Saturday, December 5, 2009

Ironman Arizona 2009 Race Report

My stomach felt empty. I remembered eating my breakfast of a bagel with PB, honey and banana, but I still felt like a bottomless pit. I crossed my arms in front of my face and put my head down on my desk at work. It was 8 a.m. on Monday, the Monday before my second Ironman. Why was I so nervous? I’d done this once before and done it well, but for some reason my nerves were getting the best of me.

Why was this happening, I thought as my breath heated up the confined space I had made for my head between my crossed arms and my desk. A couple reasons came to me. The first: Last year I was living in Chicago and had taken the entire week off work and flown to Arizona on Monday to spend the whole week preparing for the race. This year I was working all week long, AND my mom was coming into town. The fact my mom was coming for support shouldn’t have been a nerve wracking factor, but now I am brought to my second reason for my unexpected feeling: she wanted to shop for wedding dresses… the day before the race. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to get married, but my mind was not on my wedding this week, it was on the 140.6 miles I would take on this Sunday.

I planned to have the whole wedding thing blocked from my mind until after the race, but she brought it back, and instead of taking my mind off the race, it made my nerves worse. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday went by slowly. I completed my little taper workouts and did my best to eat well and avoid overeating. I was feeling pretty good and had things under control until Thursday rolled around.

Thursday morning I woke up and decided I would go down to Tempe Town Lake for a little taper run, quick swim in my wetsuit in the Tempe Town Toilet and go through registration. I had to be at work by noon because I had a marketing event during the afternoon with DK, but I had four hours to get everything done, shower and get there. My mom was also landing that night at 7 and I planned to pick her up at the airport and bring her to meet Brian’s dad at our weekly pizza night get together.

Anyway, I got to the lake around 9 a.m. and parked at the Tempe Arts Center. I decided to run a half loop of the course easy, then grab my wetsuit and go in for a 20 minute swim in the dreaded lake. As I was running around the lake I noticed people were swimming already. WHAT?! I thought the swim was from 10-12. I pushed a little harder than I wanted to in order to get back to the car, grab my wetsuit and get in that lake for at least a little swim. Friday I knew I had to work in the morning and Saturday I knew I’d be out of luck because there was no way Brian would want to swim in the dirty lake. My heart rate rose because I was nervous I would miss my chance to submerge myself in that beautiful murky and smelly water. By the time I got my wetsuit on, I heard the announcer say “15 minutes left to swim!” I threw everything in my huge Blue Seventy transition bag (thank God for that bag!), checked it in and practically cannon balled into the cold water.

OUCH! That water was cold! I swam under the bridge and out to the big red bouy. I felt pretty good, but as usual people were passing me like I wasn’t moving, and my sprits sunk just a little. I turned around, swam as far east as I could until I was forced to make my way back to the bleachers as they were closing the swim. I pulled myself out of the water, and scrubbed my face as hard as I could with my wet hands to get the disgusting clammy dirt off my face that I always have after swimming in that lake. I pulled off my wetsuit, gathered my stuff and made my way to the registration line.

WHAT!!! Again my heart began to beat unnecessarily fast when I saw the length of the line. There had to be hundreds of people ahead of me. I glanced at my watch, waited in the line for an hour and moved about 20 feet. I texted DK and told him the line was ridiculous and I would do my best to make it to work by 12. No answer. Frustrated, I dropped out of the line deciding I would try again tomorrow because there was no way I would make it to work at this rate. It was then that I noticed the Erin Baker’s tent in the distance.

I decided to make a quick stop at the tent to introduce myself to whoever was over there. I had yet to meet anyone on my Erin Baker’s Triathlon Team yet except for Katie who lived in my hometown in IL. I was surprised to see Erin working the tent! I introduced myself to her, chatted for a few minutes, grabbed a cup of my most favorite granola in the world, chocolate chunk, then jogged back to my car. I frantically drove out of the parking lot, worried I wouldn’t have time to shower and get to work on time. I kept telling myself to calm down, but I couldn’t control my emotions. It only got worse.

The event went fine, but even DK said he could see the almost-tears in my eyes and could tell something was wrong. I decided to take Friday off work so I could avoid getting stressed out with registration and work again, spend time with my mom and just relax. I picked up my mom at the airport and we had a good evening at Brian’s dads. My stomach started to settle again!

