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Ironman Report

Written By The Tri Doc on June 16, 2016

IM Cozumel 11/29/2009

So to start this off I need to begin on Friday, the 27 of November, 2009.

We headed to the airport at about 6 am. Got parked and headed to the check in desk. Having 3 bags including the bike was a bunch of stuff to carry with me on the trip. At the check in counter they look at you as a lunatic with the bike case. After wandering around for 10 minutes, they tell me I have to pay $100 for the bike, which I was well aware of. So I paid and headed through security. We got to Starbucks and got our morning coffee, I saw Vigil and Liz who were doing the race as well. TJ actually found me there and we talked a little. Boarded plane and were Cozumel bound. Flight was uneventful.

We landed in Cozumel and headed to the hotel. The wind was roaring, not a comforting feeling 2 days before an ocean swim. We checked in and dropped our stuff before going to Cozumel convention center. I got there and got a jersey (luckily they had a large that fit, all the XL stuff was gone) and misc hats. I got 2 visors and a headsweats hat that said IM finisher on it. As I was checking out the guy took my money and then took the finisher hat. I told him I had paid for the hat and he told me I could have it when I crossed the finish line…….ouch. I asked him "what if I don't finish" and he said he would give my money back. I guess that would have to work, cause I wanted my hat. I went inside and got my packet and my IM Cozumel Jacket. They didn't have any XL left….apparently there were a bunch of chubby Mexicans doing this race as well. I found out that Mexicans were the majority of age groupers, I was actually kind of surprised, I thought it would be mostly people from the US. They didn't have all the bags necessary for race day (figures) so I had to come back at 4pm. I think they were trying to help out the taxi drivers. ( $10 bucks each way ) I went back to the hotel and I put my bike together and everything went smooth there. Friday night was a chill night and I went to bed early. I didn't sleep well.

Saturday morning I got up and had breakfast. I went for a short bike ride (7-8 miles) and felt good. I noticed after about 5 minutes of riding that I started getting thirsty, so I needed to drink lots of liquids on race day. Then I headed back to the room to get everything ready. I started working on all of the transition bags. Got everything pretty much ready and then started putting my bike stuff on. I realized one of my salt stick dispensers was broke, not good. I hopped in a cab and headed back to the convention center. I jumped out of the cab and went to the door….closed. Dang! I knew I couldn't keep enough salt tablets on my bike without 2 dispensers. I would have to come up with another plan. So I started walking towards downtown. One block down I was the race finish, so I decided to check it out. It was cool. I visualized me coming through the next evening. I chilled for a few minutes and watched the guys putting the finish area together. Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted the IM store. I walked over there hoping that they might know where I could get a dispenser. When I got there I went to the area that would have that stuff and they had ONE left. Thank you Jesus. I bought it and headed back to the hotel. I fixed the bike and decided it was time for a swim. I was getting ready for the swim and put on my borrowed speed suit for a try. As I was putting on the speed suit, I was pulling up the zipper and snap, the zipper broke. Dang! again. At this point I was really flustered. I really needed any advantage I could get on the swim. I was frustrated and thinking I hope this isn't a sign of things to come. I went and swam for about 10 minutes and called it good. I finished getting all my transition bags ready.

Bike Check In: Since we were about 7-8 miles from the swim start they had shuttles running to the T1. We got to T1 at about 5:30 pm and we set up in the dark. I tried to see how the race would go, but it was difficult in the dark. The mosquitos were out in full force…they are viscous. Back to the hotel I went and got a quick dinner and headed to the room. Lights out early. I went to bed at 8:30pm and awoke at 12:30am. I slept till the alarm went off, but waking up about every hour.

Race Day: 4am and it's time to go. I talk to Andi first thing and then Woodford. I left the hotel at 4:45am. Got to the race site and everyone was moving about. I took off the bags off of my shoes on my bike, checked the air and walked the transition area. I heard someone say Tuggle and looked up and it was TJ. I asked him how he was doing….he said ok. I knew he would do great. I went back out to talk to Brian for a minute before I headed in for the final time. I saw Vigil for a few. I headed to the start area. I wanted to see Team Tuggle ( Brian, Chris, Kelli, Jamie and Cassie) one time before I went in the water. As I walked on the pier I saw Chris I think he was as surprised to see me as I was him. I saw everyone and waved them off. The pros were in the water and it was time to go in. I headed down to the dock and walked to the end. As people were jumping in, I thought its go time. I jumped in and swam to the middle of the pack. I looked down in the water and saw the bottom. How cool.

