2011 Ironman Cozumel Race Report
First of all, I want to say how much I love the race Ironman Cozumel. I think it's now my favorite Ironman race. I want to tell everyone about it, but at the same time I almost don’t want to tell anyone about it because I don't want it to get more popular than it already is. I think it’s by far the best full-Ironman race in North America. The island completely gets behind this race. They close the roads so it’s very safe on the bike. The crowd support is better than any other North American race I’ve done. They really make this event up to be a huge deal. I just love the atmosphere. The travel from Austin is easier than going to many of the other North American races, yet you still get the international feel for the race. I really don’t have enough great things to say about this race.The course: There is not a better swim or water in Ironman racing than Cozumel. The water is crystal clear and a perfect temperature (for those of us who like warm tropical non-wetsuit swims). You’re in about 30ft of water the whole time, but it’s so clear you can see the bottom like it’s 3ft below you. The best way I can describe the bike course is a flat version of Kona. It’s warm, tropical, and windy! I think the wind keeps the course honest and challenging. Unlike some other bike courses, I don’t think in Cozumel that guys can easily sit in a pack and ride above their ability without paying the price later. It’s hard to hide in those winds. It will never be a screaming fast course, rather it’s a strength and power course on the bike. The roads are completely closed to traffic, so you feel safe the whole time on the bike. With the combination of the three bike loops and how the course changes every ~10 miles on each loop, I feel that it’s easier to mentally break the bike course down into smaller chunks. The run course is exactly how I like them, flat with lots of out-n-backs. I like to see my competition and know where everyone is at on the run. This course offers us 5 times to see where everyone is at. It’s hot and humid on that run, so once again, it rewards smart racing and there’s no hiding from the elements.
The Evoe clan was out in force for race day. Mom and Dad photo from Ironmanlive.com
Good friend from Austin, Terra Castro. She finished 4th in the pro women's field!
Not sure if I feel safer or not when marines with assult rifles show up at the swim start
Race morning went smooth. The pros entered the water for a 6:40am swim start. We weren’t supposed to have a swim warm-up, but we ended up getting about 3-5 minutes before lining up. When the start gun went, I had a solid start. After a minute or two, I found myself in a good fast group. I was there for several more minutes and I felt like I had finally made it on a fast group and survived the start. Then from my right side I caught a good fist to the face and then about two seconds after that, the guy on my left grabbed my shoulder and pulled me back/dunked me. The combo of those two moves knocked me for a loop and I lost about a body length. A guy moved in to fill up the gap and I got on his feet. He eventually lost the group so we were on our own. I sat on him for about 10 minutes and then someone moved past us so I tried to go with that guy. He put in a surge and I lost his feet. He slowly moved ahead about 20 meters and then stayed that distance the entire rest of the race. He caught one other person and the two of them sat just out of reach the whole time. I got some bad cramps in my foot and side on the swim which worried me a bit, but they eventually went away.
Coming out onto transition on the bike, my family was there and let me know that I was in 27th position (25th in the males). It was decision time, my original plan was to bike strong but still hold back to try to rip out something big on the run. I figured that I didn’t have that luxury this time because I had a lot of guys to catch. I decided to try to play my cards on the bike and just suffer through the run. I set smaller goals for myself of catching 5 riders per loop, which would get me off the bike in 12th place. Then with a good run, I could run into the money. So I went into the bike and started pushing hard. I caught the front two females pretty quickly and a couple men.
I never felt good on the bike. I really just muscled through it. My legs hurt the whole time. I remember thinking after loop one that there was no way I could even finish the bike. I thought I was in trouble, but I just kept pushing. I started picking up and passing guys pretty quickly. I think I passed 7 or 8 on loop one which put me ahead of schedule. The wind was stiff but it was that way for everyone. Towards the end of the bike, I’d somewhat lost track of my placement, but I knew I was in pretty good position. My legs were pretty much trashed, but I learned this year to trust my running even when I’m cooked.
Running into the changing tent, I saw Axel Zeebroek (BEL) was in there. Axel had beaten me at Cozumel last year and then Ironman Texas earlier this year. Each time, he had me by a few minutes at the end. Finishing the bike with him meant I was in a better position than last year. My parents were standing about a half mile into the run and let me know that Axel and I were 6th and 7th place. I’d started the bike in 25th, then started the run in 7th. I was happy with moving up that much on the bike. I passed Axel right away, but he sat about 15-20 seconds behind me for the next 10 miles. I could hear the crowd cheering for him behind me the whole time. As I came to the end of the first loop, Mathias Hecht (CHE) was just up the road and he was really hurting and slowing down.