Friday Brian and I met up with our friend Chris and his girlfriend who were in town for the race from Kansas. They were staying at Adam’s apartment nearby and wanted to follow us to Tempe Town Lake since they didn’t know their way around. The line was crazy long again, but the wait didn’t seem that bad with all the granola I had to eat! We got through in about an hour and headed home after stopping by to say hi to Erin again. I also met Tim Matthews, another team member, as well as Kevin Sullivan. Everyone was very nice and surprisingly calm! Was I the only one nervous?

I had made an appointment with my massage therapist Melissa for both my mom and I on Friday as well, so I went and picked her up and off we went back to Tempe. I’m glad I decided to do this because it helped me relax a little. We went out to eat at Ghangis Grill at Tempe Marketplace that night after we picked up Brian, and it was delicious as usual (we love that place!)I loaded up on shrimp, tofu, veggies and rice. I also took my mom to see the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, our wedding location, and was happy that she fell in love with it as much as I had.

As if I didn’t have enough going on, I tried to change the tires on my bike three times, and each time my back tire would go flat within 30 minutes. I was so frustrated I ran over to Curbside and Mike was kind enough to check my bike over for me. My back wheel is a little iffy, you might say, because it is the same wheel I crashed on my ride to Tucson a couple months ago. It was practically taco’d, but I can’t afford new wheels and just had to get it trued and move on. I was nervous something was wrong with it that was poking my tube or something. I picked it up Friday night after Mike had fixed everything and calmed me down a bit!

Saturday morning Brian and I packed the van with our transition bags and bikes and drove down to Tempe Town Lake. We did a short ride and run before dropping our bikes and bags off in transition. Then it was wedding dress shopping time! I stopped by work, where Dr. James was nice enough to meet me for a pre-race adjustment and I looked up directions to Uptown Bridal in Chandler. Again I cannot express how much incorporating chiropractic into my life has improved my racing and helped my training, but that is an entirely different post meant for a different time! This report is already long enough and I haven’t even gotten to the race yet.

Unexpectedly, I had an amazing time trying on wedding dresses! Not to mention, I think I found “the one” as well! I stopped by Trader Joe’s on the way home and picked up some chicken, pasta and veggies for dinner. I saw Kymmie there, who wished me good luck and told me I wouldn’t need it anyway! Amazing how it’s the little things that calm you down and really make an impact. My mom went out to dinner with a friend and Brian and I ate and hit the hay.

We got in bed at about 8 p.m. but I could NOT sleep! I did not have that problem last year either, but I definitely tossed around for five hours at least. I did not get much sleep at all. In the morning we got up at 4 a.m. I had my breakfast of two packets of Kashi cinnamon and honey oatmeal with a scoop of protein powder and a banana. I put on my race outfit, washed my face, brushed my teeth, bundled up, kissed my dog Hannah goodbye and we were out the door. I also brought with me a bottle of Gatorade to sip on until the start and a gel and 200 mg of caffeine to take before the start as well.

We drove the big red van to Ash Ave. and parked in the parking garage. Last year I remembered being practically the first on there when I arrived at 5 a.m., but this year it seemed like everyone was their already! I hit the port-a-potty first thing, but couldn’t go. I try to avoid the lines as much as possible, but my bodily functions didn’t seem to be on my side this morning. In transition I had Landis pump up my tires and I filled my aero bottle with 3 cups of Gatorade and 200 calories of Carbo Pro. I also had one Polar water bottle on my frame.

After doing a once-over on my bike, I found Brian again and we walked to drop off my special needs bags (he didn’t use any) near the lake. We were there so early that we didn’t really know what to do with ourselves after that. We ended up sitting together on the edge of Tempe Town Lake people watching for about 30 minutes. We would see our friends, but didn’t really say anything. We were both concentrating on our races. With about 30 minutes until start time, I began putting on my wetsuit underneath the Mill Ave. bridge. Brian was getting worked up because he couldn’t find his twin, Adam, who was hanging out with his girlfriend on the other side of transition. I tried not to let it get to me, so I concentrated on my race instead of worrying about where he was. We ended up finding him after we dropped off our dry clothes bags and we walked together over the timing mat.

SWIM 1:12

The boys wanted to wait until the very last minute to jump into the cold water, but I was getting anxious. After some hugs and good lucks I climbed over the edge of the lake and worked my way down to the water with about 10 minutes until start time. I jumped in and swam like a pencil - my legs straight down and just moving my arms – out to the bridge. I positioned myself more toward the front in the middle of the pack. I really wanted to be to the farthest inside of everyone, but there were so many people in the water I gave up and settled for the spot I was already in.

