Hello again from our second week in Central America! Another wonderful week in paradise has come and gone, complete with plenty of R&R, a visit from Jim’s dad, and another Half Ironman under our belts.
This week started out pretty quiet and productive as we got settled into our AirBnb home. Jim worked on the website, Heather read and practiced yoga, we rested and trained to prepare for the upcoming Half Ironman. We also made a lot of trips to the market and made a lot of delicious (and cheap) home cooked meals. It was also important to make at least one trip down to the beach every day…we are a block from it after all, it would be a sin not to go down daily! We were certainly feeling more acclimatized to the heat and humidity as the week wore on, especially as we got outdoors for runs and bike rides, but it’s really no joke. We sit in our apartment with the windows open during the day and just sweat, even when we’re not moving (we do have AC but mainly use it to sleep at night, so as not to run it 24/7).
On Thursday, we met up with one of Jim’s buddies from Seattle, who had just arrived in town and was also to be racing in the Half Ironman this weekend. He’s staying about a quarter mile away from us so we met at our place all geared up to ride the bike course. We headed out through the increasingly crowded “main street” and onto the two lane highway that runs out of Playa del Coco and toward Liberia. They don’t have shoulders or bike lanes here, so riding alongside the traffic was a little nerve wracking, though the locals seemed used to looking out for bikes since it is a way to get around for many people who live here. We cruised through a few small towns, discovering that we’d have six 180 degree turnarounds on the course and nearly twelve speed bumps; that’s not ideal but it was good to know ahead of time. Other than a rather significant hill to get in and out of Playa del Coco, the course is mostly flat and just lush, green jungle beauty in every direction. We did about 25 miles (nearly the entire bike course but on race day, we’ll do it twice) before heading home.
The next day, Friday, was check in day for the race. In the afternoon, we headed down to Ironman Village to get our wristbands and swag bags and to check out the scene. It’s usually fun to wander around and look at the booths, but not so much in this case. It was a huge tent set up near some luxury condos, and the tent was like a heat trapper! Just standing there long enough to get checked in left us just drenched in sweat, so we didn’t stay long before heading back. Jim’s dad, Jim Sr, was also scheduled to arrive into town today. It was a semi last-minute decision for him to come down so we weren’t sure whether he’d make the scheduled flight out of Minnesota, but after a few delays (including a 45 minute delay on the tarmac in Miami as POTUS arrived), he pulled up to the condo in his rental car around 4pm. We got him settled in and scolded him for his decision not to bring shorts or sandals to such a humid, hot place, then we headed out to scope the town and find a place for dinner. It was crazy to have arrived a week before the race and to see the change in the city in just a week. What was a sleepy, quiet vacation town quickly became a crowded tourist hotspot with all the restaurants and bars blaring loud music in an attempt to pull people into their business (why they think that works at 5pm is beyond us, we’d like to hear each other while we eat dinner, thank you very much). They were still doing construction, building sidewalks and repairing roads up through today…they’ve known for over a year that we’d be coming, but pura vida in Costa Rica, putting things off is the way they roll down here. We walked around the Ironman starting/finish area, checked out the beach, and as the sidewalk construction died down, found a nice, quiet, local looking spot to have dinner. We ordered arroz con pollo and had the most delicious plantains ever before closing the tab and making a final Happy Hour stop up the street (Jim Sr and Heather participated in HH, Jim Jr was holding off on booze until post race).
Saturday, the day before the big race, was meant to be mostly a relaxing day. But as per usual, we seemed to spend far more time on our feet than we should have. We did a little 2 mile run and a quick 500 yard swim in the late morning, just to loosen up the muscles a bit and get mentally prepared. There was a quick family nap afterward and a nice lunch at the Italian place up the street (it’s owned by a real Italian and was delizioso), before we headed up to athlete briefing at 3:00. That’s where we learned that the course had been changed due to incomplete construction and now muddy working conditions, and instead of hitting that gnarly hill only once on the way out of town, and again on the way back, that we’d be doing that twice. Ugh, not a fun thing to learn but again, nice to know it ahead of time. After the briefing, we went down to transition to get our bikes checked in. Over the past few days, we’d had quite a bit of rain…good for cooling things down just a little, but bad for the swamp area it created in the transition area. We literally had to trudge through mud and inches of water to get our bikes racked, then we proceeded to wrap them as best we could in plastic wrap and plastic bags in an attempt to keep them dry overnight. Once the bikes were tucked in as best as they could be, the Jims took the drone to the beach for some flight time. It was a great way to get some aerial footage of the transition area and the local kids seemed to love it!
