Friday, February 03, 2017


Ironman Chattanooga 2016

Corey Nelson --
“Why would anyone do this to themselves?” That's a good question. A question I've heard many times. A question that I heard several times on race day. One I asked myself during the first miles of the run. One I heard from the medical volunteers while I was laying in their medical tent getting multiple IV bags drained into my arm, along with literally hundreds of other athletes throughout the day. Why would anyone do this to themselves? I finished Ironman Louisville back in 2014, when the high temperature on race day was 97 degrees. It was miserable. I crossed the finish line that day and became an Ironman. So why do it again? Why put myself through the months of training, the 4am bike rides, the late night long runs, swimming lap after lap after lap when I didn't really want to be there. Why do all that work just to be exhausted, in pain, sick, hot, and miserable for 13+ hours?

When I completed Ironman Louisville, it was one of the best experiences of my life. It was hard, and tiring, and
painful, but at the same time, it was amazing. I was almost immediately ready to sign up to do it again. It took a year, but I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga 2016 the day after the 2015 race. I spent the next 12 months preparing for it. In the process, I changed jobs and my training availability changed as well. My weekday workouts were now starting at 4 am, and after 9 pm, and weekend long workouts were starting as early as 3 am in an attempt to relieve stress on family time. I had a good friend, Imran Mahmood, who signed up to do his 1st Ironman, but due to his work schedule, we were only able to train together maybe a dozen times. We both followed the same training plan that I used for IM Louisville, which is a free generic training plan from The plan is a 36 week, 3 stage plan that has a 12 week “build” stage, a 20 week “competitive” stage, and a 4 week “taper”. Both times I’ve hit a point at about 12 weeks out where I just didn’t want to do anything. I just got burned out. I decided to follow this plan again because I felt it would give me long enough to get ready and build up distance without getting injured. I was successful until 4 weeks out during my last “long” run, when I developed a severe pain on the top outer part of my right foot. I cut it short at mile 11 hoping to not cause further injury. Unfortunately, the damage was done and by the time I got home, the top of my foot had a 2” diameter bruise and hurt to walk. I was hoping I hadn’t just ended my chances of racing. I made a visit to Rehab Etc., where my mom works in the office, and saw the head therapist Jim. He suggested a visit to an orthopedic to make sure there was no further damage to the tendons or ligaments. Fortunately, there wasn’t, it was just tendonitis, but I was restricted to wearing a boot for 10-14 days with no running. I made it with the boot for 8 days. Over the next 3 weeks, I was able to get on the AlterG anti-gravity treadmill to try and keep some running fitness without risking further injury.

I made it to race week and Imran and I arrived in Chattanooga a couple of days out. I got checked in to the race and settled at the hotel Friday morning and KT, the kids, and my parents arrived that night. It was already hot, and the forecast for race day didn’t look very pleasant. The forecast called for sunny, with a high of 93. The weekend before was 81 (the weekend after ended up being 83). There wasn’t anything we could do except adjust to the temperature, meaning more fluids, slower pace, etc. Race morning came and we made our way to transition to add fuel to our bikes and air up our tires. With one IM worth of experience, I made it thru my pre-planned checklist fairly quickly with no problems. Imran on the other hand, had a problem with one of his valve extenders that kept him from being able to air up his tires. He had to get the on-site bike tech to replace it before we could hop on the bus to head to the swim start. Luckily, he was able to get it fixed and off we were, on our way to line up for the start of our long day. We lined up in the start line about 6:30 (for the 7:30 start) and were pretty far back in line. This IM race is similar to IM Louisville in that the swim start is a time trial format, or single file line one person starts at a time. With approximately 2700 athletes, they anticipated having everyone in the water by 8:00am. As 7:30 approached, I wondered where Katie and all of our families were. They were supposed to come meet us in line before the race started. About that time Frank, Katie’s dad, showed up. He asked where everybody was, and said they had all gone off and left him. It turned out that they had forgotten about the shuttles carrying people to the start line, so they ran 2+ miles to get to the start. Frank simply got on the shuttle and beat them all there. Either way, they all made it to the starting area in time and we were able to see them before we started.

As we walked slowly towards the dock that we would jump off to start the race, I was trying to stay relaxed. I had decided before that I would try not to let the music, announcer, and crowd get me too excited. So I talked to Imran and tried my best to ignore the excitement while still taking in the experience. I walked the whole way and just let people pass me who were really excited and wanted to run to the dock. We made it to the dock and I could finally see down the river where we’d be swimming. At that moment, I felt a rush of nervousness over my body. I gave Imran a high five, started my watch, and jumped in the river.

This swim course is a 2.4 mile, point to point, 100% downstream swim. I had purposefully spent less time swimming during my training, and more time running and riding, because I knew I would have the current helping me the entire time. I tried to stay relaxed and just swim easy the entire time. During training and IM Louisville, I had problems feeling nauseous/dizzy and had cramping in my feet while swimming longer distance non-stop, so I was worried about that coming into this swim. Luckily I didn’t have any of those problems and I was able to swim the entire distance without ever breaking stride. I came to the swim exit and was happy to be out of the water.

