Not every race can go as great as you hope... and this was one of those races. My Kona dreams are deferred... for now. It's been a week since the race, and I'm already feeling antsy to get back to exercising, but I'm trying to hold myself back. Plus, I am likely getting Lasik on Wednesday, so that's another couple of weeks of less than hardcore exercise. I figured now was the time. And the benefits of waking up with 20/20 vision and not worrying about putting extra contacts in my special needs bags is kinda worth it for me. Someone mentioned women's eyes change after they have babies, so most people wait until after childbirth to have Lasik, but... uh... I don't even have room for a cat, let alone a baby in my life. So I guess if I find I'm rich enough to raise a life, I would also have to be able to handle contacts again. Or whatever., back to the subject.

Right! Ironman Los Cabos. A first year Ironman is always going to have some things to iron out (HAHAHA) so that I kind of expected. And a race in a foreign country (even when that country is basically a transplanted Los Angeles) is always a little tricky, too. But combining the laissez-faire nature of Mexico with the chaos of a first year race was kind of a perfect shitstorm. First, the expo: not only did they run out of XL jackets (my friend Tom was SOUR over that) which sucks since your swag is kind of the best part before the race, they also didn't have water ANYWHERE (this is hydration time, guys!) and didn't even have it FOR SALE at the hotel in which the expo was located. They also didn't have a hardcopy of the athlete's guide, which had only been put online a week before (my hotel made you pay 16 bux a day for wireless, what the hell yo, so I could only look at the athlete's guide when in the lobby, which was approximately 35 miles away from my room). Furthermore, NO ONE knew the elevation of the bike course, which had been gossipped over and hotly debated on the blogs for weeks ahead of time. You'd think TWO DAYS before the race, someone would have this information. But nah. There was an elevation map suuuuuper tiny on the bike course map, and the resolution was so low that YOU COULDN'T READ THE NUMBERS. Thanks, Ironman Los Cabos! For nothing!

The athlete orientation session was a hilarious farce. We were told the rumble strips and pot holes on the road (yeah, not such a smooth dream as advertised) would be filled, we were told there-- of course!!-- be wetsuit strippers, and of course there'd be some kind of shower or way to get the sand off our feet. Race day: nope. NONE of these. Also: no one had ANY information as to how the fuck we were supposed to get home after the race. We were told "I suggest taxis". From where, no one could say. And there was no parking available, lest people have rental cars or sherpa family members. Yeah. Shitshow.

Race day we got bussed in from our hotels (that was well organized, at least) and shuffle about being nervous and filling up tires. I was worried about my race wheels, since I wasn't sure if I'd closed the valves right, but everything seemed to be in working order. There was a warm up swim area which-- priceless-- was FILLED with rocks and coral, so a few people emerged bleeding, including two of my friends (classic way to start a race.) We all grouped together, and before we knew it, it was go time. 

I'd marked my friend's swim cap with an x, but lost him in a mix kind of early. The swim wasn't half as rugby match hardcore with the whole ocean to space out in... I didn't get punched in the face once! I was able to catch a few drafts, and even got into a little bit of a rhythm. The salt of the ocean made us all pretty buoyant, which helped, too. Did not appreciate the motorboats speeding by-- gulping down fumes is not the most refreshing during a swim. And even though I was looking up a lot and probably wasn't the most perfect in form, I moved ahead in the field pretty well, and even with some waves making it hard to exit, I got out in under 1:16, which was exciting, as that was my hope.

Then the race went south.

