Ironman Cozumel – The Swim

16 12 2014

So without further ado…


Race day was finally here! My alarm was set for 4:35, but I woke a few minutes before the alarm sounded. I walked out into the living room and saw Jess making coffee in the kitchen and started to get teary. I told myself I couldn’t cry yet, so I pulled myself together and started to make myself breakfast.

I made my standard breakfast- oatmeal with banana and peanut butter, and I sipped on some coffee to get things moving (TMI note: I did not need any help in that department. Nerves took care of that for me!) Bill came out of the room few minutes later and gave me a hug, and the tears just started rolling. I was scared. What was I about to do?  (As I look back, I’m surprised that fear was something I was feeling. I was very well prepared, I had nothing to be afraid of!)


I pulled myself together, laughing as my friends made jokes to help shake the nerves. Jess was super positive, and her confidence and excitement for the day was contagious. We were doing this thing, ladies!


We got the last of our special needs bags together and walked to T1 as dawn was breaking. We didn’t have a TON of time, as transition was only open for an hour before we all needed to catch a bus to the swim start. Bike shoes on bike, nutrition on bike, bladder and bottles filled, tires pumped (thanks Tommy!). Check, check, check check. I added the last bit of nutrition to my bike bag and then hit the port-o-potty. Courtney, Jess, and I did one final check of our bikes before dropping off our special needs bags and making our way to the buses.


We made friends with a woman while waiting and met a Canadian guy on the bus that made us think of our friend Heather. (By the way, Heather is amazing and got us these spectacular margarita glasses! Thank you Heather!) On the drive over I finished up my Osmo preload and took the Immodium I had placed in my morning bag (so glad I had it!). We had decided to give our morning clothes bags to Felipe rather than drop them with everyone else’s things, so while we waited, we put on our swim skins (I had borrowed one from my SOAS teammate- THANK YOU Milette!!) and vaselined up.  Time was ticking, and it was getting closer and closer to our start time. I was starting to think of a back up plan for my bag, when there was the Brazilian in his red shirt and fedora. I think we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and then walked towards the start.

10811_10106082069395991_5532982306136817619_n So this picture wasn’t from race morning, but you get the picture

This was the first year Cozumel was a point to point race, and we started at the Intercontinental hotel. It was also a wave start, and my wave was scheduled to go off at 6:58am. I think one of the reasons it was a wave start was because the starting area was pretty narrow. We all filed down a ramp and then into the water for an in-water start. It would not have been possible to get all 2800 people down that ramp to start at the same time. Sure, it would have been an exhilarating experience to be a part of the “traditional” ironman mass start, but I actually didn’t mind starting with a smaller group. The only problem I had with this way of starting was that we were so spread out, so I couldn’t find any feet!

10690252_1026033430745312_5049473637903175874_nCan you find me?

Anyhow, we watched the pros take off and then Felipe took a few photos of us. Again, the waterworks started. Pull yourself together Steph!


Finally, it was our turn to get into the water. I wished Jess and Courtney luck, and then got in. I didn’t want to be close to Courtney because I knew my competitive nature would probably make me race her and exert too much energy (spoiler alert, Courtney had a killer swim, 2 minutes faster than me, with a time faster than the male pro who won the whole thing!) so I swam off by myself behind some girls I didn’t know.

Soon it was go time! The horn sounded and we were off! You’re probably tired of hearing this, but my goodness this was the most beautiful swim I’ve ever done. The water was crystal clear and there were fish everywhere. It was hard not to get distracted!


10620460_886136701410795_7169393283992480178_oI really wish I had an underwater photo of me!

Some girls took off and I reminded myself that I have a long day ahead of me. Smooth stroke, just keep it steady. Right before we started some of the guards on paddle boards told us to swim closer to shore, not out by the buoys. So, I stayed pretty far to the left of all the buoys for most of the swim. I really wanted to find someone’s feet and just sit on them, but with the wave start, this just wasn’t happening for me. Soon, I caught up to the wave in front of me. As I was swimming, I was a little too close to the inside, and there were some smaller buoys that I think marked a hotel’s designated swimming area. I swam directly into them, and a few other swimmers from the wave in front of me. I don’t think they liked getting trampled, because one of them grabbed my ankle! I kicked hard and got out of there as quick as I could.

