Friday, 30 December 2011

Ironman Cozumel 2011

My finale for the year was Ironman Cozumel. It was over a year since Kona 2010 and no matter how well your training has gone there is always apprehension, after all an Ironman is a long way. I think this anxiety is a good thing, it shows how important the race is to you. I try to focus this energy on planning my race and performance, setting way markers and goals for each leg of the race.

In the weeks leading up to my departure the weather had been kind and I had been able to do all of my long rides outside. This had been an unexpected benefit because at this time of the year the weather is very unsettled and often cold and wet. My run also felt strong, I’d benefited from a block of very fast stuff so my long Tempo runs felt very easy, even up to 30km.

Treading water on the start into the incoming current was tough. I was 1 row off the front and was prepared for an aggressive start. I wasn’t disappointed, within 5 strokes I’d been kicked in the face twice. The second kick I took in the left eye and it dislodged my goggles. Thankfully one eye was still ok and It was about 2.5km before I had enough space to flip over onto my back, empty the water and reposition my goggles. The swim starts off into the current, but its not long until you’re turning back with the current and this is real help despite it being a non wetsuit swim. I was pleased with a 58 minute swim, despite going a little off course due to the wash and waves created by spectator boats obscuring the buoys.

Quickly through transition where I met Conan Gibney also changing, I striped off my Skinfit plasma swim suit and headed for the bike. Its pot luck where your bikes are racked, and neither Conan nor I had particularly good positions. We had a little further to run than some of the other competitors

Putting this aside, next up was the bike leg. The course was flat, but the difficulty lay in the middle third of the course. It ran parallel to the sea and when the wind picked up we took a battering from the prevailing wind. It was fine for the first 60km lap;however, it picked up on the second and third lap. This is when your body naturally starts to fatigue and I found it harder to hold my speed and watts. I felt for the slower swimmers because they had it progressively harder than those who had exited earlier like the Pro’s who had started 30 minutes before us. 182km later,on my Garmin, I was preparing to hit T2 and felt ok apart from little gastro discomfort. I’d had this before in Kona and knew that it hadn’t slowed me down so I pushed on. I’d gone through 180km in 4h.50 mins, so I was where I had expected to be. Without the coastal winds a sub 4.45 could have been possible.

Heading out on the run, I noticed the puddles around me because it had just rained in town. It was already reasonably warm.... my Garmin was showing 34 degrees when I was on the bike and it felt hotter now. This rain meant the humidity increased and it felt super hot. The pro’s that had hit the run course 30 mins before us suffered more here than the age groupers. I started off my run strong, but after about 14km I was slowing. There weren’t any sponges on the course and I was overheating. Rather than using cups and sponges they had these little plastic bags full of water. I found this very difficult to use effectively, for either cooling or drinking. My pace was slowing, but I didn’t have any idea by how much… My Garmin 310xt had run out battery and it seemed that what with the water problem, stomach issues and watch failure every thing was against me.

In order to help the gastro and water issues, I reluctantly decided to walk for a bit… I hate walking especially because I had come off the bike as 5th Age grouper. This had given me a great opportunity to run down some of the other competitors. It was soo hot, that I thought by giving my body a chance to cool down and allowing my stomach to settle it may give me the respite I needed.

The next 28km was tough for me. I ran and walked when my stomach became too painful. In all, I suspect I walked about a kilometre over the course of the race. It was only after the monsoon storm that I cooled down enough to be able to run properly again. The storm was amazing, it rained torrentially for about 15 -20 minutes. Within this time the whole coastal road flooded, and the side roads became rivers. The spectators disappeared and in some places we were running in calf deep water. Talk about epic…. I was only glad to be heading to the finish. I had no idea of my splits, my position or whether I had done enough to qualify for Kona. I was soaked and felt a bit flat and disenchanted. Two of the three legs had gone well. The last, my strongest had felt rubbish… compared to how I had expected to run.

It was only when I phoned my wife Mette back in London, that she was able to tell me my splits and where I had come. I was 7th amateur overall and 6th in my Age group

Overall 26th Swim 58.39 T1 2.55 Bike 4.54:54T2 2.03 Run 3.15:38 Overall 9.14:09

I was delighted; collecting a Kona slot was the main objective, a Sub 9 hour Ironman and a sub 3 hour Ironman marathon will have to wait. Conan came in few minutes behind me and seeing him really cheered me up. We had both qualified for Kona and this rounded off a super week that we had spent together


  1. The trick with the plastic bags of water is to grab a corner, puncture it with your teeth to get just the corner and spray yourself.

    It's annoying until you get the hang of it.

    Great read!

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