Ironman Cozumel – The Swim

16 12 2014

So without further ado…


Race day was finally here! My alarm was set for 4:35, but I woke a few minutes before the alarm sounded. I walked out into the living room and saw Jess making coffee in the kitchen and started to get teary. I told myself I couldn’t cry yet, so I pulled myself together and started to make myself breakfast.

I made my standard breakfast- oatmeal with banana and peanut butter, and I sipped on some coffee to get things moving (TMI note: I did not need any help in that department. Nerves took care of that for me!) Bill came out of the room few minutes later and gave me a hug, and the tears just started rolling. I was scared. What was I about to do?  (As I look back, I’m surprised that fear was something I was feeling. I was very well prepared, I had nothing to be afraid of!)


I pulled myself together, laughing as my friends made jokes to help shake the nerves. Jess was super positive, and her confidence and excitement for the day was contagious. We were doing this thing, ladies!


We got the last of our special needs bags together and walked to T1 as dawn was breaking. We didn’t have a TON of time, as transition was only open for an hour before we all needed to catch a bus to the swim start. Bike shoes on bike, nutrition on bike, bladder and bottles filled, tires pumped (thanks Tommy!). Check, check, check check. I added the last bit of nutrition to my bike bag and then hit the port-o-potty. Courtney, Jess, and I did one final check of our bikes before dropping off our special needs bags and making our way to the buses.


We made friends with a woman while waiting and met a Canadian guy on the bus that made us think of our friend Heather. (By the way, Heather is amazing and got us these spectacular margarita glasses! Thank you Heather!) On the drive over I finished up my Osmo preload and took the Immodium I had placed in my morning bag (so glad I had it!). We had decided to give our morning clothes bags to Felipe rather than drop them with everyone else’s things, so while we waited, we put on our swim skins (I had borrowed one from my SOAS teammate- THANK YOU Milette!!) and vaselined up.  Time was ticking, and it was getting closer and closer to our start time. I was starting to think of a back up plan for my bag, when there was the Brazilian in his red shirt and fedora. I think we all breathed a huge sigh of relief and then walked towards the start.

10811_10106082069395991_5532982306136817619_n So this picture wasn’t from race morning, but you get the picture

This was the first year Cozumel was a point to point race, and we started at the Intercontinental hotel. It was also a wave start, and my wave was scheduled to go off at 6:58am. I think one of the reasons it was a wave start was because the starting area was pretty narrow. We all filed down a ramp and then into the water for an in-water start. It would not have been possible to get all 2800 people down that ramp to start at the same time. Sure, it would have been an exhilarating experience to be a part of the “traditional” ironman mass start, but I actually didn’t mind starting with a smaller group. The only problem I had with this way of starting was that we were so spread out, so I couldn’t find any feet!

10690252_1026033430745312_5049473637903175874_nCan you find me?

Anyhow, we watched the pros take off and then Felipe took a few photos of us. Again, the waterworks started. Pull yourself together Steph!


Finally, it was our turn to get into the water. I wished Jess and Courtney luck, and then got in. I didn’t want to be close to Courtney because I knew my competitive nature would probably make me race her and exert too much energy (spoiler alert, Courtney had a killer swim, 2 minutes faster than me, with a time faster than the male pro who won the whole thing!) so I swam off by myself behind some girls I didn’t know.

Soon it was go time! The horn sounded and we were off! You’re probably tired of hearing this, but my goodness this was the most beautiful swim I’ve ever done. The water was crystal clear and there were fish everywhere. It was hard not to get distracted!


10620460_886136701410795_7169393283992480178_oI really wish I had an underwater photo of me!

Some girls took off and I reminded myself that I have a long day ahead of me. Smooth stroke, just keep it steady. Right before we started some of the guards on paddle boards told us to swim closer to shore, not out by the buoys. So, I stayed pretty far to the left of all the buoys for most of the swim. I really wanted to find someone’s feet and just sit on them, but with the wave start, this just wasn’t happening for me. Soon, I caught up to the wave in front of me. As I was swimming, I was a little too close to the inside, and there were some smaller buoys that I think marked a hotel’s designated swimming area. I swam directly into them, and a few other swimmers from the wave in front of me. I don’t think they liked getting trampled, because one of them grabbed my ankle! I kicked hard and got out of there as quick as I could.

The swim was pretty peaceful actually, not the hectic swim I was expecting, but I was okay with that. I don’t have a watch for the swim, so I had no idea how long I had been swimming, but I remember looking up at one point thinking, man, this is a long swim. Where are those final buoys? Rumor has it that we were actually swimming against the current for the first part of the swim. I don’t really know, for sure, but it wasn’t strong enough to make a ton of difference for me, I don’t think.

I got stung a few times by tiny jelly fish, but the pain was fleeting. I passed more and more people from the waves in front of me, but saw few of my fellow purple caps. At one point, I saw a guy from a wave behind me, and my silly self thought, Ooh feet! These will be speedy! But they were definitely too speedy for me, and I got no help there. Finally, with about 300 meters to go, I caught site of a girl in a purple cap. Let’s get on her feet! I swam over to her and there was actually another girl on her feet. So, I swam up next to them both, and was stroke for stroke for the entire way home. That is, until the last 5 meters when I got stuck behind two people from the wave in front of me. Doh!

I got out of the water with a huge smile on my face! I was doing an Ironman! in Cozumel! How amazing is this??

I ran across the dock, rinsed with a hose briefly, grabbed my bag (after noticing that Courtney’s bag was already gone!) and ran in to the changing tent. I quickly looked for Courtney (didn’t see her-as I said before she had a killer swim!) and then focused on getting myself ready for the bike.

