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Race Result

Racer: Gwen Corley
Race: Ironman Arizona
Date: Sunday, April 9, 2006
Location: Tempe, AZ
Race Type: Triathlon - Ironman
Age Group: Female 45 - 49
Time: 13:53:17
Overall Place: 1097 / 1943
Age Group Place: 21 / 47
Comment: The walls of Jericho have come down!

Race Report:

Ironman Arizona Race Report

The short version:
Swim: 1:13:37
T1: 1:57
Bike: 6:47:41
T2: 5:57
Run: 5:39:43
Final: 13:53:17

The Long Version:
Time to get your favorite beverage and make yourself comfortable, this may take awhile.

My quest for an Ironman finish started in November, actually, at the end of the '05 tri season, I felt that '06 would be my turn to attempt this distance. I had two Half Iron distance races, one century ride and a couple of half marathons under my belt. I had been told by many RATS that it takes 5 years to train your body properly for triathlons, so that meant that 2006 was my year. I aged up this year and was looking for a good excuse to train hard in the winter. I stayed on board with Margie Shapiro as my coach. Two thumbs up for her expertise and encouragement!

There were two other things that helped to inspire me and get me out the door on the those cold winter mornings: One, was a sermon, preached by Rick Snow from Atlanta City Church about coming into your promised land. I held onto Joshua 1:9; “Haven't I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don't be timid; don't get discouraged. GOD, your God, is with you every step you take.” The second, came out of the Beth Moore bible study our women's group was doing at church. We had been studying about Joshua and the fall of Jericho, when I realized that this Ironman course was a 7 loop course. God spoke to me on a training ride about 8 weeks prior to the race; He promised me bone deep confidence when I crossed that finished line. So I remained diligent in my training and in my Bible Study. God had given me the confidence that I had done everything necessary to prepare for the big day. I still knew that it would hurt a lot, but I no longer worried about a DNF.

Our trek began on April 6th when my entourage (husband, Robert, his best friend, Tim Wilson and wife, Joyce and my son, Matthew) arrived in Tucson. Since I had no delusions of qualifying for Kona, I decided to rent a bike in Tucson, for $20, per day and fore go the hassle of taking mine apart or spending $225 to have tri transport take it out to AZ. I got a Cannondale R400, it even had the same pedals and saddle that I had been using on my Cervelo. I raced the first 4 years on a Cannondale R1000 so I was quickly reacclimated to my trusty steed. For another five bucks I had the use of a bike rack for the duration of the rental.

Since I am a native to Tucson, my parents still live there. My brother from Seattle and my brother from San Mateo, flew in for the weekend so the cousins could spend time together. I left Matthew with his Grandma Lolly and trusted that he would have a good time with cousins, Gary, Alida and Maggie. My sister, Gigi, was already in Phoenix attending a firefighter's conference. (She's a lieutenant for the city of Seattle). I got together with family Thursday night and Friday morning. Then we were off to Phoenix.

We arrived in Phoenix Friday afternoon, got registered, picked up transition and special needs bags, and got weighed. I ordered my ASI Photos without flinching, this proved to be a good investment, as these shots were really great. We made it to IronPrayer and got inspired by Heather Gollnick and other athletes. I was looking forward to spending race day with God.

Saturday, I had Inside-out Sports, replace my front tube, since it had flatted the day before. Just for grins I had them replace the back one as well. I got in a practice swim and was dismayed at how cold the water was. No way was I going to use a sleeveless wetsuit! I tried on the new Helix suit which was really sweet, but they didn't have one in my size. We were able to track down a suit at a local shop in Scottsdale and this ultimately saved me about $200.
I relaxed at the hotel for about an hour and then headed back to the Expo to drop off T1 and T2 bags and listen to the athletes briefing. Being a first timer, I wanted to make sure not to miss anything.

I returned to our hotel and had a home cooked meal of chicken, broccoli and potatoes. I did do the phosphate loading, and this seemed to help me some, but it's hard to tell since I have never done this distance before and I was expecting to be in a lot of pain anyway. I didn't have any stomach issues.

