Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Ironman 70.3 Cozumel

We traveled to Cozumel on Friday before the race. This was the travel day from HELL! We all tried to go with the flow and we held it together quite well despite all of the travel snafus. We were supposed to get in at about 4pm but did not make it to the hotel until about 9pm. We flew into Cozumel, took a shuttle to Playa del Carmen, was denied access to the 3pm ferry, although it was right there, waited for the 5pm ferry which sailed off and left us on the dock, discovered that it was the last ferry of the day with that company, had to return/purchase more tickets for a different company that made us bring our bike boxes up a flight of stairs instead of storing them at the bottom of the ferry like the luggage and then finally arrived in Cozumel and took a cab (which we had to pack our 4 bike boxes and 6 people into by ourselves, as the cab driver watched)  to our hotel.  I think our little stop over at Playa del Carmen's Senor Frogs and the shenanigans that took place there, made our travel woes a little more bearable. By the time we made it to our hotel, I was tired and in pain from dragging my bike box with one missing wheel. 

We FINALLY arrived!!

On Saturday morning, we went out for a practice swim that was absolutely amazing! The water was calm and warm with beautiful fish, turtles, dolphins and scuba divers. We were approached by a guy who screamed out, "ENGLISH!" when he heard us talking and he immediately became a part of our crew. Philly Joe was his name, he fit right in and never left our side. He was a hoot. Race preparations were confusing and time consuming, but we got it all done. 
About to hop in for a practice swim

Planning to take on the island!

Showing off our Tri tats!
Philly Joe!

We were rushing around right up until the time when Dawn and I had to make a mad dash to meet our swim wave that was on the deck waiting to jump into the ocean on race morning. We had a few minutes to spare before jumping in. There was a dolphin show and the Military band played for us before we started our Ironman 70.3 Cozumel journey...

Awesome dolphin show before the race!
These girls were PUMPED UP!

1.2 mile Swim:
My goal was to finish the swim in under an hour. The average time to complete this distance for someone in my age group is 46 minutes. I am a slow swimmer and finished in exactly 1 hour the last time I did this distance, so I wanted to beat that... and I DID!! It was a great swim minus a major issue with a buoy that fell over and a kayak guy that was trying to steer the swimmers around the buoy. There was a huge pile up and I found myself surrounded by about 6 men that were literally swimming over each other and one had his forearm on my lower back. I thought I was going DOWN. All I could do was scream PLEASE! PLEASE! Eventually, we all were able to swim around the kayak and toppled buoy to finish the swim. I felt strong the entire way and was overjoyed to finish the swim in 55 minutes!

56 mile Bike: 
My goal was to finish the bike in 3:30 or better. That meant that I had to keep my speed at 16 mph and no slower. I knew of the strong cross winds for 9 miles that would probably slow me down, so I would have to make up time for that by going faster, like 18-20mph. The last time I raced this distance, I lost about an hour due to GI issues and being too stubborn to stop at a porta potty. My goal was to race smarter this time and stop if I needed to. It appeared that the winds were tough for much longer than 9 miles. I picked up my speed after the winds died down and really enjoyed riding through the little town with the kids shaking water bottles with rocks inside. They were cheering SI SE PUEDE!  (YES YOU CAN!) at me and that helped me to keep my speed up. I think that I did a good job with eating and drinking very 15 minutes and had just calculated how fast I needed to go for the last 20 miles to make my time goal. I made a few turns and before I knew it, I was being waved down and told to get off my bike. That was the end of the bike course. I was so confused, as I thought that I had further to go. I walked into the little staging area and saw what looked like a million run bags and I was so confused that I just held my head and started screaming (translation: I had a panic attack and a mini melt down due to confusion). The next thing I knew, someone was in front of me with my run bag and lead me to the area to sit down to change into my run gear. I really don't know how I finished that bike ride so fast! I know that I sped up in the little towns with the kids cheering me on, but I am usually not that speedy. I am thinking that perhaps I was guided the wrong way or something. My official bike time was 2 hours 21 minutes. I will take it!

