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IM Cozumel 2021 Race Report

Created: Saturday, 27 November 2021

Ironman Cozumel was an excellent race! A very fast course, beautiful location, and well supported. I had a goal of earning my fastest race and I did, finishing at 12:27:58.  The ocean swim is downstream, strong current, and a .5 mile short of the standard 2.4 mile swim.  The 112 mile bike didn't have the typical high winds, but they were replaced with tropical storms and major road flooding.  The run was warm and humid with amazing crowd support. Everything was in place for everyone to have their fastest race ever. Read on for the gritty details.  If you have read my other reports, this is will be another very long read.

Arrival

My wife and I flew out the Wednesday before the Sunday of the race.  Since Delta doesn't fly into Cozumel, we flew into Cancun, took a shuttle to Playa del Carmen, caught a ferry to Cozumel, then taxi to the Westin hotel.  Arriving early eased the stress greatly.  A host waiting for another group in Playa told us we can hire someone to carry all my gear to the ferry for $5 so we did that.  I'm thinking, there's no way a bike case and two suitcases would fit on a tricycle, but he did it!! The first class ferry ticket on Ultramar was extremely comfortable.  After arriving at the hotel, it was time to put my bike back together and relax. I would suggest flying into Cozumel directly! But as you can see, flying into Cancun can be an enjoyable journey.

 

Prerace

It rained hard every day, usually in the late afternoons.  I was able to get in 2 of my 3 shakeout workouts each day before getting rained out. The temperature was in the low 80s, very humid, and sun made it very hot.  I decided I would race with my Zoot arm coolers.  These sleeves had a cooling effect when wet.

 

While checking out all my swim, bike and run equipment, I found tire damage on my front wheel!! I wasn't going to take any chances, so I biked into town and bought an overpriced tire.  I traveled with spare tubes, but didn't pack a tire.  Thank goodness I bought a new tire! When I changed the tire, I saw that the damage went all the way through to the inside.  The tire damage had to of happened prior to the trip and I never noticed it.  I swapped the tires myself and I was good to go.

 

There were group swims organized at "Stingray" beach.  But I instead swam right outside my hotel. The name alone wasn't appealing!! The various currents were evident.   The ocean current goes one direction.  The topography of the ocean bottom turns the current in the opposite direction near the shore, creating an Eddy current.  The race course is in this Eddy current, which explains why the course is short. If they moved the buoys out farther, we would be swimming up the strong current. After the swims, I was very itchy until I showered. So I knew I needed to rinse off on race day.

 

The baby shampoo came in handy! I placed it on the inside of my swim, bike and run lenses. No fogging issues.  In addition, I added it to the outside of my bike visor to help defray the rain.

 

For nutrition, I used all Hammer Nutrition products.  They included Perpetuem,, Bars, Gel, Anti-Fatigue tablets, Race Day Boost, and Endurolyte Extreme tablets and powder. My nutrition plan kept me strong all day! No cramping or fatigue issues during the race. My awesome gear was all from Zoot Sports, including my swimskin and shoes.  I biked on the Quintana Roo PRsix. A speed machine!

 

Race check-in was quick and easy if you came prepared with printed negative test results, ID and your bib number.  Those that didn't have that info had more work to do. Possibly very expensive.  I read about $90 on-site covid tests.  The race store and expo was small. It was moved inside due to the rain.

 

Checking in my bike and gear bag was a challenge though.  T1 was 9 miles from the hotel, T2 was 3.5 miles away.  My plan was to bike down, but the monsoon changed that plan.   My training partner, Donna, and I caught taxis. It's now time to rest up for the race.

 

Swim - 2.4 miles (Actual 1.8 mi)

The Westin had a bus that dropped the athletes off at T1, where I added my bike nutrition.  The plastic bags didn't do much to keep my bike dry from the overnight rain. After ensuring everything on my bike was good to go, I caught another bus to the swim start.  The rain continued all morning. I wore my poncho and did my pre-op race exercises to stay warm.

 

I lined up in the 1:30 swim group.  The line moved slow, but I eventually made it to the dock to jump off.  I wish I knew it was shallow! I almost busted my toe! I pushed off the ocean bottom and started swimming.  The water was warm and very clear.   

 

My goal was to swim at least in the 80th percentile of my age group. I used to be in the 95th percentile.  The current was swift. I couldn't feel it, but my 1:30/100 yd pace made it clear. We were all flying!  Despite being in an ocean, there was a lot of contact in the water.  I was surprisingly swimming past many swimmers.  The challenge was finding the clear water to swim through. Often, I would find myself pinned between two swimmers.  Everyone was respectful, and tried to give others space versus aggressively fighting each other.  One swimmer was going diagonally across me.  I stopped, and he swam right across. I don't know where he was swimming to. Maybe Belize or Honduras! Another swimmer was doing the breast stroke. When I tried to pass, I forgot how much space a breast stroker needs. As I passed, I got a stern kick right into my chest!!