I ran out of the swim, up towards the stairs-- there was sand... and rocks... and of course, I stubbed my big toe on a rock and it started to bleed. (GODDAMN IT!) Whatever, sandy bloody foot, c'est la vie. I grab my bag... there's no foot bath anywhere, no wetsuit strippers, so I run into the changing tent and try my best to get out of there pronto. Of course, I don't remind anyone to put sunscreen on me... because I've just been swimming my ass off and am out of sorts. So I don't realize when I leave that they didn't. So it's out into the blazing cloudless Cabo day COMPLETELY SPF free. (I realize this too late, when I'm already at my bike and see someone from the men's changing tent has had the usual exit slather and think CRAP they didn't slather me down!!) Everything relies on me keeping on, and I figure, eff it, it's one day, gotta move. So it's up and out of T1, across an obnoxious number of cobblestone strips, then up over a bridge and the minute I get out to the highway......


It's like a nightmare. I'm not even 2 miles in and my front tire is completely flat. What. The. Eff. I was of course beside myself... I pulled over at the first aid station, right by bike special needs, and no one even tried to help, they just said the mechanic "might" be by in, 15-20 minutes (GAH, I freaked). I thought it was the valve, that it was loose, so I tried refilling with my CO2, but that didn't work, so I needed to find a pump, and I ran down to bike special needs, since I figured they'd be more likely to have someone who gave a shit, and luckily that was a good call, 'cause some random guy had a pump, but that revealed no, the valve was fine, it really was a full on flat-- there was a gash in the side of the tire (side of the tire-- most likely from those fucking cobblestones. UGHHHHHHHHH). I now had two guys helping me, thank God, though it had already been nearly 20 minutes. One of them-- double thank God-- had a tiny Kiehl's SPF 30 tube I lathered as much of myself down with as possible (I missed spots on my shoulders and got full on WELTS-- but it would have been SO much worse otherwise....) So off came the tire, new inner tube, though the guy forgot to screw on the valve for the race wheels, so off it comes again, extension screwed on, then the inner tube isn't settling right, so we readjust it, and pump it up, and finally I'm off again, completely devastated and depressed, as I've been watching scores of people gain headway while the clock ticks and I stand there impotently. Kona dreams up in smoke.

It's one thing to flat on your ride. It's another this to flat before your ride even starts. Because then you have to do 110 miles of cycling from a place of total depression and demoralization. I had learned my lesson that riding in a bad mood makes you slow and is torture, but holy HELL, it was really hard to figure out how the heck I could get to a positive place when the entire goal was to do my best time and that was now impossible. So the best help was the not think about that, and instead to think "I can at least still PR the run" and try to catch as many of my age group as possible. Just because. I won't say it was entirely successful... I was in a pretty bad mood... but I kept fighting it as much as I could.

Which was hard, because a LOT contributed to an enduring sourness. For one, the abundant rumble strips we had to dodge, play thread-the-needle with, or just eat and launch bottles during. I'd already used my only inner tube, so if I flatted thanks to one of these idiotic road flaws I was going to kill someone. There were also MERCILESS headwinds, which, while kind of nice as a tailwind, take so much out of you to begin with that everyone was dragging ass on the second loop. There were also plenty of rollers, and then some pretty substantial climbing out towards the airport and back, which, by the way, was UGLY AS FUCK. The view from my hotel room? Glorious. The bike ride? UGLY. We rode through the desert. Definitely had trouble finding solace via communing with nature, when the nature I was looking at was just brown and cactus. Arizona's similar, but at least that's fast loops. This was 7440 ft of climbing (oh yes, that's what the elevation was, once we learned... more climbing than IM St. George.)

I really, really don't like being crotchety, because it helps nothing. But this was the WORST cycling experience since Everest, which I didn't train for. The only thing that got me going was focusing on an immediate task, which became keeping up with the Mexican girl in yellow and black who kept passing me. I felt annoyed, since she was in my age group, and I knew she was thinking "I'm gonna smoke that girl"... perhaps it's also because I chose not to wear my aerohelmet because of the heat, and she was wearing hers that I felt extra annoyed, and the fact that, without a flat, that gal wouldn't have even SEEN me... but I got really competitive, and it became my mission to keep on her. That worked for a while-- she only got ahead of me when I slowed down to pee (on the bike of course-- I wasn't going to make it even longer by stopping, yo). Then... oh, bike... wouldn't you know that my GEAR SHIFTER came loose... AGAIN. Right around mile 70 or so. F. M. L.

