Saturday, December 14, 2013

IM Cozumel Race Recap ~ The Run ~ The Finish

Each mile begins with a simple step.  Doesn't matter how fast it is or how long the stride.  A simple baby step is all it takes.  One after another after another enough to make up 26.2 miles worth of steps.  Finishing the bike and starting the run was during a pretty massive downpour.  As I hobbled out of the transition area, I knew I was not out of danger from my bike mishap and knew I had 26.2 more miles between myself and the finish line.  In my shorter practice races over the summer I had continually had difficulties with the run after riding.  It always seemed to take 3 miles or so untl I was able to shake the bike legs off and transition to my running legs.  Most of the races had negative splits, meaning I would get faster with each mile.  Though the longest I had done was an Olympic Distance race with a 10K or 6 mile run in it.  Would this marathon be different?  Of course it would be but how different was the question.

 The run course was 3 loops with each loop being just under 9 miles.  The loop was really an out and back of about 4.5 miles.   Run 4.5 miles and make a u-turn. So you basically passed everything 6 times.  
The first 2 miles or so were relatively uneventful.  My legs felt heavy and I felt slow.  Pretty normal I thought with the exception of splashing and slogging through puddles almost a foot deep.  The rain was so heavy at times, the city street drainage could not keep up and massive puddles were omnipresent.  Initially the streets were crowded with on lookers and people cheering but as the rain continued to come down and the night came around the spectators thinned out.  Those that stayed out or sought shelter under tents or in sidewalk bars  certainly made up a group of well dedicated and supportive fans.  I was amazed and impressed with their unrelenting cheering and compassion for us as athletes.

The first 4.5 miles took us out of town and towards the airport.  After about mile 2.5 my feet start to feel  HOT.  I knew what this would mean.....blisters were starting to form on my feet.  Crap, how was I going to manage this.  I knew I had a compeed bandaid on me but only one and I could feel the pain occuring under the ball of my right foot and on the inside of my heel also on my right foot.  I wondered what I was going to do.  I knew if left untreated I was going to be in big trouble as they would only get worse and I only had ohhh roughly 23 more miles to go.  I began assessing what and if any permanent damange could occur.  I truly only thought that all I would experience would be pain and if I could suck it up for 20 + mile to cross the finish.  I thought about popping them but then was concerned about running on them and getting them infected if I did that.   I started my first steps of walking.  This was against my philosphy so early in the race to walk because there is no place to go to after you cross that line.  I grabbed some soggy pretzels in the aide station as I was still trying to get back some salt in my body and cut the gatorade with some water.  My thought was to walk while eating and drinking evaluate the condition on my foot and then try to run once again.  And so I went..shuffle stepping for approx 2 miles and walking for 2 miles.  
While this was going on I was observing the conditions of other athletes.  I saw fellow Boulderite Katie with her arm bandaged/wrapped around her body and wondered what happen to her.  I heard the scrapping sounds of another gal dragging her right foot along the road as she also was on the walk a few muster enough to drag along a few.  There were those folks who sprinted by me and then virtually came to a stand still then sprinted by me and came to a stand still.  Because we had 6 lengths of this path it was tough to tell what lap each person was on and where their struggles took them.  

In my head, I was behind them all.  I had 6 GUs in my shirt and the plan was to eat one at each leg.  I knew I would need more calories as each GU contains 90 calories and I was on a 300 calories an hour mindset.  I had my secret weapon of 2~ 50mg of caffienated GUs in my special needs bag that I would get at mile 21 for that extra kick on the ast 5.1 miles of the run.  This plan was great if I was running but I wasn't.  I was doing the Iron Man Shuffle and walking.  So I knew my time would take me longer but I also knew I wasn't expending the energy as if I was on this plan.  My concern switched to my feet and the clock.  Am I in jeopardy of not finishing at this pace?  I got off the bike and believed that I had almost 8 hours for the marathon.  My initial thought was No problem, I'll run this in 5 and be happy.  That was before the blisters.  My watch was also off as I had that mishap on the bike and reset everything.  So I was kind of blind with timing.  Could I do this?  Could I actually have come this far and not cross the finish line in time?  This was almost NEVER even a thought I had while training.  I always felt I would do it.  It was just a matter of when not if.  Now for the first time I was thinking, I may not make the cut off.  And for the second time, though very briefly, I thought of throwing in the towel.  VERY BRIEFLY...because at this point I knew that......

