I expected a paradise when I flew in to Cozumel International Airport and a paradise it was – in every aspect. Cozumel is a small island, just outside the Yucatan peninsula. It has a somewhat overcommercialized 1km waterfront with cruiseship tourists that visit the island every day. As soon as you leave the Starbucks and Hooter’s polluted downtown area and explore other parts of the city and island you find a genuine and welcoming culture and beautiful nature.
Down town waterfront – part of the run course
Pre-race week: A shuttle bus/taxi took me to the hotel that I had booked near the city center and as soon as I had checked in I went out for a run, assembled the bike – rode a quick test loop and had a beatuiful evening ocean swim. I got stung by jelly fish on both arms, chest and legs but I had started taking antihistamine to reduce the effects I get from the stings (as I am allergic) so I didnt care much about it.
Next coming days I got to know some really great people that stayed in the hotel and had done the race several times before; Matt Russell from USA who placed third overall last year and Toni Ferreira Da Silva Neto who often is the fastest overall amateur in this race. I must say that I was plesantly surprized to find that there still are people in the big races that have the passion and attitude that I know from times of the past.
Toni Ferreira Da Silva Neto, Matt Russell and a Oldman (from left to right) at the bike check-in.
Over the next few days we did several more ocean swims and I got stung even more by jelly fish but told myself that its probably good to get the body used to the stings as I will have more during the race. By Friday it was getting bad and I felt sensitive to heat – almost like I had a fever and talked to my coach Teresa at Uperform about it. The last session I decided to swim in the pool instead as I didn’t feel that good anymore.
Itchy & Scratchy – Perhaps I should get a ”Burkini” for next years race?
Swim: Raceday morning came and we took off into a crystal-clear water. In Cozumel, you walk out on a pier and at the end of it there is a timing device that pick-up your chip and start your time as you walk over it – this is excellent as you can only walk 4-6 at the time over it and creates a steady stream of people going into the water and spreads out the competitors. The swim course starts 3,850 meters north of T1 so all participants are driven by busses up to the start area. I started in the fastest group (<60min) did my own relaxed swim and was pleasantly surprised with time of 54:54 as the current was a bit all over the place and quite strong at times – it felt like I swam for much longer.
The Pro heading in for their swim start (which was a water start)
T1:Quite a long run to the bikes and up to the road – along a fantastic cheering crowd.
Bike: The bike course runs south along the west coast all the way down to the most Sothern point of the island in lush tropical vegetation on decent closed roads. Then it turns north along the east coast along the beautiful beach with some rather noticeable headwinds. After the beautiful ride right by the ocean it shoots straight accross the island again back to the west coast. I was positivly surprised to find that there was no packs or drafting and only saw a few people on the last loop that was a bit close.
East coast – riding close to the ocean
Followed my plan and started the first loop (of 3) at sub 5 hour pace. After 30min on the bike I started to have difficulty to keep the energy and water down – it came up in smaller volumes that I still could swallow back down again. Second loop the situation got worse and the volumes that was coming up can better be described as cascades that erupted over my bike and body, now I started to have difficulty to keep decent speed. By the third loop even attempting to keep something down was impossible and I showered in water to cool down as I couldn’t drink anything. I was quickly becoming dehydrated had cramps in the stomach and the cycling was transformed from ”race pace” to ”transportation to the transition area pace”. Finished the bike in a dissapointing 5:23.
T2: As I arrived to T2 I could hardly stand up – standing straight was out of the question. I entered the tent in a haze, walking like a folding knife that cant be folded out anymore. Sat down and the cramp would not stop. Put on my socks, shoes, sun-visor and sun glasses, stuffed my Isostar gels in my back pockets and tried to stand up. That didnt go to well. I laid down and tried to release the cramp through controlled breathing which didnt work. After what felt like an eternity I decided to try to run anyway (against the advice of the concerned looking medical staff).
Exited the tent, ran half folded for 200meters and the cramp brought me down on the ground again. The medical team seamed to expect what happen as they came within seconds and wheeled me off in a wheelchair to the medical tent. Apparently, I had high blood pressure, dehydration, fever (?) and they hooked me up to a couple of pints of IV. After an hour, I was better and released and could shuffle my crooked body out to pick up bike and bags and head back to the hotel in dispair.
Well that kind of sucked…. It is frustrating to DNF but I didnt have much of a choise. Not sure about the reasons for the cramp – I have had stomach issues and vomited in races before – but never so bad that I had to stop. After the race, I talked with my very supportive and encouraging coach who had followed the race on Ironman She had googled allergy against jelly fish & effects when stung after I told her about the situation earlier in the week and apparently, you can get nausea and vomiting if you are sensitive. Being the smart coach that she is – she didn’t tell me about her findings BEFORE the race to get me worried.
Most likely I had accumulated quite a bit of poison in my system and when trying to race, and putting an increased load on my body, the symptoms broke out. Many people had problems with the stomach that day and the medical tent was much more frequented than previous years. There are of course other possible reasons; we got bottled water but was the ice made from tap water or botteled water if so – is the tap water on the island ok, was the bottles new or stored from last year and not cleaned properly? Can it be a combination – who knows.
Either way – I was really happy to later hear the news that Matt finished second overall just a minute and a half after Fredrik Van Lierde, Toni placed third in his age group and our Swedish Pro K-J Danielsson was eights with a really strong finishing time of 08:23:01 – so good considering his pre-race uncertanty about racing in really hot humid conditions.
Getting to know new friends (left to right): Guilerme – Brazil, Ruth – Costa Rica, Tales – Brazil, Christina – Mexico, Rae – USA, Toni – Brazil, Dalibor – Swizerland, Matt – USA and me.
What now: Thankfully; my happiness is not dependent on results and getting a place on the podium. Dont get me wrong – its a great reward (and addictive feeling) to win and achieve good results, but I separate my happiness from results and take a setback as fuel for the fire of motivation.
I don’t view my preparations for the race as ”lost” or ”waisted” – I love my training in all intensity and condition, I don’t mind long hours on the indoor trainer and refuse to relate or refere to training as a sacrifice or worse – be overbearing and marginalize the types of training that I find more challagning than other.
For me, training for long distance triathlon, is not only a physical undertaking but an opportunity to build and develop mental strength and cultivating emotions. A possibility to learn to enjoy something that I perhaps initially disliked, dreaded or even feared (like +5 hour rides on the trainer).
Now I am back in training again after my seasonal break (which was Monday, as Coach Teresa sais – there is no ”Off-Season” :-). I feel fully recovered from the race (both physically and mentally) and looking forward to train hard. Most of all, I look forward to go back to Ironman Cozumel next year as it is my ideal location, course and climate.
My goal remains – to become faster at +50 than I was at +30 and I must admit that deep down Im kind of relifed that I didnt achieve my goal this time – then I would have to ask myself that difficult question – whats next?.