Swim: 2.4 miles - 1:04:20 – 1:39/100m

T1: 6:16

As I exited the water, I didn’t feel dizzy as I normally do, so I decided to run easy from the swim exit to transition, all the while scanning the crowd for Katie and the kids. As I entered transition, I heard everyone scream my name and I was able to see everyone and give them a wave. I found my T1 bag with no problem and made my way to the changing tent. One of the areas that I felt I could improve on from IM Louisville was my transition times. In Louisville, I spent nearly 30 minutes total in transition. I knew I could cut some time there. My T1 (swim to bike transition) was 6 minutes 16 seconds, which was almost 7 minutes faster than Louisville. I got out and on the bike with no problems. Heading out on the bike, it was still before 9:00 am, so still fairly cool and not much wind. I rode along trying not to push too hard even though I felt pretty good. I tried to eat on schedule and drink all I could to prepare for the heat that would be coming. The first loop was crowded, cool, and not much wind, which led me to push a little harder than I had wanted. By the time I started the second loop, the temperature was quickly rising and the wind had picked up quite a bit. At this point, I was about 70 miles into the ride and I was feeling the effects of the heat. I began to slow down and didn’t have much pop in my legs. The hills felt longer and steeper, and I felt like I had a head wind in every direction. I did the only thing I knew to do, I slowed down, drank what I could and tried to prepare for the run. As I approached T2, I started to feel a little better and felt like I had recovered a little, but I knew what was to come. Running a marathon by itself isn’t easy and is never much “fun”, but at that moment, after 7+ hours of racing and finishing a 116 mile bike, the thought of running even 1 mile sounded absolutely terrible. As I came into T2 and approached the bike dismount line, I actually wondered if I was going to be able to stand up without falling off my bike. I stopped and got both feet down and a volunteer was there to stabilize my bike while I got my legs under me. I had completed the 116 mile bike (4 miles longer than other Ironman distance bike courses) in 6 hours and 17 minutes.

Bike: 116 miles – 6:17:56 – 18.42 mph

T2: 12:37

I decided (and by decided I mean I didn’t have a choice physically) to walk through T2 and let my legs recover. I took my time, got my bag and headed into the changing tent. It was extremely hot and humid inside the tent. I sat and drank water, but the longer I sat, the worse I felt. I tried to get up and head out but felt nauseous so I sat back down. I was finally able to get out of the tent where there was a breeze. Unfortunately there was also no shade from the sun. Starting out, I tried to do a 2:1 run/walk (run 2 minutes followed by 1 minute of walking). That quickly turned into a 1:1 run/walk. The heat at this point was awful, and there was no shade for the first 5 miles of the run. I continued the run/walk intervals and continued to drink as much as my stomach would allow. As I came to the bridge to cross over to the north side of the river at about mile 8, I came up on Imran. He was walking and struggling with cramping. I tried to encourage him to run/walk, but he was hurting. I gave him my Base salt tablets and water and I continued on hoping he would make it. The next 5 miles on the north side of the river are brutal. Hills. BIG hills. I walked up and ran down and tried to conserve energy and leg strength. I would need it as I would see those hills again after another 8 miles, on the second loop of this 2 loop course. As I came back to the bridge to head back south to start the second loop, I saw Mike. He was on his bike and had been riding the course. We talked as I walked out some foot cramps and he told me the crew was waiting on the bridge. As I ran onto the bridge, Katie and Imran’s wife were waiting for us. Katie ran about halfway across the bridge with me and said “I hate to say this, but I’m tired”. So I got a kiss and continued on to the second loop. The kids and the rest of the family were waiting at the other side of the bridge so I was able to see them too for the last time before the finish. Lap 2 is where things really fell apart. At about mile 15, I started feeling sick and noticed that I was no longer sweating. I also realized that I hadn’t peed since about halfway through the bike (about 5 hours prior by this point). That was a bad sign and I knew it. I tried to drink as much as I could but the nausea was getting worse and I felt myself zoning out. I knew if I vomited I was probably done, so I did everything I could not to. I even got to a point about mile 19 where I was lying on a bench pouring ice water over my face and seriously considering the dreaded DNF (did not finish). I was able to get myself to the next aid station where they had started handing out warm chicken broth. I know it sounds disgusting given the situation, but it was the best stuff I could have had at the time. I was able to sip on it while I walked and slowly began to feel better and better. By now, I knew I would finish, I just didn’t know how long it would take. About mile 21, as I crossed over the bridge to head back to the north side of the river, I noticed I was sweating again and was able to run for short periods. I again walked the uphills and ran the downhills and was feeling pretty good. As I crested the Barton Ave hill to head back to the bridge, I could just see the lights of the finish line across the river. That was a major confidence booster. I was able to run the remaining ~2.5 miles into the finish and actually ran a sub 9 minute final mile. As I came to the finishing chute, I was so excited that I didn’t even slow down to enjoy it. I remember seeing the family and yelling and then crossing the finish. I did it! Ironman #2 was complete, and I had actually bettered my IM Louisville time by about 14 minutes (although my run time was about 3 minutes slower).

Run: 26.2 miles – 5:42:15 – 13:03 min/mile

Overall: 13:23:24

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I was so exhausted that I nearly collapsed. The volunteers helped me to a chair where I was able to sit and get some fluids for about 15 minutes until I was able to walk out on my own. Once I got up and moving I felt fine. I saw Katie and the kids and was able to see everyone who had come to cheer us on. We were still waiting on Imran to finish. We knew he wasn’t feeling well, but he was going to make it. As we were standing there waiting, I began to feel sick again and had to sit down. I began to cramp and feel nauseous. The next thing I remember is laying on my back with Frank and a medic standing over me. They carried me to the medical tent where I was given 2 bags of IV over the next hour and a half. Katie said the kids were upset so she took them back to the hotel with her dad while my parents waited for me. When I was finally able to get up and move again, I was walking through the medical tent and there was Imran, laying there getting an IV himself. He had finished and ended up in the medical tent as well. The walk/trolly ride back to the hotel was slow. Once I made it back, I was finally hydrated enough that I was able to use the bathroom again. It had been nearly 11 hours since I had last urinated, despite drinking multiple gallons of fluid throughout the day. Mom and Dad went across the street to the little diner and got me a club sandwich and sweet potato fries, but I was only able to eat a few bites before feeling sick again. I fell asleep easily and slept through the night.

