Ironman Cozumel 2012 Race Report

Sea ouchies, jellyfish, crazy currents, language barriers, drafting penalties, melting tires, sodium lessons, heatstroke, fights with moustache, bags of ice, and deals made with moustache. All this to finish an hour and a half faster than my last Ironman. I can’t imagine a wilder or better way to close out the season.

It didn’t take me long after finishing Ironman St. George to sign up for Cozumel (or what I like to refer to as The Coz). They seemed like the perfect complement—the first and the last North American Ironmans of the year. After the travel logistics, brutal swim, crazy hills and hot run of St. George, I was looking forward to the opposite end of the spectrum an all-inclusive vacation with a fast swim, a flat course, and tons of support. The word “easy” never came out of my mouth, but it was implied.

My race goals shifted throughout the year, depending on what I was feeling like at the time. At first I was hoping to heavily build upon my post-St. George peak fitness throughout the duration of the summer. For the first couple months it actually worked. I continued racing almost every weekend until the end of June, when I completed an amazingly fast (for me) half-iron distance race in Welland. After which I was totally burnt out.

The rest of the summer was spent training for the LOST 10k swim, which also meant that weight management wasn’t a priority at all. On the contrary I was hoping to gain a little insulation and buoyancy. I figured with the flat course in Cozumel it wouldn’t matter too much anyway. My running was improving every week, so there was no reason to keep my weight in check. I realize this may be a bit of revisionist history to justify having never said no seconds of The Girl Annie’s decadent cooking combined with the increase in frequency post-swim recovery beers. Either way, I had a very enjoyable summer.

With four hours in the water in conditions like this, you might want some extra padding too!

The biggest difference between this race and St. George was the fall addition of training with power on the bike. It improved the quality of training almost immediately. At first I trained as usual by heart rate, but once I found the power level that it correlated to, I used power as a constant instead. It took a while to get used to how it worked, then after a few tests I found my training and racing targets. Without going into too much detail (I could spend hours on this alone), I figured out that I would want to target between 155 and 162 watts in Cozumel. A big range, yes, but I would start at the bottom and see how things went during the race.

Leading up to the event

The trip to Cozumel went very well. Annie, coach Ayesha, Mike, Erica, Roland, Ali and Marvin and I were all on the same flight. It seemed like most of the people on the flight were there for the race—maybe one third of the people waiting in the check-in line had bikes. Unfortunately that meant that all these bikes were unable to fit into the plane.

Once we landed in Cozumel, there was a woman from WestJet who was going through the lineup for customs with a list. This list had all the people whose bikes didn’t make the flight. Mine was one of the ones on the list. I have to give credit to the way WestJet handled the situation though. We found out while we were waiting in line, and we all got our bikes that night. They were flown into Cancun and then shipped to our hotels. It was actually easier, since we didn’t have to lug them around to our hotel.

The days leading up to the race were spent doing as little as possible. Thursday was suntanning and snorkelling at El Cozumeleño, the resort that Annie and I were staying at. I made an effort to eat as heartily as possible, without eating too much. I also started eating as much hot sauce as possible, and as much of a variety food as I could find. I was hoping to find if there was anything that would disagree with me I would find it early on, and not the night before the race.

While swimming and snorkelling at the hotel, I felt a few sharp pains on my exposed skin. The first was on my foot, then on my thigh, then another on my shoulder. I had heard about sea lice and jellyfish—that was actually one of my bigger fears of the race. What if they really hurt? What if I had a reaction? I still don’t know what these were. Apparently real sea lice are something that only affect fish. There’s another thing called sea lice, which is actually the tentacles of jellyfish which get dislodged from the jellyfish and cause a rash in areas where bathing suits cover. That wasn’t this. I think they were probably small jellyfish, but I really don’t know. I’m going to call them “sea ouchies,” one of which caused a rash on my arm that lasted a couple days.