We had a few minutes prior to going in. One year of planning, about 8 months of intensive training and everything boiled down to this start. As far as I can remember I thought when I got here I would be a basket case. The time right before the start. I felt how I would be freaking out, stressing and overall in disarray waiting for the start. BUT I wasn't even nervous, I mean at all. I was thinking, John how can you not be nervous? I know why….because of God in my life and all the prayers everyone had said for me. What a feeling…My biggest test of my athletic abilities and I was ready to rock and roll.

BOOM! Go time! We were off. No problem getting rolling in the swim. I generally start to fast and have to slow down to find my pace, but not today…. I was right on from the beginning. Kept my pace and swam to the first turn buoy. I am pretty sure a jet ski patrolling on the course was leaking gas because the gas smell was so strong that I was gagging a little. Turn 2 wasn't more than 100 yards and then long stretch with the current. I felt really good and very little wash tub effect. I saw the aquatic life and enjoyed keeping my mind on the scenery. I saw 3 stingrays, many fish and a jellyfish. I felt 2 times during the swim very sharp stings in the water that burned and went away after 5 minutes. Jamie told me that this can be residue left by jellyfish. I made the last turn and couldn't resist the urge to check the time. I was at 58:19 with about a 1000M to go into current. Very nice. I felt really good. I remember at times in the swim I felt I was all by myself, a very serene feeling. I was thankful to all the long swims me and Jon had done at Lake Pflugerville that made it so comfortable for me. As I got close I could here the roar of the crowd. I got out of the water feeling strong. I immediately spotted Chris, Brian and Jaime. I heard Cassie and Kelli yelling at me as I saw them when I ran across the pier. Looking down I was at 1:24. PR at IM…. I love it. T1 took 10 minutes. I had decided no reason to raise my HR during transition so I wasn't rushing. I saw Team Tuggle as I left and on the bike I started.

The bike was a 3 leg loop. It was basically 3 different sections: south- headwind, northeast-crosswind and west- tailwind. I thought the head wind would be the worst, but it was not. The crosswind which was the longest section of each loop was very scenic ( ocean ) and very challenging. I was about 15 miles into the race when the leader passed me on his second lap. Nice! Roads were good. Scenery was good. My Garmin froze at mile 59 which left me without HR, Speed or overall time. Dang! again. Not much I could do except keep chugging on. The best part of the bike was coming back into town the whole city must have been there. I rode, probably 2-3 miles of each lap coming back, into town with people lining the streets yelling for me. Cool stuff. I think that the bike course was the most challenging. I stopped about 6 times too stretch. The winds took a toll on me very badly. I was ready to be done with the bike by the end of the 2nd lap. I saw my Team Tuggle banner and I pulled over to chat and stretch. I talked to Andi briefly on the phone. They asked me how I was doing and I replied "hurting". As I went to leave, some lady that I had been riding with earlier, rode by and yelled, " Come on John, let's put this bitch to bed." Team Tuggle roared and I was off. I came into T2 not feeling it. My strong feeling from the swim was long gone. I was hurting.

I saw the team and they were cheering. I went into T2 and got changed. I walked out and Jamie started telling me I was good. I didn't feel that way. I started to run and it hurt. I ran about 1/2-3/4 of a mile and my HR went nuts. I started mashing all the buttons on the Garmin and it finally reset. Thank you Jesus again. I was in the mid 170s. Not good. I went back to walking. I could only manage about 3.0 mph. So I started recalculating my estimated time and I realized I couldn't make it before the 17 hour cut off. I was frustrated, mad, angry, upset and tired all at the same time. I kept telling myself that I needed to quit because I couldn't make it, but I kept walking. Finally, I thought what if I could power walk and make it? So I calculated that if I could maintain a 4.0 MPH walk that I could finish before the cutoff. I had never tried to maintain a brisk walk before, but I knew I couldn't do this marathon any other way. By the time I finished my first of 3 laps I knew I was going to do this thing and thoughts of quitting were gone. I felt good again.

