Ironman Cozumel 2014 Race Report

A race story

December 06, 2014 - Cozumel, Mexico

Overall:

  • 11:31:09
  • 26th division
  • 226th gender
  • 275th overall

But clearly, that doesn’t tell the whole picture :).

We arrived on Cozumel 3 days before the race. Enough time on the first day to get in a short swim.

Nothing in the Bay Area can compare to the current and the waves on Cozumel. Rough does not even begin to describe the water. But we took heart - at least the current was in the right direction for the race.

The next few days were a flurry of short workouts (swims and bike rides), checking in equipment and picking up the last support crew members.

Unfortunately, it was not smooth sailing even going into the race. But, its not an Ironman if everything goes as planned - its what you do when it doesn’t.

Bike Preparations

Two days before the race, I picked up the bike from TriBike Transport (a company that will ship you bike down - fully built - to various races) something had happened with the frame/bottom bracket and in the heaviest 2 gears the pedal would clip the chain.

package pickup with Jan

This means that, essentially, I was riding without my two hardest gears (the two smallest cogs in the back) - from a 22 speed bike (2x11) to a 20 speed (1x11, 1x9). Fortunately, Cozumel is completely flat and you don’t need gears with that much torque.

Certainly not the end of the world, but the First sign this wasn’t going to be smooth.

Race Build

My race build was provided by my coaches over at purplepatch(who are fantastic) and included a variety a swims and runs over the next few days. While they weren’t always the most fun (e.g. only hour long rides and mostly below race pace), they were inteded to ‘prime the pump’ and get the body ready for the race.

ready for race day

The build also gave me a chance to sample the course a bit - Cozumel is basically only one road, so all the taper rides were on the course. So come race day, I wasn’t surprised to hit the monstorous winds on the backside of the island, the very helpful swim current was welcomed heartily and the heat was…to be expected.

Race Day

0400

Brrrrring! Brrrring!

Its up early for Ironman athletes on race day - you need plenty of time to get your food in, drop off bags in transition and go the bathroom a good 10 times (nerves).

The only hiccup of the morning was with the Nuun tablets (electolyte tablets that dissolve in water) that I had left on my bike overnight. Left in a ziplock bag in my bento box, they had congealed together into a yellow, sticky mass - not exactly amiable to easy consumption. Fortunately, I had brought extra backups and a ziplock bag (always pays to be doubly prepared for ironman), so I could scramble and make the switch.

0701 - 2.4mi swim

Into the water and we are off! Not much time for warmup, so its a bit of a slow start in the water.

finally done with the swim! now lets get riding.

Even less help was the fact that that current was against us, going north, a rare, but not unheard of occurnace on the island. We were lucky in that about half way through the current changed directions 180 degrees and finally gave us poor swimmers some relief as we headed towards the swim exit.

1:03 swim - exactly what I was targeting. I could have gone faster, but was having weird troubles breathing out while drafting (seems to happen every couple races), so relegated to mostly swimming on my own and not always the straightest. But I’m not complaining.

0805 - Transition and 112 mi bike

I had a 4:06 transition - not exceptionally fast, not exceptionally slow, especially given how far we had to run the bikes out (far). In the showers after the swim exit I was hoping to catch Jan (my mom’s now husband, then fiance) during the swim, but this was good enough for me.

Then it was onto the bike.

The course is 1 loop of 34 miles followed by two 39 mile loops. Each loop is comprised of a neutral-wind section(maybe a bit of a tailwind) heading south, then a turn left at the southern point and into a very strong headwind back north, up the east side of the island (very beautiful, very desolate), followed by another left turn back towards downtown (and happily out of the wind).

At least, that is what it was supposed to be.

riding bicycles is fun!

It ended up being that that headwinds started even before you reached the southern point, and were pretty much neutral for the entire stretch south. One could wax poetic about the furor of those winds, but I’ll leave it more simply - they sucked, they sucked hard.

For a while I debated which depth wheels to run. As you can see in the picture, I ended using a Zipp 404 (about 40mm deep) in the front and a HED Jet 9 (about 90mm deep) in the back. While not always the most comfortable with the cross-winds, I’m happy I went that deep. The general advice I follow is, “go as deep as you can handle”; you lose all the aero gains if you are constantly sitting up to keep from falling over.

Overal, I’m ‘eh’ about my bike. It took a bit to start to find the legs, but by the end of the first loop I was bang on my goal pace - 1:40 per loop. However, I was not meant to hold that. I had been training to hold 200 watts for the entire bike - in fact, I had done for the a 125mi training ride in Tahoe 2 months before. Alas, training rides are not races.

