||Sunday, November 27, 2011
||Triathlon - Ironman
||Female 30 - 34
||1340 / 1770
|Age Group Place:
||84 / 98
||Gorgeous course, great crowds, don't expect the precise execution of a U.S. Ironman race though!
Ironman Cozumel – November 27, 2011
The season leading up to this race was a series of injuries and deferrals. I was unmotivated to train and unmotivated to race. Life felt overwhelming and chaotic. I missed the joy that triathlon had given me, and I didn't know how to get it back. I mean triathlon and I have been an item now for 5 seasons, and I really didn't want to give up on it. It has been so good to me!
Feeling directionless, I decided to hire a coach again. I hadn't been coached since 2009, and I was terrible at coaching myself. My first choice was Alan Melvin. He took my friend Larissa, who was a 6 hour marathoner and turned her into a Boston Qualifier. He also took my friend Ben McCall, who was a middle of the pack Ironman athlete and had him on track for a 10 hour IM finish. Sadly, Alan didn't have space on his roster.
I contacted my friend Kevin Kunkel, who agreed to coach me. I did a pretty terrible job of following the plan and I did an even worse job of logging my workouts, but it was what it was. Kevin himself wasn't to blame.
Coming into this race, I felt ambivalent, discouraged, and had I not invested so much money in it, I would have been tempted to drop out. I was sure that I wasn't trained well enough to finish, much less PR.
The night before I left for Cozumel, I got a text from my friend John Gloster. He asked me to meet him at Walker's Grill, because he had something for me. He gave me a book that I had been thinking about getting to bring on the trip to Cozumel, The Alchemist. I had to marvel at the way the Universe works!
After a Wednesday “Thanksgiving” dinner with mom and LaKeisha, I finished packing and went to bed. I hoped I had packed everything I needed for an Ironman AND a 10 day vacation! At least I was bringing out of season clothes with me, so they were all clean! It isn't exactly shorts and tank top weather in Virginia!
Thanksgiving morning, I ran a 5k with Kingstowne Striders, joined them for some coffee and headed home to shower and get ready to leave. The run was just what I needed to keep me from going crazy sitting still on a day of flights!
My mom dropped me off at National Airport at 1:30, and I was quickly at the gate with an hour and 45 till my flight. At one point, the gate agent called me to the counter and asked me if I would like to trade my middle seat for a middle seat in an exit row. That was an easy answer! When we finally boarded, over an hour later than we were originally scheduled, I wound up sitting in a row with two dudes who were married and asked if they one of them could trade their seat for mine so they could sit together. I gladly traded my middle for an aisle! SCORE!
We spent some of the flight joking and they gave me a piece of gum. . . Either because they were nice, or because I was smelly. I don't know which, but I am pretty sure it was the former.
I spent most of the flight reading The Alchemist, and was immediately drawn into the story of a boy who learns to follow his heart, read omens and trust in the Universe to support him in finding his personal treasure. I was sad when the plane landed in Miami.
I thought I only had 15 minutes to get to my next flight, and I was starving and had to pee. We hadn't been able to get up during most of the flight due to rough air. Upon asking a gate agent near my next departure, I discovered that I had 45 minutes until boarding. I took that opportunity to pee, and then I went and had Thanksgiving dinner at a Cuban restaurant in the Miami Airport. How's that for breaking tradition?
One of the men who was busing tables asked me in Spanish if I was from Argentina. I had no idea that I might possible look Argentinian. I also speak very very little Spanish, and most of it has to do with arresting people. It was an interesting encounter.
There were several other Ironman competitors on my flight to Cancun, and I hoped that maybe I would get to meet them. They looked fast, and I felt like a poser. I reminded myself that I had done 3 of these before, and that made me decidedly NOT a poser. I still felt like one.
I finished The Alchemist on the plane, and I spent the rest of the time contemplating the meaning of it's lesson in my own life. Following my heart. . . What is it that I really want? Why is that such a frustrating and confusing question? Why do I not know the answer, or better yet, why do I keep myself from seeing the answer?
I had been worried about my 8:45pm arrival in Cancun. The last Mayan Air flight from Cancun to Cozumel leaves at 8pm, and the last ferry to Cozumel leaves Playa del Carmen at 10. Playa del Carmen is 45 minutes from Cancun. After getting my baggage and clearing customs and immigration inside of 10 minutes (YAY for efficient operations), I asked an information person if there was a way for me to get to Cozumel tonight. He said that the last ferry was at 11 and directed me to a taxi company that could take me to Playa del Carmen. I relaxed.
I got in the taxi with several others who were also headed to Playa. One gentleman graciously offered me the front passenger seat in the van. I happily accepted.
The drive from Cancun to Playa del Carmen is on Meixco Route 308. I began to see signs for places that I recognized from different times in my life. I saw signs for Tres Rios, which was a resort area where my ex-husband and I went on a kayak/snorkeling trip when our cruise ship docked in Playa. We had gone to celebrate our 5th anniversary, and we spent the next year breaking up. It was odd to think back to that trip and to who I was back then. I wouldn't even know that girl today, except that she still likes guacamole. . . a lot!
Then I saw signs for the town of Bacalar and the city of Chetumal. I flew into Chetumal in 2008 to attend 30 days of yoga teacher training at Rancho Encantado in Bacalar. It filled my mind with thoughts of my casita-mates and of the internet “cafe,” phone cards, mangoes on a stick, and days off swimming in the Cenote Azul. It also reminded me of the joy with which I pursued training for my first Ironman. I ran many miles along Mexico 308 that 90 degree winter. I swam many miles in Laguna Bacalar as well. Ironman was my life that year, and without it, I may have actually pulled the trigger on myself.
The ride seemed much faster than 45 minutes, and I guess that however long it took, it was a good thing, because the last ferry to Cozumel was, in fact, at 10pm, and I was the very last person to board before they pulled a rope across the dock entrance, closing the ferry operation for the night.
The ride across the water was warm and breezy, as I had opted to sit on the top level where I could see the sky and the dark water, that even in darkness was still impossibly and obviously blue. I watched a couple in their 50s or 60s laughing and playing a few rows up from me. I watched a small Mexican boy eating an orange in the row next to me, and a girl about my age reading a book while wearing a heavy sweatshirt and a scarf.
We docked in Cozumel and I watched them unload all of the luggage onto large carts. There were many many bike cases that came off of the ferry, and I looked around at the fit people claiming them while thinking that I probably shouldn't even do the race. I wasn't as fit or as fast as any of these people. I wondered why I even did these races anyway. I obviously am not any good at them. Having finished three, I still hadn't been able to get out of the final hour. I felt like I was going to be slow forever.
