Editors Note: Amy is one of Laura’s athletes, she recently qualified for Kona at Ironman Cozumel. Thank you Amy for sharing your race report with us!

Ironman Cozumel 2010
by Amy Gluck on Saturday, January 8, 2011 at 4:57pm

Two for one?

After returning from Hawaii, I realized I really needed to figure out what was next. I had not signed up for an Ironman for 2011 and things were really filling up. I didn’t want to have to train through another winter, I was sure of that. However, given the rather expansive amount of time my body takes to recover from an Ironman, I didn’t wait until too late in the summer either. The other thought that crossed my mind was, “What would happen if I went off my fitness from Kona?” I had just had my best race in Kona. Could I get that summer of training to pay off twice? I looked at Florida, but I was pretty sure 4 weeks wasn’t going to be enough time for me to even come close to putting myself back together and there was a chance it could be a cooler race. I looked at Cozumel. It was 7 weeks out. It was guaranteed to be warm. It was Thanksgiving weekend. Mexico is cheap (unless you book on a holiday weekend at the last minute – doh!) I took until the last possible day to make my decision and sealed the deal on Halloween – Cozumel, it is!

It wasn’t until I woke at 4am up to catch my flight on Wednesday morning that I realized, “I’m going to a foreign country by myself for a week!” I was so focused on the race, that thought hadn’t even occurred to me. This is something I never would have even considered in my pre-Ironman days. When I got to the airport, Spirit’s computers were down. The lines took forever. When I finally got to the front for the line – JACKPOT – no fees for luggage. They couldn’t charge us because the computers were down. The Glux Capacitor was flying to Mexico free of charge!

Training was going well in the days leading up to the race. The water was calm, clean, and warm. The winds that I had heard horror stories about were much milder than I had feared. My legs were still feeling a little stiff, but we’d find out the real story on race day.

Race morning I got up at 4am and ate my breakfast that I had brought with me. I started through my morning routine, completely focused on the day ahead. Maybe I was a little too focused. More than halfway through coating my pale body with sunscreen, I realized I wasn’t actually using sunscreen. I was coating my entire body with Chamois Butter! I wiped myself down with a wet washcloth and started over. I hoped my stupid mistakes were out of the way for a little while.

I hopped on the shuttle and headed down to T1. None of the volunteers could tell me the route through transition still (just like China). I put my nutrition on my bike and waited for the swim start. They surprised us with a quick dolphin show at the pier. After the pros took off, they quickly ushered us to the end of the pier and into the water where we treaded water for about 15 min until the cannon went off.

Swim: The swim in Cozumel reminds me of Kona with warm, crystal clear water and some interesting sea life. The only difference is that the beatings aren’t as severe in Cozumel. I had little contact on the swim, except at the turns which is to be expected. I had a few jellyfish stings, but there were plenty of other swimmers clearing the path in front of me. My swim was fairly enjoyable, so I expected the worst when I came out of the water. After swimming my slowest IM swim ever in Kona 7 weeks prior, my expectations were low. As I pulled myself up onto the first wooden stair, I scanned the pier for the swim clock. 1:06. Woo-hoo, a new PR – it’s on! I had finally broken 1:10 on the swim! Let me at this bike course, it’s tailored to my strengths.

T1: I quickly changed into my bike gear while my volunteer sprayed me down with SPF 80. I stopped in the port-a-potty and headed out to grab my bike. T1 is a maze in Cozumel. The racks go up and down winding roads with a few intersections and cul-de-sacs, but no set path through transition. I walked my route numerous times prior to the race, and then once more. I spotted my tree, found my bike, and followed what I had determined to be the shortest route out of transition.

Bike: This is my favorite part of the race, passing all those fast swimmers as I head out on the bike course. I was excited for the flat course and the intense heat. It’s a three loop bike course, so I set out to see what I was in for. To sum it up, the loop went like this: peaceful, headwind, crosswind, tailwind, town, x 3. The bike course was absolutely beautiful. Dare I say, it was more beautiful than Kona. The white sand beaches and Caribbean blue water was gorgeous. The only part that wasn’t particularly scenic offered a tailwind. This was a fair trade-off in my mind. The first loop went by rather quickly and I wondered how long I would be able to hold my pace given that I still hadn’t fully recovered from Kona.

By the middle of the second loop, we were catching up with the back of the pack. It got a little jammed up in one section and a ref came by and doled out about 20 penalties as fast as his iPhone shutter would snap pics. We all loaded up at next aid station and pulled in for a 4 min picnic in the sin bin. To be honest, I was relieved for the break. The flat course was killing my back and the faster pace was making it harder to get my nutrition down. I stuffed down my Clif bar and I was the first one out of there. I never saw anybody from that party again. I was “drafting” though, huh? I didn’t let it rattle me. I was determined to use it to my advantage as best I could.

