Ironman Cozumel Report
I know how excited you are for yet ANOTHER race blog. Fear not, this blog is sure to be as equally exciting as every other race blog from every other age grouper. So basically, if you’re looking for content to read while you’re on the crapper, then you’ve come to the right place.
So for background, IM Cozumel would be my second Ironman race. The first being Ironman Texas in 2016, the race in which the Gods decided to drop about a month’s worth of rain in about 30 minutes. And also the race where they had to cut the bike short due to several different issues with the course. What IM Texas provided, if not the full 140.6 miles and a run that could have been confused for a swim, was a good learning experience of what is involved with racing that distance and some things that I could do differently going into this race. Like, for example, don’t eat sushi the day before your race. True story.
I chose this race for a few reasons. First and foremost, I liked that it gave me my A race in late November. For most people who race in the U.S., that’s a late end to the season but I liked the fact it (at a minimum) delayed the onslaught of junk food that I typically eat during the offseason. Now instead of eating that stuff in October, November, and December, now it’ll just stuff my face in December. Although making up for lost time is not out of the question. Secondly, the fact that it is in Mexico just made a lot of sense. Let’s think about this… tacos, beer, vacation with my wife, and escape the Dallas winter. Yep I’m there.
The Lead Up
I raced IM Waco 70.3 about three weeks before Cozumel and used it as the end to my last real big week of training going into the race. Since this was more of a big training day for me I wanted to gamble a little. My game plan was: push it on the bike more than usual, see how hard I can run after, and walk away with a good understanding of what kind of torture I could put myself through in Cozumel. Check, check, and check. The one thing I was unsure of however was my swim. For starters, I hadn’t swam in a race since April. Nothing like choosing your biggest race of the year to go 7 months without any open water swimming. Secondly, I struggled to find anything that resembled a consistent and repeatable swim stroke for the majority of the year. Basically, nothing was going to surprise me (good or bad) as far as the swim in Cozumel was concerned.
We landed in Cozumel Thursday evening, got settled at our hotel, and went to grab some dinner (tacos, of course). Friday and Saturday were taken up by athlete check-in, bike drop-off, training sessions, and lots of time sleeping by the pool. Literally the worst part of the days leading up to the race was being at an all-inclusive resort surrounded by people eating and drinking to their heart’s content and I’m over here eating a salad and drinking water. Real first world problems.
Having a two transition race meant getting shuttled to T1 first thing in the morning and getting the final touches on the bike: pump tires, check gears, get your nutrition and hydrations set up. From there we had to take another shuttle to the swim start. I rode over there with my buddy and training partner, Mark, and proceeded to get ready to go for the swim. Body-glide, stretch, warmup, stand in incredibly long lines for the toilet, then get to the swim corral. Business as usual kind of stuff. I knew the swim was going to be fast, but the water was still reacting to the weather front that had been pushing through the three or four days prior, which meant the water was far from calm. Waves and chop to the point where sighting buoys had to be done at specific times otherwise it would be nearly impossible to sight them. I entered the water not having any real expectations of what would happen. Given the struggles I had with my swim in the leadup, and the water conditions on race day, I can’t say I was displeased with the outcome. 55 minutes. For me it was the longest I felt like I could go and come out of the water with a chance to compete for a podium spot.
T1 was no frills. My bike bag had my helmet and tri jersey only, everything else was waiting for me on the bike. The plan going into the race was to get in and out of T1 and T2. Jersey on, helmet strapped, run to bike. Short, sweet, and to the point. Mission accomplished.
I didn’t think I was going to do a 4:56 bike but it was probably good I did. I had a power range that I wanted to stay in and aside from the 2nd and 5th hour of the bike I did a good job of doing that. Hour two had a good amount of back and forth on the east (windiest) side of the bike and was probably the result of people having too much adrenaline going through their body at the early stages of the bike. During the last hour of the bike I made the decision to back off on the power by about 10%. I had done a self-assessment and thought for the sake of the run it would be in my best interest to back off the power a bit. Nutrition went as planned minus losing my electrolyte tablets at the end of lap two, so the last lap of the bike was done just drinking water. I debated drinking Gatorade but I very rarely drink it during my training so to me it wasn’t worth the potential risk of my stomach not liking it.
T2 was a wash-and-repeat of T1. Put on socks and shoes, let small Mexican boys rub sunblock on me, grab the rest of my stuff and go.
The run course at Cozumel is pretty amazing. Basically 3 loops of about 8 miles each and there are very few parts that don’t have crowd support. And let me just say, the people in Mexico know how to support an Ironman. I ran out of T2 and saw my wife about 100 meters into the run course and headed over her way, kissed her, won the favor of the supporting crowd, and then got on my way. The plan from there was simple. Eat, drink, stay cool, and stay consistent. I decided that breaking the run down into 5x5miles that day made things seem more “manageable” from a mental standpoint and allowed me to focus on one individual segment at a time, opposed to looking at the run as 26.2 miles that it really is. I ran mainly off of feel during the first lap, listened to my body and checked my watch every now and then to make sure I wasn’t being delusional about my pace. Gels, salt, water at each aid station, as well pouring ice down my top and in my shorts as frequently as possible. For those that don’t pour ice cubes down your shorts while racing, you’re missing out. The start of lap two is when things started to hurt and I began to do what we all do: ask why the hell you are doing this to yourself. Nutrition plan for lap 2 was the same as lap 1 except this time I was including Pepsi in my aid station smorgasbord. Lap 3 of the run started the same way lap 2 did, by me questioning my decision making and starting the last 8 mile loop. I tried to mentally prepare myself before the race for how much the last hour of the run was going suck, but at the end of the day it’s hard to prepare or replicate the way your body feels during the last hour of an Ironman. I couldn’t even attempt to count of the number of conversations I had with myself trying to justify walking. But with the rolling swim start you don’t really know what position you are in while you’re out there, so it provided a nice reminder every time those thoughts started up.
I crossed the finish line in 9:16:21 with a 3rd AG and 23rd Overall placement. And despite my best efforts to miss the awards ceremony due to a “drinking beer by the pool all day” induced nap, I ended up getting my first Kona qualification. The next year should be loads of fun.