There were many people on the course. It was an out and back loop. The downtown area had many people cheering everyone on. "Bravo" and "Vamos" were being shouted everywhere. I saw TJ and Vigil on my first lap. I stuck to Amy's nutrition plan and kept going. The run/walk was uneventful except for the swarms of mosqiutos. Those blood suckers were everywhere. I checked with the aid stations and no bug spray. Finally I found someone spraying it and I ran over and asked to get some and they helped me out. They told me close my eyes and to not breathe. They were not kidding, I'm not sure if it was bug spray or Varsol, but it worked. The first 2 laps down and only one to go. The turn around was right in front of the finish chute. That last time to turn around was tough, but hey, what are you going to do, turn around and go. The last lap was reserved for the slow people and it got very quite. My feet were hurting. I felt a little rock starting to bother me in my right foot. I pulled over to check it out and nothing, so I continued.( That turned out to be the site of my biggest blister)

I made it to the final 4 mile turn around and TJ saw me ( he was done and back at his hotel ) he walked about 2-3 blocks with me and kept encouraging me. Team Tuggle was waiting for me in front of our hotel. They were all telling me I had it in the bag. I knew I did, but the last few miles would be tough. I just kept moving forward (KMF). At mile 24 I reset my Garmin and knew I only had 2.2 miles to go. Yeah, come on John. Mile 25. My feet hurt bad. about mile 25.5 I started seeing more people on the side. I was wondering how many people would still be on the finishers chute. Who cares? I was finishing my IM baby! I got to mile 26….this is it. I felt my legs come alive. I started running…then all the people came into site…SWEET. I did what Thomas and Jon had told me…..enjoy the moment…cause you only get one IM first. I stopped and high fived people on the right, then on the left and made my turn into the chute. Bright lights baby, bright lights. I put both arms in the sky and started yelling… the crowd followed me with cheers and applause…Yeah baby. As I crossed the finish line I blew a kiss to my woman who I thought was watching me live (unfortunately they were not, but the photographers got it) and got my medal. Whew!!! Done!!! Team Tuggle was waiting and cheering for me. 16:37 made for a long day. My wife was on the phone for me and was telling me how proud she was of me. I got the medal, my shirt and my HAT! I was handed a gatorade and 2 pieces of pizza but couldn't take either one.

I went and got my transition bags, my bike and took a couple of pictures at the finishers stage and headed to the room. I was pretty tired, but pumped at the same time. When we arrived at the room I could feel my legs tightening up. As I took a shower, I discovered that I had a serious rub rash from my seat and the salt water combo (Ouch). My booty was on fire. I made it to bed and fell right asleep. I awoke at 4 am in pain. I took a bath, but it didn't feel that good since the water was luke warm. I rubbed Biofreeze on my legs and took Ibuprofen and fell back asleep until 11am.

I was hurting pretty good on Monday. I had a challenging time getting up and down from a seated position. It also took several steps to get me legs working. I did some light hanging out on Monday, but kept it pretty low keyed due to fatigue and soreness.

On Tuesday, I awoke feeling about 50% better. I had bought some cream for my saddle rash. It was in written in Spanish and I don't know what it was, but it worked. My legs were tight, but much better. Big blisters on my feet still slowed me a little, but not too bad.

Each day I continued to improve. Now, It is Monday, 8 days post race. I feel about 90% normal. No pain, no soreness, just the blisters on my feet remain and the knowledge that my body is still recovering. I feel great.

Take aways from IM Cozumel 09

· I would do it again all over given the opportunity

· I will do another IM

· I should have studied the course more because the wind and the salt rash caught me off guard.

· I recommend an IM as a goal for anyone who has the determination, time and funds for a race like that.

· I could not have done this race without a support team ie Emerge Multisport and various friends.

· Non-athletes will never understand, and yes we are sort of nuts.

· I am completely happy that I finished last ( 280 out of 280 ) in my age group and 1312 overall. I figured another 20-30 finished behind me which left about 650 That DNS or mostly DNF'd.

· It is very cool to realize that I started triathlons in 08/2007 and on 11/29/2009 I went from sprint tris to a full IM. I feel like I have exceeded my goals.

· Always work hard on your weakness and it will improve both your weaknesses and your strengths.

· Wind sucks.

· I could have never done this without the support of my family….No Way… I owe it big to my honey that supported me even when she didn't want to.

· My fav Bible verse holds true: Phil. 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength!