Same race prep and plans as last year (IMAZ 2012, my first full)
I used Be Iron Fit by Don Fink to train for this race. I used the competitive 30 training program he outlines.
I fuel with Infinit Nutrition (~300 calories per hour) on the bike and Hammer Endurolytes and Gels on the run (1 gel every 30 minutes, 2 Endurolytes every hour).
My wife and I flew out of Chicago at 4PM on Thanksgiving Day. I had packed my bike myself in a soft case and checked it in with American Airlines free of charge. We flew into Cancun, took an hour cab ride to Playa Del Carmen, and then took the ferry across to Cozumel where we boarded another taxi for a 20-minute drive to our resort. Endurance Sport Travel (EST) handled all our travel, lodging and food in country. They were excellent and helped us out tremendously, especially since my High School Spanish is all but gone these days. That said, if you’re considering Ironman Cozumel, fly directly into Cozumel. It costs more but it well worth it and you probably break even when you consider the cost of the cab rides, ferry and so on with the Cancun option.
Friday and Saturday on the Island was very windy and overcast. Temperatures were pretty comfortable and I often had a sweatshirt with me or light jacket. The authorities shut down the port for “light boat” traffic due to how rough the ocean was; which also meant no Ironman practice swims. The EST folks organized a practice swim from our resort beach property both mornings. I participated both mornings to adjust to ocean swimming – I’d played in the ocean before but never swam freestyle and certainly never raced in the ocean before.
I assembled my bike in my room on Friday, went out for a 6 mile ride to make sure everything was alright and then tested my running legs out. Everything felt fine and I was getting excited to race.
Saturday was the usual gear check-in. T1 and T2 are not in the same place at Cozumel. This resulted in some confusion. All the English print materials told us to bring our Bike and Run bags to T1. At T1 they were only taking our bikes and bike bags and told us we’d have to make the 3 mile trek to T2 to drop off our run bags. The EST folks took care of shuttling the bags down for us.
Due to the rough water conditions and a high DNF rate last year on the swim they made a last minute decision to alter the swim on Saturday evening. They’d shuttle us up the beach 1.94 miles from T1 and have us do a point-point swim. The first 1/3 was against a slight current from a freshwater spring that flows out from the island, the last 2/3 were with the ocean current. Fast swim times were expected as a result of the current and shortened course.
4:30AM wake-up, some fruit and bread for breakfast and a cup of coffee. Bathroom stop 1.
5:15AM on the shuttle to T1 to put my nutrition on my bike, say goodbye to my wife and get on the shuttle to the swim start. Bathroom stop 2 first
6:15AM on the shuttle to swim start, packed in like sardines.
6:30AM Bathroom stop 3 at swim start resort.
6:40AM watched the pro’s start and got in the water to fight for position in the deep water start. The waves and current were moving us all over the place so the idea of a “start line” was a joke. I positioned myself somewhere around 3 rows back from the frontline to hopefully avoid the trouble of climbing over other swimmers.
Swim – At 7AM We start swimming. I drank a lot of saltwater but avoided most of the contact I fought through at IMAZ 2012. My goal was to fight to stay on faster swimmers feet the whole time. I was fairly successful, at times overtaking the person I was drafting off of and finding new feet, at other times I’d lose them and find someone else to follow. It was a fast swim, but I wasn’t over extended. The water is beautifully clear. Scuba divers with cameras were below us, schools of fish, etc. great sites for a Ironman Swim. With the shortened distance I didn’t know what to expect for my time, but I had originally wanted to be close to 1 hour. I saw my watch when exiting the water, it read 42:41
I expected it to be hot so despite all the trouble of getting arm coolers on while wet I used them for the race. They didn’t have the path through T1 set-up on Saturday or before the race that morning. So I was finding my way through for the first time during the race. That was frustrating because I couldn’t find my bike and the language barrier made that more difficult. I probably lost 30 seconds to a minute running around the maze of rows in the plaza where T1 was. There was trouble in the timing system so I don’t have my official race time for T1, but it was likely around 6-7 minutes. Still need to figure out how to do this fast in a Full Ironman.
It’s a 3 loop bike course around the majority of the island. On the resort side (North and East) you have a wind break from the coast with the resorts and all the trees. That was helpful and I was able to stay in a comfortable aero position and execute my plan of riding around 150bpm. The opposite side of the island is beautiful, you’re riding right along the coast, but you’re totally exposed to the wind. You cut through the center of the island and ride through the city to finish the loop. My first lap was really fast (22.5 MPH average), then the winds continued to pick up for laps 2 & 3 and I knew I was going to be off my bike goal by mile 90. There was A LOT of drafting going on which is frustrating. For about 20 miles I had a guy and a girl that were literally riding my wheel like it was a group ride. I decided to let them get the drafting call and not waste my time and energy trying to drop them or shake them. I talked with some others after the race and they mentioned draft marshals riding along side packs but not doing anything. This race had a reputation of being pretty clean from past years. I wonder if the swim being shortened didn’t create the usual separation in the bike field that you’d see.
I had hoped to bike 5:20, I rolled into T2, barefoot running dismount at just over 5:30. I was hot and I knew I was sunburned.
I went as fast as possible through T2, running dismount from the bike, run gear bag in hand, flagged a volunteer down to put sunscreen on while I put on my shoes, visor and fuel belt with gels. I was out of T2 feeling overheated but excited to be running. Time in T2 2:31
About 1 mile into the run I realized I still had a spare bike tube in my back pocket and my bike number on. A direct result of being fussy brained coming off the bike and trying to make up time through T2. I must have looked like a dork with 2 number belts on, all those gels and a bike tube in my pocket. I ran with it anyways. I knew within 3 miles that my run goal wasn’t going to happen for the day. It was way to hot for a Midwesterner who’d been running in 20º temps for the past weeks. I settled into a 8min pace and tried to hold that. It’s a 3 loop out and back run course with aid stations every 1km. The aid stations seemed excessive when reading about the race but they were necessary with the heat. Every aid station had water, ice, Gatorade and gels. The water is in a bag you bite open. It’s a great idea and way better than the paper cups I’m used too. My strategy for running in the heat is to eat ice constantly, keep dumping water on my head, neck and arm coolers and keep a constant supply of ice down the pants.
Despite all my work to keep my body temperature down I was majorly overheating from trying to run too fast. At the halfway point of the run I finally broke and walked for ½ a mile I also broke mentally and fought through a rough patch mentally. I didn’t want to quit but I thought about abandoning all goals and walking it in. I hadn’t seem my wife all day since she was cheering in crowds and I couldn’t pick her out. My brain started to tell me to quit and go find her to make sure she was alright. Within several minutes I snapped out of it and started running again. Making the turn to start my final loop I had to walk again for ½ a mile since I was overheating again. That’s when I noticed a storm coming in and I knew the rain and cloud coverage would bring some shelter from the heat. A mile later it was pouring on us and I was speeding up. I made the final turn with just 4.25 mile between me and the finish line. I knew breaking my run goal of 3:20-3:30 wasn’t happening nor was my sub 10 hour finish; but I did know I could still PR if I pushed to the finish. My last 6 miles were the fastest of the run, due largely to the rain and clouds.
With the walk breaks, the time walking to get my nutrition in on the run and my much slower pace than predicted I felt pretty disappointed with the run. It’s taken me until almost a week later to be pretty happy with the 3:46 marathon. I still feel like it was a train wreck but that was probably unavoidable given the heat and coming from the cold of the Midwest.
Age Group – M30-34
Age Group rank – 26
Overall rank – 202