It’s that time of year again! Race season! I’ll be kicking off my 2018 race season in just a few days. This year, I’ve selected the Campeche 70.3 as my first race of the season.
A World Heritage Site
Campeche is the capital city of Campeche, a state in Mexico. The city was founded in 1540, on top of what was an Indigenous village called “Ah Kim Pech.” The city was terrorized for nearly a century by pirates and marauders, and was sacked in 1663. The city began building fortifications in 1686, and today it stands as an eminent example of 17th and 18th century Spanish military architecture. The city’s preservation and quality of these fortifications earned it a World Heritage Site designation from UNESCO in 1999. Hope that the course goes through some cool locations and I will have some time to check out the old city.
Campeche is a Caribbean port town, which is why the city has been plagued by pirates for so much of its history. The state itself is rather flat and boasts more than 500 kilometers of shoreline, including the location of the city. Campeche itself is known for its rolling hills, including Maxtum, Boxol, and El Morro. The hills break up the landscape, climbing up to a maximum of 100 meters.
Climate-wise, Campeche is classified as a tropical savanna type climate. It has a wet season from June to October, followed by a dry season. On race day they are calling fro a high of 39c. I am going have to hydrate really well. The warm climate and beaches supports Campeche’s rich ecosystems, which include mangrove wetlands and rainforests. Campeche receives around 265 hours of sunshine in the month of March.
I’m not overly partial to the heat, but I do prefer warm and sunny conditions to the cold and snow we typically see in March in Canada!
The Course Itself
The swim takes place on a 1.9km loop through the Gulf of Mexico, with the start line at the Campeche Country Club. Out of T1, we’ll be connecting with the Merida Highway, which runs through Yucatan, connecting the city of Merida with Cancun. The 90km bike course will have us loop around twice. There are a few hills during the first section of the course, but, like most of the state of Campeche, the course is relatively flat.
The run course is also two loops, flat, and fast. We’ll be running along Campeche Bay before making our way to the finish line at the convention center.
Campeche promises a fast and exciting race, particularly with some of the other athletes who will be lining up to start the race with me.
To put it simply, I’m going to Campeche because the dates fit. I like to start my race season around mid-March, and Campeche’s March 18 date first the bill perfectly.
Campeche isn’t a race I’ve been to before, but I’ve been slowly exploring more of the races in Mexico. I’ve attended Cozumel before, and last year, I raced in Los Cabos, in Baja California—at the virtual opposite end of the country, in the northwest. Campeche brings me to the southeastern end of Mexico, to explore the Yucatan peninsula.
It also gives me a chance to see Mexico in the spring, rather than late in the year. It will be interesting to test myself in this environment early on in the season. I have only visit Mexico late in the year, often when I’m feeling the strain of an already-long season. It will be nice to see what my body can do this early in the year.
I’m also beginning to love warm weather races! While I haven’t historically done well in the heat and humidity in the past, it’s something I’ve been trying to overcome. As they say, mind over matter. This is so true when it comes to racing. If you think you can’t do something, then you can’t. If you think you melt in the heat, then you’ll meltdown, almost guaranteed. Campeche offers me another chance to continue putting those struggles behind me. Just got to keep thinking its only 20c out there trick myself a little.
Last year, I kicked off the year with a warm weather race about the same time, and I finished Puerto Rico with a win. I want to see how I do in Campeche. While I’d love to start my season the same way and come out of the box swinging. This is a different race, a different season, all I can do is get out there and go for it.
Why Not Puerto Rico?
Most athletes return to the races that they have won before to try and defend their titles. The Puerto Rico 70.3 is listed as an event again for 2018. But you probably know that Puerto Rico was hard hit by not one, but two hurricanes last September. As of February, only 75 percent of the island had power restored. For a majority of the island, the power outage lasted from September to February, and there are still some residents—a quarter of the population—without power.
While Puerto Rico was listed, there was a lot of uncertainty about the way the event would unfold this year, in the wake of the devastation of the hurricanes. How do you hold an Ironman event if you don’t have power to the majority of the island? As the people of Puerto Rico have been dealing with disaster-relief efforts for months now, their focus isn’t on hosting an Ironman event.
While it appears Puerto Rico is still on for this year, they chose to not have a professional race. I fully understand that having a professional triathlon is not high on the list for Puerto Rico and I really hope that their recovery continues to go well and that they have the race there in 2019. It was one of the most exciting events I went to last year.
All in all, Campeche seemed like the right choice. While I’d love to return to Puerto Rico in the future, things just didn’t align this year.
A Vacation Destination
The logistics of racing aside, Campeche has a lot to recommend it. As mentioned, it’s a World Heritage Site, and the colonial architecture, and the seawall fortifications, make for an interesting backdrop. They’re a huge tourist draw for the town. There are also two 18th-century Spanish forts located nearby. Finally, the site was originally a Mayan village, and Mayan heritage is still apparent in many ways in Campeche. Historic sites tell us about how the Mayan people’s ancestors lived, while people of Mayan descent still inhabit the area today.
Campeche is also a nice alternative to larger tourist centres in Mexico. Cancun is perhaps the best-known city on the Yucatan peninsula, but it’s almost always humming with cheap resort vacationers. At this time in March, it will be buzzing with spring breakers seeking a chance to party and get out of the cold. The nearby Quintana Roo is popular as a destination for more adventurous tourists, thanks to its Mayan heritage sites and its deep rainforest geography. This will make travel a little difficult but there are a few airports close by to fly into.
Campeche provides a wonderful alternative to these sites. While I don’t usually make it a habit to hang around long after a race, I think there’s plenty to explore in Campeche. As a history student I am always interested in old ruins and architecture. Maybe one day I will get to race in Rome or Greece and see all the things I studied in real life.
The Where and When
The Campeche 70.3 takes place on Sunday, March 18, 2018. The start will be at 7:00 am for the male pros. I’ll be standing on that start line, waiting for the starter gun, ready to dive in to my first race and my 2018 season.