 

Life guards in boats, kayaks, and SUPs are common. This was the first time I've seen divers in the water! Goodness!! It would be a bad day if they have to come after anyone in the bouyant salt water.  They were positioned every 200 meters.  I tried to ignore every one of them to not panic.  There were plenty of very pretty fish to focus on instead.  Easily, the clearest water I've ever swam in (along with Lake Tahoe).

 

At 1.5 miles in, I was going to pick up my pace and sprint to the finish.  Instead, the life guards were funneling all of us in to a small area. We reached the turn buoy. It was supposed to be big and red, but I couldn't see anything from all the splashing. After the turn, the morning sunrise was blinding. The congestion got worse.  I couldn't swim with other swimmer's feet inches from making contact with my face, while bumping both shoulders with other swimmers. No one was swimming at this point.  We were all just treading water.  The last 100 yards was just floating to the stairs.

 

3770 yards. (4220 yards is the standard distance)

208/275 75th percentile.   I exceeded my goal and I'm extremely pleased considering how I used to swim.

1662/2202 Overall

1:04:52

1:43/100 yd (My last IM was 2:12/100)

 

T1

My goal was to get through in under 5 minutes. There was a fresh water shower waiting for us after we ran off the docks. Although it was wide enough for 4 swimmers at a time, there was a 5 person deep line waiting to rinse off.  I went around the line to the front, and used my hands to grab fresh water and rinsed the salt off quickly.  Hopefully, I wouldn't be too itchy from the lack of a thorough rinse.

 

At my bike, I took off my Zoot swimskin, grabbed my Hammer nutrition, bike gear, and I was off. I left my shoes clipped on my bike with rubber bands for a quick transition. I was in T1 for only 5:12. I felt like a pro!

 

Bike - 112 mi

My goal was to maintain my power, and not focus on speed.  I didn't even have my average speed displayed on my Garmin 945. The course is 3 rectangular loops. The first leg has a tail wind.  Reaching my target power had me averaging 21 mph (realized in post race analysis), and often reaching 25 mph. I was flying past everyone I saw, looking for comparable cyclists to pace with. I started thinking the fast cyclists wetter were also fast swimmers and way ahead of me. On the return leg, there was a slight uphill, and just a mild headwind.  I kept my 21 average. Light rain.

 

On the second loop, it got congested.  I also got caught up in a large group of cyclists going the same pace.  While it was good to have others to pace off of, there was no option not to maintain a 6 bike distance. If a cyclist passed me, they slowed down when they hit the headwind.  I wasn't going to slow down. Neither was anyone else.  So this created bunching. We weren't intentionally drafting, but we couldn't create separation either.  The umpires yelled out numerous warnings to cyclists around me. I never got one directly. Nor did anyone around me get a penalty.  This scenario repeated throughout the 2nd and 3rd loops.

 

A monsoon came near the end of the second loop.  Blinding rain made it challenging. The worst parts were the sharp turns in the city, and flooding.  Both dropped my speed to single digits to stay safe.  There several flooded sections. My goal was just too stay safe.  Not speed or power.

 

On the third loop, more hard hammered us.  The flooding was greater.  The temperature dropped, and so did my speed.  There was less congestion, but I couldn't keep reach the same cruising speed I started with.  The flooded streets rose to about 6 inches.  I heard it got worse as the rain continued.  There were lots of crashes and damaged tires.

 

The elements caused my target power to be missed, but I was very pleased with the 20.5 average.  If it wasn't raining, my average would have been at least 22 mph.

 

5:31:25

20.5 mph

110/275 AG (So yeah... over half my age group was faster than me!)

727/2202 OA

 

T2

This when trying to look like a pro went WRONG!! I removed my feet from my shoes while moving, with plans to execute a flying dismount. The problem was I couldn't tell where the discount line was.  There was no thick, bright tape.  I assumed it was the big balloon Arch that read "Bike In". Nope, a guy with a red flag signaled that the line  was about 8 feet before the Arch! Ugh.  I wasn't flying, but I did dismount in time.  With my shoes clipped in, I started running my bike into transition.

 

There was a large crowd, and they were all yelling at me!! I'm thinking, I'm super popular today! I waved thanks, and kept on running. Then I looked down at my bike, and I'M MISSING ONE SHOE!!! I laid my bike down and ran back to retrieve my shoe.  An athlete picked it up for me! I met him later at the airport but forgot his name. Thanks man!

