We have arrived at the first major point of the journey to Kona – the ITU Amateur World Championships in Cozumel Mexico.
Land of blue water, sandy beaches, Tequila and endless bartering. Most importantly for me though a land in which I hope to find (for the first time in a long time) a race with no freezing involved.The arrival at the airport is promising, leaving the Cancun airport building feels like getting slapped in the face with a wet towel fresh out of the microwave. Dragging our 30kg bike boxes to the bus terminal in Jeans makes me loose my first 2 lb of sweat of the trip. Oh my, how am I supposed to race in this? Maybe my constant whining about cold conditions in Canada and my praise for heat races was all wrong and I will simply die in the heat – just as to be expected from a 6”7 190lb guy.
Ah well I have a good week of acclimatization so no need to panic quite yet. And sure enough about 3 days in I feel quite at home. The heat I get used to in a hurry, the humidity takes a bit longer but come race day I am confident, with good nutrition I am going to be okay.
We rack our bikes on the evening before the race and muse about the fact that on our way to transition there is about 20 steps to climb before descending into transition on a long fairly steep ramp. This is going to hurt tomorrow…
Race morning greets us with calm weather, heat (of course) and darkness – why again are all races that early? It also greets us with an announcement – the swim has been shortened to 1250m (from 1500) because of strong currents. Cool – as a notoriously weak swimmer I am having a secret internal dance, my chances of doing well just have increased drastically – that little bit of current can’t be that bad, right?
For the start everybody has to hop in the water and hold on to a long dock, the first 250m are with the current before we turn around and swim a good 800m against it. Wait a minute, why are my feet floating up on the water surface while I am casually holding on the dock waiting for the start – that can’t be the current, it can’t be THAT strong – I’ll be dam…the gun goes off…I am super fast right with the pack, interesting what a bit of current can do for you, at the turn around
I realize that my only chance against the current is to find some feet and hang on for dear life. And for the first time I actually manage to do exactly that for most of the swim against the current – clearly not very fast feet, but definitely feet that made me swim much faster than I would have by myself. So I come out of the water at a (for me) fairly respectable time, but given that this is the world championship and not some local race I am still in about 80th position out of 90 or so starters in my group. Big sigh, at some point I will earn how to swim fast, I m convinced of it…I start my usual chase on the bike and pass too many people to keep track of. I am trying to tick off the people in my age group (indicated by their age on the left calf) but lose track soon. So I just keep cruising at good speed without killing myself and post a fairly respectable 4th fastest bike split in my AG at the end.
On to the 2 loop run I go, as per usual blasting off way to fast but soon finding my rhythm and jogging away at a good pace. Man I love the heat!! Drink carefully and take ice and water to keep my core temperature down at every aid station. The ice poured into my race suit positions itself naturally nicely in my groin, keeping the core (uhm and other parts) nicely cooled. Did I mention I love heat? I tick off km after km and all checkboxes are ticked. That is until I hit km 5 and my splits start slowing, not brutally slow, definitely not Calgary 70.3 slow but still a constant decline in speed and a constant increase in discomfort. Maybe I don’t like that much heat after all…I also start noticing quite a number of people lying along the course being treated for heat effects. I realize if I want to make it in one piece I have to take some speed out and slow down a bit. I even walk one of the aid stations to get a good load of an energy drink and a lot of ice and I make it to the finish line in one piece with a good and healthy amount of pain. The medical team at the line only holds me back for a minute or so checking to see if I can actually stand by myself – after all no Mexican person in there right mind would like to pick up a person of my size once down – it is clearly easier to spend a minute and make sure I stay upright in the first place.
I walk to the ice bath area where Brynlee is waiting. She started before me and had (as per usual) an awesome race, coming 10th (out of 50) and first Canadian in her age group. I finish 39th (out of 80) and second Canadian in mine and just like that the season is over.
We hang around to watch the elite men’s race later in the afternoon and get treated to an amazing show of what heat can do to a person as the leader almost collapses merely a few hundred meters from the finish line (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WR5ebofbMXs) I guess we got lucky, but then we also didn’t have to run quite as fast as those guys 🙂