I waded through the crowd of people at the curb and found a taxi about a block away. He took me to Puesta del Sol, which means, something in Spanish “of the Sun,” where I had rented a condo for 10 days. A security guard helped me with my bags while I found the key that the owner had hidden for me and let myself in.
I settled in pretty quickly, amazed at how sleepy I was for having sat around on planes most of the day. I checked out the gorgeous view of the sea and the pool, and I opened some windows to let the breeze in. I texted with my mom and some others who had asked me to let them know when I got in, and went to bed with the sound of the sea outside of my window.
I slept in until 8 the next morning, and had coffee for breakfast, since there was no actual food in the condo yet, and I'd brought coffee with me. Priorities, ya know. Thank God, Monty from Cabin Creek Roasters had included some ground beans with my order for whole beans, because there is also no grinder in the condo.
I checked the race website for a schedule and locations for packet pickup, the expo and practice swim information. I wasn't going to make the practice swim until the next day, so I showered, dressed and got ready to go to the expo to get my packet, find some Hammer nutrition and get my bike from Tribike Transport. Oh how I had missed my bike!
When I walked outside, I looked up and down the road and didn't see a taxi in sight, so I started walking towards town hoping I would see one before I had put too many miles on my legs for two days before race day. I came upon some runners and asked them if they were here for Ironman. They only spoke German and had no clue what I was talking about. Then I came upon a woman standing by a cab wearing tri shorts and carrying a transition bag. I asked her if she was doing Ironman. She said she was, and invited me to share her cab to packet pickup.
She was first timer, named Jeannete. We chatted on the way to the convention center. She lives in Colorado and is originally from Sweden. We were fast friends.
The expo was tiny compared to the others I have been to, and it mostly showcased local tourism businesses that were offering athletes discounts in hopes that we would spend our post race vacations patronizing them. There was one booth with equipment, and they didn't have any nutrition products. In fact, the only nutrition products at the expo at all were a couple of guys giving out cups of Gatorade. I was worried.
I got my packet, the now customary drawstring Ironman backpack, and a pretty nice IMCOZ jacket. I checked out the race merchandise, and grabbed the last small women's jersey. The selection was really small, and I thought it odd that there wasn't more stuff.
As usual, I looked around at the athletes and the operation, and I started to get choked up. There it was. There was the reason that I had to start the race. I don't exactly know what it is about this race that stirs something deep within me. I just know that as painful as it is to do it, there is something comfortable about it. It's like coming home to myself.
After getting our fill of expo energy, Jeannete and I walked across the parking lot to Tribike Transport to pick up our bikes. I was praying that my bike had made it to Cozumel with its pedals on. I had forgotten to remove them when I dropped the bike off at Bonzai, and I hadn't been able to get ahold of anyone at Tribike to see how that had been handled. The pedal question and my acquisition of Hammer products were my main stressors at the moment.
The woman at Tribike was friendly and efficient, and within moments, there was Matura with her pedals. I was very very relieved.
We left our bikes at Tribike and walked through town to find food. We stopped and ate at a so-so place called Mr. Chile's that appeared to be better known for its bar scene than its cuisine. Just as we sat down, my mom texted that she had arrived in Cozumel, so I told her to hop a taxi and come to lunch.
My mom had booked her ticket at the last minute, so she had spent the previous night attempting to sleep in a chair in the Orlando Ariport. I had to laugh at the thought of my less than adventurous mom sleeping in an airport! I don't have words to express how much it means to me that she would do that to see me race Ironman. She has never been able to go to any of my Ironman races before, so this was special! Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that she was waiting for me to race in a pretty tropical location. Seriously though, I'm way grateful that she sacrificed her comfort to come watch.
Jeannete and I planned to walk back for our bikes, do a quick ride of the run course, and then part ways until the athlete meeting that afternoon. My mom grabbed a taxi back to the condo for a nap, and Jeannete and I went back to Tribike.
The run is three loops out and back on the road where both of us were staying. I didn't have a helmet, kit or shoes with me, so we planned to stop by my condo for me to suit up. Had I known how short of a ride it would be, I would have opted to just grab my helmet and shoes! I prayed that an official wouldn't see me riding through the streets without a helmet and DQ me before I had even been to the swim start! Of course, I didn't know then what I know now about how the Mexican Triathlon Federation enforces rules.
After a quick spin around the run course, I had determined two things. One, I was really really glad that we weren't biking on that rough pavement. Two, just 8 short days without my bike made my girl parts wussy. How was I going to do 112, when less than 9 hurt?
After a short break to shower and change, Jeannete, mom and I grabbed a cab back to town for the pre-race meeting. We had a tiny bit of trouble finding it, and once we did there were no seats, so we stood in the back of the room and listened. Most of it was run of the mill pre-race stuff. Course overview, rules overview, schedule and procedure overview. . .
As we filed out of the room, I heard my name. It was Laura Cortina from FeXY! She introduced her parents, and we talked for a bit. I was glad to finally be running into some of the people I knew down here!
As soon as we were done talking, I saw a woman walk by in a SportFit Lab shirt. I took a guess that this was Beth Baumgarten, my friend, Marty McCall's coach. I had been told to look for her down here. When I called her name, she turned around. I introduced myself, and we talked a bit wishing each other luck in our respective races.
Jeannete went back to her condo to find her family, and mom and I went in search for Hammer products. I probably should have brought some with me, but I thought that bringing a bunch of baggies full of whitish powder in my luggage would probably not go over well with customs. I had also never been to an Ironman where there weren't massive quantities of every triathlon related product in the world available. After walking more than I should have, all I had succeeded in finding was Orange Accelerade. That became my backup plan.
I was starting to feel frazzled, and nervous too, because I hadn't received the athlete guide email, and the link was broken on the website. I heard rumblings of everyone having a half hour window within which to drop their bike and transition bags the next day. One of the volunteers at the expo kindly photocopied the entire guide for me, and I discovered that I was to drop my bike between 11:30 and noon. That didn't give me much time to find Hammer stuff.
By the time all that was done, it was nearly time for the athlete dinner. My mom and I split an odd fruity creamy drink called “fruitas” and sat outside of the Starbucks. I'd read in the athlete guide that the tickets for the dinner had to have been purchased at the Senor Frog's booth at the expo for $15, and that a very limited number would be available. There hadn't been a Senor Frog's booth at the expo, at least not today. I figured that meant all the tickets were gone, and that mom wouldn't be able to go with me. We decided to meet after.