This brings us to the big day…race day! We were up at 4:30am for some peanut butter toast and bananas, while bumping some 80’s montage music (poor Jim Sr, he’s such a trooper). We got down to transition around 5:45, set up our respective areas, and headed down to the beach just after 6:00. What a wonderful treat to have sunlight and warmth that early, it was a gorgeous morning and the water felt so nice and warm, definitely no wetsuits allowed for this race! We stood ankle deep in the water and watched the pros start their swims as the cannon went off at 6:03am. It was a rolling start after that, for some reason the amateur women were scheduled ahead of the men, so Heather’s wave started 35 minutes ahead of Jim’s – that was the first time she’s ever gone first and doesn’t make sense for the race. The men are generally faster than the women so they then had to spend their entire day passing people…Jim’s is the fastest age group and was last to enter the water.
The 1.2 mile swim was lovely, warm and calm as Playa del Coco is actually in a bay so the waves are minimal. This part of the race always seems to go by so quickly and before you knew it we were out of the water – Jim at 38 mins and Heather at 41 mins. From there, we sludged through the swamp to get to our bikes. We were thankful to discover that they had a guy with a hose outside the transition area to clean off our feet before we stuck them in our cycling shoes. Once we were all clipped in, we were off through the town and up that grueling hill. Immediately, Heather noticed her heart rate monitor wasn’t responding, so she spent the first 15 minutes trying to adjust it, in hopes that it might come back. No dice. Her race plan was to hold a steady heart rate, but now she was just going to have to go by feel…not so easy on a hot and humid race like this, it’s easy to lose track of your heart rate and overexert yourself. But onward and upward, she settled in for a beautiful ride, just intending to enjoy it as much as possible and to keep an eye out for Jim since we’d be passing each other about 6 times during the bike leg. Sure enough, at mile 42, he came blazing up behind her, passing her with ease and closing the 35 minute head start she had to the day.
After completing the two laps on the bike course, we sped downhill into town, and through transition; Jim completing the bike leg with a nice PR at 2 hours and 29 mins, and Heather coming in at 3 hours and 10 minutes. Once again, into the swamp we went. Both of us had extra long transitions as we prepared for the run, trying to keep our things and our feet mud-free. Cleaning our feet as best we could, we headed out for the 2.5 loop half-marathon run course. The run was the most challenging part of the day, again the heat and humidity is such an extreme factor, though we did get lucky with some patches of light rain here and there. The support crew of volunteers did a great job of keeping us hydrated with Gatorade, water, and Pepsi and keeping us cool with ice to put on our heads or down the front of our tri suits. We again were able to pass each other a few times on the run – we even stopped for a kiss at one point, prompting a lot of “awwws” from the spectators. Our condo was right along the run course, so it was pretty great to be able to look up at the balcony to see Jim Sr up there taking pictures and cheering us on along the way – especially since we passed by there five times.
Jim crossed the finish line with a new run PR and a new overall PR! He finished the run in 2 hours and 2 mins! He was really hoping to break 2 hours (SO close!) but that was a killer performance with the temperatures of the day! His total race time was 5:17:37!! A PR by 17 minutes! Heather came in almost an hour behind him with a 2 hour and 13 minute run and and overall time of 6:14:53…Jim normally beats her by about 30 minutes, but he’s been training his little butt off for months now, while Heather has been letting triathlon take a bit of a backseat – this is her last race for an indefinite amount of time.
As per our tradition, Jim waited at the finish line for Heather and was there to put the medal on her and give her a congrats kiss…he’s such a great hubs. We found Jim Sr waiting at the finish line and grabbed a photo of us with him sporting his Irondad shirt – perfect apparel for spectating on Father’s Day!
After the race, we downed some pizza with rice and beans (everything comes with rice and beans here), gathered our mud covered belongings, and headed back to the condo for showers and some spectating from the balcony. We saw Dave, our other friend doing the race, as he ran by and cheered him on. Once everyone was done and cleaned up, we headed over to Dave and his wife’s place for a rooftop barbeque and margaritas. It was a lovely evening and a perfect way to celebrate both Father’s Day and the completion of another 70.3!
Yesterday we were up fairly early to get in a really nice breakfast with Jim Sr before seeing him off to the airport around 10am. We again met up with Dave and Heather (yup, another Heather) for a nice lunch and spent the remainder of the day getting some work done (Jim) and cleaning all the dirty triathlon gear (Heather). We also decided to book a last minute trip to Guatemala; we booked the flight on Monday afternoon for a flight that leaves early Wednesday morning! So stay with us as the adventures continue in another country in the coming week! Much love to you all!
Total RV Trip Miles: 17,502