ITU Olympic Distance World Championships (Grand Final) – Cozumel, Mexico

Craig with Team USA staff Tim Yount, Meg Weagley and Lauren Rios

Craig with Team USA staff Tim Yount, Meg Weagley and Lauren Rios

On September 18th I raced the ITU Olympic Distance World Championships (Grand Final) in Cozumel, Mexico.  This race was the 23rd time I have represented Team USA at a World Championship and my 12th time in the Olympic Distance.  Way back in 2002 I had raced Worlds in Cancun and I placed 17th in my age group.  That gave me some experience racing in the heat and humidity of the Mexican Riviera.

Because the water temperature was so warm, wet suits were not allowed for the swim.  It was so hot that I waited until the last moment to put my swim cap on.  I was going to do everything possible to stay cool and hydrated.  The swim was supposed to be 1.5K, but because of a strong current the race organizers shortened it to 1.25K (just over 0.75 mile).  The swim was beautiful as we could see lots of fish in the crystal clear water.  I swam conservatively and came out of the water in 41st place with a split of 24:09.

The 40K (24.8 miles) bike course was pancake flat on an easy out and back route mostly along the water.  I had ridden much of the course 2 days prior and so I knew it would be fast.  I carried 40 ounces of PowerBar Perform for the ride and I drank every drop.  It was a no brainer for me to carry as many fluids as possible since there would be no bottle exchange on the bike.  I was pleasantly surprised that I did not see much drafting even with the flat course.  The bike is my weakness, but I had an outstanding bike for me as I had the 39th best split with a time of 1:05:15 (22.9 mph) to move into 38th place.  3 guys actually biked the course in less than 1 hour.

The 10K (6.2 miles) run course was comprised of 2 pancake flat 5K loops.  My strength is the run and typically I want the run to be as hard as possible and as long as possible, but even at the 2K point I was begging for mercy.  It was so hot and humid!  Usually in a race of this length I will blow thru the run aid stations and only take in a gulp of water, but I was cooking like an egg out there.  I actually stopped at the next aid station and guzzled 3 cups of water and put some ice in the front and back of my race kit and my hat.  I still could not wait for this race to end, but that had revived me and I continued to run pretty well.

Before the race began I was aware that the women age 45-49 would start 3 minutes after my age group.  That group was going to include Adrienne Leblanc who is our National Champion in that age group and the clear cut favorite to win this race.  Adrienne is so fast that she passed me during the swim and extended her lead over me during the bike.  I figured I might be able to run her down, but I never imagined it would play out the way it did.  By the time I got to the 2nd lap of the run I knew I would finish.  When I got to the 8K point I saw Adrienne flat on her stomach in the grass.  She had completely collapsed.  I thought I saw her legs moving a little bit so I hoped she would rally.  I also saw an older gentleman trying to tend to her.  I figured she’d be fine.  I had a race to finish. 

I pushed on.  With about 100 meters to go I sprinted past a fellow American, Clint Dowd.  I should have been more patient as Clint had enough time to answer as he pipped me at the very end.  We finished with the same overall time of 2:16:25, but he was 16th and I was 17th (just like in 2002) out of 78 men in the 50-54 age group.   I was so glad to be done, but I wish I had that final 100 meters to do over again.  At any rate, I finished the run with a split of 42:19 which was 3rd best on the day.

A few hours after the race I looked up the online results.  I saw that Adrienne had a DNF (did not finish) by her name.  Uh oh!  I could not believe this.  She was only a mile from the finish line!  I later learned that she had been hospitalized, but thankfully had been released from the hospital.  The next day I bumped into Adrienne and her family at the airport.  She was in great spirits which was a huge relief to me.  The older gentleman on the race course was her father-in-law.  He remembered me running by and encouraging her to get up.  She had been leading her age group by 6 minutes when the lights went out.  She woke up a few hours later in the hospital and actually thought she had crashed on the bike.  Thankfully she will be just fine.

Any fan of triathlon will want to see this video of the last 2 minutes of the men’s elite race featuring the Brownlee brothers from Great Britain.  Turn up your volume.  I have never seen anything like this in 30+ years of racing.  It makes me so proud to be part of this sport.

And to see my race photos, click on this link

Living the life…

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2 Responses to ITU Olympic Distance World Championships (Grand Final) – Cozumel, Mexico

  1. Colin L Reid says:

    Good report! Great result. Cheers!

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