Pat Brown places 4th at the Mexico Half Ironman
Story by Pat Brown
Photos by Mario Herrera Glenn
ISSUE #14, Winter 2002 – Last year while reading the latest triathlon magazine I came across an advertisement for the Mexico Half Ironman. The large ad showed Huatulco’s beautiful white sandy beaches with crystal blue water, along with a substantial professional prize purse. Now I have been down to Mexico many times before for racing and vacation and have seen the brochures, but rarely did they come close to my lowest expectations. I was surprised and happy to report that Huatulco Mexico lived up to and beyond my highest expectations. So this year when the race director called and invited me back down gain, I jumped at the chance.
Huatulco’s bays (there are nine of them) are located along the coast of Oaxaca, at the end of the Southern Sierra Madre Mountains. Because of its geographic location, the Huatulco Bays’ topography is formed by gorgeous green mountains, meandering valleys and slopes and is quite rough and uneven. This makes for some great recreational activities such as mountain biking, repelling, white water rafting and of course, swimming, biking and running. Also due to its geographic location, the weather can be down right hot! When you put the topography and climate together, what you have is one challenging half Ironman.
From a professional’s point of view, there are clearly not enough half Ironmans with a substantial prize purse out there for us to do. This is the one distance where the Olympic distance specialist can go head to head with the long course specialist and no one athlete is really at an advantage. You must race hard from the gun, but still you must race your own race at your own pace, much like in an Ironman.
One way to describe the Mexico Half Ironman is to say that it has the qualities of Wildflower, Lubbock, and Kona combined into one fantastic course. The 1.2 mile swim took place in the clear warm waters of the Chahue Bay. The 56 mile bike would take competitors around a three loop course which consists of many vistas overlooking the breathtaking nine Bays of Huatulco. In order to get to those vistas you must work for it. That’s right, the course had some hills. Each loop consisted of four good climbs and when you considered you had to do each loop three times, you had some tired legs by the time you hit the run. The 13.1 mile run was an out and back course, with a substantial hill in the middle. It was great for the competitors to be able to see where their other competition was.
At 7 am athletes from 8 different countries plunged into the Bay of Chahue, just one of the nine pristine Bay of Huatulco. Kerry Classen went straight to the front and was joined by Marc Lees (Aus) and Javier Rosas (Mex). The three would exit the swim with a 1:30 lead over fellow American Chris Lieto and I. Canadian Teresa Macel was the first women to exit the water followed by Wendy Ingraham and Beth Zinkand.
Once on the bike Classen was able to drop Lees and Rosas and kept a 2-minute lead on Lieto and me throughout the 56k hilly and windy bike. Just like in the men’s race, Macel held on to a comfortable 2-minute lead over Zinkand and Laurie Hug, and the race was hers to loose coming into T2.
The 21k run is known for being slow and very hot. Classen was able to hold on to his lead and win the race improving on his fourth place finish last year. Lees put together a great run and passed both Lieto and I to finish second. Lieto had a breakthrough race to finish in 3rd. I had an off day and ended up 4th while Mexico’s number one ranked triathlete Rosas finished 5th.
At mile six Zinkand made her move, she caught and passed Macel easily winning her second Mexico Half Ironman. Macel showed that she is a threat in both long and short course triathlons by bravely hanging onto second place. Fellow Canadian Lori Lynn Leach finished in third followed by Americans Mary Uhl, Jeanne Anne Krizman and Wendy Ingraham.
The Mexico Half Ironman also served as a qualifier for Ironman Canada, Lake Placid and Wisconsin. The race is one of the best-run races in the world and the course is one of the toughest.