Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ironman Los Cabos: spectator's report

My husband, Rich, and I set a shared goal of qualifying for Ironman Hawaii in 2013. We raced in Kona together in 2010. He also raced there in 2011 while I took a break from iron-distance racing. After some time away from the event, we both wanted to get back there in 2013. Ironman Arizona 2012 was the target qualifying race but that ended badly with a DNS for both of us when we got sick the night prior to the race. I turned my luck around the following week and scored a Kona slot at Ironman Cozumel (race report here) while my husband supported me online from our home in San Francisco. He hoped to make it a family Mexican double by qualifying for Kona at Ironman Los Cabos 5 months later.

Rich and I traveled to Los Cabos last Thursday, joined by our coach, Chris Hauth, and a host of other friends from California. I received a few questions about why I wasn't racing and there are a multiple reasons: it's cheaper when just one of us races, I had already qualified for Kona, I really enjoyed my downtime post-Cozumel and am not even close to IM fitness. Finally, I had committed to Rich that I would do everything I could to support him in his quest for a Kona slot at this race. I was better positioned to do this by allowing my training to take a back seat for a few months and to *sherpa* for him in Los Cabos.

We stayed at a condo complex called Las Mananitas which was located at the mile 2 turnaround on the run course, sharing it with a San Francisco friend, Pia, and pro triathlete, Beth Walsh. The swim start was ~3 miles away at a complex called Palmilla. The course is a one loop ocean swim in a relatively well-protected beach. Waves and swells were minimal the two times that I swam there, however, many racers were slightly alarmed by the beach start.

Here's a photo I took of T1 the day prior to the race:
During the swim, I positioned myself at the swim exit, so I could give splits to pro friends (Beth Walsh and Hillary Biscay) as well as check in on Rich and other friends that were racing. I was also "tweeting" like crazy for friends back home! Chris was the first amateur on the bike course and Rich was about 7 minutes back, having exited the swim just after the hour mark.

After the swim, I took a leisurely bike ride back into town, went for a run and generally passed time until heading out on the bike course to check on the racers during lap 2 of the bike. I positioned myself on the bike course near the Mega grocery store in San Jose del Cabo. It's a two loop bike course which goes out and back to Cabo San Lucas from San Jose del Cabo and then out and back to the airport before finishing in downtown San Jose. We had driven the course two days prior and I could tell that it would not be a fast course... lots of small and medium sized rollers and very little flat ground... not to mention the wind that would pick up throughout the morning.

I was positioned at the intersection of the two legs of each bike lap so I could watch riders traveling in both directions (great set-up for spectators!). I watched the lead men and women pass by and then waited for Chris and Rich to pass, mixed in with the pro women on their final lap (mile 90) before heading down to the run course to start tracking the pro race. It was great to see my husband riding right up there. Rich was having an awesome day, riding among the top 5 amateurs and just ahead of Chris.

After seeing them pass by, I switched to run course spectating. Unfortunately, I missed the lead men (Timo Bracht and Maik Twelsiek) pass by the mile 2 marker during their first lap but I was well positioned to start giving splits to the pro women and keep track of the 15 or so amateurs that I wanted to follow. It was easy to follow along at first, but the 3 lap run course soon got really busy and it began to get hard to track the different races (pro men, pro women, amateur). At the very least, I was able to see the amateurs pass me by before the turnaround and then I had ~90 seconds to check their position at the last timing mat and give them an update on how they were doing when they passed back. This process was further complicated by Ironmanlive's mis-grouping of AG athletes... for example, Rich is 44 but turns 45 in a few weeks so his racing age is 45... however, his results were listed in M40-44 so I had to check 40-44 and 45-49 to understand his AG position. This was the case across all AGs so apologies to anyone who received mis-information from me! It was a fun couple of hours, hanging with Mark Manning, tracking our respective spouses and cheering and helping along everyone we knew!

I think this helped Alyssa Godesky, Rachel Melick, Kelly Hansen, Kerrie Wlad, Hailey Manning, Pia Scaroni, Chris Hauth and, of course, Rich to fight on for their top 5 AG places. It was also great to see Alyssa, Hailey, Kelly, Kerrie and Rich accept Kona slots.

Rich had gotten off the bike in first place in his age-group and he didn't really believe me when I said he had a 15min lead off the bike... it was really closer to 25mins but I didn't want to tell him that! So he did read me correctly, I wasn't giving him the whole truth... LOL! He was completely composed on the run and I waited out on the run course in the same spot as he passed by me two more times, still holding a 10+ minute lead before I rode back to the finish line to watch Beth, Chris and Rich and other folks finish.

Rich did indeed win his age-group and is now the Ironman Los Cabos M45-49 AG champion and course record holder. The latter is default since it's a first time race ;)

We hung around the finish area for a good couple of hours, waiting for friends to finish,  swapping stories about the day... there may have been some beers involved! We then showered up and relocated to Zipper's just outside of town for some *dirty* Mexican food and margaritas with Hillary, Maik, Hailey, Mark, April, Beth, Chris, Pia and Alyssa.

The next morning, I went for a run (I had discovered a little estuary trail in San Jose and ran there every day) and we had a group breakfast before Rich whisked me off to Todos Santos for a fancy lunch. It was quite a drive and not much to see in Todos Santos but we found a fantastic place roof-top restaurant for lunch and it was nice to get out of town for a few hours and to spend some time together, celebrating Rich's successful race.


We made it back to town just in time for the Kona slot allotment/rolldown and the awards ceremony, held in Cabo San Lucas (kudos to the tourism board on including the sister town!). Unfortunately, not many slots rolled down. The women's AGs had two slots each for AG 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49 and 50-54 and one slot for the others. Only two female slots rolled down as no one claimed a slot in women's 18-24 (reallocated to 35-39 and taken by #3 woman) and one slot rolled to #3 in 50-54.

On the men's side, there were a few more roll-downs as Chris did not take his slot in M40-44 (2 slots of 7 rolled down and were accepted by #8 and #9) and the #2 racer in M45-49 (total 4 slots) did not take his slot. I think there was a rolldown in each of M30-34 and  M60-64 as well.

Here's our merry band of athletes at the awards ceremony before and after they picked up their HUGE trophies... what a haul!






I was super stoked and proud to see Rich execute his race so well and enjoy his 30 seconds on top of the podium. Of course, he accepted the Kona slot and now we have both attained our goal and are set to race Ironman Hawaii in October!



Next stop is Oceanside for the California 70.3!

2 comments:

  1. A 25 minute lead off the bike is ridiculous!! HAHA!! Way to go Rich! Actually, way to go Team Blanco because I'm sure your support made a big difference! :) See you guys in Oceanside!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Greetings! My brother is racing Cabo this coming spring and the whole family is going down to watch. I was wondering if you have any tips for spectating!
    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete