November 29, 2009 I had the great pleasure of watching the Ironman competition in Cozumel. I realize this may not be of interest to all the people that read my blog as it is a bit afar from my normal Cozumel chatter and photos. But it was an experience that really thrilled me, much more than I expected. The athletes were amazing and the courage they showed awed me. There was a woman double amputee. Late in the race I saw a man with only one leg competeting. I didn't feel comfortable taking his photo because at that point he was really struggling.

The conditions were about perfect that day and I went a little nuts taking photos. There were 2000 entries, so I had plenty of photo ops. I narrowed it down to these.

The first place winner this year was Rutger Beke a 32 year old man from Belgium. He finished in just over 8 hours. He was behind after the swim (1st part of the event) but quickly made up time on the bicycle section and blew out in front of everyone for the rest of the race.

First place for the women was Yvonne Van Vlerken. She was born in the Netherlands and lives in Austria. She is 31 years old and in incredible physical shape. Quite amazingly, she was 10th overall. Notice the cute little devil tattoo on her arm.

2nd place for the men was Viktor Zyemtsev, a 34 year old former ironworker from Kiev, Ukrane. He trains in the USA, either Florida or New Mexico.

2nd place for the women was Bella Bayliss. I actually caught her in a lot of photos, but missed a lot of the women, or couldn't read their numbers in the photos.

3rd place for the men was Sebastian Pedraza, 37 year old from Italy. 1st photo is from his first running lap and 2nd is either his 2nd or 3rd lap.

3rd place for the women was Edith Neiderfringer, I don't have a photo of her.
4th place of the men was Tyler Butterfield. Tyler is from Bermuda and is 26. He has dual citizenship with Bermuda and the USA. He is single and HOT.

Here he is running on the sidewalk, easier on the feet.

4th place woman was Bree Wee. She has lived in Michigan, Florida, Costa Rica and Hawaii. Her motto is "peace with the pain".

Her last lap!

Alejandro Santamaria from was 5th for the men. Sorry, no photo.

6th place for the men was Lothar Leder from Germany.and is married to another triathelete, Nichole Leder..

Women's 5th ws Annett Kamenz, 6th April Lea Gellatly, 7th Mindy Houser, 8th Lidia Rekas. No photos that I know of for any of those women, but 9th place, Christine Kenny I have. She is 39 years old.

For the men 7th was Allan Villanueva from Mexico, 8th was Ben Cotter from Victoria, Canada (again no pictures). 9th was Lars Finanger, 23, from Minneapolis, MN. A lot of these folks look like they have a skin disease. It is actually tons of sunscreen spread all over themselves. It of course gets sweated off. Then come the mosquitos.

10th place went to Tim Snow is a 34 year old from Brockton, Massachusetts.

The rest of the photos don't usually need an explanation.

Louise is apologizing, she threw aside a plastic bottle and hit one of the spectators. He was borracho so he wasn't very concerned.

Grabbing sustenance any way you can!

 is an international organization. I was unclear what they stood for, but the title probably says it all. These volunteers were doing a lot of cleaning and recycling of bottles, containers and such.

Lots of people lined the race routes and cheered on the atheletes when they passed. Right below are Lisa Smith and Juen Hutchinson.

The couple below are proud Cozumelanos and cheered everyone on waving the flags especially vigorously when a Mexican national would come by.

The crowd went a little nuts when Jaimie Mezo came by. He was in good spirits. I saw him well after dark on his last leg and he looked spaced out and just working to get to the end of the pain! Jaimie works as a dive master on the island. He was born here and has lived in Cozumel all his life.

You could tell who the leaders were because most of the time these guys were following them. I talked to the main office and sadly, this isn't not going to be televised. They told me the website would have highlights up soon. Oh well, maybe next year.

Below is Enrique Ramírez (from Mexico City) and above is his friend, Guillermo Montaña (he's from Monterrey). Another friend of both of theirs, Vicente Cortina, saw this blog and put me in touch with them. Funny that I should have had them right next to each other on the photos, interesting coincidence. Enrique is signed up for next year already.

