Cozumel, Mexico, is famous for basically one thing: scuba diving and snorkeling. It’s world renowned for its coral reefs and beautiful, clear blue waters. People enjoy all sorts of water sports in Cozumel, as well as paying to swim with manta rays or dolphins. I am not a big fan of any of these activities due to my love/hate relationship with water and the ocean in particular. So, about 3 months ago, my wife reluctantly decided to go along with me in doing the Amazing Cozumel Race, and we signed up for it in advance.
The Amazing Cozumel Race is designed after the reality T.V. show the Amazing Race. That’s basically all we knew about it going in. We liked watching that show the one summer we lived with my parents in 2008, and I liked the idea of not just sitting around on a beach drinking all day and actually seeing the city of Cozumel. I also know nothing about the city of Cozumel, so this morning I was kind of worried that we would get lost or mugged or kidnapped, or worse, lose. I didn’t want to lose.
Out of 2500 people from two cruise ships, a total of 7 (including us) signed up for the Amazing Cozumel Race. The weather was terrible for being on the beach today, which made us more happy for our choice. My wife, who is as competitive if not more so than me, started thinking we could actually win this thing. Three teams? And we are one of them? Come on. Too easy. Alonso, the guy running the event, gave us all sorts of rules for the race and maps were provided with possible locations for clues. A key for deciphering the Mayan numerical system and a guide book to Cozumel were also provided. And a cell phone. The cell phone was probably a good idea, but it made me slightly nervous. Will I need a cell phone?
Starting in Margaritaville (where else?), all the teams raced towards the first clue location. Except for us. We walked, mostly. Jessey isn’t one for running. She told me that I could run ahead of her, and I said, “I could run up there, get the clue, and then wait for you, or just stay with you and we can do it together. I would rather stay with you than win this race.” I meant those words. I wanted to win, but I didn’t want to win on my own. If we were going to win, WE were going to win. Not me.
After receiving passes to the local museum and deciphering way too long of a cipher, shouting, “I love Del Sol!” in a Del Sol (still no idea what Del Sol is except “Of the sun”), and getting a henna tattoo with the Mayan number four (….), we raced to the pier. One team was ahead of us by two minutes, but we all waited at this checkpoint for the final group to arrive. We would have to make up those two minutes if we wanted to win, but we were grateful for the rest (we had walked/jogged about 2.5 miles at this point).
The next task was to charter a boat out to a sunken ship and read the name of the ship by snorkeling. As we rode further out into the Gulf, I was more confident than ever that Jessey was going to be the one snorkeling. I hate snorkeling 15 feet from the beach, let alone 1 kilometer from the coast. When we arrived to the sunken ship, Jessey and 3 others from the other groups jumped in and started snorkeling/trying to read the name of the sunken ship. Jessey said it was awesome. I am still glad that I have to take her word for it.
The next task was another cipher which involved counting words and letters to find the next clue. We blew through this task, killing the other two teams who were also deciphering at the same time. “Slow and steady wins the race”, I thought, as we walked/jogged to the Benito Juarez statue in town square. From there we raced to another clue which involved asking a local the meaning of the name Cozumel. The lady we asked was working in a pharmacy on the corner. She laughed and said no to our request. I wanted to shout at her (it was rather intense at the time), but then she pointed to the answer and told us where to go next. She was in on it. I really need to relax.
We actually ran to the Mercado Municipal, knowing that the clue we would find in there would lead us to the finish line. Jessey was starting to believe again that we were going to win this race. I wasn’t sure, as the group who already had two minutes on us were working on the previous clue at the same time as us, but I ran joyfully because I wanted to win too.
The next two clues, one in an ear of corn (yes in) and one in a baby shoe led us to Mama Linda’s restaurant, about 4 blocks away. We ran and ran, stopped, asked for directions, and ran, and stopped, and ran, and stopped, and finally found Mama Linda’s.
We were the first to arrive, but we knew that we needed to beat the team behind us by at least two minutes to make up for the two minutes they had on us way back at the pier. We got drinks and sat down for what felt like an eternity, and with each passing moment we tangibly felt more excited that we had likely won the race.
Officially, our time was 1:17:00, and the other two teams finished at 1:20:00 and 1:41:00. We won the Amazing Cozumel Race, received medals, took pictures, and supremely enjoyed the event. I remembered back to the bike race I won not even a month back, and how I felt like I missed out on the whole fun of the event by only trying to win. Today, with my partner, friend, and wife, I enjoyed the race and we still won. And the winning was so much better. To quote myself, from a song I wrote as a tongue-in-cheek poke at the Iraq War, “We don’t care about winning or losing, we play for the fun of the game.” And when you play for fun and win, the winning is so much sweeter.