IM Cozumel 2018 – Race Report

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  • November 26, 2018
1024 768 Stephen Redwood

IM Cozumel Expo Entrance is right in town near stores where you can top up supplies

The opportunity to fit in a late season race to close out the year makes Florida, Arizona and Cozumel attractive IM locations, particularly for athletes in North America. This year Arizona and Cozumel both took place on November 18, so it will be interesting to see if that remains a fixture or it turns out they cannibalize entries from one another.

Cozumel has its attractions apart from being a hot weather race. It’s a pan-flat course for bike (659 feet elevation) and run (zero elevation!) with some wonderful views on the bike course and some great local support close to and in the town. The ocean water is so clear you can see the fish (as well as the floating plastic human detritus, unfortunately). The bike and run are both three loops, which is great for spectators and breaks up the distance for the athletes too.

T1 is a bit of a maze, but well signposted

It’s a split transition event, which adds a bit of pain for check in as well as on race morning, but they are well organized for it, with buses carrying athletes between the two. T1 is a bit of a maze, with bikes spread over a wide area, but well sign posted to help locate your bike in the panic and rush of race morning. The exit from the swim to bags and changing tent is maybe 100 yards (preceded by a pathetic shower line to wash off the salt water), with another 100 yards to the bikes and then another 100 yards to the mount line. T2 is extremely simple with bike catchers at the dismount, which is itself right next to the bags and changing tent (the men’s T1 and T2 tents were pretty disgusting with water pooling from athletes throwing water on their feet to clean them off – it’s definitely worth packing a towel to dry off). Pre-race T1 had a line of people with pumps to top up the air in bike tires, which was a great idea that more races could learn from. But take your own supply of loo paper – supplies got low…fast.

Swim exit – the calm before the figurative and literal

The swim was a self seeded (always non-wetsuit), rolling start, with 2 at a time jumping off a staging area. With coral right beside the entry it’s easy to slice your feet if you get off line and aren’t careful. They rolled people in very efficiently and the water current helped move athletes clear quickly. Unfortunately the wind was picking up by race time so there was a lot of chop and swell to contend with. At least 2.3 of the 2.4 miles of the swim are just a straight shot, and there is plenty of space so navigation is simple. Nevertheless, that chop made for a pretty draining start for any but the best swimmers. What the current giveth, the chop takes away, unfortunately.

The bike course circles the island in an anti clockwise direction with roads surfaces generally in good condition but with some chip seal. Going out was fast, with a good tailwind, but then across the top of the course you turn left along the coast where we were hit by a constant headwind for about 13 miles – apparently not uncommon for this race. Painfully, the wind got stronger on each of the three loops which, together with the heat, did for a lot of people (including me). Once you clear that stretch you swing left and head into town for a section that starts with patchy headwind then dissipates into dead air – dead air that’s hot. Then you get to wash

Not a bad place to close out a racing season

and repeat two more times. Super simple and non technical, and in cooler conditions with wind in a different direction that would be a very fast course. I measured the course as long at 113 miles, but haven’t checked that against other people’s devices to see if mine was an anomaly.

The run course is just as simple, and stays in populated areas, so there is a ton of support and lots of music spots along the way. But it is hot and again this was a killer for many people after having a much tougher bike than expected.
All in all, it’s well organized, well supported and a straightforward race in a lovely location. Not a bad place to hang out for a few days after the race, too. As for my race, to paraphrase the Marx Brothers (or was it Blackadder?) expression: it started off badly, tailed off in the middle and the less said about the ending, the better. But I finished. That’s IM for you.
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