Friday, December 24, 2010

Ironman Cozumel Pre-Race Thursday / Friday/ Saturday

So when I stepped off the plane in Cozumel, the heat and humidity greeted me with a slap in the face. Those are the two things I IMMEDIATELY noticed. We went to pick up the car rental; my dream car; a convertible Jeep Wrangler. I remember watching this TV show as a kid when I lived in the projects. There was this white female who always drove a white Volkswagen convertible Rabbit. I recall she lived near the beach and always drove alongside it with the top off. Since then I have always dreamed about riding in a convertible along the beach. Finally, that dream was being fulfilled. (if you know name of that show please tell me!!! It was in the early 80’s her name was like Bridgette or something like that)

Hotel Melia

 view from hotel balcony

Thursday was supposed to be my packet pickup, registration, and bike assembly. Uhh yeah none of that happened but KP and I checked in at Hotel Melia, which is north, and just walked around a lot. My left knee started to feel pain as was my right knee. I was hoping the right knee was just compensating for the left knee or feeling sympathy pain.

That evening I went to the athlete dinner for the IAMTRI group. I was lost almost an hour looking for this place. Why? Because it took me that long to realize the street signs weren’t posted on the corners like it is in the states or any other country I have visited. The street signs are actually on the buildings. The streets also don’t follow sequential order. For example, if I am on 53rd Street, you would expect the next street would be 54th Street. WRONG The next street is 55th Street then 57th Street. And! The north side of the island are even numbers 2nd, 4th, 6th Street and the south side are odd numbers , 1st, 3rd, 5th Street. It sounds confusing but it makes sense after you drive around a bit.

I finally got there at 6:30 pm. I thought it started at 6 pm but thankfully it started at 7 pm so I was early. I met a lot of people that I have talked with over the past year in the forums. Notably, Heather and Jeff. Heather has always had supportive words. She was a great friend and I was so excited to meet her. I was equally excited to meet Jeff, her boyfriend, because I just knew he would be an awesome dude. No surprises he was!!! He is also an Ironman triathlete but was not participating in Ironman Cozumel. So while talking with them I shared something with them that I was too embarrassed to share with anyone. I didn’t know how to properly put on swim goggles. It sounds easy I know but I was having issues with leaking goggles all year and I was sure it had to do with the way I was putting them on.

It turns out I was. I would put my goggles on and ratchet them as tight as I could get them. Over longer distances not only was a leak inevitable, the goggles were becoming extremely uncomfortable. So Heather and Jeff told me putting the goggles on too tightly was actually causing the leaks because it was breaking the seal. Well they told me how to put them on correctly and I would get a chance to try it out at the practice swim the following morning.

Dailene (day-lean) was in charge of putting on the IAMTRI dinner and she was also getting me in touch with a doctor that would possibly be able to help me with my knee. Side bar: Dailene was in the IAMTRI group (obviously). She saw I was a police officer in Charlotte, NC. She then asked if I knew a particular officer and, small world, I work with that officer on shift! Turns out that officer is married to Dailene’s cousin.

Ok moving right along. Can I just say the IAMTRI dinner was REALLY REALLY good! I was surprised! Dailene made sure there were vegetarian options (for yours truly non-death eater lol I joke) and it was actually really good. They had potato lasagna that was just awesome!!!!! Did you get the food was really good? The doctor arrived a little bit later in the evening and when I saw him I was so excited I nearly kissed on the mouth (not really! ha!). We made an appointment to meet in front of the expo and 1430 hours. He was going to the athlete meeting too because he was also competing in the Ironman.

Jason Gunter
 Friday morning, I was supposed to meet Jason Gunter for the practice swim but I was late. I didn’t realize how far away the swim start was from my hotel. I was a little disappointed because I was really looking forward to getting into the water with someone I knew. Well, I ran into Ingrid and Ute both who were with the IAMTRI group! That was pretty cool.