The changing tent was a little chaotic, but thankfully there weren’t a ton of people in there. I think I was a little overwhelmed by all the crap I had to shove in my pockets (a tube, 3 rice cakes, 2 bags of salty balls, and 1 Power bar gel bursts, extra Osmo powder, salt tabs, chapstick), put on (helmet, sunglasses, race number, sunscreen), and then put my swim stuff back into the bag. The volunteers were great (most of them were kids and teenagers!) but it took us both a second to coordinate the dance that is the athlete-volunteer changing room tango. A volunteer slathered on sunscreen while I put the last of my nutrition into my pockets and into my cleavage, and put on my helmet. I distinctly remember looking down at my feet and seeing several ants crawling on top of my feet and saying “OW!” when I felt their sting. Clearly I was not moving fast enough if ants were biting me! Finally, I stood up, a volunteer clipped my race belt and I was headed towards my bike. Let’s go!

Swim: 52:51, 5th AG

T1: 5:43 (This is why I got bit by ants)

Screen Shot 2014-12-15 at 8.20.46 PMCheck out this nifty visual of the swim/transition. I’m the green dot. The pink ones are the other females, while the orange dots are the other women in my age group. The orange dot in front of me was the girl who finished 5th in my AG. I heard her fans yelling “GO STEPH!” and was wondering how the heck people knew my name. Duh. The girl right  behind me actually finished 3rd in our age group! Speedsters!


Courage to Tri

23 08 2013

So, it’s kinda sorta been awhile since I’ve raced a triathlon. I did an early season sprint to kick off my season, but I’ve spent what most people would consider prime racing season training.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely wanted to hit the “register” button-but most of the time I just couldn’t bring myself to dish out $90+ for a sprint triathlon in the blazing summer heat of Florida. I’d rather train with my friends so I can go into my 70.3 as prepared as possible.


Two weeks ago, I did an open water swim with Beth, Meghann, Meghan, and Dee at Sand Key Park in Clearwater. Beth mentioned that she would be doing the Courage to Tri sprint on this beach at the end of August. Curious, I asked how much it cost to register, and she told me they just had a registration “party” at the Outspokin stores and you could register for only $50! Now that’s definitely a price I’d pay for a sprint. So I went home and began to fill out the online registration.


When I got to the payment page, the race fee was $95, not the $50 I was hoping for. Wah wah. So I scrapped my plan to register, and started considering Crystal River #3.

A few days later, I received an email from one of the many local running/triathlon email lists I’m on, advertising the $50 registration for Courage to Tri if you registered at one of the Outspokin stores. HECK YEA! I live two minutes from their south Tampa location, so after my long ride on Saturday, I popped in and signed up.

So, this weekend I’ll be racing the 1/3 mile swim, 13 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run in the Courage to Tri! I’m excited to race- it’s been too long!  Catch ya later with a race report!


14 01 2013

It was an absolutely beautiful weekend here in Tampa. 83 and sunny on a mid-January afternoon? I’ll take it! Sorry my northern friends!

This unseasonably warm weather made Sunday a perfect day for the Tampa Bay Frogman Swim. The Frogman is a 5K open water swim which benefits the Navy SEAL Foundation. I didn’t swim; I was there to spectate!


A few days ago, Beth invited me to join her in spectating the 5K. I happily obliged and was up bright and early on Sunday (though not as early as some people). We met up at Gandy Beach, just over the bridge in St. Pete. At 7am, I was one of the later cars to arrive, but I quickly found Beth and we headed to the starting line where we met up with some of her friends who were swimming and spectating. This is the 4th year for the race, which started out very small (40 swimmers) and with a purpose to fundraise for an injured SEAL officer. This year, there were 160 swimmers and all proceeds go to the Navy SEAL Foundation.

Each swimmer has a kayaker/paddleboarder who travels with them the entire way, providing nutrition, words of encouragement, a life jacket or anything else the swimmer needs on the course. The swimmers and kayakers gathered for a pre-race meeting to go over the course and the rules for the event.


Finally, around 8:15, the colors were presented, they remembered some fallen SEALs, and the national anthem was sung. Shortly after, the horn sounded, and the first wave was off!


We hung around for the next few waves to see off Beth’s tri coach, and then headed to our cars to drive to the finish line at Picnic Island (but not without stopping at Mickey D’s for a quick breakfast). When we arrived at the finish line, the 5th overall swimmer was coming in.


Check out that sweet finish chute!

Beth had told me that Olympic gold medalist Brooke Bennett was swimming the 5K, so when we got to the shore, I immediately starting looking for her since I knew she was probably one of the top 3 finishers, if not the overall winner. Soon enough, Beth spotted her and walked right up and said hello. I was Nervous Nelly and totally star struck, but I don’t think I stuttered too much when I saw her 🙂 I congratulated her, chatted briefly about the race, and Beth kindly took our photo.

IMG_5543Made. my. day!

We watched the swimmers come in for the next hour or so and as each one came in, I watched them beam with pride as they crossed the finish line. I was especially moved when a man who was missing a leg was carried across by two men I can only assume were his fellow camrades. “Never leave a man behind,” right?

I left the race jazzed- the excitement of the morning had reignited my passion for open water swimming. I got home and Courtney texted me a link to an open water swim in St. Pete, which immediately sent me on a Google frenzy for other local open water races. I stumbled across this:

Screen shot 2013-01-13 at 7.57.13 PM

Courtney and I texted a little about the US Masters Swimming 5K Open Water National Championship, and I was thisclose to registering. But, I held back, at least for now. Gotta get my butt in gear…and convince Courtney to sign up with me!

I know today’s weather was not typical for the Frogman, but I am tempted to sign up for next year…all I know is that open water swimming is in my blood, and I need to quench my thirst for an open water race (non triathlon) soon!