Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Part 4 of my Ironman Cozumel Experience-- The Final Chapter

The goals I set for myself when I race aren't necessarily private and personal, but I also don't talk about them a lot. If someone nails me down and I feel it's appropriate with that person, I may mention what times I want to hit or other details of my race plan. However, my reasons behind the goals are personal.  The why behind all of this is between me, myself and I. That's all there is to it. I have grown up in sport, I stepped away from competition for a number of years and now I'm back into it and the reason I keep on trying is found deep inside me. And, those reasons are strong and powerful. But they must be kept to myself. They don't mean anything to anyone else and while I try to be open and honest in this blog, I do not tell all.  I think all that matters is that I say and assure you that this meant an incredible amount to me.

That is why the day after my Ironman on 12/1 was almost harder than the 10 hours I spent racing.

Ironman day is hard. You start full of uncertainty, excitement, anxiousness and to some degree, a bit of fear. Once moving, much of that dissipates for me and I just do what I do. All day long, I swim bike and run. I train for that and on race day, I just get out there and execute. The pain and fatigue are inevitable, but I train for that too. My mental strength takes over and I fight back and fight to the end.

My results this time were very good. I am proud of my racing and proud of how I placed. I was 3/ 93 in my agegroup. 24th women with all the Pros mixed in  and 188th out of the entire male/ female field. I'll take it!

I don't plan to do a lot more Ironman racing {though don't' hold me to anything, it's only been a week } and I had a HUGE goal of 'ending' out on the Big Island. The Ironman site predicted 3 spots for my age group. Our age group was the largest women group. And so on. I could only hope. I was 3rd in TX by just a few minutes and now 3rd in Coz by only 4 minutes. I was thrown in the penalty tent for 4 minutes ( grrr...), and they shortened the swim on my by 1/2 mile costing me a bit more time to try to put a lead on folks too. I was feeling a little short-changed.  But that's the way it went  and I couldn't do a darn thing about it.

Monday morning arrived and I was in Miserable pain. Walking was a joke. My abs hurt, my arms hurt, my shoulders were sore and my legs, ha! The were just stiff and sore! My feet hadn't swelled too much....yet. Believe me, by Wednesday on our travel day, they were unrecognizable. Stiff balls of puff from my calves down.

We hustled out of the condo and hit the beach. I was happy and relaxed for a while. But the slot allocation was set for 4pm and after about 1:00, my stomach started swirling again. I needed to know....


I walked over to the wall where the guy was hanging pieces of paper with the results printed out. I didn't care about that part. I knew my time, my place, and a few other details. What mattered was the piece of paper off to the side. The one that read: SLOT ALLOCATION.

And with this, my heart broke. I felt a HUGE lump in my throat and I had to make eye contact with Mark so he'd know where I was, and take off around a corner by the pool. I DO NOT like to be seen feeling sorry for myself or being emotional because I "lost" or anything like that. I am private and to myself about those things. I was disgusted with myself, but I seemed to be out of control of my reaction and the tears just came.

Again. Again I was 3rd by a teeny bit over the course of a huge day and again, they had two measly spots for us. Hey, that is life in this sport. It is not easy to get that coveted spot on the Kona starting line and it's getting harder. More and more Ironman races around the globe = fewer and fewer spots at each race.  The number of starters in Hawaii isn't increasing. It's nobody's fault. These numbers are based on a % of the people in each group that starts on race day. Clearly, many more men take on the 140.6 mile race than women. But it's still hard to see 5 & 6 spots for some of the male groups vs 2 in ours. C'est la vie.

I walked around the corner where I was out of sight and away from the crowd. Hundreds of athletes were starting to come in. Mark found me and we talked a few things over. I was so sad. I really just felt sad. The amount of time and effort that went into this last Ironman, surpassed all before. I am not alone in that. That is the name of the game in Ironman, it takes everything you have to get it done well.  Hundreds of others around the corner could tell a similar story too. Of course, that didn't make me feel better. I spent several minutes feeling sorry for myself, sad at the notion that my final Ironman was done and realizing that it probably just wasn't meant to be.  I had to get a grip.

For those of you who don't know how it works, this is the deal. From 4:00-5:00 the people who won their spots can show up to this spot, with their cash in hand, and accept their Spot to the World Championships. After that, it gets a little more complicated. However, the easy part is this. For my age group, there were two spots allocated. I was 3rd. If either of the top two women said, "no thank you" to their spot, it would go to me next.  My friend Karen won our age group and I knew she was going to Kona. As I said in my earlier blogs, I was thrilled for her. She worked tirelessly towards this goal and earned big time. I didn't know the woman who was 2nd but after they called my age group, I saw Karen and another woman up at the table smiling and hugging and I just assumed.

