Ironman Cozumel --- the return to Mexico
3 full Iron distances races in one year...no problemo! I know that may seem a lot to some, but at the same time may seem like not so much to others. I guess it is all relative to your fitness levels, goals, and current time in life. If you had asked me one year ago from today if I ever thought I would even do two Ironmans in one year, I would have said, “No way!”
But, as the season progressed, goals changed and fitness was gained. In the end, Jacqui and I decided on Ironman Cozumel for a few reasons:
- We trained really hard all summer and had great fitness
- There would be 7 weeks post Kona to recover/train/taper
- Getting a qualification into Kona for 2015 early would give us more prep time for next year
- Cozumel is known for wind and heat - which are things we are used to!
- We’ve had good luck in Mexico (qualified for Kona in Los Cabos in March)
- Most importantly, we knew there’d be chips, guac, and nachos waiting on the beach post race for us
Post Kona / Lead into Cozumel
After Kona, there wasn’t much of a break. The day after racing Kona, I was out on the bike, and the following day was out running 10 miles. I did take a few days off after that due to traveling back, getting home, and resetting. After the first week, though, it was back to the grind. With 7 weeks between the two Ironman races, the layout was planned: one week recovery, 4 weeks building, 2 week taper.
The first week of the build, we were lucky enough to have decent weather. I was even able to get outside and do my long ride of 80 miles. But after that week, the temps plummeted and the bike was relegated to the computrainer. During that first build was when I noticed my body wasn’t completely healed. I had some nagging knee pain during the 80 mile ride about 3hours in. I was already out on the road and had to pedal myself back home. I had to primarily use one leg as putting out any power really aggravated my right knee. I was hoping it wasn’t too much of a big deal and pushed it aside telling myself that it was just some lingering aches from Kona.
The next week I was able to do all of my hard sessions on the computrainer without any problems. So, I thought all was ok and that I would be fine going forward. It was the next long ride on the computrainer that I felt it again. I had 4 hours scheduled and only made it to 3.25 before the pain kicked in. I told myself to be smart about it and stopped the ride even though I really wanted to keep going to get the full workout in. One strange thing about the pain was that it only kicked in while riding and pushing 200+ watts. Running and swimming had no effects on my knee and I was even able to get my 20 mile run in the day following the computrainer ride with no problem. To be smart, I dialed back the bike workouts on the 3rd week of the build and brought the watts down to reduce stresses. I even had to cut the 3rd long ride down a little to 3 hours, but was happy to see that the pain was going away.
With three weeks to go, I started to use some Kinesiotape and tested it out while riding. The tape seemed to help and I was able to apply some higher watts during my mid-week rides and decided to keep using it for all training, whether it was swim, bike, or run. Since I didn’t do anything longer than 3.5 hours without any pain, I kept the long ride shorter again at 3.25 hours for my last long ride, but had no pain for its entirety. From there, it was two weeks of easier workouts and getting the mind/body ready for another test!
The one semi-negative to doing the race was that our flight out was on Thanksgiving. Being involved in wrestling throughout high school, there were many Thanksgivings that I missed out on due to needing to cut weight. That being said, I do not take any Thanksgivings for granted and enjoy every last bite of turkey and mashed potatoes each year. There was the option to leave on Friday morning, but with it being such a busy travel week at the airports, we didn’t want to risk anything. Plus getting to the race site early is always preferred so we can get settled and have no stresses. We also had the pain of extra travel as we were flying into Cancun since the flights were much cheaper. The downfall was that we needed to hop a 1+ hour bus and then a 1 hour ferry to get over to the island of Cozumel. The logistics of it all was pretty easy, but lugging the bags, waiting in lines, and boarding/unboarding all adds up and creates a pretty long travel day.
|Happy Thanksgiving morning!|
Once we finally made it to the island, it was time to find the house we rented. Lucky for us, there were plenty of guys with bikes that carried luggage waiting by the ferry landing. We loaded the bags onto the bike and gave the guy our address. He pedaled the bike while we walked alongside right to our doorstep. It sure was nice not needing to haul the bags for the 1 mile over to the house. The rest of the day was spent checking into the race, putting the bikes together, and getting to bed fairly early as we were exhausted from the travel day.
