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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Ironman Cozumel: part 3, the craziest bike ride (part 1)

Apologies for the long delay. I got an eye infection, immediately followed by the head cold from hell after coming back. (I think an Ironman race plus a loooong travel day plus a climate change will utterly destroy one's immune system!) I tried to blog while couch bound this weekend, but it was too much thinking.

Sooo, I ran my bike out of the ridiculously long transition area. The people - holy cow, the crowd blew me away. As I approached the final turn out of transition (just the fact that I'm saying that pretty much tells you that t1 should have been considered an event on its own) I saw TONS of people. Yelling, cheering, cowbell-ringing, noise-making, people. They yelled out my name, they yelled out my number. I spotted my husband (it's nice when your cheerleader is over 6' tall) yelling and cheering and taking pictures. It was pretty freaking great.

The people were on the other side, promise!!

See, there are some of them...

Mounted my bike and took off down the road. I entered all-out "OMG I LOVE MY BIKE!" mode. The weather felt great, warm but not too hot. I had a strategy - the course was three loops. I planned to take loop one super easy and get a feel for the wind and the course. Loop two, I would take a little harder, and loop three would be a little harder if I had it in me. Our resort was 3-4 miles down the road from the park, and I wondered if anyone would be out in front. Sure enough, there was a small crowd! A guy enthusiastically yelled at me, "Good job, great tuck position!!" There was a couple with a huge American flag, and I spotted another guest I had met earlier - her husband and their friend were doing the race. (I had actually met them at the airport when I saw him rifling through his carry-on, which included a bike helmet, and then it turned out they were staying at our resort, too.) She recognized me and started cheering louder. There were speakers blasting music. It was pretty sweet.

There were a couple more hotels down the road with similar scenes. The Iberostar had a guy with a mic and a PA system and he yelled "HEEEEEYYYYYY!" at me. Grabbed a gatorade at the first water stop. The water stop volunteers, as a whole, were pretty great. I would yell out what I needed, they would point me to the right person, and I'd slow down enough that I could grab it from the volunteer, who would usually run with me for a few steps to make sure I got it. That's gotta be a pretty tiring job.

Aid stations every 10k. 18 total. One down, 17 to go. I would use them as landmarks. Stop and stretch every 4 or so if I needed it. I'd never done a long ride without a handful of breaks - kinda hard when you have to go into gas stations to buy food and drinks, plus riding solo, I felt like I needed the mental break for safety - and I didn't know how all my body parts would hold up with constant riding. Promising myself the opportunity to rest for a few minutes was a confidence booster. 

I will take this opportunity to give a completely unsolicited shout-out to my skirt sports multisport top. It has what's called a "cleavage alley pocket", which is exactly what it sounds like. It comfortably holds two gels and was a GREAT place to stash them.

The water bottle I'd put on my bike that morning was warm and gross. At the second aid station, I chucked it and grabbed a bottle from a volunteer. It was COLD!! It had ICE in it!!!! And best yet - it was a souvenir Ironman Cozumel water bottle!!! I was waaay too giddy about that water bottle.

Pretty pretty...(not me so much, I mean the ocean)

About 15ish miles in, instead of boring trees everywhere, I came face to face with the ocean. White sand beaches, deep deep turquoise water, and crashing waves - it was amazingly beautiful. The road turned and I knew we were rounding the southern tip of the island. And THAT is where the wind kicked in. No trees, nothing to shield from a pretty gnarly crosswind coming right off the ocean. I knew it would be windy and I kept pedaling fast but in an easy gear. I tried to focus on the beautiful scenery. That worked briefly. But then I dealt with what I always deal with when a ride starts getting tough - my negative brain kicked in. My hip is tiiiiiight. My heel hurts. WTF? Why does my heel hurt?? That's seriously random. To make things even more fun, the terrain changed and there was what seemed like a 2,000 mile stretch of bumpy, paved-over gravel. I seriously thought that crap only existed on country roads in Ohio (although I was momentarily thankful that some of my longer rides had included it.) Even better, there was a perfectly paved bike trail running alongside the main road. I kept staring at it longingly.

