Race Report: Ironman Cozumel

Ohhhhh......where to begin?

If you followed my progress online, you probably know this wasn't the race I was hoping for.  Honestly, I'm not that disappointed.  It is what it is.  I wanted a better race, but went in with the attitude that this just another part of the adventure that is triathlon racing.  Adventures don't always mean PRs, and not qualifying for Kona means lots of possibilities for next year...more on that in a future post.

The adventure began Friday morning.  We were flying in last minute planning to stay a few days after the race to vacation.  We were to arrive in Cozumel at 1:30pm and had to make it only a few miles to the convention center downtown to pick up my packet by 6pm.  No packet pick up on Saturday.

I figured Black Friday would be an easy day to fly and it appeared that way at first.  We went from the car through check in, security and to our gate in 15 minutes.  Easy peasy.  We boarded the plane and then....nothing..

We just sat there and then they shut down the plane.  Then they told us they were having mechanical problems and we had to de-plane.  

We went to the counter to find out our options and were told our connecting flight in Dallas was our only hope of making it to Cozumel today. The problem with flying on Black Friday is that there aren't many flights so if they need to rebook you, there are very few options.

Being a holiday, the maintenance man was on call so they had to call him in....and he's old, real old, and lost his sense of urgency about 100 years ago.  Talk about frustrating.  We eventually made it to Dallas on time, but it sure was stressful.  We made it to Cozumel and everything went pretty smooth from there.

The Day Before:

Testing out the new swimskin at the practice swim on Saturday.

I went to the practice swim the day before and the water was very, very rough.  They had most of the course closed and would only let us swim by the pier.  I went out for a short swim and had fun, but could feel myself getting seasick from the swells (I get seasick....can you see where this is headed?).  

Later in the day was bike dropoff.  The transition area is weird.  Bikes everywhere and I had a transition spot that was almost as far from the bike exit as you could get.

The transition area is very spread out.

My bike in T1.  Ready to roll.

Race Day:

The Swim:  1:20

It was windy and the water was really rough.  I got in the water pretty early so I could get a spot toward the front.  The current was pushing us back and we had to swim breast stroke the whole time to keep from getting pushed back to the pier.  The swim start was really weird.  It was confusing and there was a false start.  They kept trying to push us back and eventually someone on a jetski started flying back and forth in front to keep us back, which was a little crazy.  I thought someone was going to get killed. 

Athletes on the pier about to get in the water.

There was a lot of contact at first, like always, but things thinned out pretty quickly due to the rough conditions.  I felt like I was swimming well and toward the front of the field.  My swimskin was chafing the right side of my neck and the salt was beginning to burn.  We rounded the corner buoys and headed the other direction. The current was giving us a push, but it was also pushing us toward shore.  It was rough, but I felt like I was off to a good start. 

About halfway, I was beginning to feel sick.  It was the swells getting to me, and I had swallowed some salt water (apparently the water down there has a very high salt content).  Once we turned the corner again and were back against the current, I felt horrible.  My mouth was watering telling me I was probably not going to make it to shore before vomiting.  I felt weak and tired.  Progress was slow.  I wanted out. I was beginning to wonder if I could make it to shore.  I looked up a few times and couldn't see the pier or any volunteers.  Where were they?  I was beginning to feel a little panicky.  I was weak and sick and there were no kayaks or paddle boards anywhere close.  I told myself to calm down and that I was a strong enough swimmer to make it to shore despite how I was feeling.   This was no longer about PRs or Kona or even racing.  I was in survival mode (it's funny how feeling sick makes you feel like you're going to die). 

I eventually saw a paddle board and motioned for him to come over.  As soon as he got there I vomited.  Then again.  And again.

"Do you speak English?"  he asked.
"Si."  (I'm a moron)

I hung on the board for a while and wondered if there was an easy way back to shore.  "Don't worry.  You have plenty of time.  You can finish."  

Finish?  I don't care about finishing.  I want out of the water...NOW.  

"The end is right there."  He pointed to the pier.  It was a lot closer than I thought.  I figured I could finish off the swim, find Courtney and tell her I'm sick and can't continue and then we'll head back to the hotel and get cleaned up and watch the rest of the race.  

Instead I grabbed my T1 bag and put on my helmet and race belt.  I grabbed my bike and started heading out of T2.  I finally saw Courtney and told her I was sick and not sure I could finish.  She said I was as white as a ghost.  We decided I would do one loop of the bike to see the course and then I'd call it a day. 

Me spotting Courtney in T1.

The Bike:  5:58

I went out easier than I had trained for.  Even though the plan was to do one loop, I immediately started following my nutrition plan hoping I would be able to complete the bike.  My only hope, I figured, would be to follow my plan.  Not following the plan was a guarantee I wouldn't finish.  I vomited a couple more times on the bike, but otherwise was able to hold down my nutrition and water and was beginning to feel better.  I was riding 'easy' but making good time and passing a lot of people.  One lap turned into two.