IM Chattanooga was the hardest physical challenge I’ve ever been through. But it wasn’t just physical. Finishing that race was as much mental as it was physical. At mile 19 when I was lying on the bench contemplating a DNF, I could have easily given up and gotten a ride back to the finish line. It would have been much more pleasant. I wouldn’t have felt sick. I wouldn’t have had any more foot cramps. I could have sat down and stayed there until I was ready to get up. I wouldn’t have had to run another 7+ miles to the finish… but I didn’t give up. I did what I needed to finish. I was able to fight past the desire to quit, and push through the pain. I had put in the work leading up to that day and I wasn’t going to quit. Not that close to the finish. Not with all of my family there. Not that they would have cared, but I would have and it would have eaten at me forever. So to answer the question “Why?”, I would say, because you learn something about yourself when you face those types of challenges. It wasn’t life or death, or anything that would affect my family or career, but fighting through and finishing that race gave me a self confidence that is hard to replicate. It’s hard to describe. All I can say is, do it yourself, and you’ll know “Why?”.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Hiking in Bavaria

It was a crisp and clear Bavarian morning as we cruised down the Konigsee  (King's Lake) in an electric-powered ferry.  The beautiful Konigsee is located between the German town of Berchtesgaden and the Austrian city of Salzburg and is flanked on all sides by the Bavarian Alps, including the 8,900 ft. Watzmann, the highest mountain located solely in Germany. 
We by-passed the first two ferry stops and exited at Salet, the last docking at the far end of Konigsee.  The only way to reach Salet is by water and the only structures there are a ferry terminal and a cafeteria style restaurant that serves the best smoked trout imaginable.  Cows roamed the mountainside, small streams flowed through rocky creeks toward the lake, and wooded trails lead away from Salet, very pastoral.  

A fifteen-minute walk to the west brings you to the Obersee (Upper Lake).  Your first view of Obersee is awe inspiring. While Konigssee is beautiful, Obersee is breathtaking for the reflective properties of the still - mirror like - water and the claustrophobic encroachment of the towering craggy mountains the surround the lake. 
Continue along a narrow trail to the north of the lake and it will eventually lead you to Fischunkelalm, an outpost that sells beer, milk and limited snacks, and from there on to the Rothbach waterfalls.

The mountains hug the lake forcing the trail at places to climb the rock escarpment.  There is one prominent climb, but they have placed erosion steps and guide cables into the rock face to aid the hiker.  Throughout the entire hike you are afforded a magnificent view of Obersee.
Wading in the lake


In late September, the waterfalls were not producing so we stayed at Fischunkelalm, had a snack at waters edge and enjoyed the view, before starting the half-hour walk back around the lake.  I was surprised at the number of people who took the walk from Salet to Fischunkelalm, though not crowded, the trail was constantly in use.

View of Obersee from Fischukelalm

Upon our return to Salet, we took time to enjoy a meal at Gaststatte Saletalm, the cafeteria style restaurant mentioned earlier.  The smoked trout was fabulous and the beer was icy cold; all this and a view of the falls on Konigesee.  Definitely a day to remember.


Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Mousetail in Winter

A little over two-hours northeast of Memphis, on the east bank of the Tennessee River, is Mousetail Landing State Park.  The park has two hiking trails, a 3-mile loop trail and an 8.5-mile lollipop trail, Eagle Point Trail, with two overnight shelters, each sleeping eight.

A friend and I traversed a portion of Eagle Point Trail on our recent winter hike.  The trailhead is located adjacent to a playground across from the Park Office.  The trail roughly parallels Kelly Creek for approximately 1/2-mile before starting up Spark's Ridge which crests at 625-feet (1.1-mile point) after a gain of 250-feet.   The trail continues down the opposite side of the ridge and through a nice broad glen, green even in early February. 

After crossing Parrish Creek we soon came to the end of the lollipop stick and hit the junction of the loop portion of the trail.  We took the west fork toward shelter #2. 

Shelter #2 sits on a bluff 150-ft above the Tennessee River and was a little over 2.5-miles into our hike.  We stopped to eat a snack and inspect the wooden shelter.  The shelter is three-sided with the west-side, facing the river, open and screened.  The overnight shelter has plywood bunk-beds on the three hard walls, sleeping eight.  There is a wood burning stove that vents to the outside and a fire ring and picnic table outside of the shelter.  This is the best location on the hike to enjoy a view of the Tennessee River.   

We continued to hike another ½-mile toward Lick Creek, but the trail became flooded so we reversed course at the 3-mile mark. 

Hiking was easy going until we hit the northern base of Sparks Ridge.  The climb up the ridge proved taxing and we were breathing hard when we made it to top.  The remainder of the hike was downhill back to the trailhead.  

Though it was early February, the temperature was perfect for hiking, and without foliage obstructing our view we got a good feel for the expansiveness of the park. From any location we could easily see 500-yds in any direction, the line-of-sight only blocked by the ridgelines. We had the park to ourselves, not seeing another hiker during the three plus hours we were on the trail, nor did we see a single deer, squirrel, beaver, or bird.   

I will return in the future when the water is down and can complete the loop, but for this fine day the six-mile out and back hike was fulfilling. 


