I spent the weekend in Mexico with my good friends David and Sam. We went to preview the Cozumel Ironman course that David and I will be racing in November. Our trip to the Island of Cozumel to checkout the course was a pretty crazy adventure to say the least which I hope you get a kick out of. Here’s the story!
David and I left the Banyan Tree Villas at 10am… all we carried with us was $104 US dollars, $20 Pesos, credit cards, goggles, and swim caps. What else would we need? Our intention was to head over to Cozumel, find the start of the Ironman Cozumel race, do a portion of the swim leg, drive one loop of the bike leg, and run one out and back of the run leg.
The taxi dropped us off at the Playa del Carmen ferry terminal (ferry to Cozumel Island). The terminal looked more like a modern outdoor mall, but we were told to walk through the mall toward the ocean to find the ferry. As we approached the mall there was a Mexican dude in a small booth asking us if we were going to take the ferry. Being unsure of anything at this point we said “yes” and he proceeded to tell us to only buy a one way ferry ticket now because there were two colors of ferries and the tickets were nonrefundable. He wasn’t selling the tickets, just getting us to trust him (very smart). After the advice came his sales pitch, which wasn’t bad, and he recommend that we rent a car or scooters rather than taking taxis around Cozumel. Thinking that the scooters might be fun we reserved two scooters from our friend in the booth. It seemed a little sketchy when we had to pay half in cash upfront and could pay the other half with credit once we got to the rental shop. Either way we didn’t have to pay much upfront so we went for it and reserved two scooters on Cozumel.
After walking a few hundred yards through the mall we came upon the ferry terminal. At the ticket counter we learned that this was a cash only ferry. Because we just paid for our scooters we didn’t have enough cash to purchase round trip tickets (only one way). This meant that if we did this we would have to find a way to get more cash once on Cozumel which seemed like it wouldn’t be too difficult seeing that we had a reservation at one of the nicer hotels arranged for our actual Ironman trip in November. We took the chance and bought the one way ticket to Cozumel.
After purchasing our tickets we walked to the dock area to wait for the the ferry to board. As we waiting it started to get rainy and windy. The ferry was pretty large (probably held 200-300 people), but the waves were so large that even a boat of this size was rocking like crazy! The ramp to get on and off of the ferry was on rollers so it could move around as the ferry rocked with the waves. Because of this when boarding the ferry you had to wait for the ramp to stop moving and jump on quickly before it moved again. Once we were on the ferry we thought we were safe, but whoa were we wrong! The ferry rolled violently with the rolling waves. I don’t get sea sick, but even my stomach started turning a bit, and David (who does have issues with motion sickness) started to sweat. All this and the ferry hadn’t even pushed off the dock…
The ferry pushed off the dock and things started to smooth out. This lasted for about 30 seconds and quickly became a real life roller coaster ride. The rolling waves tossed the ferry around like a toy in the bathtub, and as we rolled over the waves I would grip the bench and handrails to brace myself for the tipping of the boat. David found it easier to deal with the motion sickness by laying down on the bench, and others ran to the bathroom to puke up their breakfast. The ferry would roll to an extreme angle and we would think that was as far as it would roll, until the next wave hit and pushed the ferry over further. I had scoped out the nearest life vests, and was coming up with a plan for exiting the ferry if it rolled over. Even the people working on the ferry looked unsettled by the extreme weather.
There was about 30-45 minutes of this mental torture the engines geared down and we were finally docking! After a ride like that I wasn’t sure if I’d want to make the ride back unless the weather calmed down.
As we exited the ferry the rain had stopped and we walked to get our scooters…
The scooter rental shop was a few blocks away, and as we walked there we passed your usual touristy shops and bars. Once at the scooter rental we filled out the necessary rental paperwork and hopped on to head toward the Ironman Cozumel swim start.
The island of Cozumel is an oval with a road the travels along the coast line. This 20-30 mile road is the bike loop, and the swim start is about 5-10 miles outside of town. We rode along the road past a number of resorts, restaurants, and bars. As we rode the rain came and went without much force, but the temperature was around 80, so even with the rain it was still warm. After riding for a while we reach the resort that will be hosting the Ironman in November. Unfortunately the gates were closed and we couldn’t get in unless we were staying at the resort. Thinking that we might be able to still get into the water near the swim/race start we rode on and found a small run down cantina with ocean access. There were three men sitting outside of the cantina just hanging out. We told them that we were going to be doing the Ironman and asked if we could swim from the cantina. They were very nice and had no problem with us swimming from their establishment. They even had the exact swim distances measured off in front of the cantina. We put on our goggles and headed out into the ocean where we learned that the salt water drastically increase buoyancy which was a great surprise considering we wouldn’t be wearing wet suites for the Ironman. After feeling out the situation, and wanting to get back on the road, we left the ocean, thanked our new friends, and scootered down the road.
About 15 minutes later the rain started… and it got harder and harder until I had to slow down my scooter because the velocity of the rain coupled with the velocity of the scooter caused the rain to sting my face as I rode. On the upside the ocean views were amazing, and we enjoyed the scenery as we crashed through the puddles on the road.
The driving rain came and went as we cruised down the road. Also, about 20 miles into the ride the wind started to pick up and throw the scooter all over the road. Many time during the day I wished that I had my waterproof/crushproof camera so I could have documented this day of craziness! This adventure had been fun, but it was starting to get colder, and the rain just kept coming. I put my chin down and sped up to get this wet mess over with. What was only about 10 miles felt like 50, but we finally made it back to downtown Cozumel.
As we rode into town the culmination of rain had filled the drainage system and water (or whatever it was) was shooting up out of the manholes in the streets. The unnerving thing was that the water was very warm… After asking a couple of locals for directions in broken Spanish we made it back to the scooter rental shop. Once at the rental shop we were able to talk the shop employee into taking our $14 instead of $16 because they didn’t accept credit cards for the gas. At this point we had zero cash left, but felt confident that we could make it back to the mainland with a little finagling.
To our surprise the ferry service on the way back to Playa del Carmen accepted credit cards! We asked for two tickets for the ferry and after handing the employee our credit card she requested an ID. We didn’t even need our ID’s to rent the scooters! When the scooter shop asked for our ID’s we just said we have money, and they were fine with that, but this woman was insistent that we needed an ID to use the credit card. After telling her our whole story and pleading with her, she still wouldn’t budge. We insisted to speak with a supervisor, and after much debate and explanation the supervisor allowed us to buy the tickets without an ID. Now we just had to survive the ferry ride back to the mainland and figure out how to pay the taxi driver.
Although the ocean was still raging the ride back to the mainland was better than the ride to Cozumel and we made it in one piece. Then because the taxi didn’t need to be paid until we got to our location we were able to pay him at the hotel.
This was an incredible day of ups and downs, and I felt completely drained even though I had physically done virtually nothing. We finished the day by having dinner and passing out.
Even though this was a crazy set of circumstances David and I had a blast, and hopefully you enjoyed the David and Joe Cozumel Ironman Training Adventure! I certainly hope that the trip to Cozumel in November for the actual Ironman race isn’t as crazy, and we get a little good weather.
Now get outside and have fun by working hard! 🙂