Ironman Cozumel: The Bike
The bike was the most challenging part of the race for me hands down. I’m a newbie cyclist compared to most of the field (first road bike experience was May 2011), and I am slow! That means I get to be on the bike for 1-2 hours LONGER than the average Ironman. But that’s OK. I can still conquer a 112 mile bike ride like it’s nobody’s business, even if it takes me 7:30 hours to do it!
I grabbed my bike just outside the changing tent and ran to the bike mount line. I saw my parents on the way, going crazy and shouting “Asia!” which made me smile and gave me an extra boost. I ran past the mount line and got over to the right side to jump on my trusty Trek (and not get run over by the people who were faster than me).
The course is 3 loops around the island (39.5, 39.5, and 33 miles), with the beautiful, deserted backside of the island home to the cross winds for about 15 miles each lap. (I went sloooow on this part.) The terrain is flat, and the roads are in good condition. No cars on most of the course since they recently added a paved side road. The upside to 3 laps is that you get to see your fan base a lot! The downside to 3 laps is that you don’t get to see your fellow Ironman competitors until the run (unless you’re together or getting lapped.) I couldn’t wait to see Jeremy again!
Lap 1: Split 34.4 miles / 16.14 mph
I got on my bike, turned on my bike computer, and looked at my Timex watch which was on the bike setting…without GPS, without heart rate. Nooo! Apparently my watch never picked up GPS during the swim, and now it wasn’t picking up my heart rate monitor either. So, I reset my watch and picked up a GPS signal, but my heart rate never showed up on my watch. I was a little worried since I was supposed to be monitoring my effort on the bike by my heart rate, but I kept on riding and decided not to stress about it.
The first part of the bike course was also the fastest part of the bike course. I topped out around 21 mph, but my average was around 17-18 mph on the first stretch heading south. I ate an Uncrustable pb&j, drank some water, and settled in. I skipped the first aid station since they were spaced out about every 6 miles and didn’t need water yet. I didn’t take any bathroom breaks on lap 1 because I wasn’t ready to get off my bike yet, and I refuse to pee on myself. (Chafing!)
I hit the bottom of the island and started to feel the wind. Then I headed north…and really felt it. I was in the big chain ring for all of 5 minutes before I realized that was a waste of my energy, and my cadence was too slow, so I went to the small chain ring. I might as well have been climbing hills! The wind really slowed me down, and I saw speeds around 12-13 mph. I was a little shocked by how much the wind slowed me down, but again, I didn’t stress over it. I think this was the point where several pro men athletes FLEW past me. (Pros started 20 mins ahead of the rest of us…oh and they are very fast.) Insane.
I mentally went into the windy section of the bike thinking it would only last for 9 miles because that’s what it said in the official athlete guide. That was false. It was at least 15 miles of mind numbing windy conditions on each lap. The upside was that scenery was GORGEOUS. The backside of the island isn’t developed, and there are only a few restaurants and beach bars. I don’t think anyone lives on this side, so crowd support is pretty limited.
I passed the special needs area (since you get it on lap 2 if you need it), and shortly after, made the turn and finished the windy section of lap 1. Success!! Relief! AND FANS! Along the road into town, I passed hundreds of local supporters shouting “SI SE PUEDE! SI SE PUEDE”! (Yes you can! Yes you can!) Best. Feeling. Ever. Brought tears to my eyes, and made finishing lap 1 very sweet.
Lap 2: Split 73.5 miles / 15.14 mph
I was happy with my pace on the first lap and looking forward to seeing my parents on lap 2. I was achieving my nutrition goal of 300 calories/hour and at least 1 bottle of water/hour. Things were going well! The most exciting part of the bike ride was when I got to ride through downtown Cozumel. It felt like the entire island was out there watching and cheering me on. They had so much passion! “Vamos chica! Vamos! Vamos!” I wish I had written down all the amazing words of encouragement those people gave me. I couldn’t get enough of it.
Jeremy started his bike about 45 minutes ahead of me, so on his second lap, he stopped to talk to my parents and ask how I was doing while he refilled one of his water bottles. It was nice to have them there so he didn’t have to worry about me! He knew the swim was tough, so he was happy to hear I made the time cutoff and was making good time (for me) on the bike.
