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Race Report: Ironman Cozumel 2016/Ville

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Tough day…and a long one but I have to be happy and proud about my performance. Result was not what I was going for but the decisions I made during the race were solid and this was the best I could do on race day with the preparation and fitness I had.

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Result:

Time: 12h 40 minutes

Overall: 461/1400

Age Group: 53/137

I will write another post of the excellent organisation of this beautiful race. In short: the venue is great and the volunteers just unbelievable. If you are looking to do an great Ironman race and do not mind hot and humid conditions, this one is for you.

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Preparations and goals for the race

We had a common goal with Sanna – her race report is coming soon – to race a full distance race together in 2013. Unfortunately I got sick a week before the race and could not do the (then) Challenge Barcelona. Naturally I made up for that disappointment in 2014 by racing Ironman Mallorca and Sanna could be called as a veteran because this is her third start on an iron distance race. So, this was the time we got our schedules synced and agreed last winter that this was the race we would race together.

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We will talk about Sanna’s goals on her race report but I was looking to do a solid day and foremost to get through the run without the wheels falling off. My last 3 months had been solid training wise and I got a good amount of longer rides and runs during that 12 week period. The year before that had not been so successful, so I was playing catch up with my training. In short my goal was to swim around 75 minutes, have a solid ride for 5h 30 mins (if the winds would allow it) and keep myself in one piece on the run, which would mean around a 4 hour run in that heat. I was carrying more weight that I would have liked but that is something you can’t be worrying during the race.

Swim

Time: 1 h 23 min

Training Peaks: Swim File

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The logistics of this race are little bit more complicated than normally, because swim start, T1 and T2/finish are in different locations. We were early to T1 and got quite quickly to the start area. There is no possibility for a warm up in the water so after some dry land warm up it was time to get in to the swim skin and go to the corral to wait for the start.

This race is a rolling start and we positioned ourselves to the 1 h 10 min to 1 h 20 min group. 15 minutes after the pro’s started us age groupers got our permission to start. It took a little over 5 min for us to get to the pier and then it was time to jump to the water. They have improved the pier and I feel it is safe now but I would recommend to jump quite carefully, because there is corral and possibly some rocks at the end of the pier.

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The start was relaxed and we started our day with a good feeling. Sanna started on my right and because I mainly breath from the left I lost contact with her almost immediately. I navigated towards the first buoy and started to get to the rhythm. The sea was reasonably calm and the rolling start made swimming comfortable. I passed a couple of swimmers and a couple of came past me in the opening minutes. All in all the start was good and I felt that I started on the right spot, with swimmers of my ability.

Navigation was a little bit challenging because of the waves and in addition the current was pushing us closer to the shore throughout the swim. I did not look at my watch but I feel that the first 30 to 40 minutes went well pretty nicely, i found some feet and tried to use them to get a little draft from them. I was feeling positive and even thought that I might push the pace a little bit. Somewhere around the halfway point I started to feel that the bottoms of my feet might cramp, nothing major, just the feeling that there was some funny business going on. At the same time I started to feel a little bit nauseated and navigation became harder because the waves were getting a little bit bigger. I lost a bit of my confidence and those nasty negative thoughts started to appear in my mind. Unfortunately my right foot cramped and I had to stop/swim breast stroke for a moment. I got the cramp in order in less than 30 seconds but the swim was a massive struggle after that.

I was feeling the nausea creep in – probably because of the swell and from the salt water taste in my mouth. This was unexpected but I tried to keep my swim together and keep moving. So, my good start and positive feeling was gone and I was just hoping to get out of the water as soon as possible. I thought the finish was closer than it really was, I mistakenly thought that the first hotel on the shore was the park where the T1 was but I was disappointed when I realised that I had at least 1 km to go.

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After some thought I have to say that the swim was mentally the toughest part of the race for me. I felt useless on the water for the last 40 minutes and was actually having the mental fist fight to stop the race after I would get to the shore. It is funny how fast things can turn in your mind. In any case I fought to the end of the swim – doing a couple of breast strokes here and there to navigate and to relax my feet. Finally the park was in sight and eventually I got to take the left turn and struggle to get to the stairs to get the hell out of water.

T1

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I stood up and started walking towards the transition tent. There was no rush at this point, I calmed myself down and the nausea helped when I made my way to the tent. Swim skin off and my triathlon top on. The lovely volunteers were giving sun scream so I did not even have to dig my own from the bag. Helmet, glasses and race number on and easy jog to the bike and to the road.

