I'm back from a week in Cozumel where three of my closest friends completed their first Ironman race! Here are some highlights:
The travel day ended up being long and a little more stressful than it probably should have been. The travel agent that my friend used to book our trips had incorrectly told us that the airline did not charge to ship a bike as long as it was your second piece of luggage and the case was within the size restriction. Turns out that wasn't the case. There was a bike fee, an oversize fee (if the case was oversized), and an overweight fee if the bikes were more than 50 pounds. Lesson learned.
Our flight ended up having 48 athletes travelling with 48 bikes and only 30 fit on the plane. The pilot announced that the bikes that didn't get on would be on a later flight and delivered to the respective hotels. This of course caused alot of buzz on the flight and people were anxious to get to Cozumel to see if their bikes made it on.
Unfortunately all three bikes we travelled with were left behind and that resulted in an hour and a half delay once we hit Mexico to allow missing baggage reports to be completed. We made the best of it though ordering Margaritas and Coronas from the conveniently placed Jimmy Buffett Margaritaville bar that was at the hotel.
Confusion ensued the following day when the airline emailed us to advise that they had decided to NOT deliver the bikes to the different hotels but to go to one hotel and have the athletes pick them up. As we were trying to make arrangements to get to the other hotel the representative at our hotel called the airline and confirmed that they would in fact be bringing them to the different hotels. Much confusion, but the bikes finally arrived at the hotel at about 9:00 Thursday night.
We went into downtown Cozumel to register and attend the expo. I was really disappointed with this expo! There were about three vendors and worse, no CO2 cartridges to be found. The representative at the race meeting made some comment about equipment being the athlete's responsibility (duh!) but they knew that almost every racer would be travelling in (mostly by plane) and could not bring CO2 cartridges on the plane. They only brought 2,000 to sell to about 2,500 athletes. There was also no place to rent wheels. Dawn's front wheel was out of true and none of the mechanics were equipped to fix it. Unlike Clearwater, where wheels for rent were everywhere there was nothing to be had in Cozumel. She ended up riding with her front brake open and it all worked out.
Because we were at one of the host hotels there were buses in the morning that shuttled us to the race sight. The swim start was at Chakanaab park. The pros went off 15 minutes in advance of the age groupers which I thought was a little strange. I thought mass starts at the Ironman races applied to everyone. The racers had to walk out onto the pier that surrounded the area where the dolphins performed and jump into the ocean. I was disappointed that we were so far away but it was still something to see when the cannon fired and the washing maching started. This also cued the dolphins to perform a little routine for us.
My friends all had awesome swim times coming in almost 30 minutes before they expected to. Dave was in at 1:15, Nicole came in at 1:20 and Dawn was in at 1:22. It was so exciting to see them go by.
Rather than head right downtown we decided to head back to the resort because downtown would be crazy and the bike course went right by out resort. This ended up being a great decision as there were only a handful of spectators there and this allowed us to get some great pictures and they were able to see we were there. Once three of them went by we went in to grab some lunch and come out to see them go by for the last time. Dave was killing the bike course and had an awesome time going. We were concerned once Dawn went by because she said that there was a problem with her bike. She was hearing a clicking sound and couldn't figure out what was wrong. It turns out that he equipment bag had come loose the strap was clicking on the wheel. She was a little sheepish when she explained this to us after since it really made us worry. Her thinking there was a problem with her bike ended up being a great thing since she decided to hammer it to try to get as close to T2 as she could in case it broke down. She ended up with a negative split and an awesome bike time. Nicole looked great and relaxed and like she was out for Sunday spin. What really surprised me about the bike leg was the drafting. Entire pelatons of bikes were going by with up to 12 racers all in a group. The pros were actually in a paceline the one time they went by. I saw only one official out on the course the whole time we were out there.
After watching Nicole go by for the last time we took a taxi downtown to watch the run. We got there in time to see Dave head out onto his second loop. He looked awesome and had a great pace. Dawn (who's a really strong runner) came by and told us that she wasn't really enjoying herself that day. Nicole had a strong first lap but everyone suffered eventually.
Dawn and Dave ran it in together at around 11:45 and Nicole came in at 13:33. Dawn was 11th in her age group (rockstar for her first Ironman in my opinion)! My biggest disappointment is that you could not anywhere near the finish line and so we had to watch our friends come in on the Jumbotron.
I came to this race partly to decide whether Cozumel would be where I would do my first Ironman race. I've decided against it for a couple of reasons. The sun and heat are just crazy and the course is cruel. Three loops on the bike is not necessarily terrible but three loops on the run where the turn around is about 100 metres from the finish is just wrong!
Our last two days in Cozumel were spent relaxing on the beach enjoying drinks and talking about the race. We booked a catamaran to take all 12 of us on a snorkeling excursion where we went to three different reefs and saw some amazing coral, a sea turtle, a stingray, and other amazing sea creatures. I'd never snorkeled before and loved how peaceful it was in that water.
I've returned home with a nasty cold but excited to start my 70.3 journey. My training plan started yesterday and I'm like a little kid at Christmas looking at what's on training peaks and excited to get to it.
Dave, Dawn, and Nicole you are Ironmen!