The swim was pretty peaceful actually, not the hectic swim I was expecting, but I was okay with that. I don’t have a watch for the swim, so I had no idea how long I had been swimming, but I remember looking up at one point thinking, man, this is a long swim. Where are those final buoys? Rumor has it that we were actually swimming against the current for the first part of the swim. I don’t really know, for sure, but it wasn’t strong enough to make a ton of difference for me, I don’t think.

I got stung a few times by tiny jelly fish, but the pain was fleeting. I passed more and more people from the waves in front of me, but saw few of my fellow purple caps. At one point, I saw a guy from a wave behind me, and my silly self thought, Ooh feet! These will be speedy! But they were definitely too speedy for me, and I got no help there. Finally, with about 300 meters to go, I caught site of a girl in a purple cap. Let’s get on her feet! I swam over to her and there was actually another girl on her feet. So, I swam up next to them both, and was stroke for stroke for the entire way home. That is, until the last 5 meters when I got stuck behind two people from the wave in front of me. Doh!

I got out of the water with a huge smile on my face! I was doing an Ironman! in Cozumel! How amazing is this??

I ran across the dock, rinsed with a hose briefly, grabbed my bag (after noticing that Courtney’s bag was already gone!) and ran in to the changing tent. I quickly looked for Courtney (didn’t see her-as I said before she had a killer swim!) and then focused on getting myself ready for the bike.

The changing tent was a little chaotic, but thankfully there weren’t a ton of people in there. I think I was a little overwhelmed by all the crap I had to shove in my pockets (a tube, 3 rice cakes, 2 bags of salty balls, and 1 Power bar gel bursts, extra Osmo powder, salt tabs, chapstick), put on (helmet, sunglasses, race number, sunscreen), and then put my swim stuff back into the bag. The volunteers were great (most of them were kids and teenagers!) but it took us both a second to coordinate the dance that is the athlete-volunteer changing room tango. A volunteer slathered on sunscreen while I put the last of my nutrition into my pockets and into my cleavage, and put on my helmet. I distinctly remember looking down at my feet and seeing several ants crawling on top of my feet and saying “OW!” when I felt their sting. Clearly I was not moving fast enough if ants were biting me! Finally, I stood up, a volunteer clipped my race belt and I was headed towards my bike. Let’s go!

Swim: 52:51, 5th AG

T1: 5:43 (This is why I got bit by ants)

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 8.20.46 PMCheck out this nifty visual of the swim/transition. I’m the green dot. The pink ones are the other females, while the orange dots are the other women in my age group. The orange dot in front of me was the girl who finished 5th in my AG. I heard her fans yelling “GO STEPH!” and was wondering how the heck people knew my name. Duh. The girl right  behind me actually finished 3rd in our age group! Speedsters!



Ironman Cozumel: How NOT to Get to the Island

9 12 2014

It’s hard to believe that this time last week I was a newly minted “Ironman” lounging by the pool of our super plush beachfront villa in Cozumel.



Coming back to reality is hard. I probably shouldn’t use the word “hard” though. What’s hard is an Ironman. So let me tell you about my race… Let’s rewind to Thanksgiving, when I started the final leg of this Ironman journey.

Thursday, Thanksgiving: 3 days before the race

Getting to Mexico was a breeze. Bill and I were on the same Delta flights to Cancun through Atlanta, set to arrive around 11:30. I got an upgrade to first class for the ATL-CUN flight, and yes, I took it. Sorry Bill 🙂


When we arrived, we met up with Jess, Felipe, and Courtney who arrived a little before 11, and we would wait for Chris, set to arrive close to noon. We also had tentative plans to meet up with my friends Charity and Tommy, who had arrived much earlier. However, we never finalized our plans before leaving, and my cell phone didn’t work once I got to Cancun. Sorry Charity! They ended up going to the island on an earlier ferry and waited for us there- thankfully, Bill had service and I had given Charity his number. Crisis averted. When the whole gang was together, we set in motion our original plan to get to Cozumel: catch the bus to the ferry, take the ferry over to the island, catch a cab to the rental agency on island, and pick up the car we had reserved. When traveling with a large group, things never go as planned…

It must be noted at this time that Felipe is the master of searching for (and getting) the best deal on anything and everything. He loves the thrill of the negotiation. If you’re willing to spend a little time waiting for him to work his magic, you can walk away with a rock bottom price. This skill definitely came in handy over the course of the week.