I always love the athlete dinners. Even in Lake Placid when I was vegan and they only served meat and cheese ravioli, and I ate a plate of green beans, I loved the dinner. Mike Reilly always makes the presentations so entertaining, and I always cry at the videos. I really really really wanted to share this part of the Ironman experience with my mom.
I waited in the line to get into the dinner, which was scheduled to start at 6. Normally, we file in past buffet tables, get food, and sit down to tables that are already set with water and sports drinks and some sort of cookie, cake or brownie for dessert. This time we stood waiting.
While we were waiting, I saw someone purchase a ticket for the dinner, so I texted mom and had her come back to meet me. I had been waiting with some of my FeXY friends who had arrived just after I did. At 6:20, they let us in to find seats while they took the next 40 minutes to find utensils for the buffets. While we were waiting we were treated to the sounds of the same 5 pop hits from the 1980's playing on a loop. Before this weekend, I had no idea that Mexico was all about Rick Astley, but I heard him more times in two days than I did in all of 5th grade! The music was punctuated by high pitched feedback noises and loud clunking through the microphones. We finally got food a little after 7.
I knew Mike Reilly wasn't in Cozumel, but I anticipated that they still had a fantastic presentation to pump us up for the race. Three people took the stage and began a bilingual presentation that seemed sluggish in comparison to Mike's. I did my best to suspend judgment. They started to show a video. It was one I had seen before, but that didn't matter to me. It hadn't played for a minute before the sound and picture started to cut out.
Then they stopped the video and continued with the presentation. They announced the oldest and youngest athletes and how many people were here from what countries, but they didn't bring anyone up on stage or talk to anyone. Then they attempted to show the highlights video from last year. Again, AV issues made it impossible to see and hear. The dinner ended without dessert and without anyone knowing if the presentation was actually over. After a few minutes, we just left.
I felt really disappointed, and I was agitated, because I still didn't have nutrition. I was wishing I hadn't signed up for this race, and I was questioning why all of my friends who had done it had praised it so highly. I was especially disappointed, because I was showing off this thing that I love so much to my mom, and they ruined something that is always special about the experience. I left in a serious serious funk.
We walked over to the grocery store to get some food for the condo. I hoped to find some decent peanut butter and bread to make some sandwiches for race day. I wasn't afraid to go old school, but all they had was processed commercial peanut butter, the thought of which makes me ill. I decided to go back to the GNC on the lower level and grab the Accelerade powder. I'd used it before, though not for a long time, and my stomach isn't picky. At least it was fuel.
With groceries in hand we taxied back to the condo. Mom, still exhausted from her night in the airport, went to bed. I went out to the pool.
I sat in the darkness with my feet dangling in the cool salt water listening to the waves crash on the coral. I looked up at the clear black sky speckled with stars. Tears of disappointment and frustration formed and ran down my cheeks and into my hair. I started to pray. I thought back to The Alchemist and the omens and the setbacks in the story, and I said, “Okay, I surrender this race. I trust that I will have exactly what I need to complete it and to reach my goal of a new PR. I trust that if something doesn't show up for me, I don't need it.” Three meteors streaked across the sky in quick succession. Confirmation, perhaps, that I had been heard.
I went back inside feeling calm and confident. In the interest of getting things ready for the morning, I installed my new tires and bar tape on my bike. I slept well that night.
In the morning, I got up, ate, and biked down to Chankanaab Park for the practice swim. It was a nice easy bike ride through town. The sea was beautiful and the sun was shining. The park was further out of town than I thought, but it felt good to be back on the bike.
Transition was open for bike parking, so I used the opportunity to find my rack and take a picture of the sticker with marking it with my name and bib number. I left my bike racked and went to swim.
There was a large dock, surrounding a containment area where there were dolphins and manatees. I walked to the end of the dock and jumped into the clear blue salty water. I had decided to use the practice swim to try out the new TYR prototype goggles that Kim had brought back for me from Kona. The moment I hit the water, I was in LOVE with them! They sealed perfectly and felt cushy and comfortable!
I decided to swim down to the end of the course and back, then cut across to the finish area. There weren't a lot of swimmers in the water, and I took it really easy. No sense in pushing it the day before the race. I could feel that I was swimming against a current, but I could see from the changing landscape of the sea floor that I was progressing smoothly. My heart rate and breathing felt steady and calm.
About half way up to the turn around, I turned my head to breathe and saw things suspended in the water. I stopped and looked again. Off to my right was a huge school of brightly striped tropical fish. I breathed again and went back under for another look. There were hundreds of them!
I stared for awhile, until I realized that I hadn't taken a breath. I came up for air, just as another athlete stopped swimming and stared off into the water. A third swam up along side of me and asked if I was okay. I pointed and said, “Yes! I just stopped to look at the fish!”
He ducked under and came up smiling! “Wow! They are beautiful!”
The three of us stared in silence as the fish shifted and danced in unison, the sunlight filtering through the water, glinting and dancing on their bright scales. This was a far cry from the black line tiled on the bottom of the pool.
Eventually, I did start swimming again. When I made the turn around, I saw that it had taken me 20 minutes. Accounting for the fish stop, it was less than that, of course, I was more interested in getting an idea of how the currents in each direction were going to compare than I was in actually timing my swim.
On the return trip, I didn't feel a push from the current as much as I noticed that the water was no longer resisting me. I found myself even with the side of the dock where I had jumped in, in seven minutes. That was much faster than I had expected.
I swam until I was even with the other end of the dock, where the exit stairs were located, and I cut across the course towards them. As I was approaching the steps, I saw some other athletes clinging to the chain link fence under the dock. The fence served as part of the dolphin and manatee enclosure, so I swam over to see what they were looking at.
I ducked under, wrapped my fingers around the chain link and pulled myself down. Peering into the enclosure, I saw a flash of sleek gray. A moment later on the other side of a second fence about four feet from the one I was holding, a face appeared. The dolphin stopped and looked at us with its shiny black eyes, then darted off into the blue.
I swam towards the stairs and walked back to find my bag and bike. I tried to get an idea of the layout of transition, but the tents weren't set up yet, so I wasn't sure what the route out of the water would be. I hoped that I could get a clearer idea later when I came back for bike and bag drop.
