Ironman Cozumel: The Run & The Finish
Call me crazy, but the marathon was my FAVORITE part of the day! Why? For starters, I love to run; it’s a passion of mine. It’s also my fastest leg of the triathlon – I passed 244 people! Finally, the crowd support was UNREAL. I had never seen anything like it! The fans and the people of Cozumel made my day, and I had an amazing time on the run course.
Looking back on it, I think I was slightly disoriented off the bike. For starters, after I got my transition bag, I went the wrong way trying to locate the changing tent. (It was right in front of me.) I did a quick change into my hot pink top and cute running skirt, and then wasn’t sure if I was supposed to turn right or left once I crossed the timing mat. A couple of women were behind me during all of this and asked “Will you be doing another one?” I immediately said “No, I’m retiring my bike!” They had similar thoughts. (Side note: It has been 1 month since my Ironman, and I still haven’t gotten back on my bike! Break time!)
Shortly after leaving T2, I was greeted by thousands of screaming fans packed on a narrow street, complete with a drum circle, choreographed dancing, thunder sticks, and more. It was loud, chaotic, and I loved it. That definitely woke me up!
Those were the only 2 pictures that were taken of me on the run course, and they’re right after I exited T2. Apparently the photographers retire once it gets dark, and I only had daylight for the first half of my first lap!
The course is 3 flat out and backs through downtown Cozumel, approx 8.6 miles each. Sections of the road are stone which get slippery as the night goes on. Run splits are only recorded at the halfway point of each lap, and the course officials write down your bib number on a piece of paper at each end. Unlike the bike course which was 3 large loops around the island, you actually get to see everyone on the other side of each lap. This was the first time I saw Jeremy since the swim start!
Lap 1: Split 4.3 miles / 10:36/mi
I spent most of lap 1 making sure I wasn’t running too fast. Anytime I saw my pace drop into the 9’s, I pulled it back into the 10’s. I had heard wayyyy too many horror stories about the run course going terribly wrong, and I was determined not to let that happen to me. My #1 goal for the marathon was to run the entire way – a feat that many people said could not be done. I spent the other part of lap 1 diligently hydrating and looking for Jeremy. I was SO excited to see him, and didn’t want to miss his beautiful face! I finally spotted him sometime before I hit my halfway point of lap 1. We stopped and gave each other a big hug. He asked me how I was doing, and I shrugged. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t feel bad, but I didn’t feel good. I think I was just tired. He said “This is hard, huh?” I said, “Yep.” He said I might catch him but I never did. He was having a good run! Much better than his experience at Coeur d’Alene!
Shortly after my Jeremy sighting, I recognized a girl from our local bike shop, and we started running together. (I wish I could remember her name!) She told me it was her final lap and asked if I was on my last lap too. I laughed, and said no. It was lap 1 for me. The crazy part in all of this? She was on her honeymoon AND was beating her husband! (No, I do not secretly want to do an Ironman on my honeymoon one day. Don’t get any ideas!) I stopped for my only port-a-potty break on the marathon and let her go on her way.
A Note about Ironman Cozumel Aide Stations
The water is handed out in a plastic baggie, not in the traditional paper cups. It takes a moment to get used to it, but once you do, it’s the best thing ever! You bite a hole in the baggie, and the water comes out in a drinkable stream. It’s convenient and holds more water than a traditional Dixie cup. I would run with one for a while, alternating between drinking it and pouring it on my head to stay cool. Good idea, Mexico!
The first 5 miles were HOT but went by quickly. The course was still packed with athletes, and the crowd was out in full force. The sun set on my way back into town, and then it was dark. Finally, a break from the heat! It never rained that day.
I saw my parents for the first time in the main part of town at the bottom of lap 1. It was hard to find them in the large crowds, but I never missed them! They were screaming for me, telling me I could do it. I high-fived everyone and ran through a narrow tunnel of hyper locals with thunder sticks. I don’t think more than 1 or 2 runners could have fit through that section at once. The crowd was in my face, giving me every ounce of energy they had, pushing me along the run course onto lap 2. “Si se puede! Si se puede!”
Lap 2: Split 13 miles / 11:14/mi
At the beginning of lap 2, my dad said “Last lap?” Haha. Umm no…2 more to go! Jeremy, however, was on his last lap! I was still in good spirits, but my mind and body started thinking about walking a little bit. I saw more and more walkers and less runners as the night went on, but I told myself I would not start walking.
The crowds thinned as I left the main part of downtown and headed into the park area. My favorite crowd out there was a group that was blasting really catchy music. While running, I pranced to “Gangam Style”, did the “Macarena” and sang the “YMCA”. Anything to keep me going! I think they appreciated my awesome dance moves. (Have you ever tried dancing while running? It looks pretty ridiculous.)
