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Ironman Cozumel – My best season to date

By 29th November 2019Homepage

IRONMAN Cozumel logo

 

Cozumel would be my third Ironman of the season and although I have felt good all year, I did have reservations as to whether 3 ironman races within 5 months was going to be too much. I decided to do Ironman Cozumel because I have never done a flat bike and run course, so I wanted to test myself and see how I performed on that type of course. Catrin also entered in what would be her 2nd Ironman, a complete opposite race to her first one in Lanzarote.

We were to spend a week in Mexico, arriving on the Tuesday and racing on the Sunday. Not an awful lot of time to acclimatise to the conditions, due to work commitments, but long enough for our body clocks to adjust to the time difference and travelling. We arrived at our hotel and we settled in, had some food and got an early night. The next day I unpacked both bikes, put them together and went out for a test ride. The island is very small, around 40 miles round trip, but the ocean and scenery is beautiful. We also headed over to the 25m pool, which is free to use and only a short bike journey from our hotel. We hired beach bikes for a few days, so we could travel around the island. There is no need to hire a car in Cozumel, you can reach anywhere on the bike and there are literally hundreds of taxis if you prefer to get a lift.

Over the next couple of days, we headed down to the sea for a quick sea swim and went for a short run just to loosen the legs. The sea was very warm, with loads of fish swimming beneath you. It certainly is a tropical island and it was a fantastic place to swim.

Friday morning I was woken up at 5am to a huge scream. Jesus Christ, what’s happened? Cat was running to the bathroom after tipping boiling hot water all over her hand and arm. She was obviously in a lot of pain and was panicking about her hand blistering. We ran the scold underwater for a good 20 minutes and luckily it wasn’t as bad as it looked. It did leave a big red mark, but we caught it in time and it didn’t blister. It’s usually me who is the stupid one and makes these types of errors, but this time the tables had turned.

We registered on the Friday and attended the briefing, which was all straight forward. Cozumel is a split transition, so we had to drop our bikes and blue bike bag at T1, then cycle on our beach bikes over to T2 to hang up our red run bags, which we wouldn’t see again until race day, so we had to ensure all of our run nutrition etc was in there on the Saturday.

We decided that we would run through my transition first, then go over to Catrin’s to sort out her bike and bags. As we were putting my bike on the bike rack, we started talking to a Canadian woman named Elizabeth Model. She is such a lovely lady and she has done a staggering 99 Ironmans. What an outstanding achievement, but that wasn’t all, she then mentioned her husband, who holds the World Record for the most Ironman races ever, a mind-blowing 257. We chatted for about 15 minutes and I could have stayed there for another 15 days, listening to her fascinating stories of where ironman has taken her and her husband. Truly inspirational. 

With all that done, we made our way back to the hotel to get a good meal and an early night.

Race Day

Alarm set for 4am. Our hotel had agreed to open the buffet at 5am, so we took advantage of that and made our way over to the bus, which took us to T1 and the swim start. Catrin and I went over her plan for the day and it was very relaxed. We got over to the transition area, sorted out our bikes and made our way over to the swim start. We were there in plenty of time, so we sat down and took in the atmosphere. The pro men were due to start at 7.15, the Pro women at 7.20 and then the age groupers at 7.30. My plan as always was to start at the front of the race, but this didn’t happen as there was a huge queue to get onto the pontoon. I was about 40-50 places back and I could see some athletes in the sub 1hr group who I knew weren’t going to swim that fast. I don’t know why people can’t be honest with their times and start in the wave they should. Anyway, the Pro men were off, followed by the Pro Women and then it was our turn. I gave Catrin a hug and kiss and wished her all the luck in the World. I made my way over the pontoon and waited for a small gap before jumping over the timing mat into the ocean. The swim in Cozumel is known to be very fast, with the top Pros swimming sub 40 minutes. This is due to the current and the point to point swim. I set myself a target of 44 minutes and as I had to swim through around 50 swimmers to get to the front, I was out on my own. Another repeat of my race at Roth, swimming the whole way completely on my own. I overtook a few women Pros and the clarity of the water was amazing. It was very choppy in there, which made it a bit difficult to sight off the buoys. Coming into the finish of the swim and I overtook another group of Women Pros before exiting in a time of 43.34. Fastest Age group swim if the day and slightly faster than my target time. I felt very very comfortable and on hindsight, probably should have swum harder.  

