The day before race day was mad. This is my third world champs and they always seem to be the same. The one day you really need to rest and put your feet up but instead you spend most of it rushing around. It was an early start getting a short bike and run in with Alex (one of my GreenlightPT team mates) before it got too hot. By 7:30am – we were a sweaty mess despite only half an hour of easy activity – this does not bode well for the following day! It was then time for a bit of a chill out before meeting the guys to go to the GB team briefing. These meetings are where it always hits home, where you are and what you’re doing – we’re talked though everything we need to know in order to race from where to put your race tattoos to what is checked when you rack later this afternoon to a reminder of the rules – they would have observers watching the swim for any rough stuff and drafting on the bike. The one area that was dwelt on was the expected impact of the heat. Ironically while the briefing was on we could hear an almighty monsoon going on…there was a real concern about the effect the heat would have on us (and not just us pasty Brits) on the run. It’s hot here, not just a bit warm but stupidly hot which when combined with humidity at 80%+ means racing expectations have to be adjusted if you want to finish the race. The BTF had taken this concern seriously. We’d all been sent advice about acclimatising prior to travel (hence lots of turbo/run sessions in extra layers) and increasing fluid intake, particularly during the race. There was more advice from ITU medical staff about ensuring we were drinking all day Saturday and during the race on Sunday. Each water station would have ice and water and we were advised to take on both at every opportunity. Ordinarily in a 10km this would be overkill but in a 5km lap there were 4 water stations! Once the briefing was over we had team photos done – there were a lot of us! It was then back to the hotel for lunch and to prep the bike before transition drop off.
I met the GreenlightPT guys and we all rode down to the race site together. Only a 10 minute cycle but via the main road through Cozumel. Plenty of speed bumps that really weren’t designed with TT bikes in mind and not mad traffic, just a little unpredictable! There was a hub of activity as we arrived at the entrance to the Fonatur Marina Park and it was now that the excitement started to kick in as the sheer size of transition came into view. It was a mass of blue carpet and bikes…My spot was the most central you could get – my age group got probably the best spot there was. Our row was directly in front of the ‘swim in’ bridge and only just along from bike in and out – very easy to find in a hurry. I put my bike on the racking and it ended up swinging – it’s a small bike and didn’t even touch the ground. I let the air out of the tyres and went to investigate ‘swim in’.
World Champs are notorious for long transitions. Even though we race the same venue as the elites we don’t get to climb out of the water and jump on our bikes as a rule. Our swim exit consisted of a long run up a ramp, along the length of the marina, up a few steps, then a bridge over the finish straight which consisted of a steep staircase and a steep ramp before we even hit transition. Then you have to find your bike among the 1000 bike alongs 20 odd rows…
We then headed off to watch the start of the women’s elite race and then home. I would have loved to stay and watch but the heat was oppressive and with a race the next day the aim was to keep as cool as possible and rested. The rest of the day was spent getting kit ready and packed before dinner and an early night.
Race day came and breakfast started at 4:30am so I was up at 4am for a quick shower and to put my tats on. Breakfast was busy and the hotel did a really good job providing ideal options for us – although I was very nearly derailed when the waiter advised me they’d no more tea bags! The look of horror on my face must have scared him into action as he rapidly found some!
We hit the shuttle bus at 5am and were in transition by 5:30am. It was still dark and although they had put up floodlights, our perfect central position meant we were pretty much in darkness – bit of a problem when you’re trying to pump up your tyres and can’t read the gauge. After the usual faffing around (triathletes are born faffers) and lengthy debates about tyre pressures – the heat meant lower pressures than normal as the tubes would expand as soon as the sun came up – and I decided I’d faffed about enough and made my way out of transition to find somewhere cool to camp for a bit until my race.
We gathered in the starting area and were handed cold water pouches to keep us cool – it was only about 7am but was already very hot – we were then walked down to the pontoon. I jumped in and realised straight away there was a really strong current – while holding onto the pontoon my legs were being pushed ahead of me – the race to the first buoy was going to be fast! And it was – it was also one of the most violent starts I’ve ever been in. Every bit of me was hit or grabbed over that first couple of hundred metres. After the first buoy it normally settles down, nope, carried on, second buoy – bit more space but someone behind me insisted on grabbing my ankles – it was a very strange swim. We were now going against the current as we drew back level with the pontoon, it seemed to take ages to go past it – as if we were swimming in treacle. The currents were also pulling us in all directions – I’d breathe one way and another swimmer would be right next to me, I’d breathe the same way two strokes later and she was 10 meters across from me, two more strokes and she’s back. I was very relieved to hit the top turnaround buoys until I took the tightest line and somehow managed to get my outside leg tangled in the buoy ropes. I fought myself free and promptly managed to do the exact same thing at the next buoy – I’d been drafting two girls until this point and lost them so set off after them over the final 200m. Never caught them but passed loads from previous waves, Turns out my swim wasn’t too bad – 18th out the water and 2nd GB. The two I lost at the top buoys came out 30 seconds ahead of me…
On to the bike and I took the first 5km of the bike steady, probably too steady as by 10km groups from my wave were catching me up and passing. I hung onto one group, but it was quite a big group and made no drafting difficult. There were all sorts of shenanigans going on for 20km and in the end a Canadian girl got carded and had to take a penalty. We hit the turn around point and I’d had enough of it and tried to get my head down into some clean road. Eventually I just about managed it bar a Mexican lady from the previous wave who seemed to like to suck my back wheel – she’s in most of my bike photos about an inch from my wheel! The bike route was hot and flat – first 5km was beautiful with the sea on one side. The next 15km to the turn around was pretty much om tree lines roads – so sheltered from the sun but still hot hot hot. Turnaround to home was the same – the last 5km back out in the open, the sun was my properly hot by now and I could feel my body temperature rising. I was relieved to come back into transition as the heat was oppressive, not that it was going to get any better back at the marina.
I started off on the run knowing it was going to be a tough one. I took on water and ice at the first stop and settled into a comfortable pace. Getting to the next water stop and getting some ice was the name of the game and I managed this at a reasonably decent pace for the first 5km. By the start of the second lap I knew I was starting to overheat. My pace had dropped quite considerably and despite taking on water and gels could feel myself going down. There were a few competitors who had been completely overcome by the heat and were lying or sitting by the side of the road with various officials and medial staff attending to them. Not wanting to join them it became a case of getting to the end in one piece. I ran/walked the rest of the way allowing myself to walk through the aid stations to take on water and ice and take advantage of the shade where possible. I summoned up the energy to run the last km – it wasnt fast or pretty but it was forward moving. The final turn down to the finish was about 600m long – it felt like miles but I kept going, crossed the line and promptly collapsed. my legs decided they’d had enough and to be fair my body was right behind them. A couple of lovely volunteers grabbed me and sorted me out with wet towels and water. One of them then stayed with me and walked me round the finish area to get my medal and various other stations we had to go through. There was a pizza stop, coconuts, and local jewellery gifts before the best bit – the ice baths. Never before has a pool of ice-cold water felt so good!
Starting to feel human again, I decided I really ought to go and find the family as it had been a while since I finished as was concerned they’d be wondering where I was. Especially if they’d seen my finish line wobble. I found them quite quickly (in the bar area…) and was given an ice-cold can of lager! Not the normal rehydration strategy and it was only 10am but it tasted great.
Gradually more of my team mates wandered though and we all exchanged our stories of the race. Some fared better than others. For some, it just wasnt their day, a mixture of illness and the heat took its fair share of victims. For me, my time wasn’t important. My position was a little disappointing – I lost a fair few places on the bike and where I’d normally make them up on the run I probably lost a few more but overall in the scheme of things, I finished in one piece and it was an amazing experience. This might be my last GB vest for a while as I’ve other plans for 2017 so it was a good one to go out on. There was a small group of us from GreenlightPT and it was great to share the experience with them. Cozumel is an awesome place to visit and as well as the couple of races I completed, we also managed to sail in a submarine, sample some Tequila, snorkel in the most amazing water and had a little swim with some dolphins.