This is going to be the Sixth time I will be racing on Ironman Cozumel. It was my very first ironman and I can remember, exactly, that 29th November 2009, as it was yesterday, the doubts, expectations, nerves, adrenaline and a mix of feelings about just the unknown. That is why I would like to share with all of you what I have learned since that time, racing and living on the Island the past two years, so you have an amazing experience racing and enjoying this beautiful place.
Cozumel is untypical race, because of the weather, topographic and its people, so here are some important tips that may be useful:
- It is already late to say it, but it is important if you can arrive with plenty of time ahead, at least a week, would be perfect, it will give you time to acclimate yourself as well to know the course.
- If you travel trough Cancun the easiest way to get to Cozumel is using the local airline, Mayair, the average cost is around 60 USD plus the bike which is 50 USD, in a flight of just 15 minutes. The second option is taking the ADO bus from the airport to Playa del Carmen a route of 1 hour and 15 minutes and in Playa del Carmen takes the Ferry which takes 45 minutes to get to Cozumel. As a suggestion do not buy the two way tickets, when you are returning is possible the schedule change and you could need to use the other company losing one of the tickets.
- Once on the island and you need to take a taxi ask prior the price prior boarding it, it is not common the use of a rate chart or a mirage counter so basically the rate depends on the driver. Never a waste to ask before so you don’t have a surprise.
- Even though the water in Cozumel is potable and safe, it is always recommendable not to take any risk, so always ask for water bottles. On this line avoid drinking tap water indirectly, for example on ice or juices, these are usually made with purified water, but better be safe and ask if you are not 100% sure.
- On the island there are plenty of options for all kind of tastes, from salads to the typical Burger King burgers, having tacos, flautas, cochinita, sabutes and all kind of Mexican exquisiteness. The best option prior the race is keeping it simple, not many sauces or spices, and less you are local and this kind of food is regular on your diet, save it for after the race.
– Good food and a place for family directly on the sand: Sunset, also a good place for a swim.
– For a nice and refreshing treat: Bamboo Berry
– A good pizza: Fellini’s
– Sandwiches, Panini, salads and a good dessert: Bites
– All kind of healthy and tasteful food: La Cuisine
Also include on this list: Guido´s, Patagonia Bistro, Rolandi´s, La Misión y Le Chef (the best lobster sandwich)
- Breakfast on race day must be something well known, the most recommendable is taking the same that you did on the long runs or rides, between 400 to 500 calories easy to digest.
- Make sure to get to the transition area with plenty of time, so you don’t have to be on a hurry, having enough time to get all the athlete’s rituals: put the bike together, check it again, warm up, check the bike again, say goodbye to family and friends, check the bike again, do the line on the bathroom, check the bike again…..etc.
- This is something I usually say to my athletes and must sound a little like triathlon for dummies, but you have no idea how many people does this: DO NOT USE ANYTHING NEW ON THE RACE, stick with what you have been training: hydration, gear and equipment.
- Use the chafing creams or Vaseline, which the salty water and having a long day ahead is better to protect the areas with more friction, specially on the stitches of the trisuit, under the arms and on the crutch. Also take some toilet paper with you, with so many people waiting to use the bathrooms prior the race, it doesn’t last much.
- About the race course, because of last year’s conditions it was modified, fortunately for those whose biggest weakness is the swimming portion, now a huge part is with the current, starting at Presidente Hotel to Chankaanaab.
- Try to find someone on your same pace and rhythm while you are swimming, don’t waste energy trying to pass someone who is swimming at your same pace, instead draft and if you can help him/her later, it will beneficial for you and he/she.
- For the bike I will suggest to use the mid profile wheels, something in between 400 to 600 mm. If you are under 60 kg (132 pounds) go with the 300 mm, between 60-70 kg (132 – 154 pounds) use 400 mm and if your are on the 70 kg (154 pounds) you could use the 600 mm. On each lap there is a segment of about 20 k (12 miles) where the wind comes from the side (cross winds), if the conditions are the same as pasts years, having wheels with a high profile will be an enemy instead of an alley, and if you are not used to this kind of conditions the gust could move you really hard and even have an accident; that is why discs are not allowed.
- The bike path is not used during the race, instead and unfortunelly, the athletes will use the main road on race day , which means about 70 to 80 k (112 – 128 miles) where you will feel the vibrations, that been said take the precautions: pressure on the wheels, tighten up the screws, as well as bottles.
- Once again: STICK TO YOUR RACE PLAN and don’t worry about others, follow your rhythm. Don’t try to go faster if you are not used to that and you haven’t been training at that intensity, believe me the heat and humidity will pass the check later. This is not an ironman to set a personal best or beat records, this is more about patience and is not worthless to say is about RESISTANCE.
- Try to bring your own gels, the ones that you are used to. In previous years the organization had problems bring them or is using some that are only known in Mexico, you could find some of the American brands at the expo, but is better to be prepared just in case.
- Use the bags provides by the race organizers to have a plan B or backup, in case you lose some of your food during the bike you will have a second choice and won’t have to stress yourself about it and the anguish will not invade your head during the race.
- Use a hat during the run, either way can be a beautiful day with not even a cloud on the sky, if you are planning to go under 12 hours it could be helpful; by this time in Cozumel the dark comes around 5PM, and a fresh breeze comes at that time too, feeling as it is cooler, so maybe a dry shirt is a good choice on the special needs bag, you could use it and don’t feel like freezing.
- Once the dark come there are plenty of mosquitoes, almost at every aid station some lotions are provided, don’t hesitate to use them¡
- Running on the front of the see road is a beautiful image but also could get slippery, check your tennis shoes, to make sure your won’t be running on a soap track.
- Be thankful with the volunteers, even if you are too tired to talk, just smile, it will relieve your pain and will give them more energy to keep helping others. Also many local families spontaneously take some beverages and food for athletes around the course thank them too, they will cheer for you and even will offer Tequila, and if you are cold it could help.
- Bring some CO2 cartridges as well as tires. Same as gels you can get some at the expo but they are more expensive and there are not always enough. Be careful hiding them on the bike case, Mexican authorities will get rid of them if they saw them at first sight.
- Some other tips about places and activities on the island, not only for athletes but for their families:
- Cozumel is well known for all the activities offered around see, having the second biggest coral reef on the world (after Australia), to enjoy this nature beauty the best and most trustable company is Sands Dollars Sports. If you want something more relaxed, nothing better than a day on Dolphin Discovery, Chankaanab, watching the animal´s shows, the private beach and the opportunity to swim with dolphins, which is spectacular.
To go shopping: PAMA (Duty Free) and the local markets.
About accommodations, many of the hotel son Cozumel have private beach, but if you want virgin beaches, nothing like going to the south part of the island, visit Mr Sancho´s beach club, their service is amazing and you will have a memorable day.
I bet I must be missing some details, but I hope this might be useful… Welcome to heaven on earth, have a safe flight and enjoy our home¡¡¡
For further information or assistance contact me trough twitter: @triafca or Facebook https://www.facebook.com/pages/Andres-Castillo/51799576899?ref=hl