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!



The Spirit Of The Marathon II

13 06 2013

Nothing like a little blogger get together to get me back on the blogging bandwagon;-)

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Last night I met up with a few of my fellow Tampa bloggers at CineBistro in Hyde Park to watch The Spirit of the Marathon II. I actually never saw the first one, but I couldn’t turn down a night with some of my favorite ladies in Tampa to watch a movie about one of our favorite things: running!

This was my first time at a CineBistro, and I definitely enjoyed myself. CineBistro has a much different feel than the only other meal + movie theater I’ve been to, The Arlington Cinema and Drafthouse. The Drafthouse is very chill, the kind of place you’d grab a beer and some nachos and watch the latest comedy. CineBistro on the other hand, tries to be a bit more upscale, but not too stuffy- there’s a sparkling bar just beyond the entrance, a waitstaff that greets you as you walk in the theater and takes you to your seat, and menu options like Pan Seared Alaskan Salmon and Lavender and Black Pepper Filet. Some may say the theater’s atmosphere is a little pretentious (maybe just because it is in South Tampa), but I enjoyed the more mature feel-it’s 21+ so you’re never interrupted by a screaming child or an angry adolescents. It also probably helped that the theater was full kooky individuals who think it is fun to put themselves through 4+ months of pounding the pavement to feel the accomplishment of crossing the finish line after running 26.2 miles (just like me!).

Exhibit A:


Exhibit B:


Exhibit C:


The Spirit of the Marathon II follows 7 individuals on their journey to run the Maratona di Roma. From a Ukranian trying to qualify for the Olympics to the former cross country coach and marathon-newbie from New Jersey to a 72 year old Italian man who has run more marathons than you can count on two hands, each runner had their own unique path to get to the starting line in Rome. They shared stories that touched your heart and others that made you chuckle. When the one runner talked about the marathon only beginning at mile 20 you could almost hear the collective nodding of heads from the audience. Yup, we’ve been there.

The movie touched on the history of marathoning and women in marathons, but it also highlighted that running is providing opportunities for runners in developing countries. In one of the most moving parts of the movie, the Rwandan runner tells how her church was destroyed during the genocide, how it was burned down with people inside. She relies on her faith in God as she runs, and her faith remains strong despite all of the challenges she’s faced. Powerful.

Some may say that this is just another movie about runners, yadda yadda. But I found it to be an inspiring story of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The running community is one of the most accepting, supportive, and encouraging groups out there- and this movie showed that as well.

Although I’m not quite ready to run another marathon just yet, the thought of running an international marathon- maybe through the streets of Rome, or Athens, or Barcelona is awfully enticing. Maybe sometime in the next few years, after I’ve had some time to save up:-)

Question of the Day: Did you go see Spirit of the Marathon II? What did you think? 

Country Music Marathon Race Report

1 05 2012

I did it!!

First of all, THANK YOU SO MUCH to everyone for your kind words of encouragement before, during, and after the race. I am overwhelmed by the support 🙂

You’re probably wondering, so how’d it go? Well, I didn’t meet my A Goal time-wise, but I certainly met my other goals to finish and have fun! I had what I considered to be a great race and couldn’t be happier with how the day went down.

I went to bed pretty early on Friday night, and willed myself to sleep. I tossed and turned some, as my nerves were getting the best of me. I had this terrible fear that I wasn’t going to finish. I knew I had done my training, but I was second guessing myself. Its funny because I don’t remember this fear before my first marathon, which I had hardly trained for. I guess back then, I didn’t really know what real marathon training looked like. Ignorance is bliss?

I finally fell asleep and then woke up before my alarm.  However, after realizing that it was only 1:00am and the race wasn’t for another 6 hours, I went back to bed. My alarm buzzed at 5:15 and I sat up in bed thinking, “Holy crap. I am running 26.2 miles today. That is a LONG way!”

I had laid out all my gear the night before, so it didn’t take long to get ready 🙂

After fueling up, our car full of runners left for the starting line. Michelle (my hostess) drove me, her cousin, her cousin’s friend, her husband, and her husband’s friend all to the starting line. I’m so glad I was staying with a Nashville local- Michelle drove us to the starting line, taking back roads, so we experienced zero traffic. We were there in no time at all, about 15 minutes before the first corral was set to leave! Michelle’s hubby Luke, was also running the full. It was his first marathon and he was also hoping to run it in four hours, so we decided we would run together for as long as we could.

We wanted to try to make a quick bathroom stop before heading to our corral, but unfortunately, we underestimated the potty lines a bit. We tried to get into some of the local businesses, but the lines there were crazy too. Oh well. I had gone before we left the house, and this was going to be a “just in case” potty break. We decided that we’d just get in our corrals and stop along the course if we needed to.

