Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ironman Cozumel Race Report!!

Goals for the race
1. to Finish! 16:59 would have made me ecstatic! (I did some math and figured if everything went perfectly I might come in close to 15:30, but I didn't really think that would happen)
2. to have fun and take it all in!Chankanaab pre-race

I woke up race morning with my stomach in knots, I assumed it was just race nerves, but I took the Imodium that Carolyn had put in Jeff's Sherpa care package just in case. Thanks Carolyn! At 5am the Vista Del Mar contingent (me, Ingrid, Del, Kim, Wilmer, Goron, and Jeff) left for Chankanaab. We got there early and I had plenty of time to turn in my special needs bags, put bottles on my bike, turn on my GPS tracker and anything else on the list Jeff made for me :) We got to use the restrooms inside at Chankanaab and the lines weren't even long! I met up with Jeff and my parents before the race. We watched the pros start and the dolphins jumping. Then I went into the huge mass of athletes to get ready to start.

I found a girl named Adriana and talked with her, then I actually saw Ingrid, Kim, and Del! Del and I ended up walking down the pier and getting in the water together. steps that Del and I used to get in the water

We said we'd draft off each other the entire race. When we got in the water we lost each other but we had both followed Coach Jen's advice to start off to the right, I saw Kim walking down the pier and yelled her name, she didn't hear me but Del did and yelled my name, he was only about 3 feet from me! So we hung out together and watched the dolphins jumping until the gun went off.

The gun went off and I started swimming, I was afraid I'd get swum over and knocked around, but it never happened. Actually from where I started I had a pretty easy mass swim start, less contact than any Splash & Dash! Swim start from my dad's point of viewand a close up from 2digital

I swam along looking at cool fish and corals under the water, I barely had to sight since there were people on both sides of me I couldn't be off course. When I got close to the first turn buoy I saw it was super crowded, so I swam wide around it and completely avoided the pile up. Same with the second turn buoy. Then I had the current with me and felt like I was swimming really fast back to the pier, past the pier and all the way down to the submarine. I saw a couple of small stingrays in the water, lots of fish and some safety divers. It was the most beautiful swim ever! I turned around the submarine and buoy and didn't really feel like the current was slowing me down. I got close to a guy breast stroking on that final stretch, I kept trying to get away from him, but kept ending up near him. He never did kick me. Before I knew it Chankanaab looked really close and then I could see the steps where we got out. I got out with no issues, but Scott said at times the steps were so crowded that people were standing on top of each other! Guess I got lucky! HAPPY getting out of the water!

I jogged through the HUGE crowd toward the bike bags and changing tent. People were screaming and cheering like crazy, but out of all the noise I heard my dad yell "HEATHER!" clear as could be! He has a really distinctive voice. I also heard "we're so proud of you!" and I knew it was my mom! I saw Jeff and Jon as I went by too. Swim time was 1:21:49. I was hoping for around 1:30 so I was super happy! I know I was grinning from ear to ear as I ran through to the changing tents. I pretty much expected the Ironman Cozumel swim to be the best and most fun swim of my life and I was not disappointed!Just after the best swim of my life!

T1 actually went a lot better than I expected. I was assuming with a complete clothes change and everything it would take me about 15 minutes and when I saw how far we had to run from the swim exit to the tents, I thought it might take closer to 20. I got to the showers and rinsed off the salt water, grabbed my gear bag- thanks for the red ribbons Cindy! made my bag very easy to find! I lost my goggles along the way, but I didn't even consider going back to get them. I ran to the changing tent and changed clothes with help from an American volunteer, she sprayed me down with sunscreen, I got a piece of gum- Thanks Carolyn! and my bike stuff and took off to go get my bike. I got my bike and ran through the HUGE crowd again! I couldn't stop smiling, it was absolutely amazing! I heard "Animo" and "GO GO" and "Si se puede" and "VAMOS!" and then I again heard my dad yell "HEATHER!" I looked for him, my mom and Jeff but couldn't see them. the crowd at T1
getting ready to start the bike

They later told me they were 4 or 5 rows of people back, that's all the closer they could get to the fences. T1 was 10:15.