As we walked over to the swim exit I saw Jeff and Heather exciting the water. They made it look easy. It’s not hard to spot them considering they both have sleeved tattoos like myself. I was asking about the swim and they were like “Oh you will be fine.”

Some people were swimming laps but on the left side of the course near the swim exit people were just kind of treading water. Those are the people I needed to be with and swim next to. So, the three of us decided to go to that side of the swim practice. Ingrid jumps in first like this wasn’t her first rodeo! Ute jumped in soon after. She turned around and yelled, “It’s salty!”

That left little old me at the dock just waiting. Gathering my peace. Meditating to become one with God’s ocean. Then it was time. I had to ask myself, “Would I run into a burning building?” We know the answer to that is no! That’s why I am a police officer! “Would I run into a burning building to help a child?” YES! This ocean was my fire and the children needed help! I jumped in!

The first thing I noticed?! The water was EXTREMELY salty! I guess the water is like that in the ocean! But seriously I guess I wasn’t expecting that taste. It reminded me of when I was a child and would put a hand full of salted sunflower seeds in my mouth. It was similar to that but times ten! I stayed there treading water the best I knew how because treading water is a weakness of mine. Then I began to notice how I was staying afloat without much effort. I began to experiment. I stopped moving my legs and just moved my arms back and forth. Still afloat. Then I stopped moving my arms and put them on my sides. I could feel my feet rising. The water WAS really buoyant. I stayed there a while longer until I was stung. I heard there were marine organisms called Fire Coral that would give you a good sting. I wanted to know what it felt like before I started swimming.

It didn’t take long. !STING! It wasn’t too bad. I saw a yellow buoy about 250 meters out. I put my head down and swam to it. The water was extremely clear. I thought it would freak me out being able to see how deep the water was but it really didn’t. I was caught in the beauty of it all. I did see a jellyfish (I think it was dead though) and thought it smart to swim to the right of it. Way right of it! I swam to the buoy and I just began to tread water. I was doing this because I wanted to know that if for some reason I had to stop during the swim I could do so without freaking out.

I stayed there treading water for a bit then I swam back. I saw schools of fish this time as sawm toward the swim exit. One school swam right toward me. It was kinda funny but startled me a bit because it’s not every day a school a fish swim toward you kamikaze. When I got done with the practice swim, I knew I was ready to swim in the Ironman. I had so much confidence! The practice swim was exactly what I needed!

Thanks to Heather and Jeff telling me how to put on swim goggles correctly I didn’t have any issues (finally!) with water leaking and so forth. Thanks Heather and Jeff!

I was going to start carb loading Friday morning following the swim with my traditional, huge “stuff your face with pancakes and potatoes” breakfast! I have done this before every race and it seems to work. Trust me, I’m ok with eating pancakes for “training.” Following breakfast I took my bike downstairs to be assembled. The mechanic was awesome by the way. Cant wait to tell you about him during the race report! FYI, all of the host hotels had bike mechanics that would assmble you bike. It is free but leave a good tip. Your race is in their hands!

Then we prepared to go to visit the children at Ciudad de Angeles. (you will hear me refer to the children as Angels). We only drove around for 20 minutes looking for this place. When we arrived, they had a mission from Atlanta still hard at work. I met Dennis and his family and they were awesome people! After talking with them, we decided to return Saturday to visit the Angels because most of them were still in school.

I then went to register and packet pick up at the expo. The expo, admittedly, was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. I was ready to blow my wallet there but there wasn’t anything that struck my eye. I also wasn’t buying anything until after I crossed the finish line. It wasn’t that I didn’t think I would finish but 17 hours is a long time for things to go wrong. Besides, I had only had one perfect race and that was in Augusta.

After the expo, I waited outside for the doctor. We walked next door to the pharmacy and he was speaking with the cashier in Spanish. She hands him the medication without asking for his identification. I later learned he is one of 6 doctors on the island so he knows the staff there quit well. Then he began looking for something that they obviously didn’t have. I was hoping it wasn’t a syringe. The lady rings up the item and it’s about $20 USD. I gave her my card and it was denied. WHAT?! I KNOW there was cash in the account and I just used it just an hour before. UGH! So I run back to the expo to get $20 bucks from KP then run back to pay for the medication.