Ending loop one, Axel Zeebroek (BEL) in green still behind me
End of loop 1, Hecht (CHE) right behind and Zeebroek (BEL) 20 meters back
I made the turn to start loop two and I had moved into 5th place, but Axel was still close behind. I can honestly say that I never once felt good on the run, but I did have a short bit from about mile 7-18 where I felt like I had a running stride. As I made the half way turn on loop two, I saw that the German who had been in first place was walking on the side of the road. Looking back after the turn, Axel had dropped back a couple minutes. I soon found myself in 4th place with Swen Sundburg (DEU) up the road a few minutes. No less than about two miles later, I see Swen up the road. His pace had slowed to a jog and he was in trouble. Once again, I moved up a place to 3rd without really changing my pace. Everyone in front just kept slowing down. As I rounded through town to start the third and final loop, I could see a couple guys behind me still running well, so backing down wasn’t an option. As with any Ironman, those final eight miles were pure agony. I wanted to get to the last turn and still have a cushion over 3rd and 4th place. At mile 21, I saw Michael Lovato coming back the other way. It looked like he was in the lead, whereas the previous loop he was in 2nd. He yelled to me that I was in 2nd, I yelled back that I was in 3rd, he again yelled that I was in 2nd. I hadn’t passed anyone, so I was really confused. I guess in the mean time, Christian Ritter (DEU), who had been in the lead started walking and I must have passed him without seeing (we were mixed in with the age groupers on their 1st and 2nd loops so it could have easily happened).
I really wanted to slow down, but I kept telling myself that if I slowed down and got passed, I would have to think about it every single day all winter long. I also told myself that if I held on, I’d use the extra prize money for proper swim instruction this winter!
I started my watch at the turn-around to the last stretch home. I wanted to see that I had a few minute buffer so I didn’t have to panic and could hold my pace. As 3rd and 4th came by in the other direction, I saw that I had 4:30 and 5:00 over them respectively on a 4.5 mile stretch. I just couldn’t lose a minute per mile! As long as I didn’t walk, I felt pretty safe, but there was no backing off. With about 4 miles to go, the heavens opened up and started an absolute downpour. It came down so hard that the downhill side of the road (the side I was on running back into town) completely flooded, well over ankle deep. We couldn’t run on the other side of the road because the other athletes going out were on that side. We either had to run in the water or on the sidewalk. The sidewalk was too crowded so I ran a lot though the deep puddles. I was annoyed because it was really slowing me down, but I knew the guys behind me had to deal with the same thing.
As I ran by my buddy Zane ( 4th place female Terra Castro's husband), I asked him if anyone was behind me, he said no, so I knew I could enjoy the last half mile to the finish. Crossing the line in second place was so satisfying, I can’t even describe it. I’m so very happy for Michael Lovato for his win (Miachael and I hugging at the finish, pict. right). It was really great to share the podium with him. The race put on a great podium ceremony for us that night with the Governor of the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico's Minister of Sport, and the Governor of the island of Cozumel. We got to do the champagne toast/spray which had been one of my goals in this sport. It was a really special event with a huge loud crowd. The podium celebration alone made me want to come back and do it again next year. In fact, my Uncle found one of the corks we shot and gave it to me. I kept it and now have it to look at any time I'm lacking training motivation next year. That was the best tasting champagne of my life.
So now I transition into my off season the most satisfied I've ever been with any season. With 2nd place Ironman finishes at Cozumel and Louisville, 3rd at Racine 70.3, 4th at St.Croix 70.3, 8th at Ironman Texas the US Pro Championships, and 10th at Miami 70.3, I can honestly say this has been the best season of my career and am more motivated than ever looking to next season! I'm having to force myself to do zero training for a couple weeks to let my body and mind recover from a hard season. I'm already planning away on 2012, looking at races, looking for opportunities for improvement, and looking to move up to the next level.
I really want to thank Little Caesars Pizza for their support of me and my racing. Their belief in me is so important for me be able to do what I'm doing in this sport. I'd also like to thank RecoveryPump for their support. RecoveryPump has been a critical aspect of my training and recovery this year and I truely believe the product has helped to take my training to the next level. Jack and Adam's Bicycles in Austin are always there to help support me and my racing. I want to thank Felt Bicycles for putting me on such an amazing bike, the 2011 Felt DA. Champion System Clothing has provided me with the best race and training clothing that you see in my pictures. Xterra Wetsuits is providing me with the best wetsuits and speedsuits in the sport and Advanced Rehabilitation in Austin helps to keep me healthy for training and racing. Hill Country Running Company is a great help with my running equipment. PowerBar and SBR Sports Inc's products are also a great help for racing and training. Also I want to thank my family and friends for their unending support for me. Without these people and sponsors, I would not be able to pursue this dream.
Male and Female podium after our champagne toast. Photo from Ironmanlive.com
Day after race, had fun on the island with the Evoe clan (from Left) Cousin Justin, Uncle Rob, Aunt Shirley, Dad, Mom, me
Enjoying drinks after the race at a beach cantina on the bike course, much more enjoyable than riding my bike past it