Ironman Cozumel 2018 – Race Report

A long report of my race at Ironman Cozumel in 2018

I hear a lot about this thing called a race report. Sort of a silly title. But I think the idea is, at least on a personal level, to record how the race went right after the race so that you can refer back to it and learn from it. It’s amazing how quickly we forget things. For example, I’m pretty sure I made the same mistake twice in a long race — racing with compression sleeves on. A dreadful, painful, mistake that somehow I forgot about in between. 

A reader warning: this report is personal and will get into the nitty gritty so that I can refer back to it. It may not be the most exciting reading; but since I now am writing this blog, I am putting it out there in case you are interested. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018: 4am wake up. (Alarm set for 4:30am, but we both woke up early. Fortunately, I had quite a nice sleep before then). 

4-5:15am: meditate, put on body glide in the bra chaffing areas and Squirt barrier balm in the bike-seat contact area, put on bra and tri-suit, drink coffee and bring more to go, eat chia seed pudding with a protein powder packet from Sun Warrier (and a variety of other powders that I put in at home and don’t quite remember – but at least cocoa, cinnamon, ginger), put on sunscreen and race number tattoos, and I had Quinn put my letter in sharpie on my calf so that I didn’t have to deal with it at the race. 

5:15am – we walked a couple of blocks to one of the host hotels to meet a shuttle to take us to the race. Shuttles were supposed to run 5:35-6am, but they were already running when we arrived (at about 5:23am). It was good we got there early too because they ended up shutting down much earlier. I got on a bus right away; but they made Quinn wait with other family and friends until the very last bus. The bus ride was way too somber. I guess people get nervous or something. 

Arrived at T1. I went to my bike. Luckily everything on my bike was great – there was a long line for the mechanics that were available. I filled up my tires to 100 PSI, I filled up my on-bike bottle with water, and I left a small bike bottle of water mixed with 500 calories – 100 from EFS (an electrolyte solution) and 400 of Carbo Pro. I also filled my on-bike bag with a spare mini-container of the butt butter I use; about 6 dates, two date/nut bite type things from Trader Joes, and 3 Nuun tablets that were in convenient single-serve bags that I picked up from my recent half-marathon  race. 

I then took my two special needs bags out to buses waiting for them, met Quinn, and we went and stood in a long line to get from T1 to the race start – about 2.4 miles away. We were glad to start the whole process early, though we got to the start with plenty of time to spare. Before the race start at 7:30am, I drank a full water bottle with one Nuun and ate a banana. 

Start: We lined up based on anticipated swim time. I stood in the 1:20-1:30 area. The first racers started at 7:30 and then the line moved along – a rolling start. It took 10-20 minutes before I got in the water – I’m sure my sense of time was very off so I’m not positive.  But my time didn’t actually start until I crossed the timing line just before hopping in the water. When it was time, there was a jump into the water which was a funny way to start. I suspect it looked pretty funny given how rough the water was.

Swim: my swim went well. The water was very choppy, but there was also a current in my favor. I think the two things canceled each other out, and I finished in just under 1:20, which is what I was hoping for. Early into the swim I found someone to draft off of and stayed with him for most of the time. It was a first for me to follow someone so closely for that long. Yes, it is legal for the swim portion, and it really does help. I lost him somewhere in the second half. I caught up with him later in the last couple hundred meters or so and he was swimming breast stroke. I kept going freestyle for awhile and then realized that I was going the same pace. I decided to pull in behind him and also swim breast stroke. It worked beautifully! The water was really choppy at this point – I would estimate 3 foot rolling waves though my estimate could be really far off. But by swimming breaststroke I was able to completely calm my breathing and go the same pace with much less effort. Then I made the only turn in the race and swam easily into the steps for transition. It felt easier than my first race in Busselton where I recall being quite tired after the swim. 

Transition: there was quite a long walk/run to the changing area – some of it on uneven ground that hurt a bit. There were showers but the water was weak and the area was crowded – I just managed to get a little water on me. I grabbed my bag and went to the changing tent. I didn’t end up getting help in transition and they didn’t have sunscreen (I learned later they did, but I didn’t see it. Fortunately my neighbor had some in her bag and let me use it). I drank 2 cups of water, put on compression sleeves, bike socks, bike shoes, sweat cap, helmet, sunglasses, and put a mini packet  of chamois butt’r in my jersey. Then I was off, eating a cereal type bar that I bought in Mexico on my way. 

Bike first part: I drank a lot early on – at least 1 bottle per aid station for the first lap I think – so probably a bottle every 20-30 minutes. I added either my mix with the EFS or a Nuun to water on a regular basis. I also poured water on me regularly to attempt staying cool. They were passing out ice water in bike bottles at aid stations, which was amazingly wonderful. I also ate every 20-30 minutes depending on what I was eating. I ate a LOT it seemed like. I ate about 4 bars that they were passing out at the aid stations – which had gluten which I normally don’t eat but they tasted good and I went with it. I also ate my dates and date chews. At special needs – about the halfway point – I stopped and ate a cliff bar and had some water. Literally stopped – got off the bike, sat down in the shade, and took my left shoe off. I also picked up a packet of shot blocks that I would end up eating about half of by the end of the race. 