I found Matura and rolled her back out to the road. I took a moment to browse the selection of nutrition products for sale under the bike tech tent that had appeared. They had First Endurance EFS Liquid Shot, but no Hammer. I tried the EFS Liquid Shot last year at mile 16 of the marathon at IMAZ. I didn't like it at all. I'm still not sure if that is because I don't like EFS Liquid Shot or if it is because I didn't like anything but potato chips during that marathon. I decided to stick with my Accelerade plan.
I swung my leg over my bike and heard someone call my name. I turned around and saw Jeannete! She asked if I would like to ride back with her for bike/bag drop and share a taxi back to the condos. I agreed. Now, it was time to pack bags.
The ride back was an uneventful half hour that I used to mentally plan out what would go into my bags. Ironman bag packing has gotten simpler and faster with each passing year. IMUSA in 2008, I required many security blanket items. For this race, I planned on very few.
Back at the condo, I did some quick calculations and determined that I would consume 2 scoops of Acclereade powder for every two aid stations. The aid stations were every 10 kilometers, so there would be plenty of opportunity for water and for Powerbar Gel to provide supplemental calories and a break from the flavor of Accelerade.
I showed mom how to measure the powder and package it into baggies and left her to nutrition duty while I went to gather and sort the rest of my gear. I stacked everything neatly on top of the appropriate bags and photographed it. I like to take pictures.
When mom finished portioning my nutrition, I sorted those baggies into the appropriate bags. Four servings went into the T1 bag, 4 in the bike special needs bag, along with a bag of gummy bears, two bags in the T2 bag (in case I wasn't sick of Accelerade by the run), and two bags in the run special needs bag, along with another bag of gummy bears and my headlamp.
I closed the bags, stuffed them into my backpack, and texted Jeannete that I was on the way! We rode the half hour back out to T1 at Chankanaab Park. I got in line at the bike tech tent to buy a new tube for my front tire. I was wearing my IMCDA jersey, and the guy in front of me commented about the race conditions there. I asked which year he did the race, and he said that he did it in 2009. Just as he said that, I noticed that he was wearing a finisher t-shirt from IMCDA 2009.
We talked about the wind and rain that year. He said he had gone over 8 hours on the bike, and I commented that I had too. My time was 8:01:29 that year. He said that I had beaten him. He was a few minutes slower. He, however, ran a decent marathon, while I ran a 6:44.
He was waiting in the line to see if they had a rubber band for him to reattach his tubes and Co2 to his rear cages. One of the men nearby said that they didn't have rubber bands. He had already asked. He mentioned that he had used an elastic hair band. My hair was tied back with one, and I was pretty sure that there were several more in my backpack, so I took the one from my hair and gave it to the guy in front of me. It worked perfectly. He thanked me and high fived Jeannete and me and went off to rack his bike.
Jeannete asked me if all I needed was a tube. I told her that was it. She offered one from her bag, as she had several extras. I thanked her, and we left the line to rack our bikes. The line to rack bikes was long and slow, but it gave me a chance to get my helmet, sunglasses and shoes into my T1 bag.
It turns out that as we entered transition, the Mexican Triathlon Federation was writing our number on our left arm, and then photographing each of us with our bike before allowing us into the transition area. That explained the line, and the assigned time slots for dropping bikes and bags.
When we were finally through the line, I changed my tube, racked my bike, dropped my bags in the appropriate spots. I looked around for Michele Potter, who was supposed to be there around the same time, but I didn't see her.
Jeannete and I stood in another long line to get body marked for the race. I found it odd that we were getting body marked the day before the race. After biking back and forth to the park and swimming that morning, I certainly planned to shower! I was going to feel gross and dirty all day during the race. No sense in starting today!
They marked us with marker, writing our bib number on our arms then on the front of our right calf and the back of out left. Instead of writing our age on the back of our right calves, they wrote a letter that corresponded to our age group. They wrote “R” on the back of mine after I told the woman that I was 34. I later found out that I was supposed to be a “Q.” I am not and “R” until next season.
After I had been body marked, I grabbed a few bags of water and scanned the place one last time for Michele. Not finding her, Jeannete and I walked back out to the road to go into town and find something for lunch.
We met her husband and kids and my mom at Margaritaville and sat outside in the sun. The deck seating was right on the water, and they had a roped off area in the water where you could swim. We ordered our food, and I decided that it was just too awesome to be able to swim while waiting on food, so I signed the waiver and jumped into the water. There were large inflatable toys in the water, and Jeannete and I swam out to the “Iceburg” intending to climb up to the top. Once we were there, it was not only difficult to climb, but the footholds were very slick and I decided to just get down to avoid injury.
We swam back to the deck and showered off. At least is had felt good to cool off in the water! Lunch was a so-so cheeseburger that relied a little too much on the fact that it was in paradise than on actually being a great burger.
Jeannete and I waited outside of the restaurant for everyone else to use the restrooms. She spoke in Spanish to a young man who wan sweeping the entryway of the restaurant. He was friendly and smiling as they talked. When he went back inside, she said that he was from a town on the Yucatan, near Belize. He came here for work, and he lives in an apartment 12 blocks from the restaurant. His goal, she said, is to spend the next two years saving up enough money to go home to visit his family for a week, and then to come back, save more money, meet an American woman and move to the United States.
The town where I trained to be a yoga teacher is on the Yucatan, not far from Belize. I quickly calculated the cost to get from here to there, and added a little extra for the added distance. The travel cost itself comes up to less than I spent on my race entry. It made me sad to think that it would take this kid two years to save up enough to see his family while 2300 of us athletes paid more than that trip would cost him just to do our hobby for a day. I loved his attitude though. He smiled and spoke genuinely to everyone who came through the door.
When we had all gathered on the sidewalk, we parted ways with Jeannete and her family and went in search of shoes for mom. She was afraid that the ones she was wearing weren't going to be comfortable enough to spectate in all day. I guess I should have written her a spectator's training plan for this.
After walking way too much and finding nothing for shoes, we grabbed a quick early dinner and headed back to the condo.
I asked the cab driver if there was a way to reserve a cab for 5am the next morning. He said that he would be happy to come get us. His name was Iner and his cab number was 436. He said that he would be here at 4:45am to take us to the swim start.
I relaxed. At the condo, I went over an mental checklist for the next day. I was ready. I went to bed at 8pm.
I couldn't sleep.
I woke what felt like 15 times that night, and 4am seemed like it would never get there and like it was minutes away all at the same time. Finally and all too soon, my alarm went off.