13.1 mile Run: 
My goal was to finish in 2:30 doing a 3:1 run:walk ratio. The first time I did this distance, I did it in 2:39. The last time I raced this distance, I ended up walking the last 8 miles due to my feet feeling blistered, so my time was off. I planned to leave it all on the course and really give it my best. The spectators were amazing! They were cheering and playing music for us and there were many aid stations with water, ice, Gatorade, Vaseline, pretzels, Pepsi, etc. I started my run 3 minutes:walk 1 minute plan, but my watch died, so I had to alter that. I saw Tania's friend Tony on the course and ran with him for a while. I also saw Francy, Philly Joe, Dawn and a few other people, but I never saw Lisa. I started to worry about Lisa. It started to get really hot and I was getting tired and was walking way more than I was running. The course was brutal and mentally challenging in that you had to do 2 loops and pass the finish line chute at the halfway point. I made the best of it and really got into the crowd support and before I knew it, I was running through the finish line chute, high 5'ing the kids and pumping my fits at the adults screaming SI SE PUEDE and VAMOS REBECCA VAMOS (our names were on our race bibs)! I felt like all of those people were out there just to support ME! The little girl who put the medal around my neck made me tear up when she told me that I was her hero. She went through the trouble of asking her friend how to say it in English, which made it even more special to me. 

I found Dawn and Philly Joe in the finisher area. We had to escort Francy to the medical tent after she crossed the finish line (her knees buckled and she looked faint) and we learned that Lisa had taken sick on the bike and was pulled from the course. It was a brutal race and I am glad that everyone turned out to be okay. I really hate that Lisa took sick, as she trained so long and hard for this race. I truly feel like we are all winners just for toeing the line. We all lived to race another day.

My overall time was 6 hours 45 minutes. I feel like I gave it my best in the swim, struggled with the wind on the bike course, yet finished way too fast despite my chip time and I struggled on the run due to fatigue. There were just a few Americans racing and I did not see another black American woman on the course, so I felt like I had to represent. The Mexicans gave me so much energy to power through the rough moments and I felt blessed to be able to race on such a beautiful island. Finishing this race was a very proud moment for me. It was only second to me finishing the swim in my first Triathlon. I am excited to say that I am an Ironman 70.3 FINISHER again! I really want to do a full Ironman one day, but I want to improve my fitness and buy a Tri bike first, so it may have to be in 2014.


Lessons learned:
  •  Ride more hills to help prepare for windy courses
  •  Go on more long runs after long rides to get used to running on tired legs
  • Treat myself to another destination race in a beautiful location

Post race:

I planned to wear my medal and finisher shirt for days on end after this race, but with Lisa getting sick and not finishing, the desire to do that had faded. I was filled with joy for finishing, but was very sad for Lisa. I'm just very happy that she did not end up in a medical tent like so many others. We all posted up by the pool and enjoyed multiple libations and relaxed. The next day was a good day of more drinking, relaxing on the beach, short swims with in-water photo shoots and chilling in hammocks and in the hot tub during a rain storm. There were some moments to remember, like the big ass bird that stole a quesadilla  right out of my hand, getting my head patted down by a man in a bear outfit and "Mr. Willy" on the 3rd floor that kept making naked appearances on his patio. We went out for a very nice traditional Mexican dinner on our final night. The restaurant was nice, the food, libations and musical entertainment were good and the 2 dogs in the restaurant were just chilling. Great times.

Me and Dawn

In route back to Cancun to catch our flight, I met a cool couple, Kyle and Andrea, from Utah. I remembered them helping me to get my bike box off the ferry when we arrived and them telling me that they would be on the course to cheer us on. They shared how they rented a scooter to ride the bike course to look for their friends and they could not find me, but they captured a really great finish line photo of me with my hands in the air. When they asked how I got into Triathlons, I really surprised myself with the words that came out of my mouth and realized how inspiring those words could be. I shared with them how I started running 5k's and when I first learned of Triathlons, I dismissed the idea, because I could not swim. But when I had to have abdominal surgery, subsequently developed double pneumonia and could not breathe well enough to climb a flight of stairs, I was motivated to run again and learn to swim. I told them that "because I could not do anything, I wanted to do everything". This is so true. My dream of becoming a triathlete came when I could not take a shower without getting winded. I did not have a bike, did not know how to swim and could not walk a block, let alone run one. My story is a true testament that if you put your mind to something and invest the time to be able to achieve it, anything is possible. That just happens to be the motto for the full Ironman, which I will tackle one day: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!
Me and the cool Tri guy, Kyle Lambson

Thanks to everyone who sent positive vibes, prayers and thoughts my way. Your support is immeasurable. Thank you to Lisa, Francy and Dawn for traveling and racing with me and to Erin Steptoe and Queen Mum for travel support. You ladies ROCK! We must do this again and invite Philly Joe.

Post dinner at Casa Mission

Tri Becca