|Our luggage carrier|
|House living room|
|Starting the trip off right with some chips and salsa|
|The pool at our house we rented|
Friday was much more relaxed! With the Norte (strong wind storms) in full swing, the morning swim was cancelled. So instead, Jac and I went out to ride the bikes 35 minutes and got a quick run in as well. I’m not the best at sitting still so after our workouts, we hopped a cab down to Paradise beach to relax on the beach--but in the shade. We only spent about 1 hour sitting at the beach (drinking coconut water right out of the coconuts!) and then got a 35 minute massage right on the beach! The massage hit the spot, and I felt ready to go. From there it was to the athlete meeting where they stressed the importance of NO DRAFTING. I was really glad to see the effort that was made as I was worried there would be packs of riders going around me (or sitting on my wheel after me going past). Nothing too exciting the rest of the day except for a good dinner and another night early to bed!
|Carb loading with pastries and bread from the MEGA|
|Race check in!|
|Dinner: best guacamole in the world|
|How to relax before a race!|
|Electrolyte loading from coconut water|
One day to go! The day before the race was the usual----get off the feet as much as possible! The morning was spent loading up the bike and run bags as we needed to check them in along with our bikes. Here is a run down of what went into each of my bags:
- Rudy Wing57 helmet with attached visor
- T1 Stealth top
- Flask with one PowerGel mixed with water
- Race belt with number
- No bike shoes (they were attached to the bike)
- Shoes with socks (loaded them with baby powder and body glide)
- Handheld bottle with Perform and Salt
- 4 PowerGels to stick into jersey
After getting all the gear ready we road our bikes down to Transition 2, which was located in downtown Cozumel and dropped off the run bags. From there it was a 5 mile ride of the bikes down to Chaakanaab park to drop off our bikes and bike gear bags. Logistics wise, this race was pretty difficult to get around, but we managed ok and just used taxis when needed. After checking the bikes and bike bags in, we went out for a quick 4 mile run with some strides then hopped into the water to test out how strong the current was. We again relaxed on the beach for about an hour, grabbed a quick dinner, and then were back to get ready for bed by 9!
|Run bag drop off|
|Bike check in|
|Nice transition area|
|Sammy's rockets ready to roll|
|Bike gear check in|
|Racked and ready!|
|With the best supporter! Thanks dad!|
|Dinner night before the race|
|$1,035 dinner! in pesos :)|
|Candy as a night before the race snack seemed like a good idea|
Race morning, the alarm went off at 3:55am. I slept like a log but woke up about 10 minutes before my alarm. I was planning on cooking some rice and mixing in some chocolate chips / sugar when I realized that the rice I bought was onion/vegetable flavored - no bueno. I tossed it out and moved on to my PowerBar breakfast which consisted of:
-1 PB and J PowerBar (220 cal)
-1 PowerBar wafer (170 cal)
-2 packs Haribo gummies! (200 cal)
I then prepped my race nutrition for the bike, loaded up the bags, and got out of the door by 4:45! With the race being so spread out, we first needed to take a bus for 5 miles down to Chaakanaab park. We loaded the bikes with nutrition, pumped the tires, got body marked...all of the usual. There was only 1 hour allowed in the transition and then it was onto another bus to take us 2.5 miles up the road to the swim start. Everything was well organized with plenty of buses and quick turnaround. I never felt stressed or time crunched, which is always nice on race morning.
2014 was the first year for Ironman Cozumel to have wave starts instead of a mass free for all. I had mixed emotions about this, but when all was said and done, I think it was the right call. It really separated the athletes and reduced a fair amount of the drafting that the race is typically known for. Part of me even thought that Kona might want to look into the option of wave starts...
Jacqui took off 6 minutes before me in her wave of Females 39 and under. My wave was just my age group of 30-34 men. There were about 260 guys on the start line for my age group, all fighting for the 2 (possibly 3) Kona slots. Being much more comfortable and strong with my swim, I lined up front row far right. We only had to wait a few minutes out in the water before they blew the horn and off we went.
The swim was, in one word, INCREDIBLE. Definitely my favorite part of the day. With 100 percent visibility to the bottom, it was like swimming in an aquarium. Schools of fish, coral, and scuba divers could all be seen down below. For a good chunk of the swim I had to remind myself that I was actually racing! I started catching swimmers from earlier waves fairly quickly and could tell that I was swimming well. I kept reminding myself to focus on good body roll, quick turnover, no cross over---all the things that I work on when swimming in the pool. I saw a swimmer that I thought looked like Jacqui and thought to myself, “how funny would it be to see her??” Sure enough, a few minutes later I recognized her swim form immediately! Out of the couple hundred meters across that the swimmers were, we crossed paths! I tapped her leg and gave a smile, but she didn’t see me. I contemplated waving at her but didn’t want to lose any momentum and reminded myself that I needed to race! The rest of the swim was spent moving through the packs of swimmers and focusing on getting to the swim exit as fast as possible. I was stung a few times by the baby jellyfish along the way which wasn’t too bad. I recall reading about others talking about the jelly, but they made it seem much worse. Just felt a little tingling that went away after a few minutes. From some water reports, the swim actually wasn’t too aided by the current as it has been in the past. The first mile was actually a bit into a current. After that though, it was an increasing push to the swim finish which meant the second half was very fast. It may have evened out a bit, but the swim was a touch short (about 150-250 meters) which meant the swim times were fast.