Sidebar: I later called my bank and they said sometimes transactions don’t go through when traveling in Mexico. No biggie I learned a lesson. Need to keep cash on me at all times!

The doctor and I walked back to the expo and he tells me they don’t have alcohol swabs to cleanse the injection site. I was think I don’t care I will lick the bottom of a toilet if you told me it would fix my knee. I understand there is a risk of infection if you make an injection at an unsterilized site, but at this point I was desperate! We went to the Red Cross booth to see if they had swabs but they didn’t. So, doc used the next best they had; alcohol-based hand sanitizer. I didn’t care I was game! So we go to the men’s bathroom and I roll up the shorts on my left knee. He says nope. Points to his buttocks and I was like shoot! Not in the rear lol!

So here I am bent over with one cheek exposed, some dude is in the next stall over just murdering the bathroom. I'm praying he doesn’t come out or no one comes in while I’m in the compromising position. He cleans the injection site and makes the injection of whatever it was he was shooting me with just below my hip and just before the fatty part of the buttocks. It hurt a little! I let out a little moan and was REALLY praying no one was coming in or out of the bathroom lol! He wrapped it up and I was done.

This guy was awesome. He didn’t even charge me for making the injection. I only paid for the medication. Was that a blessing or what?! He could have charged me $200 USD and I would have paid it! But this guy, a triathlete himself, saw a patient and fellow athlete in a bind and graciously helped me out! WOW!

I asked how long it would take before I was feeling better and he said a couple of days. Later that day, I didn’t notice much of a difference but by midday Saturday I was feeling 90% and race ready! By race day I felt 100% ready to rock! But more on that later.

Pre-Race Dinner:
Friday evening KP and I went to the athlete dinner. I thought it was well done the food was pretty good! I later heard that was the same food they had for the athlete finisher party too! That kinda sucks!

We met a lot of the other IAMTRI athlete’s at this dinner that I hadn’t met before. It was also a chance for me to introduce KP to the people I have been talking to and have never met over the course of the past year. That was my Friday.


I woke up early which is inevitable! I am always up by 6am! I had another HUGE pancake breakfast with home fries and was maintaining my hydration. I spent the morning preparing my gear bags (swim to bike, and bike to run bags). These bags hold a change of clothes and other gear you need to change in to. They had to be turned in Saturday during bike check-in.

So as I am preparing everything, I realized I was missing my aero bottle! This is the most important water bottle because it’s the one I actually drink out of and it sits in the front of the bike. After about 90 minutes of panic, I found my aero packed in my second luggage. Whew!

I was confident for the swim and I had all of my gear and at that moment, I was able to relax. Well, as much as one could relax knowing there was an Ironman triathlon in front of him. Today would be a fun, stress-free day. Bike check in, visit with the Angels, then a sports massage, and in bed by 7pm.

One last minute check of the bike. I went to adjust my bike computer sensor and it broke! EEK! I tried to fix it using zip ties to hold it in place. And it was working; then it would stop. It would work and then stop again.

Bike check in was painless. I saw several IAMTRI members and just chatted with them. As we a approached the entrance, there was a gentleman there that would check our armband and race number (#366). He would also mention the brand of bicycle we were checking in and it was logged into a computer. I checked in my bike and hung my gear bags. This is where I started to make peace with the entire race. I began positive visualizations of me getting out of the water and grabbing my bags, running into the changing tent, and then jumping on my bike. Then I would picture myself crossing the finish line. I was mentally ready for this race!

At the check-in, I saw some of the pros, Andy Potts and Rutger Beke who are absolutely shredded! TV really doesn’t show how fit these guys are. Any who, after check-in I waited nearly an hour for my shuttle bus to return me to my hotel. It never showed up. I hitched a ride on another shuttle bus that was going to a nearby hotel. Needless to say, there is certainly room for improvement in the organization of shuttle busses. No worries. I made it back to the hotel just in time to run upstairs and change. It was time to meet the children that brought me to this island.

