My last race of the season was a total gamble when life threw in some unexpected twists. Although it was not my best day, it was special to return to Cozumel, to place in the Top 10, and come away with a new Ironman PR of 9:20:18.
Things don’t always work out the way you planned, but in the end, they work out exactly as they should. After finishing third in my last two Ironman races this season (Nice and Louisville), I had high hopes to place well in my final Ironman of the year. I was supposed to race Mar de Plata, Argentina on December 3rd. However life had other plans.
Things began to unravel fast, starting with a trail running incident that earned me a trip to the ER to have my forearm sewn back together with 10 stitches. This was 5 days before I was to travel to Argentina. I was starting to panic and get cold feet about the long travel, the pain from the injury and continuing hard training in the build for the race. I was notified that the weather in Argentina was unseasonably cool and the water was flat out cold. It might even rain. I had painful flashbacks to Ironman Brazil where in May, I had run up and down the beach in my wetsuit ahead of the race, trying to stay warm. Needless to say, IM Brazil did not go so well.
Then the day before I was to fly to Argentina, the airline called and informed me that my flight had been cancelled. I was offered a reroute or a refund.
I took it as a sign. And I took a big risk – accepting the refund and booking a flight the next day to Cozumel to join my teammates and coach there and race in 4 days. Race taper started immediately. It was a scramble to find a place to stay and I was incredibly fortunate to find a homestay my first night with a woman who put on an incredible Mexican-American Thanksgiving – Turkey, Pumpkin pie, and algo para picar – all included. I counted my blessings.
I had only gotten one short swim in following the stitches so I knew that race day would be a gamble, but I was elated to join so many friends from the Mid Maryland Tri Club, Team SFQ, and Team Lovato in sunny Cozumel. It was amazing to see everyone and there was great energy building for the race.
On race day I knew that the swim would be tough with the arm, and the bike would be tougher. I was counting on a solid run. Biking in the aero position on my forearm hurt as the pads put pressure directly on my stitches and swollen forearm. I was hoping that the adrenaline on race day would kick in and I wouldn’t feel it. That didn’t exactly happen.
Race day morning, swimming in the crystal clear blue-green water and looking down at fish was amazing. I swam hard but missed the feet of the faster swimmers. I was soon on my own in the water, chasing. The swim was fast. I could feel the current pushing us towards the finish – 2.4 miles down the coast to Chankanaab Park. I was elated to see the dock come up and swam hard into the finish. Glancing down at my watch, I was shocked to see 50 minutes – it was a very fast swim! I was informed as I came out of the water that I was in 10th. That was solid as I tend to be a mid-pack swimmer.
In transition I took some extra time to put on an arm sleeve to cover my stitches. We had elected to keep them in for the race as opposed to pull them out. The arm sleeve helped protect the forearm a bit and provided some more comfort down in the aero position. It still hurt but I tried to focus on being smooth, efficient, and aero, while biking hard. The famous headwinds on the far side of the Island were lighter this year, although they still made biking a bit of a fight on the last lap. All in all, at 5:06:49 it was a fast bike.
T2 was quick and efficient and I started out on the run. Immediately though, the sun and the heat hit me and I didn’t feel great. I tried to let the body settle in and hoped that the legs would come around. I had to push the pace a bit on the first lap and by mile 9, I was hurting. The pace began to drop on the second lap as it became a struggle and the third lap was downright painful. Willing the legs to turn over and continue. It was deceptively hot. It could have been a lot worse as it wasn’t nearly as hot or humid as it typically is in Cozumel. However, I still felt the impact of the heat. And so did the other racers – it was getting ugly across the board. I could not hold my typical pace, the wheels were coming off. In the end, it was a disappointing run – well off my recent Ironman marathon paces and over a minute slower from last year. I came in 9th overall in the pro field. It was not the finish I would have liked, but it was all I had in me. It was not my day.
In retrospect however, I came in Top 10 last year at Ironman Cozumel and went sub 10 with a time of 9:43 and had been absolutely elated. That was the race that affirmed my commitment to continue triathlon as a pro and gave me the encouragement I so desperately needed after a year of injuries and lackluster race results – I was finally seeing progress.
Although it was not my best day in Cozumel this year, to place in the Top 10, and have a new Ironman PR of 9:20:18, while knowing that I have it in me to do better, is something special in itself. It was a strong and impressive field of women and I am inspired and encouraged to work harder.
It was a tough race. I wasn’t supposed to have stitches in my arm. I wasn’t supposed to be in Cozumel. I was supposed to have a taper. I was supposed to race in Argentina a week later. Or was I? Returning to the Island that had given me hope and the inspiration to continue as a pro athlete, to be greeted by the wonderful warmth of the people there, and to race with so many teammates, friends, and coach at my side, was perhaps the perfect end to a season that has been successful beyond my wildest imagination. In the end, life happens as it should.
I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for such a dramatic year of improvement, to now have a couple Top 3 podiums under my belt, and to continue to get faster and stronger. I can only hope to keep seeing such great progress next year. For now though, after 7 races, including 4 Ironmans this season, it is time for some much needed rest! Off-season is on. 🙂