I was awake immediately, and I took a minute to reread messages of encouragement from friends the night before. The most profound was the one with the link to a Dick and Rick Hoyt video that reminded me “never run alone.” As the day unfolded, I would remember that line many many times as I continually handed my race over to something greater than myself.
I threw waffles in the toaster and started brewing coffee. I sucked down a bottle of water and washed my face. I dressed in my FeXY kit, and threw my jacket and some warm up pants into my morning clothes bag, feeling the warm breeze through my window and knowing that I did not need the extra layer now. I put on my heart rare monitor and strapped Harmon the Garmin on my wrist. I closed up my special needs bags and put everything by the door.
At 4:35, I heard a car horn sound, and I looked out the window to see taxi #436 sitting outside, Iner standing by the driver's door. I ran out to tell him that we would be just a minute.
Back inside, I gulped coffee between bites of Nutella covered waffle, and urged mom to hurry and get ready. In minutes, we were out in the balmy darkness of race morning.
In the cab, I took a picture of the “Official Ironman Taxi” sign and sat back for the ride to Chankanaab. Iner asked about the race and the order of the events, and I gladly talked about the sport that I wanted so desperately to fall in love with again.
We discussed the race and the expense of doing Ironman and then the subject turned to Mexico. He is from Chetumal, about a half hour outside of Bacalar, where I trained to be a yoga teacher and swam and ran in pursuit of my first Ironman for a month in the winter of 2008. Chetumal is where I shared ice cream with a Swami and my friend Corby, where I got mildly electrocuted by a freezer case in a smoothie shop and is the site of the smallest airport I have even personally flown into.
He talked about how safe the Island of Cozumel is compared to much of the rest of Mexico. I thought back to running on Mexico 308 between the Rancho Encantado that was our yoga TT home that winter, and the town of Bacalar. I remembered feeling slightly nervous on the days when no one joined me, as I ran in the heat marking miles by the familiar spots of roadkill along the shoulder, trucks zooming by. I thought of “never run alone.” I suppose I never had.
Downtown faded behind us and the buildings spread out. I could see the silhouettes of the aid station tents going up as we approached the exit for Chankanaab. I felt my stomach flip flop. It was the familiar nervousness. It's a mix of excitement and dread.
In a moment, it all turned to dread. I went silent as we passed the exit to Chankanaab and the speed of the taxi increased significantly. The rush of fear was immediately accompanied by a quick review of the mental files of my old police training. Where were we going? Why did we pass the exit? What did I have handy to kill this guy with when we got wherever we were going?
It felt like minutes, but I am sure it was much shorter, I asked in a calm voice, “Wasn't that the exit back there?”
Iner laughed and said, “Yes, but there is another just up here and it takes you right to the transition entrance. You don't have to drive past all of the hotels like on the other road.” Then, as if he had read my mind, he said, “Don't worry! You are safe!”
“Cool!” I replied, trying to sound as if I hadn't just inventoried his vehicle for items to use as weapons. “I only know the other road. This is better.”
True to his word, Iner dropped us off right in front of transition in a sea of other taxis and athletes. I felt terrible for having been suspicious of him. He got a nice tip.
It was still dark out and the lights of the park were harsh and bright. They cast chaotic shadows everywhere as people hustled in every direction. I took my special needs bags to the two buses that were going to transport them to their locations on the bike and run courses. As I handed over my second bag, I heard two Team Z girls yell, “Hey, Austin!” I looked over and saw my Facebook friend, Austin, whom I hadn't yet met in person. I jogged up to him and said hi. We hugged and wished each other luck before rushing off to finish pre-race preparations.
I borrowed mom's camera and she found a place to wait for me while I tended to my bike needs in the transition area. Before I left I asked a park employee to take a few pre-race pics of me and mom. After verifying that the images were good, I took off to find my bike!
I dodged athletes, and located my bike, grabbed a bottle from my morning bag and mixed my first batch of Accelerade. I filled my Aerodrink with water, and looked around. The sky was just starting to get light.
There was a Team Z member a few bikes down from me that was struggling with her pump, so I approached her and offered to help. She was relieved. I got her tired up to pressure and asked if I could borrow the pump. She was happy to help. I pumped my tires and gave the pump back, thanking her and wishing her luck in her first Ironman.
I started walking back to where my mom was waiting for me, and I found Michele! We hugged hello and talked quickly about having missed each other the day before. It turns out that our bikes were nearly right across from each other. I said I needed to get body marked again, and I cursed having forgotten to bring my own marker. Michele pulled out her marker and remarked me. SCORE! We walked together, and I gave my mom her camera and a hug.
Michele and I found the line for the porto johns and stood waiting. We chatted with a guy in front of us for a bit while we waited. Then Kristin Wedemeyer came up to me and said that someone had told another athlete that we weren't allowed to wear compression sleeves during the swim. It didn't make and sense to me, and I knew it would slow my transition down, and I contemplated leaving them on until I was told to take them off.
Once we were through the line, Michele and I found some water and made our way to the crowd gathering to be let onto the docks and into the water. Laura Cortina found us, and we hugged and exchanged good lucks. I decided to take my sleeves off and stash them in my T1 bag, and Michele went is search of the table for inhalers and glasses.
I rolled my sleeves, so that they would be easier to put on when I came into transition wet from swimming. I stuffed them into my T1 bag and rushed back to the crowd of athletes.
I didn't see Michele or Laura again as the herd of us started moving towards the docks. There was music playing, and it reminded me that I had forgotten to bring my ipod with me to listen to my pre-race playlist. I started rapping Eminem in my head. I would be fine. If I didn't have it, I didn't need it. That was the agreement I had made.
The pros got into the water for their 6:40 start, and we age groupers filed past Mexican military guards with their M16s. I wondered what they were guarding against. I was glad I didn't have on an illegal neoprene speedsuit! Who knows what would have happened to me!
The horn signaled the start of the pro race, and they opened the docks to us, and athletes started jumping into the water. There was no order to it, and by the time I made it up to a spot from which to jump, the water was so full of people that I was afraid I would land on someone. I waited a few seconds for an official to direct people in the water to clear space for the rest of us to get in, but they didn't.
I saw some people walking down steps towards one of the dolphin enclosures that was currently empty, as the dolphins were getting ready to put on a show that we racers would not see. The dolphin show was to start when our start horn sounded.
I descended the steps, got into the water and waited under the dock, where no one would land on me if they jumped form above. There were several other athletes who did the same thing.