From 4 to 5:00 was really really long. And, I didn't have any hope.

Mark had wandered around and found some people to talk to. I was strolling around by myself. I spent a few minutes sitting by the pool talking to Cameron.  Trying to stay busy, I walked  over to mark and met these great people and we chatted about the race, about her desire to get to Kona as well, and our mutual understanding of things made me feel better and distracted me a bit. Part of me wanted to just leave. I honestly thought there wouldn't be a single chance for a spot from an older age group to land at my group. People take their slots and that is that. My age group was the biggest, but I still had lost all hope. The award ceremony started at 6:00 however, and I knew I should stay for that. Top 3 were podium finishers and it's always a thrill to be honored that way. As I said, I was very happy and proud for what I had accomplished. I didn't want to short - change myself of that. I just took deep breaths and kept it all in perspective and thought hard about the amazing experiences I have already had in Hawaii.

Then, something happened that I will likely never forget. It's something small that may seem like nothing to most of you reading. But to me, it was very touching and a moment I'll remember.

My son Tommy walked over with a look in his eye. My kids knew I was sad. They watch me train and hear me talk about things. They live this with me and know how much it matters. They understand how it all works.  Tommy is about to turn 12 on Friday. He's a spirited little boy who is big into sports, his friends and just being a "typical" pre-teen boy. (whatever that means :) ) But he is also, and always has been, the most sensitive and caring child. His heart is huge.

He walked over to me and very gently took hold of my arm. I looked at him. Very quietly he said, "Mommy. She hasn't come yet. The 2nd place lady isn't here."
It was 4:40.

My eyes widened and I inhaled. Really?

He just smiled and said, "Maybe you will get it Mommy."

It felt so sweet to me the way he did this. The fact that he was paying enough attention for nearly an hour at that point to know this. The poolside was very crowded and the athletes were coming in and out and there was no true organized way they were gathering.  But, he knew.

The waiting became harder again. But now, I had a small smile. A hope. I was watching the crowd like crazy. I talked to my friend Karen, who had won, and she confirmed what Tommy said and she told me what the girl looked like.

With about 5 minutes to go before 5:00, I walked over to the guy in charge of things. I said, "I just wanted to confirm that there was still a spot left in my age group."
He asked me my age, and my name.
Then he smiled, turned to me and put his hands on both my shoulders and said, "Stay Calm. And, get your money ready."

Ok, I almost just cried again as I wrote this.

I stood nearby and waited. The kids  & Mark were next to me. Finally...

They called my name. As they had for all the other athletes accepting spot, the crowd cheered and yelled Congrats.

Totally psyched. I was happy happy happy.

Mission Accomplished!

The End!!!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Ironman Cozumel Part 3 - It's all about the Run

I hobbled happily off that bike of mine, handed it off to a volunteer and ran toward the T2 rack. 

I felt a renewed energy and was excited to hit the road running. Fair game for all.... 

The racks where they had us hang our transition bags were small and crowded. The tape with our Numbers written on them were peeling off and hard to read. My section wasn't labeled and I struggled to find my bag. It felt like forever. The #1620 is hard {for me!} to say in Spanish!! 

I dumped my bag and began rushing to don my shoes for the run... and visor, garmin, glasses, gels, and so on.. Once again, the volunteers just stood there and didn't help. They couldn't speak my language and I couldn't speak theirs. I also didn't have the desire to try after my 113 mile frustrating bike ride. :) 
I was almost ready to go, but still needed my gels and garmin. I looked down where my gear had been dumped and it was all gone. One of the ladies had re-bagged all my stuff and cinched the bag up. ARGH! I wasn't done!! I had to undo it and fumble through all the junk again. grr.. 
I headed quickly into the portopotty since I thought I had to go and Hoped too since being hydrated is critical. Ok... what is UP with the bathrooms there???? I thought it was poor planning at the swim start when there was no paper in the toilets ( and I was Early! ) but here we go again. Not only wasn't there paper, there wasn't a Place for the paper! I had seen a box with rolls and rolls of TP in it on a table in the T2 tent and wondered... but it was way over there and obviously, I wasn't' going to Leave the bathroom, go over to the table way over there , grab a roll and go Back to the bathroom.  Very strange. And, not so good either! {Seems like they could have told us this pre-race....} also  ( Later in my trip I encountered many restaurant bathrooms with No toilet Seats!??? At the airport too... it was like that everywhere. Strange and gross indeed. blek. )  

The signage at this race was pretty much  nonexistent so simple things like Running OUT of the T2 tent was a challenge. Which way do I go? I couldn't say this in Spanish  at that time either, so of course several volunteers just looked at me in confusion as I asked how to get out.  I tell ya....   

