Laurel 5th at Cozumel 70.3
Another hot one in Cozumel! I am happy with a 5th place finish on a day where temperatures and humidity soared in the to “feels like” 104F range. If you are thinking about racing in Cozumel, I recommend it. The island is beautiful, the people are friendly, the swim is crystal blue, the bike is gorgeous, the crowds on the run are excellent… BUT you will be hot, and you will be uncomfortable and the run will fee awful until you can see that finish line! But, it’s so worth it to be able to race in paradise.
My trip was quick. I had a pretty epic few days. Thursday night before the race I met up with my sisters for a “sister summit”. The four of us very rarely get together with no kids, let alone in the West Village, to eat a great restaurant and see a play. Well, there was no way that I was going to miss that. It was the best. We ate at Minetta Tavern and the saw Diana Nyad’s 2 woman show at the Minetta Lane Theater. Amazing, and so inspiring on all sorts of levels. Yes, I got home late and then had a 3 am wake up for a 5am flight, but seeing my sisters and hearing Diana talk about her life experiences and swimming from Cuba to Miami was actually way more energizing for mind and body than that extra bit of sleep could ever be.
I spent the week packing and preparing for the trip knowing I would have zero extra time and all the pieces had to come into place for it all to work out. That meant, I brought all my own food. Rice cooked over the weekend, Ironwoman cookies made and frozen, bagels and peanut butter packed.
After two flights, and a day of travel, I arrived to my air bnb at around 5:30pm. I ate and then forced myself to assemble my bike right away. Next, I walked to the expo, walked more around the expo, walked around the grocery store only to find out I couldn’t purchase anything because my card didn’t work. Walk walk walk. There’s a lot of walking involved in this race!
Saturday, I got up early to ride to avoid the heat. I got 8 minutes into my ride when the rain started and the roads got slick. We have had some bad luck with slick tropical roads, so I decided not to risk it and went slowly back to the air bnb, with the confidence that my bike was in good working order. I quickly ran back out to get some breakfast. My air bnb host recommended Rincon de Ady and the food was perfect. It was about a million degrees outside with equal humidity so I didn’t truly get to enjoy it, but I got in my needed calories. I hurried off to go back to the room to dry off when a few blocks later I was stopped by a scooter. “Miss, miss, los llaves.” - I had forgotten my airbnb keeps on the table and the waiter had hopped on his scooter and tracked me down!! I am not even sure how he found me in the labyrinth of streets, but he did. I told you the people in Cozumel are the best! After that, I ran off to the host hotel for the race briefing. The briefing was ok, not very serious, but no big surprises. But the best news this year: a full 70.3!! Yes!
After the briefing I went back to the grocery store, this time with cash! I picked up a roll and cheese and made a sandwich that I gobbled on my walk back to air bnb. Next was the bike drop. It had stopped raining and I rode my bike the 8k to the transition area. I checked out the part of the course that was bumpy and it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. I dropped my bike and took the shuttle back to the host hotel. Last year this stressed me out big time. This year, I stayed calm and stress free, listened to some music and just went with the flow. It took a long time, but it all worked out.
Race morning and how I was going to get to the start was stressing me out. My air bnb was about a mile from where the shuttle bus to the race was picking up athletes. I just told myself it was warm up and breathed a sigh of relief after making it through each pitch dark block. I got to the busses and it was a stampede to get on them. Again, I just stayed calm and squeezed myself in NYC subway style.
SO… I was just happy to get to that start! The dolphins were playing behind us and the water was warm. I had a decent swim, staying with Ellie as long as I could. I got really hot and my pace dropped midway but I still was enjoying it and happy to be swimming solo. I distanced myself right away from anyone who might grab me and pull me under. So, that was a win!
On the bike, my legs were just lackluster. I don’t know if they were tired from walking or just not warmed up from not riding in a few days or maybe I am just slow haha. Well, I know I’m not thaaaat slow. Anyway, I rode solo for 30 minutes or so trying to keep Ellie in sight up ahead. Then I started getting passed by the train I knew was coming. We planned that when this happened I would just hang and not make any moves. The pack ended up pulling away from the competitor I was behind. On all the rises I started inching closer, only to have to sit up and get to the legal distance behind. I could hear coaches orders to “just stay put, do not pass”, so I did that, but after 30 minutes or so, there was another rise and I couldn't sit up anymore and decided to ride my own pace. My legs responded well and I felt great. Turns out my split for the loop around the island was slower than what I did in Ironman…so good-bye podium chances. Still, I wanted to close out the bike strong and kept myself hydrated and cool as much as possible at every aid station. Thank goodness for those water bottles!!
The run was tough. I started out with a fast mile and freaked out. I was supposed to start slow! So, I slowed down only to have another decent mile. Then I freaked out even more and made myself go really slow. Well, next thing I know, I was even slower and had no control of my pace! It got hot and it got ugly and did I mention slow? I wanted to walk, but coaches orders: “do not walk. just keep running.” kept coming back to me. I didn’t walk once but I threw in a few 7:40 miles … at around 8 miles I started to feel better. I had an Xrcel and told myself I could get through it. I looked down at my good luck charm and reminded myself I am a runner and I had to give myself a chance. The plan was to run controlled for an hour and hard for 30 minutes, just like we did in our training run the week before. My pace started getting faster and I moved back into 5th place. (I had been passed earlier). Then I put in my go2device breathing device and started really moving and the effort felt so much easier. My last few miles were the fastest of all the pros. I was shocked when I saw a 6:44 final mile in that heat. My run split was still slow (1:35) but factoring in the heat it was what I expected. It’s also encouraging for Ironman racing to know I can climb out of a hole like that. It was remarkable to go from not being able to hold 7:30 pace to crossing the line and feeling like I could have kept going. It was a good reminder not to give up and always try to give yourself a second chance.
I quickly congratulated my competitors and other athletes I saw after the race, saw the volunteer who caught me when I tripped over the finish line after the ironman last November (she remembered me!) and then raced back to the air bnb to pack my bike and get to the airport. I was home at 3am Monday morning with a smile. Mission accomplished.
I have had a ton of travel experiences that have gone horribly awry so when they work out, it’s cause for celebration! It is also something I don’t take for granted. I am grateful I was able to pull off the crazy plan, and do it without any help. I think it was the time with my sisters and their good vibes that put me in the mindset to pull it off. Also, keeping myself as stress-free as possible was key. You have to keep these things fun if you want to keep doing them.
Many, many thanks to my supporter (Xrcel, Wyn Republic, Dare2Tri, Carolyn at Fusion PT, go2devices) for supporting me and giving me the best equipment, clothing, fuel and care. I hope you will follow the links and check them out.
So…what’s next? Shanghai 70.3 with Bec! Already packing the food!