On Sunday November 27th, I participated in IM Cozumel. It was my first World Triathlon Corporation event and my first race of any sort in Mexico. The first reason this particular race was appealing was that it was still open for registration less than six months before race day. Because of this, it was easier to schedule and prepare for the event. Secondly, it occurs at a time of year that allows for more affordable airfare and lodging, making the trip more economical. Lastly, Cozumel is one of the smaller of the IM events, with several hundred fewer competitors than many of the other U.S. Races. These factors (and the thought of Thanksgiving in Mexico!) led me to register for this event and I’m very glad I did!
The island of Cozumel is absolutely beautiful! We stayed at the Cozumel Palace, an all inclusive resort, which was ideally located for the race and hosted us in amazing luxury. The Palace is across the street from the convention center and two blocks from T2 and the finish line. Everything we could want was within easy walking distance. The resort provided not only all food and drink, but entertainment, spa services and trips as well, using our “resort dollars.” We swam with dolphins & sting rays, toured Mayan ruins, got spa treatments and had a photo shoot. The staff also went all out for the racers including a pre-race buffet starting at 3am; a good luck note on my pillow before the race and a congratulations note (w/snickers bar and M-Dot cookie) after the race; freezing my drink bottles for me; and cheering out on the course by name! And when I got back after finishing they had a photographer and post race buffet to great me in the lobby. I could not have felt more welcome and special.
As for the event itself, the packet pick-up/expo (again, right across the street) was small, but efficient. I was able to get my packet and ask questions in less than 30 minutes. I use Tri Bike Transport to ship my bike and the drop off and pick up process was extremely easy and convenient! I highly recommend using them. Race check-in, body marking and transition set up were very smooth as well, with MANY volunteers to help with the process. On race morning, there was a free shuttle from a neighboring host hotel to the start area which ran pretty smoothly and I had no problems with pre-race prep (the bathroom line was long, but when isn’t it…)
The actual race begins with an in water start and was a a warm beautiful one loop swim. It is crowded and chaotic, but relatively fast. At the end of the swim, racers climb back up on the pier via some wooden steps and begin the long run to transition. I know I am not the most fleet of foot, but I did not expect an almost 7 minute transition. It is quite a ways from water to changing tent, tent to bikes, and bikes to mount area!
The bike portion is 3 loops of the south side of the island. It is virtually flat and pretty well paved, but the heat humidity and wind were challenging. There were plenty of aid stations on the bike loop with various nutritional products. The run is 3 loops of the north end of the island and again is virtually flat. Wide streets in good condition and numerous aid stations made this run course well presented. All in all, the race is well organized and smoothly run. My only issues were: a lack of either mile or kilometer markers on the bike course, too many markers on the run (both mile and kilometer) and a chaotic finish area. I would definitely recommend this event. There was tremendous crowd support throughout the race, even while pouring rain on the run. The locals go all out to make you feel welcome. Ironman Cozumel was a great experience.