I signed up for this race way back in August, 2008. It seemed so far away and then somehow, it was here. I flew down the Wednesday before the race which was perfect. Everything started on Thursday so it gave me time to get acclimated. I was a bit nervous about the heat and humidity and had been checking the weather for weeks. The weather could not have been better for this race. It was windy when I got here on Wednesday and it really kicked up by Friday to the point where they had to cancel one of the practice swims. Miraculously, it completely died down on Saturday and by race morning was non-existent (on the East side of the Island – more on that later).
I stayed at one of the host hotels and they treated us very well with a pasta dinner the night before the event and 4AM breakfast the day of the race. It’s an all-inclusive resort which I had never tried before and it was perfect for this race because I didn’t have to think about anything and there was more food than we knew what to do with. Cozumel is a beautiful island with incredibly friendly people. Logistically, this race was more difficult than others because of being out of the country, and in a country where things don’t always run smoothly. Add to that that there was no bike transport which meant carrying our bikes with us and dragging them through customs. You definitely need some patience with this one but it all worked out.
There were practice swims scheduled for Thursday and Friday. The race started in a beautiful park called Chakanaab on the West side of the island. Almost everything on the Island is on the West side with really nothing but beautiful beaches on the East side. T1 was in the park and T2 was in town about 4 miles north. The practice swim on Thursday was interesting. There was a very strong current going north and we stood on a pier for a couple minutes and watched as people tried to swim north. It was like an endless pool. No one was moving. We jumped in and joined them. After about half an hour, and not making it to the first buoy, we turned around and we were back in a couple minutes. The water has 100 percent visibility, is about 80 degrees, and there are fish everywhere. Friday’s swim was cancelled. The winds were almost 20 mph. We waited until later in the day and then Debbie Davis and I jumped in at the hotel. The water was beautiful and we got distracted because of all the cool fish.
We racked on Saturday, dropped off our gear bags and got body marked.
Race Day: We woke up and got shuttle buses to the park around 5. We definitely had too much time before the race, just hanging around but it went pretty quickly. We got treated to a dolphin show, the Mexican National Anthem and then the pros went off.
Swim: They had everyone swarm the pier and get in the water. It was kind of a free-for-all. I got in right off the side and let everyone else keep going to the end. I think this was the smart thing to do because I could hold on to the pier waiting for the start and there weren’t a lot of people around. I really enjoyed the swim, and did a good job of staying away from the masses. I was hoping to do a 1:30 which was what my practice swims led me to believe was pretty reasonable for me. It was a one-loop swim. I have no idea what happened because the next thing I knew I was getting out of the water at 1:13. I think there was assistance with the current but we also swam against the current for a half the distance. I know the pros came out pretty quickly as well.
T1: I saw Tricia in transition and took my time. I actually completely changed into bike gear. I came very prepared with bug spray (this island has tons of mosquitoes!) and sun block. The volunteers were wonderful and I had a woman yanking on all my clothes and arm coolers (these were a tip by Todd M. and I have to say, they were awesome) I was off after about 9 minutes.
Bike: I got out on the road and went south from the park. The bike was 3 loops, passing the park twice and ending in the town. Because there was hardly any wind that day, there was not a lot of tailwind which was fine. I was feeling great until I got to the East side of the Island and turned north. Yikes!! It was a 15-mile wall of wind. The worst part was finally turning west but knowing you had to do it 2 more times. It was absolutely gorgeous on that side of the island but completely brutal. I had been averaging about 17mph in my long rides on the Eastern shore which I used to think was windy. I ended up with a 7:21 bike averaging 15.24 mph. The best part was riding through the town 3 times. The locals were lining the streets for miles and just cheering and jumping up and down. I have absolutely no idea what most of them were saying except one guy who yelled, “vamos girlfriend.” But, it didn’t matter. You could just feel the energy and it was so motivating.
T2: Same as T1. Saw Tricia and chatted about the wind on the east side. I fully changed my clothes again and covered myself in sun block and bug spray. Took another 9 minutes. Up until this point, I hadn’t eaten any real food and had been existing on gu, luna shots and nutrition drink. I just couldn’t get anything else down. I felt fine, although that didn’t last long.
Run: I started off by eating some peanut butter crackers because I was concerned about my lack of real food. The stomach cramps started about mile 3 and last until mile 10 when I was forced to spend some quality time in the porta-potty. It was tough to run. Everything hurt. Luckily, I had put some imodium in my special needs bag and got that at 13.5 and started drinking coke which I had never done in a race before. I know they say not to do anything new on race day but I didn’t think it mattered at that point. After that my stomach calmed down, although my legs were toast. I managed to walk/shuffle for 22 miles. Then I met Cally from Michigan and we power-walked to mile 25. It was great to have the company and made the time go by fast. I ran the last 1.2 for a 6:22 marathon. Apparently my last couple of run legs didn’t come through on the athlete tracker so people were worried until my finish time popped up.
This was an amazing first Ironman and great race overall. I was a bit concerned about the organization. They cancelled the bike tour and didn’t tell us so we waited at the meeting point. Also, we couldn’t pick up our gear and special needs bags until after 4 on Friday so everyone had to go back to packet pickup. But it all came together and they really went out of their way for us. We got a really nice jacket in our packets and a finisher shirt and towel at the finish line. The support on the course was incredible with water stops everywhere. You could not have asked for more. Cozumel is a great place for a race and to visit. I’m looking forward to a couple of days of relaxation and my spa treatments this afternoon!