Out of the water, I felt like I had one of my better swims. My dad was right there at the swim exit and yelled out that I was in 7th or 8th in the age group (he was counting the green swim caps that came out before me). Normally I’m not that far up in the swim...8th out of 260 is pretty good for a guy that couldn’t even swim across the pool in college! I glanced at my watch and saw 52 minutes. After comparing my swim to a few others, I definitely had one of my best swims and made progress on others that usually come out a lot faster than I do.
52:38 1:23/100meters avg
8th in 30-34
I grabbed my bike bag as I ran out of the water, put on my helmet and drank my flask of gel/water to replace some fluids/calories before getting onto the bike. I struggled to put on my Castelli stealth top, so ditched it and decided to ride without it. I’m not sure if there is a benefit to wearing or not although there are claims that it can save a few minutes on the bike. All I knew is that I wanted to be on the bike as fast as possible!
The bike course in Cozumel is flat and fast --- but only fast if the wind is calm. Well remember the Norte (strong wind) that came in that I was talking about? Yup, it was in full force. The course was 3 loops around the island which made it a little more spectator friendly. The first 10 or so miles of the bike weren’t bad at all. Not a stiff tailwind, more of a neutral / cross wind. I was rolling along pushing about 230 watts and cruising past rider after rider at about 24-25 mph. I tried counting the number of guys that I passed in my age group, but it was too hard to tell since some guys weren’t body marked or it was too hard to read the age on their leg. Instead, I focused on strong watts, smooth pedaling, and taking in the nutrition plan that I had practiced. Near the end of my first loop, I could tell there was one guy up ahead that was riding really strong. I was gaining on him, but not very quickly and any time my watts dropped below 210, he seemed to get a little further ahead. I had a feeling that I had already worked my way up near the front end of the amateur race and decided to dial the effort back and use the guy that was riding ahead as my pacer.
I came through the first loop and immediately started looking for my dad to see where I was at in the standings. He was standing at one of the corners which was nice because we had to slow down just a touch. He yelled out that I was 30 seconds down from the 1st place guy in the age group -- perfect!
On the second loop, I passed one guy in my age group and figured I was in the lead. I was still using the guy in front of me as a pacer and started to gain big ground on him mid-way through the second loop. He was in the 35-39 age group, so I knew that I didn’t need to worry about him and decided then that I would drop back and take the rest of loop 2 easy. I stayed pretty far back and just kept an eye on him far up the road. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t gaining on him and that he wasn’t getting away. Any time it looked like he was pulling ahead, I would up the watts, while any time I was gaining ground I shifted to an easier gear and kept the cadence high. I was still feeling really good and started to get excited that it was going to be a breakout race as I was on pace to go sub 5 hours on the bike. The only problem was that the wind decided to come out and play. On the east side of the island, the wind was blasting. It never was an immediate blast of wind, but one that sort of slowly increased until you really feel it. I would be riding 25 mph, then down to 23, down to 20, down to 18, down to 15. Then sort of just stayed there until we finally made a turn to finish up the loop. The first loop didn’t seem that bad since my legs were fresh and I pushing good watts through the wind, but the 2nd loop I could tell it was going to take a toll. I reminded myself to get low, small, and finish the stretch into the wind and it would all get better once we made the turn.
Once making the turn to do the final 12 miles of loop two, the guy that I used as a target pacer up ahead seemed to really apply the pressure. I needed to ride at higher watts and it was difficult to keep my sights set on him up the road. Since I had taken the majority of the loop easy and the wind was now at our back, I took a chance and went a little harder. With 5 miles to go in the loop, I caught a guy wearing a full red suit and he was in my age group! How could that be? I thought I was already in the lead. I then knew that my dad had missed one guy and only hoped that there weren’t any others! Through loop 2, it was only 39 miles to go. I could tell my legs were started to fatigue and the watts started to drop. The guy I had been using as a target now was out of sight and I could no longer see him. To make things even worse, the other guy in red (that was in my age group) had re-passed me and was pulling away. All I kept thinking was, “here we go again, fatigue and a poor marathon to come.” When things start to go negative, I focus on the things that I can control and in this case was my nutrition and cadence. I took in a few PowerBar gel blasts, drank some gatorade, and within 10 minutes my watts and power started to come back. And to make things even better, the guy in red was cramping and he was coming back to me! I made the pass around him and now was starting to see the pacer that I had used earlier come back to me in the distance up ahead!