I was so happy to hit the tailwind on my third loop. That’s a great way to end a long ride. I passed a few girls in this section. I was wondering where they came from since it was the first time I had seen them all day. Then, all of a sudden, one passed me back. Not happening. I passed her back. She passed me again. Sorry! I passed her back again. And so it went for the next 10 miles. As we wove through the streets downtown, it got a little trickier and each time I pulled in front, I was hoping to find transition in my sights. She passed me back….I passed her again…and there it was – transition – and I was in front. I was so ecstatic to be the first one into transition (for no reason, it really didn’t mean a thing). As I unclipped and hopped off my bike, I turned to give her a quick arrogant smirk. However, she never saw it. When I turned around, all I saw was her riding off to start her third loop. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? I burned up all that energy racing a girl who was 30 miles behind me? What a dumb mistake. Maybe. I came off the bike in 5:27, a new PR (with my 4 min penalty included). I probably wouldn’t have hit that if she wasn’t pushing me. I had now PRed both my swim and bike and I was facing a relatively flat marathon course ahead of me. An overall PR would be so sweet!

T2: I grabbed my bag and found a chair in T2. There was one other woman in there with me. I changed my shoes and grabbed my visor and headed into the port-a-potty. I was having a hard time doing my thing with 2 GU’s in my hand. Before I knew it, one fell to the floor. Does the 10 sec rule apply when it’s the floor of a port-a-potty and I’m going to be sucking on the outside of the wrapper? It was over 90 degrees. I was going to have to put the rule in effect, regardless.

Run: As I hit the run course, I knew I was in trouble. My first mile was 7:36 and it was pretty painful. “That’s as good as it gets today,” I thought. A marathon PR was out of the question and an overall PR was in jeopardy. This marathon was going to be about survival. I tried to hang with a pro just starting her second loop. This was helping me hold a relatively respectable pace. The run course is fairly flat. The aid stations are every kilometer which was nice. The water was in plastic tube wrappers. It was hard to bite into them and drink them, but it’s easy to carry the water while running. I was undecided whether I liked them, or not. I spent most of my time grabbing water, ice, and “Coca.”

The first lap was hot, sunny, and desolate. I just wanted it to be over. The run course is 3 loops as well. I wasn’t sure if I had 3 in me. A girl passed me halfway through the first loop. I took notice. This doesn’t happen very often. Her boyfriend and/or coach was running along the side of the run course yelling to her and pushing her hard. She was in a good position in the race, but this was mile 3 of a marathon. This was a disaster in the making. I wanted to say something to her, but I didn’t have the energy (plus, I didn’t know if she was in my Age Group). Sure enough, about 2 miles later, I passed her as she was walking and I never saw her on the course again.

The sun was starting to set as I started the 2nd loop and there was now a little shade from the palm trees on the run course and the traffic was starting to pick up. It doesn’t matter what loop they’re on, it always helps to have people to pass. By the time I started loop 3, the sun was no longer a factor. It had cooled down considerably and was actually quite comfortable. I focused on completely ignoring what hurt worst and pushed on. The last (and first) mile of each loop offers wonderfully enthusiastic spectators. By the end of my third loop I really needed their energy and those Mexicans know how to party! With about a ½ a mile to go, a girl went flying by me. Was she in my age group? I couldn’t tell. The body marking had worn off, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t have an answer to her pass. If that was the last slot to Kona passing me, I still couldn’t have caught her. I had nothing left. I was on cruise control, aka damage control. I was quite disappointed with my marathon time. Given the conditions of the course, it is well suited for a marathon PR. I forced a smile as I crossed the finish line. 10:33 was not what I was hoping for.

My volunteer sat me down in a chair and shortly thereafter, another girl was seated next to me. “Are you going to Kona?” she asked. I said I didn’t know. I had no idea where I had finished in my Age Group. “You were third in our Age Group. There are three slots. Are you taking one?” she continued. Clearly, she had friends or family on the sidelines giving her info. With the poor bodymarking, there is no way should would have known this otherwise. “If I qualified, I’m taking my slot.” I answered. She was clearly disappointed. “Where are you from?” I asked. “Belgium” she said as she hung her head. At that point I realized that I had just squeaked by. She must have been really gunning for me out there and I had no idea how close the race had become in the end. It was over with now and all I wanted was pizza. Lots of pizza.

As I made my way into the finisher’s area, I was greeted by my new best friends that I met as soon as I had landed in Cancun. We all took the shuttle back to the hotel, showered, and went for dinner. Allllllllll inclusivvvvvvvvvvve! I was finally able to take advantage. I don’t know how many plates of food I ate, but this may have been my most impressive performance all day.

Looking back, I decided that 10:33 is a time to be proud of, no matter what my marathon time was. Crossing the finish line of an Ironman is never a moment that should be taken for granted and should be celebrated regardless of the circumstances. I had two PRs that day and a slot to Kona. That’s plenty reason for celebration! Not only that, but I had an awesome time in Cozumel. I met tons of people from all over the world and I absolutely loved the race course. I’m thinking IMCOZ in 2011!