I wanna ride over thee-eere.....

I was later told by a random person that they were going to use that for the race, but decided against it because it was narrower than the main road, which meant more of a challenge for people to pass.

Speaking of passing, a lot of the pros were on their....second? third? loop. I got passed pretty frequently. I passed the special need station. I wanted my bag. I wanted my sandwich and my aleve. Stupid hip flexor. There were a couple of hills. NO WAY. They weren't big hills at all, but anything in that wind just didn't make it more fun. Siiiiigh. That part of the island was super pretty, though. There was the occasional bar or souvenir stand, usually with someone out front cheering and waving, but we were definitely away from civilization. Mostly just water and beaches and crashing waves.

After an eternity (ok, 24.5 miles), the road became smooth again. And I never did take a rest break. I cheered out loud as a woman passing me smiled and reassured me that we'd be out of the wind soon, too. And we were. I figured that sucktastic part wouldn't be too bad next time around, now that I knew what to expect.

As we got closer into town, there were more and more people. People were gathered in small groups, and lots of them had kids with them. They cheered for everyone passing like it was their best friend out there. I heard lots of "Anima! Adelante! Vamos, chica! Si se puede!!" and responded with thumbs up, waves, gracias, etc. And then there was an officer directing us to turn into town.....

.....and holy cow. Everyone in Cozumel must've been watching the race. The streets were literally lined with people. Loud, freaking out people. Little stores were blasting out rock and techno music and I broke into a dance. (Yes. On my bike. This is possible.) A woman looked me in the eye and yelled in English, "You are BEAUTIFUL! You can DO IT!!" For a few miles I got this big old stupid grin on my face. I felt like a freaking rock star. This was probably the most fun I've had in a race, EVER. EVER.

A few miles of that, and then I had to pass t1 and turn left back out of town. There were still a lot of people on my way out as I passed by hotels and touristy shops. I double-checked the distance on my Garmin as well as the time. I was going a little slower than I planned, but nothing too concerning. A sign said "Chankanaab: 4". Four miles to the beginning of the loop? That would put me at around 41 miles, not 39 point something....aww crap. The bike course was gonna be long. I'd have to readjust. I tried to recalculate times and speeds until a few minutes later....."Four KILOMETERS. Durrr." I corrected myself out loud.

I was riding the high of the crowds for quite a while. Started the second loop and kept an eye out for my hotel again. There it was, and THERE WAS MY HUSBAND!!!!! I skidded to a stop, long enough for a kiss. I pointed out various parts of the course: "That part sucks. THAT part is AWESOME! I'm a little slower than I thought I would be." He told me I was doing fine.

Past the other hotels. Gee, I didn't realize how boring this part of the course is. My foot hurts again. What is going on??? Don't think about it and you'll forget it hurts. Think about something else. Think about anything else. I hit 50 miles. 6 miles to the halfway point, after that 4 miles to special needs, after that 4 miles until the turn out of the wind. Here comes the crappy part....

I tried to focus on the scenery again and found myself not caring about it. It seemed like it took HOURS to go six miles. My foot hurt. I couldn't ignore it. The pain started shooting from my heel, up the outside of my foot to the ball. I slowed waaay down. I caught myself going 10 mph. I started talking to my foot out loud, sometimes growling at it, sometimes yelling "ouch!", swearing, telling it to shut up.

53 miles in. I was gritting my teeth and moving forward oh-so-slowly, hunched over in aero position, when in slow motion I felt a huge jolt forward, heard horrific metal scraping noises, heard a male voice yelling "AAAAH!" and heard a female voice (oh wait, that was me) yelling out a string of every forbidden four-letter word known to man. Try to shift gears, is my chain still on, do I have a flat tire now, unclip my foot so I don't fall....I swerved but miraculously stayed upright. A woman passing me looked at me wide-eyed and asked if I was ok. "I'm ok," I said, and asked what happened, if I'd been hit, if the other guy was ok....but that part, I think, came out in a stream of words in random order. She looked confused and kept going. I looked back and saw a bike lying down and a guy with an aero helmet sitting up next to it. I kept moving forward.

