I am going to backtrack a bit before I start my Cozumel race story. Not many people know this but at the beginning of the year I didn’t want to do triathlons any more. I lost that inner drive that got me excited to train and race. I still trained, and I still raced, but my heart wasn’t in it. I kept thinking “after Cozumel I’m done.” I can’t say what made me feel this way but it showed a bit in my training and a bit in my racing. At least until Cozumel got closer. The Tahoe Triathlon I did in August I actually looked forward to, and during the race I told myself to look around and soak in the beauty and try to enjoy myself. Something that day changed my heart and my motivation. Then come Cozumel I was surrounded by amazing athletes from all over the world, and maybe because of that, or something unknown, but that passion came back!
So much happened before the race: I made new friends from all over the country, walked in parade of nations, met sister Madonna, saw elites race (including gold medalist Gwen Jorgensen), that I could write a few more blogs in addition to this race story. But for now I will stick to race day…
4:30 is when my alarm went off, well I should say when it was set to go off. I was awake every hour that night anxious for race day. So I wouldn’t wake my family I turned it off before it was set to go off and got out of bed. I previously made plans with a couple other athletes to meet at 5:30 to catch a shuttle to the race. I wanted some time before that to double check my race bag and get some food (and coffee!) in my system.
Transition was set up according to age group, and within that according to your country. So it was really cool to be with all the other 40-44 Team USA woman that morning. There were 10 of us and many of us joked that at least we’ll come in top 10 Team USA that day! After I felt all was set to go I walked the long T1 (swim to bike transition) portion to go check out the swim, and was lucky to run into my family. It was great seeing my kids and husband before I set off to swim.
Before the first wave (group of racers, grouped by sex/age group) started the race announcer told us that there was a very strong current heading north-south and they needed to adjust the swim length from 1500m to roughly 1250-1300m. As I watched the first couple of waves go you could tell, they would start fast heading south for 300m, turn the series of 3 buoys to start heading North, then they looked like they hardly moved. While I was watching someone behind me asked me my plan for my swim, I told him “I plan to find feet and sit (draft) on them the entire long side.” He agreed it sounded like a solid plan and we wished each other “good luck!” and got ready for our wave start. Swim start we all jumped in and were to hold onto the barge/dock with one hand until the gun went off. When I jumped in I drifted immediately away from the dock. The currents were very strong! I got back to the dock and got ready. I was in the middle of the group and more people squeezed in. I hate crowded swims but took a deep breath and knew it would be okay. The gun went off and to my surprise it thinned out quickly and I was towards the front of the pack. I found feet and as we rounded the 3 buoys I stayed on those feet. It was another American and I was there until we started coming up on the wave before us (and eventually even the wave before that! I heard later that some athletes got caught in rip-tides), as we zigzagged through those swimmers I lost her feet. I swam the rest alone until rounding the turn buoys to come home. I was expecting the current to zip me to the swim finish but I swear the current changed! So I found another pair of feet (McMurry pictured below) and we came to the finish together. I thanked her for the draft and we both made comments about how the current switched on us as we ran the long transition to our bikes.
The bike was flat and fast. I’m used to hills so hammering for 40K without a downhill to recover was taunting. It was very hot and humid so I figured I would make sure I had legs left for the run (and after seeing people drop like flies during the run I was happy I did hold back a little). I kept telling myself to race my own race, not worry about others around me. I had two bottles of FLUiD and made sure to finish both before I was done. It worked well and when I came into T2 (bike to run) the two bottles were empty and my legs had a bit left in them.
For the run the team USA coach gave us advice to take the first 2 miles steady to be careful because of the heat. The next two miles to build, then the last two miles to hold. And since a 10K is 6.2 miles she said the last .2 miles to give everything you have no matter how you feel. And team manager Tim Yount gave us advice for the many turns in the course, “RUN THE TANGENTS!” and that was in my head the entire time. He said running wide can add 30 seconds to your time, so make sure to run the curves straight, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. With the course we had (see image below) it was a wise thought to impart to us.
And I as much as I tried to do the 2 steady, 2 build, 2 hold, it didn’t work that way. I started out good then after mile 2 I think I just tried not to pass out! I would push a bit and start to get dizzy. I took aid at every station (there were 8!), I drank and dumped water on my head and put ice in my cap. Everything I could to stay cool. My shoes were soaking wet and making squishing noises. I was embarrassed but then realized probably everyone’s shoes were doing the same. Many people out on the course cheering for team USA, plus I heard lots of “AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE!” and “go KIWI!” and other cheers in different languages. At the end with a 400m to go I had a wonderful gal on the sidelines running with me pushing me to go hard. She kept telling me that this was Worlds, go hard, you’ve done fast 400s before, go hard! During it I wanted to punch her. I was hurting. But when I finished I wanted to hug her. She pushed me and helped me finish strong.
I did almost collapse after the finish but after a couple minutes I was able to walk on my own and got my finishers medal, a cool shell necklace, a fresh coconut that was chopped with a machete right in front of me then a straw put in it. Then with said coconut in hand I headed to the ice baths with all the other athletes and sat in there and cooled off, drank my coconut water, and we all shared stories of our race experience. It was an amazing race and I feel so blessed and lucky to have been able to be there. I was happy with my overall time because I thought my run would have hurt it, but with a swim and bike PR I did okay! I ended up 9th in my age group. I was hoping for top 20 and I secretly wanted top 10 but thought that might be too lofty a goal. But I got 9th!!! I was and am so thrilled.
I made many new friends and we told each other that we would have a reunion at Nationals next year in Omaha! I have that passion back to train hard and looking forward to racing. Thanks so much to my coach Stephanie, my Freeplay team and team sponsors with which none of this would be possible. And of course my sherpa husband who believes in me and supports my crazy training and racing… and for not really believing me when I said I was done after this race. You were right.
Some photos below of the amazing people I met, and new friends I made.