There were TONS of people at the race. I heard somewhere in the ballpark of 31K running the full and half! That’s a lot of bodies!

An up and coming country music star sang the national anthem and then the race began! It was already humid when the race started, and the weather had said it was supposed to get into the 80s. I wasn’t too worried, since I had done all my training in Florida; I was just worried about getting a headache from dehydration after!

Just before 7 I got a text from Bill telling me he was hitting the road again. If you recall, I had mentioned in my goals post that I was excited about Bill coming to the marathon, since he had a gig within driving distance to the marathon. We discovered on Thursday afternoon that we had a slight miscommunication about the location of the race and his gig. Had my marathon been in DC, he would have been a mere 2 hours away. Unfortunately, his gig was in central Virginia, and he was a good 10 hour drive from the actual location of the race, Nashville, TN. Whoops.

I was a little disappointed when I found this out, so I searched for flights from Dulles (VA) to Nashville for Saturday morning. I saw that the earliest flight got him to Tennessee at 11:30, after my expected finish time. I mentally began preparing for him not to be there for the race.

We texted back and forth on Thursday night about what the plan was going to be. I was worried about him driving all through the night, so I tried to discourage him but he is one determined man. He soon sent me a text that said he made the necessary changes to the rental car agreement and was returning the car in Nashville. He was going to drive through the night and sleep when he needed to, but he was NOT going to miss my marathon. Love him. ❤

I was worried for sure, but I tried not to think about him driving all through the night. I didn’t ask details about when he was planning on leaving, or where exactly his gig was. I figured the less details I knew, the less my mind would stress about it, and the greater the chance that I’d be pleasantly surprised to see him.

He had texted at about 4am to let me know he was stopping to sleep and that he was about 140 miles away. So when he texted again at 7am  to let me know he was on his way again, I put a smile on my face, because I knew he’d definitely be there to see me finish, barring any terrible problems. 🙂

A few minutes after 7am, Luke and I crossed the starting line. The crowd was pretty dense, but somehow we were able to find a little space and find our groove. I knew that we needed to hold 9:07 miles for the entire marathon, so I incessantly kept checking my watch, even within the first mile. I didn’t want to go out too fast and die. I wanted to run a smart race.

Mile 1: 9:03

Mile 2: 9:03

Only a smidge fast, but that’s ok. I recalled that mile 2-5 was basically uphill, so I was mentally preparing myself to slow a little.

Mile 3: 9:14

Mile 4: 9:05

We saw Michelle around mile 4, and we were so very excited.

You’d think we were just finishing the race! I was feeling good and having fun!

Mile 5: 9:12

Mile 6: 9:02

Mile 7: 9:04

These miles were just ticking by. I kept checking my watch, and then checking my wristband that I got at the expo to help pace me. I realized we were right on track for a 4:00 marathon; heck, we might even be able to sneak in under it!

Mile 8: 9:03

Mile 9: 9:04

Mile 10: 8:51

Just before the marathon and half marathon split, I got to see Michelle again. It was so fun seeing a friendly face along the course! About a quarter mile later, the marathoners stayed left and the half marathoners stayed right. I jokingly looked over to my right and waved saying, “Hi Friends!” As soon as I returned to looking forward, I saw my friend Caroline heading over to the half marathon side. It was an unexpected surprise to see her! I smiled, gave her a cheer, and kept on moving!

Mile 11: 9:10

Mile 12: 9:05

Right around the 13 mile mark, Luke asked if I could call Michelle and ask her to have a dry shirt ready for him the next time we saw her. We knew she planned on being between mile 18 and 19, so I got out my phone and made the call. It was short and sweet, and I didn’t need to stop 🙂 She also said she’d have my Acellerade ready with the cap off the water bottle. (We had a failed exchange at mile 10).

Mile 13: 9:05

Mile 14: 8:54

Mile 15: 9:23

I looked at these splits and was pleasantly surprised. After the half marathoners left us, the crowd thinned way out. We also headed to an area of the course that was pretty much just pavement and nothing else. Miles 11-15 were probably some of the most boring miles on the course, and there weren’t many spectators on the course either. Because of the way the course was laid out though, as I was headed towards mile 12, I was able to see the runners coming towards mile 16. I spotted Mary, and gave her a yell 🙂 She was looking pretty good, and I was happy to see her!

Just before mile 16, Luke told me he could feel some leg cramps coming on. He said he was going to walk through the water stop at mile 16 and then see how it went from there. I was still feeling good, so I kept on trucking.

Mile 16: 9:01

Right at mile 17, we were running past the stadium where the half marathoners were finishing. It was fun to see all of them, and to think how crazy it was that I was still running. It was also about this point where I pushed aside my “I’m not going to finish” fear. I had miles in the single digits to go. I was going to finish, and I was going to finish well!