I don't know whatever happened to that guy. I assume he was ok because he was conscious, but nobody ever passed me and said, "Hey, I ran into your bike, sorry about that!" I kept waiting for it, though.

That woke me up for about a minute. But then...back to the grind. I tried pedaling with mostly my left foot. I tried engaging my core more. I tried various positions. I tried moving my foot around. Everything would work for a minute and then I was in pain again. I started coasting. A lot. One can't coast much in a crosswind. I hit 56 miles in 3:45. Not bad. I was setting myself up for a 7:30 bike, maybe less. That would be ok. The special needs station was NOT at mile 60, it was somewhere around 61. It felt like a cruel joke, but then I saw the writing on the road: SPECIAL NEEDS AHEAD." YES. I wanted that Aleve sooooo badly.

I stopped at the special needs station and it took forever for someone to get my bag. FOREVER. The first thing I did was dug for the three little blue pills in a ziploc bag. Can of V8, sandwich....where was my snickers bar?? I must've put it in the wrong bag somehow. I was standing and shifted weight to the painful foot, and discovered that I could barely even stand on it. I walked forward a few steps and limped. CRAAAAP. I turned to a police officer. "Hay un medico cerca?" He said no. I must've gotten some kind of look on my face that elicited pity, because I heard a few people asking, and then another volunteer came  running up to me. "You need a medic? What's wrong?" I told him my foot. It was killing me. It really, really hurts. I have no idea why. This has never happened before.

Took off my sock and shoe and plopped down on the ground while someone else held my bike. At first he told me it was because my foot and ankle were scraped up and bloody. Yes, they were. That happened at some point during the swim and I noticed it when I came out of the water, and no, I don't know how it got there but that is NOT what hurts! I directed him to the bottom of my foot and he figured it out. He told me he thought I pulled a muscle and started massaging it. That hurt like HELL but I made him keep going. As long as I was sitting, I took nibbles of my pb&j, which tasted like cardboard, but I needed to eat. I thought to myself how calm I was being about the whole thing....and as soon as I had that thought, THEN the waterworks started. I have to ride 50+ more miles and then I HAVE TO RUN A MARATHON on a foot that I can barely stand on. This is it. It's over. No way am I going to make it. "!" I sobbed. "That's all. I just want to finish." "Of course, finish, is very important," said my new friend who was still rubbing my disgusting, sweaty foot with his bare hands. He left for a second and came back with some cream that he rubbed into it. I finished 2/3 of my sandwich and tossed the rest into the garbage pile. After a while, he asked if it felt better. A little. A very little bit. He gave me the cream and insisted that I keep it. It barely fit into my shorts pocket. Then he handed me two big blue pills in a blister pack. For pain. Take these. We ran into a minor language barrier. I was too stressed for Spanish. I told him I had just taken some pills that I had in my bag. He got confused and looked for my bag. No, I don't need my bag. I HAD pills in them. I took them. That's why I don't want more. Finally, I zipped them into my shirt pocket. "Mas tarde," I said, and that seemed to satisfy him.

I got myself upright again. I was not at all feeling confident about biking, but I remembered what I had told pretty much everyone before I left. If my leg falls off during this race, I will duct tape it back on and drag it across the finish line. Now I was thinking of having to tell everyone I quit the race because MY FOOT HURT???? Not an option. The volunteer gave me a push back onto the road (yes, really!)

I looked at my watch, which was in stopwatch mode and keeping a running total of my race time. I had spent 15 minutes at special needs. This meant....I had about 4 hours to finish the bike. My foot still hurt, but I could pedal now. Still slow, though, and I was still very worried about holding myself together. And then...would I even be able to run?? be continued (but ya'll know I made it, so this isn't all that suspenseful....)


  1. I'm loving this recap! I'm sorry your favorite leg was marred by the foot.

  2. girlie, I was crying reading all of these posts! I so wish I could have been there! I'm so excited for you. It's good to deal with difficulty, it helps you later in life, trust me. xoxoxox