Are these the Sea Ouchies

Early Friday morning I met up with coach Ayesha and Mike at Chankanaab National Park, the site of the start of the race, to get a feel for the water. The conditions were perfect. The water was crystal clear—you could see the bottom of the sea, which had to have been at least twenty feet down. I almost felt acrophobic!

That afternoon was the athlete’s meeting at Hotel Cozumel. There was no shuttle from the host hotel we were staying at to the meeting, but there were a group of us that split the cab. After the meeting, we made our way down the street to the Convention Centre to actually register.

Registration went very quickly and was organized well. What wasn’t very well organized was the expo its self. I’m not even sure if the official store was in the expo, but there was a booth selling gear. I didn’t bring down enough nutrition with me, since I planned on supplementing what I brought with what I was able to find at the expo. I also needed four CO2 cartridges (two for the bike, two for my special needs bag). Out of the three bike booths in the building, I found the least busy one, and managed to find the Gu gels that I was looking for. The only problem was that they only had double caffeinated espresso and blackberry ones. Still, I took what I could get, knowing that I would be able to supplement my nutrition on the course.

There was some time to kill between my registering and the athlete’s dinner, so Annie and I went looking for WiFi to be able to contact Alex and the rest of the group. We found a decent restaurant with a great connection, and ordered an appetizer and drinks. After the drinks, the expo started to seem less likely. Not knowing if we would be able to figure out transportation back to our resort (which was located at the far north end of the island), we decided to skip it. It sounded like me missed a fun time, with Roland renting a “Mexican Ferrari” to drive the group back into the town.

The day before the race

Saturday morning I did my final bag packing and bike prep.

I rode my bike down to the bike check-in and finally got a chance to run into Alex. He relayed a small tidbit of information from his coach—the current is weaker the closer to shore you are. The fastest way through the race would be to swim close to the shore when you’re going northeast, and further from the shore when you’re going southwest. This may have helped me more than I expected.

The lineup to get into the bike check-in. And hey look, there’s Erica!

On the shuttle back from bike check-in, I met a couple from Tennessee. They certainly didn’t look like the typical Ironman type—they weren’t wafer thin, and the man had a long beard and a Grateful Dead T-shirt. It was to be her first Ironman and his third. It was inspiring to hear what brought them down to do this race. He knew he could do a fast race, but he was going to do it with her. He had done Louisville twice already, and this time he wanted to share the experience. They certainly did a good job seeding the thought of a back-to-back Tremblant/Louisville double-header next year!

Back at the hotel, dinner wasn’t to open until 6:00. Annie and I headed to the main lobby/bar to have a couple drinks before it opened. It was busier than most nights. I hadn’t clued in exactly why that was yet—I thought it was just because there were more people there because of the event. I had a small glass of beer before the doors to the buffet opened. There was a mad rush and the entire lobby cleared into the buffet and filled the room. We all needed to get our nutrition in before the race. If it would have been open at 5:00 I would have gone then. It seemed like everyone else in the hotel had the same thought.

After last year’s pre-race dinner horribly affected my race, this time I chose much wiser. Chicken, rice, nachos, All-Bran cereal and beer. For the record, I think I may have found my ideal pre-race meal. I’ll give about as much detail as I did with my last report—everything nutrition-related was awesome between dinner and the end of the race.

Immediately after dinner it was off to bed. I didn’t fall asleep right away—nor did I have a particularly deep sleep, but it was deep enough. I woke up just before the alarm. I had been adjusting my bed and wakeup times by one hour per night, and it worked perfectly to get me moving at the right time.

Race Morning

The morning of the race, Annie opted to avoid the ride down to the swim start, and instead watch from the VIP area between transition 2 and the finish line. It worked out very well for her. She had shade and drinks for the entire day, as well as a direct entry point to the finish line.

I boarded the shuttle bus, and quietly zoned out, feigning sleep for the 20-minute bus ride to the start. It would be crazy enough at the start of the race—I didn’t need to get worked up yet. Even though I had an hour before the start of the race, there was still a mad panic from the minute I got there. I had to line up for the porta potty, drop off my morning gear and special needs bags, and get my tires pumped. I suppose those were only three seemingly minor things, but they took the entire hour.