He also makes a mean brigadero

After getting through customs in Cancun, you walk past all the rental agencies, a super shuttle booth, and on the right side, tons of people in matching beige and blue suits clamoring for your attention to help you plan your Mexican vacation. To be honest, we weren’t entirely sure where we needed to go to catch the bus to the ferry, and thought it might be cheaper (and faster) to stop at the Super Shuttle and get a quote for a chartered ride to the ferry. Initially, they said $8 per person but when we started making plans, they changed their tune and now said $18 per person. This got us wondering if the best plan is to switch our rental car from Cozumel to Cancun and take the ferry over. After much back and forth, that’s what we decided to do.


Waiting for our car in Cancun…

After being shuttled over to the car lot and then waiting for a better deal to be negotiated there (we didn’t get one), we finally got our mom mobile. Yay mini van!

We piled in and Bill mapped us to the ferry port. When we arrived close to 1:30, the sign at the gate said that the next ferry was at 18:00 (6pm). Um, how could that be? It’s supposed to be every hour, on the hour. We drove in and saw several lines of cargo trucks, 18 wheelers and flatbeds, parked and waiting to load on to the ferry. Confused, we thought that we must be in the wrong place- this must be for transporting cargo, but there must be another ferry for people and personal vehicles. We asked the security guard if this was the only ferry, and he wasn’t much help, so we mapped ourselves to the other ferry terminal about 10 minutes away. This port was a flurry of activity- tiny streets, lots of people and vendors. Plenty of people to ask for information.

We sent Bill and Courtney out to ask different people about the ferry, and they both came back with the same answer. There are two ferries: the people ferry, which runs every hour between 6am-10pm (between two different companies), takes about 45 minutes, and leaves from where we currently were. Then there’s the cargo ferry, which is much more infrequent, making it’s way across the channel to Cozumel only 4 times per day. That’s down at Calica (where we had just come from) and this ride takes about an hour and a half. We were told that trucks line up early because space is limited, and if we missed the 6pm ferry, that was the last one until tomorrow morning. By this time, it was 2 something and we got real nervous about missing the last boat, so we grabbed food at a local spot (YUM!) and hopped back in the car and went to Calica, where we waited, and waited, and waited.


Manicures to help pass the time…

Finally, right around 6pm, the lights and engines of the cars in front of us started turning on. We were finally BOARDING! Well, we thought we were. We drove up, close enough to see the ship through the trees, and watched as the boat was unloaded. Come on, I just want to get to Cozumel!! Finally, after another 20 minutes or so of unloading, it was our turn to board! Felipe parked the car and we all met up at the snack bar, where they had set up a screen for a movie.

It should be noted that a few days before we had arrived, a cold front came through that brought in some winds. The wind was strong enough to have already canceled Friday’s practice swim, but they were expected to calm down by race morning. And we were about to cross the channel on a large boat that had I don’t know how many tons of vehicles on it. Great.

4643444861_e56a82718f_z(picture borrowed from Alex x)

The ride started out just fine. In fact, I didn’t even realize we had started to move. But then, we started to rock. Hard. I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it. I tried to focus on the movie- Speed 2 if you’re wondering. That’s right, the movie where someone takes hostage of a cruise ship, and the ship nearly sinks on numerous occasions. Exactly what I wanted to watch as we bobbed like a toy boat in the tub of an overweight infant. I desperately tried to keep the contents of my stomach inside my stomach.


Up, down, up, down. I’ve never been on a boat that has rocked this hard in my life. At one point we were rocking so hard that items in the snack bar started to fall over. I heard a woman scream. Everyone around me was green or yellow or grey. I was regretting not buying that Dramamine before I left.

Bill, having more than his fair share of travel on large ships, convinced Jess and I that we should eat something- a full stomach helps. So, we snacked on these little delicious crackers (Globolitos!) and it actually helped! I started watching my clock at the hour, hoping that we’d soon be out of there. Eventually I saw lights from shore! We were close!

