Ironman Cozumel & the Iron Baby. - Mickey Witte Ⓥ: Triathlete. Neuroscientist. Vegan.

Ironman Cozumel & the Iron Baby.

20 Oct Blog | Comments
Ironman Cozumel & the Iron Baby.

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I raced Ironman Cozumel. It was to be the culmination of my 2014 tri season – a “rebuild and recovery” year for me after my bike crash in November of 2013. So I spent the first part of last year doing rehab exercises on my healing shoulder at physical therapy 3x/week while simultaneously building back swim and bike strength. My run fitness took the biggest hit as a result of my injury because the arm swinging movement of the ball in its socket initially caused me excruciating pain. But over time, this got less and less painful and by the time Fall rolled around, I was able to find some version of my stride again.

By the end of the 2014 tri season, I was ready to take on Ironman Cozumel as sort of my own personal comeback story because it had been 1 year since my crash. The month before the race, my friends and I flew out to Vegas to try out Silverman 70.3, which was to serve as a pre-Ironman fitness check. I knew that my run speed wasn’t quite where I needed it to be, but I’d come a long way since the injury and was working as hard as I could to build swim-bike-run endurance for Ironman.

Soon enough, Thanksgiving rolled around and my husband and I flew to Cozumel the very next day.

onthe plane

On the plane headed to Cozumel!

That gave us a little less than 36 hours to get everything in order before go-time. Come Sunday morning, I was so ready to race. The year had been a tough one – I’d spent hours and hours in the saddle, late nights after teaching graduate students at the University of Miami I’d put in my swim sessions, and I’d spent whole weekends away so that I could put in 100+ miles in the saddle followed by very long solo runs in the Florida heat. I had my Bonk Breakers taped to my bike and nuun in my bottles. I. was. ready.

Pre-race dinner with my friends Jess and Kelly!

Pre-race dinner with friends Jess and Kelly.

Race day re-cap.

First of all, without the support of Bonk Breaker, I wouldn’t have been on the start line. So I couldn’t be more grateful to have the backing of the world’s best and yummiest bar. Thank you, Bonk Breaker!!!

The start gun goes off and off we go splashing through the beautiful, crystal clear waters of Mexico. IM Cozumel was one of the Ironmans designated to test out the separate swim starts for women and men. So lucky for us, I didn’t have to worry about getting kicked in the face by an overly aggressive man. I had a very pleasant swim experience. In the first few minutes of it, I had the mental thought of “This is it. I’m actually here. This is what you worked for, Mickey. Time to showcase all of your hard work.” Right after that thought, I had a strange feeling that I wasn’t racing alone and that someone else was racing with me. I’ll get back to this thought later though… While swimming, I looked down in the water and could see divers and colorful fish – how beautiful!

About an hour later, the swim was over and I was running out to get on my bike. The bike course was flat and windy – as expected. The training environment in Miami is almost identical, so lucky for me, this was nothing new. That said, as I ticked away the mileage, I started to wish that I hadn’t forgotten to pack the extra nutrition for the bike that I’d planned on using. No worries though; I knew I could fight through the winds on my bike, as I’d been in similar (and even worse!) circumstances before and I had to call on those experiences for mental strength. Unfortunately, I did see some drafting take place while I was out there slogging it alone. At the end of the day, all I could hope for was that the race officials would ultimately catch and penalize those who were drafting (either intentionally or unintentionally). In any event, the beautiful scenery and water to my right while biking laps around this small island was truly something special.

on the bike

On the bike course.

Though I hadn’t biked as fast as I’d hoped, I also didn’t want to blast myself for the run. Being my first full Ironman, I wanted to ensure that I would have legs left for the marathon. About six hours (and 112 miles) after hopping on my bike, I was hopping off to start the run.

starting the run

The start of the run course.

Next came a big wave of requested sunscreen that barely got rubbed into my arms by a volunteer and I was off to run the marathon! I loved that the run course was three loops. Mentally, you know what to expect after that first lap and there is some pleasure in that. The run course was relatively flat (again, nothing I’m not accustomed to in Miami). The (mostly very young) volunteers of the island of Cozumel truly made the run course possible. Without them, I don’t know how I would have had enough fluids to make it the whole 26.2 miles.

Throughout the race, my husband Ryan and my friend Kelly were doing their best to give me updates on where I fell amongst the other females in my age group (F30-34). My conservative goal going into the race was to finish in the top 10. I knew that I did not yet have my run speed back up to contend with the top 3 in my very competitive AG, so I aimed to break the top 10. Starting the run, I was told I was right there in the mix, so that made me feel pretty good.

As I ticked off the miles on the run, I started to feel my feet gradually swell up. It was a very odd feeling, as this hadn’t happened during any of my 18-20+ mile training runs, but here I was on race day having strange foot swelling. I had no idea what to make of it. Mid-way through the marathon, I seriously felt like I wanted to take off my shoes and loosen the speedlaces somehow – that’s how swollen my feet got. But I never stopped. I just pushed through the pain and tried not to think about it.

I felt the pain in my feet getting worse throughout the run and I no longer wanted to get updates from my husband on where I stood relative to the top 10. I just didn’t want to know at that point because my foot swelling issues had slowed my pace down and I didn’t want to hear possible bad news. Well, as it turns out, on my way to the final mile I came upon two girls, one after the other, with the same letter on their legs designating that they were in my age group. I couldn’t believe it. I’d made it 139 miles through this race and it was coming down to the last mile! I didn’t know if each of these girls was on their last lap (we didn’t get wrist bands after completing each lap, so there was no way to know if they were on their first, second or last lap). All I knew was that they were my competition and I had to dig deep and just go for it. I closed my eyes and pushed to the finish line… and wouldn’t you know it – I came in 10th! I’d achieved my goal of coming in the top 10 and was elated.

Here‘s the finish line video (+ Blazeman logroll at the end!) c/o Ryan – you can hear both him and Kelly (the best sherpas a girl could ask for!) cheering in the background: IM Cozumel finish line

post race

Resting my swollen feet after the finish.

And about that IronBaby…

A few weeks after returning home to Miami, the feet swelling issue hadn’t subsided, along with a few other odd bodily changes. I decided to see a doctor and low and behold – I found out that I was pregnant! Not only that, but I’d (unknowingly) completed that Ironman while pregnant! So it all made sense – the fatigue I felt during my last few weeks leading up to race day, me feeling like someone else was with me as I started the swim in Cozumel and my swollen feet during the run – it could all be attributed to the fact that I was with child.

Now a year later, I’m blessed with the most beautiful IronBaby who I hope will one day return to Cozumel to race the Ironman on his own.


IronBaby loves to play in the laundry!


Ironman Cozumel 2014!

 Special thanks to Joey Perez for my training plan and guidance and to all of my teammates, training buddies, and sponsors – without whom I would not have been able to get to the start line feeling 100% race ready. Thank you to Kelly Lyon for traveling all the way to Mexico just to be there for me on the big day. And thank you from the bottom of my heart to my super supportive husband, Ryan, for being my biggest cheerleader and for sacrificing just as much as I do during countless early morning training sessions and long training days away.

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