Friday, November 23, 2012

What to do in Cozumel.

Turkey trots are OVER - athletes and spectators alike are pouring in to beautiful Cozumel for this weekend’s Ironman. 

Let's talk about activities for family, spectators, or post-race. Previously we discussed the venue’s potential places to stay and some of the diving and scuba perks. But there is so much more to a visit to Cozumel, not the least of which is its proximity to Playa del Carmen. And the best time to visit Playa is at night. 

Take the ferry boat across, it costs about $12-$15 each way and is well worth the trip.  The main streets of Playa del Carmen are closed to foot-traffic only and there is so much going on, you can spend an entire evening there just walking around. Filled with numerous unique restaurants, chances are you’ll dine seated in a cabana or balcony overlooking the nightlife. In both of my own trips there, I have never heard of anyone getting sick. And don’t forget to stop at the world-famous SeƱor Frog’s. Ferry boat tickets can be purchased from or Be sure you check when the last ferry boat leaves back for Cozumel, usually about 10pm, so you don’t get stuck! 

Don’t want to take a trip to the mainland but still crave stuff to do? Your best bet is to rent a scooter. Cozumel may be the biggest island in Mexico but it is still small enough for a scooter to get you everywhere you’d want to go. You see, there is only one main road on Cozumel and it runs around the coast perimeter before heading straight to the beaches on the east side of the island. Here you can go beach hopping, cove to cove, and often times you’ll find yourselves the only ones there. And hey, everyone looks cute on a Vespa!

At the end of the island is the lighthouse at Punta Celerain. You can enjoy a fascinating 360-degree view of the area and this is a prime spot to take spectacular photos to show off to your friends when you get home. There is also a place to snorkel and you can swim out to the reef. There are supposed to be alligators in the area and regular barracuda sightings though, so be careful.

For what is considered the best beach bar ever, stop in to a place called Coconuts Bar and Grill. It is considered the best spot on the east side. Even though the island is mostly flat, you have to climb to get to this one, which only means that the views are incredible!

For even more exploring, visit the little village of El Cedral. It has the oldest Mayan ruin on the island. Now, it isn’t as grand as the ones over on the mainland, but it is interesting and very pretty. There are some restaurants there including one with a fabulous steak and lobster combo!

Going back to San Miguel, you may be tired of Mexican fare and, if so, Primas is the perfect foil with Italian cuisine, fresh catch of the day and steaks. It also has great outdoor seating making you feel like you are in the middle of the town happenings.

Tired from the Ironman? Get some spa’hhh treatment at the Presidente Intercontinental. They have a 6,500 square-foot full service luxury spa called Mandara Spa. Using ancient Mayan traditional techniques, they relax, soothe and pamper you with signature treatments made from a variety of indigenous fruits, plants, herbs along with other natural elements.

So, here’s to wishing you a great time at Ironman Cozumel 2012! SOAS wishes you an amazing race!

The S(p)eedy Side of Vegas

The S(p)eedy Side of Vegas:

Marathon runners - here’s your chance to do The Strip in Las Vegas! Yep - the Rock n' Roll Marathon Series lands in Vegas December 2nd . 

Good thing capes are in style this season.

Despite the fact that running in a marathon might put a halt to having too much of a good time in Sin City pre-race, in what other marathon can you run right down the course along side drunken casino addled bachelor parties and cross-dressing show girls?!  Don’t answer that… 

You’ll start the run right in front of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino – the full marathon starts at 3pm and the half starts at 4:30 p.m. That means you’ll be running right down the middle of Las Vegas Boulevard. By the time you finish, in front of The Mirage, it will be dark and The Strip will be its usual famously lit-up self. Now, that sounds fun!