When we finally parked at the dock, I don’t think we could have been any happier. We also were completely OVER this travel day. We practically ran to the car, only to sit and wait. And wait. And wait. Unloading this ferry took a long time! By the time we finally got off, it was close to 9pm. Poor Charity and Tommy made their way over to Cozumel hours ago, and were waiting for us at a restaurant near the ferry. We told them that we had made it, finally, so they grabbed a cab and met us at the house.

With a huge sigh of relief, we pulled into the drive way. We had arrived. Let’s get this party started!

To be continued…



Two Weeks of Workouts

24 03 2014

Howdy everyone! Pardon my lack of posting last week- I was quite the jet-setter last week, bouncing between Wisconsin, DC, and Connecticut for work. I was lucky to get in the workouts that I did! Anyhow, I’ll do a quick recap of my workouts from the last 2 weeks: 3/10-3/16 and 3/17-3/23


I had a super consistent week of training, and got in some big mileage.

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.37.49 PM

Monday: Run 10K

It was a beautiful night and I had a stellar run. I had a near perfect descend, and I averaged sub 5:00 per km!

Tuesday: Swim, 3000 yards

Main set was 14 x 150s then 8 x 50s. Courtney and I pushed each other for some of those 150s. I was pretty tired when we were done!


Wednesday: Trainer ride, 50 minutes; Run 4.1 km

Netflix DEFINITELY helps trainer rides go by faster. Watching sports documentaries has become my thing. This time, I watched one on Lolo Jones. Got me through the ride and then I was so inspired by her speed that I ran one of my speediest 4km ever!


Thursday: Swim, 2900 yards

Friday: Run, 9Km

This was a nice, easy run around Tampa. Felipe typically doesn’t give us easy runs, so this was a treat!

Saturday: Long Ride, 106km

We had a big group (for us) and we rode in a pace line the whole time. Felt pretty good- average HR was 140 and our average speed was 32.6km/hour. I’ll take it! Check out Meghan’s blog for a quick recap.


Sunday: Brick-10km ride, 7km run; yoga in the park

This was supposed to be a much longer ride, but we cut it short due to the ridiculous winds (weather channel said 19mph winds with 31mph gusts!). Better to be safe than sorry! We ran our normal 7km loop and I did it in a comparable time as last week, but with what felt like much less effort since I didn’t have a long ride before it!

After our run, Bill and I headed to yoga in the park. Ah, exactly what my body was craving!



Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.37.40 PM

Monday: Run, 14km

This was probably my worst run of the season. I ran in the morning, and my legs were TIRED. It also didn’t help that it was 100% humidity with 12mph winds which were entirely in my face on the back half. That second half got ugly.  Walk and water breaks were definitely needed. I guess we all have a crap-tastic runs sometimes- just need to put it behind you and move on!

Tuesday: Spin class, 45 minutes

I was in Madison, so I went to Cyc fitness for a morning ride.


Wednesday: Rest

Thursday: Gym time, 1:00; Swim, 1800 yards

Hotel gym had 4 cardio machines and each was in use when I got there. So, weights it is! Did a hodge podge of different stuff and then ran for 20 minutes when one machine was free. After work, I got in a quick swim with Victoria.


Friday: Rest

I had an alarm set to workout before I went to the office, but my body told me it needed sleep. I could tell I was getting run down from my travels and knew I’d get sick if I kept pushing myself so I listened to my body and slept instead of heading to the gym.

Saturday: Treadmill run, 30 minutes, 3.62 miles

Pretty sure this is the longest I’ve been on the treadmill in a VERY long time. Needed to get in a quick workout before my day of presenting and travel!


Sunday: Brick: 55km ride, 8km run

Another windy day! J and I were the only ones riding today, so we rode the first part easyish and then pushed it for the way home. Holy headwind! The first 10km of our return ride had a crazy headwind. Then we got a little bit of help from the wind, and after the next turn, we got a LOT of help. If you look at my stats for the ride, you can totally see where the wind shifted. Checkout between 10-11 and 23-24. (Oh, and those are km/hour not mph!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 8.20.49 PMRide was fun but the run, not so much. I felt pretty good to start out but then I started to feel the weight of the week’s busy-ness slowing me down. And it was HOT. All I wanted was some water. So, instead of doing the prescribed 10km, I stopped short at a little over 8km.

A perk of the ride? I got to rock my #teamSOAS gear that had arrived while I was gone. I’m totally in love with it all!


PS. Gator Half is only 3 weeks away! AH!