I had specifically asked the bike shop to check on it, since this had happened in my last Ironman but not a single time on my many 100 mile training rides. Ya know. Just to make sure. It was fine. Then I made sure... just in case... that I had my multitool in my saddle bag. So I reach for that, and what do I find? I've put in a NEW multitool that doesn't have a flathead screwdriver. FML x2!!!! I'm so freaking pissed off at this moment,  I just started to laugh. And when thinking of trying to stay positive, I just said out loud, "Yaaaay adversity!" I had my ID and credit card in my pocket, so I tried to use those to tighten it, but they weren't really hard enough. Of course, this was no IM Arizona, so there wasn't a visible tent I knew to aim for, and I didn't know who might be able to help, and after my experience with no one helping me at that first aid station, I wasn't too optimistic, but I figured, let's try. Happily, a couple of volunteers and one cyclist who wasn't too worried about his time (it wasn't gonna break any records at this point) helped find a solution, trying keys, looking for pesos, and finally finding a swiss army knife with a flat edge I could use. This wound up tightening it enough to last through the rest of the leg, and boy was I paranoid. I just kept saying, "come on bike, you can make it. Just get me to the run." On the second ascent towards the airport, I noticed my bottom bracket or something was cranking/crunching and I thought oh Jesus, my whole bike is going to fall apart. So at this point, black and yellow girl wasn't even a thought, and I just wanted to get the hell off my bike, where I was watching my arms turn blotchy with future melanomas, and get to running. I did see black and yellow girl at the turnaround, and got a little morale boost to realize she wasn't so terribly far ahead, only to discover how heinous the headwind was once heading back in. So. Heinous.

With original hopes of a sub 6 hour bike split, I crossed the mat at 7:10. WOW. Not good. But with all the crap and the depressing feelings factored in, I guess it makes sense.

And some redemption.

I felt a little less bad when I discovered two of my friends had DNFed-- bad for them, of course, but ok for myself for having a terrible time, and very, very grateful to be off the bike. Even without the technical difficulties, the bike course was incredibly challenging, and it took a lot out of everyone, it seems. Jason had some issues and wound up almost fainting, and someone took away his timing chip. Of course, this race being the way it was, when they took him to the ambulance... no one was there. (MEXICOOOOO!) So by then he felt better, and requested his chip back, to which they said, "Oh, just run without it, we'll remember you." What the hell?? That would never fly in other Ironmans. So he just sort of chilled out, because he wasn't about to run without getting his splits, and then ran in with me at the end.

The marathon was my redemption... basically the race was a sandwich of success with a nasty load of crappy cycling in the middle. I was satisfied with the swim, depressed as hell over the bike, but once I was on my feet, it was a whole new world. I wanted to give my mom something to be proud of, so I thought, let's PR this marathon and catch as many age groupers as we can!

I could hear Derek's advice in my head from earlier: "just stay steady in your pace, and you'll be surprised how many people you'll catch." I had to make sure I didn't run too far over my 8:50 pace, which was tempting at times... this one woman was going gangbusters, and I thought, oh, she must be on her last loop, but then saw, nope, same as me, and I just looked at all these people being all aggro, and I just kept it nice and easy and would eventually lope ahead of them, and they'd aggro up to me, but eventually I'd just slowly pass, and keep going, and Derek was right... I passed a lot of people, and I felt really, really remarkably GOOD. I felt EXTRA good when, coming up on mile 10, who do I catch by lady black and yellow herself, who isn't so speedy without her aero helmet. (Haha, I'm a jerk.) Someone took a pic of me and I was straight up grinning, 'cause I was thinking, "See ya never again, chica!" Sure enough, I finished 18th and she was 22nd. Something worked out right. Goooo running!