First step was to pump the tires. I borrowed the pump from the athlete whose bike was next to mine. It seemed strange that my tires only had 80 psi according to his gauge. I had pumped them to the ideal 110 psi the afternoon before. Could they have lost 30 psi overnight? I didn’t think much of it, and inflated my tires to the upper limit of their pressure range.

After the (under-stocked) rest stop, I dropped off my bags. I couldn’t find the busses to drop off my transition bag though. Luckily, Ali’s husband Marvin called out to me and offered to take them to the bus for me! It couldn’t have worked out any better, since people were already starting to walk out onto the deck for the swim start!

While walking down the deck I was told by an official that compression socks weren’t allowed during the swim, and I had to put them inside my speed suit. I thought it was a bit strange. Actually, I was a bit pissed off. Similarly to the start of Ironman St. George, I was into a focused, selfish state. Take no prisoners in the swim. So when the marshall asked me to take them off I nearly snapped at him. Nearly. It wouldn’t have been worth it, and really for all I knew it could have been in the rulebook.

The Swim

I got in the water about 150m from where I wanted to start the race and swam to the start. It took me much longer than I expected to get there. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I was actually at that point when the race started. I barely even knew where the start line was, or when the race started. I saw a bunch of people around me and I was somewhat close to the shore. There was a horn, and everybody started swimming. I had no time to relax, hang out, or stand my ground. I just swam out and the race started.

The race started off rougher than it did in St. George. I know I was swimming faster (relatively) than I was then, but I still got hit by other swimmers. My goggles nearly got smacked off, and I got a pretty rough elbow to the face. Whether those hits were intentional or not, instead of just getting pissed off, I used it to my advantage.

Whenever someone would hit me as they were passing, I would draft them. Not just a wimpy little “I hope I can hold on to his feet” draft—I planted myself right on their hip. I practiced that during a few of the Cherry Beach swims in the summer with friends. The difference was that they were friends. I was mindful to avoid hitting them. I would stroke at the same rate as they did—working as a team. I didn’t need to do that with these guys. They were my enemies! They hit me!

I found some very aggressive swimmers to draft off of. I didn’t realize how strong the current was at this point. Looking at my Garmin data post-race, it appears that I was averaging a 2:15 pace for the first 700m before the turnaround. My equivalent pace for that effort would be around 1:50 (not taking into account drafting or the buoyant salt water), so I was at least 30 seconds slower than I should have been.

After the first turn we had the current at our backs. I could feel the speed through here. I still had some good enemies to draft off of. I managed to stick to the same guy for most of this section. The current was amazing. For the next 2.1 km I was averaging a 1:20 pace. I’ve never kept those speeds up for longer than 50m at a time. I could see that the buoys had drifted southwest, because there were little trenches in the sand where the sand bag anchors for the buoys had been dragged. When I checked my watch at the halfway point, it looked like I would finish the swim in under an hour! I was hoping for 1:05 if the conditions were to be absolutely perfect, but this was just crazy! At the last turnaround I realized why—after we made the turn we had almost completely stopped moving.

The current didn’t seem too bad at first. I had a decent group to draft off of, until everyone seemed to split. I couldn’t understand why. Someone had jumped ahead, and I wanted to get back on his feet (or onto his side). I gave my biggest effort of the swim, and within a minute I had caught up to him. But when I looked up, it didn’t look like the scenery had changed. The next buoy was still a far ways off. Then the current got even stronger and I was making less and less progress.

I thought back to the tip about the shore having less of a current, so I tried to swim alone toward there. There was a man in a boat who was directing me back into the pack. Then the water started to appear blurry. I thought my goggles were fogged, but when I looked up to the shore it was crystal clear. The current was so strong that it actually distorted the view. As the my watch showed 1:00, then 1:05 without much forward progress being made, I had a sinking feeling that this might be another St. George. I had a slight panic, and then realized that I’m not alone in this. All I could do was put my head down and see what I could get done. I dipped into my reserves, and instead of the easy pace I had maintained most of the race, I pushed through to try and get this swim done.