After what felt like forever, and was in fact an absurdly long T2 split, I hit the road running. 

Eek! Time to turn this around and have some FUN!!! 

 It was HOT and you know, my legs were pretty heavy!!! I was hoping to feel light and springy but I guess it wasn't quite time for that!! No problem, this is normal. Just run...  I just ran and knew I'd come into it soon. Those first few steps almost always hurt. 

The crowds were awesome and I was ready to finish the race well. I had No idea where I was in terms of placement... no idea. But the run course, like the bike, was a 3 loop treat so I knew I'd find out soon enough if I was in front, or behind.  Head up, arms down, keep feet quick and just go..... 

My pace was quick for the first few miles. But my heart rate  was too high. I tried and tried to back off and get that down.... but instead, it kept rising! Argh.. Not yet! The heat was climbing and I knew that was why. I stuffed 3 or 4 gels into my shirt, a coin purse for salt, and 2 clif shot blok packs! ha.. cute!! Who cares. Arms low, relax, head up, brain off...... 
just go.... 

that was my mission... just keep going.... 

I drank and drank. I didn't need to walk.. I just tried to keep it controlled and steady. Where am I? Where is "she?" I was off to find out what the race was all about now. 

I will not lie. It hurt. A lot. I was hellbent to stay positive and to 'care.' But you know what? It's easy to stop caring. It's easy to decide you just want to stop. It's so damn easy to think you don't really care anymore. When it hurts that much, when you're that tired, and hot, and you think you might not have a shot, it seems like you should just walk. 

That ride was long and made me angry but the run is where it all comes down. What do you have in you? Are you going to fight? Or give in. 

I had to work for it. I had to work for my fight. And I'm happy to say, and proud to say too, that I found my "fight."  I never really lost it, I just had to work hard to get it back up the surface.  

This helped:  :) 
Check out this little series of photos my husband caught. 

The 3 boys who had been up since 4:20 a.m....standing around, waiting, driving in crowds for hours... they all stood watching for me while I was nowhere in sight.... 

Still waiting  

I was coming now.... Tommy moved up to get close... Nick is still attentive....

Tommy leaned right at me and hollered so many enthusiastic cheers, and funny comments that are "jokes" between the two of us, just to make me smile {he did!!} .... Nick has his arms out and yelled GO MOMMY ,Love you!  {seriously! it doesn't get any better!!} as I got to him, Cameron was right there and I remember hearing, " you are doing so well Mommy..."--- they saw me FIVE times on this run and never ever waivered in their enthusiasm.... 

I think you can see the pain on my face.... but those 3 kids were RIGHT THERE for me. No "pre-teen I'm too cool and bored for this today" nonsense. They were my rockstars!!!! My YOU CAN DO THIS push- all day long. {Thank you boys. Thank you Mark. This trip to Hawaii is for you too. Love you!!! }

I have no idea what my problem was at this point but Nick looks like he's wringing his hands thinking, "Hmmm... what can I say right now that will help..."  :) :) 

 I ran and ran and ran. Sometimes I ran harder than others. On my way out on the first loop, I saw my friend Karen PM that I met when I went to a training camp in TX. She was KICKINGBUTT!!!!! And, I couldn't have been more happy for her. Even if she was in my age group and ahead of me. :) I know she has worked SO hard for this and I am pretty sure she has done 4 Ironmans in the last 13 months with a fight for her Kona spot. It made me smile to see her having a great day. The question was, who else was ahead of me? I was fine with Karen being up there, but nobody else. :)  :) Shortly after this, I saw Michelle S. She confirmed that one other lady in my age was up there. Ok.... work to do. And, I had no idea if there was still a shot for me.  Would there be 3 spots or only 2 again. We had been hearing 3. You just never know.

I wasn't running as fast anymore and I was sad to see the pace I had slowed to, but I was running. I only walked here and there through aid stations to get the fluids in. I took a few gels ( or only 1? not sure) and I ate some clif bloks, I felt ok. I was very very hot though. I had to go to the bathroom Badly ( I think that was the problem in the pictures above ) and there were only a couple portopotties out there on the course.

