Four minutes before the race started, and two minutes before we walked off the pier into the water, I was asked “What type of suit is that?”At first I thought the question from a fellow racer was one of admiration for using a cool/retro swim skin.
“That’s an illegal suit.”Are you racing for money?”
I replied, “Yeah, of course.”
My friend responded, “If you don’t take that off I’m reporting you to the officials after the race.”
Unlike many at this race, I don’t cheat the rules by blatantly violating the 12 meter draft zone. Hell, I don’t even take advantage, for financial reasons, of new gear to gain an extra watt or two. I mean, just look at my worn-out, UCI-legal bike. I’d gotten the swim skin for free. It had been sitting in the back closet of the swim shop for four years and Adelaide’s boss gave it to her to give to me. The issue with the suit was that it had a layer of neoprene and Ironman had banned that material a few years ago, which is probably why mine hadn’t ever sold. The way this guy came at me and immediately threatened to tattle, all in the span of about 18 seconds, was what pissed me off. Later he openly taunted me on the run with mock cheering every time we passed one another going the opposite direction. I’m not making that up. After the race we got in an argument, during which he said, “You just wait till I post this all over Slow Twitch. I’ll make sure no sponsor ever touches you!” I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to laugh at that or not, since this is the guy who once notoriously sprinted ahead in a feed zone to knock bottles down so that the guy behind couldn’t get any. My issue was the way he went about the entire process. Why not just say, “Hey just so you know, that swim skin isn’t legal because it has a neoprene coating.” I would have come to the same decision as the one that I did, to take the suit off, and the nastiness, aside from the taunts during the run, could have been avoided. It’s one thing, and an admirable thing at that, to stand up to someone who’s cheating by drafting, taking drugs, or breaking the rules by some other purposeful means. It’s another to threaten a fellow competitor, who obviously didn’t know what they were doing, with the sole intent of cutting them down to feel powerful. However, it was my fault for not knowing the rules, in the end it had no effect on my race, and I’ll leave it at that.
Anyways, after I asked around to make sure that this guy was correct, I frantically pulled the suit and my jersey off to swim bare chested. I’d used the suit once before to earn the second slowest swim time at Boulder 70.3 in June. Today I swam without it to get the second slowest swim time as well. Science, therefore, proves that this illegal swim skin, that was later stolen after I left it on the pier, is actually no faster than using no suit at all.
On to the race report once and for all. The swim was amazing. The water at Cozumel is immaculate. It’s crystal clear, warm, and coral-bottomed. The whole island is coral. There were even black and yellow fish swimming about at one point during the one minute warm up. The gun went off. I was dropped from the front of the group a little later than I normally am, at about 150 meters, though I was slowly passed by just about everyone a short while later. I managed to almost get on the feet of one guy, then got dropped from him as we rounded the first turn buoy. Trying to get back on his feet, I went full bore into the now head-on, yet very small, waves. The next turn buoy came into view and as I blindly followed the guy in front of me, still just a body length off his feet, a wave pushed the buoy by a meter, or maybe I just swam into it, and I ended up fully underneath the damn thing. My left ankle got snagged by the line and for a second I imagined all those movie scenes were the victim gets held under by a lose sweater thread and drowns.
I kicked free, or just sort of got free without any real effort, and continued on. A huge gulp of salt water washed down my gullet, invoking a gag reflex only stymied by what must have been a previous life spent as a deep throating man of the night. Just trying to get through grad school. Finally, I got back onto the guy’s feet and stayed there for the last six minutes of the swim.
Due to the favorable current on the way back, everyone’s time was ridiculously fast, including my own time of 23:18. I grabbed my jersey on the pier, its pockets stuffed full of food, and ran hard to my bike, knowing that I needed to have a fast 100 meter dash through transition in order to make up for the time it would take to get my jersey on. It took a solid minute since I put my head through an arm hole first, retried, then spilled my food all over the ground, the whole time cursing like a mad man.
The bike was hot, wet, flat, windless, and boring. And flat. And hot. And flat. I made it a goal to pass 10 guys on the bike, and was off to a decent start over the first 20 minutes. My power was okay. Nothing spectacular but I wasn’t having to destroy myself to keep it high so that made me happy. An hour in and it had dropped to 310. I saw Chris’ bike abandoned on the ground, water dripping from a bottle. I assumed he’d crashed out but he’d just had an unfixable flat, DNFing all the same. That made me sad.
I began digging a bit too much. I unwisely forced the power to stay high, though it did drop down to 307 by the turn around with 11 miles to go. All of a sudden, as I stood up out of the turn around, both glutes and my right quad seized up. I wouldn’t call it a cramp because there was no stabbing sensation, but more like a sudden and painful locking up of the muscles. The power dropped by a huge margin on the half hour ride back into town and T2. I stood, pedaled, coasted, sat down, pedaled medium hard for a few seconds in the bull horns, got back in the aero bars and pedaled easy, got out, stood, coasted, repeated…going slower and slower. I’d timed when the front group came by and estimated that I’d been 5 or so minutes back at the turn around. I came in nine minutes down on the leaders by the time I got off the bike.
Coming into T2 I was in 12th position, but was immediately passed for 13th as I drug my feet getting my shoes on. I ran-walked/limped out of the transition area and stopped at a porta-pottie a little less than a mile into the run to take a quick shit. My legs were completely destroyed. To the point that I was struggling to run 8:00 pace. I took full advantage of every aid station, getting multiple bags of water, ice in my hat, ice in my jersey, and more water. I continued getting passed by people throughout the full first lap, then suddenly something snapped back into place. My glutes released and my right quad quit is groaning, or something. I did the next 6.5 miles running a minute faster per mile, breathing like a demon and passing back a few of the guys who’d gone by on lap one. It was still way too slow and way too late to do anything about placing (I was 14th), but it felt good to be able to finish hard and not simply stagger in at a painful jog.
My error for the race was not getting out of the aerobars enough. My body still isn’t used to being on the TT bike and assuming the position uninterrupted for so long, and since this course was so flat, with barely any turns, I’d been tightly tucked throughout. In order to do well in a race like this I have to A) come out of the swim in some sort of decent group and B) get a lot better at being comfortable in the aero bars. Also C), just be faster at everything and suck 78% less than I do.
The lead up to the race was stressful due to some personal life issues and then my bike not making it to the Cancun airport with me (I got it the night before the race). And the race was pretty shitty too of course. However, in the grand scheme of things it was Mexico and it was awesome. We rode scooters, the weather was hot and perfect, the water was orgasmic to swim in, and we stayed at the nicest resort, the only resort actually, that I’ve every been in. It was all inclusive with food and drinks and after the race, Chris, Christen, Palmera, and I lived it up like there was no tomorrow. Our appetites for ceviche and gluten were limitless and the tequila flowed like an Oregon gutter in March. We took an evening swim and drifted half a mile south along the coast, diving down to look at fish, eels, and sea urchins. It was a grand old time.