The final 1000m of the swim averaged a 2:30 pace. The numbers weren’t all that bad, but that did not reflect the amount of work that had to go into it. It was tough. Still, I was very happy with my very respectable time of 1:12! I think my drafting technique may have pissed off some of the competitors. In the run from the swim exit to transition, I was body checked hard as I was passed by one of the guys I drafted off of. I held in my cursing—maybe I deserved it. Or there were kids around. Either way. Jerk.

I had heard that 10% of the entrants were unable to finish the swim within the 2:20 time cutoff. This is a much larger number than last year, where there were no people who missed it. That would be nearly 300 entrants! It was actually comparable to the number of DNFs in St. George, which was one of the highest ever.

Transition 2

Because of my bib number (2001), I probably had the best location for my transition bags. My T1 bag was the first bag in the middle top rack. I flew into transition and tried to find a volunteer. They seemed slightly disorganized, but I managed to find a kid to help me unzip my speed suit. I showed my back to him, and said (what I thought would be universally-understood) ziiiiiiip, while I pointed down hurriedly. He touched the zipper and gave me the thumbs up. I shook my head and again said “zip down-down-down” as I pointed down again. Again, he touched the top and gave me the thumbs up. We did this four times before he realized what I meant and finally unzipped the suit.

I tried putting on my wet compression socks, but there was no way they were going to go on over my feet. I just threw them back in the bag and ran down to my bike.

Unlike in St. George, we were allowed to keep our shoes on our bikes. This made transition much easer, since I could just run barefoot through transition and hop on the bike at the start. It went perfectly, and I was on the bike in no time. Total transition time was only 4:44, which was much better than I expected.

The Bike

The bike went very smoothly. I popped a double caffeinated gel, and started hydrating right away. I needed to rinse out some of the saltiness in my mouth from the swim as well. I had my power target range of 155-162, and I stuck to the bottom-end of it. I figured I would play it safe for the first lap, then reassess for the other two. It was dead simple on such a flat course. Set and forget. What could possibly go wrong?

Halfway through the first lap I refined my “legal” drafting technique. For the record, I do not consider myself an illegal drafter. I know it may be like how nobody in jail thinks they’re guilty, but I really believe this. I don’t subscribe to the idea that whatever you can get away with is considered legal. I have never voluntarily joined a draft pack, and I’ve done whatever has been in my power to be as honest a competitor as possible—not just to be within the rules, but within the intent. However, when you’re playing by the book, and immediately letting off the gas as soon as someone passes you, there are times where you’re not going to go anywhere at all.

When I was passing people, I most definitely did a proper “legal” draft. When I was within 10 metres of the bike in front of me, I would stick right behind them, pass within 30 seconds, then hop in front. When you’re lucky enough to be able to pass a large, spread out group, you can essentially have a draft the entire time. During these passes, I kept my power the same, but my speed would see an appreciable increase. Alternatively, if I kept my speed the same when someone passed me, I saw my wattage drop from 155 to 135. Very tempting to try to hold on to that for a few seconds…

I started off where I was completely letting off as soon as someone passed my front wheel, and got to the point where I would let them pass, hold on to them for just a few rotations of the crank, then slowly let off. Just a few rotations. Well within what I considered legal. It simply cancels out the freewheeling you had to do when they passed you. Net effect is zero, right?

While I did this behind one particularly strong rider, I heard a whistle from an official on a scooter. I thought he was pointing at me. I really didn’t know if it was meant for me though. Was that even a penalty, or just a warning? Was he even pointing at me? I thought that was legal enough. How would I find out if that was a penalty or not? I had a lot of questions, and no one to answer them, so I continued on toward the next penalty tent where I could ask.

