(Editor’s Note: This report was written the day after the race, but with limited Internet access in Mexico, was not posted until we were back in the States. Ok, carry on.)
Wow! Where to start? It’s the day after the race and I feel like yesterday’s race was all a dream! To sum it up in one phrase, I would say that my first Ironman made me realize that I was “born for this distance.” The longer the distance and the longer I’m required to deal with pain, the better I perform. I’ve found my niche within the swim/bike/run Ironman racing circuit. I’ve got some big plans and dreams ahead of me…but for now, I’ll give you the inside view of my Ironman Cozumel race experience.
Jason and I arrived in Cozumel the Thursday before the race and were instantly gratified with having arranged our travel experience through an awesome company, Endurance Sports Travel. We didn’t have to worry about transportation, food, bike maintenance, traveling with CO2 cartridges or general race logistics. It was all taken care of for us. We stayed at a beautiful resort, Sabor, just three miles from the swim start at Chankanaab Park. The scenery was amazing, and the oceanside view from our room helped to keep us calm in the days leading up to the race.
The couple of days before the race were spent doing the usual triathlon race prep, including swim practice at Chankanaab Park….
…a few short runs to acclimate us to the heat (generally around 80-90 degrees) and humidity (umm, 100%)…
…and preparing our bikes for race day.
The night before the race, I spent a good amount of alone time out on our hotel porch using some great sports psychology techniques (courtesy of my brother!) to get my mind in the right spot to “conquer” on race day. After a bout of food poisoning the night before Longhorn 70.3 kept me from racing at the level of fitness I knew I was at, I had a fire lit inside me in the month leading up to Cozumel to not let anything get in the way of me dominating this 140.6 mile race. When we awoke early Sunday morning my mindset was “I. AM. READY.”
This is truly a special race considering the location, the crowd support, and of course the Kona-like conditions. The swim start was at Chankanaab Park, where the spectators were treated to a dolphin show thirty minutes before the race (none of which I got to see due to the hustle and bustle that is characteristic of race morning). By the time 6:50 a.m. rolled around, we were walking out to the docks and jumping in the 100% visibility water to start our Ironman journey!
The swim course formed one big counter clockwise oval in the ocean, of which half was with the current and half was against the current. My goal time for the swim was 1:15. As was expected, the swim start (and for about the first 400 meters) was one big washing machine of arms, legs, feet, hands, punches, kicks in the gut, and clawing. It’s just part of the mass swim start experience so I dealt with it. Once I found my groove and a good pack of similarly paced swimmers I settled into a nice steady swim pace. At the first turn around I veered slightly off course due to the fact that the buoys were orange and so were the men’s swim caps (uh, note to the race director…choose a different color for the swim caps!). A race official blew his whistle at me as I swam back on course. His whistling was implying that I had skipped the first buoy and cut the course. I explained to him in Spanish that I had indeed rounded the buoy and was trying to get back on course. Too much energy was wasted in this exchange with the race official, but it was better than having to go back and swim around the buoy a second time. Once he was appeased, he let me continue on. The rest of the swim was uneventful except for a few jellyfish stings (normal in these waters) and a few more episodes of fighting to get around the buoys. Once we approached the dock, I popped my head out of the water and took a quick glance at my Garmin…1:14. Nice! I was right on goal. Onward!
Swim – 2.4 miles (3.8K)
There was a 400 meter run from the dock to T1. I quickly pulled off my TYR Torque Pro (as this was not a wetsuit-legal swim) and put on my appropriate cycling accessories. I had chosen to wear the newest SOAS kit for this race and did NOT disappoint! But I’ll save this “tri-kit report” for another post!