Once we were all in the water, I swam up near the front and held onto a kayak to preserve my energy for racing, rather than spending it treading water. I was too nervous to talk to anyone around the kayak, but I heard someone say that we had one minute to start.
I let go of the kayak, and I positioned myself in line with the buoys. The horn sounded, and we were off in a gracefully chaotic sea of flailing arms and legs. I found space easily, and set off on the most gorgeous of swim courses. I remembered about half way up the first section that I had forgotten to push start on my Garmin. I stopped for a second and pushed start with my watch fully out of the water and got right back to swimming.
The current felt like it had diminished some since yesterday, but I wasn't sure if that was because of the draft from the crowd or a change in the conditions. Whatever it was, I kept my effort steady and moderate.
I made the turn around and glanced down at my Garmin for time. It was turned off. I had connected the charger the night before! I started to feel panicked. I didn't have a backup time piece. How was I supposed to keep track of the day without a watch? How was I going to gauge my effort on the bike without mileage, power and heart rate? The way they did it before there were Garmins and power meters and heart rate monitors, that's how. If I don't have it I don't need it.
I kept swimming. I made it past the turn around and felt my Garmin vibrate to life on my wrist. Cool. I can do this with or without. As I swam past the dock, heading for the other turn around point, I glanced at the screen of the Garmin. It was blank. A minute later, it came back on. This continued for the remainder of the swim. I was unphased.
I saw divers and starfish on the ground below us. Even with all of their gear and my mirrored goggles, I could tell when I made eye contact with a diver. Then we would wave. It was fun. I marveled at the human body's ability to sense connection like that.
I hit the final turn and sighted for the next buoy. I couldn't believe the swim was almost over! I briefly thought about my Garmin and wondered if it was in or out for this race. Judging by its buzzing on and off, I guess it hadn't yet decided what it was going to do.
The swim had been pretty easy. I had gotten jostled a bit, but nothing violent. I felt good in the water. Nothing hurt. I could tell it was fast too!
We were in the last 500 meters or so when I had my first intentional encounter with another swimmer. A man to my right bumped into me. At first it was just that. Then he brought his arm down again and jabbed me with his elbow. I moved over, but not too much, because I was right on the buoy line and the officials were strictly enforcing us keeping the buoys on our left. The next time his arm came around he landed a fist into the side of my head.
I wasn't going to take being beaten up in the swim by some jerk who wasn't even competing against me. I made a fist with my right hand, jammed it hard into his ribs and shoved with all the force I could muster in the water. I don't know where he went, but I didn't see or feel him again.
In the last 200 meters, I noticed that we were swimming directly above a school of the same fish I had stopped to stare at the day before. I glided above them and enjoyed the view, the sounds of the swim finish growing louder with every stroke.
When I reached the steps, I got my legs under me and ran along the blue carpet towards the showers. Time to get the salt off and get ready to bike! I scanned the crowd for my mom, but I didn't see her in the thousands of faces.
My Garmin was on and had linked to satellites, so I pushed the button to change it to bike mode. I guess it had decided to play. The screen had a lot of condensation under it though. I had never seen it do that before.
I ran through the showers and let the fresh water run over me for a few seconds. Then I grabbed my T1 bag and a bag of water. (Yes, they had purified water in plastic bags. . . very cool!) I punched a hole in mine and drank, happy to have the salt water taste out of my mouth!
I grabbed a chair in the change tent and dumped my bag out. Usually there are swarms of volunteers practically fighting over getting to help you with your transition. This time there weren't as many. I was fine with that. I always appreciate them, but sometimes, I feel like I'd be faster without talking to anyone. The lady sitting across from me didn't appear to feel that way. She demanded that someone come help her. A teenage girl rushed over and asked what she needed. The woman barked orders at her. The poor kid look terrified. The woman continued to whine loudly about being soaking wet and not being able to get her tri top on. I just wanted to hurry and get out of there!
I rolled my compression sleeves back onto my calves, smeared chamois cream inside my shorts, put helmet on and stuck my feet in my shoes. I stuffed everything left back into the bag, including my goggles and cap, and I put my sunglasses on and sprayed myself with natural sunscreen as I was running out of the tent.
I went straight for my bike, grabbed it off the rack, left my bag in it's place and ran for the mount line. Along the way, I heard someone yell my name. I looked and saw Chuck Potter and his camera. I gave him a big smile and he clicked a pic as I ran by.
At the mount line, I swung my leg over Matura, clipped my foot to the pedal, hit start on the Garmin, and rolled out of the park.
We made a right onto the road and almost immediately hit and aid station. I took a bottle and two Powerbar gels. I put the water bottle, which was a really nice bike bottle with the race logo on it, into my empty rear cage and stuffed the gels into my bento box as a backup plan.
The road was unshaded, and the sun was out in full force. It was going to be a hot ride. I sipped Accelerade and water and kept and eye on my heart rate and power. Everything was right where it should be, and the Garmin was ticking along fine. I wondered what had possessed it in the water.
The road passed several resorts and hotels, and people had come outside to watch us. It was fun being cheered on what would otherwise have been a pretty desolate road. Some of the hotels had set up food and drinks and chairs for the spectators. I was happy about this. I hoped that it would convince people to stick around and cheer longer!
38 minutes into the ride, I looked at my Garmin and verified that my effort was dead on what it should be. I resisted the temptation to look at my speed on the next screen. It would have been pointless anyway, because the next time I checked it, the screen was blank. I tried to turn it back on again, but there was no resuscitating it. Back to plan b!
The road curved to the left and the scenery changed quite a bit! Off to the right were miles and miles of deserted beaches and crystal blue water. There was black coral lining the shore, and there were places where the waves splashed towards the sky, in spectacular fashion! There was a stiff and shifty cross wind coming off of the water, and I remembered from the pre-race meeting that this section was 12 miles long. I kept my effort steady, and the winds did the same.
I realized as I was riding that I hadn't seen a race clock when I exited the swim. I had no clue what time it was. I looked at the sun and tried to discern an approximate time from that, but all I was sure of was that it was before noon. I decided to just use my typical Ironman swim time and gauge the time of day from that.
I was up out of the aero position a lot on the first loop due to the inconsistent nature of the cross winds and the number of people on the course. There were a lot of people out there, and it was essential that I stay right unless I was passing. The winds were doing their best to push us all left. I concentrated on staying out of the draft zones of the other athletes, and on completing passes in less than 20 seconds.