A couple kilometres later, I heard a thwacking sound coming from my front tire. Very similar to a flat, but the tire wasn’t losing any air. I had picked up a piece of electrical tape that got stuck to my tire. Smartly, I unclipped my right foot and tried to scrape it off at 25 km/h. Instead my foot got caught in the spoke and it got spit out and away from the bike. Maybe not the brightest maneuver ever.

The official at the penalty tent was not on the ball. I was standing there patiently while he was processing the cyclist before me. While this was going on, there were volunteers who took my picture and scratched a big red mark through my number with magic marker. By the time I got to the official to ask if I had a penalty, my number was already on his list. His English wasn’t good enough to be able to figure out what I was asking, so I just took the penalty. Maybe I deserved it. I’ll take it.

While I was waiting for my four minutes, there was a guy who came into the tent asking if anyone had a spare tire. Not a tube—the whole tire. I didn’t have one. Nobody else understood what he was asking. If I had one I may have offered it—but I would soon find out that I would have regretted it.

The support coming back into town was amazing. There were so many locals on the street cheering. The ride through the city with all the turns made it so much fun. There was another cyclist on the course who told me that on the second and third laps it gets even better. I couldn’t wait.

Just before the start of the second loop, I heard Annie yell out my name. I tried to tell her about the penalty when I saw Alex standing beside her cheering too. It was great to see Alex, but I was hoping to be able to see him on the course. Before the race he wasn’t confident that he would make the swim cutoff. The conditions wouldn’t have helped that. It put a bit of a damper on the excitement of being in the town.

I slightly increased my power output for the second lap, but still kept far off from the upper limit. It worked well for the first lap, so I didn’t want to take any chances. My heart rate during the whole race was considerably higher than I had experienced in training (about 10-15 bpm). Since my power numbers and perceived exertion agreed with each other, I chose to ignore my heart rate and use those two. I attributed it to the heat at first, and later to the caffeine intake. I didn’t have enough non-caffeinated gels, since every time I grabbed (what I had hoped to be a non-caffeinated) gel from the aid stations, they had double caffeine. So much for getting nutrition from the course. Note to future self: don’t rely on what’s available on the course for nutrition.

Around the back half of the island I felt a thump-thump-thump from the back tire. At first I figured I must have picked up another piece of tape, only this time there was more of a feel than a sound. I looked back and the tire looked slightly out of round. No big deal I thought. I just wanted to make sure before I passed the bike special needs area. I had a spare tube and a couple CO2 cartridges, so if I needed anything there, maybe I would grab them.

When I stopped and had a look at the tire, I noticed it was actually beginning to split and separate at the seam. It was like I had too much air in the tire. But how could that be? I started riding again when I realized what I did that morning. I added 30 pounds of pressure using someone else’s pressure gauge. Not only that, but I did it early in the morning when the temperatures were cool. I was riding on some very hot, fairly rough pavement. When we were racing cars, we would see tire pressures jump up to 25% between the time we pumped them up and when we were on the track for a few laps.

I immediately pulled over again and let out a bit of pressure from the tire. After that, every twenty minutes or so I would squirt water on the tire to try and keep the temperatures down. Not sure if it helped, but it managed to hold out for the rest of the race.

Coming back through town I tried to relay to Annie that I may end up having to get a new tire somehow, but she was cheering so loudly, and there really wasn’t anything that could be done anyway.

The thump-thump-thump continued to get worse throughout the third lap. I was getting stressed out, and I started to get a bit of a headache. I didn’t know why. I’ve had them before from dehydration, but I was going through a bottle of water at every aid station. I was drinking more than I usually did, and I was still stopping to pee twice a lap. I figured maybe that was the problem, so I took a few salt tablets which coach Ayesha recommended I keep in case of an emergency. Did you drink too much water? Take some salt.