|Coming through loop two through the slow section (guy in red was leading the age group)|
Well, the good feelings didn’t last. I made it about 20 miles feeling strong before the stretch into the wind on the last loop really hammered me. Power dropped again and negative thoughts crept into my head. To really put the dagger in me, the guy in red in my age group (who I thought had dropped far back from his cramps) pulled up on my side and passed me. I was toasted.
I used every bit of mental strength to stay confident and told myself that I was going to have a good marathon. I only had 12 miles left to ride and even if the guy in my age group got 5 minute ahead of me, I could easily run him down.
I finally made the turn out of the wind and again saw him. He was stretching his quads and had really slowed down. And there again I went around him! This time he stayed behind me and rolled into transition 3 seconds after me.
5:03:28 (22.3 mi/hr)
1st in 30-34
*2nd fastest amateur bike split
It was a strange feeling being in the change tent with him, so I focused on getting changed as fast as I could. I threw on my socks, laced up my shoes, grabbed my gels / flask and out of the tent I went. I beat him out and made it a point to really hammer the start to get out of sight. I knew that I had to use the bathroom from all of the water and fluids I was drinking on the bike but didn’t want to stop. I wanted to win and nothing was going to stop me.
The first mile felt like it took forever. I was hurting and had a loooooong distance to run. Nothing felt good, the sun came out to play (HOT!), I had to pee, my shoe came untied, and the second place guy in my age group was right on my heals. To my surprise, I ran up on Matt Chrabot (FAST pro triathlete) and passed him. He was on his second (of 3) loops while I was on my first. I was wondering in my head why he was going so slowly. As I passed him my watch beeped for one mile and it read 6:09! Yikes...way too fast, but it felt like I was going 9 min/mile. As I ran past Matt, he said, “What are you doing? You really need to slow down buddy.” For a second his comment upset me. I thought, “Who is he to tell me to slow down?? Does he know me? Does he know how fast or slow I can run a marathon?” I was even tempted to yell back, “Oh yea, well what is your marathon time??” But that split second thought quickly escaped as I did know I was running too fast for my own good and needed to slow down... so slow down I did :)
|Starting the run|
My stomach became super uncomfortable, and I knew I needed to pee. There is a first for everything, and for the first time in my life, I peed while running. Yup..gross. Ironmans can be gross. But sometimes you do what you gotta do when racing. I’m still not sure how I did it or what I was thinking, but I opened up my stride and started to let it flow. And there it went, for about a good 90 seconds straight it flowed right into my shoes. To make things even better-- my mile split was 6:40. Still running a 6:40 while peeing! About 1.5 miles later...again! My bladder was full and I was able to let it out no problem. Honestly I have no clue where that came from. All I knew is that I didn’t want to stop since the trip into the porta potty in Kona led me to passing out and almost ruined my race.
Honestly, the run course was tough for me. It was a 4.4 miles straight out section, turn around, come back 4.4 miles, and then do that 2 more times. At the first turn around I saw the 2nd place guy in my age group and he was close. Not good. I was hurting and not too sure how I was actually still running. I wanted to stop, be done, and go home. I felt like my body could shut down at any second, but the competitor in me wanted to win. During that first loop I even told myself that its ok if I don’t finish, I can do another one next year and qualify for Kona. I told myself that I’d be happy if Jac qualified and I’d be totally fine if I didn’t. All I thought about was stopping, letting my body rest, and going to the beach the next day eating nachos and drinking a frozen drink. Nothing sounded better.
Yet...I kept on moving the legs not even stopping to tie my shoe that came undone within that first mile (and ended up running the entire marathon with the shoe untied!). Once getting past the first loop of 8.8 miles, I don’t remember much. I remember just looking for Jacqui at the turnarounds and saw that she was running well and far up in the race so knew she was just about guaranteed to qualify for Kona. I also kept my eyes on the guys behind me at each turnaround. I really couldn’t tell how far back they were but it looked like everyone was running fast --- and that scared the you know what out of me. All I wanted to see was the guys walking or getting further back, but it didn’t seem like they were. And to make things even worse I had no clue which guys were in my age group so I had to keep moving.