Heading out for another loop of the bike.
 At the halfway point, my average speed was 22.6 mph.  I was feeling okay, not great, but good enough that I was starting to think about the marathon.  I was wishing I'd had a better swim and could ride to the power I had trained for, but this was looking like it still might be a decent day.  

Then I got a flat.  Perfect.  I fixed it and got another one right away so that one is probably my fault.  As soon as my tire went flat again I realized I didn't do a good job checking my tire for sharp objects and that there was probably something in my tire.  I only had one tube so I couldn't fix my tire.  I was on the edge of town so I didn't have too far to walk back to T2, but I stalled hoping a support car would come by with a tube for me.  Nope.  Nothing.

I was far enough from T2 that I didn't want to walk in my bike shoes, but the blacktop was really hot and I wasn't wearing socks.  I began to wonder what it would take to convince a spectator to give me their socks for my walk back to transition.  Just then someone asked if I wanted his tube and CO2.  He said he didn't make the swim cutoff.  Sure.

So that got me back on my way.  There was no salvaging my time anymore so I rode easy and enjoyed the scenery.  The beaches and water on the South side of the island, where the winds are, were amazing.  I figured that's where the really good diving must be.  

About halfway through loop 3 I saw two riders down, one laying in the middle of the road with his bike on top of him and the other laying on the side of the road.  I decided to stop and help.

I directed traffic away from them and pulled his bike off him.  "Are you okay?" I asked.  

"No, I separated my shoulder."
"Me too." The woman on the side of the road yelled.  It sounded like they were competing on injuries.  I expected him to one-up her by claiming his leg was broken too.  Would she yell "mine too" if he did? 

Not long after I stopped, help arrived. I tried to explain that I didn't see what happened and that I only stopped to help.  The guy who showed up didn't speak English and after a little time explaining I didn't see anything I began to wonder if I was convincing him I didn't have eyes.  Something was definitely getting lost in translation.  He looked very confused and was pointing at his eyes.  "No?"  "No.  I'm going to go now."

I figured the rest of the loop was sure to be uneventful, but I got another flat with 5 miles left.  Seriously?  (I saw a lot of flat tires out there).  I immediately began walking to T2.  I didn't make it far when someone stopped and offered me a tube and CO2.  He told me he was way too under-trained to finish the race but would feel bad if he quit so he was planning on missing the bike cutoff.  I got my tire fixed and soft pedaled my way to T2.  

Again I found Courtney and explained why loop 3 took so long.  My stomach felt better than this morning, but was still bothering me a little.  I was afraid running was a sure way to GI problems. Like the bike, we decided one loop of the run course to see the course made sense.  

T2.  What can I say?  It's not my day.
 The Run:  3:26.

I started the run easy, just taking in the sights and sounds.  The crowd support on the bike is pretty minimal, but not on the run course.  The crowd was big and loud.  By mile 2 my stomach didn't feel any better, but not any worse either.  Then I asked myself, "Do I really want to be the guy who quits just because things aren't going my way, because things got difficult?"


I checked my watch. I was running an 8:35 pace.  I took a salt pill and grabbed some Pepsi and stepped up the pace.

As I came back into town at the end of loop one the crowd was huge.  There was a marching band and the crowd had taken over the street giving us a narrow path to run through.  The band was loud and the crowd was giving high fives and yelling "vamos!"  (Go).  At the end of the loop I saw Courtney on the side of the road.  

"I can't quit." I yelled and turned for loop 2.  There's no quitting in Ironman.

They hand out bags of water, which were great.  I wish they'd do that in the US.  They're 8 ounces and you bite off the end and squeeze the water in your mouth.  It's a lot easier than cups. Sometimes the bags get dropped and someone steps on them and they break open and spray someone directly in the face.  I giggled like a schoolgirl every time that happened.  It wasn't them getting sprayed so much as the startled/confused look on their face when it happened.  Priceless.

The bags of water they hand out on the run.  250 ML.
I enjoyed the run.  The crowd support was great and my stomach was holding up despite all the Pepsi I drank.

I set a PR on the run and felt like I could have run faster if I'd had to.  Not much, but a few minutes, so that was encouraging.  I crossed the finish line in 11:02...in the dark.  It was well off the pace I had trained for and no where near a Kona slot, but that's okay.  Despite the challenges, I didn't quit and I'm proud of that.  

It's all part of the adventure that is triathlon racing.

The run course as the sun was setting.

The finish line. 



Unknown said...

I like your strong will power and determination. Hats off to you! You did not quit in spite of not being well.Congrats on the PR!

goats weed

Mike said...

Thanks, Marc. I've read a few other IMCOZ race reports and it sounds like a lot of people had a rough day. IMCOZ is an easy course but the conditions are unpredictable and can make for a tough day. In 2011, they had heavy rain on the run that flooded the streets and caused the sewer system to overflow and people had to run through raw sewage. A lot of people got sick from that.

Slater Fletcher said...

Wow... Great job for hanging in there! I guess it is better to get all the flats and puke out in one race. Best of luck in future races and its encouraging to see you staying positive and staying the course!

Also, I agree about the water bags. They had them in Cabo this year and I loved them.