But it hasn’t always been fun. Previous years’ events were plagued with problems; everything from no coordination with the local governmental powers-that-be to the lack of volunteers (bless their hearts) manning their stations. Plus, it gets cold at night in Vegas.
Event coordinators, however, have promised a better, more organized event. And there are lots of other things for your family to do while you are tapering or racing, so the Vegas event is really a win-win.
Let’s talk about hotels. There are four “headquarter” hotels from which to choose, each offering special goodies for race participants. Then there’s a whole plethora of “official” hotels. Included in the list is The Mirage; quite convenient since that’s where you’ll finish, right in front of the volcano. Virgin marathoners beware.
Across from The Mirage, so right at the finish line too, is The Palazzo Las Vegas. Here you’ll find restaurants from some of the world’s most famous chefs. Reading like the who’s who of Food Network, The Palazzo has Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans-style restaurant named Table 10; Wolfgang Puck’s Postrio Bar & Grill as well as the one he simply calls “Cut”; Mario Batali is there with his Carnevino and Massimiliano Campanari has one called Lavo. You’ll need to stay extra days if you want to fit all these in.
At the other end of the race, at the starting line, is the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. If you are a pool person, this place is supposed to have the best in Vegas. Rent a cabana and enjoy. When you want to eat out, take your pick of several top celebrity restaurants including one of Wolfgang Puck’s and two of Hubert Keller’s. The Mexican food is supposed to be excellent and there is a sustainable seafood restaurant. However the Red Square will be closed for renovations during the marathon week so a visit to their exclusive vodka vault is out. Za Vas!
Right across from the start village is The Luxor Hotel and Casino. Yeah, it’s the pyramid. The Luxor has a pretty nice spa call Nurture Spa & Salon. For $180, you can get a 25 minute long Swedish massage, 25 minute facial and 25 minute scrub. You can probably find a coupon on groupon to boot.
You can join in (and may really need) the spa scene after your 26.2! Then, head out for more fun on the Strip. Time to swap stinky running shoes for some killer heels, right? Blisters be damned.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Traveling to IM Cozumel?


The final week homestretch to Ironman Cozumel 2012 is here! SOAS hopes you racers have your feet up and compression gear on!

Yep, November 25th is this weekend and, is it any wonder that, like the three years before, the event is SOLD OUT. 

This Ironman event is being held in the cruise-ship haven of Cozumel, a little island separated from Playa del Carmen by just a sliver of turquoise sea. Cozumel had to have been made by the great snorkel gods as it is home to the world’s second largest coral reef system. The hotels here tend to cater to divers with either dive shops on premise or ones right next door.

Getting to Cozumel, though, is always a challenge. Along with awesome diving and snorkeling, Cozumel features an airport that may take hours to get through. Just be prepared. Bring a book, preferably about diving, or, better yet, bring the Ironman packet to read. Just try and keep the end goal in mind while you push the frustration level down until it can be dissolved later by a fruity drink with a pretty umbrella. Make that a protein smoothie with a pretty umbrella if you are racing.

For those of you that have waited until now to find accommodations, it isn’t too late. All still have availability except the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort. It sold out early, which is really too bad because it offered a special Ironman rate of $89 per person. Also, the drinks from the bar are well-poured and can pack a wallop, especially if you say, "yeah, come on" as the bottle tilts. 

Don’t worry though. The Ironman coordinators set up no less than eleven host hotels in which to choose. All except the Presidente Intercontinental are all-inclusive with room rates starting in the $70 per person per night range. And, since Cozumel is an island, most are somewhere near to some part of the Ironman event. Most of the hotels have plenty of great activities for the rest of the family to partake in while you are either packing your transition bags pre-race, or are incapacitated by soreness post-race.

So, here’s the rundown of the all-inclusive ones, beginning with the Fiesta Americana. It is basically known as a diving destination. Go to the Dive House to make arrangements and you can dive directly from the hotel. It books up, though, so call ahead. If you don’t get a mini fridge and a safe in your room, just ask and they’ll bring one. You can expect decent buffet and al la carte style food. However, if you have to have an on-site fitness room this isn’t the one for you.

If you’d like to be within walking distance to the finish line, choose the four star Hotel Cozumel & Resort. It has the largest pool in Cozumel. It also caters to divers with a full service PADI center called Dive Paradise and a private pier to dive from. An added plus is free Wi-Fi in all the rooms.

Two miles from the starting line is the Sabor Cozumel Resort and Spa. It has a “real” beach at 2,000 feet, the largest on the island. Adults without kids can stay in an “Adults Only” section and, for further, away-from-the-kids relaxation; you can get a Coconut and Aloe Vera Body Polish at the spa for an affordable rate. Unfortunately, the food is rated badly. But, hey, there’s a licensed doctor on call if it comes down to that!

Close to Palancar Reef is the five-star Iberostar Cozumel. The hotel offers competitors transfers from the hotel to the starting line as well as mechanical services for the bikes. Dressel Divers is on site and $40 gets you two hours on a scuba boat with dives from 2 different spots. You can indulge in nightly entertainment at the hotel’s theater or work out in their fitness room. And, even though the Wi-Fi isn’t free, the food reviews are good. 

The Cozumel Palace is the most expensive of the host hotels that are all-inclusive. It is considered five-star and has food and drink reviews well above average. Upgrading to a junior suite gets you an ocean view, king-size bed, Jacuzzi, porch with a hammock and complimentary 24-hour room service. Be aware that rooms by the elevator are LOUD due to the marble floors and this isn’t where you want to stay to go diving.