Thursday, October 16, 2014


Summiting Mt. LeConte in Great Smokey Mountains

Alum Cave Trail to summit of Mt LeConte, GSMNP

Rounding a bend on New Found Gap Road, we knew we had reached our destination -- the Alum Cave trailhead in the GSMNP.  Cars were parked up and down the two-lane parkway as overflow from the trailhead parking lot giving evidence to the popularity of this trail.  I found a space on the shoulder of the road for my car and we joined the throng of hikers seeking to summit Mt. LeConte on a beautiful fall Saturday morning.

Mt. LeConte is one of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mtns cresting at 6593-ft above sea level.  To reach the summit from Alum Cave Trail, you have to climb 2763-ft and hike 5.5-miles from the trailhead on New Found Gap Road. The Park Service gives this trail its highest difficulty rating of STRENUOUS, and I must say it most definitely earned its rating!  Other than the stacked stone summit, there are three major attractions on the trail: Arch Rock, Alum Cave and LeConte Lodge.

Stepping off at the trailhead we were lockstep and Indian-file with some 20 other hikers, soon each small group adjusted to their own stride and the path cleared as if our trail-mates were absorbed into the foliage.  This first stretch of trail up to Arch Rock is relatively flat and parallels the shallow Alum Cave Creek.  After 1.3-miles we arrived at Arch Rock, located at the junction of Alum Cave Creek and Styx Branch, and is a natural arch which you climb up through aided by steps hewn into the stone.

I was impressed with the arch and it reminded me of the Stone Door at South Cumberland State Park.  The navigation of the steep steps are aided by a cable railing embedded in the side of the arch.  In wet weather these steps can be tricky, especially going down them on the return leg of the hike.

From the arch look forward to gaining approximately 700-ft as you climb the next mile to Alum Cave, actually an overhang that was once a saltpeter mine.  On this leg of the hike you start finding cable strung on the cliff faces to assist in your climb.  The path becomes rockier and with the knurled tree roots protruding from the ground, makes footing perilous on the narrow cliff hanging paths.  Here is where you really breakout of the forest and get the first of many awe inspiring views of the mountains.

From the cave you circle Peregrine Peak and cross the ridgeline, switching the scenery from the left to your right and giving ample views of Huggins Hell, a steep-picturesque gulch.  Here you parallel Huggins Hell for a good distance until you come upon a staircase that doubles you back and marks the final climb of over a mile to LeConte Lodge.

This stretch of trail is probably the most impressive as your climb takes you higher than the surrounding peaks and you find yourself in the mist that that is the namesake of the Great Smokies.  Here the trail is steep and narrow but the views are breathtaking as you seem to hike in and out of the clouds.

Eventually the trail levels and turns from the cliff face where you enter a path through the forest that ultimately come to a clearing that is LeConte Lodge. Here is how the guide books describe LeConte Lodge, “…is the highest guest lodge in the eastern United States.  It is accessible only by hiking and consists of hand-built roughhewn log cabins with propane heat, kerosene lanterns, clean linens and warm wool blankets.  Hearty meals are served family style in the dining room.” 

With the fog closing in, the view from the summit was obscured.  We made our way to the lodge, grabbed a quick snack, refilled our canteen, and took a quick rest before sticking our head into the “lodge office.”  The office consists of two rooms separated by a half door.  The large room has some rocking chairs and a pot belly stove and the smaller room is a store room where they sell t-shirts and sign guests into the lodge.

It was getting up into the day and we had the return 5.5-miles of downhill hiking still ahead of us, so we stepped off on the return leg of the hike.  Though the trail obstacles were still in place, and our bodies were tired, the back leg proved much easier and we encountered few hikers on the return leg.

The daylight was starting to fade as we completed the eleventh mile of the out-and-back trail.  It had been a long day and were definitely tired, but had succeeded in making it to the summit of Mt. LeConte and had experienced some of the wonderment that is the Great Smokey Mountains.





Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Abram Falls Trail - Cades Cove, GSMNP (Gatlinburg, TN)

If you find yourself in Cades Cove and tire of the bumper to bumper traffic on the loop, take a detour just passed stop #10 and proceed to hike the Abram Falls Trail, you will not be disappointed.
For those unfamiliar with Cades Cove, it is a popular destination in the western corner of the Great  
Smokey Mountains National Park (GSMNP), and is visited by thousands each year.  Situated approximately 25-miles west of Gatlinburg, Cades Cove is in a picturesque valley surrounded by gorgeous mountain views.  An 11-mile one way counter clockwise looping road allows for car and bike traffic to enjoy the scenery.  The loop takes you past a number of homesteads and churches dating as far back as the 1820’s, and is a popular location for black bear and deer sightings.

After passing stop #10 on the loop you cross Abram Creek and turn right onto a gravel road; at the end of the road is a parking lot and the site of the Abram Falls Trailhead.  Just 2 ½-miles away, along a trail that parallels Abram Creek you will find a beautiful 20-foot waterfall and pool.

When we arrived at the parking area on a Thursday afternoon in late September, a Park Ranger stood at the trailhead displaying furs of a river otter and beaver.  She explained the efforts the Park Service had taken to reintroduce the otter back into the GSMNP after it had been trapped out many decades ago.

The trail is an out and back to the falls, round trip distance is 5-miles with modest elevation gains.  The much used path takes you up and over several hills but is labeled a moderate hike in all the hiking guides.  Dropping down a final ridge Abram Falls is visible through the tree-line and after crossing a tree-trunk bridge over the creek you enter the cove that contains the fall’s plunge pool and a stunning view of Abram Falls.  Water cascades over the lip of the falls in two streams before merging into a curtain of white foamy water.

