Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Hostess With The Mostest

To be very honest, Cozumel is not a place I would necessarily visit if not for a race.  But I should quickly clarify that Cozumel is not to blame.  "It's not you, it's me."

Cozumel the tourist and cruise-ship destination is about three things: drinking, beaches, and scuba diving.  Since I do none of these things, I am kind of at a loss.  [By not doing beaches, I mean that once I am there I have no idea what to do or how to make myself enjoy it.  To sit in the sun, covered in oily lotion and sweating, sticking to the sand and my towel and the pages of my book, boiling in my own skin and potentially taking days off my life?  Yes, I can see exactly why people love spending time at the beach...]  Cozumel is more like the place I usually stumble into after several days or weeks in the jungle (or desert if Africa) to get a shower, food, and a bed.  [Cozumel the cultural center does exist and I did find it.  Stay tuned!]

But one day a year, Cozumel is all about IM, and the week beforehand, the entire island is set about preparing for IM.

In fact, at the race briefing when discussing the bike and run courses, the speaker actually said "basically the island is paralyzed by the race" and the audience applauded.  Leave it to triathletes to discommode an entire island for an entire day and be happy about it.

Anyway, the lengths to which the island and its population goes are impressive.  The speed bumps normally in place to control traffic speeds are removed.  Roads are repaved by hand.  Curbs are hand-scraped and hand-repainted.  Signs hung everywhere call for residents to spectate, cheer, and encourage all the way until midnight.  One sign describes the distance as 13 ferry trips between Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, a trip commonly made by locals.  The volunteers, as is IM standard, work long and hot hours with enthusiasm and energy, cut short only when their stations run out of supplies, unfortunately also an IM standard.  Families gather and picnic, lining the streets and medians in town.  Plus now I know where all the vuvuzelas from the World Cup ended up. 

Every city that hosts an IM race adds its own unique spice.  Cozumel's is truly de bienvenida.

Now for a few pictures:

The swim exit...not so hard on the eyes
Notice how the bike course uses the entire main road around the island
Christmas in Mexico...trimming pine trees under a beer tent
The Real Tour D'Brew continues
I sense a beer war brewing...
Construction Cozumel style: man climbs the arch while a man holds it up with a pole...notice the feet barely visible through the white fabric...all over our heads at body-marking

Super user-friendly ITU-style racks
 Bags are packed and racked.  The last hit out of the season starts bright and early.

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