At the Park Royal Cozumel, you’ll have to be above the fifth floor if you want to see the ocean. But then the views are quite lovely. There is an open-air amphitheater for nightly live entertainment, an on-site spa and a fitness center. For divers and snorkelers, the Del Mar Dive Shop is right across the street. Beware of the “un-hot” hot tubs and the fact that you’ll have to pay extra for spotty internet service as well as for a safe in your room that may or may not keep people out. 

The Occidental Grand Cozumel is tucked into the jungle, so consider requesting a 2nd floor room or higher so lizards don’t run in when you open the door. A better bet is to ask for a complimentary upgrade to the resort's Royal Club level. Sometimes they’ll say yes! 

Among the hotels with the worst food and bar drink ratings are the Allegro Cozumel and Melia Golf & Beach Resort. However, the Allegro has been an Ironman host hotel for three years and has a prime location on San Francisco Beach for the event. They do tend to leave the “hot” out of the hot tubs, but the on-site dive center is supposed to be excellent. That and other amenities at the Allegro may be enough for you to overlook having to eat elsewhere.


Check back later this week and we’ll go over places to eat and things to do at Ironman Cozumel 2012!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Inspiration... Where do you find yours?

Inspiration is everywhere. From the words of our favorite writer, to our children taking their first step. Finding someone or something to inspire you is as easy as opening your eyes in a different light.  I have found many inspirations in my life. When I was in the midst of Ironman training, my favorite pro triathletes were my inspiration for getting out of bed in the morning.  Sometimes a good beer and burger are enough inspiration for me to get my butt going on a ride.  And what is it that people find inspiring about you?  Is it that you are fast, or that you have a good heart, or that you have fun doing what you love?  Hailey says that generally, positive people are a huge inspiration to her.  “Those folks who go out day in and day out with a GOOD attitude, and are grateful for what life has blessed them with. And those who may not be as talented as the pros, but have SO much heart and passion for life/sport that they are just jazzed for it. These people reignite my fire.”

My father has always inspired me. He was incredibly active and fit. He would get up extremely early and go run every morning before his very demanding job. This is back before jogging was really popular. I would get up with him when I was little, like 6-7 and he would let me jog a little ways with him. It was our special Father-Daughter time. Dad always worked really hard but he was also always there to help me with tennis lessons or basketball drills and was always there for a big game or match. I can't thank him enough for that. He just passed away recently and I can for sure say that he will absolutely be my inspiration for my training and races going forward. The next Ironman is for you, Dad! I love you!

I remember back in 2009, a few hours after getting my PR at the Boston Marathon, my husband Rich and I went to Nike Town to see Kara Goucher after her finish.   She was scheduled to do a Q & A after the race.  The whole week was a huge hype for her. Posters all around town, her special custom Nike Lunar Light shoes on display at the expo.  She was America’s Sweetheart that was supposed to take the Boston crown. But with less than a half mile to go it was taken away from her. She finished 3rd, in an amazing time and America was still so proud of her.  A few hours later she was cleaned up and answering our questions.  She had some pain in her throat and her eyes, you could tell.  She wanted today’s win, but had so much respect for the sport and her competitors that it was ok and still a great race for her second ever marathon.  Even before that day Kara was my inspirational athlete that I looked up to for all of her hard work.  And that day she taught me humbleness, and that winning isn’t everything.  As a highly competitive athlete, myself, I have to remind myself that if you fight and give it your all, that’s all you can do.

People that inspire me? The list is infinite. My family and the amazing kids I somehow created. My husband for putting up with me on a regular basis. My patients, some who have gone to heaven before us, and some who continue their paths here, but all who have fought the hardest endurance event known to man - childhood cancer. I am amazed and inspired everyday by so many.

And sometimes it’s not so much as people that inspire me, but their attitude. Those folks who go out day in and day out with a GOOD attitude, and are grateful for what life has blessed them with. And those who may not be as talented as the pros, but have SO much heart and passion for life/sport that they are just jazzed for it. These people reignite my fire.

Although many different types of people from all walks of life have touched my life and inspire me in different ways, I would say the person that inspires me most is my husband.  My husband Oscar, who lives a relatively ordinary life. He’s a high school math teacher, a cross country and track coach, a marathoner himself - but to me he is absolutely extraordinary! He is such a selfless, giving person that he truly inspires me to be the best person I can be. I think the best compliment you can give someone is that they make you want to be a better version of yourself and that is exactly what he does on a daily basis for me.
One of my main sources of motivation in training and racing is to honor all the support and love Oscar (and my entire family) has given me in pursuing my dreams as an athlete. It's not hard to get out the door for those long rides or early morning swims when I think of all that he's sacrificed for my dreams - the least I can do is make sure I get my work done and push as hard as I can when I'm out on the race course! So yes, he is one of my biggest inspirations and motivators for sure!