Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cancun 70.3, Part 2

The Event

Basta always sleeps well the night before events. He has an untroubled mind, I guess. He bounded out of bed at 4:45, had his pre-race nutrition, and headed out the door.The plan was to meet Vicki and Michelle in the lobby at 5:15 and they'd all take a cab to the event. I have spectated enough of these events and I knew it would be a long day. I saw no reason to go down that early and add another hour and a half to the experience. There was nothing to do that early but watch them futz with their gear and stress about the start. I went back to sleep. This was Michelle's first triathlon and she wanted to see everything, so she took the taxi with them.

Around 6:15 I headed out of the hotel towards the event. Walking. I figured I would either catch a bus if they started running early because of the event, or I'd just walk the whole 3 miles. I could use the exercise.

I walked and walked. Wow, it was hot. The sun was up and the heat of the day had already set in. I'm not sure if the heat ever really leaves, actually. Maybe walking this wasn't the best idea I'd ever had.

Really, I thought I'd be able to catch a bus. Or something. I didn't expect to walk the whole way. Hundreds of athletes plus hordes of spectators all headed the same way usually makes for plenty of transportation options.

Loads of cars full of triathletes passed me. A bus full of military personnel passed me. The shuttle from the host hotel passed me twice. The regular bus passed me and I tried to flag it down but it did not stop. There were no turnouts in the road at this point. A taxi paused and inquired if I wanted a ride, but I declined.

I saw a bus drop off a few military personnel at an intersection, then move down the road and drop off a few more at the next one. These military men and women were working the event, directing traffic and keeping the cars off the closed roads. Interesting.

At last a bus stopped just up ahead of me, opened the door, and waited for me to jog up to it. This was the military transport bus, now empty. The young man driving it asked (in spanish) if I was going to the triathlon and offered me a ride. Fantastico! I climbed aboard and he drove me the remaining 2 miles or so to the event. Muchas gracias, amigo!!

Ok, so that was a story of little interest to anyone but me. Too bad, my blog. My friends had said I'd never catch a bus and would have to walk the whole way. While that was a distinct possibility, I figured chances were high I'd catch a ride somehow. Something usually works out like that. And it did this time, too.

Once at the event, I found my party very easily. They were on the beach, waiting for their start. Shortly after I arrived the pro men were started. Excellent timing on my part, I might add. Then wave after wave were started, like clockwork.

I normally kick off a timer on my watch when Basta starts, but my watch didn't survive the humidity and had no display this morning (it recovered the day after we got home and is fine now, btw). I had no way to tell how his swim was going, other than to look for other men in yellow caps and get an idea of how many finished before him.
I also looked for caps from waves that started later that were finishing before him. By these indicators it looked like a slow swim for him. Choppy water, no wetsuit, some current, to be expected.

Official swim results: 44:13. 2:21/100m. 16th out of 30 in his age group.
Then they trotted up the beach 250 meters, into the park where the event was held, and out to transition. This long jog made for a long T1, 5:25. But it moved him up to 12th in his age group.

Vicki came out of the water, too. She was worried about making the cutoff time, hers being the last wave to start and thus getting the least amount of available time to swim. But she made it without problem.

3 hours to wait until Basta might finish the bike. I had a 7 mile run planned for the day and brought my running stuff so I could do it then. I decided to run the event run course. It's a flat road in very good condition, closed to cars, 6.5 miles long, perfect! I headed out.

It was hot and my body was already coated in a light sheen of moisture from sweat and humidity, but it was ok. I ran. It felt pretty good. I reminded myself that I do ok in heat, usually, and ran happily. The kids volunteering at the water stations were getting set up and marveled at my presence. "Who are you? What are you doing running on the course?" their quizzical faces said. I waved and called, "Hola, Buenos Dias!" to them. They waved and said, 'buenos dias' back.

At mile 2 a volunteer boy offered me a cup of Gatorade. Aahhh, that was good. Cold, sweet, and salty. Very welcome at that point. I was carrying my own water but it was tap water from the hotel and it had a gawd-awful flavor. Distilled, sterilized, and chemical-treated. Bleah.

