Ironman Cozumel – The Run

19 12 2014

Jess and I ran out and made our right turn onto the main road along the water. We would run out and back, out and back, out and back. 6 x 7k. We trained all summer out in Alafia, where we would often run a 7k loop (once or multiple times) after our long bike rides. This was just another day out in Alafia (again, and again, and again).

It was so nice (and unexpected) to get to run with Jess. I had mentally prepared to run solo, and after that ROUGH ride, having my friend and teammate right there by my side was such an incredible blessing. We chatted a little about the ride, and wondered at what point we would see Felipe and Bill. We cheered on other competitors and just made random small talk – that was about all our brains could process at this point in the day.

Just take it one 7 K at a time. I don’t know how many times I repeated that in my head. Breaking it down in to smaller chunks really helped. I didn’t think I would like the three-loop course, but I think it was absolutely fantastic for the marathon of an ironman. There was no point where you really felt out there, alone, in the middle of no where, because there were always other competitors nearby: either running in the same direction as you or running towards you on the other side of the road. The crowd support was great for almost the entire run too. The 2k closest to the in-town part of the run and the last 1k before the turn had the best crowd support, but there were spectators present pretty much throughout the run. This helped tremendously!

I had trained at 5:30/k as my Ironman pace, while Jess was targeting closer to 5:22. As we ran together, I was a little worried that I was holding Jess back, as we were consistently holding 5:33s, but Jess assured me that this pace was just fine. It was still late afternoon at this point, and it was hot. To be honest, I don’t remember thinking much about the heat- it definitely wasn’t anything worse that what we had trained in- but it was hot enough for me to consistently yell “Hielo” (Ice) and put it down my top or shorts at just about every aide station for at least the first half of the run. There were wet, cold sponges being handed out along the course and man, did that feel good on the back of my neck and on my head! Aide stations were pretty abundant (every k, and you could access them regardless of where you were on your loop), so this was fantastic.

At some point on this first 7k, Jess asked me when I planned to start drinking the Pepsi (yes, they had Pepsi on the course. It was TERRIBLE! #cokefan). I hadn’t really thought about it, but we decided to play a mental game and try to hold off until the last 7k. Once you make the switch to cola, you pretty much need to stick to it, so the longer you can hold off, the better.

Normally, right after a long, hot ride, I find myself craving that Coke-I don’t know what it is about an icy Coke, but man it hits the spot. I was surprised that I wasn’t ready to start drinking the Pepsi when we started the run. In fact, it didn’t sound appetizing at all. I had my hand-held water bottle of Osmo Preload/Active, and I sipped on that, and I started eating my first pack of PowerBar Chews 30 minutes in to the run. Unfortunately, my stomach was not super happy. I was forcing the chews down, but my stomach was in knots. It wasn’t bad enough to stop, and I didn’t feel like I needed to poop, so I just pushed the discomfort aside and kept going. I knew I needed to eat or I wouldn’t finish, so that was my motivation to force feed myself the chews.

The 14k wasn’t so bad. Sure, I had a knotty stomach, but my feet didn’t hurt like I had expected them to, and we were holding 5:33s on the nose. We were doing this thing! We spotted the gang right around 12k (the only reason I know that is because Felipe asked where we were!) and it was definitely a mental boost- so much so that Jess had to reel me in as I picked up the pace (see video below)! If I pushed this early, I’d blow up!


By our third 7km, our conversation had waned, and most of the words that came out of our mouth were either cheers for passing another km, or “Agua! Agua!” (Water! Water!) I remember picking out mile markers for the next lap and saying “that will be us next!”

At this point, I was starting to feel the day’s wear on me. We slowed slightly to 5:35, and I took some tums to see if that would help my stomach. Jess reminded me that Ironman is about who slows down the slowest- so this was exactly how our day should be going.

Right after we made the turn for the halfway mark, Jess grabbed her first Pepsi. I followed suit, and we walked and sipped our Pepsi. Blech. This was not Coke, but hopefully the sugar would give me a boost. From that point on we would walk the aid stations and sip our tiny cups of Pepsi.

