Ironman is quite a journey. The more of them I do, the more I respect just how much of a challenge that the distance is. I am amazed, envious and in awe of those who do them over and over and do them FAST time and time again.
I chose Ironman Cabo for these 5 reasons:
1. It’s Cabo!
2. Wetsuit swim in the Sea of Cortez (more calm than the ocean)
3. Rolling bike course on pristine pavement
4. Flat run course
5. Average temp this time of year ~72 degrees
Keep those in mind.
Yesterday started calm and collected. I had a great dinner, was in bed early and slept ok the night before. When you are physically prepared, there is only those situations that are out of your control to stress about and I think after racing as much as I have for the last 5 years, I’ve quit stressing about the uncontrollable. I arrived in plenty of time, pumped tires, water bottles, sunscreen, and ready to go. Side note: if you ever want to make friends on the morning of an Ironman in a remote location, bring a bike pump into transition with you. I felt very loved. 🙂
Swim: 1:18 or so.
By the time I made it down to the water, there was about 1 min till the gun went off which was fine because I’d prefer less time to think about the mayhem that will shortly ensue. I was unsure where to line up as I always am. I’m not fast enough to suituate on the front line, however lining up anywhere past the first 2/3 rows of people is always tricky. It was a mass beach start with 2,000 other athletes. Use your imagination if you’ve never done one of these. C. H. A. O. S. I got up as far as I could and hoped for the best.
The gun went off and we were rolling. The waves were 3x’s as big as they were during all the practice swims getting into the water. The undertow was in full effect pulling you back towards shore. I felt my chip float away no less than 30 seconds after I dove in. I think the first 500 to the turn buoy took me (and most others) no less than 15 min. It was a boxing match, as it always is. I stayed amazingly calm throughout said boxing match. My only frustration came with my goggles which kept filling up with water. Salt water in the eyeball stings! I am certain the sunscreen I slathered on had something to do with that. Note to self, sunscreen on face in T1, not before the race. I got that situation remedied about 500/600 meters in and all was ok thereafter.
The next 1500 meters to the next turn buoy continued to be eventful. Yes. The opposite of uneventful, which would be more ideal during a swim. 🙂 I’d like to notify the men in this world that physically trying to swim over another human is nearly impossible, dangerous, and extremely unnecessary in a 9/10/11/12…hour day ahead! Please go around me. Or hey, since we’re swimming the same pace, maybe we could work together and draft a little? Men. I almost had to punch one over the head, but I refrained…barely.
The water was extremely choppy and I was thankful to have a longer, slower stroke cadence for once because the rhythm of my stroke seemed to coincide with the up and down of the waves. I felt very calm and relaxed despite all going on. I knew I wasn’t breaking any speed records but exiting the water feeling good was my goal. After the 2nd turn there was a nice little current to bring us 300 meters to the last turn buoy for the final 1500 meters in. This was very choppy and the undertow was pulling hard. There were people stopping, breast stroking, even back stroking all around me. I continued to swim the best I could and even drafted a bit till the finish. I saw 1:18 when I stood up which is oddly enough the same time as my first Ironman in much calmer, more friendly conditions. There’s no comparing swim courses, even at the same race because you never know exactly how far the course is so I’m going to say that yesterday’s 1:18 was an improvement given the conditions. And leave it at that.
Reality: Sea of Cortez = not really more calm than the ocean.
T1 – ~4 min.
Not much to report here. The run to the changing tent was long and sandy. Running in sand is hard. Running in sand post kick-your-ass swim is more hard. That is all I remember. 🙂
Bike – 5:48 – 178 NP / 148 HR / 95 rpms
The say I felt anything but awesome during the ride would be a lie. I felt very strong the whole time, stuck to my nutrition plan to a tee, nailed my power plan of 175-180 watts and never going above ~250 on the climbs.
That said, this course was an absolute bitch. I certainly fair better on hillier courses and this one did not disappoint. The course was a two loop which included one advertised climb and the rest rolling. To say this was rolling is a lie. I might need to discuss the definition of rolling with the course descriptors. 🙂 It was downright hilly. And hot. And incredibly windy. I had ridden some of the course everyday leading up to the race and there was minimal wind. Ironman power for those rides was getting me about 22 mph. I noticed the day before the race later in the afternoon while sitting at the pool the wind was kicking up. I hoped it was just for that day.