My mantra during the run became.... "Just keep running because you never know..."
I was hot, but it was hot for everyone. I was tired, but of course I was! And of course everyone else was. You never know if someone else, someone ahead of you, was going to start walking. Or cramp up. OR, if someone behind me was close. I had to hold on. I had some very low spots but then I rallied... I rallied hard. I fought back. I wasn't about to give up after all the effort that went into this.

I headed out on the third loop and the sky was BLACK black black!!!

It started to rain. Yay!!! But then, it started to POUR!!! I mean, POUR. Torrential hard heavy big fat rain. It FELT really nice. It was hard to see..but it felt good! :) The problem however, is that the roads there don't drain. The roads became basically flooded. Huge deep puddles filled the roads so much of the time we were splashing through water that covered our shoes. It was literally that deep. The sun did come back out and that was ok too, but now our feet were heavy with water. It was a little crazy. Also, some of the aid stations went a little berserk during the rain storm and some athletes had trouble getting drinks etc for a while.

I actually started to feel better as the run went along. I pushed harder and while my pace never went back to where I wanted it, it didn't slow down Too much. I did have to make a bathroom break towards the end .... just had to ... and that took time I shouldn't' have spent.

I never really knew where I was in the race. Just that I had to stay the course. Keep pushing, You just never know....

I finally saw town again. I had hope of reaching the finish line after all . The buildings never seemed to get closer though. It was as though I was running in place. I felt like I was separated from my body. I was moving closer and closer to the end in my mind, I could feel it. But my body wasn't going forward. I could hear the finish line but was I moving? The rain had stopped but I was slogging through ankle deep water in the road. People near me were going backwards... did that mean I was in fact moving?

Just keep going.... just keep going .... you never know. Run harder.  You will get there.

Even though my mid-race stupor at mile 3 of a 26.2 mile hot & humid run said, "oh it's ok, you're a big girl and can deal with defeat. You have been to the Big show twice, you have done it! It's ok if you don't this time."
Ha! That is NOT what was in  my heart and soul. That is not how I felt. I realized this during that run, I snapped OUT of the I'm so hot and tired pity party and Fought back. And I'm so happy and proud that I did.

Near the end, the rain started again..... my race photos are in my mind and in the eyes of my kids and my husband. The camera had to be saved and put away in the bag but turning the corner to the Finish and crossing the line is something I will Never ever forget. I did it with a huge smile and satisfaction knowing I gave it Every single ounce I had that day. I played fair, I raced smart and I raced hard.

race time: 10:05*( 141.2 miles ) ---- 3rd age group-- 9th amateur woman

There's a  little more left to the story.....  :) :)

coming soon.....

Ironman Cozumel 2013 - Part 2- The Ride: Holding my head High

The long 112 mile ride of an Ironman race holds so many possibilities. It's the hardest part of the race for me because I have 'anxiety' about getting a flat or having some other mechanical issue that can ruin the race. This happened to me in Texas. 

On Sunday, I felt as ready as I ever have to ride a very strong 112 miles. I worked so hard this year on my bike and rode many many miles. 

I felt strong and solid right out of the gate. The heavy, achey, tired feeling that sits with you during most of the training season, was gone. I was rested and ready. Game on! 

The heat wasn't bad at all in the early hours. The roads on first leg weren't smooth,  but they were decent  and my bike seemed to be riding well.  I pushed pretty hard to start and had to consciously back off a few times.  Remember Ange, this is 112 Not 56 mi.....easy easy...many many miles and hours to go....   That's a big rule in Ironman racing-- do NOT ride too hard. It will bite you where it hurts on the run. 

I cruised along and started drinking bottle after bottle. I was watching my clock and getting in the fluids perfectly. I ate every 40 min without a hitch. All was good.... 

However, only a short while into the ride and it became very clear that some racers were out for a fast split and not worried about a fair game. It was one big drafting game out there. I've seen it before but this time, it felt worse. And I'll get to that... 
This course is a 3x Loop and the road is flat. That's the perfect recipe for a crowded course that supports those who Try to draft and causes drafting by accident even when you try to avoid it.  ( Drafting is when you ride within 4 bike lengths of the person in front of you. If you get passed, you are supposed to drop back that far , you aren't supposed to ride next to anyone and so on... there are a handful of rules but those are key... )  
It was absurd. Many packs with at least 15++ riders went by me. They were Absolutely intentional.  There were even small groups of 3-6 riders who were taking turns leading with the others sitting on each other's wheels. It was blatant cheating. 