It was sometime on this loop that we spotted Courtney on the other side of the road, a few kms behind. We gave her a holler, and it was nice to know we were all out there on the run safely.

As we made our way through our fourth 7k, my walk breaks became slower than Jess’s. We had tentatively said we’d run at least the first two loops (or did we say the first 5 x 7ks?) together and then split off at that point if we needed to, but when we were at about 26k (about 2k before the turn for our last loop), I told Jess to go ahead. I didn’t want to hold her back as I walked through the aide stations. Her walk was just faster than mine!

10407113_10106089057067641_7778127171229640729_nThis was just after the 28k mark, and you can see that Jess isn’t too far ahead of me!

I made the turn for my final lap, and I remember thinking, This is just like running the entire length of Bayshore. 14k, I got this.

This last lap was uncharted territory for me, as my longest run was 28k. However, I wasn’t afraid of not being prepared for those miles, as I knew at this point, it was all about the mental game. Just stay tough.

As the sun went down, the crowds continued to cheer. I passed my teammate Amanda, who was a rockstar cheerleader in the middle of the street. She made me laugh and I knew that the next time I’d see her would be on the other side of the finish line.

Somewhere around 30-32k, I was walking an aide station and Jess yelled my name! She was coming out of the port-0-potty, so we walked for a few seconds before splitting up again. She was looking really strong still!

My stomach still wasn’t feeling great, so at one of the next aide stations, I stopped at the port-o-potty. As I sat, I wondered if I would ever want to get up. Sitting in a stinky port-o-potty in the last 14k of the marathon was not quite the relief I wanted (the relief I wanted was to be DONE!), so I slowly stood up and got back out there on the run.

There was a lot of self-talk that last 14k: Be in the moment. This is just another 7k. You’re almost 5/6 of the way done!

I looked straight ahead and just put one foot in front of the other.

Agua. Pepsi. Hielo.

These were pretty much the only three words I muttered out loud for the rest of the run.

I made the turn for the final 7k, and knew that I was going to finish this marathon- and finish well (though not in the 4:00 I had a thought was a teeny tiny possibility). Regardless of the time, a 7k is very manageable. But this was the LONGEST 7k of my life. I was walking pretty slowly through the aide stations at this point, and the only nutrition that I was getting down was a few tiny sips of Pepsi at each aide station.

The last three miles were rough. I hurt all over, and all I wanted to do was NOTHING. No moving, no talking, no thinking. Just Nothing. You only have to do this for 3 more miles…This was playing on repeat in my head, and I might have even started chanting it out loud to myself. I don’t know why I switched to thinking about the run in terms of miles at this point – perhaps 5k just seemed too much? But then I switched back to thinking in kilometers as I approached town. 2K to go- here are the crowds. I am coming home! 10403224_10203556887782941_1615570374238139995_n

The crowds were bigger and louder. I picked up my pace (to a whopping 6:05/km haha!) and got a huge smile on my face. I get to stop moving so soon!!

I started to get choked up- I’m going to be an Ironman! I saw Chris and Charity standing right before the finisher chute and smiled even bigger.  I made that left turn into the chute – there were disco lights spinning, loud music, people cheering at the top of their lungs.  I raised my hands into the air and pumped them- yes! yes! yes! I had done it! That moment you run down the chute is a moment that will live in your mind forever.

I heard them say my name: “Stephanie Gibson, you are an Ironman!”

That statement was the validation of the many hours of training, all the sacrifices, and the conclusion of my very long day. I am an Ironman!





2 responses

28 12 2014

I could feel the emotion reading your race recap. Seriously, my eyes welled up. I wish I had the bravery you did to commit to, train for, and complete an Ironman!!

31 12 2014

Pepsi?! Nooo! Totally agree… nothing quite like an icy Mexi Coke after a tough workout 🙂 Huge congrats, Steph, on your awesome day! When’s the next one?! 😉

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