Friday, December 6, 2013

Ironman Cozumel 2013


My 6th Ironman race is now done.  Thank Goodness!!!!  I love this sport but woah, the weight off my shoulders right now is huge. Each one has left me with many intense feelings and stories but this one is a little bit different. Rather than sit at my desk struggling for the perfect opening sentence to capture my readers, I will just start telling my story and hope the words flow smoothly and my emotions can be felt from where you sit. 

We traveled to Mexico on Thanksgiving Day this year. I felt some guilt for taking my boys and husband away from the 'typical' gathering around the table, however, both our parents joined us at our home the previous Sunday to celebrate the holiday.  We were thankful for that and also thankful for having the opportunity to take our kids on this adventure to a different country this year. The day went smoothly and after hours of flying and then boating across the Gulf from Playa del Carmen, MX to the little Isla de Cozumel, we stood on the balcony of our rented condo and looked out at this: 

Not too bad!  Our accommodations were amazing at the condo and we had plenty of room to spread out and be comfortable. I was feeling lucky to have found the perfect spot to spend a week with the family and to relax/ prepare for the race. 

I prepared as best I could for heat at this race. But the challenging element that presented itself even more as we arrived was the wind. Red flags were up on beaches and the thought of trying to ride a bike in the wind was quite daunting. To me, it felt hurricane-like. Our condo had three big areas with sliding glass doors that we couldn't open because the curtains and other things around the house were blowing too intensely. There was a small beach at our place but there was No way I was letting my kids swim yet. I didn't even "dare" go in! The waves and surf were too massive and since I didn't know about rip currents etc at this spot, I put my foot down and dealt with the pouting boys.  Safety first! :) 

The forecast was promising for Sunday in terms of calming winds, however, the practice swims at the race site were cancelled both Friday and Saturday because of strong currents. This was a bit nerve wracking. I could deal without a pre-race swim, but what did that mean for race day? Was I facing the potential of an "Ironman" without a swim? That would be a serious game - changer for me not to mention, result in a race that wasn't really an Ironman. The thought of all the hard early morning training for nothing made me sick to my stomach. I tried to stay calm. 

Friday was also the day to get race 'errands' done. Packet pick up, bike pick up from TriBike, groceries, a workout, and so on..... Mark and I found the small island somewhat difficult to get around with poorly marked Ironman venues.  I wasn't impressed yet.... 

On Saturday, I let them in the water. The water was still pretty crazy ( this doesn't show it very well) but the kids were fine and had a blast. The water was very warm, crystal clear, and the big waves thrilled my 3 boys.  They're all about big waves and action these days. 

The day before the race--I'll keep this brief and get to the race. I stayed off my feet. I ate so many white carbs and drank so much fluid that I felt like a beached whale by the end of the day. The winds calmed, the heat rose, and our wifi was OUT. This is relevant because that is how Ironman had communicated with the athletes about the cancellation of the practice swims. Were we ok for race day?? I had to assume Yes. That day, we had to drive to the location of the swim start to rack the bikes & drop off T1 bags but at that point there was no word on any changes to the race.  At the athlete meeting the day before, they told us to bring T1 and T2 bags to that location. However, once there they said we had to go back in town to drop the Run bags. ( two transition spots). The logistics of these races can make it challenging for those of us trying to stay out of the heat and off our feet the day before the race. I think the whole process took 3 hours with all the driving, waiting in line and two locations. Not ideal...


Race day-- 3:55 alarm & I was up eating and thankfully, checking my ipad to see if we had wifi yet. We did. The many thoughtful Good luck notes friends and family had sent the day before came filing through my inbox. THANK YOU to all of you who sent me those nice notes. Each and every one meant so much and gave me a burst of strength from home. But then, my eye caught the one from the Ironman peeps. Sh$^#*$**!!!!!!!!!!

The race that I had put in Countless hours and so much hard work was now going to have an ** at the end of it.  The subject line of the email read:  MODIFIED SWIM COURSE FOR FORD IRONMAN COZUMEL

I am not kidding when I say my heart skipped a beat and started racing. I know this has happened at other races and they have even cancelled swims before. That didn't make me feel better. 
"They " say you can't Win a Triathlon on the swim. True enough. It takes a solid performance in all 3 legs. But, I can get a lead and believe me, that is part of my race plan. 
While I felt relieved that we still had Any swim, I was angry and I was worried. Our 2.4 mile starting leg was now 1.9 miles. I had no idea what this would mean to the day..... 
All I knew was that I was going to swim even harder than I already planned. 

We were out the door with all 5 of us by 4:45. My kids are such rock stars when it comes to this stuff. Seriously, they got up and out of there without a single squeak about the obnoxiously early hour. We buckled into the jeep and little Nick even said positively, "I just love the feel of the cool air in the morning." :)  Love them... and so happy they were with me at that moment. My calm before the storm.

One last hug before I went one way & they went the other....

