That which does not kill us, makes us stronger. - Nietzsche

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ironman Cozumel: part 2, race morning and swim

Race morning. I felt surprisingly calm. Slathered myself head to toe with sunscreen before I put my swimsuit on. (I am about as ghostly white as they come!) I discovered that the sunscreen took off the sharpie on my arm. Arrgh. One more thing to get done that morning. Swimsuit on, sweatshirt and yoga pants on over it, and flip-flops. The resort buffet had opened extra early for us (LOTS of IM people staying there). I got pancakes, like just about everyone else, ha. I got a big helping of smoked salmon (but they didn't have the croissants I liked to put it on, boo!) for protein and got a cup of coffee and some juice. I grabbed a banana after all that and nibbled on it as I wandered back to my room. Contrary to the way that just sounds, food was NOT going down easily but I was trying to get as much to eat as I could.

Ran into huz walking out of the room. I did my pre-race bathroom thing - very important! - and made a fresh pb&j for my bike special needs bag. (I had swiped some bread and strawberry jam from breakfast the day before, and had brought my own pb from home.) Huz made sure I had everything - yup, I had carefully laid it all out the night before and checked it about 5 times - and we rode the shuttle to the swim start. I got into a conversation about US politics with a New Zealander next to me.

Can I just say something that was awesome about this race? There were people there from SO MANY COUNTRIES. I met lots of Americans, and of course some Mexicans, but I also met or saw people from Holland, Germany, France, Canada, Argentina, Columbia, Japan, and I don't even remember where else. It was pretty cool.

The ginormous, still overwhelming transition area was buzzing with excitement. I tried to find a tire pump floating around but didn't see one. After some debate, I decided to walk my bike to the other side of the transition area to the mechanic. I tried to leave my special needs bags where my bike was, but got told by a volunteer that I couldn't. He was one of the many kids volunteering, and he spoke no English. My nerves had just about killed my Spanish speaking ability, but with much frustration I finally understood that I had to drop off my bags first before I could do anything with my bike. He tried to take my morning clothes bag, but my pants and flip-flops needed to go in it and I managed to communicate that to him: "Ahora no. No toma. Mas tarde por favor!!"

Shown: about .00000001% of the transition area.

There were two buses parked of course, on the other side of transition for the special needs bags. Under each window was a range of bib numbers, and I handed each bag up to the window of the appropriate volunteer. Back to my bike; on the way I found someone with a sharpie to re-number my arm. Took the bike to get the tires inflated. Back to the rack. Clothes off, into my bag, hung on the bike for the volunteer to collect. I was walking around in my swimsuit feeling quite naked.

The elites started about 20 minutes before the age groupers, so we got to watch them take off. When they started, the dolphins started putting on a show. It was SWEET. There were tons of them, doing flips, upright and skidding backwards across the water. SO cool. We all had to line up around the dock. I waited for a long time to get in line, not wanting to end up in the front getting run over. I finally joined the line and we went to walk around the dock, but ended up having to turn around because there just wasn't enough room for all of us. So, I didn't get to see the dolphin show as close-up as I would've liked. Awww. :(

As we were walking, the woman next to me looked terrified and blurted out, "I really can't swim that well!" Eeek! I tried to give her a pep talk, told her just to move forward, she could hold onto the boats and paddlers and buoys if she needed a rest.


We had to jump off the dock, which, ok, was a little scary. A guy next to me jokingly pretended like he was going to push me. I held my nose, counted uno, dos, tres, and jumped in. I was surprised that my feet touched the bottom when I landed. I tried treading water but the waves kept pushing me back to the shore, and I ended up way off to the side but in a spot where I could stand up. The guy next to me, in heavily accented English, said, "I'm a bad swimmer!" Really?? I played therapist again. We discussed swim strategies, me in Spanish to him, him in English back. Despacio. Tranquilo. Relax. Easy.

No, I don't know where I am in this picture!!

I was chilling in the water (literally, it was COLD if you weren't moving) when I heard the horn. I had planned to wait a few seconds, but there weren't many people around me, so I started swimming. Eek. There were a LOT of people and I'd never done a mass start like that. People were everywhere. Nobody was really aggressive, but I got pushed around a lot unintentionally. Don't panic. Nobody's trying to hurt you. Just swim. After a few minutes, it cleared out enough that I could get into my normal rhythm. Three strokes, breathe. Three strokes, breathe. Nice and relaxed. Just like in the pool. I found my groove. The water was choppier than it had been the other day, but I was moving forward. I watched the coral. I watched someone's watch floating to the bottom - doh! I couldn't tell how deep the water was but the visibility was amazing. I saw a ray skimming along the bottom, a safe distance from 3,000 churning pairs of arms and legs.

I was so looking forward to the turn and it seemed to take a while to get there. I sneaked a look at my watch, which I had put into stopwatch mode and started at  the swim start. It was past 20 minutes, and I hadn't even gone 800 m yet? But wait, I'm swimming against the current right now. I'll make up for it when we turn around...if I ever get there....but I saw people starting to go the opposite direction and realized we were close.