Despite the many many bikes out during my first loop, and the flat and windy course, I didn't see a lot of drafting. I was pleased about that.
The deserted beach was punctuated every few miles by a restaurant or bar or rickety souvenir stand. They had banners and displays and occasionally people there cheering for us.
The 12 miles seemed to go on forever, and my thoughts kept creeping back to the time of day. There was some welcome refuge from the wind when the dunes rose up beside us for a moment in a few places, and there was some slight elevation change in a few spots. My legs were happy for a change of cadence. Even without the few rises and falls, I would stand up and pedal every few miles to keep my legs happy.
My effort felt good and my legs felt great! There was an inkling of fear that I wasn't going fast enough, but realistically, I had never, in any Ironman, been within an hour of the 5:30pm bike cutoff. This day should be no different.
Team Z had trucked spectators out to some of the remote locations on this end of the course, and their costumed, high-energy, spectating antics were a welcome sight! They recognized the FeXY gear and cheered for me almost as if I were one of their own. I appreciated that.
I was drinking Accelerade at a rate of one bottle for every two aid stations. I was taking one bottle of water at each aid station, part of which I drank and part of which I used to cool myself and/or rinse myself after peeing on the bike, which I was doing at a rate of about once for every two aid stations. I had eaten a few gels when my body asked for something more substantial than liquid calories, and my stomach had been pleased. My energy was consistent, and had I had a dashboard, all of the dials and various “ometers” would have had their needles pegged dead center.
When I reached the end of the windy section, the road turned left, and I followed. The wind was now at my back, and it was absolute BLISS! I was cruising along with what felt like no effort at all!
There were Team Z spectators on scooters riding up and down the other side of the road cheering and blowing horns. The locals had come out of their homes and were lining the roads cheering for us. Then I heard my name. Chuck Potter was out with a scooter as well. He clicked a few pictures and I waved to him.
The scenery changed gradually. The buildings became more plentiful and closer together, and more and more people lines the streets. Soon I was in town with crowds lining both sides of the street. Music emanated from every building and people used all manner of noise maker. Children held their hands out to high five us as we rode by, and I connected with as many of them as I could.
I had never seen a crowd like this! Lake Placid had been a close second to this one, but this was just different. I looked around as I followed the cones and course marshals guiding me through the turns, and I waved at the people, and I smiled until my face hurt, and I cried.
I rode past the split in the road where signs indicated that I should go left for another loop and right for transition. Two more loops and I would be there! I was grateful to see a race clock posted there too. It read 4:31:00. If it was set to age group time, that made it 11:31am. If it was set to pro time, it was 11:11. I felt a little discouraged and very very slow. If I had gotten out of the water at 8:30am, and ridden not even a full loop, because I wasn't back to my start point yet, I had taken 3 hours to ride this partial loop. Two more full loops and I was looking at my worst bike time ever, by more than an hour. I thought about quitting.
Something didn't feel true about that time, but the clock said what it said. I looked down and my Garmin. The screen was blank and full of condensation. I wished I had thrown my Timex in my T1 bag as a backup. My heart said, “just keep riding.”
The pavement in town was rough in spots, and there was a short section of concrete road where images of birds in flight had been recessed into the concrete. The bumps were terribly uncomfortable, but they were over quickly as I made a left to head back out towards Chankanaab.
The fact that T1 and T2 were in two different locations, a considerable distance from each other, gave me difficulty in calculating how many miles I had left. I calculated that three full loops back to the same start point would have been 37.3 miles. I had already ridden a partial loop, and I had to pass T2 again and then stop at T2 on the third loop, so I had two more complete loops to ride. Trying to figure it out made my head hurt, so I gave up and concentrated on riding.
The noise of the town faded behind me and the buildings became smaller and spaced further apart until the scenery was mostly the lush green of tropical plant life. Bike traffic had thinned out, and now I was pedaling into the wind. At least I could get down in aero position for most of this stretch, except for peeing and grabbing bottles from my rear cages.
I soon passed the exit for Chankanaab, and congratulated myself on completing my first WHOLE loop. I wondered again what time it was. This racing without metrics really called for a lot of trust. I trusted that my body itself was giving me all of the feedback that I needed to race the best race I could. I trusted that I was not racing alone.
The sun had grown stronger and hotter, and I found myself dousing myself with water more and more often to keep cool. The aid stations weren't as big in this race and in my previous Ironman races, so I had to ride in knowing exactly what I needed, and I had to be quick and efficient at putting it away so that my hand would be empty to grab the next thing.
I took more gels on this loop, as I felt mild hunger pangs. The Accelerade was working perfectly, and my hydration was good. I had a system for mixing the Accelerade powder that I had perfected on the first loop. I always mixed it in a water bottle that was in my right rear cage. I grabbed a bag of powder, sending than yous to my mom for her brilliant packing job each time, and bit a hole in the corner of it. Pinching the hole closed with my left hand, I reached back with the right and removed the bottle cap, placing it in my mouth. I transferred the baggie to my right hand, reached back and dumped the powder into the bottle. I stuffed the empty baggies in the right pocket of my singlet, replaced the bottle lid, grabbed the bottle and shook. Usually the bottle and my hand would be sticky from some stray powder, so I would suck water from my Aerodrink and spit it onto my hand to rinse it. It worked perfectly.
I was on track to be out of powder right before I hit special needs, where four more bags awaited me. I began to think about the gummy bears in my special needs bag. I didn't need them right now, but the thought of having them there made me happy.
There weren't as many people out at the hotels as there had been on the first loop. It was probably too hot to be sitting out in the sun. I appreciated the few people who braved the heat to be there.
This stretch of road seemed to go on forever. I felt good, and I longed for some shade. I noticed that there were tiny dots of shade from some of the shrubs on the side of the road. I moved over onto the shoulder to take advantage of them. I felt slightly silly, because they were barely there, but I didn't care.
I finally made it back to the 12 gorgeous miles of cross winds and beaches and felt good about my progress. My body still felt like it was in perfect working order. I was surprised and happy that I had no discomfort at all.
The winds were still strong out here, but they seemed steadier, so I was able to stay aero and keep the bike in moving in a straight line. I started to get lapped by the pro men's field back here, and I was disappointed to see many of them in pace lines 5 or 6 deep. There is no excuse for cheating!
I started to see the slower age groupers drafting as well. There was a group of them up ahead of me when an official rode past me, and I watched and waited to see the red card as the scooter caught up to the pace line. Instead of carding them and sending them to the next penalty tent for their 4 minute time out, the official just motioned for them to spread out and then continued past them.