I got on my bike and was SO happy! I started riding and I'm not sure if I had a tailwind or I was just super happy and excited, but I was going 17+ mph without much effort! Some of the slower swimmers/faster cyclist started passing me and I got lots of "Hi Heather from Texas!", "how's your race going?" "Great Job!" etc. from other athletes! Lots of people said they liked my license plate too, good thing Julie got me a new R so people didn't think I was HEATHEP! There were crowds of people spectating at every hotel and beach club along the way. I started to get some headwind after a few miles, but it wasn't bad at all. I stopped at the second rest stop to get water and mix my next 2 hours of Infinit, the volunteers were super nice and helped me fill bottles, and put lids back on for me, I was back on the road in less than a minute!

Just after the rest stop I made the big curve and could see the ocean, it was SO beautiful! Not too much later I heard "Is that my Heather?" from behind me, I knew it was Ingrid! As she passed me she said "this is SO Amazing!!" I completely enjoyed the far side of the island, the view was amazing and the wind wasn't even that bad! There weren't as many spectators, but it was so beautiful I barely noticed. I made the turn to head back into town and immediately felt a strong tailwind, I felt like I was flying and it was so much fun! There were groups of spectators along the way and they were all cheering like crazy! The closer to town I got the more spectators there were, until there were thousands of them all screaming and cheering like they were there just for me! I thought, even if the rest of the race ends up being completely awful, it was totally worth it for the swim, T1 and lap 1 on the bike! I couldn't believe how many people were out there or how loud they were cheering! I just kept thinking "this is SO Freaking Awesome!!!" I went past T2 and soon passed Scuba Club, my parents' hotel, they were sitting out front in lawn chairs with signs and cheered like crazy when they saw me!My dad took this picture as I rode by

Just after passing Scuba Club I saw Jeff, Jon, Tommy, Kristy etc. walking back toward town from Chankanaab. They all cheered for me and I yelled "this is SO FREAKING AWESOME!!" I rode by Chankanaab and finished my first lap in 2:25, I had thought that if everything went perfect and there was no wind the fastest I could go per lap was 2:30, so I was super happy! Lap 2 was pretty much a repeat of lap 1, the wind had picked up a little, but I was still having so much fun! The volunteers were super nice and really seemed to want to help me, I rarely needed anything since I use my own Infinit. I said "no gracias" a lot as I rode by them. They always cheered and encouraged me as I rode by. At one aid station I told a boy, probably in high school, "no gracias" for a gel and he replied "You are beautiful!" hehe! I started to wonder if I had been going too fast and it would make lap 3 harder. When I got to the head and cross winds, I tried not to push too hard, but when I turned and got the tailwind and the huge crowds cheering again, I couldn't slow myself down! I passed Scuba Club again and my parents cheered and my dad took pictures.
I passed Chankanaab right at 5 hours into the bike and started my last lap! I usually have songs in my head during long rides, but this time I had the chant "Si Se Puede!" in my head, I heard it millions of times through the crowded areas, so it stuck in my head for the not so crowded areas. It made me happy because it reminded me that soon I'd be back in the area with all the people cheering.

The wind had picked up quite a bit for my third lap and I could really feel the headwind, but I also knew I had less than 32 miles to go! I had kept up with my nutrition perfectly, I was starting to feel a little tired, but I knew I could do it! I thought about all my friends at home watching my little GPS dot move around the island and I thought about the final lap of my windy P-ville ride with Cindy, Kendra, and Elizabeth. The cross wind on the far side of the island was also stronger on my last lap. There were painted black lines on the road and I had read that each black line marks a turtle nest on the beach, so I tried to count black lines, I got over 300, but there were too many to count.

I was definitely getting tired before I made the turn toward town. But finally I hit the turn and got the awesome tailwind! I stopped at the aid station just after the turn, I added some concentrated Infinit to my aerobottle and a volunteer filled it with cold water. I stood there for a second to stretch my legs and back, and a sweet volunteer looked at me and said "You can do it!" She was obviously super excited for me! I took off and thoroughly enjoyed my last time riding through the crowded streets of Cozumel. I saw my parents and Jeff just before I got to T2. Jeff was supposed to give me my running hat at Vista Del Mar, and he told me "Jon has your hat for you"
Still really happy after riding 112 miles! It was definitely the BEST bike ride of my life! Total bike time was 7:42:15.

I got off my bike and handed it to a volunteer. I walked to the changing tent and they already had my gear bag ready. I started changing clothes and a couple of girls ran over and shielded me with big trash bags so no one would see me naked, I really didn't care and thought it was kind of funny. A volunteer tried to put my second compression sock on while I was doing the first one, also pretty funny, but it worked. T2 time was 7:46.