Ironman Shuffle with a walk would be my path.  Approx. mile 7 I met up with a guy from Iowa, Speedwalker.  I had observed Speedwalker since the beginning of the race.  His arms pumping a mile a minute but legs barely moving.  His pace seemed to be about mine perhaps a touch slower as I caught up to him.  This was Speedwalkers first Ironman.  He had trained with a group of 30 or so triathletes and about 10 of them made this trip.  He has been training for over a year for this race at 27.  Speedwalker had just over 1 more loop to go while I was approaching 2 more loops to go.  But my time was occupied with our conversation and he was on top of his watch every minute.  "We are now moving at a 13 min pace"  "That last mile we did a 13:28 pace" I inquired if this was his plan to "speedwalk" his way to the finish.  It was not originally, but he was so worried about blowing up this far into the race, he just wanted to finish and to make sure nothing went wrong and would stop him from this year long dream.  And so we went.   

It was enjoyable, took my mind off of my feet (to a degree)  Yes feet, as my left foot now were starting to form blisters on them as well.  But we talked about our training and paths to get where we currently were.  We jogged from mile 8 to 10 and during that time I saw my IronBuddy Hal.  "One more lap to go??"  Called Hal.  All I could do was muster up a peace sign to signify "Nope two more my friend" as I shook my head and made the U turn to head back towards the airport for another lap.

Speaking with Speedwalker, it was determined that we were moving at about 1 hour per 4.5 miles.  The quick math in my head showed 6 lengths at 1 hour a piece equals 6 hours.  Tadaah!  I had 7+ hours from the start ofthe run.  I got this with an hour to spare.  I can't even believe I had to think that and I shake my head right now as I type these words as I can't imagine I was in that scenario.  That little 2 mile jog with Speedwalker was my last and the pain on both of my feet picked up.  I was now walking on the sides of my feet and doing whatever I could from directly landing on the blisters that were on the underside of my feet or from rubbing the blisters that were on the sides of my feet.  My pace slowed down.  I bid Speedwalker a congratulatory goodbye and appreciation for our time spent together and he was off.   Leg #3 of 6 saw me slow down to approx 1:15.  Quick math...3 hours in at 3:15 3 more legs to go maybe 4 hours if I continue to slow.  We are now looking at a 7 hour Marathon and starting to cut the potential time to finish even closer.  CRAP!!!!!  I was not a fan of the turn around point by the airport as it was isolated and 4.5 miles from town and the finish and crowds, and lights and civilization. You were truly within your mind and thoughts in this dark stretch.  But every mile there was an oasis of volunteers.  Mexican School Children...."Aqua? Water? Pepsi? Gatorade?"  They would ask.  I was so appreciative of them lasting through the rain and dark to be out there for us.  It was endearing as during those laps, I witnessed a budding relationship form by two of the teenagers.  They were flirting and shy and giggling and talking and by the end of the night they walked away hand in hand.  Very sweet.

Then in front of the El Cozumeleno Beach Resort.....I stopped. For over 3.5 hours, I was toying with what do I do about these now fully formed and multiple blisters on each foot.  My right heel and ball of my foot were pretty bad.  I had my one compeed pad and had to do something.  I sat down and attempted to open the wet bandaide.  A spectator ran over and undid the paper that I could not and I attempted to put the sticky pad on my foot.  Problem was the adhesive hit two other blisters while trying to cover the one most painful.  Hell I'll worry about that later.  Wet sock back on wrinkled white foot and insert into wet running shoe and off we went again.  More than halfway through with the run.  The course at this point in time was dark as night had descended on us.  It was emptying out as those doing laps in front of me had crossed the finish line.  It was also completely filled with walkers, people sitting on the curbs,  people crying, people exhausted and fatigued.