Coming up off the water and out of transition was about a mile long climb that included some cobblestones. The first turn left onto the highway (the only road in Cabo really) was dead into the wind. The stretch was about 10 miles long and was difficult to say the least. I averaged about 13 miles an hour at slightly above my goal watts during this stretch. Between the wind and the climbs, all I could think was how long a day this would be if my speed was like 15 mph. Thankfully as we turned back for the next 15 or so miles we had a decent tailwind. With no shortage of climbs.
The pavement was generally very nice. However, there were several patches along the course with “reflectors” bunched up to make cars slow down for turns ahead or coming into town. They are placed in an alternating pattern making wedging your bike tires between then very interesting. One section of said reflectors came during one of the faster descents with a tailwind making it a booby trap for water bottles, cages, and unfortunately, even a few people. These were scattered along the road that we rode up and down twice meaning we rode over 4 times. They were also in several places. I opted for caution while crossing vs dukes of hazard style like many chose. I think I made the right choice. 🙂
The “best” part of the course was the tollroad that leads to the airport. This was where the “one climb” was. And yes, it was a climb. It was about 2 miles long but not super steep for the most part. Going so slow for 15 or so minutes on black pavement with no shade, no clouds and 80+ degrees made for quite a hot stretch of the race. It was stifling. I was patient on the climb sticking to about 200 watts and being sure to pour water on myself and my head to keep cool. After cresting the top of the hill, there was a nice downhill followed by several other larger rollers. On the first time down the decent, the gusts of wind were so strong from the side that air must have seeped into my disc cover and literally ripped in half! I pulled over and tore the rest of it off (while getting a huge gushing bloody gash in my finger) and was on the road shortly after. I was curious how riding with one half of my wheel covered and the other opened would be. It didn’t feel any different riding, though my second loop was a bit slower than the first, which may be part due to stronger winds. Something I’ll never know.
Other than being tossed by a massive gust of wind to the right while passing a guy going downhill and rubbing wheels nearly causing him to wreck, the remainder of the ride was the same. Hot, windy and hilly. My 5:48 bike split was one of the top female splits! I think I passed almost 500 people on the course which always feels good. But there’s still a long race ahead, so not as good as it could. 🙂 I stood up a bunch on the ride and my legs felt awesome every time. I was ready to run!
Reality: Rolling bike course on pristine pavement = hilly as hell with some much less than stellar pavement in parts and massive wind. Doh.
Run. 5:something Goal: finish
Well feeling ready to run didn’t last long. I expected my foot to hurt and it didn’t let me down. I expected my legs to be sore and stiff for the first few miles, but my glutes were not firing. At all. I’ve ridden hundreds of miles training on this bike, in aero position at these exact watts so I’m not sure why my glutes failed me, but they sure did. As I continued to run, given how slow the pace was, my foot revolted. The sole of my foot began to hurt tremendously from trying to avoid pressure on my heal. I was getting hot spots all over my foot. Pain in my ankle ensued from trying to land on weird parts of my foot. My left hip started hurting from all the crap going on in the right foot.
By 4 miles in I changed my mindset to finishing. I knew it wouldn’t be fast or the race that I trained so hard for but it would be the best race for me on this day. And that is what Ironman is all about. The run was also scorching hot. It reminded me of Louisville with pretty much no shade. I stared feeling dizzy about 15 miles in and crammed whatever I could down my throat to avoid it. I have never done well in the heat but I didn’t better today than I ever have. And it only took 41 endurolytes!
Reality: Flat run course = a bridge than you go up and over 3 times, several long gradual hills and zero shade. And like 85 degrees.
So I crossed the line in 12:33 cause I know everyone is wondering how bad it really was 🙂 It goes down as my slowest Ironman by over an hour and 20 min, but this one goes down as one of my proudest. Setting out for 26 miles in pain and putting one foot in front of the next for over 5 hours is nothing short of mentally challenging. There was no way I wasn’t crossing the finish line yesterday after what I’ve put myself through with this foot for the last 5 months. I remained relentlessly positive the whole time and reminded myself that the finish was all that mattered. Yes I would have loved to earn by sub 11 hour race, my slot at Kona and all the bells and whistles with racing the race I’m capable of, but there will be another day for that (maybe). Accepting the good and bad is part of this sport, any sport, and I’ve made huge gains in that department.
Reality: I never expected this race course to be “easy” cause that word doesn’t belong in the same sentence as Ironman, but I did expect it to be a little friendlier. That also comes with doing an inaugural event, I suppose.
I’ll end with what I always end with. Huge thank you’s to everyone who followed (or tried to follow), supported, cheered and reached out to me. Leigh-Ann you are awesome. My cousin and Ashley are awesome. My mom and dad are awesome. And my sister, there are no words. I am so lucky.