Meanwhile, I worked very hard to stay out of draft zones. I would sit up, brake and ride a lot more slowly on and off throughout the whole race to avoid these packs and other riders. There were many many times I was face with either a) riding slowly or b) surging Hard for a while to get by 5-6 or possibly 10 people to find a clean zone again. You see, when it's that crowded, you may pass one person but then you're smack behind another one again and into that person's draft zone.  In addition, So many athletes do NOT drop back when they are overtaken. Hey, it's a huge drag!!! But those are the rules. This went on and on all day.... 
And then, on loop 2 at about mile 50, I made a pass. No big deal. I think I did it just right. Once the pass was made, I was out front. There was nobody in front of me for a bit so that was nice. I heard someone behind me yell something though. I couldn't hear him. Then I saw the Marshall on the moped. No big deal, I was one of the ones playing fair. Go get 'em I thought. Go penalize all those cheaters. I was feeling crabby and angry at all I'd be watching around me. It ruins the sport for all of us I think. 
Instead, the guy yelled at me. What? 
"Pull over on the right!!!"  He snapped. 
What did I do???? 
I still don't know. I assume I somehow got into the draft zone of another. Maybe I didn't make my pass fast enough? Not sure. But after trying so hard to do it right, and watching others Purposely cheat, I was heartbroken. In fact, as I write this I almost feel like crying. 
But at that time, I was FURIOUS! I rode like a crazy person for about 5 more miles until I came to the next Penalty Tent. I had to stop, sign a paper, get my bib # marked with a red check, and wait 4 minutes. 
I avoided looking at the road. I didn't want to see the women who flew by me while I stood there. I thought to myself, "there goes my Kona spot." 

"Ok, you can go... " 

So off I went.... onto the windiest part of the course. I rode alone and fought the head and crosswinds. My speed was slow, it was very hot, and I was trying like hell not to lose my faith. 


The day was getting hotter and the winds were stronger. The ocean was beautiful on the windy leg of the course but it was hard to enjoy when I was fighting the winds and heat. I felt good, but was growing concerned because while I had been drinking at least 1.5 bottles/ hour, I didn't have to go to the bathroom. In Ironman racing, this is not good. Not good at all. The calories and fluids were going in though. I stopped at special needs to get my 3 bottles of Perform. I threw the course gatorade out at that time and took off with my fresh cold bottles. Wait... 20 seconds down the road and I realize, they were STILL Frozen!!!???? This was not good. I decided to give it until the next aid station to warm up or else I'd have to throw at least one away and go back to gatorade. I had to drink! 
It worked, they defrosted and with effort, I began to get enough to drink. geez... never guessed That would happen!

I started loop 3 even more hyper-vigilant about drafting. If you get 3 strikes, you're DQ'd. Ha.. imagine if that happened! So I slowed down what felt like 100 x to avoid getting stuck in a zone. I also started to have some issues with the fluids. My stomach felt full.... but it took my by surprise when without warning, I just threw up. Not a lot, but enough.  In fact, it happened about 4 times. :( Ugh. I know, disgusting. I don't like talking about these things but honestly, this stuff is reality and important during endurance racing.  Nutrition and hydration matter as much as your pacing during these races. I had to just hope I would be able to continue to eat & drink. I knew I had to modify something I was doing so I just committed to a ~30 min break. I'd ride and let myself settle and hope I'd feel better. I did. It wasn't long before I was taking the fluids in again without any issues. Phew. 

The final 20 miles or so were very frustrating to me. The hot windy section along the coast was hard. My pace was so slow during that stretch and I saw my time goal slipping away. Meanwhile, more and more riders cruised through that tough section in draft packs or groups-- riding in aero like the wind was at their backs. I was sitting up, pedaling hard, trying to stay straight on the road while the wind pushed me. I was bitter about my penalty as I watched the marshal ride up near these groups, blow a whistle and move on....?? I have a hard time understanding that one. I have a hard time grasping how the marshals can let so many go and I have an even harder time understanding how athletes can hold their heads up at the end of the day knowing they didn't play fair. 

On the final long road before hitting T2, my anger go the best of me and I had a few pushes on the pedals where I rode like I would in an Olympic distance race. I absolutely Had to get away from a long line of riders that were causing me to ride way below my race pace. The course was too crowded and congested and  I wanted to get onto the run where it was every person for him/ herself no matter what.  

I hit 112 miles and noted my time... below 5:30. Yes! I subtracted the 4 min penalty time just for kicks and felt even happier. I rode my fastest every 112 miles. I noted that in my head and smiled. But there was still >1 mile left of this course so I kept pushing to find that T2 tent.  

Ahhhh.... there it is ... the dismount line.  I love that moment.... 

113+  miles ---  5:32

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......