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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