The last time I raced Ironman Cozumel (2010), things did not end well. I ate or drank something that (I guess) I shouldn't have and ended up so sick I could not finish the marathon. Not pretty.
Fast forward to 2013 and I had a new set of challenges.
A few weeks prior to racing Cozumel, I raced Ironman Florida. It was going to be a quick 29-day turnaround between Ironman events, which was the quickest turnaround I have ever done. I wasn't sure what to expect and a couple weeks after the first event I wasn't so sure about my decision. But in the third week post-FL I started to feel better and my training improved considerably. On Monday before the race I even told my coach that I honestly felt better than I had felt going into Florida. I thought I might have just pulled off the right balance of training and rest between the two events.
Then, that night came. Apparently I jinxed the crap out of myself as I spent the entire night coughing non-stop.
Nevertheless, I knew I still had almost a week to improve so I still had some faith.
Well,I didn't improve much at all by the time I had to fly out on Thursday, but I still hoped to feel better. My first morning in Mexico (Friday), I felt even worse than I felt all week. And it was at this point that I honestly felt there was no way I was going to make the start line. When I made the walk from the hotel to the ferry (about a mile), I had to sit down and rest as I felt I was on the verge of passing out.
I woke up the day before the race and I was still feeling incredibly lousy. Brooke and I sat around our hotel room as I debated whether it was even worth it to go check in my bike. My primary concern was how I was going to get my bike out of T1 in the morning instead of actually thinking about the race the next day.
Finally around noon, I made the decision to spin over (massive tailwind from the hotel to T1) which was the only ride I had done all week.
I went to bed that night fully expecting to be up all night with a cold, but suddenly my cough seemed to stop and by 4:00 a.m. I seemed to actually have most of the cold out of my system. I felt very tired and wiped out, but I no longer felt sick. Kind of amazing really. At the very least, I was now going to do the swim and ride one loop (of three) of the bike and see how I felt.
All week long Cozumel had been experiencing crazy winds and storms, making the ocean too rough to swim in and the currents very strong. As a result they changed the swim from 3.8 to 3.1K and made it down current. Cozumel has my favorite kind of swim conditions: clear, salt water and non-wetsuit. However, after not swimming all week I wasn't too sure how it would go.
After the gun went off I figured I would be dropped quickly, but I just kept trucking along and eventually I realized I had just made the tail end of the front group (aside from two dudes off the front). I wouldn't say the swim was easy, but it did feel manageable, but as the end of it neared (only 34 minutes with this course), I could tell I was pretty gassed from the effort. I stood up to run to transition and I felt WORKED.
I got on the bike and while there was about to be a huge group forming, I decided the best decision would be to do the bike well within myself if I wanted a chance to finish the race. The guys disappeared in a heart beat and aside from a couple other pros (including Weiss) passing me, I spent most the ride riding along by myself. The east side of the island was very windy and that section required me to ride with more focus, but the rest of the way I tried to keep things very moderate.
I came off the bike way, way down. Maybe 20 minutes off the lead? It's hard to know because I lost my timing chip in the swim and I didn't use a Garmin or computer on the bike. However, I started the run in the 11th so I thought maybe I could sneak my way into one of the last money spots (paid to 8th) if I just kept plugging away.
I moved into 9th place fairly early into the first loop (of 3) of the run (maybe within 4 miles), but from there I had quite a distance to 8th. As I came back into town Brooke told me I was 5 minutes out of 8th which seemed really, really (really) far. I kept things ticking over to the halfway point, but then I really started to tire out and I figured my day was probably over.
But as I made my way back into town at the end of the second loop, the gap to 8th had gone down to 45 seconds and at the mile 18 marker I moved into 8th. I got a huge second wind as I finally felt like I had something to run for again. Just finishing this race was going to be a huge victory for me, but finishing it with some money in my pocket was a much, much bigger motivator at that point.
I made it to the turnaround and as I moved back into town and into the final mile I could see 7th place and with less than half a mile I caught and passed him. I was super excited to get that final pass and as I came into the finish chute I was given more good news as I was apparently in 6th place, and not 7th, as I unknowingly passed someone else in that final lap.
Given the fact that 5th place was another 7 minutes ahead of me, I can safely say that I got everything out of my body that was possible that day. While there have been much faster days in my past, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing I did everything I could from start to finish on Sunday.
That's it for this season. A lot of new experiences came out of 2013 and I look forward to getting back into action next year.
The first stop in 2014 will be at the Texas Triathlon Clinic on January 24-26 in Plano, Texas. Please come join me if you can.