ITU Cozumel World Championships: A Day in Hell
I don't even know where to start with this race. Saying it was hot just seems so underwhelming. It was super mega death man hot. There, that's a better explanation. The day started just like any other race - woke up, ate breakfast, shuttled to the race site, set up transition, waited till start. Except for one small detail; the waiting around for the race to start ended up being three hours of waiting in the scorching heat and humidity. Athletes were all piling in under any piece of shade they could find to stay out of the sun until their race start. It still baffles me that we had to wait that long, but with thousands of athletes going off at different times during the day, it was just very unfortunate that I was in one of the last groups to go off. The current was quite aggressive that day and some of the weaker swimmers were actually being pulled from the ocean with a time of over 45 minutes for 750 meters! Just wild.
After the hours of waiting, our group was finally called up and about 60 men tried to squeeze into a corral that was meant for maybe 20 people waiting to be released one by one. I jumped into the water after being announced and was immediately blown into the side of the dock. The current was so strong at the beginning of the swim that we were literally being pushed underneath the dock before the start. Gun goes off and the mayhem that is the swim start ensues. I had a pretty bad start to the swim, which I want to blame on the waiting around but in all honesty my arms just didn't want to work. The swim conditions were extremely tough with the strong current but it was a pretty surreal experience as we were swimming just meters above schools of tropical fish and turtles in crystal clear water. It was pretty awesome. Came out of the water down quite a few spots from my goal of top 15 and knew I had a lot of work to do on the upcoming bike.
I Hopped on my trusty steed (Cervelo S5) and it became a desperate push for the lead group. I came out of transition with an athlete from Panama and him and I worked a relentless pace for the first ~5kms pushing 350-400 watts to catch a few riders and create a solid pack of 6 riders. It was here that my day would take a drastic turn for the worst. Within our group, there were a few riders who weren't pulling their weight and the rider from Panama let them know in a few choice words. An athlete from New Zealand was one of these riders struggling to hold on to the group and he decided (with the loving support from Panama) to take a turn at the front. He came up beside me to take his turn at the front and right when he got in front of me he immediately stopped pedalling and slowed down from ~42km/h to ~35km/h. This made my front tire go into his rear axle and sent me flying off the road and into surprisingly cushy fence at 40+km/h. I laid in the ditch with my bike on top of me for a few seconds just trying to take in what the hell just happened and how in the world I was still conscious. I picked the bike up off of me, inspected it for damage (before inspecting myself, of course), and before I knew it, a support team of two mechanics sprinted over from the pit stop, put my chain back on, fixed my brakes and handle bars and before I could even react I was back on my bike hammering to get back into the race. I lost close to 2 minutes from my crash, and tore up my right side pretty badly, but I couldn't feel any of that for the remainder of the bike. I was lucky enough to get into some large groups for the last 12km of the bike and ended up catching up with the majority of the group that I crashed out of. We flew into transition and as soon as my legs hit the pavement I knew it was going to be a terrible run split.
I landed pretty hard on my right side when I went down on the bike, so pretty much my entire right leg didn't want to work properly as I started the run. Adding to running one legged was the intense humidity of the day. I knew it was hot out but when we hit the pavement for the run section I experienced a new kind of heat. I don't even know how to explain it properly; running around on the surface of the sun is about as good as I can describe it. With the pain from the crash, and the god awful heat, I managed to scrape together one of my worst 5km times putting me all the way back in 39th - far off my initial goal of top 15.
I'm not necessarily disappointed with my race in Cozumel, but I know I'm capable of doing better. I could sit here and blame all the elements and the crash but in the end I know my body is capable of more. It's hard to be disappointed when you get to race in paradise. All in all I had an amazing time in Cozumel over the 10 days I was there. I will always remember my first crack at world championships (I'll have the scars as a souvenir) and it has motivated me more than ever to become a better and faster athlete.
WRITTEN BY ERIC DOKTER
Eric is an elite age-group triathlete for the Kronos Triathlon Club and the T1 High Performance Team. Eric is currently training for the 2017 Age Group World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands.