Friday, December 9, 2011

Phil's Ironman Cozumel Race Report

The morning of the race was a bit stressful.  We missed the first shuttle and the second shuttle was very late.  We ended up getting to transition with only 6 minutes to spare.  Everything ended up working out, but there were a lot of stressed athletes on that shuttle with us.  Lauren and I walked out on the dock together after the pro's went off.  I spotted the location I wanted to be, gave Lauren a kiss, and jumped off the dock.  I immediately regretted not doing a flip or something fun!  I hung on the fence of the dolphin prison sanctuary and waited for the two minute warning.  Once we were close to starting I swam out to the start line and waited for the gun.

The Swim:
The gun sounded and we were off.  The ocean was calm and slightly cool, definitely a perfect day for swimming.  The water was 100% clear with lots of fish and coral.  You were under the watchful eyes of scuba divers that were positioned every 400 yards to assist if anyone started to go under.  I had very minor contact and managed to draft for most of the swim.  My sighting was off a bit and I wandered somewhat off course.  I was stung a couple of times by jellyfish, but the pain is very minor.  I found that if you 'brush' the sting off with your hand, the minor pain subsides faster.  The swim felt effortless and before I knew it, it was over in 1:05. I climbed out, picked up my gear bag and ran to the changing tent.

T1 is essentially a large tent that you can completely change in.  Men and women have separate tents so that you can fully change.  It was chaos.  There were a ton of people yanking gear off and on and running about.  It is a bit difficult getting all your gear on when you are wet, but I slowly got everything on, ran to my bike and pushed it to the bike mount line.

The bike was the worst part by far.  The first lap (37 miles) felt great.  The temperature was cool and the wind had not picked up.  By lap two my Garmin showed that it had warmed to over 90 degrees. You also have a lovely head or cross wind that increases through the day on about 70% of each loop.  You only have a 7 mile stretch going with the wind. 

I had to swallow my ego on the bike as I kept getting passed...  and passed.... and passed.  I would say I was passed probably 400 times.  I was passed by a few different pace\draft groups on the bike.  This was very upsetting to see, but I never drafted, and I also heard that quite a few people received penalties!  Cheaters! You are not a true Ironman!

Everyone I talked to said to not go out too hard on the bike, so I did exactly that. I kept my heart rate under control and kept pedaling.  The course was absolutely amazing (sans the wind).  You were on an ocean road for most of the ride, and there were crowds of spectators lining the streets for a few miles downtown.  I did rent Zipp 404's for the race. Based on my average speed I probably didn't benefit too much from them, but they felt great and more importantly, looked awesome!

As I neared the bike finish I unstrapped my shoes from my feet and pedaled on top so I could do my running dismount.  As I approached the line someone was being tended to by medical staff less than 10 yards from the corral around the bike finish. That would have sucked!  Somehow I managed I swing my leg over and complete my running dismount flawlessly.  I handed off my bike, grabbed my gear bag and ran into T2.

T2 was much less chaotic that T1.  The pack had spread out and people were moving quite a bit slower.  Some people were even just sitting in chairs looking like they were trying to pump themselves up into starting the run or possibly contemplating death.   I changed into new shorts and my tri jersey and grabbed my Garmin Watch.  As I was putting it on I noticed it was completely dead!  Darn, I was worried about that.  The Garmin watches turn themselves on whenever a compatible HR monitor comes in the vicinity of the watch.  This on\off and detection mode must have killed it!  I took my HR monitor off and put my Garmin in my transition bag.  I would run without GPS and a HR monitor. 

I hit up the porta-potties during transition... this is generally not noteworthy, but the one I got in must have been halfway on\off a curb.  When I stepped in, it rocked forward, then rocked back.  I stood there using the restroom as it teetered back and forth like a seesaw.  Fortunately I was not hit by any liquids or solids in this adventure.

It was nice to be off the bike and running.  Running without the HR monitor felt great!  I ran with perceived effort and clocked that I was running at about a 10 minute mile pace, perfect!  The spectator support was unreal.  There were dancers, a drumline, little kids wanting high fives, and tons of people cheering you on. 

The course consisted of three out and back loops, starting near the harbor and turning around near our hotel around 4 miles away.  I road my bike on the course the day before and traveled the route by car multiple times. It felt so far even when traveling by car.  I kept wondering how I was going to run it three times.

On the course there was water and food stations every kilometer.  I would grab water at every aid station and a half banana at every other. 