This was definitely where I exceeded my expectations for this race. My goal for the bike was 6:15 or a little under. The course is three loops around the island, with the middle third of each loop along the coast. It was gorgeous, but windy, and definitely the toughest part of the course. Fortunately for Jason and I, the course was pancake flat. After countless long training rides of 5,000 to 6,000 feet of elevation gain, I quickly realized during the race that my bike fitness was much better than I realized! This was the hottest part of the race. The beautiful, but strong, Mexican sun was beating down on us. I stayed consistent with my race nutrition and was able to get in the hydration, calories, and electrolytes that would eventually set me up for a solid run. Yet, I couldn’t help but think ahead to the run and worry about heat exhaustion. My feet were beginning to swell in my cycling shoes and I felt a headache coming on, which for me were both signs that the heat was getting to me. But I pressed on and didn’t let my foot off the pedal the whole ride. One significant memory from the bike came from my third loop. The winds had picked up and my legs were fatigued from the effort. It was a low point for me mentally, and I was fighting the urge to have a pity party. As I approached the windiest part of the course, I came upon an athlete who was riding her bike with one leg. Yes. One leg. Her left leg had been amputated at the hip, which meant she riding without a prosthetic. The determination in her face was inspiring. So much so, that I declined the invite to the “pity party” and busted through that low point to finish the bike portion on a strong note. I must also mention the crowd support for this race is AWESOME! The whole town comes out to cheer the athletes on, and I felt like I was riding in the Tour de France as I approached the downtown center to enter transition 2. The best part was glancing at my Garmin as I dismounted and seeing a 5:55 bike split for the 112 miles, way exceeding my expectations!
Bike- 112 miles (180 K)
View of the bike course
A quick three minute change into my K Swiss Kwicky Blade Light running shoes and a sip of water and I was off unto the run course!
The run is a three-loop course around the downtown market place with amazing crowd support, beating drums, and the smell of delicious Mexican food in the air (uh, pure torture by the third loop!). My goal for the run was 3:50, and getting off the bike feeling physically and nutritionally the way I felt, I knew it was definitely achievable. Just as I was halfway through my first mile, the heavens opened up and it began to POUR! It was a welcome respite from the heat, but what it did create were flooded streets at some points in the run. There was one particular section of about twenty meters where we were knee deep in water! This slowed me down a bit considering we passed this section six times throughout the course of the race, but it’s an Ironman, right? Deal with it. My nutrition went so well on the bike that I had to rely very little on the fueling support provided on the run course. I just sipped away at my EFS Liquid Shot and kept pushing. Kept pushing. Kept pushing. It was hard. My body said “no more!” But my mind said, “yes….MORE. Remember all those times in training when your body said no, and you said ‘shut up’!” My glutes and hamstrings were cramping, but I refused to walk. NO WALKING. That’s my rule. And I didn’t. I didn’t’ stop the whole 26.2 miles. This is how powerful the mind is. There is so much untapped potential inherent in the human mind. As an athlete I’m discovering new mental strengths every time I race. It’s awesome! Once I approached mile 24 I knew that I had the 3:50 marathon in the bag. But a last glance at my Garmin revealed just how much faster my finishing time would be than what I had anticipated. I teared up… and then kicked it into full gear towards the finish.
I. Couldn’t. Believe. It.
I was going to finish my first Ironman having almost broken 11 hours! As I approached the finish I realized I had the whole finishing chute to myself. For fifteen seconds of pure elation I got to run down the blue carpet, high fiving the crowds who, at this point, were going crazy and cross the finish line hearing the best six words of this whole trip…
Jennifer Marquez, YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!
Run- 26.2 miles (42.2K)
Overall Time: 11:09
9th in age group 25-29
Overall Time: 11:09
9th in age group 25-29
With Jason after the race
Along with the medals, the athletes received these hand-made seashell necklaces.
Now it’s time for some relaxation in paradise! Jason and I are now in our off-season for a bit before we gear back up for our 2012 triathlon season. And I do have big plans, exciting goals, and more adventures to share with you as we enter the new year! But until then, I plan on taking it easy, getting back into yoga and strength training, putting on a few healthy pounds, and enjoying the holiday season with family and friends. Sounds like a good plan to me!
Stayed tuned in the next few days for Jason's race report...