Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ironman Cozumel

Well, I don't even really know where to begin with this race summary. I definitely have more to say about the week leading up to the race than the actual race itself - so I will start there.

It didn't really sink in until the week of the race that I was actually competing in an Ironman. I was trying to stay as confident as humanly possible, but I spent some time dwelling on the fact that my numbers were simply not where I had wanted them to be. I really hoped that my bike power and run pace would be where they were before my injury in April. But after so much time of absolutely zero training, they just weren't there. That fact sort of bummed me out, but in the back of my mind - I had the motto that anything can happen, it's such a long day and such extreme conditions.  I was also very confident that I had done everything I could possibly do to get in the best shape. In the 11 weeks of training that I did complete, I did come a long way. Coach Jesse set me up with a great plan, I did strength training once/week, and I totally stayed on top of my nutrition. 

Travel to Mexico:
This is where the adventure begins...

I traveled with my good friend Amy to Cancun/bus to Playa del Carmen/ferry to Cozumel on Wednesday morning before the snowstorm hit Pittsburgh. Just traveling internationally with a huge bike case is an adventure in itself. When we got to Cozumel, however, our transportation for the week was delivered to us.

After a quick lesson on how to drive this thing, we were soon on the streets of Mexico to find some food. I am very proud of the fact that I only stalled one time. The locals were SO incredibly nice to us. We ended up getting lost a handful of times, when people would pull up on their scooters to give us directions to our destination. I have to say that I still don't understand their traffic laws, but we managed to make it through with only two run-ins with the police.

The weather during the first few days of our trip was relatively chilly and the wind was pretty wicked. The water was so rough that IM cancelled the practice swims, and we were only able to get in the water the day before the race, and this is where the next little adventure comes in. So as I was trying to put my speedskin on, my zipper totally popped off it's track. Luckily as soon as I got home, I emailed Jessie to see if she had an extra skin, which she did. A little bit later, we drove to a place called Papa Hogs to meet some QT2 teammates for breakfast, and after a delicious breakfast we came out to a smashed windshield on our car.

Don't know why I look so happy - cost us $80

Then we made it to the ocean to practice our first open water swim, when Amy's swimskin totally ripped in 2 huge areas. At this point our only option was to try to find a seamstress to fix my zipper. This took us to the backstreets of Mexico in a smashed up car at 4pm the day before the race. Somehow we found a place that said they could do it in an hour. After 5USD, both Amy and I were giddy with relief. Now time to go home and finally get our stuff together for the next day.
Race: Somehow we made it to race day without any more mishaps. At some point over the week, I accepted the fact that my fitness was were it was, and they only thing I could do was control the things that I could control. I felt very rusty in my pre-race preparation and almost a little foggy. Amy and I joked that we each had half a brain all week, but luckily we were together to help each other out.

Swim course was shorted to 1.90 miles due to the rough water. So race morning, we got a taxi to T1 to set up our stuff, and before I knew it, a lady said I had to leave NOW to get on the bus that takes us to the new swim start. We did manage to get there in plenty of time before lining up. I was a little unsure of the race course, because I had not been able to actually see the buoy's, but fortunately I hopped on a girls feet for most of the swim until I turned after the first yellow buoy and she did not. She was right, and I tried like hell to catch up with her, but couldn't close the gap and ended up getting out about 20 seconds after her. I really am not sure if my swim time was good or not, but I didn't come out first and I didn't come out last, which is usually where I am.

In the weeks leading up to the race, I was least confident in my biking abilities. I wasn't hitting numbers that I used to, I wasn't able to ride outside since September, and I just have not been able to put much time in the saddle. I decided that I would get all of those negative thoughts out of my head prior to the race and focus on trying to stick to my plan. Immediately I realized that my heart rate strap was not working at all, I messed up my Garmin watch, and I also sprayed my sunglasses with sunscreen.
Photo pretty much sums up the hot mess I started the bike with: sunglasses down/messing with my watch

 Anyways I managed to somewhat pull myself together. The bike is 3 loops around the island (crosswind/headwind/crosswind/tailwind x3). I felt totally in control and fine in the crosswind and tailwind sections. But when I turned into the long headwind section, I felt like I simply didn't have the power to keep it up. I know I lost lots of time on this section. Also, I refused to participate in the huge drafting sessions that were going on all around me. The only negative thing that I have to say about this race is that the drafting was by far the worse I have ever seen. I do realized with this sort of course, sometimes it can't be avoided. But there were huge pelotons of 25+ people that were blatantly drafting with course marshalls riding right beside them. I do hope that officials control this in the future to protect the integrity of the race.

Anyways, focusing on what I could control, I drank about 15 bottles of fluid and peed about 10 times, so I know I was hydrated for the run. I never felt awful during the bike, just more so weak in the headwind.

Beautiful scenery

This run course has now become my favorite run course of any triathlon that I have ever completed. It is 3 loops down and back on the same street. People are everywhere singing and dancing and cheering. It is just SO fun! By this time the sun was out in full effect and it was hot! I am glad I hydrated and stayed cool the way I did on the bike, because I do believe that helps in hot running races. I didn't know what to expect as far as pace/time. My heart rate monitor still wasn't working, so this was going to be all perceived effort. I pretty much stayed about the same pace for the entire run, and was pleasantly surprised with how my form was holding up. At about mile 20, it went from hot and sunny to a heavy downpour. At first the rain was a welcome relief from the heat, but it soon turned into trying to dodge ankle deep puddles for the last 6 miles. Every step I took felt like my feet and legs were so heavy. I was motivated by my time, I kept looking at my watch thinking that if I can keep up this pace, I can do 3:2?. That thought kept me moving as fast as I possibly could. Running that last mile, I had to hold back tears. I was so incredibly grateful for everything that I have been through the past few months. It has been such a tough year, and I kept thinking about all of the support my family and friends have given me over the past few months - that my heart was tugging with gratitude. There are a handful of people that believed in me more than I believed in myself and I feel like they were all with me crossing the finish line.

A hot mess again

Heartfelt thank you to Aimee and Frank at RevSports. They were probably my #1 supporters my entire recovery. I said I wanted to do an Ironman after less than 3 months of training, and they said 'We will get you there'.

Jesse gave me the plan that probably would have allowed me to PR at the distance (if the swim wasn't shortened) after less than 3 short months of training. Another example of why they call him the 'Wizard'!

Dr. Moira Davenport (my doctor and good friend who bent over backwards to get me the medical care that I needed. 

My family and friends who put up with me being a total psycho basket case much of the year. Many of whom sent me wonderful texts, emails, and cheers.

Ryan Ballou and the Ballou Skies Triathlon Team. So grateful to know someone as strong and as courageous as Ryan. He inspires me in more ways than I would ever be able to express. 
Finally, Jeremy. My rock! Thank you!

My favorite photo! Amy (who had an awesome breakthrough race in her first Pro Ironman) and I in our helmets because our car didn't have seat belts or windows!           

 Adios 2013!!!





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