We spent half an hour lazing by the pool and falls, eating our lunch, taking photos and enjoying the scenery.  After packing up, we backtracked the path to the trailhead, got back into our car and reentered the parade of slow moving vehicles as they traversed the Cades Cove loop.

The 5-mile trail can easily be hiked in 3-hours.  It contained moderate elevation change (approx. 350-ft), great scenery, a distinct crest, a nice stream side path, and waterfall.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Corey's Ironman Triathlon Review

Ironman Louisville 2014 *** Louisville, KY *** 08/24/2014

My day started at 3:45 am when my phone alarm quietly went off in my dark, cool, comfortable hotel room. It didn’t matter, because I was already awake, but boy I was comfortable. Laying there, I was thinking about what I was about to do. I laid there until my second alarm went off at 4:00 am. I got up quietly, because my wife Katie and 5 y/o son Cole
were still asleep in the room. I used the bathroom, for the third time since going to bed at 10:30 the night before, then went ahead and ate breakfast. I had a peanut butter and honey sandwich on whole wheat bread and a banana, while drinking a bottle of IRONMAN Perform energy drink.

About 4:30 am, after I was dressed and had all my things together, I headed out to begin the 1.25 mile walk from our hotel to the transition area. On my way, I stopped and took a look at the finish line, which was located right across the street from our hotel, and pictured myself being there later that day. As I continued on towards transition, I ate a Clifbar Crunchy Peanut Butter Energy Bar and sipped on some more energy drink.

4:55 - I made it to transition. It opened at 4:45 and was already packed with athletes preparing for their day. I went to my bike first, borrowed a pump from a fellow athlete nearby, and pumped up my tires to 110 psi. As I was pumping, another athlete’s tire popped on the next rack and scared the mess out of me. I felt bad for him, but a bike tech came over and assisted him in hanging it. I added my nutrition and hydration to my bike and then made my way to my T1 and T2 bags, which had been turned in the previous afternoon. It had rained Saturday afternoon and I knew there was a chance of thunderstorms overnight, so my stuff was double bagged, tied, and then both transition bags were tied up in one large trash bag. I removed the bags and added my bike/run nutrition and made sure I had everything in the right place. I did a final walk thru of the transition area before I headed out to make the .75 mile walk to the swim start. It was a long, quiet walk with hundreds of other athletes as we all gathered our nervous energy to get ready for the swim start.

6:05 - I arrived at the swim start. There were probably 30 volunteers waiting to body mark athletes with their race number and age. I spotted an available volunteer, a small middle-aged woman waving her hand, and told her my number and age. She must have been able to tell I was nervous, because she grabbed me by both shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said “Don’t be nervous, you’re gonna do great”. I laughed and we talked as she marked my number on each shoulder and age on my left calf. When I was marked and ready to go, she gave me a hug and said “good luck”. I must add, that every volunteer I encountered at the race was amazing. They could not have been more attentive to my questions, and they were all so eager to help in any way the athletes needed. After being body marked, I made my way to the end of the swim start line. Ironman Louisville is unique in the fact that the swim start is a first come first served time trial start (1 at a time). Imagine 2,100 athletes lined up on a side walk waiting to start this race. Some were asleep because they had been in line since 5:00 am, others were up stretching, others were just relaxing listening to music. Still dark outside, I made my way to the end of what seemed to be a 1⁄2 mile long line. I sat down at 6:15 and tried to relax.  I started talking to the 2 guys next to me and before I realized, it was 6:45 and the volunteers were getting us up to start moving towards the start. About the same time, Katie called and said she and all my support crew (Katie, Cole, Mom, Dad, Mike, Beth, Jeff, Lisa, Sean, and Shyloh) were at the swim start. I told her where she could find me and she walked back to get my bag and say hi. We met up about half way back to the start. We took a picture, I gave her my bag, gave her a kiss and hug, and she headed back to the start to wait for me to get there.

6:50 - The first cannon blast. The pros had started. You could feel the tension build throughout the line as it began to move. 6:55, the second cannon blast. The physically challenged athletes were on their way. It seemed like no time passed before we heard the third, and final, cannon blast. The Age Groupers were released into the water. Ironman Louisville 2014 was officially under way. A couple of more minutes passed before the line started moving, but once it did, it moved right along. By this time, the sun was up and I could see the dock where the athletes were jumping into the water. About 6:20, I was on the dock, trying to keep up with the line making my way to the water. I spotted my family and friends standing in the crowd as I walked down the dock, while trying not to trip over the boat ties and other stuff on the dock, and gave them a wave. Shortly after 6:20 am, I was jumping into the Ohio River to start what I hoped was going to be an amazing and successful day.