I ran out of T2 feeling good, again there were HUGE crowds of people all cheering like crazy! Vista Del Mar was less than 1/2 a mile from transition. As I got close I looked for Jon. I had forgotten to put Nicki and Drew's "good luck on your first Ironman run" hat in my T2 bag so Jeff was going to hand it to me, since I hate running without a hat and I obviously wanted my good luck hat! Jeff and my parents had made it back to Vista Del Mar so Jeff handed me my hat as I ran by.
trying to put my hat on, while everyone at Vista Del Mar is cheering for me
Ingrid's mom had the Inspiration Stick out all day, this picture is from the swim start, but I didn't really see it until the run. She had put something for each of us on the stick, my good luck charms were a fish necklace and a dolphin necklace, what a cool idea!
Our cheering section at Vista Del Mar. The people who work at the hotel were also out there cheering and the people who work at our dive shop next door were there cheering too. Ok, really I'm pretty sure everyone on the entire island was somewhere on the course cheering! There really weren't many places on the course that weren't crowded with spectators and everyone yelled my name as if they knew me! It was like running through the Tri Zones Team Tailgating area for an entire marathon! I'm pretty sure I high fived every person on the island of Cozumel during the run! It was SO much fun!! I saw Ingrid and Catherine during my first lap, they both looked great! I felt great for my first lap, I had told Jeff the absolute fastest I might do the first lap was 1:50, I did it in 1:47! After my U-turn, I passed Vista Del Mar again and my dad ran with me for a minute, he told me he had mistaken some other girl for me, he had yelled "Heather" and she had yelled "DAD!" so he took pictures of her, thinking everyone else had missed me go by, he showed the pictures to Jeff and Jeff laughed at him for not recognizing me!

I tried to slow down a little during lap 2, but I got to 13.1 miles in 2:45. I really didn't think I could keep up that pace, so I walked a little more on the second half of lap 2. I had a hard time running at a slower pace, so the only way I could slow down and catch my breath was to walk. By the end of lap 2 I was starting to feel tired and I couldn't drink any more Infinit. It didn't taste bad, I just really didn't want to drink it anymore. Coke and oranges sounded really yummy and I knew if I drank a lot of Coke I would have to walk more so my stomach wouldn't get upset. As I ran by Vista Del Mar again, I told Jeff, "I'm going to walk more this lap, so don't worry that I'm slower, I feel fine, just need to slow down a little". I made my U-turn and heard Ingrid! I told her I was feeling good. She had just finished, had an awesome race and a 13 minute PR! I handed her my fuel belt since I had no intention of drinking any more Infinit.
Starting my last lap of the run! I was so happy to start my last lap! I knew that I was going to finish! I checked the time on my Garmin and it wasn't even 8:30 yet! I did some math and figured if I kept a 15 minute per mile pace, I could finish in 15:30! Wow!! My feet were starting to hurt, especially the ends of my toes and the balls of my feet, they felt like they were getting rubbed raw. I definitely slowed down, drank a lot of Coke and ate some oranges. The volunteers were super nice on the run too. I almost felt bad not taking something from them. At one point a boy started going through the list of stuff asking if I wanted anything, I told him "no gracias", he said, how about some support? I laughed and said "I never turn down support!" So he gave me a great big high five and cheered extra loud as I went by.

On the first half of lap 3, I caught Del, he was having some nutrition issues, I walked with him for a minute and told him he could walk slow the rest of the way and still finish. I felt bad when I started running again and left him. I finally saw Sandra the first half of lap 3 too, she was going the opposite direction, so it was just a quick hi. I started to feel really hungry, so I took a powerbar from an aid station, I never eat power bars and now I know why! Yuck! After the turn around I checked the time again, I had less than 5 miles to go and it wasn't quite 9:30 yet! I only had to do about 16 minutes per mile to finish by 10:30 pm (15:30)! I was SO happy!! My feet were really hurting by then, but I knew the sooner I finished the sooner I could take off my shoes!