My parents were stationed outside our resort with a small group of others that were staying there as well. It was the perfect spot to spectate because they could go relax by the pool in between seeing me and Jeremy, and it was really easy to spot them. The both wore bright-colored shirts, and I saw them as I approached. They were screaming, cheering, and jumping up and down saying things like “You’re doing GREAT!” I smiled, waved, and said hiiiiii! It was so great having them there to support me.
Back at the windy section, I was starting to feel a little bummed to be in the wind again, when I heard a voice behind me. “Asia! Is that you?” And then pro triathlete Beth Walsh flew by me on her bike (lap 3 of course). I said, “Yes, hi!” Then she gave me some words of encouragement that I only partially caught since she blew by me so quickly. 🙂 Another boost!
I was rolling through most aid stations at this point so I could pour water on my head and down my back the rest of the ride. It was hot! (Prob around 78-80 degrees.) I got off my bike for 1 quick bathroom break and decided not to stop at special needs because I didn’t want to get off my bike again. I was on a mission.
Lap 3: Split 112 miles / 13.99 mph
When I reached the timing mat that signified the start of lap 3 (and saw a lot of people finishing their third lap – ugh jealous), I threw my hand in the air for a fist pump and shouted “LAST LAP FINALLYYYYYYYYYY!!!” The crowd cheered, even if they couldn’t understand me. I was pumping myself up for a tough final 33 miles. You don’t get the benefit of the “fast section” on lap 3 since you finish before it, which is why my mph looks like a significant drop.
Lap 3 was by far my most difficult lap for me personally, but I stuck it out and got through it with no major setbacks. My back was starting to hurt and I was dreaming of getting off the bike…but I kept bringing it back and focused on the present. It felt like there was hardly anyone left on the course at this point, and I went through stretches when no one was around me. Definitely an entirely new mental game when you can’t see other athletes. I was counting down the miles until I got to see my parents again (mile 88). I was so happy to see them! I smiled and said “FINALLY!” They said “No, you’re doing GREAT!” I love my parents. Always supportive and encouraging.
I started cheating on my nutrition sometime around hour 5. I had lost my appetite, but knew I needed to keep eating, so I had a bonk breaker instead of a pb&j, and ate more fruit snacks to make up for the third pb&j. I probably dropped to 200 calories/hour the last 2.5 hours, but it was better than nothing. I got off my bike 2x during lap 3 because I really needed to stretch, pee, and recharge my batteries. I was drinking a lot of water and staying hydrated which was a good thing. The first time I stopped on this lap, I read the note that Jeremy wrote for me on my water bottle. It was filled with love and words of encouragement. I really needed it.
The windy section on lap 3 was my lowest point of my entire race. I kept repeating mantras over and over and over and fought back tears. “Pain is temporary, pride is forever. Pain is temporary, Ironman is forever.” The mantras helped me get through that very long hour. I was feeling mentally drained and ready to sell my bike, but I knew it was almost over. I was definitely going to finish the bike!
My last rest stop was a little slow bc they ran out of water bottles, so I had to wait for them to clean(?) and refill a (used? dirty?) water bottle for me. I also saw a man laying on the side of the road in very bad shape. Cue ambulance. I was happy I didn’t feel too much pain, or have any cramping/stomach/dehydration issues like others. (I also ran into someone who had been puking for most of the bike. No bueno!) A lot can go wrong/happen to you over the course of 112 miles, so I was feeling fortunate that I was going to finish the bike in good shape. I gained a lot of respect for the Ironman distance that day.
The last 5 miles couldn’t go by fast enough. I was so close, I could taste it. Then, I saw my parents in town shortly before I got off my bike. They were SO EXCITED and proud of me! I was too! I did it! I conquered the Ironman bike!!!!!!! Now all I had to do was run a marathon! I knew I was going to become an Ironman that day. 🙂 🙂
Pace: 15.00 mph avg
My time: 7:27:57
Age group rank in Females 25-29: 27/47*
*33/47 in my division completed the swim. (I don’t know how many officially started.)
Gender rank: 329
Overall rank: 1,660/2,664
Transition time from bike to run: 6:28