I’ve never used salt pills before, and before this point I’ve never been convinced that it’s been a problem for me. I’ve taken nutrition containing _some_ sodium, but I’ve always believed that if you hydrate properly you’ll never need to take pills. The difference was this time I was not hydrating normally, and I had no idea what to do about this headache.

At the same time my power dropped off considering the effort required. It got really hard to continue at the same wattage, so I listened to my body and backed off. My heart rate and my body were telling me that I should ignore the power numbers. Two against one again. I didn’t know if I was pushing too hard. Maybe I had too much caffeine (the aid stations had completely run out of gels by this point). If my issue was salt or hydration, maybe that would cause this too. I started cooling myself off by pouring water on my head. I didn’t know what helped me recover, but twenty minutes later I was feeling mostly back to normal.

Transition 2

It was a great relief to make it back to T2. The total bike time was 6:02. I’m slightly annoyed that I was unable to get under 6:00, which would have given me a 30 km/h average, but considering how I got there I’m still pleased. Annie caught me coming in and again coming out of the T2 tent. Pretty surprising, considering I was in and out in only 1:41.

The Run (well, sort of run)

The start of the run did not feel very good. I knew it was going to be a long afternoon, but I wasn’t expecting it to be that bad. I wanted to be conservative through the run too. I knew that if I would be able to run eight minutes at a 6:00 pace then walk two at 8:00, I would be in great shape to finish within my 12:00 target. Maybe. As long as I could keep things up and maybe skip a couple walk cycles.

I started the run by skipping the first walk cycle. The support walking out of the city was amazing. I wouldn’t have been able to walk if I wanted to. It was a bit of a mixed feeling having all the people cheering when I really didn’t feel very great at all. This was not like last time when I couldn’t stop smiling. It was an effort just to keep moving.

I didn’t see too many friends on the first loop. Mike was finishing up his first as I was starting. I think I saw Ayesha too, but things really started to get a little blurry.

There were mini missions that I would play in my head during the run to try and keep myself entertained. First was dealing with the math involved in reaching my sub-twelve hour goal. Another one was was to see how long I could hold off Erica from passing me. In St. George I had the same mini mission, and we had a great (walking) battle during the marathon. While I was walking before the finish of the first loop I saw a flash of pink pass me—I knew it was her. It wasn’t over yet though. I was going to skip the next walk cycle on the way in to town, and I was going to skip it again on the way out.

It seemed like the whole town was there to cheer us through the turnaround. There were so many people in the middle of the street giving high fives—there was only a narrow path for people to run through in single file. It was amazing to have this support with this group of latin drummers playing music at the perfect tempo for running. It was as much a dance as a run at this point. Annie was there again to cheer, where she asked me how I was doing. The only response I had was “I feel like death.” Apparently the drums didn’t help that much.

Coming out of town, I saw another flash of pink as Erica passed me again (or not—really at this point things weren’t feeling normal anymore). By the first aid station coming out of town things were starting to get fuzzier. I felt like I was drunk. I started talking to myself, which isn’t exactly unheard of for me during a long ride. Only this time I was talking back. I didn’t know what was going on. Volunteers were offering peanuts at the aid station, and despite what may do to my stomach I took them. That tasted like the best food I ever had.

Still I was unable to run in a straight line. I didn’t realize at the time, but I also had stopped sweating. I was still drinking water, but I was having problems coordinating the water to actually go in my mouth! I started walking when my walk timer went off, then I had the good sense to keep walking. The solo conversation continued. Part of me was arguing that the reason I was feeling so disoriented was because I had too much caffeine. My blood pressure was too high, and I needed some tequila to bring it back down. The other part was arguing that it was because I was drinking too much water, and I needed more salt to counteract it. Obviously they didn’t see the connection between salt and tequila yet!

The debate started to get heated as I saw Erica run by in the opposite direction. I wanted to cheer her on, but at this point all I was capable of doing was making an exaggerated happy face with two thumbs up. Eventually both sides of George agreed that the real culprit was my Movember moustache. I was still grabbing everything I was offered at the aid stations, so while this argument was going on I somehow ended up with a bag of ice. I put this bag of ice on my head, then I moved it to my chest. I put it under my armpits, I put it in my shorts. From there it went back to my head again, and over and over until the whole bag melted.