The pace line continued to draft until they were out of sight. I saw a lot of drafting and the only athlete I saw in a penalty tent was there changing a flat. I continued to see officials approaching people drafting and blocking and just motioning them to stop doing it instead of carding violators. I'm glad I have never seen this from USAT officials.
I got back to focusing on what I could control; my race.
Eat, drink, pee, rinse, repeat.
I leap frogged with the lady with the attitude from T1 for awhile. I would pass her, and she would pass me and then slow way down. I would drop back 4 bike lengths and wind up passing her again. After I passed her for the fourth time, I heard something behind me. I looked over my shoulder and she was right on my wheel, just hanging out there breathing loudly. I started to get angry. I am NOT pulling anyone in this race!
When she knew she had been busted, she pulled up alongside me and started talking to me, telling me we were about 57 miles into the ride. She had a watch, so I asked her the time. She said it was a little after noon. I wondered how that could be, based on the race clock I had passed in town. If it really was a little after noon, I was really happy!
She stayed next to me for a long time, complaining about the wind, the heat, etc. She said she did the first loop at 22mph, but that the heat had gotten to her and she was slowing down now. I knew this wasn't true, because she and I had been in T1 together. Had she done the first loop at 22mph, I never would have caught up to her here.
She said, “I know I am not supposed to be riding next to you. I'm a USAT draft marshal at home in Georgia.”
I didn't really care that she was next to me. I was riding far to the right on the road, and any penalty would be all on her. My race was clean, and as long as she stayed off of my wheel, I wasn't worried about her.
Her litany of complaints continued. She couldn't afford to bring her family to the race. She didn't know anyone here. She was alone on the island.
“Never race alone,” I thought.
I found a positive twist to every complaint she issued, and I voiced them all to her. I was not going to absorb any of her energy.
I yelled and waved when we passed the Team Z parties, and I felt relieved when I saw special needs in the distance! It was almost time to restock the bento box! I was even going to offer to share my gummy bears with negative Nancy. (whose name actually was Nancy.)
When we approached the lanes marked off by cones, I yelled, “YAY! Special needs!!”
I steered right, and she continued left and passed the bags. Cool! I was rid of her!
I rode up to the volunteers and asked for the bag for 347. They checked for it. They were slower and less efficient than any special needs area I had seen. I used the time to discard trash from my pockets and mix my last bag of Accelerade into a bottle.
The boy who had looked for my bag returned and said, “No hay.”
I tried to be upset, because I thought I should be. I tried to panic, because it seemed like the thing to do when faced with losing all of my nutrition for the second half of the bike.
“No?” I asked.
He pointed to the empty hook labeled 347.
I felt utterly calm. If I don't have it. I don't need it. I am not alone.
I thought of the Gatorade, Powerbars, Powerbar Gels, and bananas on the course. All were things I had eaten before. All were things that would fuel my body to continue moving. All were freely available every 10k for the rest of the ride.
I thanked the boy and pedaled back onto the course.
I looked down at my empty bento box, and said, “Okay, God. Plan b is in effect. You've got this.”
As I rode, I noticed that thick clouds were gathering in the distance. There had been a 40% chance of rain in the forecast, and the fact that I have raced three Ironmans in the rain, including one in AZ, where race day was the first rain they had seen in 5 months, I was pretty sure these clouds were here to rinse us off a bit. The question was, how much would we get?
I peed again, and reached back for the water bottle in the left rear cage. I rinsed myself and realized that I had just squeezed out 2/3 of my very last bottle of Accelerade all over my lower body. I had mixed the wrong water bottle when I stopped at special needs. I reached back, grabbed the other bottle and rinsed the sticky drink off of me. I guess I wasn't supposed to have any more Accelerade.
I passed the last restaurant on the scenic windy section and waved to the Z's there as they cheered me on. I hit the next aid station and grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and all of the gels I could.
As I rode into the more populated area, I noticed that the local children had taken to collecting our discarded water bottles. They had mountains of them on the sides of the road, and some had filled trash bags with them and were sitting on them like they were lumpy beanbag chairs. I tossed my empty Accelerade bottle to them and they cheered with delight. I guess a plastic bike bottle is a treasure when you live in a house that is essentially crumbling concrete and rotting plywood. I thought about my cabinet at home that overflows with bike bottles and about the two boxes of them that I gave to friends in the last year. It's amazing what I take for granted.
I rode back into town, past the parties and crowds, the music and noise makers. I high fived children, and I waved at the adults. I scanned the crowd for my mom, but didn't see her. I glanced at the race clock, and still couldn't make sense of what time it actually was.
I navigated the rough pavement and rejoiced at the thought of only riding over it one more time before I would cruise into T2 for my run.
I rode out of town, back out to Chankanaab, ticking off a second complete loop. The clouds had created shade where there had been none before, and I felt relieved to be a little cooler.
The traffic had thinned considerably on this loop, but the wind had shifted direction. The section by the water was now a strong headwind that made progress feel very slow. I pushed through, monitoring my legs for fatigue and feeling none.
I noticed some tiny lizards skittering across the road, and felt the sea spray coming off of the water. The salty mist dried on my glasses making it difficult to see, so I took to looking out over top of them instead of through them. I tried rinsing them with my water bottle, but the clarity didn't last long. I finally took them off and stuffed them in my bento box.
By the time I turned away from the shore to head back to town, the clouds were thick overhead. What I estimate was about 6 to 8 miles from T2, I felt raindrops falling. I smiled, thinking, “Well, that's four for four with rain at Ironman.” There was almost something comforting about it.
Within minutes, I was riding through a downpour. The locals were still out and cheering as hard as ever, and I appreciated that. The children were playing in the puddles and yelling out to us in Spanish.
As the streets narrowed and the town appeared, I looked ahead and saw that the road had flooded. I watched the bike ahead of me traverse the lake that had formed on the course. The water was up to the hubs of its wheels.
I rode through the flooded area, my shoes filling with water as my feet dipped beneath the surface with each pedal stroke. I was almost done.
I rode through a second flooded area before seeing the turn for transition. They had coned off the road out to the bike loop, as no one beginning a third loop now would finish inside of the cutoff time of 5:30pm.
I forgot to look at the clock as I dismounted my bike. A volunteer grabbed Matura and wheeled her away. I got my legs under me, grabbed my red T2 bag, and headed into the change tent. T2 was fast and easy. I traded bike shoes for run shoes,