My pace definitely slowed. I’m not sure by how much as I don’t even remember seeing many of my run splits. I saw a few in the 7’s. A few mid 7’s. But then there would be a couple in the 6’s still. I started to notice that every time that I took a gel (about every 3-4 miles) my pace the next mile would get better. Maybe mental or maybe my body really did respond well to it, but every time I took one I got faster. On the second loop I stopped at special needs to grab my bag as I knew there were a couple extra gels in there. I figured if they were working I’d take as many as I could. Even better was that I didn’t need to fully stop to get my bag. I yelled out my number and kept running. A young boy came full on sprinting to me up the road with my bag and handed it off. I reloaded my back pockets and kept on going.
With the gels really working, I started to take them more frequently on that last lap. I ended up catching the two guys up the road that were leading the amateur race and I pulled into the lead overall with 5 miles to go!! Another gel, more fluids, more pepsi...anything I could take in I did. Every step hurt, but with every step, I knew I was closer to actually pulling the race off. Blisters were growing by the step on every toe from all the water and liquids at the aide stations, the sun was out in full force blasting us when there wasn’t any shade, and the wind was still howling to slow us down for half of each lap. When making the final turn around making it 4.5 miles to go, I knew I had it. I pushed the last stretch since the wind was at my back and even saw the guy in my age group had fallen back even more.
I made the turn onto the final home stretch into the finish line and the announcer said, “And here comes our first amateur finisher, Ryan Giuliano!!!” I was spent, had nothing left, and my body practically crumbled underneath me as I crossed the line. Volunteers grabbed me while I leaned against the fence looking for my dad. I had done it, the age group win and possibly the overall amateur title! Turns out, there was one guy (the one that I had used as a pacer on the bike) that started in a wave after me and ended up with a time faster than me by 1 minute! (maybe should have worn the castelli speed top!!)
So 2nd overall amateur, 1st in age group 30-34, and 13th overall with the pros out of 2400 total finishers. Not a bad day. Back to Kona I go!
3:01:34 (6:56/mile average)
3:01:34 (6:56/mile average)
1st in 30-34
*fastest amateur run split
Post race, volunteers practically carried me and lifted me into an ice bath tub, fed me pizza, and rolled me over to the massage tent. It felt like I had the royal treatment! I then went and stood over by the finish still dazed and confused but saw Jac come across the line. She ended up as the 3rd overall amateur female and 2nd in her age group...and another Kona qualification!!! We had done it!
When all was said and done, I had some time to analyze the results-
New Ironman PR by 21 minutes
2nd fastest amateur bike split
Fastest amateur run split!
And better yet, Jac had the fastest amateur female run split! The Giuliano’s conquered the run!
Post race was shower, food, eat, drink...and bed. Exhausted and happy to cap the year off on a high note.
Post race was shower, food, eat, drink...and bed. Exhausted and happy to cap the year off on a high note.
|Making the Ironman Coverage|
|Post race dinner|
|Signing up for Kona|
|With the Kona acceptance letters!|
|Awards Ceremony - the little guy prevails!|
From here...not sure yet. I plan to give it a few weeks before finalizing a race calendar. Might even change a little, but one thing for sure is that Ironman World Championships will be on the race schedule! And with that 2014 comes to a close with a bang!
Thanks to all of my supporters for what has been the best racing year of my life:
-EGO p/b Sammys Bikes: the gear, the support, the bikes...you name it. This is the best team out there that makes sure we are taken care of!
-PowerBar: best nutrition period. Good tasting, simple, efficient, and works just as it should!
-Saucony: shoes that make me run fast and stay injury free!!! Not to mention the clothing that they have for the temperature extremes living in Chicago!
-My family and friends: My dad has been at Eagleman 70.3, Ironman Los Cabos, and this one at Ironman Cozumel. One thing in common about all of those? Jacqui and I BOTH qualified for Kona at them and he was there! He is our good luck charm! And also not to forget to mention all of the good lucks and good jobs from all of those around us before/during/and after the race, we feel like we are really blessed with the best support crew.
-Coach Bill: The workouts challenge me day in and day out, but they have led me to having the best racing season of my life. I’m looking forward to the work to be done going forward to reach the next level. And don’t forget battling each other in Kona, I’m coming for ya :)
-And last but not least: the love of my life: training for ironman is tough. The time, the energy...it all adds up. Many nights were spent pedaling away on the bike trainer, date nights were scarce, and weekends were all but lost with the long rides/runs/swims. Thank you for always being there and supporting me, I love you!