Sunday, December 13, 2009

Ironman Cozumel Race Report

IM Cozumel Race Report

On race morning I woke up at 4:30 and consumed ½ cup black coffee, Boost, wheat toast with peanut butter, and a ½ of a banana. I usually eat an oatmeal walnut Cliff Bar (my favorite), but my stomach was feeling a bit queasy and it did not appeal to me---I did all I could to get the toast down….. I was a bit worried as my client/friend Rebeca had some stomach issues a couple of days before the race and I was hoping that it was not my turn—we were very careful about our food consumption, especially the day before. We ate all of our meals in the condo and had pasta for dinner. After three trips to the bathroom, we headed out the door, fingers crossed….
We left the condo for the race-site, Chankanaab Park at 5:30 (about 4 miles away). It was warm already with a light breeze, the calmest it had been all week. We dropped off our special needs bags (bike—two bottles of frozen Infinit Nutrition, 300 cals. in a soft cooler, granola bar and a 5-hour energy and run—3 espresso love Gus and a 5-hour energy) and then did a quick check on the bike and review of the transition exit route. While I was moving around, I was sipping on a bottle of water. We headed to the pier for the start and were entertained with a dolphin show and the singing of the Mexican National Anthem. Ten minutes before the start, I drank a 12 oz. bottle of Lemonade Cliff Drink and was relaxed and ready to go—I love ocean swims!!!
The swim was an in-water start and one big loop in crystal clear warm water (about 84 degrees!!). The course was a big rectangle that ran along the coast, then turned left for approximately 200 yards, another left and you were moving parallel to the coast again, past the start, left for approximately 200 yards, another left and then with the current all the way to the exit. I positioned myself to the inside of the rectangle and found clear water after a couple of hundred yards. The first turn was really crowded and pretty much full-body contact swimming—fought my way through this (just got kicked a couple of times )and then it was smooth swimming the rest of the way. The longest stretch had you swimming with the current—very fast! The water was wonderful—fish, sand dollars, fields of star fish, a barracuda (yikes!—he spotted me for a minute and my pace really picked up!) and periodic cold spots to cool you down. Divers were in the water, holding the buoys and were waving and giving the swimmers the thumbs up—very nice.
The exit of the swim was up a few wooden steps (swim time 1:03, 6th in my AG—very pleased) to a carpeted board walk that led to the T1 bag pick-up and changing tent. The run was lined with spectators, yelling in Spanish (VAMOS—I heard that all-day-long) and English. I quickly changed into my cycling shoes (no socks), glasses and helmet and I was quickly off to grab my bike—the sun was fully up and it looked to be a party cloudy day with the breeze picking up slightly. There were lots of cheering spectators as you headed out of the park. Then a period of open road (the entire course was closed to traffic!!!) and then a stretch where our condo (Residence Reef) and other hotels/condos were, where there were lots of people cheering (my crew was positioned here for the bike).
The back side of the course was beautiful and isolated, along the beach and through mangroves. Every once in a while you would go past a beach that had a bar/restaurant and a handful of spectators—but this stretch was pretty quiet. The wind picked up a bit here and the roads were fairly smooth. Aid stations were every 10 miles and well maintained. They had water, Gatorade, Power Bars and Gels—they said that there would be bananas, but there were none…. At every aid station, I grabbed a bottle of water, drank some and poured some on my back to cool down.
The course was a bit crowed the one the first loop, but with the entire road open, it was not a problem. After cutting across the island, a nine-mile section, you came to the “local” part of town. The fan support from the locals was unbelievable---they lined the streets cheering everyone that passed. The course was very spectator friendly for all, with the loops on the bike (and run) and it was great to have my crew (husband, daughter, son and RR’s family cheering each time I passed).