My spirits on the other hand were that of a worried for my time and very happy and light.  My feet were done but my soul was lifted.  I threw the clock and dreams of my time out the window hours ago.  I felt blessed and alive and thankful.  I endured the Iron man moment when I wasn't sure if I had it in me to finish.  I was hit soo hard by the wall but kept peddling and would not be denied or say "Uncle".  I wanted to make sure at this moment that I enjoyed and took in and appreciated every minute of this second half of this marathon.  In my mind the victory lap started at approx mile 14.  I was there in spirit and mind, I just needed to make sure I was also there in body.

About mile 16 I came across a tent of people Salsa Dancing.  I dipped in for a spin of an elder lady and my best Vicor Cruz impersonation grabbed a hug and I was off.  Past Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville Fist pumping and the turn around in downtown at approx mile 18 where this time I walked through, saw my Iron Buddy Hal for a second time and gave a high five and a hug.  I asked him how much time I had left.  He told me 2:45.  That set a little time panic in me as I did that last leg in 1:30.  I had 2 more legs to go.  If I kept that pace it would be 3 hours till finish.   I needed to suck it up and get on my giddie yup.  Immediately after that I saw Karen.  Karen was crying and walking or wandering on the course, more like it.  She was exhausted and ready to give up.  She like myself had hamburger for feet and was having trouble taking steps.  I put my arm around Karen and walked with her.  We talked about how she got here.  This was her 2nd Ironman.  She had done her first in 16 hours and wanted to beat that.  I didn't think she was going to make it but I believe she could finish and we walked and talked and I pushed the pace trying to keep her attention off her feet and the pain she felt.  Then the rain came down again. And I laughed and laughed out loud up to the heavens and loved every minute of it. What else could this race possibly have for me???

I stayed with Karen until about mile 20 and she was in good spirits.  And off I went.  Running and walking.  Something I hadn't done in about 10 miles but I had a race I needed to finish.  I noticed the locals were yelling at me but this time is wasn't vamos, vamos, vamos (we go we go we go) or tu puedes (You Can!)  it was  "ANIMALE"  which translates to Animal or Beast.  I loved it!  Their admiration for us at the twilight of the race still going at it.  This was a pretty awesome feeling.  English speaking people were cheering and commenting on my "pace" that late in the race.  I knew I had turned it up a notch and it was the difference between crawling and walking.  I went back to 12 min miles but compared to the rest of the competitors on the course I must have looked like Flash Gordon.  I came up to the final turnaroud and my watch was dead.....battery dies on me.  HA!  "Amigo....que hora??"  I asked.  "No se." was the reponse at the turnaround.  I had no clue how much that leg took me or how much time I had left to finish.   I came to the special needs area with my bag of Caffeine GU.  Sorry no time to stop.  I can't loose these precious minutes I thought to myself.  It would take at least 5 minutes. Pepsi it is from the aide station people.  I downed a pepsi or two and pick it up to the best pace I could muster without sprinting and winding up like on the curb like Melissa.  I had seen her earlier as she was ahead of me and now she had nothing left.  Dejected sitting on the curb with her head between her knees.  I approached and asked if she was ok.  She looked up at me with a complete glaze over her eyes.  I extended my hand and she took it.  I helped her get to her feet and we walked together.  I put my arm around her waist for support and for what felt like about 1/4 mile we walked.  Then there was a medical station.  I gave Melissa a hug asked one of the medical personel  "Que tiempo?"  10:15 he replied.  Huh??  No way.  I thought I only had 2:45 back at the last turnaround.  I can easily finish this race in 1:45.  Something had to be up.  I got back to it.  I passed my Salsa people again for a quick dance.
I ran through a human bridge.  I was called a beast and an animal a dozen more times.  And every time I passed an police officer I would shout. "Disculpe, ¿qué hora es?"  10:20.....10:30...10:45....were the different reponses and all was right in the world.  As this was an out and back course the final few miles I would see people that were 4, 8 , 10 miles behind me and I clapped and whistled and cheered them on.  Shouting words of encouragement to one another. Some of them I had the pleasure of seeing cross the finish line after me and some sadly did not make the cut off.  Once last time through town and I see a tall guy walking to the finish line.  He had finished the race, showered, changed and was heading back to the finish line to cheer on the racers for the last 1+hours of the race.  I recognized him as one of the pros but do not recall his name....."You are my Hero!"  He shouts in my direction.  I pivot my head looking to see who he was talking to thinking his buddy might be behind me.  "You, yes are my hero!"  He was talking to me...."No way man, You are my hero I respond" "I may be bigger and stronger and faster than you and I do this for a living but you have the heart of a champion and never say quit attitude.  So for are my hero." We give a handshake and a hug and I am off.  I've got a date with a finish line.