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Bike

Time: 5h 47 min

Training Peaks: Bike File

Nutrition:

1100 kcal from gels in aero bottle on down tube

approx. 1500 kcal from Gatorade from bottles on bike and from aid stations

approx. 12-14 bottles of liquid (Gatorade + water) in total around 7-8 litres of liquid ingested

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Lap 1:

OK, crappy swim done, let’s focus on the bike. I started on started passing people immediately. It looked like the participants had strung out really nicely due to the rolling start. The bike is almost 3 full laps around the island and it starts with a nice tailwind. My speed was around 37 km/h and I was passing everybody around me. I checked the power and saw really low numbers on my Garmin 520. Usually at the start of the bike it is really easy to pedal too hard but now I saw the power numbers between 150-180 watts, this is less than warm up power for me. OK, heart rate is fine, my own feeling (RPE) is good, speed is good and compared to others I am going faster than almost everybody around me. I decided to not care too much about the power, there is always the possibility for inaccurate readings.

The first part of the lap was easy, but I was waiting to get to the east side of the island – to the hardest part of the course. Slowly the tailwind started to die and there is a tiny uphill when approaching the signs “Punta Sur” and the turn to left, ie. towards the north of the island. Before the turn there was an aid station. I grabbed a bottle of Gatorade and filled my aerobar bottle with it. The famous crosswind of the east side was reasonably low on the first lap. The speed dropped closer to 30 km/h but the wind was quite constant. I kept the same pace and went through the field. Aid stations were manned very well and my strategy was to get 1 water bottle and 1 Gatorade on each station. Most of the water went on me to cool me down and the Gatorade went to the bottle between my arms. Taking Gatorade on every station was a little bit overkill, but that gave me room for error if I dropped a bottle on the next one.

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After the windward side it is a 90 degree left on to the straight shot back to village. In the race briefing Michael Lovato promised us that this would be a tailwind section – it wasn’t. Steady ride to the town, a couple of turns and I saw the entry to the T2 and went to the 2nd lap. Our awesome support group Daniela & Tiina were there and they were loud! After this the tailwind started and it was nice cruising toward the swim start and then to finish the first lap. Average speed for the first lap was a little less than 34 km/h. – this was from my Garmin, the distance was a little over 180 km so the official timing gives a little lower averages. If I could keep close to this pace I would be looking at a 5 h 30 min ride or better.

Lap 2:

At this point everything was going well. It was hot and I enjoyed every second when there was even a small cloud cover, the difference is significant when you are not in direct sunlight. First the tailwind section and then to the headwind/sidewind. It was apparent that the winds had picked up significantly. The speed dropped instantly when I turned from the “Punta Sur” sign. My neck was getting tired at this point but I managed to stay in aero position and passed and dropped a group of riders. This day the wind was not gusty, it was steady and strong.

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After the windy part it was again to the straight shot to town. At this point my neck was starting to hurt but I kept myself reasonably well in the aero position and got closer to town. I was feeling OK. Energy levels were fine, liquids fine and I tried to cool myself with the ice water they had in the bottles on aid stations. Power numbers were low but I had decided to ride mostly on feel and try to get myself to T2 in good shape. After passing the town the 2nd time I was glad that I was on the last lap. Unfortunately at this point my neck was gone and it was really hard to keep the aero position. Alternating between aero and bullhorns I chugged along.

Lap 3:

Because of the neck I knew that a good time was not going to happen on the bike so I was just focusing on going forward. I was waiting to catch Sanna but at this point I hoped I would not catch her, because it would mean she would have some challenges.

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Lap 3 was mostly the same as lap 2, although as you can see from the pictures my neck was totally gone. I knew that this might happen, my position was comfortable but doing most of the long rides on trainer indoors did not prepare the back of my neck to hold my head and my helmet on the aero position for the whole race. The last 90 minutes of the ride were a real sufferfest. Pedal, drink and just go forward. Finally I got to town and prepared to get of the bike.

T2

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I got of the bike and immediately there was a volunteer to take the bike from me and I just needed to jog to find my bag from the rack on go to the changing tent. I cannot describe how great the young volunteers were. They were offering ice, water, vaseline, sun screen, Gatorade and Pepsi. I got my helmet of, put my socks and shoes on, sunscreen to the head, neck and hands. Hat on towards the run. Short break in the porta potty and off we go!