Race morning: Wake up at 4AM, I was grateful to get out of bed since I had been up and down all night using the bathroom. A combination nerves and hydrating the day before is not a good combination for my bladder.

For breakfast I made a burrito with leftover chicken added some eggs, had coffee and juice. We made it to the transition area by 5AM. I dropped of my special needs bags, got body marked and had time to use the porta-potty twice before they corralled us into the bike racking area so we could cross the timing mat and activate our chips.

When we dropped into the water, it looked like the March of the Penguins, I didn't heed Micheal's advice and somehow found myself near the front on the left side. This didn't seem to matter much and I floated around and waved to my entourage on the bridge while waiting for the cannon. I didn't get beaten up too badly and was only swam over one time. We swam directly into the rising sun, sighting wasn't so bad since there were so many people I just followed the crowd. After the turn around the yellow bouys were easy to sight and I was in the home stretch. I exited out the steps, took a peek at my watch and was very happy with my time. I ran down the gauntlet of “peelers” and two of them helped to yank off my wetsuit.

T1: 1:57
All I had to do in T1 was put on my shoes-n-socks, race jersey, helmet, glasses and grab my bike. I should have taken a few more seconds allowing the volunteers to spray sunscreen on my arms. The only part of me that got really burned was on my wrists and forearms, from being in areo position for so long. I only took a couple of blasts of sunscreen and then went on my merry way.

Bike: 6:47:41
I had my “Jericho trumpet” (party horn) in my jersey, I folded it in half and repositioned it to my bento box thinking this would make it last longer. It did survive two loops of the bike. The course was three loops and according to our pre-race briefing they had reconfigured it from last year and taken out 18 turns. Hooray!

I thought it was pretty humorous that the longest out and back section was on Beeline Highway. This was also the most scenic section as it was on the Papago Indian Reservation/Community. There was a beautiful butte that we headed toward and once past it, the turnaround quickly followed. Gradual incline on the way out and pretty fast decent on the way back. Easy rollers, but mostly flat. I loved this course!

I ate three purefit bars and drank two bottles of nuun and two of water and one of Gatorade for the first two loops. On the third loop I started to loose track of my nutrition so I just drank whenever I was thirsty and got down about three Accelgels.

On the first loop my brother, Tiger and sister, Gigi, had joined the entourage and they cheered wildly for me as I rode by. We blew our horns at each other and that kept me smiling through the second loop. On the second go around, Gigi was headed to Tucson and that left, Tiger, Robert, Tim and Joyce. More horn blowing and cheering ensued.

The third loop still felt great except for a hot spot that was developing on my left foot, where the cleat and pedal come together. I had to get out of the cleat and do some one-legged pedaling to let my foot cool down. Then the wind picked up some as I headed back to town on the last loop.

I kept thinking about and praying for the women back home who were marching around the church seven times, blowing the shofar, and praying for me. They were also praying about their “Jericho's” and deliverance into their promised land. I prayed that God would bless them for their faithfulness. I'd check my watch every so often and guesstimate what time it was back home and what miracles God was working in their lives.

There were several riders that played tag with me on the ride. Sometimes we would call each other by name since these were on our race numbers. Some would say, “On your left Corley. Or How you feeling Corley?” Alfredo was making my crave pasta and Richard was annoying until I saw him take a few puffs on his inhaler so I just hoped he would be able to keep going. There were several I would pass and egg them on to take the guy ahead of us. Leap frogging along the Beeline Hghwy was great fun.

T2: 5:57 Coming into T2 was exhilarating! Big crowd and lots of cheers. I got off the bike and hobbled along. Handed my bike to a bike handler. The foot was really hurting. I took off my shoes thinking it might be easier to traverse the transition area in socks, NOT! I hopped/trotted to get my bag and went to the changing tent. An angel of a volunteer, tended to my needs, sunscreen and wet sponge. With fresh socks, shorts, jersey and shoes I was new woman!

I left T2 tooting a new horn and getting the crowd all riled up. Miraculously, the foot pain was gone. I stuck to my plan of walking the aide stations and “running” the mile in between each station. The plan was to drink at every station and take a gel at every other station. Shortly into the run I couldn't remember whether I was supposed to eat or drink. So I made sure to at least drink at every station and I ate if I felt like the tummy could handle it. I blew my horn at most aide stations and for crowds of people. Some folks would even ask me to give them a toot. My race number had my first name on it and many spectators would call me by name to cheer me on. I was feeling really special!