I saw Jeremy near before the turnaround point again and wished him a great finish. He yelled “Don’t forget your nutrition!” He was right. I wasn’t eating very much. I took a GU on the spot and ended up eating 4 GUs total throughout the marathon. I also had a few cups of Gatorade. I tried drinking the Cola, but that repulsed me since I’m not a regular soda drinker. I had a couple of orange slices, but after one sour one, I was done with them. The pretzels were far too dry to choke down. I never felt hungry or light headed, so I figured I was ok. Looking back on it, I should have eaten more since I also started skipping calories 5 hours into the bike, and I got lucky that my lack of calories didn’t send me into the pain cave. (My coach lovingly called me a freak after hearing this and said there is opportunity on my next one…Ah hem. Assuming there is a next one, Coach!)
Lap 3: Split 21.7 miles / 11:38/mi
This probably goes without saying, but the hardest part of the run was lap 3. It’s hard to explain the mental state I was in. I was still happy to be running vs. cycling and knew I was almost done, but my heart sank a little bit when I went from lap 2 to 3. I could actually can SEE the finish line every time I started a new lap. Lucky enough to be finishing? Make a left turn and head down the home stretch! Not finishing yet? Make a U-turn and head into the darkness, away from the bright lights, the crowds, the glory. (Ok that’s a little dramatic, but true!) I saw my parents one last time and knew I’d see them again soon enough at the finish line.
My watch died and I had no idea what my pace was, but I could tell I was slowing down. I kept running, but at a slower pace. Everything from my hips down hurt. A lot. Every fiber inside of me was yelling, “Walk!! Everyone else is doing it. Just waaaalk!!” I went for stretches at a time when everyone I saw was walking. In fact, they were impressed that I was still running, so that gave me more ammunition to keep at it, no matter how hard it got, and no matter how slowly I was running. I periodically poured water on my head to stay alert and kept moving forward. I encouraged others to run and got them to for a little bit, but no one would keep running with me. So, I passed the time was by playing leapfrog with a Russian. (The guy was running with a bright yellow shirt that said RUSSIA.) I jogged slowly past him as he walked, and then he would run by me a little ways and start walking again. Then I would slowly jog by him again. Repeat. Sometimes we would run together and keep conversation. That definitely helped, but lap 3 was by far the slowest lap. There weren’t many people left on the course, and the crowds were thinning.
When World Champion Chrissie Wellington races, she dedicates each mile of her run to someone, and when I needed some inspiration that night, I decided to do the same. I dedicated one to Jeremy who was always by my side for my entire Ironman training journey, no matter how cranky I got. I dedicated one to my parents who believed in me, came to both Ironman races, and financially supported me for race #2 so I could complete my journey. I dedicated one to my training buddies on “Team WODS” and knew they were tracking me on the course at that very moment. I dedicated one to my virtual blogger friend Page who wasn’t able to make it to the start line of her first Ironman due to an injury, but was already making plans to become an Ironman in 2013. These thoughts kept me running and helped me achieve my goal of not walking during the marathon. Thanks, guys!!!!! I couldn’t have done it without you!
Once I hit the turnaround point of lap 3, I was ecstatic. HOME STRETCH!!
Finish Line: 26.2 miles / 11:52/mi
The last mile was a happy mile. I was so proud of myself. I remember thinking that this was my longest workout EVER. I was almost an Ironman! I was ready to end my Ironman journey on a high note. I felt better than I thought I was going to, and I couldn’t wait to see Jeremy and my parents on the sidelines cheering me across the finish line. I became very aware of my surroundings because I wanted the finish line all to myself. (Good photo opp!) I had a good gap ahead of me and behind me and kicked my legs into gear for one final push.
Jeremy, Mom, and Dad were waiting for me at the final turn yelling “Asia! Asia!” I spotted them, and gave them my biggest smile and a wave. Then I proceeded to run down the final stretch with both arms raised overhead and a huge smile on my face the entire way.
Then, the moment I dreamed of. The moment I pictured over and over and over again in my head. The announcer said something so cool that I wish I had written it down word for word, but it went something like this:
“AND FROM THE UNITED STATES, HERE COMES ASIA SIMONELLI. MY, WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NAME. ASIA SIMONELLI – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!!!!”
I DID IT! I AM AN IRONMAN!!
Run Pace: 11:22 min/mile avg
Run time: 4:58:01
Final age group rank: 22
Final gender rank: 257
Final overall rank: 1,396
*******************FINISH TIME: 14:32:03********************