I love bananas

About a mile into the run it started raining.  I love running in the rain!  There was light rain for about a mile, but then it felt like a tropical storm hit. The rain drops were huge and coming down in sheets!  Rain water started pooling and flooded the street.  I was wearing a headsweats visor for the first time (Thanks TriBella!).  I was very happy to have that on as it deflected most of the rain.  After about another mile, the rain subsided, but the damage was done.  One section of the run course completely flooded and never drained for the remainder of the race. You would run on the sidewalk to bypass most of the flood, but when you had to cross the street you stepped into 8 inches of water.  Most people walked every time they passed through the lake, but I just high stepped it through the water and splashed them.

Before I knew it, I was running past our hotel.  I saw Lauren's and my family outside cheering.  I felt great!  I turned around and ran back past everyone with a smile.  When I hit the turn for lap two I thought I saw Lauren pop out of T2 just in front of me.   I was so excited!  I heavily picked up the pace and caught the girl in the Team Z jersey, with a pink race belt, that was NOT Lauren.   I talked to her for a bit and she said she gets it quite a bit and I can see why!

I looped passed the hotel and half marathon point still feeling good.  Soon after I actually saw Lauren, gave her a kiss and ran on.  She was looking great, and not just that fake smile she puts on during some races. (Lauren's note: I have no idea what he is talking about ;))  It is always great to see each other during races, but even better when both of us are having great races! 

I was passing a lot of competitors just keeping a slow steady pace.  Each mile just melted away.  I hit the mile 15, mile 18, mile 20, then hit the final turn around point with 4.7 miles to go.  How was I already here?  How do I still feel good?  Since I was still feeling great I decided to run faster.  I picked up the pace, shaving a minute a kilometer off my time for the last 4 miles.  I coasted past the crowds and made the final left hand turn into the finishers chute.  It was amazing! 


I crossed the finish line in 11 hours and 51 minutes still feeling like I could run another marathon (Guess I didn't push hard enough!).  All of my support crew was standing at the finish.  I got my medal and walked over to them, giving my Mom a big hug.  It was so nice having such amazing support!  I proceeded to get my photo taken, eat 3 pieces of pizza and receive a massage.

The finishers tent was a sight to see. People were grimacing in pain, quite a few were icing their legs, and others were laying on beds in the medical tent with IV's attached. I saw two people pretty much pass out in front of me. I saw the second one getting ready to pass out, his face went flushed, he realized he was going down, and tried to sit down. I grabbed him as I could tell he may not make it, helped him down and made him a makeshift pillow out of his finishers gear to protect his head. Volunteers saw this happening and got medical support there within 30 seconds. Pretty crazy! He was in front of me in the massage line, so I just had less time to wait :-)

After my massage I walked out and met up with my family.  We watched the top three males and females get their awards while the crowds blew into their vuvuzela's. 

Anthony and I proceeded to celebrate my success with some Modelo's purchased from a street vendor and then cheer on Lauren as she cruised through the finish!

Overall Thoughts:
It was a great day.  The swim and the run felt great!  The bike was miserable as it was hot, windy, and I kept getting passed.  As I was thinking of what I wanted to write in my race report I thought of how boring of the race was compared to my others since everything went as planned.  As I drafted my report I remembered all the little experiences and realized that even a perfectly executed race without having to overcome adversities can be exciting.  My main take away this race is that if you train correctly and race how you train you will be setup for success.  Granted, anything can happen when completing a feat of this distance, but I did not even have any moderate mental or physical issues.  I went out there, listened to all the advice I had been given and executed the race I knew I could.  Fortunately my body played well and I crossed the finish line with a smile 

What's the next challenge?  Cycling up MountEvans (the highest paved road in North America)! And  until then... lots of beer and snowboarding (including teaching Lauren how to as well)!


  1. lauren on a snowboard scares me a little, can't figure out why. (love you!)

    congrats, phil! I'm so glad you both had fantastic days!

  2. Greta Job Phil ... you make it sound so easy!

  3. Congrats Phil! I'm glad you both had great races. :)

  4. Congratulations - I loved reading this report! I'm doing IMAZ 2012 so always enjoy reading other Ironman's experiences! Great job!!

  5. Completing the Ironman while stung by jellyfish?...Badass!!! Great job Phil!

  6. A "boring" race report is the sign of a PERFECT race! Congrats!!!! I love all your pics, too. :)

  7. Congrats! He makes it sound easy!

  8. I'm so happy you had such a great day! Now go enjoy all the fun things Colorado has to offer :)

  9. Your posts so make me want to do this race. Great job! And we love Mount Evans, we visit it every time we go to Colorado.