Into transition and on with my helmet, off with the swim skin and off to get my bike. All plain sailing through T1, onto my bike and straight down into the aero position. I immediately passed two more female Pros and had a clear straight road in front of me. For some reason, my Garmin didn’t pick up my heart rate, so I had no idea what my HR was. Something I always check when getting on the bike, in order to regulate it to the required number I know I can cycle at. Straight away I started drinking to replace some of the salts lost through the swim leg. I aim to drink 2 bottles within the first hour on the bike to ensure those salts and fluids are replaced.

The bike course is 3 laps of the island and it is a flat course. My Garmin clocked 1550ft elevation over the 113 miles (it is slightly long). Getting into my rhythm and not feeling too bad, I stuck to my target power, which was 260 watts. I made a conscious effort to stick to that target, as I didn’t want to fade in the latter half of the bike. The first lap went very well, I was bang on the power and was overtaking a few of the Male Pros. I had a clear road and although the top section of the course is quite windy, I stayed aero and didn’t really notice it too much. The hardest part of the bike was slowing down at the aid stations. Travelling at 24-25mph, I had to slow down to around 12-13 to pass the stations, to make sure I had the opportunity to grab bottles off the volunteers. The heat was creeping up and so was the wind on lap 2 and I kept thinking how Catrin was doing and hoping she was ok. Onto lap 3 of the bike and my glutes started tightening up. I have not been used to saying in the aero position for that amount of time and it was taking its toll on my quads and glutes. I had to battle on and try to block out the pain. I knew I was still leading the age group race, as I hadn’t been overtaken by anyone. My nutrition went very well whilst on the bike, I consumed everything I took with me and I felt well fuelled going into the run. Completing the bike leg in a time of 4.40.25, slightly slower than my target time of 4.35, but again the fastest bike split in my age group, I knew I was on for a decent time. T2 and the volunteers take your bike off you, the same way they do in Kona, so that sped up the process. I took off my helmet and went into the changing tent. As I sat down to put on my socks and shoes a volunteer poured a cup of ice down the back of my tri suit. I had the shock of my life because I wasn’t expecting it at all. I let out an almighty scream and the volunteer jumped out of his skin. I laughed and said sorry, then legged it out of the tent. T2 – 1.24 

 

Going onto the run and I knew I had to keep a close eye on my pace. Every race I do, I always go out way too fast for the first half-mile, so I really made sure I was bang on my target pace for the first few miles of the race. The sun was now out in full force and the sky was clear blue, not a cloud in sight. It was hot, very hot and I knew I had to hydrate well if I wanted to execute a good run. The other important factor was keeping my body temperature down, so every aid station I took ice, water and sponges to keep cool. I closed in on Michelle Vesterby, who finished 3rd in the Women’s Pro race and went passed her, while she was being filmed by Talbot Cox and Mirinda Carfrae. Feeling good, but hot, I ran on finishing my first lap of 3. I got my first sight of the male Pro race and saw Michael Weiss was leading the race. I always get excited when I see the Pros running and it gives me a boost to know that it’s hurting them, just as much as it’s hurting me. Running through half marathon and my time was 1.33, pretty much the exact same halfway split as Challenge Roth. I was on target for another good run, I just needed to keep that pace.

