Monday, 7 December 2009

Ironman Cozumel 2009 Race Report....

“Life can be found only in the present moment. The past is gone, the future is not yet here, and if we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

This is a little late in coming, but I didn't have internet access while in Mexico, so couldn't report. After reading the first paragraph though, you may think that a good thing...

Since the race I've thought long and hard about what to write in my race report. I decided that I don't want to write one because I really do not want to relive that race. I'm sorry to report that it was the worst race, mentally and physically, that I've ever done. I was totally disappointed with my performance. I am now dealing with the disappointment and trying hard to let it go because there is no sense in living in the past - the present moment is what counts. Likely not what anyone wants to read, ergo I will not go into the details, which would be negative and that's just not fun.

Instead I will write why I think someone interested in doing the Ironman Cozumel race should do it - because despite my day, I believe it's a wonderful race and one people should try it! Also, I'll include some notes that one may be interested in when contemplating the race.

The Swim
  • It's in salt water. Not a big deal for some, a big deal for others. I loved it.
  • The water is crystal clear. Seriously! As I swam I saw starfish, bright blue fish, a fish with yellow and black stripes, and the best part of all - I swam over a friggin STINGRAY! It was an incredible experience. This is also good for being able to see the other competitors, no chance of accidently running up someones backside.
  • Depending on the day, the current may be rough - we were very lucky as two days before the race the water was so rough they had to cancel the practice swim. During my practice swim I had troubles sighting the buoys as the waves were over my head. I was glad to be out there with my friend Donna! You really do get used to the current and the waves and just roll more etc. It's just a bit daunting when you first start out if you aren't used to it. On race day the water was fantastic - couldn't have asked for a better swim, which is evident by the times. (I PR'd by 12 minutes.)
  • It's a water start, but the water is warm and wonderful, so it's nice to be in there floating about before the gun goes off. Oh, no swim warm up either. Not wetsuits due to the warm water either.
  • Jellyfish - yes there are jellyfish there. In the practice swim I got stung five times, and during the race I got stung a few times - I lost count. That said, most of the stings were small and quick so more a bit of a shock when it first happens, but then you get used to it. Some are a bit more of a shock. Kinda like when you walk around in slippers then touch the light switch and get a ZAP! In other words a minor inconvenience and nothing to waste time worrying about.
  • I never felt like it was overly crowded in the swim and I started on the inside near the front. Perhaps it's because I was swimming in a huge ocean?!
  • I would say to do this race just for the swim. It really was an incredible experience - one that I won't soon forget.
The Bike
  • The bike course was three loops. This can be a good thing or a bad thing for some.
  • There is a 12 mile stretch (they say 9 in the guide) that is open to the beach and the Carribean Ocean. This is good because it's beautiful. This is bad because the crosswinds were INSANE. I come from a very windy place and really, these winds were some of the toughest I've experienced. Oh, and before you get to that part of the race course, you feel them as headwinds for a short stretch. Also note that it's a 12 mile stretch - that you do three times. The winds were getting worse as the day it got harder with each lap.
  • The race course is flat. Pancake flat. But not easy as one would assume - see above point.
  • You can break up the bike loop into thirds. One portion is on the main road and you have tropical trees and bushes on either side - that's all you see and the butt of the athletes ahead of you. One portion is along the ocean - again as noted above. Then there is a section that goes through town. This section is THE BEST. Why? Because all the locals are there lining the roads as you ride by. They are clapping, cheering "Animo" (which is a form of encouragement) and "Bravo"! You know how you feel crossing the finish line? Well take that and stretch it out for a few kilometers during the middle of the race. They even take your picture! I had a grin from ear to ear. They were fantastic and I seriously needed their cheering by the third lap. I was so thankful they were there. Even the local biker club was out. I could go on and on about this. I love the people of Cozumel!! Oh, and if you are a woman racing - the local women go nuts for you. They are yelling IRONMUJERE!!! and they cheer even louder as you go by. Even Granny's were on their lawn chairs hooting and hollering. Seriously fantastic.
  • The aid stations are a little short and they don't have bananas - although they say they are going to put them out there. So you have to be on the ball while yelling for what you need. They understand the word water, but always good to yell 'agua'. Almost all of the aid stations were manned by teenagers who were super helpful. I had to stop as they didn't understand my yelling water and I was at the end of the line. I told one boy what I needed and he RACED back to the other table to get me my water. All with a big smile. They really worked hard that day and did a great job.