It was somewhere around mi 60 or 70 that my nutrition started to go off the rails. I just didn’t want to eat any more. I’d gotten down 3 bars (370 calories each), a couple of tubes of shot blocks, and all my salt tabs. By the last water stop I had finished my Nuun tablets, but was fine for most of the race so didn’t worry there. However, not wanting to eat meant I wasn’t getting nearly enough in for the last half…. something that will play a major role in the run.

There were some minor inner thigh cramps around mi 80, but it went away quickly. A little more hydration and keep rolling.

it gets much less fun very fast

To cap it all off, I had 2 mechanical issues. (1) End of the second lap I slowed down to pee (trouble while pushing power) and the back wheel started rubbing the brake. After hopping off and messing with the wheel alignment for a bit - to no avail - I ended up just taking off one of the pads; no back brake anymore, but you don’t need one for this course. (2) Soon after the start of lap 3 the right shifter starts rattling. At first, not much of a concern… but then it got worse. 20mi later the shifter had fallen out of the bar and became very difficult to use - not an option for the backside where I needed to shift. Queue another stop, this time at an aid station where the mechanic took apart the shifter. I got back most of my gears - not perfect, but usable for the last 20mis.

I ended up with a 5:54 bike; not something I’m entirely happy with, but certainly not something to scoff at either.

1402 - Transition 2 and Run

The run is a simple out and back. You start right downtown, which is lined with tons of amazing folks cheering, and then head out of town into progressively thinning crowds until you make the turn ~4.5 miles out in a dquiet - though nicely shaded - part of the island. Then you turn around and come back into down. Then you turn around and do it again. Then, because you loved the view so much, you turn around and complete the loop a tthird time, when really, all you want to do is head down that bright, beckoning finisher chute.

T2 took all of 2:59 - could be better, but I’m happy. Should have spent an extra minute and gotten some heavy duty sunscreen… yup, definitely should have.

So I was off to the run. Already, the pros were well into their run, but at this point I was just looking for a solid performance. Alas, things are never as smaooth as one hopes, and certainly never in Ironman.

already in trouble here, though it doesn't look it

First 5 mi, hitting sub-8s and feeling good. In the second half of the lap start walking the aid stations, but the first lap was exactly where I wanted to be - 8min/mile. I was eating fine and though I dropped my salt tabs around mi 6, I had some spares in my special needs bag; I just had to make it back there.

However, my fingers had started to tingle. Didn’t affect anything right way, so I didn’t worry about it too much (though I did ask the aid station for advice and they said more water… a fateful comment, as I came to find out).

It was great being able to see my SF Tri peeps (Liz Abbet, Chris Segler) and Jan - great energy boosters and something to look forward to in what becomes a very repetitive run.

Shortly into the second lap I started to not feel so great. Suddenly, it was walk every aid station and then run between, rather than the every-other I was doing.

Queue the nausea. Now its a matter of how fast can I go without throwing up. 8:30/mi. 9:00/mi. Around the 12mi mark, I completely lost my appetite. 10:00/mi. Then 15:30/mi (speed walking) - as fast as I could go without hurling. But at this point, I knew that even if I walked that last damn 5 miles, I would make it under the cutoff.

best feeling in the world

Fortunately, this means my ankle didn’t take too much damage on the run. I felt some twinges around mile 16, but that was shortly followed (2mi later) by mostly walking, so there is some positive to this!!

I ended up with a 4:27 run - better than my worst marathon, but not nearly where I wanted to be (close to 3:30).

For the last two miles I decided I could go deeper and ran them. Ended up doing ~8min/mi, but knew knew knew something was wrong.

1832 - Finish!

Finally, I was across the line…and right into the medical tent.

After a cup-o-soup and sitting for over an hr, made my way out to the family, but after getting back to the hotel, some vomiting and not being able to get anything more down, it was off the the hospital.

I had hyponatremia - turns out that much clear urine is not good.

notably worse feeling than at the finish

It took a good 18hrs of various drips and bed rest, but got released on Tuesday and was feeling much better at that point (at least good enough for a greasy quesadilla!). A few days later and I was walking around without pain and just excited to come back the SF.

Retrospective

Overall, I’m happy with my experience. You can’t control everything, so there were some good learnings from the bike. Also, definitely more swim bricks to get the legs straightened out there! I’m thinking about switching to calories in the bottles, just to get enough down (was maxed at 450/hr), but something to play with.

But next year, no Ironman. A few halves and focusing on getting faster, better swim technique and bike power. Training has just been too much and this race was just so damn hard.

But we’ll see about in two years :)

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