The Ironman Louisville swim is a point to point swim that starts in a channel off of the Ohio River behind Towhead Island. The channel is about 50’ wide between the island and the boat docks. The time trial start allows swimmers to spread out much more than a traditional mass start, so even though the channel was tight, there was plenty of room so you weren’t over crowded too bad. The first 1,000 meters or so is an upstream swim behind the island. Swimming upstream, I could really feel the current trying to push me backwards. A couple of weeks prior, I was able to come up to Louisville to compete in the Ohio River Open Water Swim in Prospect, KY a few miles north of the Ironman swim start. In that swim, I was able to try out some open water techniques that I had read about online that really helped swimming upstream in the race. I took shorter strokes with less glide upstream, and long, smooth swim strokes downstream. Making my way out from behind Towhead Island, the current really picked up and the water got choppy. The turnaround was about 200 meters past the end of the island. I made it to there in 31:25. Once I made the turn and headed back downstream, the difference was extremely noticeable in my speed. What a difference the current makes. Other than getting motion sick from the movement of the water, and taking in a couple of mouthfuls of fuel, the rest of the swim was quick and uneventful. I finished the last 2⁄3 of the 2.4 miles in 36:01. I climbed the steps out of the water and saw my support crew standing waiting and cheering. I gave them a wave and headed to T1, walking the entire way due to being dizzy and still sick from the water.
- 2.4 mile swim - 1:07:26
- T1 Swim to Bike - 00:13:02

As I exited the changing tent, I walked right past the sunblock tent and straight to my bike. This would come back to get me. I grabbed my bike and headed towards the bike exit. The mount line was about 50 yds down the sidewalk to the street. I mounted and headed out. The crew had made their way over and I gave them a wave and told them I’d see them in a while. They were headed to LaGrange, KY where they would see me at mile 38 and 68. The bike course is a lollipop type course doing the loop twice, with one out and back section at mile 20 on the way out only. I headed off east
down River Rd. The first 10 miles is a flat, shaded stretch down River Rd. I took this time to rehydrate and refuel from the swim. I took in a 25oz bottle of energy drink and ate a Honey Stinger Vanilla Waffle. The first aid station came up quick, about 6 miles into the ride. By this point I hadn’t finished my drink, but I had an open bottle cage so I took a full bottle of energy drink so I could refill my aero bottle. At mile 10, I made the turn onto Hwy 42. Within a 1⁄2 mile on 42 I hit the first of many hills. I took my time and spun up in the small chain-ring. The rest of Hwy 42 is basically just rolling hills all the way. At mile 20, I made the turn south onto County Rd 1694. I had ridden the full course 4 weeks prior and found that all of the North/South roads had fairly significant hills, while all East/West roads were mainly small rollers. The section on 1694 is about 8 miles out and back. It’s flat except for a deep valley right in the middle. I took it easy descending this stretch, as I had heard it gets pretty crowded at the bottom when riders ahead begin to slow as they start the long climb up the other side. I made it down safely and again took it easy up the climb, spinning in the small chain-ring. The turnaround was great. There were probably 300 people out cheering, clapping, and ring cowbells. It was a nice little boost 24 miles in. Headed back, we had to descend and climb the same 2 hills to return to Hwy 42. While descending, 2 other athletes, side by side going 45+ mph, passed me on my left. As they approached the rider ahead of me, he moved left to pass the rider in front of him. They both swerved, hitting their handlebars together. One of the riders lost his aero bottle and it slid across the road in front of me. Close call, but they were both still vertical. I can’t say the same for a lady a little further up the road. As I approached Hwy 42, a lady coming towards me just starting the out and back section was trying to grab her drink bottle and lost control and went down on her left shoulder. All of the riders close by stopped or slowed to check on her. She said she was ok, so I kept going. I made it back to Hwy 42 and continued to drink drink. The sun had yet to peek thru the clouds, so it wasn’t too hot yet. I took the right turn south onto County Rd 393 and kept moving along. My goal was to pee twice while on the bike, so that I would know I was drinking enough. I made my first pit stop at mile 36. Success! Got back on my bike and continued on. At mile 38 I came into LaGrange where I knew Katie and the crew would be waiting. There were a lot of people there lining the road on both sides, cheering and so on. It was very loud and hard to see individuals. I did my best to spot the crew. At the back end of the town I spotted Lisa and yelled at her but I was too far past to stop. Katie and my parents said they saw me and yelled, but I missed them. Oh well, I’ll catch them on the second loop. I made my way around the first loop, still drinking and eating. About mile 60, I took the turn off of Hwy 42 back south onto CR 393 to begin the second loop. I was feeling good. It was still overcast, so still not too hot. Coming into LaGrange for the second time, I decided to slow down more going thru the crowds. This time I spotted Mike early. I stopped, talked, they took some pictures, and I asked where Katie was. He said they were further down the road on the right. I slowly made my way down and spotted mom. I stopped, told her I was good and again asked where Katie was. She said I had made it back earlier than expected and she wasn’t back yet. Oh well. I got back on and moved forward. At the aid station at mile 76, I made my second pit stop. I had successfully drank enough to have to pee twice on the bike. But I didn’t stop drinking. I drank a total of 10, 20oz bottles of energy drink, and a couple of bottles of water on the bike alone. I needed it because the sun finally came out about 80 miles into the ride, and it got HOT! This is about the time I regretted missing the sunblock tent in T1. Riding in my aero bars, my shoulders and lats were completely exposed and baking in the sun. Once back on Hwy 42, it is a 32 mile straight shot back west all the way back to downtown Louisville and T2. With the east winds, that meant a tailwind all the way back. That was nice. When I turned on Hwy 42 my Garmin said my average pace was 17.1 mph. I was moving along good, made the turn back onto River Rd and knew I had 10 flat miles to go with the tailwind. I felt great so I decided to go with it. Every time I looked at the Garmin on River Rd, I was going 23+ mph. At this point my average pace had increased to 17.8 mph. Nice! As I was about to make the final turn to T2 I saw Beth and Jeff riding their bikes on the other side of the road. I yelled as I passed and they turned around. Approaching T2, I realized the dismount line was in the street. I wasn’t expecting that since the mount line was on the sidewalk about 50 yds closer to the transition. I dismounted and made the long walk back. Right outside of the fences, a volunteer came and took my bike and re-racked it for me. I headed to my T2 bag to get ready for the run. A volunteer was waiting with my bag in hand and I head to the changing tent.
- 112 mile bike - 6:24:40
- T2 Bike to Run - 00:13:54