I glanced off to my right, and there was Bill!! He was over in the crowd, running along next to me. I yelled over and waved, and I’m sure I had a ginormous grin on my face. HE MADE IT!!! I didn’t expect to see him again until the finish, but I was SO HAPPY he had arrived safely. I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug! I kept chugging along, knowing that I was going to see Michelle in a little bit too, and that I was less than 10 miles from the finish line!

Mile 17: 9:11

Mile 18: 9:17

I knew at this point in the marathon it really becomes about the mental game. I recall at this point in the race trying to stay ahead of that girl in the sport bra. I think we went back and forth a few times, but then I lost sight of her at a water stop around mile 21 or so.

Mile 19: 9:24

Mile 20: 9:04

I think mile 20 was slightly down hill, but I was also REALLY excited that I only had a 10K to go. A 10K! I do that at the end of my tris! BRING IT ON!

At this point however, I think I was barely hanging on to my 4:00 goal. But honestly, I didn’t really care. I was having a great race, and was going to PR by about 40 minutes. I’ll take that!

Mile 21: 9:16

Mile 22: 9:32

Mile 22 was where I started to hit a wall. I knew I only had a little over 4 miles to go, but I was hot and my legs were starting to yell at me. Miles 21-25 were also through this golf course part of town where there were few spectators. Again because of the loops in the course, you could see the runners on miles 24 and 25 as you were headed on mile 21 and 22. I saw Mary again and gave her a cheer. Unfortunately, I could see that she was tired. I could also see that a lot of other runner were tired and hot. Runner after runner stopped to walk and stretch, but I kept on trucking. Until mile 23.

Mile 23: 10:14

Ouch. I was hurting for sure at mile 23, so I stopped for a second to stretch. I didn’t want to stop, but I told myself I could stop for a few seconds, stretch out my legs, and then I’d feel much better afterwards.

I started running again, and I felt a bit better. i was doing some serious self talking, trying to get motivated, when I looked up and saw Bill coming toward me in all his running gear. He ran up to me, told me how proud of me he was, and told me he was going to be right there by my side. I was super surprised and thankful to see him there, but didn’t have enough energy to tell him so. I smiled big, and pushed a little harder.

Mile 24: 9:51

The last 5K was SO HARD. My legs were incredibly tired and I just wanted to be at the finish line already. I knew at this point that a 4:00 marathon was out of the picture; I just wanted to finish. I stopped to walk twice (maybe three times?) between mile 24 and mile 26. It wasn’t for very long, but I was just beat. Bill stayed with me every step of the way. He hung back a little while we were running so that I was setting the pace and not him, which I really appreciated. He provided words of encouragement when I needed them, and poured some of his water on my back to keep me cool. I am so incredibly thankful to have such a loving, caring, wonderful man in my life!

Mile 25: 10:40

My legs felt like lead. I looked at my watch and saw my pace, and thought to myself that I could walk faster than this. Pull it together Steph, you’re almost there!

Mile 26: 11:07

On the home stretch I saw my friend Leah, who had ran the half. She gave me a cheer, and I started to pick up the pace. Only two tenths of a mile to go. I CAN DO THIS.

Last 0.2: 8:54

Official time: 4:05.58. YESSSSSSSSSS!!!

I was so incredibly happy to be finished, and just as happy to know that I had run the marathon in a 4:05!

Finishing the race with this guy was icing on the cake. I can not put into words how thankful I am that he made it and how incredibly loved I feel. He is certainly a keeper. 🙂

Overall, I think the course was pretty challenging. It certainly was hilly, but honestly, I think I had psyched myself out for some more serious hills. It was also a hot day, but training in Florida had prepped me for that. I think I hit my nutrition pretty much spot on, taking an AcellGel and 3 Gus during the race. I drank Gatorade at just about every station they offered it (every other water station), and drank water throughout the entire race. I popped a few salt tabs during the race and I took a salt packet from one of the medics on the course too. I also had a few swigs of Acellerade between mile 18 and 19. All of this put together = NO headache!

Me and Leah, happy to be done:-)

All in all, I’d say it was a pretty good day. I have to give a HUGE thank you to Michelle for hosting me, schlepping me around for a few days, and for being an amazing support crew and photographer! You are awesome!

Some folks have already asked if I am going to do another one. Right now, my answer is I don’t know. I would really like to get that 4:00…In fact, during the race I told myself that if I crossed the line and there was a 3 at the beginning of my race time, I’d be perfectly content not to run another one. But for now, I’m going to be proud of my accomplishments, and think about another marathon later. Its time for me to turn my attention to the sport I really love. Triathlon season is here, and I’m ready to rock and roll!