Ironman Cozumel – I Get to Do This!

12 12 2014

It was a little weird to wake up in such a fantastical place for a vacation, only to know that the vacation didn’t really start until Monday, after a pretty serious race goes down. But, it was such a relief to finally BE here. Race week had arrived! Courtney, Jess and I said “I can’t believe we’re doing an Ironman on Sunday” so many times in the days leading up to the race. It was feeling real for sure, but my nerves weren’t as bad as I thought.

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On Friday, after a yummy breakfast of pancakes and eggs made by Felipe, we headed downtown to pick up our packets and our bikes. Packet pickup was a breeze. We signed a waiver, grabbed an “I don’t Draft” sticker, and headed into the expo/village. Numbers were assigned according to when you registered rather than age group, so because we had a registration party, me, Jess, and Courtney were 195, 196, and 197, respectively. We all went to the same line for our bags and bib, and then picked up our timing chips. Thankfully the chips were there- the day before, they had been caught up in customs, so anyone who had checked in on Thursday needed to come back to get their anklet.

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The expo was small, but if you needed anything that didn’t make it through customs or you left at home, you could have purchased it there. I was a little disappointed that the expo was so tiny and for a split second was sad that I wasn’t getting the “true” ironman experience. But, then I slapped myself back to reality- who CARES? This is YOUR Ironman experience- enjoy it! So, I pushed those thoughts aside, grabbed my self an M-dot tee with my name on the back, and then headed to Tri Bike Transport to pick up my bike! It was time to get back in the saddle and ride in MEXICO!!

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TriBike Transport was located just down the street from the expo, right behind T2. T2 was in the parking log of Mega, the big Walmart-esqe store on the island. Jess, Courtney, and I got our bikes, put our pedals on and then met up with Tommy to go for a ride. We rode for an hour and ten minutes, south, out of town and towards our place, turning around at La Punta Sur. The nice thing about Cozumel is that once you get out of town there’s a huge bike lane that goes around the west and east sides of the island. It is pretty much closed to traffic all the time, separated from the main road by thick brush. It was glorious to ride on this perfect pavement, seeing so many other triathletes on the path. I kept repeating, “I’m riding my bike in Mexico, how cool is that???”

On the trail, we could feel a little wind, but nothing worse than we had experienced at Alafia. We rode, shaking out the travel, reminding our bodies what it felt like to be in the saddle again.

We turned around at la Punta Sur, the southern point on the island. It was absolutely gorgeous there- the crystal blue waves crashing in the background. I remember looking at the trees and thinking that I was glad we were turning back here, as we would have had a nasty headwind if we continued on the east side of the island.

Punta Sur

 

I didn’t feel super on the bike, but I didn’t feel bad either. I was happy to be out there, and reminded myself that on Sunday I needed to just be in the moment and take it all in.

When we got back home, we changed into run gear and ran 5k. It was quite warm but this point, and I didn’t have any water with me, but it was nice to be out in the sun, on one of my last runs until the race. After the run, we fueled up and hydrated, and then some of us went snorkeling. I wanted to go out and float around to check out the current, so I joined in with Charity, Felipe, and Courtney.

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OMG was the water beautiful! Again, I kept saying “I can’t believe I get to race here.” Yes, I GET to do this. If you ever find yourself saying “I have to do this” in an Ironman, you’re doing it wrong.

The water was crystal clear and turquoise. The visibility was incredible- hundreds of feet in front of you could be seen. And so much sea life! We spotted plenty of different kinds of tropical fish- it was like swimming in an aquarium! I putzed around for a little while but it was getting close to sunset, so I headed back in and up to the rooftop for the real sunset.

Cozumel Sunset

Pinch me. This is my life.

I packed my bags on Friday night, which wasn’t as overwhelming as I initially thought it would be. Perhaps it was the multiple times I wrote and rewrote checklists of what went in each bag?

Ironman Bags

My bags were all lined up and ready to go for Saturday, with a checklist of what still needed to go in each one before dropping it off. Type A, perhaps?

