24 Nov 2024

Let’s race… IRONMAN Cozumel

Setting the stage for record breaking times, IRONMAN Cozumel is fast, flat - and stunning. Find out everything you need to know about this late season island getaway race.
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Jenny Lucas-Hill

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Long course age group triathlete and writer Jenny Lucas-Hill guides you through everything you need to know about taking on the full distance IRONMAN race in Cozumel.

An island paradise and a bucket list getaway in its own right, IRONMAN Cozumel offers up incredible Caribbean ocean views and fast, flat racing. In fact, this destination race played host to triathlon legend Kristian Blummenfelt when he made his Iron distance debut in 2021 – setting an (unofficial) fastest known time of 7 hours and 21 minutes. And while most of us age-groupers can expect to be out on the course just a touch longer than Big Blu’s lightning fast finish. If you’re after the ultimate season finale race where you can shoot for a new PR and tag on an incredible post-race vacation. IRONMAN Cozumel is a very strong contender. Find out everything you need to know about this late season race with our IRONMAN Cozumel race guide.

Finish off your race season in style

Location - Island paradise

Cozumel is an island just off the east coast of Mexico. Located on the second-largest coral reef in the world, expect white sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise Caribbean waters – alive with wildlife that makes the swim at IRONMAN Cozumel an unforgettable experience.

November is a great time to visit this paradise-like Island, with the humidity falling and temperatures averaging at a comfortable 26 degrees Celsius. The race itself takes place on the west side of the island, with a vibrant beach side scene, close to the Chankanaab Beach Park where you can see dolphins and go snorkelling. Away from the lively hotel and beach bar scene, Cozumel is a haven and perhaps one of the ultimate places to relax and unwind post-race. What better way to recover from an IRONMAN than kicking back on the beach or floating around in crystal clear water? As far as race-cations go, IRONMAN Cozumel is up there with the very best.

Why race... IRONMAN Cozumel

Fast, fun racing? Check. Superb atmosphere? Check. Incredible location? Double check. Here’s why IRONMAN Cozumel belongs on your triathlon to-do list:

Spectacular Island paradise location
Fast course with stunning views and plenty of personal record potential
Voted 2nd place overall best event in the 2023 IRONMAN Athlete Choice Awards

Course - Fast, flat racing with incredible ocean views

If finishing up your race season with a new PR against a backdrop of glittering, azure-blue water in an oceanside paradise sounds appealing. It’s time to get IRONMAN Cozumel on your race calendar. From the incredible wildlife you’ll have chance to spot during the swim, to the fast, flat bike and run courses. When it comes to a season finale – IRONMAN Cozumel is hard to beat.

Swim - 2.4 miles / 3.8km

The swim at IRONMAN Cozumel is a point to point course. With only two turns to navigate, you can focus on finding fast feet to follow and getting into a rhythm. That is if all the incredible underwater wildlife doesn’t distract you!

BIke - 112 miles / 180km

The three lap bike course is incredibly flat – with just ~1154ft/351m of elevation gain to contend with over the full 112 miles. There’s little in the way of turns or technical sections to worry about, so this is a course where you can get down into your aero bars, focus on your effort – and enjoy the ocean views.

Run - 26.2 miles / 42.2km

Heading out of T2 you’ve got a three lap run course to tick off the final 26.2 miles between you and the glory of the finish line. The loop is an out and back, taking you along the waterfront, the main downtown plaza and through some of Cozumel’s historic neighbourhoods. Spectators line the course creating a lively atmosphere to keep you motivated.

Race training & prep

With that spectacular ocean swim to start your race day, getting some sea swimming ticked off during training is essential. This will help you get used to dealing with any chop, swell or currents that you might encounter depending on the conditions on race day. The fast, flat bike course means being able to sustain your aero position for an extended period of time will be key to getting the most out of the bike course at IRONMAN Cozumel. Be sure to make use of the summer months to get out on your time trial bike and incorporate some race pace efforts into your long endurance rides so you can push good power in the TT position. It’s also important to train your gut to take on fuel and absorb it in the crunched up aero position so do make sure you train with your race nutrition of choice to avoid any stomach issues on race day.