Wow I am getting emotional just thinking about it! I remember the first time I felt like I could swim forever. I blogged about it. I was thinking about these children’s faces. Children I never knew. Children that had no idea they were playing a huge part in God’s plan for me.

It was hard not to get emotional as we approached the compound. I couldn’t cry in front of Dennis and his family. Not in front of the children; but inside my soul was beaming! We went to the first home and introduced ourselves. I was extremely nervous.

Then we went next door. There was a little girl who was deaf. She seemed a little apprehensive of these new faces at first. It didn’t take her long, though, to warm up :) These children truly are Angels! Right here on earth. I now know what it feels like to be hugged by an Angel! And there was a whole city of them. (note: the name of the children’s home translates to City of Angels.)

When we walked in they were having dinner. I saw bananas on the counter and like a mad man that hasnt eaten on a week asked for one. I was getting paranoid because I was feeling cramping in my calves. Lol! I didn’t take it but I felt a little embarrassed that I asked. It was just fear driving me at that point I guess. So the children were having dinner and Dennis was telling them I was doing the Ironman. The boys then started showing me their Ironman poses! They were too cute!

Ironman Pose
We had to cut the visit short; it was a little over an hour. I had a lot to do still and it was going to be a short night. They planned on trying to get the children to visit the race site but it was going to be a challenge. I was looking forward to it but knew it was going to be a late night if they did manage to go. A school night at that!

Dennis Wilson
Next to do was go the MEGA shopping center, get something full of carbs, and then get what we needed for Communion. We ran into Dennis and his family and it was a blessing. His youngest son was able to help me pick out the best noodles to satisfy my need for carbohydrates! We were also able to find Wech’s grape, “The official Communion drink of Church of Christ.” as Dennis jokingly put it. We found everything we needed and it was dash back to Hotel Melia.

I went upstairs and began sorting out my special needs bag (this is the bag that has extra nutrition etc.).There are two special needs bags. One for the bike and another for the run. Most people get these bags at the halfway point of the bike and the run. I put my extra nutrition bottles in the bike special needs bag. For my run special needs bag I had KP write Bible verses to place inside the bag.

One verse was Joshua 1:9 (NIV)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

How fitting. I felt like this whole year I was commanded  by God to do this Ironman. And here God's word telling not be afraid or discouraged. WOW!

The second verse was Hebrew 12:1-3

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

I also added a piece of KP’s favorite gum! I knew that having KP’s handwriting with God’s word would help me get out of any hole I may have gotten myself into at the halfway point of the run. The gum was something fun which a lot of people say you should do; so I did. Because it was KP’s gum, it made it that much more special. It seems small and insignificant, but when you read the race report you will know how much something as small as that actually is.

After packing my bags, my day REALLY got tough! I had a 90 minute sports massage to help work out my cramping legs…tough I know! It was only about $90 USD with a nice tip! What a great price. Can I just tell you it was without a doubt THE BEST massage I ever had! I told the massage therapist to take it easy because I didn’t want to be sore the next morning. I felt absolutely ready to go!
Saturday evening was brief. I took a sleeping aid, and was in bed promptly at 7pm. I needed to get up at 0345 to give my stomach chance to settle. When I woke up, I needed to be ready. This was one year of “impossibles” coming to a head. One year of becoming closer to God. One year of faith. One year of watching God perform miracles. One year of watching an average man who was run-walking half marathons, who could not swim, who never ran a marathon, who never really cycled go from that to an Ironman. All to God’s glory. Sunday was that day. It was time to game face!
Practicing my Game Face
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Friday, December 3, 2010

"You have 16:59:59 to complete the Ironman. Anything faster and you're just showing off" =)

“Hassan Peterson of the United States now you can say YOU…ARE…AN IRONMAN!!!!!”

I will never forget that moment!

Race Report to Follow