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Run

Time: 5 h 14 min

Training Peaks: Run File (file is a bit short for battery reasons)

Nutrition: Gatorade/Pepsi + water on every aid station until 38 km. Probably 200-300 kcal of energy per hour.

At this point my goal was to keep jogging through the marathon. It would have been great to run with Sanna but she was long gone from T2 before I started running. I knew that the race had not gone well but at this point I did not care. There was a marathon to get through and the conditions were very hard for a heavy white dude from Finland.

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As usual, your running feels very slow after a bike and there was no surprises this time. I kept a pace of 5 min 20 seconds / km for the first kilometres and this felt easy. My heart rate levelled to around 130 beats and my legs felt fine. I saw some pro’s going their insane pace on the hot course and thought how much they had to go? The pounding of running forced a bathroom break at 4 km and after that I kept going on my steady pace. There was an aid station on every kilometre and it was always manned with cheerful volunteers. My strategy was to get some water and Gatorade on every station and cool myself as much as possible on every station. This meant throwing water on me and putting ice on the front and back of my suit. In addition I put ice cubes inside my hat as often as possible. It must be noted that cooling yourself from the outside might not have a big effect on your core temperature but it makes the effort feel a little bit easier.

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Because of my slow aid stations my average pace was around 6 min/km and I kept it at that for the first lap (14 km). It felt reasonably easy and I was hoping to keeping it like that. The run course is out and back and it is mostly flat, basically a small rolling hill near the airport. Our great support group was near the turnaround and waved to them and headed for the second round. The first rough patch hit around 16 km. Short bathroom break and back to the course. I saw a familiar face cheering her athlete on and changed a couple of words with her (thanks Riikka for the encouragement). I picked up the pace again and got over the rough patch. I caught one of the few Finnish athletes on the course and jogged with him for a while. We kept the same routine. Run for 1 km, walk the aid station and start running again. Timo was having a rough patch and he kept walking after one aid station. I urged him to jog with me but he told me to go on. I kept on going and was feeling quite good.

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The only mistake I made on the run was to take in a little bit too much liquids which forced me to take a bathroom break again. This is really hard to judge when you are burning in the sunlight and I was feeling comfortable with it the amount I was taking in. I hadn’t touched Pepsi yet, I was saving that to the more challenging parts. Timo caught me again and now we were jogging together back to town. Again, walking every aid station and hoping the sun would drop faster to get of the direct sunlight.

I held the run together reasonably well the first 2 laps (28 km). We saw Daniela & Tiina near the turnaround and Riikka when we were on the first stretch of the last lap. At this point the wheels started to come off. I had some pain on my side, my legs were starting to hurt as they did in Mallorca 2014 – I had hoped to lessen this with bigger running volume during the year but this did not seem to have an effect. The pain in the legs was like sticking small needless to my femurs and in addition the jolts from pounding the asphalt from my thighs traveled through my hip flexors to my lower abdomen. All these combined, at the 30 km mark my jogging changed to walk/jog and I knew that the last lap was going to take some time. I told Timo to go and I went again to take a short break at the porta potty – my stomach was reasonably OK I was just getting rid of the excess liquid.

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The sun had dropped and I was now doing the literal long walk to the finish. I was waiting to see Sanna for the last time coming towards me and I cheered her on as well as I could. Her eyes did recognise me but she couldn’t react in any other way. She was bringing it home nicely! My last km’s were quite uneventfull. Try some running – hurts too much – walk and try again. My energy levels were fine but the pain of running was too much to force myself to do it. Afterwards you always question should I have pushed more? Maybe for a couple of km’s but not for 12, I can be proud of my effort. When I arrived for the last time to town I forced myself to run the last 500 m and got to finish the very long day.

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I can agree with Sanna about the day. This was mentally the hardest day on a triathlon course for me. Horrible last 2 km’s on the swim, neck pain on the last lap of the bike and a very hot run. Result was far from what I could do but this one was more of a mental test than anything. My first Ironman in Mallorca went really well until the 20 km mark on the run when I overheated (a hot day that too). Ironman Cozumel was a struggle almost from the start but I kept on going and I have to be satisfied with that. I see no reason not to participate in another IM race in the future. I would want to be in much better shape when that happens and it would probably be wise to select a race where the heat is not an issue…

With that, thanks for my significant other Daniela for all the support and encouragement! We had a really great vacation with our friend Tiina and naturally my SKB Racing Triathlon Team mate Sanna, who did an excellent race – that report will follow soon.

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