The swim change also changed our race morning start location. We now had to do our thing at T1 and then find a bus that was taking us to the new start location at a hotel down the road. As a result, race morning was now hurried and confusing. All 3000 (approx- not sure the # of racers ) of us piled off the buses and funneled onto the small beach.  I found Michelle Simmons and Nalani pretty easily and was reallly happy about this. I hoped to swim near them (they are Fast so I Hoped to keep up!!) and it was really great to have friends to navigate our new chaos with at that moment. 

In the email about the swim change, we were told we would start ON the beach approx "knee deep."  The pros swam out to deep water to 'line up' near some buoys. I wondered why they were different. Whatever. ... 
But it was now time for us and everyone swam off the beach and out to the buoys. Huh?? 
ok... go with them! Michelle, Nalani and I swam out and lined up near the front. At this point, we were Supposed to stay between the two buoys and not any further. The swim was Already shortened after all!!!! 

Yeah... this didn't happen and the people in charge were HORRIBLE at controlling the athletes. This was just the beginning of what became, in my opinion, a horribly unfair race day full of cheating.  I felt sick to my stomach. Many many manyyyyyy athletes began to "drift' further and further out.... many even reached the "next" buoy. Michelle appropriately used the word "conflicted." Yes, exactly.  I race fair. I race hard. I expect others to do the same. But now the people we were racing were starting ahead of us. Since the people in charge that day were clearly not going to control things, they took advantage of it.  We stayed at the start line. I wasn't about to shorten my 140.6 mile race even more. I had big goals for placing and for time and what was this doing to it all?? If there were women I would be racing out in that pack that drifted way ahead of us, did I have a chance now? The day was starting with a big sour feeling in my gut.  I was immensely disappointed in things and hoped I could "make it up" with my hard efforts. Karma. Right? I hoped....

No starting gun or buzzer or yell was heard but arms began thrashing and I just started swimming-- Hard! 

I was hit and pushed around a little, but nothing like a few other races I've done. I was never underwater or unable to move. I swam hard and found some space. I felt more frustration as I swam past people that were Clearly not good swimmers. They were struggling and quite slow. I am not sure why those folks place themselves at the front of the pack. It was hard to get through some of those bunches. Not much more to say except while I felt strong, I began to feel sick as it went along. Really sick. I thought I might throw up in fact. I think I was "sea sick." I had swallowed a few big gulps of sea water and though I couldn't feel it too much, I am sure we were rolling up and down a lot and it upset my stomach a lot. Towards the end, I felt the current change and it was harder to move forward. I was swimming mostly with men, but there were a few women around.  I just pushed on and hoped I was putting time on some people. I hit the stairs and was psyched to be running toward T1. My husband is very tall so I could easily find him in the crowd. They hadn't seen me get out of the water,  so I slowed a bit and made sure to wave and get their attention. Later, Tommy told me I looked like I had been beat up. Yeah... the goggles KILL my eyes every time. I felt like had been beat up kiddo. 

I ran to transition with Michelle and was really happy I had been able to swim "with" her. 

I got my bag from the rack  ( not easy to find but easier than T2... more on that later )  and hit the tent. 

I was one of the top 10 swimmers.... I saw only 4 or 5 other women in the tent at that time. And yet, I had NO help from the volunteers.  It was odd. I had 3 or 4 volunteers standing at me, but they didn't nothing. Great. I also couldnt' really ask for much help because they were all Mexican and my Spanish is well... pretty much nonexistent with the exception of a few key sentences I learned along the way in school. Not much use during an Ironman transition!! haha

I dumped my bag and started rushing to get stuff on. I felt a nasty chafed spot under my left arm. ( I felt it starting while I was swimming- salt water does that every time despite loads of body glide. ) I asked if anyone had Vaseline. Despite the fact that I didn't say this in Spanish, they understood. I pointed quickly to the spot and someone helped me with that. However, Next thing I knew, another lady was GOBBING tons of Vaseline up and down my Right arm!? I had a Huge wad of it all over my arm. Gross. Ahh... I had to say, "Please stop!!!" 

I ran out of there and luckily, navigated my way out of a Very confusing Transition area ( it's a parking lot and bikes were up and down little sections--- a friend told me pre-race that it was like a spider web. Exactly.)  

I saw Mark and the kids as I ran out and that of course, gave me a warm fuzzy as I started the longest ( and most upsetting in this case ) part of the day. 

athletes running out of the water

That's me in red, waving to the guys. 

The very end of the swim course. 

My support crew with Mark behind the camera. 

The logistic for the spectators to get from the end of the swim Back into town to watch the rest of it was a Nightmare and took my family a few hours.  They were stuck behind 100s of people walking and driving.... :( 

Tommy's feeling while they were stuck. :) This cracks  me up... he captures it perfectly!!!

Next up: 
The 113 mile ride.... 
wait? Isn't an Ironman 140. 6 miles?? Not this time...... 

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