and I would fall into a good rhythm once I got going. I made it to the turn around to come back and my legs felt ok but I was still really hot and once again could not force any nutrition down. I was putting as much water on me as I could to cool down but as I did that my shoes started to feel super water-logged. I saw our sherpas and they gave me some great motivation to just keep going and all I could say to them was I felt I could fry an egg on my arm. When I finally made it to the turn around to start my 2nd lap – the wind started to come out of my sails and I did not feel good. I took a few walking breaks and tried to get some fluids down and regain my momentum. I saw Duran as he was coming back on his 2nd loop and we both gave each other a quick hug and just said we’ve got to keep moving. No one had passed me from my age group yet but after another mile or so I started to get severe chills and goose bumps which was very odd when its 90 degrees out and the sun is beating down on you. I also started to yawn and sway a lot. I knew my race was over at that point. In an Ironman, walking during the run will happen but if you can keep moving forward you really don’t lose too much time. Once I could barely walk forward any longer…I was done.
This is the hardest part to write about for my race report. I want Duran to succeed in triathlon more than myself most of the time. He has more heart for this sport than anyone I know. When he saw me wrapped in a garbage bag wandering in the middle of the road as he was coming back on his third lap – without a thought he said we were done and walked off the course with me. I pleaded with him to keep going and I would find my way back and he proceeded to get a cab, bring me back to the condo and get me in a warm shower to warm up. He would have finished no problem if he had not seen me but I gave him his first DNF. I’m not sure what I would have done if I hadn’t seen him since there weren’t any medics or even adults at any of the aid stations. I will always be grateful for what he did for me that day and I will do everything in my power for him to get that Kona Qualification next June because he deserves it more than anyone I know for his hard work, dedication and most importantly he was fit enough to get there in Cozumel .
As hard as Sunday was, I am very thankful we got to share Cozumel with some new friends and still all laugh and talk about upcoming races together the next day and maybe share a few drinks together too. Looking back – I know my body was ready to go 140. miles but the conditions were not in my favor and my nutrition still needs to be dialed in. All it becomes is more motivation to get back to work.