 

The transition area was in a very slippery parking garage.  When I quickly switched into my run gear, that's when I realized I'm in big trouble for the run.  I couldn't bend over to put my socks on.  I had sprained my lower back.

 

4:40 (Way under my 5 min estimate)

 

Run - 26.2 mi

 

While running, I stowed away my Hammer Bars and put on my face belt that was full of Hammer Gel.  I was hoping to average a 9:30 pace. My back had different plans for me.  I was in a lot of pain and could only walk a 15 min pace.  Oh no!  I just crushed the bike and swim, now this happens. I was devastated. The more I moved, the better my back felt.   I was looking for ice.

 

At the water stations I saw small cold balloon bags laid out on the table. I'm thinking, perfect! They know exactly what I need!! I grabbed two and put them on my back.  It wasn't that cold, so I grabbed 2 more at the next aid station.  By the third, I realized I never saw any bottles or cups of water! Those balloons I've been wasting was purified drinking water!!!! OHHhhh!!!! I didn't know. I then started busting a hike in the bags to drink and grabbed ice out of the water buckets.  That eventually numbed my back, and I was able to start jogging towards a run pace.  It's no surprise that they ran out of water!! I know other athletes unintentionally wasted water as well. I wish I had known upfront what those balloons were on the table.  IM did bring out bottled water after a while.   I drank Gatorade, Coke and Red Bull in the meanwhile.

 

Just my luck, my recurring IT Band flared up at mile 6.  When that happens, I can be brought to a crawl.  With 20 miles to go, there was no way I could push my knee to run.  So for 20 miles, I shuffled along at a 12 min pace, and walked the aid stations.  Attempting to do anything more would risk a long term knee injury. I don't want to go through that again, ever.

 

I couldn't run, yet I was racing in beautiful Cozumel! I focused on enjoying the moment, appreciating the experience. The fan support was amazing!! ¡Vamos! ¡Vamos! and other cheers were heard throughout the run course. Downtown was so crowded, folks had collapsed into the streets.  I saw some athletes has to push interfering bystanders out the way.  There were 3 loops of wonderful encouragement, and extreme pain and disappointment. I pushed with everything I had the last 6 miles.

 

I never felt tired/fatigued.  My body just wouldn't perform.  On the last lap, I was determined to ensure I beat my IM PR of 12:59.  As I headed towards the finishers chute, the bright lights, loud music, and excitement from the crowd made for an amazing finish!

 

Someone yelled, "Where are you from?" I'm thinking, you picked one hell of a time to strike up a conversation! So I ignored him. Mind you, everyone is yelling something. Then another lady asked me the same question.  That's when I realized they want to give me a country flag to wave! "USA", I screamed.  I kept running, and there was an American flag waiting for me.   I waived it proudly as I ran up the elevated stage to the finish line!!! I did it.  Got my PR.

 

5:41:52

207/275 AG, 1599/2202 OA

 

Final result:

12:27:58

172/275 AG

1262/2202 OA

 

 

Finish

 

After I finished, everything completely fell apart.  It was unclear where to go. I just needed to get off my feet. Volunteers were waiving a "Special Needs" bag at me. I ignored them, because I don't need my special needs bag.  Then someone said that's where the medal and food is.  So I went back and grabbed it. Somehow, I heard I needed to around the corner to get my finisher shirt, so I did that.  I almost missed that prized reward.  I never saw where to take my finisher picture. So I don't have one.  I found a spot to get off my feet. I just wanted to sleep.

 

Then I saw my support crew looking for me. First my wife, then my training partners that were cheering me on.  I was out of it, and kept passing out.   The medics came and wheeled me into the tent.   That place was FULL!! I was laid on a cot, and given an IV.  My blood pressure has dropped very low.  30 minutes later, I felt like a new person.  I saw Angie and other familiar faces back there too. It was a tough day for a whole lot of folks.  I had warm soup and was given a dry shirt.  The volunteer staff there was amazing and took exceptional care of all the athletes.

 

Now it's time to recuperate, rest my back and knees. I can't rest long though. I already signed up for IM Texas in April and IM Portugal in October!

 

I want to send out a special thanks to my wife, Stephanie, for coming out and cheering me on. As well as my other support crew, Evelyn, Charles and Melissa. Big congrats to my training partner, Donna, who completed her third IM. And thanks to my sponsors, Zoot and Hammer Nutrition.  I can't forget the Zoot partners, Garmin, Smith Optics, and Quintana Roo.

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