There were still tons of people out cheering, all yelling my name like they knew me and offering high fives! I also got lots of "love that smile!" As I got into town I saw the Croatians had come out to cheer for me! Then I got to Vista Del Mar and saw Kim and Wilmer on one side of the street and I assumed Ingrid, Ramona, and Jon on the other. They were all screaming my name like crazy! I wanted to get rid of my headlamp before the finish chute so I took it off and just as I threw it toward them, I realized that the 3 people were not Ingrid, Ramona, and Jon, they were complete strangers! Kim and Wilmer must have told them my name. The last half mile from Vista Del Mar to the finish was completely crowded with people all screaming and offering high fives! It was absolutely AWESOME! I high fived everyone as I ran into the chute, I looked behind me and saw no one, so I knew I had time to take it all in before anyone else came up behind me.
coming down the finish chutehigh fiving everyone!

I expected Jeff and my parents to be close to the finish line so I didn't look for them until after the turn in the chute. They were right at the turn and I completely missed them. I kept high fiving everyone while looking for Jeff and my parents, then ran up the ramp and across the finish line as the announcer was saying "Heather Herrick from the United States, Heather you know what's coming! Heather YOU are an IRONMAN!!!" SO FREAKING COOL!! my dad got a picture of me finishing on the big screenRun time was 6:01:38 and final time was 15:23:43! Wow!! Faster than I thought possible and way more fun than I expected!

My catcher asked how I felt and I said I felt pretty good, so she let me go, I got my medal and shell necklace and a bottle of Coke. I was super happy and really wanted to hug someone, it was all I could do to not hug the volunteers!
Then I saw my crew, they were outside the fence and I didn't know how to get out to them! My dad gave me a "finger hug" through the fence. I got my finisher shirt, my post race picture, and some pizza then found Jeff and my parents.
I got my bike and stuff and we walked back to Vista Del Mar. While we were walking toward the hotel Jeff asked if I would do another Ironman and I said "Definitely! This was the BEST RACE EVER!!!" Dad took some pictures, then I decided I wanted to sit in the swimming pool for a little while. When I took my shoes off, I saw that the bottoms of my feet were rubbed raw (maybe from sand in my socks) and the ends of my toes were raw and blistered, no wonder they were hurting on the last lap!
LOVE the medal!!!
and the shell necklace!
Ingrid and Jon came down to the pool too and Ingrid and I shared our race stories. She asked what my favorite part was, I thought for a minute and said "Surprisingly, I think it was the bike, I expected the swim to be awesome, and I knew there would be tons of people spectating for the run, but I didn't expect the bike to be so much fun!"


Richard said...

Fantastic! I loved reading over your race experience and seeing the photos.

Shayla said...

You are a ROCKSTAR, Heather!!

KimG said...

What an awesome accomplishment and you did it SMILING and staying positive the entire time!

Alili said...

So, so incredibly moving. Awesome job out there - I am SO proud of you!!

Moni said...

Heather.. CONGRATULATIONS! You are so freakin' amazing! I am SO very happy for you and your finish. :)

md said...

I just love to see your smiling face while you race, and at Ironman to boot!!!
Cozumel looks like such a beautiful venue, all your ocean pics are lovely. I'm so happy that you had such a wonderful experience for your first IM!! You rocked it girl! it was fun watching your hard training evolve into this spectacular Ironman race finale. a huge congratulations!!

miles99999 said...

Heather, great race report. Congrats on exceeding your expectations and having a race to remember. Very inspiring!

Stacey said...

Oh, Heather, how wonderful!! I'm just now getting around to reading your report but I've been thinking of you since your race weekend. I'm SO happy for you and your successful day in Cozumel.
You and your training are an inspiration to me.
Congratulations, ARE and IRONMAN!!!!!!

Thanks for the story,

shubbe said...

I read this right after you posted it and have had it open in a tab forever now, but haven't had a chance to comment. Finally have time!

You did exactly as I requested, and Heathered the hell of of Cozumel! A smile on your face the whole time and a beautiful and honest appreciation for what you were doing and where you were. It's been so fun following along on your journey, and to get to see it end with you blowing away your expectations in a fabulous race.. I love it!

I hope to join you for many more journeys and finish lines! Congratulations, Heather.

Hassan said...

So, I am out there on the run course and I kept seeing this lady that had this head lamp, I was like wow that was a smart idea! Then I passed her again, Wow I wish I had a head lamp…Then she screamed HASSAN! Heather CONGRATS!! I wish I could have actually met you guys. I will be back next year…if it doesn’t sell out before the end of January! Let me know if you guys are going to do it! I am definitely getting certified to dive before I go back! Your pics were awesome!!

Jason Hann said...

Outstanding Race report! Inspirational and uplifting. I hope to be sharing a similar experience this Thanksgiving!

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