My first lap on the bike was spot-on, ~1:50 (I was shooting for a sub 6 bike and that had me right on target) and I was feeling very strong—the course was terrific and it was a beautiful day. The second loop was a bit more difficult as the wind really started to pick-up and was either hitting head-on or cross. I just stayed aero and kept my RPM’s up. I stopped at the aid station that had the special needs bags (almost missed it as it was not well marked) and it took a bit of time to find my bag. I grabbed two bottles of Infinit and was on my way—they were still cold and went down well. I started to feel a bit hungry so, I ate one fig Newton and that seemed to quell my hunger.
My pace on the second lap was a bit slower, but I was still feeling good, passing riders and not having anyone in my age-group pass me…. On the third lap the wind was really blowing, and my sub-six went out the window and I came into T2 with a 6:08 (18.26 MPH and now in 1st in the AG) split. All-in-all I did prefer the wind to a blazing hot day—the temperature hovered around 87 degrees and the sun was in and out all day.
A quick transition, after a volunteer took my bike, had me on the run course at 7:15. It felt good to be off the bike and I knew that the run was going to be my biggest challenge. I had a few set-backs with my running leading into the race and unfortunately missed several key long runs. So, off I went prepared for a mentally tough marathon.
The run was three loops and headed off in the opposite direction of the bike course. As with the bike, there was great spectator support as you headed out of town along the water. The road here in town was a decorative concrete and it drizzled a bit on the first lap making the footing fairly slippery. While the brief shower felt good, I was glad it stopped as I did not feel comfortable on the slippery road. There were aid stations every ‘K’, with Gatorade, water, ice, Power Bars & Gels, coke, bananas and on the last lap crackers (more about these later).
After you passed through the down-town stretch, the road continued along the coast toward the airport and another hotel area—solid spectator support here also. There were street lights along most of the run which was helpful as the sun set around 5:00. While the early sunset did cool things off just a bit, the darkness also brought mosquitoes---whoa, this was something that I never dealt with during an IM. I waited as long as I could before getting doused with repellent (aid stations and spectators were prepared) and when I stopped to get sprayed, I was swarmed!!!!! After a quick application on my arms legs and neck I was off—but they kept biting me now, through my suit!!! The next couple of aid stations were out and the attack continued, but I found a generous spectator to stop my blood loss and was bug-free for the rest of the run. I got into a pattern of taking in a bit of gel and then water and ice at every other aid station and then coke and water at the others. This went well—no stomach issues but I did need something to chew on and I never thought a saltine cracker could look so good. It was like a little piece of heaven especially when chased with an ice-cold swig of coke---ahh the simple pleasures…..
My first 10K was about 5 minutes slower than I was hoping (still in 1st place, so feeling pleased) and on the second loop I began to struggle a bit and had 2 women in my AG pass me. Heading out of town, the wind was in your face, so you had a bit of a cooling effect. But then, on the way back into town the wind was now at your back and it was like running in a vacuum—not a breath of air and hot. So the run/walk began and after being passed, I knew that my IM slot was out of reach. I re-adjusted my goal time and went from aid-station to aid station trying to stay positive. I found my special needs bag on the second lap and grabbed another 2 gels and a 5-hour energy and just kept putting on foot in front of the other. Back through town for the last lap and I was recharged a bit from the crowds and my cheering section. As I approached town on the final stretch, I could hear the finish line announcer and that put some spring back in my step. I forged on and was able to run the final 2 miles through town. The crowds were still cheering loudly (it was just a big party in town) and I knew my crew was waiting for me at the finish. I crossed the line (my 8th IM finish) at 12:45:46 and 6th in the AG (my second best AG finish) feeling good about my effort and already thinking about my next IM, where I WILL nail the run….

Here is my total calorie intake for the day:
½ cup coffee (0)
Boost (240)
Wheat toast with peanut butter (50 + 100)
½ of a banana (55)
12 ounce of Lemonade Cliff Drink (80) and water
3 ½ bottles Infinite Nutrition Drink (1150)
1 fig bar (100)
3 + bottles of water
5-hour energy (4)
3 Espresso Gus (300)
Water at every aid station
5-hour energy (4)
2 saltines (60)
½ of a banana (55)
Cola at every other aid station (120)
Total Calories—2318