At around mile 6 the aide station was blasting tunes and the Doobie Brothers were singing, “Jesus is just alright with me.” I gave an extra shout of praise to my Lord as I left that station and had greater strength remembering that He was with me. That song stuck with me for the next loop.

At mile 9 there was an inspiration board and Robert, Tim and Joyce had a message waiting for me there. That was really cool.

About halfway through the second loop, a tall Guzek-type fella, is power walking next to me. He tells me I'm setting a good pace. I'm thinking yeah right, this is running for me and you're WALKING! He tells me he's from Phoenix and did the race last year and by this time last year he was already done. He says it's time to start training more seriously so he puts it in gear and motors off. I had a few other little chit chats with fellow competitors along the way. It was on this loop that I decided to try some Coke. It was still fizzy so I burped for about half a mile. Then...UH OH...I had to go...this was the opposite issue that Frosty had encountered in Kona last year. Would I make it to the porta-loo in time?

I tooted my horn at my entourage as I scooted by. Joyce is yelling at me, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I am thinking, “Now is the time pray, sister!” Down the hill and around the corner I knew relief was in sight. But, DRAT, both potties at the beginning of the aide station were occupied. I thought I recognized the pastor from the previous IronPrayer, and he recognized my jersey and said, “Yeah, Tri-4-Christ! Bless you!” I mumbled something and continued my quest for a vacant loo. Finally, last one on the left was open.... AAAHH relief! A volunteer at that aide station asked if I was o.k. I said I was now! I had given up on bladder control hours ago but this was of a more serious nature. Now I was ready to hit my stride again. Albeit a not so blazing 12 minute pace.

The run was three loops, I think I was headed out on the last one when the sun was setting. A beautiful sight as I crossed one of the bridges. The pain was pretty constant in my legs, but not unbearable. I kept trudging along. The girl with pom poms at the Doobie Brothers aide station asked what lap I was on and how was I feeling. I think she was checking to see if I was still oriented to person, time and place. Yep, oriented X3, keep going. By mile 22 I was pretty much done eating, but took a fig newton from a nice volunteer.

Then, finally the finish line! I had taken a small air horn from my special needs bag and had it my jersey pocket. I tooted my party horn as I came down the shoot, then I blasted the air horn as I saw the finish line! Victory was mine. The master of ceremonies announces that “Gwen Corley you are an Ironman!” I am greeted by one last angelic volunteer who gets me a space blanket, cold wash cloth, my finishers bag with hat and t-shirt and my medal. I sat briefly on a chair in the recovery area, I thank God that He got me to the finish line and praise him for his blessing. He had imploded the walls of my “Jericho”-no longer would I be held captive by self-doubt, self-loathing and depression. These enemies were crushed and defeated at that moment, once and for all, Hallelujah!!

Robert finds me quickly and gives me hugs and kisses. I get my photo taken and hobble off to the transition areas to reclaim my belongings. Joyce had my recovery drink ready (Cliff Shot Vanilla, freebie from the Expo) I was unable to eat solid food until we got back to the hotel. Once there I showered, ate pizza, and slept.

Lessons learned:
Heart rate monitoring during training is very effective. Heart rate monitoring during races not as important as just listening to your body. My HR on the bike stayed in zones 3 and 4 as opposed to the recommended zone 2. My HR on the run was Zone 3-4 until the last loop when it finally came down to zone 2

Inside-Out sports rents bikes right at the Expo and this saves money and hassle of bike transport.

Long sleeve wetsuit, good investment.

When I do another Ironman, I will need to go with a different pedal or at least pay more attention to exact location of cleat.

Volunteers are definitely from heaven.

Final thoughts:
By Wednesday, a two hour hike in the Grand Canyon and a couple of margaritas from the Yipee-i-oo Saloon took care of the remaining leg pain. Now I'm ready for the 2006 race season. Thanks for reading!