I took my requisite Advil, salt tabs and kept with my Roctanes every 40 minutes or so, and even took a real bathroom break (I had had enough of the peeing on myself). I'm not sure if it's because there was shade and the people cheering, or just that connection of feet to ground, but the minute I started to run, all the bad feelings melted away, and I was connected into that beautiful zen-like positivity again, and I was all smiles. 

The run was easier than Arizona, even more flat, with just a couple of rises here and there (I tried to really let my legs fly on the few downhills). I tried to see what I could do in sticking to the plan and save up for the last 6 miles... but I think maybe the policy has to be the last 4 miles... or the last three... because I suddenly felt REALLY tired when Jason joined in with 4.5 left, and while we were only doing 9 minute miles, I felt like it was the WORST thing ever. There was only a very little incline up this bridge, but it totally added to my effort. How strange that after 20 miles of a steady good pace and a good zen attitude that this last part would suddenly feel so gnarly. But we kept going, and while I had two slower miles, I still negative split the end, with our last mile clocking in at 8:12 or so, and I took out my birthday sign for mom and down the chute we went to finally finish this ridiculous race. Randomly a whole group of us finished at the same time, including this one dude who was running like Quasimodo and seemed to get irked at Jason and I descending on him like avenging angels, cuz the dude took OFF in a way someone with that running form should not possibly be able to maintain... but hey, good for him!

I must admit, I didn't even hear them say my name... I think it's possible they didn't. That said: YO SOY IRONMAN!

Part of the point of the race was to get pictures of the finishing chute with the sign for my Mom. And since JJ and I pookied the finish, there's some cute Team Awesome worth pics there... But do I really want pictures of me from the bike? And do I want to give any more money to anything related to a race that makes me angry when I think about it? After the race, we were all cold and wet, and our morning clothes were ALL the way over in T2 with our bikes (inconvenient) and then we had to walk with all our shit at least a mile through Rape Village (it was all shady) and hope that the random stray dogs weren't going to be inspired to bite us before we could collapse at a time share hotel where someone could call a cab. There was no set up for taxis nearby, no one knew anything about where to get one, and the streets were deserted and not exactly well lit. I coulda been raped or robbed or anything. 6 thousand dollar bike and a helpless woman, anyone?

Not cool, Ironman. The safety of your athletes should be paramount. 

That said... it was the first year. So maybe they will fix that situation next time. I will not be doing the race, however.

The experience hasn't soured me to Mexico though: it's looking extremely likely that Ironman numero tres is gonna be Cozumel December 1 2013, and Team Awesome shall represent all together! That course is both known and does NOT have 7440 ft of climbing. And it would be with my amazing training partners! I want to get my redemption. And a Kona slot. :-)

It was recently pointed out to me that, all things aside, I still beat almost all my friends' Arizona times during this round. And I PRed that marathon by 24 minutes... sub four at 3:58! That's only a couple minutes away from my best stand alone LA Marathon time. Yow! So there are lots of things to celebrate. Including that I didn't DNF: when I consider the number of people I saw alongside the road, or the fact that something like 40% of the field dropped out of this race... yeah. That alone is pretty good. Focus on the positive and quit with the crabby pants. There's so much that could have been worse. My Mom, following my time at home, thought I had broken my arm or something. That didn't happen! Or a guy I met on the plane home had HIS ENTIRE FORK come off while cycling uphill-- that didn't happen either! (That guy, btw, is insanely amazing, because he fixed his bike with duct tape and STILL had a FIVE HOUR bike split... whaaaaaaaat?? And it was his first Ironman. WHAAAAT?! That just made me feel inspired. I couldn't even feel bad about my situation.)

So it's a bit more recovery for me, and then I can start fixing my biomechanics with coach Derek so I'll become a TRUE tri machine. Kind of can't wait. Also... Wildflower long. It's my fifth year trianniversary. I'm coming for you!

AuthorNikki Muller