Yep, here we are again after a race. I had one pretty simple target going into this race, or at least on paper or when telling someone who asked it always seems to be simple. Simply put, I went in to Cozumel to have a race that would let me close out 2011 on a positive note. You can say that I was setting myself up for a sub-par performance or doubting or whatever by toeing the line with that in mind, but I think that every triathlete needs to set targets that will help them out in the next race. I needed to be able to walk away feeling ‘OK’ about my race, and if that meant walking away with a win or a tenth, then that’s what it would be. I needed to feel that way because I think that this season has been one of ups and downs, mostly downs. I could do the main idea timeline of how the season has gone, but invariably it would be read by some in cyberspace as a series of excuses. Because we all know how easy it is to sit back and armchair a race from cyberspace…especially since we, as professionals, are scrutinized because at times our lives are somewhat out in the open with the virtual world that we live in.
8:45:43. 7th Place. Mission accopmplished. Not a PR in terms of times. Not a PR in terms of placings, as I was 5th at IMUK in 2010. But, this field was a pretty solid and very international field. So, in those terms it was good. Definitely a good day to close out 2011. That’s the short version, and if you don’t want to read this novela, you can just stop here.
I decided to do IM Cozumel after I came down with something before Rev3 Cedar Point that persisted for 3 weeks. My start and subsequent DNF at Rev3 Cedar Point had me wanting to get in at least 1 Irondistance race in 2011. I still couldn’t believe that Cozumel would be my first full distance race after completing 5 of them in 2010!! That was a little over the top. So, with the race being around the Thanksgiving Holiday in the US and flight being through the roof expensive from Dallas…I booked my flight on a budget airline that I’d never heard of leaving Dallas on Thanksgiving day flying to Cancun. I was missing Thanksgiving with my family, but more importantly, I was missing Thank-for-giving Amy Day…aka Amy’s B-day. My discount airline did exist and was full of a bunch of Americans basically screaming about “going to Cancun to drink for 4 days” and my non-existent plane worries were put to rest. Amy used Ken Glah’s Endurance Sports Travel for IMBrazil, and wanting the same stress free experience I did the same for Cozumel. That and the budget flight made my trip reasonable for the week that I would be there. So, I was being a total American headed to Cancun/Cozumel and staying at an all-inclusive resort that I didn’t have to leave the whole time I was there outside of the race…but I did at least go to downtown Cozumel. I think that I had less than $100 US out of pocket expenses while there! Bonus!
The most consistent sport of the three for me this year has been the swimming. Maybe because I have been a swimmer for a while. Never a great one, but a good enough one. This swim was no exception. The swim in Cozumel has a ‘current’ of sorts in that there is a general flow of the water. In the past years, it has been my understanding that the current is generally about favorable for 1-200 or so meters more than it is unfavorable. And, if you make a couple of wiser choices during the more unfavorable legs of the swim, you can mitigate the effects of swimming against the current. That was my plan at the start and again at the finish. At the start it worked as I was able to arrive at the first buoy comfortably at the front of the swim without having any real contact or without really having to hit the gas. The stretch with the current turned out to be a change of pace from most swims. It was relatively easy to sit in the pack, and I drifted to the back of our group and stayed there until the return trip. We had one swimmer out front, but as we rounded the last turn and headed home, I again chose a different line that was about 10-20 meters away from the rest of the front pack. This time, by the time we reached the last buoy and things came together I found myself leading our small group without really increasing my effort much at all. Turns out we were keeping the buoys to our left, but neither the single swimmer out front nor our group realized that we were to go around with the last buoy on our right before going to shore. The lead swimmer had to come back and round the buoy while we might a slight course change to hit it. A couple of guys got the jump on me as we were redirected by a jet ski. Out of the water 3rd in a fast sub-46 minute swim. Yep, there’s a current.
On the bike I knew that I would have to be conservative to hit my main goal which was to have a good race. I had a fueling plan that I stuck to. As hard as it was to ‘not’ race when I hit the bike, I played it safe. I had a feeling that this race was going to be Kona-like in the sense that if you went to hard on the bike you would, without a doubt, pay for it on the run. To fast forward a bit, this was indeed the case. The bike was three loops, and there were really only about 8-10 miles of each loop that were truly favorable. And for everyone who says a flat course is easy, I say that it is the sameness of sitting in one position for 112 miles that can kill you…and the sameness of having to be on the gas for 112 miles with no breaks. I was passed, passed a few, and ended up riding not quite what I wanted to ride, but to have a plan on paper is one thing. What happens on race day can be another thing all together. Lap #1 was down and in good time. Lap #2 was almost down, but when coming through town Ian Mickelson, with whom I had been playing cat and mouse, was lying the street surrounded by people. He and Chris “BigSexy” Mcdonald had both crashed on the same turn though they were separate incidents. As I started lap #3, my earlier ambitious riding began to catch up to me. Again, you can’t fake fitness and with only a couple of true IM prep rides in my build up, I could feel it in my legs. I could also feel it in my stomach, and it told me that I needed to ease up a bit so that things would continue to move in the right direction and not decide to reverse themselves. Patrick Evoe, from Austin caught me about the time that we hit the last tailwind stretch. Normally I would try to back half the ride, but given my situation, I felt that ‘cruising’ in was the right decision. Off the bike and onto the run in somewhere around 10th place or so.
The run, as always, is the challenge. Mainly because it is after you have already swam 2.4 miles and ridden 112 miles. My run mileage, with the exception of post-70.3 Miami has simply not been there. I started the run with the goal of keeping all miles on the South side of 7 minutes each. It would be a stretch, but would keep my run under 3:05, and history shows that in Cozumel that is an ‘OK’ run. I was on pace for more than ½ the run. I knew about ½ way into the run that the last 8-10 miles were going to be a challenge. My quads were pretty well shot by mile 18. This was something that I have not really experienced in an Ironman before. My last IM was over 1 year ago, and I knew that I would have to force the last lap of the run and limit the losses. I was holding onto a pretty solid 5th at this time. Those in front of me that had over-rode the bike did pay, and many of them paid dearly. I soldiered on as I like to say. The stinker of the race was in the last 7k…apologies to my American readers…but the course was billed as 3x14k. I was passed once right after the turn home by a Russian who seemed to shamelessly take the advantage of sitting behind whoever he could for 112 miles of cycling…but hey that’s racing. From 5th to 6th. Top-5 always sounds good. The last pass came with probably less than 2 miles to go and that one hurt the most as it was within 12 minutes of finishing. But, it was a decisive pass, and I just could not go with him.
I would finish 7th…like at 70.3 European Champs. Congrats to fellow Americans Michael Lovato, Patrick Evoe, and Zach Ruble who finished 1st, 2nd, and 4th to put 3 Americans in the top-5 and at least one more with me in the top-10.
So, that’s a virtual wrap on 2011. In hindsight 2010 was a bit of a lackluster year. Too much IM racing, cramming 5 into the year with 3 of them being in the span of 6 weeks. I hope that I am my own worst critic. 2011 was, as I mentioned, an up and down year with it mostly being down. I thought I had some bad luck in 2010, but 2011 proved to throw more my way. My first injury that prevented me from training…at all. Getting sick a few times that required 3 rounds of antibiotics. 2011 was also a lackluster year at best. Of course there were positives as well, but from a results standpoint, it lacked substance. Good riddance. And as always, the goal for 2012 will be to improve on 2011. That seems a bit too easy, so I’ll have to rethink that one so that I’m not setting my sights too low!