The gun went off and the washing machine known as the Ironman mass start swim began. I couldn’t see the buoys at all, and I figured I should just make sure I was always in a pack of people and I would save time trying to sight the buoys on every stroke. With every breath I took though, it seemed like the person next to me would shove water straight down my throat. With each huge swallow of that gross lake water I started to worry more and more about how my stomach would feel when I got on the bike. I knew it wouldn’t be good, so I tried to swim left and get away from the mass. I swam the second half of the swim practically touching each bouy, if not to the left of them, and though there were less people, I still would get random mouthfuls of water from the people next to me. On a positive note, I never cramped during the swim this year like I did last year, and I felt decent the entire time. I was a tiny bit nervous beforehand because I had a bad 4000 meter open water swim race the week before. I dwelled on the thought that my swim fitness just wasn’t there for a week after that race. When I reached the bleachers and my watch said 1:12 I immediately had a huge smile on my face. A 3 minute PR from last year!

T1 – 5 minutes

I plopped down in front of the first wetsuit stripper I saw. They did a good job and I ran quickly down the shoot to the changing tents. Again like last year I did not have any help in T1. What is with all the stories of how people enter T1 and don’t even have to dress themselves! Shhesh! I was better prepared this year though and had my bike jersey rolled up into a ball in my transition bag with the pockets already stuffed with my nutrition and bike needs. It was so easy to just put it on, throw on my helmet, shoes and sunglasses and go! I didn’t need anyone’s help anyway.

Bike – 5:55

I ran out of T1 realizing I forgot sunscreen. Oh well. My bike was in the worst spot – all the way down one of the rows - so I was a little annoyed when I had to go get it and dodge around everyone else’s wheels trying to get out of my row. Once on the bike I took down a gel and sipped some Gatorade. I was feeling pretty good! My nutrition plan was to consume a combined amount of 300 calories an hour from gels, Gatorade and Carbo Pro. I would take a gel every 45 minutes and make sure I had a portion of my bottle down every hour, as well as swallow one Endurolyte tablet an hour.

The bike was a draft fest. There were many points where I just didn’t know what to do because I would be holding a safe distance behind the person in front of me, and all of a sudden a giant pack of 20 people would come up and I would be engulfed in their peloton. I would get frustrated, slow way down and drop far behind because I didn’t want a penalty. But each time this happened, and it happened a lot, I knew it was hurting my time a lot to slow down so much to let them go. By the time I got out to the Beeline, about 10 miles into the first loop, my stomach started to lock up. When the time rolled around for another gel even the thought of consuming it made me nauseous. What was going on? This had never happened before! I had trained like this, weekend after weekend, with the same nutrition, and felt like a million bucks each time! The only solution I had was all the Tempe Town Lake water I swallowed on the swim.

I slowly started falling off my nutrition plan, putting entire gels in my mouth that would go no further than exactly that – IN MY MOUTH! I could not force myself to swallow them! Eventually I decided to try my Clif blocks I had in my pocket as a reserve. I got them down no problem and started feeling a little better, but I had to pee so bad! I saw everyone else peeing on their bikes, and I really didn’t want to stop and lose time, so I tried really hard to pee. Stop pedaling, stand up, lean to the side, sit down, nothing worked! I could not pee! I finally broke down and stopped at the port-a-potty by the special needs bags on the second loop and went to the bathroom. I gathered my thoughts and motivated myself to get back out there, feel better, and throw it down!

When I got back on the bike I felt so much better! My stomach felt good again and I was able to get back on track and get some gels down and continue with Gatorade ad water. I saw Dan and Paige on the bike, as well as Tim from my Baker’s team and that was fun, but I still never felt quite right. At least my legs were moving and I wasn’t going too slow. When I finished the bike and looked at my watch I couldn’t believe I had broken 6 hours considering my stomach issues, slowing to let draft packs go, and the stop I had to make to go to the bathroom.