We all hit the sack pretty early on Friday night (10pm perhaps?)- you know what they say, the night before the night before is the most important!

***

On Saturday, things got REAL. We all woke up pretty early, and after breakfast we went for another bike ride. Courtney and I rode together, nice and easy, chatting about life and race goals, and again, enjoying every minute of being in Cozumel. There was one unprotected part of the ride where we got hit head on with some nasty wind. Thankfully it didn’t last long, but this stirred my nerves about how the wind would affect my race.

We got home, grabbed our T1 bag, and then biked to T1 to drop our bikes. Our house was about half a kilometer from T1, so it was easy peasy to get to (especially for race morning!). We were scheduled to drop them between 11:30 and noon, but to be perfectly honest, they weren’t checking the time. They wrote our numbers on our arms, took our picture (in case we didn’t come out of the water?), and then we stopped in front of people at computers so they could take notes about our bikes. I’d be really interested to hear the stats they’ve collected about bikes!

We wandered around the huge transition area, and found our spots, right under a tree, pretty close to the entrance of T1 from the changing tent.

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We backtracked through transition to the changing tents, where body marking was finished. We had to stand up on folding chairs while the volunteers sat and marked the back of our calves with our age category. This didn’t seem the safest way to do it, but whatever! I was “Q” for 30-34 Females. I like that a single letter corresponded to an age group. Fewer things for my brain to process on race day;-)

We had been told that we’d get flip flops at T1, but we didn’t see anyone handing them out, so we dropped off our bags, steps from the crystal clear water.

T1 Bag

We were on the outside lane, very easy to spot!

Cozumel is a two-transition race, and T1 is at Chankanaab park, the home of Dolphin Discovery, a place where you can pay to “swim with the dolphins” under the close watch of a park staffer. I don’t mean to sound so cynical- I did this in Cayman and loved it! But, it’s basically a bunch of docks that create dolphin pens. This used to be the start and finish of the race, but due to strong currents, it was changed to a point to point swim, ending at the park. The long dock that runs the length of the pens would be the area we ran across to get to our bags. It was a little long, but on race day you don’t even notice the length because of all the cheering!

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After we dropped our bags, the plan was to run the short distance back home, but we opted to walk instead. We got home, lounged for a bit, ate lunch and then went for a short swim. There was a “No Wake” buoy about 200 meters or so off to the right and we decided to swim straight out and then turn 90 degrees to swim to the no-wake buoy. This was a casual swim, and I took that very seriously. I would swim about 20 strokes and then dive down to get a closer look at the fish below me. Then I’d come up and say “Jess, come look at this!!” like a 10 year old child. This happened pretty much for the entirety of the swim out to the buoy. When all three of us finally converged on the buoy we stopped to take it all in. What an incredible swim we were going to have! As we chatted, we looked at the shore. Whoa, we were almost back in front of our house! This current was moving! If it was half this fast tomorrow, we were going to have incredible swims!

Encouraged by our swim, we changed and made our way over to T2, back at the Mega store. There had been a note on the Cozumel Facebook group page that they were making people take their decorations off their bags before they could rack them. I thought this was silly and just a rumor, as my bike bag, with houndstooth duct tape on it, was safe and sound in T1. Unfortunately, when I got to T2, there were empty bags with ribbons and bows hanging outside the entrance to T2. Our bags were inspected, and sure enough, I got a big “No”. Carefully, the girl peeled away the tape as she told me it was against the rules. What rule? I grumbled angrily. I prayed that the integrity of my bag wasn’t compromised (especially because there was a frozen, heavy water bottle in there!) and that my things would be safely in a bag (and not splayed on the ground) when I arrived there tomorrow afternoon.

With all of our gear dropped, there was nothing else left to do but to enjoy dinner together and relax.

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As we ate our pasta dinner, we were all pretty quiet. It kinda felt like the Last Supper or like we were preparing for war. Tomorrow was the big day.

 

 

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One response

21 12 2014
erin

You are exactly right! If you aren’t saying I GET to do this, you’re doing it wrong 🙂

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