With about five k left in the second lap I was mostly recovered. I cheered Ali as she passed me on her final lap, looking amazingly fresh. She would go on to secure a Kona slot. At this point I made a deal with moustache that if he brought us back into town running then I won’t shave it. It worked. I started sweating again, and I ran the last two kilometres into town to the cheering and the drums.

This time I stopped to talk to Annie. I told her about how moustache saved the day. I knew she thought I was a little bit crazy, but then I confirmed it by talking about everything happened, and how I finally realized I had heatstroke. But despite all the setbacks, the real reason I made it was because of moustache. Moustache brought me back to her, so he’s going to live another day.

The third loop was about as miserable as you could expect. I spent most of the time walking, sometimes talking to people, sometimes just taking the time to reflect. I got to cheer Melanie from LOST as she was walking in the opposite direction. I saw the couple from Tennessee walking together. The woman hadn’t been able to make the swim cutoff, but she was able to rejoin the run. I later found out that she walked over 55k between the swim start, transition, our hotel and the marathon. I met a guy who was going to propose to his girlfriend at the finish. He was running with the ring, and he was getting excited as he was starting to close into the finish. He kept me running as long as I could, but eventually I had to let him go and finish on my own.

After a couple false starts, I finally managed to run it in to the finish. The drums were still going, but the crowds had thinned out. I was going to make it, but nowhere near my twelve hour target. Not even close to my second or third 12:15 or 12:30 goals. But I was still going to come in before the goal I had set at the start of the third lap—thirteen hours.

When I turned the final corner into the finish chute, I was able to run faster and better than I had at any other point in the race. I saw 12:57 up on the clock, and gave an unintentional fist pump when I knew I would make my goal. It was a great finish, and I was super excited. It wasn’t really a letdown that I wasn’t as excited at the finish as I was in St. George. But I wasn’t.

More than anything, I was relieved that the marathon was over. I got my medal, my pizza, my picture, and sat on the ground with Annie for a half an hour before I wanted to do anything. I wasn’t looking forward to the walk out of town for a cab, but there was one about 100m out from the finish offering rides. It was all we needed. It got me back to the hotel—and of course the beer—quicker.

Post-race

The last couple days of the trip were nice to unwind and catch up. Annie and I were able to get in a nice recovery swim together, she had a run, and I had a very helpful recovery spin. I was finally able to descend steps again. I was too lazy to make the awards non-banquet, where Ali got her Kona slot, but we were able to make the after non-party at Señor Frog’s. There didn’t seem to be too many athletes showing up there—most must have just stayed at their resort.

Descending was very difficult

On the last day Annie and I rented a car and met up with Alex and his wife. We drove the bike course, did a tequila tour, ate at a restaurant on the far side of the island, and saw some ruins. It was exactly what we needed. Time to chill out and recover. Of course not everyone got the same memo—we ran into Ali at the ruins. She, Marvin and her friends had ridden their bikes out along the most pothole-filled road to get there. They endured an unexpected storm, and ended up covering around 60 km over the day!

That night the group of us from Toronto had a great dinner in town—the perfect way to close off a great week away. I admit that I may have had been partially responsible for a few hurting faces the next morning in the airport. Tequila is the one Spanish word that seems to roll off my tongue quite easily.

There were a few people upset when we landed back in Toronto when their bikes didn’t make the trip. Mine was one of them again. While I was at the counter there was a man complaining about how the past five years he has taken the same flight on the same week, and they’ve left his bike every time. Those are pretty bad odds, but I’m not sure how they could get around it. I had to wait a couple days to get my bike, but I still got it back in one piece.

Not sure how to close this off. It was an amazing trip and a great race. I feel very lucky to have had such great people to share it with. That’s all, the end.