This time as I exited the changing tent, I made sure I went straight to the sunblock tent
and got covered in sunblock. I made my third pit stop of the race and realized I had left my
Endurolytes on my bike. I ran to my bike, snagged the Endurolytes and headed out of T2 to
begin my first ever marathon. Before today I had never run more than 20 miles at a time.
Leaving T2 I saw my parents first. Stopped and said hi, told them I was ok and asked where in the world is Katie. They said she and Cole were waiting around the corner. I turned the corner and finally saw them. They were there with Sean and Shyloh. Katie had made a sign that said "Team Corey". Haha. That was a nice little boost. Cole had made a sign too, but he was asleep in the stroller, so Sean picked up the whole stroller with Cole in it so I could kiss him. I told them I would see them at the beginning of the second run loop and I went on. Before I hit the street I saw Beth and Jeff again since they had turned around when I saw them at the end of the bike. We gave fist bumps and I ran on. By this time, the temperature was in the low 90’s with heat index close to (if not at) 100 degrees. I stopped at the first aid station right outside of T2 and poured a cup of ice down my back and drank some energy drink. I made the turn onto 3rd street to make the first 6.5 mile stretch out. A couple of blocks down the road I saw Mike and Lisa. Lisa made sure I heard her (Haha) and Mike gave some good encouragement and I continued on in the heat, trying to find shade wherever possible. My plan was to run between aid stations and walk thru the aid stations (about 1 every mile) as I drank and ate what I could. This plan worked for a while. More on that to come. As I approached the turn around, I spotted
Chris Foster coming back towards me. I met Chris when I came to ride the course 4 weeks ago
and then I saw him again when I came back to do the Ohio River Open Water Swim. He was
struggling with the heat, as were many other athletes at this point. I made the turn and
proceeded back towards downtown to finish the first loop, continuing with my plan of walking the
aid stations. Little did I know, but Beth and Jeff had been on their bikes following me the entire
first loop of the run course. They were just back far enough so I wouldn’t see them. Once I spotted them, I waved them up and talked to them for a few minutes. By this point I was almost back to the start of the second loop. The run course is a 2 loop, out and back course, so as I
came to the split to start the second loop, I saw Katie, dad, Sean, and Shyloh waiting in front of the hotel. Mom was in the room with Cole while he took a much needed nap. Kisses, high fives and I was running again. The split to start the second loop is ridiculously close to the finish line. You can hear it, see it, smell it, feel it. It is right there, half a block away, and if you are starting the second loop, you have to turn and go back out for 13 more miles of pain. That was tough. I did my best to put my head down and try to ignore it. After making the turn, I stopped at the Run Special Needs where I had a fresh pair of dry socks waiting for me. Ahhh, fresh dry socks felt great after running most of the first loop with wet feet. All of the ice in my hat and down the back of my shirt had been melting and running down to my feet for the last 2.5 hours. Once I was changed, I continued on. I saw Mike and Lisa again, but this time I had to calm them down a little. (Haha) I was feeling the heat by this point and didn’t want my heart rate to rise any more than necessary. They gave encouragement and off I went for the second half of the run. My run/walk plan worked until mile 18 when the pain in my feet, hips, and lower back forced me to walk at mile 18.5. I altered my plan and started walking every 1⁄2 mile. The running got shorter and slower, and the walks got longer until just past mile 21, I was only walking. I had been doing pace calculations in my head the entire run, trying to figure out what I need to be doing to get to the finish line in under 14 hours. Jeff helped with my math, since by this point I was exhausted and the heat was melting my brain, and we determined that I could walk 20 minute miles and still be under 14 hours. I knew I could do that. So, I walked. While walking, I met a young man
named Johnny from Cincinnati, OH. He was 28 and also doing his first Ironman. He was walking because he had overheated and couldn’t get cool. I suggested he put ice in his mouth and hold some ice in each hand. He did, and within 5 minutes he was feeling much better. We continued to walk and talk and agreed that we would start running again at mile 25 and run the remaining 1.2 miles to the finish line. So that’s what we did. We ran, well... jogged, the remaining distance to the last 2 turns, until we started to see and hear the crowds increasing. Our pace instinctively increased the closer we got. By this point it was completely dark outside, so when we made that final turn onto 4th street, the lights of the finish line lit up the street. I congratulated Johnny and let him go ahead because I wanted to see Katie and everyone who came to support me before I crossed the finish line. As I made my way towards the finishing chute and onto the Ironman carpet, I saw Mike and Lisa. They cheered loudly and I didn’t care. Mike said Katie and everyone else was down on the left right before the finish line. I turned and jogged onto the carpet towards into the finishing chute. Just as I thought I had missed them again, there they were. Katie, Cole, mom, dad, Sean, and Shyloh, yelling and waving their arms like crazy people. I stopped and gave mom, Katie, and Cole hugs, high fived dad and Sean, and tried not to break down crying before my finisher picture crossing the line. It was time. The
moment I had been training almost 9 months for. I turned around, threw my arms into the air, and slowly made my way under that famous Timex clock. I DID IT!!! I had just crossed the finish
line of the Ironman triathlon.
- 26.2 mile run - 5:38:13
- Overall Finish - 13:37:15