  • The water bottles are filled with purified ice water - so it's very refreshing and safe. It gets very humid out there so you need to use the water to cool down as well as for drinking. I was thankful the water was so cold. We lucked out and it was overcast for a good portion of the day - the next day it was a like a furnace and everyone was saying how thankful they were it wasn't like that on race day. It was humid and hot enough as is.
  • The road isn't too bad, but there are sections along the water and in town that are tricky. Wave at everyone but be very mindful for potholes. Oh! And there are speedbumps through town but they flattened them out for the race. So don't worry about that when you arrive and think, uh, there is a massive speed bump here! How am I going to get over that??
The Run
  • Like the bike course, the run is three laps. Again, this could be good or bad depending.
  • The aid stations are well stocked of cold water, thankfully. Again, it's purified and in wee bottles so you know it's safe. No fear of Montazuma's revenge - well not from the water at least...
  • They ran out of cola, but got some stocked up fast.
  • There is no toilet paper in the porta potties. Not even a hanger thingy for toilet paper. A lot of them were very very nasty. Kind of par for the course in an Ironman race though. (Exactly how does one poo on the BACK of the seat?? Seriously? Did they press their bum to the very back of the booth or what?! Do not under any circumstances sit on a porta potty seat in the dark during IM....anywhere.) Another note about how incredibly wonderful the volunteers are....I came up to an aid station and a female volunteer said 'Agua?' to me. I replied, "No - bano" and pointed to the porta potty. I walked towards it and she came running after me 'Seniorita!' So I turned and she stood there holding out a little wad of toilet paper for me. I was at such a low point in my race at that point and her kindness was truly overwhelming. I will never forget her and am very grateful. I am all veklmept just writing it. If I hadn't been so disgustingly sweaty and gross I would have hugged her. Instead I thanked her with many many 'Gracias!'.
  • Bug spray - take a very small container with you, you will need it. I had a small (fits in the palm of my hand) container that I kept with me in my jersey pocket. They have spray at the aid stations and use it, which can be hard for those breathing all that in, but it's a necessity. This can not be understated actually. As soon as the sun goes down around 5:30pm it's a feeding frenzy of mosquitos. If you have bug spray you are okay though. Oh, and you have to keep reapplying it because it's so humid you sweat it off rather quickly.
  • They don't have as much food I've seen at the Canada and Coeur d'Alene races, but they do have full Powerbars and gels and lots of them.
  • The race takes you through town 3 times, so lots of cheering. You do have to make like you are about to go to the finish line twice, so that's a bit of a tease. Oh, and running through town is a bit tricky actually. The road is decorative brick so not flat and it feels a bit slippery when wet, which is the situation at every aid station.
  • Again, the spectators through here are fantastic. They are pretty much along the entire run route, but concentrated near downtown, which is to be expected.
  • The banging of pots and pans and the blowing of whistles gets to be a bit much by the third lap - although the enthusiasm is of course welcome.
  • The ambulancia was working overtime grabbing people and taking them to the med tent. Not sure if it was more or less than normal in an IM? Seemed like I kept seeing it go by. Make sure you hydrate, it may be night but it's still pretty warm and very humid.
The Finish
  • The finish line needs work. Not the actual finish line - that's very cool as you are at city hall and the little park is very nice there.
  • The catchers don't really understand the concept of being catchers. They give you your medal and also a pretty necklace made of shells, which I love, but then they just let you go. Not good for those in need of medical attention. Although you could walk straight into the med tent, which is run by the red cross, as it's a few feet from the finish arch!
  • The shirts were kind of hidden so not everyone got them, including me. I did get it the next day - I figured I went through enough pain I deserved that darn shirt! Hopefully the organizers will hand them out with the medals and such like the other races.
  • Everything else is the same with the food and massage though.
So for the inaugural event of Ironman Cozumel, I would give it 4.5 stars out of 5. Yes, there were a few gliches, but I truly don't think those glitches would have hampered even the most competitive athlete. I thought it was well organized and the volunteers were fantastic. I can not gush enough about the locals and their enthusiasm either. Seriously, I've never seen anything like it - not even in Penticton and that's saying a lot. It didn't matter that they didn't know you - they cheered and clapped as loud as my own parental unit did!

Speaking of the parental unit, I am as always, eternally grateful for their presence at the race. It can't be easy watching your only kid slowly crumble and not be able to do anything about it. They were so encouraging when they saw me getting down. Dad walking with me asking how I was doing and Mom walking with me for a while to keep my spirits up. Dad asked me if I wanted to quit and said it would be ok. I said I did, but I wouldn't. I couldn't.

They gathered my gear at the race finish, then carried my bike and stuff into the hotel and cleaned up the bit of hurl that ended up on the car seat. (I really would have cleaned that myself had I known.) Apparantly I didn't hang far enough out the door when we had to make an 'emergency' stop on the way back to the hotel. My dad even slept on the couch, which was my bed in the condo, so I could sleep in the bed with my mom just in case I needed help during the night.

