My two favorite moments in Ironman are signing up for an event and crossing the finish line. When I sign up for an event it is often close to a year away, so I can imagine the excitement of the venue, picture the beauty of the destination and dream about the great race I will have. I share my excitement with virtually everyone! And while they congratulate me, I know that many of my friends think I’m crazy or addicted. And maybe I am just a little of both.
In the fall of 2012 when the idea of racing at Ironman Cozumel on December 2013 arose, I signed up and was excited once again. This would be the second time I would race on this course. I truly loved my experience in 2010, and so instead of simply adding this to my race calendar, I started recruiting other local triathletes to do it too. You see, I wanted other people to feel the joy I feel when I cross an Ironman finish line and experience this great race venue. Ironman Cozumel is very spectator friendly and the Caribbean island of Cozumel is a beautifully accommodating place for friends and family. Adding to all of that, the air and water conditions are much like Hawaii, so acclimation would not be an issue.
A few people got caught up in my excitement and signed up pretty quickly. Then, with continued suggestions of “why not?” and “so many others are doing it” and “you’ll have lots of people to train with” and “it’s a great first Ironman” and “you gotta do it”, soon there were over 20 local people signed up to race. That created new training groups, caused friends to pull in other friends, and soon other folks were jumping in. All of a sudden, we had 40 people with Hawaii connections signed up to race.
We share the sport of triathlon and train on the same roads and waters. But, we are somewhat a group of small groups depending upon training group affiliation. My hope was to build relationships between these groups and provide a broader support network for everyone. So, I created a Team Hola y Aloha tri kit for athletes, and team t-shirts for athletes and their families and supporters to purchase. Generous sponsors–Anthony Pace Realtor, Yamas Fishmarket, Active Sports Massage, BioAstin, Hawaii National Bank, Vega, Whitty Construction, Spice and Free Lifestyle made these kits very affordable. Forty tri kits and 88 t-shirts were ordered.
I also recommended folks stay at El Cantil condominiums, a luxury development right at T2 and the finish line and close to grocery stores and restaurants. El Cantil sold out for the race within weeks.
Many athletes were hoping for a bike transportation option. I first contacted Tri Bike Transport (TBT) in early 2013 and got a flat “no way” from them. I also contacted RaceDay Transport and BikeFlights and both said they would try to find an option. But, as race day creeped closer, it seemed that there would be no choice but for athletes to box their bikes and bring them themselves. In June, at Hawaii 70.3 Ironman, Marsha Kitagawa talked to TBT on site and they seemed open to finding a way to ship our bikes. Unfortunately, follow up calls were not as positive and hope was dashed. Later, Denise Van Ryzin followed up once again and suddenly there was a yes……”if”. Tri Bike Transport would ship the bikes if they had 30 bikes at $500 each and if I would personally guarantee that total with my credit card. My first reaction was that there was no way I would do this. Each bike short of 30 would cost me $500 and I could see this easily becoming a $3000 personal expense I wasn’t willing to risk. (For me, boxing and bringing my bike is not that big of a deal since I have a wonderfully fabulous husband, Rick Keene, who helps me or handles it all himself.)
I put myself into Tri Bike Transport’s head and came up with an alternate solution. From my discussions with our athletes, it looked like we had 29 bikes committed. So, I made the following offer: Accept 29 bikes at $520 each. Set a deadline for signup that was 6 weeks out from the event date. If 29 bikes had not signed up by the deadline, cancel the service and refund everyone $500 and keep $20 per bike to cover administrative expenses. That would give everyone time to make alternate plans. By the deadline we had our 29 bikes. Whew. A lot of people were counting on this option and I didn’t want to let them down.
About a week before the race, facebook lit up with athletes posting about flying to Cozumel, arriving and posting photos very familiar to me. After I arrived, it was really cool to walk down a street, be at a restaurant, at the expo or driving down the road and see someone from our Hawaii contingent there with me too. At the same time, I worried about them. I had convinced many of these folks to make this long trip to a foreign destination and attempt a distance they had never done before. What if they got ill or crashed or didn’t finish or just hated the whole thing? I told myself that they were there because they wanted to be–I had only put the idea in their head. I had to focus on my race.
And what a race it was. I have never been in such a pack on the swim or on the bike for such an extended period of time. It was a challenge to keep a pace on the bike while not drafting, but I complied. I was satisfied with my swim and bike times and disappointed with my run time. My perceived pace was higher than my actual pace–I rack that up to the calf-deep water in places and my body’s fatigue after competing at the Ironman World Championships 7 weeks prior. I finished in 13:06, a PR, but maybe not really, considering the shortened swim. My PR was set at Ironman Melbourne with a time of 13:28.
What was really cool was seeing the Hawaii triathletes competing. The 3-loop design of the bike and run courses made it possible to share words or nods of encouragement as Hola y Aloha tri kits approached. And even better was knowing that nearly everyone was an Ironman that night. Twenty two of the 40 athletes were first timers. The one person who didn’t finish had a great swim but physical issues on the bike were too major to overcome. Her effort was truly admirable and the graciousness to those who had finished was generous.
Did I achieve my goals? Absolutely! I felt the joy of crossing the Ironman finish line nearly 40 times that night. Congratulations everyone! What are you signing up for next?