While the average temperature in Cozumel in November sits around 26 degrees Celsius (79 fahrenheit), it’s still warm enough for heat to be a factor. Training in warmer conditions – even if that means opting for indoor training if you’re not lucky enough to have warm weather at home – and practicing a hydration strategy will set you up well for race day.

Once you arrive on the island, there are good cycle ways to train on and many of the hotels also have secure zones for swimming in the sea.

Travel & accommodation

Getting to Cozumel is relatively straight forward, with many airlines now flying direct to the Island itself. Alternatively, if direct flights are not available you can fly into Cancun. From here you’ll need to take a taxi or a bus to Playa del Carmen where you can board a ferry (leaving approx. every 30 mins from 6am-10pm daily) to Cozumel. There is also a small aircraft, operated by MAYAIR which operates 5 flights a day from Cancun over to Cozumel.

Once you’ve arrived on the Island, there are plenty of beach resorts and hotels to choose from. IRONMAN Mexico has partner offers with many of the local hotels, with packages often including transport to the race venue and even bike mechanic services. Check the ‘travel’ tab on the IRONMAN Cozumel website for details of the most up to date hotel package offers.

Spectators - The best places to cheer on your athlete

Spectators have plenty of opportunity to be a part of the action at IRONMAN Cozumel, with the multi-lap bike and run courses giving ample chance to cheer on the athletes throughout race day. During the swim, head to The Money Bar Beach Club (in front of The Landmark Resort) to get a great view of the athletes while they’re in the water. Once the competitors head out of T1, Eleven Ave, Thirty Ave and Rafael Melgar Ave – where you’ll find designated cheer zones – are all great spots to cheer athletes on during the bike leg.

During the run, stick around Rafael Melgar Ave and make the most of the great local restaurants to stay fuelled up – spectating is an endurance sport after all. Or head to the beach front (just don’t forget your sunscreen). As the race draws to a close, make your way to Quintana Roo Park to be part of the finish line party.

Race-cation - Island life at its finest

If there was ever a race worth taking a few extra days off work for – IRONMAN Cozumel is it. Because you certainly don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to soak up everything this stunning island getaway has to offer.

The warm temperatures and white sandy beaches are the perfect place to kickback and relax while you recover post-race. But once you’re feeling lively again, there’s no shortage of things to do. Given that the island is home to the second biggest coral reef system in the world, diving is a must-do. And there’s options for all abilities: scuba diving, snorkelling, underwater helmet diving walks along the sea bed. And if you or your support crew don’t fancy getting wet, there’s even ‘invisible’ boat tours and submarine tours you can take.

The nearby Chankanaab Park offers up the chance to swim with dolphins, see crocodiles and explore tropical nature walks. Or if you want to see more of the island, you can head off on a Jeep excursion or an all-terrain vehicle tour to explore the jungle.

If you want to get away from the bustle of the west side of the island, it’s well worth taking a trip to the ‘wild east’ side where you’ll find remote beaches and a smattering of local beach bars.

Punta Sur park is another must-visit. Located at the southern-most point of Cozumel here you’ll find an extensive nature reserve and Celarain lighthouse. If your post-race legs can manage the steps to the top, you’ll be rewarded with incredible 360 degree views of the Island.

And of course, after all that exploring – there are plenty of restaurants to visit to indulge in some local cuisine. Casa Dennis is the oldest restaurant in town, founded in 1945 and complete with hand painted murals. Alley on 10th is a great option if you want street food, with the outdoor food court offering everything from fresh seafood to vegan Mexican specialities. And for authentic Mayan dishes, Ix Kool Mayan near the Royal Village Mall gets great recommendations.

Relaxing on the beach or action-packed adventure – Cozumel has something for everyone.

Finish off your race season in style

A beach-goers paradise and one of the ultimate destination races – IRONMAN Cozumel is a spectacular way to end the year on a high.

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