For the record I vote them the best dang parental unit anyone could ever have. I also promise them that I won't put them through anymore races like this. This is my last Ironman for a very long time, if not forever. Time to move on to other adventures that perhaps don't suck the life out of me. After my swim there I thought it might be fun to try some open water long distance races.... And there is always adventure racing!

Thanks to everyone who was cheering. I wish I could have written a glowing race report for you.

Peace out my wonderful friends.


  1. It is very too bad you didn't have the day you hoped for. I'm also so glad there was no hurl involved when I was catching you. As Katie says, 'what's a little vomit between friends?' but you have to draw the line somewhere.

    And given the weather here, a bit of hurl and a tough race are a modest payment for missing some truly shitty weather here.

    Viva la Susi!

  2. Your swim WAS AWESOME!!! When I saw your time I thought holy shit gurl - go go go!! Yes, your parents are top notch - so glad they were there to infuse you with some strength. Your description of the race sounds wonderful - and yes, the people, amazing!! Well done Susi, why do I see a ten k marathon swim in your future??

  3. Oh Susi, I'm so sorry that your race wasn't what you hoped for. I guessed that you must have had an amazing swim though. From the sounds of it a lot of people had rough days out there, not that knowing that helps. I have no doubt that there are some amazing things in your future, no matter which direction it goes.

    Sorry you had to come back to such freezing temps here too!

  4. Oh, Susi, this post makes me tear up for you. It doesn't even sound like you (except for the poop part, glad you didn't lose your sense of humor about that). :)

    I am so sorry that you had such a tough race. But you are good to write such a positive report-especially your swim. I know it's been a long journey for you this year, but you kept with it and never gave up-that is the mark of true spirit and determination. It's so hard to end on a less-than-what-you -had-hoped-for note, but dropping 12 minutes off your swim is a huge testament to all the hard work you put in this season (and your old drag suit!). Sounds like the rest was out of your control. You are still one of my heroes and from now on I think we should call you Ironmujer- You are strong as Iron, woman!

    P.S. I agree with you about how awesome the spirit and enthusiasm of the Mexican culture is-it's the number one reason I love my job (well, besides, summer vacation of course!)

    Hang in there-brighter days await you!

  5. Susi! that is a glowing race report! being honest and living the experience to tell about it is awesome! be proud, as hard as it may have been you should be proud for the months of training and the fact that you had the ???? to step up to the start! smile and remember you were able to get to the start and experience something that so many people dont have the balls(pardon the expression) or the ability to do! Congrats! I cant wait to follow your next adventure! Cheers

  6. Hmmm i see you have left the door open for a possible return to ironman racing some day!!! Oh yes you did!

    Sista, you did all you could on that day and you did it well! The swim sounds sweet, except for the jelly fish thing! I am not sure about the multi-loop race aspect...sure good for the fans but some times better to not know exactly where you are!

    The one thing i know with absolute certainty is that i am not sorry you are back freezing with the rest of us!! Misery loves company!! LMAO

  7. Hey Susi, way to stick it out and finish when things were not going as planned. Been there, done that so I know how difficult it is to pull yourself through those situations. I truly admire and respect that.

    Even more, you wrote a positive post about the race. You have a great spirit and even bigger heart.

  8. It's done, it's over and I am sooooo glad you decided to let things go and write this up instead. You are AWESOME Susi. You did just what you said you would and I am really proud of you. :) :) :)

    Now it is time for much more important things.... namely SOOKIE!!!!

    I CAN'T wait until after the holidays so I can have my visit with Susi!! :) :) :)

  9. I am so sorry you didn't have the race you deserved to have. Despite sounding like a not so great race your post was still upbeat and you. Congrats on a great swim. I think concentrating on something else for a while is a great idea. Sounds like you really excel at open water swimming.

    Big hugs,

  10. Sorry things didn't go the way you planned Susi. You completed it though, we are all so proud of you for that. There are so many other adventures there's nothing wrong with taking a extended leave of absence from triathlon. But NEVER say never, ha ha. Oh and I really like the point by point style of RR, I may have to try that. Very helpful if I ever do that race. Cheers, and enjoy your time off you deserve it!

  11. This is a testament to your amazing spirit, Susi, you could have delivered a negative report but you chose to find the good.

    I too am very thankful for your parental unit. They took good care of you <3 Lots of love,


  12. Hi Susi. I'm sorry you didn't have the race you were hoping for. But man, you really are an inspirational person. Thank you for writing your race report the way you did :-) Your parents sound amazing and so so loving.

    Open water swim races are a blast, totally different feel and crowd. They involve a lot of mental strength too b/c of the nature of swimming and not being able to talk to people or look around at the spectators. I hope you try them out :-)