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Race Report El Cruce Cancun 

The great, and sometimes not so great, thing with open water swimming is that you never know what you’re going to get. The ocean can be like a flat swimming pool, or currents, wind and waves can get into your and the race organization’s way. 

That’s what happened last weekend. I was going to do the El Cruce – an iconic 10 km channel crossing from Cancun to isla Mujeres that have been on my bucket list since I discovered the race a couple of years ago. I will need to go back to complete the mission, because due to the severe weather the organization was forced into their plan B: a lap course close to the shore of Cancun. 

I was disappointed at first to not get to do the crossing, but of course, safety for everyone is the most important. I still had a great time and a great swim. Let me tell you about our trip. 

Training

I trained well for this race, except for a little hiccup the last two weeks with a cold disturbing a few of my last longer swims. Since a few months back I’ve consistently swam 3 times per week (or sometimes 4) – 2 pool workouts with my masters team and 1 open water swim in the ocean.  I managed to get in a 4-mile ocean swim and a 7-km pool workout about 2 weeks before, leaving me confident that my arms would last for 10 km. I rested completely about 3 days out from the event, only doing a short warm up swim in Cancun the Friday before the race. 

Travel 

I had the best support with me as my husband Jonathan and my little Will followed along on this trip to paradise. We took the 1.5-hour direct flight from Miami to Cancun, and had a convenient transfer to take us to the hotel from the incredibly busy airport. We stayed at the official race hotel – Hotel Krystal Grand – just a 5-minute walk form the race start. The trip went well, although it’s always a little bit more of a challenge to travel with a baby. 

I have to say though, that Cancun might not be the ideal spot for a baby and a stroller…. It’s more of a beach and party paradise for vacationing americans. 

During our trip we enjoyed the white beaches (I have to admit that they are one level up from Miami’s) and some great Mexican food. Somehow the water is also a more intense and beautiful blue this far south. 

Race Prep 

Since I had a little cold I took it really easy the days before the race. On Friday, I met up with some fellow D&R teammates and did a short warm up swim close to the race start. It felt good to shake out the travel a bit and get a feel for the water. 

On Saturday I just took it easy and did some foam rolling and stretching. I picked up my race pack in Cancun city and made sure I got everything ready. 

I prepped with room-service pasta bolognese dinner and some electrolytes the day before.

Race Day 

On the morning of the race I woke up early with my son (5 am). But he (and I) luckily got a good night of sleep. The hotel breakfast had not opened yet, so I had some granola and rice cakes with honey. And a coffee, of course. I downed another bottle of electrolyte water as we headed out together to the race start about an hour before. 

For the race, I wore my Zoggs Racerback regular training suit. I thought of wearing a tech competition swimsuit, but I was unsure of how comfortable it would be to wear it for so many hours. So I went with the safe option! Wetsuit was out of question since the water was 28 degrees Celsius. We had to wear a swim buoy for safety as well, and in addition to that the only other equipment was my favorite Head Tiger goggles, the mandatory swim cap and the chip. 

I also learned something new from the Mexican swimming community – to put SIlver tape around my chip to make it stay on tight. A great improvement to make sure not to drop it and reduce drag. 

Race Recap 

Unfortunately, due to weather conditions, we did not get to do the crossing to Isla Mujeres. Instead, plan B was set in motion with a 2x lap course along the shore of Cancun’s Zona Hotelera from Playa Caracol to Playa Tortugas, 9 km instead of 10.  I was disappointed to not get to do the crossing, but safety always comes first. 

The ambiance at this open water race was like nothing I’ve experienced before. There were so many racers (2000 in total the entire weekend) which is A LOT for an open water race. There was loud music and everyone was happy and excited. 

The start was at 7:45 am, and there was first a wave of men, followed by the women about 15 minutes after. The start was a bit hot and challenging because we had to wait for the men’s wave, and then everyone had to pass the chip mat and kick it to activate the chip, which took a while. Had I known this I would have brought a water bottle there. I ended up starting the race very thirsty. 

The start was a bit chaotic with so many people, so I decided to stay to the right of the field to avoid the crowd in the middle. I’d rather swim a few meters longer than lose my goggles or get scratched. 

I felt pretty good from the start, and managed to catch up to a group of about 5 other women swimming in my pace. That was great, as I could draft a bit and even swim right in the middle of that group. There was also a bit of current in favor going out, which was nice as a start. The course was marked by flagged boats, which was great. It was much more visible that buoys in the water level. 

I continued in the group for almost the entire first lap. Then we started to pass a lot of the men, and I lost the group except for one other lady. She was a tad bit faster than me, but I managed to hold on a bit into the second lap. 

At that point, my left foot started to cramp a bit, so I had to try and relax my kick to get that to go away. I decided to stop quickly to fix my goggles (they were squeezing my eyes out for some reason) and also get a sip of water from one of the boats. 

Now, I was on my own, which was a bit of a bummer. I had a small dip of motivation here on the back half of the second lap as it also was against the current. But towards the end of the lap, I got some energy again after stopping a quick second time for some water.

The way back from the lap to the beach was confusing. I thought we had to swim back the same way as we had swam in the start, but apparently we were allowed to cut along the course. The volunteers screamed at me “se puede cortar”!! So I started cutting directly into the beach, but I had probably swam a bit of extra compared to my competition. 

When I got close and could see the finish, a saw one other woman next to me. Somehow I got energy and felt incredibly strong in my arms (mom power??) and could sprint past her. We ran up to the finish portal at the same time – and as always with my swimrun transition skills, I managed to get in ahead of her and finished as 5th woman overall. 

I am very happy with the race and how it felt, just a bit annoyed with the course mishap at the end. I was only 3 minutes beyond the winner, so I wonder how I would have placed… 

All in all, it was an amazing experience, and I need to come back now to get to swim the real crossing to Isla Mujeres!