This past Sunday, I took a break from the cold water of Lake Michigan and raced the Cruce Cancun 10k from Cancun to Isla Mujeres. I was not sure what to expect from this swim because I knew the water would be warm and there could be up to 1000 participants. I was also very worried that weather in Chicago would keep me from ever getting to Cancun at all. Despite my worries, we arrived in plenty of time and woke up before 6am on Sunday to head to Playa Caracol for the race start. Even though we were told to arrive before 6:30, we ended up spending a lot of time just standing around and waiting for the start.
Finally, it was time to get marked with my number (in sharpie, very large) and put on sunscreen and grease. Soon all of the swimmers began gathering on the small strip of beach and waiting for the signal to start. This swim mandated the use of swim buoys for visibility and safety so it was quite crowded on the sand. I did not hear any starting sound but suddenly all the men rushed into the water. The women’s start would be 5 minutes back so now I listened carefully to make sure I didn’t miss the signal. They sounded the starter and we all ran into the warm, clear water and headed for the first marker.
The first half of the course was marked with boats with yellow flags moored at regular intervals and navigation was not too difficult. I started to find my stride in the warm water and tried to set myself up strategically so that I could follow another swimmer and not have to sight as frequently. I realized that I was swimming too fast to keep following her though, so I passed her and continued on my way, starting to wish I had a kayaker to follow. My buoy didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, although I did feel it catch behind me if a particularly large wave hit me.
At this point, I started wishing I had paid more attention to the course map, both for directional help and to know how much of the race I had completed. I could still see the sandy bottom spread out below me and I saw a stingray swimming along. After what felt like and hour, the yellow-flag-boat markers were replaced by large yellow triangle buoys. I saw a kayaker off to my left and decided to stick close to him so that I didn’t have to sight as quickly. After a few more yellow buoys, there was a red triangle buoy and I wondered if it was the last buoy, but then I saw another yellow one past it. I am sure that if I had actually looked at the map, I would know why there was a red buoy but in the moment I had no idea.
I saw two women swimming ahead of me and decided to build my speed and try to pass them. Although I didn’t know how much more distance I had to cover, I risked increasing my speed and I am very glad that I made the choice to get into the race mindset. The next time I sighted forward, I saw another red buoy and wondered if THIS one was the last buoy but when we got there, the kayaker told me to make a sharp left turn. I was bummed because the beach was so close but now I realized that there were several more yellow buoys along the shore before I could finish.
The water continued to get shallower and swaying sea grass replaced the previously sandy bottom. I was very aware of how warm the water felt now and I was missing my swims in cold Lake Michigan. Each time I passed a buoy I hoped that the kayaker would tell me to turn to shore, but each time I was disappointed. During this whole stretch of water, I did not see a single other swimmer. Finally he told me we were at the last buoy and that I should turn to shore and aim for a pair of Coca Cola flags on the beach. I could barely see them but I did my best to aim for them and up my speed a bit more. The ground continued to get shallower and I saw a man in front of me and tried to dolphin along the bottom to catch him. I ran up the beach and through the finish shoot. Someone put a medal around my neck, while another person took off my timing chip, and a third told me that I was the 2nd woman. I was surprised because I had not felt very fast during the whole race. I later found out that I was the 22nd finisher overall out of maybe 800 competitors!
Overall, this swim was the most fun race I have done in a long time and I hope I can come back to beautiful Cancun to do it again! This race was fairly well organized especially for such a large group and I definitely understand the personal buoy requirement, as there were times where I was completely alone and glad to be more visible. I would recommend this swim to anyone who is looking for a good, fun, warm, gorgeous, swim! I also want to add that I am so grateful to my mom for supporting me on this swim even though she would have rather been lounging by the pool.