Every opportunity of any shade on the course, I tried to take it. There wasn’t much of it at all and looking back it was probably a waste of time. Approaching the 17-mile mark and I couldn’t believe what I saw. Cat running towards me. What the hell, I shouted over to her. Before the race we set a target time for her and figured out based on that time, she would be running out of transition when I was at about 24-25 miles. I was at 18 and I knew I was going pretty well, so I knew she was doing exceptionally well. I was hurting, but I had someone to chase, finally. Yes it was my wife, but I did have to put in an effort to reach her. It took me 4 miles to bloody catch her. Whilst this was going on I remember someone passed me, I wasn’t sure what lap he was on or if he was a pro, but he was shifting. Turns out he was an Age Grouper and he took the overall lead when he passed me and that’s the way it finished. Eventually, I caught up with Cat and had a quick chat with her. Asked her how she was feeling and if she was ok. She looked great and I was super proud of how she was racing. She gave me the words of encouragement I needed at that point and something clicked with my legs because I felt like a different person. I then tried to track down the guy that passed me earlier. My final 5 miles were only slightly slower than my first 5 and I gave it everything I had to get to the finish line, I was on for a PB and that was my target before the race. Approaching the finish, I felt relief and excitement. I crossed the line with a run time of 3.12.05. 2nd fastest run in my age group and the overall fastest time for my age category. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the legs to catch the overall age group winner, who finished 2 minutes 49 seconds in front of me. I achieved my target and a new PB of 8.40.23. I was happy, but I know I have a lot more to give, which really excites me.

I had to sit down for 20 minutes and take in some water to cool off. I then had a quick massage, before going to get my white streetwear bag to go back out and support Catrin. Unfortunately, they wouldn’t just let me take my streetwear bag, I had to take my blue bag, red bag, pump and bike. Nightmare. I dragged it all back onto the course and sat down on the side of the road to check where Cat was. She was coming back off her 2nd lap and I had the opportunity to see her at the turnaround point, I asked an American guy if he didn’t mind watching my bike and bags while I went over to see Cat. She was in a lot of pain and understandably so, she was doing exceptionally well. I ran about 10 metres with her, gave her the support I thought she needed and said I’d see her at the finish line. I made my way to the finish, ate a whole tube of Pringles and waited for Cat to cross the line. I couldn’t really get close to the finish but got in a position where I was able to see her cross the line and get her attention. She was almost there and the time was closing in on 12.30. I couldn’t have been happier when I saw her and shouted over. She came over and I gave her the biggest hug and said how proud I was of what she had just done. 12.30 totally smashed the time we thought she was capable of.

Catrin has trained like a woman on a mission. She hasn’t missed one training session I have given her and the improvements she has made on the swim and bike are exceptional. There is still a lot to improve on the run and she knows that, but she’s definitely heading in the right direction.

As for me, it has been a very long season, but my best season I have had to date. One 70.3 coming in first place. 3 Ironman finishing in 3rd in Challenge Roth, 1st in Ironman Wales and 1st in Ironman Cozumel. 2 PB’s over the iron distance and I’m hungry for more.

Coach says a 3-week break now (that’s me) then we start building for 2020. I have a few fun events already lined up. London Marathon, Challenge Samorin and Breca Swim/Run with my good friend and running machine, Marc Davies, then a couple of A races. Copenhagen Ironman being 1 and hopefully another one at the end of the season.

The coaching is going very well and I have a great group of athletes, that are committed and determined to achieve their goals. Thank you to everyone who has supported me throughout the year. 2019 you have been a blast, bring on 2020.

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • James Davies (Jamo) says:

    Great read as always mate, u & Catrin smashed it.
    Unbelievable season for u self on a whole ….really Inspiring

    Thanks again for helping me achieve me goal in 2019
    & we see u for more coaching in future mate

  • Richard Jellyman says:

    Great work fordy, who knew…pringles the food of champions!

  • Sam Figgures says:

    Great read yet again. Massive kudos for this year mate, it’s been incredible, and its inspiring. Following yours and Cats progress has been really enjoyable and educational. Looking forward to giving a few events ago myself. Looking forward to see where you go next.

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