I pass the turnaround point that I visited twice before and ran towards the lights.  The music and DJ were blasting and people are screaming and yelling.  It gets louder as I get closer and the wings go up.  I start my flight to fly to the finish.  I hit the corner and see a sign proclaiming I am an IronMan.

Not yet I think.  I have about 50 yards of this carpet to the line and continue my flight.

I look for my IronBuddy Hal but don't see him.  Too much going on.  I figure he must see me though.  I'm gonna enjoy every last moment of this runway.  There will never be another first Iron Man for me.  I stop flying and raise my arms and give a few fist pumps to the crowd.  I was stoked!!!

And then it happens..........I cross the line and I hear....

  Marty Rosenthal from the USA ......Marty you are an IronMan.

The following link is a video of the race finish for me.

My goal when I first thought about entering this race was to finish.  To finish with a smile on my face and a beer in my hand.  And although there was no beer in my hand there was a huge smile in my heart.  I look at this race as a comedy of errors and I could have should have about a billion things.  From my first day in the pool showing up in Board Shorts and the lessons, patience and advice that Coach Eric and Jonathan shared with me, to climbing up to Jamestown or peddling to Carter Lake for the first time and all those late Friday nights in the pool and missed time spent with Rugger from starting the race in the women's room of the hotel to having almost a breaking point while riding my Bella Nera on the course to hearing my name over the PA system and clicking my heals over the tape to hugging my dearest friend Hal of 41 years to cheering on the last racers as the clock struck midnight, I am very humbled and proud for seeing this journey through.  I am very blessed and thankful to have the strength and support and love of all those in my life.  Physical wounds will heal and the aches and pains will go away but the wonderful memories leading towards and of this race and all along the course will last with me for my lifetime.


  1. Marty, I just read your whole adventure through from beginning to end. What an inspiration you are...I was glued to every word. Congratulations! What an amazing accomplishment!

  2. I ran this race as well and it was BRUTAL! Congrats on your finish Ironman, your words brought me back to race day and the joy of the finish line all over again. Good luck on whatever's next for you!

  3. Great review! Thanks for sharing. I was there as well and yeah, it was a rough day. Congratulations on your finish and for toughing it out.

    You! Are! An! IRONMAN!

  4. Marty,
    I was there with you, finished at 14:54:09. Bib#1080. Also my first Ironman. I have shared my story with friends and family over the past few weeks and I still took away so much from your writing. Good luck on your future races and keep up the writing.....

  5. Congratulation from Costa Rica. I was here, I will never forget that moment. We are Ironman forever.

  6. Congrats on being an Ironman Marty!!! Doesn't surprise me in the least :) Came across this thru facebook - great blast from the past! Thought it would be a good time to say thanks for being such a great coach and putting up with the asshole teenage version of me :)

    xoxo meeshy


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