Iron Season 11/11: Done!

The short from Martin: Done with my 10 full Ironman-brand triathlons in 12 months, plus Beach to Battleship. Nick Paulson also raced Cozumel on November 30th. I finished Cozumel 6/150 in my age group. Heat and dehydration got to Nick, but he finished in the top 35% of his age group.

The long: Cozumel is a small island just off the coast of Cancún. Nick and his wife Betsy arrived Thursday. American Airlines screwed up my itinerary, so it took me 2 days to get there. I booked into the Vista del Mar hotel (yes, with view of the sea!) right next to the finish line downtown. The room maid sculpted a new towel animal every day – just for that the room was worth booking (see photo). To make things more exciting, I suffered stomach pain before the race (I blame food at the Dallas airport, not in Cozumel). I assembled my bike and popped on a couple of Zipp 808/1080 wheels that I had rented from Tri Bike Transport in Cozumel to reduce luggage to one piece.

On Saturday, Nick and I got our bikes and bags to transition (T1 in Chankanab park 6 miles south of town, T2 at the finish line). I chatted with a pro on the way back from T1 in the bus. He was none too happy with the WTC points system for Kona pro qualification. A dinner of octopus ink-blackened pasta with Nick and Betsy rounded out Saturday night. Betsy is good at restaurant discovery!

I got up at 4:50 on Sunday morning, dressed in my all-white uniform, had my granola/yoghurt/banana breakfast, and strolled down the main drag until I could hail a taxi. I rode with Carla and Carlos, a couple from the mainland who were both racing. Into the water at 6:52, nose clips and all, a few minutes before Nick. They did a wave start to reduce drafting packs on the bike. It worked, I saw only two small draft packs this year. The swim leg was as promised.  Beautiful clear blue ocean waters with a current that helped Nick swim his fastest IM swim by just over 10 minutes.  I drifted in the current for 1:13, a few minutes slower than Nick, twitching my legs only at the occasional jellyfish sting. I knew it was going to be hot, humid and sunny later on, so I conserved glycogen as much as possible. 50th/150 out of the water in my age group.

The 3 loop bike course was just like central IL – flat and windy – but with slightly better scenery along the coast of the island.  It got extremely windy and hot on the south side of the island as noon approached. I rode conservatively (136 bpm), rather than trying to top my Maryland bike split. To stay hydrated while keeping calories constant, I cut gels to six, and drank twice as much as in Maryland, losing a few minutes to nature breaks, but so what. Off the bike I was now 12th/150 in my age group; Nick finished about ½ hour slower, also riding conservatively, but not drinking enough.

My T2 (just over 4 minutes) was even faster than T1. Well-hydrated for the run, I hit the road with my trusty soaking cap and water bottle, keeping the heart rate at 140. Betsy was there to cheer me and Nick on. My run went smoothly in the heat and humidity on a 4:10 target until mile 23, when I felt sick from heat and sports drink. No worries. I had just just read the famous story about marathoner Bob Kempainen: he won the Olympic trials in ’96 when he responded to vomiting by accelerating his run. So I accelerated and threw up while running, to the surprise of spectators and other runners ducking out of the way. It’s amazing what one can do, knowing it has been done before. I got to the finish 6th/150  in my age group. My final 2014 Ironman age group world rank is 19th (out 6100), and 7th in the USA (out of 2160). I sent in my Kona application, and hope you all cross your fingers for me.

The run was a total sufferfest for Nick. He says, “I never found a pace that was comfortable or even somewhat close to what one would consider running.  I think dehydration and electrolyte imbalance was the culprit. I don't think I drank enough on the bike to keep up with everything I was losing in the heat, and the wind made it hard to know how much I was actually sweating.”

Next season: For Martin, 1200 km bike randonnées (one a series in Iowa, another Paris-Brest-Paris), plus some more IM (Chattanooga) and marathoning (Honolulu). For Nick, shorter distance tris, some actual bike races in 2015 – and I’m sure a marathon here or there!