I walked for a bit every mile. This was just a vacation stay-fit run, no reason to push it. Drank, tried to cool down a bit, then ran on. There were water stops every kilometer, so I got to greet volunteer kids about every 6 minutes. One offered me a pouch of water, again very welcome.

They do water in plastic pouches instead of cups. That's a much better idea. You bite off a corner of the pouch and squirt water into your mouth. Then you can carry the pouch with you until it is empty. Far more useful and less wasteful than paper cups. The pouch that I received was ice cold and wonderful.

At 3.3 miles I reached the turnaround. A small black cloud passed over head and produced a downpour of rain for a few minutes. Aaahhhh, that felt good too. But then the sun appeared again and it seemed hotter than ever. I was soaked. Normally, when hot, this is a good thing. But here, it's so humid that evaporation doesn't seem to take place. There is no cooling effect from being wet. It's just clingy.

My 'run for a mile then you can walk' mantra became 'run for a half mile, then oh hooray we can walk.' That deteriorated into, 'run to that tree up there' which eventually became, 'that rock up there. The cute little one. I have to run to that.' The walks got longer and the run portions got shorter. Have I mentioned it was hot? And humid? I could feel the blood in my temples throbbing.

Another sweet volunteer girl tossed a water packet to me and I put the coolness of it on the back of my neck. That didn't help much so I moved it to the front, right on top of the veins leading to my brain. Cool them down, at least. It felt good but didn't help my running much.

At the next aid station I dipped my hand into a bucket of Gatorade bottles and took a piece of ice. I rubbed that on my neck for a while and then put it down my jog bra. Anything for some cool.

I don't know what I would have done if these aid stations weren't willing to give their stuff to me. The water I had brought with me was woefully inadequate. Unlike Chicago, this event had plenty of supplies on hand. Even the very last people on the course had cold water and ice available to them.

But even with plenty of ice, water, Gatorade, and Powerbar gels, I felt for the competitors out there. How were they going to be able to do this run after riding for 3+ hours? I couldn't imagine.

Finally, I finished my so-called run. I found Michelle, then found a grassy knoll underneath some shady trees right by the Bike In arch. Perfect. Cooler. We headed over there and settled in for the duration.

I'd brought along some clothes to change in to. Good thing, since my running duds were soaked through and through with no hope of them drying out, ever.

We watched bike after bike finish. Many finished in groups. Basta said that the drafting rule was never enforced. Officials rode by on scooters and said, 'break it up,' but never made sure they were obeyed and didn't issue a single drafting penalty. This course is pancake flat and the benefit of riding in a peloton is vast. So many, many people did. Can't this problem be fixed? Either enforce the rule or eliminate the rule. Why should those who follow the rules be at a disadvantage? It's frustrating.
There was a stiff wind today, as is typical in this area. It pulled loose a tie holding a big Gatorade bottle in place and it tipped over, blocking the course. A guy running in to finish had to push it up and run underneath it. But a group of event staff rushed onto the scene and got it back upright. Basta finally finished the ride. He didn't even see us as he got off his bike and trotted in to transition. Official bike: 3:03:44. 29.39kph. 18.28mph. That's about a minute slower than Vineman. Headwind. But he's now in 9th place in his age group.

T2 was fast and then he was off on the run.

Vicki finished the bike much later. As she finished she saw us and came over to the fence. She'd had 3 flats. The first one she changed herself. She didn't have a second tube so had to wait for the roving mecanico for the second one. That guy changed her flat, but he pinched the tube and it flatted again almost immediately. She had to wait again for a second roving mecanico. She was quite pragmatic about the whole thing and just said she wouldn't be able to do all of the run now. Not enough time left. Too bad.

She also said that she saw lots and lots of barfing as she was waiting. People pulled over to the side of the road, yacking their guts up, then continuing.

Michelle and I moved over to the grandstand at the finish. There we watched athlete after athlete finish. More and more, on and on, athletes finished. Time came and went for Basta to appear, yet he did not appear.

