My Ironman Cozumel
Enjoying one last day here in Cozumel before heading home to welcome in December (and Christmas!).
Yesterday I raced Ironman Cozumel and there couldn’t have been better conditions. Perfect air temperature, low wind and a relatively calm swim with the exception of the intermittent sting I’d feel from the tiny jellyfish, visible to the naked eye during the swim amongst the coral and brightly colored fish swimming below all made for an idyllic day in an absolutely beautiful setting.
What made yesterday more challenging for me personally as compared to my normal race preparation was two part; the first being a minor hamstring injury I’d been rehabbing since prior to my previous race in Austria over the summer and the other being the emotional back and forth I tend to experience when dealing with such a situation.
I’d taken time off running after Austria for physio, ultrasound and strength work in order to prevent the minor injury from turning into a major one.
Since biking and swimming were pain-free, my coach of 8 years, Lance Watson, and I decided to focus on the two disciplines and bank on my run, which is my strongest of the three, to remain relatively consistent with where it should be, give or take a little.
After all, I had three months to go!
Unfortunately, my glut, hamstring and psoas didn’t happen to agree.
Runs longer than an hour still weren’t feeling normal, so I repeatedly had to peel back on volume and keep my pacing slow.
After about a month, I allowed a seed of doubt about not being able to race and whether or not it would actually be foolish to train, possibly risking further injury, to take root in my mind’s eye.
On the up side, if my stronger swim, thanks to Coach Gerry Rodrigues, with whom I swim four to five days per week (not to mention the new swim course at Cozumel) plus my stronger bike due to the extra focus went as planned, I’d theoretically have more time in the bank to make up for what would potentially be a pretty slow run. And the option of having my Kona qualification for 2016 all set now, so far in advance, would be ideal in order to have a solid off season strength build after some much needed time off.
The cons? Injury, first and foremost; causing serious damage beyond minor soft tissue and muscle imbalance in order to score a slot, as an age group athlete, didn’t feel right. So that left another option, which felt unthinkable… a DNF.
But when I stopped to think about it rationally, I decided that maybe if it were planned in advance, if I had a PR on the swim and ranked well on the bike and knew there was a good chance I’d need to pull out and not run, it might somehow feel like I still would achieve a couple of goals.
Plus, the trip had already been planned and I can’t exactly say that a getaway to Mexico with my husband was a hardship.
The question was how I might feel afterward. Would I feel I’d quit? Would I regret it?
After much thought and consideration and getting the green light from my physio, I decided I had to at least give it a try.
And I promised myself in all honesty and candor that if something didn’t feel right, I’d stop.
After all, the run course here is three loops, so there would be plenty of places to pull out, if need be.
So, we flew down last week, and proceeded as normal.
I must mention how easy it’s been to eat properly here; with the abundance of fresh, local fish and produce, and the chef’s decadent preparation of everything from authentic Mexican cuisine to a simple steak and side of veggies, it was yet one more example of how eating food that tastes good and eating food which is good for you can, in fact, be one in the same.
Anyway, the day before the race arrived, I checked in and sat in meditation for a while, looking out at the sea from a canopied palapa on our beach, my husband by my side.
During my visualization of the race, broken down into segments and mantras and everything else you might imagine, I remembered something that always serves me well in times of feeling those pre-race jitters.
No matter what the outcome may be, it’s just a day.
I feel so grateful for so much, my husband/best friend/training partner, our new addition to the family (Preston, the Weim pup), living in LA where we’re spoiled with access to such an abundance of fresh, local food, a career doing what I love…
It takes much of the pressure away, that I imagine we must all put on ourselves to race well, when we simply take a step back to reflect a little about what it’s all about.
I’m an age group athlete who chooses to train and race for the sheer love of the sport.
It’s meant to be fun.
And it is.
And one day, I suspect that for one reason or another, the time will come when I don’t feel like doing triathlon anymore and I’ll pick another physical activity to engage in.
But that time isn’t here yet, and I’d come all this way, so that meant Sunday would be game time.
I had a PR on the swim, a 2nd place age group bike split and began my run and held it steady in the 3rd place slot.
I took it one mile at a time, staying uber present, something I was able to train myself to do relatively easy on the run, given my love of it.
Was it uncomfortable?
But thankfully, I had no red flags. No sharp, shooting pain, no sudden tightening, and as such, I was continuously presented with a choice to carry on, or not.
Incidentally, since when was Ironman meant to comfortable anyway?
There wouldn’t have been a wrong decision, I don’t think, but my choices were to keep on moving, pull out, or walk.
And I’d worked so hard all day long, so I just decided to keep on keeping on.
My nutrition was spot on, under the watchful eye of my friend and colleague, Peter Defty, of Vespa, with whom I’ve been working with all season to fine tune my fasted training and racing with his OFM protocol; steady energy all day long with zero ‘bonks’ or stomach upset (nothing to have an upset stomach on if it’s empty!).
Chris was on the sidelines the whole time, being the best possible sherpa one could dream of and most of all, I was simply happy just to be out there racing such an outstanding course.
Could I have done better if I’d had my normal run?
My run was over 30 minutes off where it would normally have been but not for one second did I feel angry or upset about it.
I knew that would be the case and just being able to run gave me such joy and even more gratitude that I carried on, albeit not at my normal pace, but kept it steady.
I giggled to myself when a tune I admittedly listen to before a race (Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger; and yes, I also drank raw eggs as an 8 year old kid, after seeing Rocky do it) played just before the finish, and I crossed the line in third, knowing I gave it everything I had on that particular day.
(Another mandatory must-note, again, regarding food, this time at the finish line: what a perfect way to welcome in athletes that have just swum, biked and run 140.6 miles than with hot chicken broth and coconut water? How hard is that, and why must all the other races keep shoving ice cream, pizza and crap at us? Ok… enough of that for now!)
Kona for next year?
Hoping so, but with a third place slot, it will all depend on the roll down, as there are likely only two in my age group.
I’ll find out tonight at the ceremony.
In the mean time, as they say here in Cozumel, Ma’ Alob K’Iin!