In all of the craziness, I missed the announcer say it. I had told Katie for months that I couldn’t wait
to hear the announcer say those words, “Corey Nelson... you are an IRONMAN!” At that moment I didn’t even care. I was so excited, exhausted, emotional, exhausted it didn’t matter. As soon as I crossed the line, a volunteer ran up and grabbed me, probably thinking I was about to pass out. I wasn’t. I was good. He put my medal around my neck and led me off to get my hat, shirt, picture, and some chocolate milk for recovery. When I left the finishing area, I found Katie and gave her a really big hug. By this point, it had all sunk in and I broke down crying on Katie’s shoulder. I got hugs from Cole, mom, dad, Mike, Lisa, Sean, and Shyloh. Wait... where are Beth and Jeff? It turns out, Beth got a flat tire 2 miles back and they didn’t make it back to the finish before I got there. They missed it. We all stood around and talked for the next 15-20 minutes. We talked about the day and certain moments as we made our way back towards the hotel. Jeff, even though he had followed me all day long and missed the finish, was nice enough to go back to the transition area to retrieve my bike and 2 transition bags for me as I went and showered. Thanks Buddy. He even brought it all back to Memphis for me and delivered it into my garage. How about that? Eventually we all went back to our rooms, exhausted from the day. Me from racing, and everyone else from walking from one place to
another just to be there with a cheer and high five when I passed. After I showered and had eaten my triple decker club with sweet potato waffle fries from room service, I went back out to the finish line to watch the last finishers come in before the midnight cut off. I didn’t get to see any other finishers throughout the day, but I can’t imagine it was as exciting or loud as it was when the last finisher approached and crossed the finish line at 11:59:57. She made it with 3 seconds to spare. I told Katie that it was as exciting as the final seconds of any close sporting event that I’d ever attended. As excited as she was to make the cut off though, there was another lady that missed the cut off by 3 seconds. I felt so bad for her. Even though she wasn’t an “official” finisher, she had completed the 140.6 miles just like all of the other “official” finishers. As I made my way back towards the hotel, I heard one of the spectators yell “here comes one more”. Everyone that had started to leave turned around and cheered just as loud as they had for every other athlete that made the cut off. There were 3 more athletes that came in over the next couple of minutes that received the same reception, even though they too had missed the cut off. I assume any other athletes on the course were assisted back by volunteers. After the last athlete had passed, I made my way back to the room where Katie and Cole were asleep. Ironman Louisville 2014 was over, and I was successful.

I would like to thank everyone who had a part in helping me complete this challenge. First of all I’d like to thank my family, Katie, Cole, and Emma Kate (my 2 y/o girl), for allowing me to leave for hours on end to get in long rides on Saturday mornings and long runs on Sunday afternoons. Katie did countless loads of laundry, washing sweaty workout clothes over the last 9 months and gave up her free time to watch the kids and not workout herself (though she got lots of naps) so that I could train. She listened to me talk about training, acted like she was listening, and only complained a little. Haha. I love you. I want to thank the I DO IT FOR Foundation for sponsoring me in the race I for sure want to thank Mike McCaskill for letting me use his Computrainer so I didn’t have to ride outside when it was freezing cold or raining, and for all of the other countless pieces of equipment and all of the AMAZING support along the way. You are AWESOME! Beth and Jeff for riding and running with me this year, following me during the run, and helping get my bike and stuff to transition area (boy that was an adventure) on Saturday and for picking it up on Sunday night. Mom and Dad, thanks for watching the kids on Saturday mornings when Katie was out of town or busy so I could go on group rides. Sean and Shyloh, thanks for listening to me talk about this for the last 9 months and for coming all the way to Louisville to support me. Lisa, thank you for all of your expert nutrition and training advice and your cheers and support. Y’all are AWESOME and I
couldn’t have done this without y’all. Thank you so much.

PS: I went back and watched the video online and heard it. "Corey Nelson from Germantown, TN. First timer. Corey Nelson... you are an IRONMAN!"

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Revamped Pinnacle Mountain West Summit Trail

Located just northwest of Little Rock, Arkansas is Pinnacle Mountain State Park, with the namesake peak being our destination.  We arrived at the parking lot to the
West Summit Trailhead about 9am Sunday morning.  The weather forecast was for a hot and humid day but we hoped to be off the mountain by noon.  The West Summit Trail is severe, having an elevation gain of roughly 800-feet over the 1-mile climb.  Though steep throughout, the trail becomes extremely hard the final 3/10ths of a mile to the summit.  Part of the difficulty of the climb is the shale and sandstone boulder fields you have to navigate, requiring you to take great care with each step.

The park service had redirected the direction of the trail since my last visit in 2008 away from the loose shale to requiring more time in the boulder fields.  Additionally, they had repositioned some large rocks, forming stone steps. I believe overall making for a smoother ascent.

The trail is marked in 1/10th of mile increments, giving one a good point of reference as to location on the trail.  There is a “Your Are Here” bulletin-board at the 7/10th mile marker showing routes to the summit.

We took frequent breaks as we made the climb not only to catch our breath but to also enjoy the view.  Once on the summit we had a panoramic view of the nearby Ouachita Mountains and expansive valleys, as well as, of the Big Maumelle, and Little Maumelle rivers.

After snapping a series of “I was there” photos on the summit, we ate a Cliff Bar for an energy boost and headed back down the way we came, electing not to descend the steeper boulders of the East Summit Trail.

Total time from beginning to end was 2-hours and 15-minutes.  The descent was much easier and faster than the climb.

One thing that remains the same about Pinnacle Mountain each time I visit is the diversity of those enjoying the mount; all ages and shapes of people make the climb to test themselves on the craggy paths and enjoy the vista from the summit.

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