Bike second part: In the last half – or more- I did worse at drinking water and eating (the food mentioned above is what I ate the whole race, but most of it was in the earlier part of the race). After about the first third of the bike my left foot started hurting like crazy. It is like a bad cramp on the outer part of my foot. It happened in my last Ironman too, but doesn’t hurt while at home. I don’t understand it, but it really sucks. My best guess is that it’s a mixture of swelling from the heat and not having my pedal properly placed. It also may be an area that I have had a stress fracture before – though that might have been the other foot. Food wise, I just did not want what I had brought with me. Too much sugar and carb and not enough fat. I had planned to bring Pb&J sandwiches as a fueling option, but couldn’t find gluten free bread. It also might have been the heat that was making it difficult to eat. On the plus side, my butt never hurt that badly, which is pretty amazing considering I was on the bike for almost 8 hours. My neck did hurt though, and I rode most of the last half in an up position with my hands on my pads where my elbows are supposed to go. Course-wise – it was very flat, but about 10 miles had a head/cross wind that picked up throughout the day. I have heard other say that this made it a more challenging race than others they have done even though it was flat. 

There is good cheering on the bike portion – given how far it is. There were a couple of hotels in an otherwise fairly barren stretch that set up chairs for guests to cheer – I am guessing for family members staying there. And in town the community really came out and cheered and many of them stuck around for the whole time. The aid stations also remained well stocked throughout the entire race. I was worried they may run out of things towards the end, but they at least still had ice water throughout which is all I was wanting. 

Transition 2 : This race has two transitions, so this was in a different location than T1, after not quite 3 laps around the main road on the island. It was a very welcome sight to come into the transition area and to hand off my bike to a volunteer. With the foot pain, I limped my way into the changing tent. I had some more help here, but somewhat slowly changed to my running shoes, put on my race belt, and hat, and of course removed the bike stuff. Then I limped my way onto the run course. Since this had happened before, I was pretty sure that my foot would loosen up and allow me to run on it. 

Run: My foot loosened up fairly quickly, but I was hot and tired and running was really tough! My plan was to run 2 minutes/walk 30 seconds. I never kept that up at all. I was hot and just beat, so I let myself walk for awhile at the beginning. There were aid stations every kilometer – pretty awesome to have so many. I had a small handful of salted peanuts at the first two. I think I then forced myself to eat a date chew around halfway, but that was the only food I got down the whole marathon. I drank water or gatorade or coca cola at almost every aid station. Overall I’m pretty sure that just wasn’t enough. I had salt on me and probably should have been eating that, though I did take 3 salt pills throughout the first part of the run.

In the first lap – about 8 miles – I ran off and on when I could, starting at about 13.5 minute miles. I was hoping that I would run more often after it cooled off, but just kept getting more and more tired and my miles kept getting longer and longer. Even my walk pace went from 16 min/mile to almost 20 min/mile; and I walked nearly the entire last two-thirds. My back started hurting badly and I stopped and stretched it occasionally. I wanted to lie down in the grass but wasn’t sure I would get up again. I considered crawling across the finish line when I knew I was close enough that I didn’t have to be on my feet anymore. Of course, by the time I actually made it to the finish chute, I forgot about the pain briefly and ran with the top male pro who greeted me in the chute. He was talking to me but I don’t have a clue what he was saying. Nice for him to stick around for us slow folk though. Sadly the announcer said that I was from Arkansas. 

The crowds on the running course were great. Lots of music, cheering, and people offering things like ice or water or sponges. Some of the hotels set up chairs there too and had great cheering sections. That part was fun, and I had some nice chats with other racers. The breeze never came up unfortunately, and I felt way over heated the whole run. 

After the finish line: A volunteer walked with me as soon as I got across the finish line – which seemed to be at the top of a ramp – a little rude to have to go up a ramp after going all that distance. We had to walk seemingly way too far for me to get my medal from someone, and then get my timing chip taken off. Then I could finally sit. This is an area where only athletes can be, which sort of stinks since family cannot join you. It took me awhile to peel my socks and compression sleeves off. My legs and feet were covered in heat rash and a couple of blisters. Every part of my body hurt. I tried an ice bath for my legs, but didn’t last very long. It was cold! There was no good food left, so I then got my finisher shirt and met Quinn for a slow, slow walk back to our room. We made it to bed at 1:30am. I didn’t sleep great given the pain of my legs. Somehow though we got ourselves up at 6am to go diving; and I actually made the walk to the dive boat and then was able to dive. It was lovely really and I’m glad that I didn’t stay sitting around. The heat rash lasted two days. My legs are still sore as I write this 3 days later.

Reflection: I experimented with less training for this race than my past two and I don’t think it worked out well for me. This race took me nearly 2 hours longer than my first race. I think the most noticeable difference was not be able to run much of the marathon at all. I think swim training was okay, but that I should add more hours to the bike and run training leading up to the race. I also need a better nutrition plan, and to incorporate more fats and see how that goes. The heat and humidity undoubtedly contributed to the toughness of this race for me as well. That’s just a battle that can happen race to race, but if I had better overall fitness I think it would have been more pleasant. But, I finished with 40 minutes to spare (16:20 something) and showed myself that I can push through discomfort and come out fine on the other end. I continue to love the Trilife and look forward to learning and playing more with the sport. Plus, I have another one of these crazy events in just over 3 months, so I can try again on the training portion. 

I am phenomenally grateful that I have the resources to come do things like this, that I have a spouse who is super supportive, and that there are events such as this that are well organized and fun to come to. There were tons of people here from other countries and it is so neat to meet others doing the same crazy things and to learn about where they come from as well as different race stories. A super fun excuse to explore the world!