Vicente wrote up a narrative of his experience leading up to Ironman '09 Cozumel and during the race. He shared this with me and Juen and Nora translated it into English. If you would like to read it, click here. I really enjoyed reading about his experience.

The athletes were keeping cool however they could. Be it skimpy outfits, or pouring cold water bottles all over.

Then comes the heartbreak time. The folks that were determined to finish in spite of the fact that they would not place anywhere truly impressive. Just guts and determination pushing them on to the end. At 11:30 at night (for a race that started at 7:00 am), they told the people still running that they couldn't possibily be finished by the midnight cutoff and asked them to give up.

My friend, Corki, worked at the red cross tent. Most of the people brought in by ambulance or whatever were dehydrated and put on IVs. The winners stopped at the tent and got hooked up to a bag of fluids until they were hydrated again, and then went out and celebrated and met the press.

Corki said many of the entrants mentioned that it was the best medical help they have ever had and were surprised there were real doctors , nurses and paramedics putting in the IV's. Not sure what they were used to but they were amazed. Corki felt it was an honor to work with such a dedicated and well trained Ironman staff and Cruz Roja medical staff, doctors, nurses, paramedics. She hopes to be able to repeat in 2010.

This year's Ironman was a little like a first date. They had not scheduled a 2nd year yet. But apparently everyone felt the great chemistry and it is on the web page for 2010 now. They announced at the awards dinner that they now have a 4 year contract to come here each November. It didn't go off without some glitches, but it was a great first experience for everyone. Very positive!

The athletes commented over and over again at the warmness of the Cozumelanian people, the warmness of the water and the general beauty of our island. It was an inconvenience for us locals in that you couldn't drive much of anywhere all day and night on Sunday, but everyone seemed to take that in their stride.

It took a massive number of volunteers to pull this off. I didn't volunteer because I wanted to be free to video and photograph the event. But in the early evening when it because apparent that the volunteers were almost as tired as the athletes, I stepped in to help at one water station. It was very busy, constantly uncapping cold water, cutting up fruit, replacing all the different energy bars and such. The ice had to be replenished in the big cooler and on the table, fresh bottles of warm water put in the ice. On and on it went. Nora Hernandez (a local dentist) was walking her Rottweiler, Puddin, along the malecon and stepped in to help also. Puddin provided some smiles (and maybe even a little extra adrenalin) to some very tired athletes.

All-in-all it was a very positive experience and a financial shot in the arm for a very depression-weary Cozumel.

And now on an unrelated manner. For the past few months I have been complicating my life by taking in foster dogs from the Cozumel Humane Society. It has been mostly a positive experience. There are just too many unwanted dogs on the island to ever be able to place them all here. So sometimes people from the US adopt them. Sometimes the island visitors find strays or animals in distress and end up taking responsibility for them. It is a great help. My first foster dog, Jimmy (now Julian -- or Hooligan as I like to say) was adopted by a wonderful local family and is living a great life on the beachfront here. Yes, he looks a lot like Freckles!

My most recent project is Prancer. He is about a year old and was found on the streets, very skinny. He has been neutered and I have started training him with basic commands. He is sweet and shy. We believe he was abused. He is quickly learning to trust me and my friend, Juen. In the photo below he is bringing me a ball and gently placing it on my knee. He learned this on his own. We think he is part Jack Russell. So if you are interested in making this dear pup a furrever home, contact me or Andrea from the Humane Society. UPDATE: Prancer won the doggy lottery. He has been adopted by Lisa Ramirez, yes that Lisa of the Humane Society. I couldn't of imagined a better life for an abused street to fall into. Bravo Prancer!

And one last thing. A very professional calendar of photos from Cozumel photographers has been created. Will and Sue had the idea and published the calendars with the proceeds (after expenses) going to Cozumel charities such as Red Cross, Cozumel Humane Society, Chrysalis, Ninos Limpio Cozumel, and Ciema. The calendar has been very well received here. I feel fortunate that one of my photographs was chosen to be the photo from the month of May. If you are interested in purchasing one of these the price here on the island is 120 pesos or $10 US. It is more if they have to be mailed within the USA. If you are interested in helping local charaties by purchasing a calendar contact me at:

Thank you to Juen and Corki for proofreading this blog.

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