T2 – 3 minutes

I ran into T2 pretty excited about my time. I was well ahead of my time last year already and I hadn’t even gotten to my strong event yet! This time I had help in transition, which was amazing! I stripped off my tri shorts and put on a fresh pair of running shorts and that felt awesome! I put on my pink fanny pack that already had my nutrition in it and stripped off my tri top into just a Baker’s sports bra tank Jane had given me from a couple years ago. I threw on my trusty Nike hat and off I went , remembering sunscreen this time J

Run – 4:03

I ran out of T1 white with sunscreen all over my body. As I was running and rubbing it in I saw my mom for the first time the entire day! I waved to her and told her I loved her as I passed and she took video. I wanted to run a 3:40 marathon, and every single training weekend I had I felt simply awesome on the run after my long century+ rides. But this time felt different. It felt different than any other time I had run in my life. My stomach felt ok, but my legs felt like rocks. I decided to slow the pace a little, in order to be consistent the entire run. The first two laps went alright, but I knew in my head I was capable of more so I started to get a little depressed. What was wrong with me!!!!!!!!!?!?!?!?

My stomach started to lock up again and again I couldn’t get any gels down. During the second lap I switched to bananas instead of gels and kept the Gatorade and water at every aid station. But it didn’t help, my legs just felt worse and worse with each step, but I refused to let myself walk. It was simply out of the question, because I knew as soon as I walked my mentality would be done, and as long as I was running, no matter how slow, in my mind I was at least doing OK and would make it. I started singing “put one foot in front of the other, and soon you’ll be walking out the door!” from the stupid old Christmas movies. I don’t know where it came from or why, but it helped me keep running and that’s all I cared about, no matter how crazy I looked or sounded. I was getting to that finish line!

I saw Adam on the Rural Rd. bridge and he yelled, “Go Cori” and I yelled back at him. I never saw Brian though and started getting worried. I passed Ted under the Mill Ave. bridge at the start of my third lap and yelled, “Where’s Brian?” Ted yelled, “He’s right here, he’s ok.” I saw Brian pacing back and forth behind them and thought, either he killed the race or something happened and he dropped out. I trucked on, in some crazy paid I’d never felt before, and about a mile into the third lap a girl passed me with a 24 on her calf. Ouch! Shot to the heart, and only I could be to blame. Or was it the dirty Tempe Town Toilet Water? Both. I tried to pick up my pace but I was locked. I could not move my legs any faster. I got over it and just kept telling myself, “You WILL be an Ironman again.” Over and over.

I saw Bryan Geshwell, the captain of my Erin Baker’s team, running as I came around on the last couple miles. I screamed, “Go Bryan” with all the energy I had because I knew it was his first race and I wanted to give him some encouragement! I think I blew more energy than expected on that because last year when I was a couple miles out my adrenaline took over and I practically sprinted to the line, this year, well, not so much. All I could think of was the pain… all the way to the line! I wanted to be done so bad! I saw Patrick at the end of the third loop and I was lost. Either I’d lost my mind, or they moved the finish line shoot! I had to ask him where to go! He pointed me to the left and I ran up through a parking lot to the shoot. I saw tons of friends, as well as my Mom, Hannah, Brian’s dad and Eric screaming for me! Finally I could feel my legs again and I gave the last 200 meters a pretty darn good effort! I came across the line, arms up and smiling, in 11 hours, 19 minutes and 40 seconds. I was an Ironman again! Not to mention a 27 minute PR!

Immediately I saw Brian and threw my arms around him over the fence. My mom walked through the crowd with Hannah in her arms. Hannah decided to lick everyone’s face my mom passed while she was holding her and I laughed as I hobbled toward them. I was a happy camper, and the only thing on my mind was pizza and chocolate chip cookies! I loaded up and laid on the grass with my family, Dr. James and Melissa. I felt lucky to have such amazing people in my life! I called my dad and thanked him for making me (literally) able to do this with my body. After the race I wanted pizza, pizza and more pizza, so we all went home and ordered Nello’s to my apartment. MMMMMMMM.

All in all, I am very happy with my race, considering a 27 minute PR from last year and a podium finish with third place in my age group. I learned a lot this year, particularly from this race, and can’t wait to use my wisdom next year. I am ready though, seriously READY, so stop holding back and really go for it. It is time. My two year introduction to triathlon is over, and it’s time to get in the game.

I want to thank my coach, Lindsay, for all of her hard work and putting up with me, all of my amazing TriScottsdale Gage Racing training partners – I would never have made it through those 110 degree century rides without you, my wonderful family and friends for all their support and acceptance of my very time consuming hobby, Brian for turning me into a Folts on the bike and of course my baby Hannah for all the taper runs and sprint workouts that wouldn’t have been possible unless I had a leash attached to my hand and her pulling me!

For now, I’m going to take an off season from triathlon, do a couple running races, casual training and work on my swim. But come next year… WATCH OUT WORLD