I waited quite a bit longer than should have been necessary, at least half an hour, then decided to walk up the run course and try to find him. I expected to find him limping and hobbling, his foot in agony. That was the most likely reason for the slow run.

An ambulance had its lights flashing and was rushing down the run course towards transition. Uh oh. Luckily for me, they stopped right beside me, popped open the door, and pushed out a guy on a stretcher. It wasn't Basta. Whoever it was looked to be very overheated. He had an IV in his arm and ice packs on his neck.

I saw Basta shortly after this. He was running normally on both legs, so no foot pain, but he looked terrible. Hot. Miserable. Spent. Slow. He was actually running, so this was a good thing, but it wasn't a very fast run. We shouted encouragement to him but he just rolled his head, groaned, and ran on.

Basta finished, then went straight to the bucket of Gatorade bottles, fished out a big chunk of ice, and put it on top of his head. He saw me and said, 'wait a minute.' He stood there and breathed heavily for many minutes, letting the ice melt down his head and face.

When he could move again he came over to me at the fence and said something along the lines of, 'Effing hell.' Then, 'hot. So hot. Just too hot. Couldn't run . . .' A volunteer steered him towards a chair and took off his chip. Then he stumbled over to the food and took a cold can of Coke.

As he slowly regained some energy and cooled down somewhat in the shade of the finisher's tent, he moved a little better. He got some pizza. A Gatorade. They had showers with chairs under them with athletes parked there, just getting showered upon and not moving.Mmmm. Pizza in the shower. Tasty.

They had to turn off the water every few minutes to get the athletes to budge and allow new ones to sit down and get soaked. He sat there for his entire allotted amount of time, as did everyone.

I noticed the medical tent, just past the finish line. It was packed full of athletes, all receiving IV's and ice packs. Hot and humid, baby. Hot and humid. There are no other words to describe this event. As the Mexicans that Basta talked to at Vineman had said, 'Bien event. Mucho calor."

Official run: 2:34:46. 7:20 mins/kilo. 11:48 min/mile. Ouch. But he passed one guy in his age group and finished in 8th place.

He said he walked through every water stop and took in as much coolness as he could. Volunteer kids sprayed all comers with cold water and Aa asked them to spray him every time. He put ice on his head and down his singlet. He poured cold water over his head. He drank plenty of cold water and Gatorade. But he just couldn't cool down. He couldn't keep a pace higher than a slow Ironman Shuffle most of the time.

He said he nearly barfed many times during the first two miles. He thought about just moving to the side and doing it, thinking he'd probably feel better after he did. Many people did just that. But the feeling passed and he felt better. Just hot. Very hot.

I told him I could empathize, based on my run earlier in the day.

His finish time was 6:29:30. Slower than Oceanside. Slowest 70.3 to date. Yet the best finish place: 8th out of 30. He was the highest placing gringo in his group by far. Those who beat him were Mexican, Argentinean, Venezuelan, or Guatemalan. Used to this climate and able to train in it, in other words. The next American in his group placed 18th.

Plus, we'd done this for fun, remember. For FUN! Not time. I didn't peak him for this event and time was unimportant. This was just a vacation event. But of course, you always care about your performance. He was very pleased to be first gringo, and by such a wide margin.After that an evening in the pool bar at the hotel was ideal. We floated in the cool & shallow pool, we drank margaritas, we talked to others that had done the event. We talked to admirers who were curious about triathlon and thought they might want to give it a try, too.Basta now wants to move down there and train in the heat and humidity. We just don't have humidity around here and he thinks if he could train in it he'd have done a lot better. He would, too. I recently read a thesis about adaptation to climate and learned that the average body adapts its sweat rate and temperature regulation quite quickly, making dramatic changes even within a week.

We wonder how similar this climate is to Kona. It's hot and humid there, too. Is it this hot and humid? This windy? Probably. Just like other tropical parts of the world where triathlons are held. St. Croix. Thailand. Many others. How do athletes prepare for that? Athletes with real jobs, that is. Age groupers.

No doubt we'll learn as we continue with this sport.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hej! I have read with pleasure! It was a tough event! Well done both of you!/Crister