The buoy was a bit crowded when I turned. I tried to follow a guy through the next turn, but apparently his aim was off, because he plowed headfirst into the next buoy. Crap. I tried to get around him, but the buoy floated after me. I tried to get around it and it stayed on me like we were magnetic. Finally I stopped, treaded water, and yelled (more in amusement than terror) "The stupid thing's attacking me!!" An official motioned to me to pass it on the inside. Sweet.

I was swimming with the current now. YES. I didn't even have to do much work and I felt the waves pushing me forward anyway. I was back in the groove. There weren't many fish to see; I suspect we scared them all away. I did see little tiny fish? bugs? Something with glowing blue dots on them, like they were lit up by led. A few jellyfish decided they loved my feet and ankles but I mostly ignored them. I waved to a scuba diver taking pictures, and then *I* was the one who plowed into a buoy. PAY ATTENTION. I could hear music and the announcer when we passed by the dock. I managed to grin and give a thumbs up to a serious-faced volunteer sitting on a raft, who nodded at me seriously.

In very little time, I was at the last turn. And then......ridiculousness. The current seemed much stronger than it had in the beginning. I watched the coral. I was passing it, but slooooowly. I resisted the temptation to look at my watch for a while, but finally I gave in. 1:30. That was my goal time. Dangit. But I could still shoot for 1:45 - my high estimate - and I didn't have too far to go. But I was moving soooo slowly. I watched a yellow buoy over my left shoulder. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe....still there. Repeat....STILL THERE. In the same stupid spot. WHAT THE HECK?? This part of the course was getting more and more crowded. I was getting more frustrated and instead of backing off, like I had done earlier on, I stayed in the same position, plowing into people right back and asserting my place. People were moving in every direction. I got clobbered across the back of my head by what felt like a 400-lb dude's arm. My left calf seized up. Awwww crap. OK, do what you do in the pool, keep going. I kicked with one foot and pulled harder with my arms until it loosened back up. My nose was BURNING from the salt water. I breathed with every stroke just to get my nose out of the water for a second of sweet relief. I kept getting smacked in the face with a wave when I tried to look up. I accidentally got a mouthful of water and my throat burned. The smell of fuel from boats and jetskis permeated the air. My armpits were killing me. What the...they NEVER chafe when I'm swimming in the pool. Probably the salt water. WHY had I ignored the table full of body glide? But I'm so close, it'll be over soon. Checked my watch....1:43. I'm not getting out in 1:45. But I'll make the 2:20 cutoff. No matter what, I'll make the cutoff. I swam harder just so I could get out of the water. I could see neon-shirted volunteers on the dock. I was getting closer to them, just sooooo slooooowly. Are my armpits going to hurt like this all day?? Don't even think about all day, just get out of the water....

Whyyyyyyy aren't we moving???

FINALLY I made it to a staircase...a very slippery one. I tried to stand and I was wobbly, still rocking back and forth. I made it to my feet, walked a few steps, then broke into a jog. I saw a sea of faces, heard cheers, couldn't make sense of anything. I looked down. My watch said 2:03. Whew. I wasn't happy about that, but I'd made the cutoff.

Kate vs. Staircase + seasickness
Victorious over the stairs! I think I look pretty badass in this picture. Also, very pale.

There were showers at the end of the dock and I rinsed off the salt water as best as I could. I pointed my raw armpits up at the nozzle, but it didn't do much. Grabbed my bag off the rack and ran for the changing tents....and nearly ran into the wrong one. I wondered why a dude was guarding the women's tent, ha. Someone turned me in the right direction.

All of the things...

I sat down in one of the chairs and dumped my bag onto the ground. I had made out a list of instructions, but I ignored it and just started doing my thing. Suit off. Top on. While I was putting an ample supply of chamois cream in my nether regions, I had a thought and rubbed some onto my armpits to see if that would help. It did, for about two seconds, then....AAAAAHBURNBURNBURNBURNBURN! I frantically wiped it off with a towel, then a volunteer came up to me with vaseline. I grabbed a glob and finally found sweet relief. A woman outside the tent was throwing up loudly, over and over. "Bless her heart," someone else said. Used the porta potty, finished getting all my gear on, sucked down a tangerine gel. It tasted horrible combined with the salt taste already in my mouth. A volunteer offered me what looked like an IV bag. I was confused until I realized it was water. I bit a hole in the bag and ran out of the tent, trying to rinse out my salty, dry mouth.

Bikes everywhere. But where was mine??? 2327, where's 2327?? I started yelling. Another woman yelled back. "Right here, you ran past it!" Doh. Yes, I did. I reoriented myself, grabbed my bike and started the crazy long jog out of transition.

Swim time: 2:01:34
T1 time: 13:15 (longest. transition. ever.)

(Side note: I've heard from a lot of people that the swim was especially awful and LOTS of people didn't even make it past the swim. I've heard anywhere from 35-300 DNF'd, and most everyone reported swim times much slower than they anticipated, including the pros.)

Next up: the bike....


  1. A freaking dolphin show at the dock? AHHHH! The swim actually sounds mildly "fun" up until that last part. You are a frickin trooper. Can't wait for the next installment!!!!

  2. I'm LOVING this race report! So cool. I want to do one!