Friday, October 30, 2009

young man's impression of Ironman

This was written by my 14 year old nephew Robert, about the Ironman World Championship that he witnessed on October 10th. Robert came out with his mother Rochelle (Jocelyn’s older sister) for our wedding, and got a chance to take in the race the day before. Robert just started running cross-country for his middle school team and I wondered what kind of effect this race would have on him, if any. Read below for the answer.


The Ironman World Championship

The Ironman is a major event that only occurs once a year. This triathlon only accepts qualifiers who have trained arduously and that will compete in three athletic events. The Ironman is held in Kailua Kona and consists of a 2.4-mile swim in choppy waters, 112 breath taking mile bike riding, and a humid 26.2 mile run with a light breeze cooling the competitors. The Ironman only accepts accepted 2,000 people this year on October 10. My Uncle, Jeremy Cornman, is a tremendous and energetic athlete that is now considered an “Ironman” himself. I am proud to say he is my uncle and he has influenced me ever since he crossed that finish line at 10hrs, 28 min, and 19 seconds. To think that people like this can finish such a race is incredible while dealing with a temperature of 87 and a humidity of 74 makes me speechless! The way those people swam, biked, and ran influenced me in everyday life and only to become something great like them. The people who qualify and are accepted into a once a year world event that only accepts a few thousand people is incredible in every thinkable way. It showed me how I should work arduously and make it to the top. Even if I fail, I am not considered a quitter for working hard on something that I have not yet ended, this should be said throughout anyone who has not yet finished something they have yet to end.


Thanks Robert, I too am proud, that of my new nephew! Keep running and the sky’s the limit!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

media coverage - links

PG North/West: Leetsdale man will compete for a cause in Hawaii
Thursday, October 08, 2009

Sewickley Car Store and The Ironman

Sewickley native ready to race for the title of Ironman this fall

Sunday, October 18, 2009

One week ago today...

One week ago today in Hawaii, my girlfriend of over 4 years, Jocelyn Ann Smith, became my wife. At 2:00 PM HST at Holoholokai Beach Park in Hawaii, at a ceremony presided over by Pastor BJ Kailimai of Imiola Congregational Church, we took our marriage vows and...
Jocelyn and I became man and wife shortly after 2pm on 10/11/2009.

Meet the Cornmans!
Wedding party @ Holoholokai.
The rings worn together for the first time, symbolizing our union.
Starting our life together.
I love you Jocey.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Kona race report

Well I guess it's time to finally do a race report, seeing that I am now at the end of my 10th season of triathlon and I have yet to do one. Last Saturday, October 10th 2009, I competed in the 31st edition of the Ford Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. The race lived up to all of its hype and mystique in my mind, and looking back on the experience, I am so happy to have had the opportunity to race there. I will try to keep this report reasonably short, but be forewarned that just writing about the experience may get the better of me and I may get carried away with my description out of sheer, runaway nostalgic excitement.

Race morning began much earlier than I would have hoped when I woke up at 2:45 AM (2 hours early) to go to the bathroom. That was it for me, the brain and nerves started going, and there was no more sleep to be had. I just laid there in bed, and began to visualize my race. I finally got up at 4:45 like I had planned and started the pre-race ritual. I drank 3 meal replacement shakes and ate 2 bananas and one Clif Bar before my nerves/stomach got the better of me and I could ingest no more. I put on some sunscreen, my heart rate monitor, gathered up the rest of my gear, and walked out the door at 5:15 with my bottles of Gatorade in tow. I decided against asking for a ride from any of my family members but rather to take the shuttles that were supposedly running down Ali'i Dr instead. After waiting for about 20-25 minutes and beginning to worry that maybe I had made a huge mistake, the shuttle finally came. I got down to the Kona Pier and "Dig Me Beach" with about an hour to go till the race began. I went through body marking, the pre-race weight check, gear drop off, got everything situated in transition, and was ready to wait in line for the porta-johns for the all important last stop. As I was waiting, I was treated to an aerial show of 4 or 5 Navy SEALS exiting from what I believe was a C-130 transport plane above the pier, and then parachuting down into the bay while performing aerial maneuvers. This was incredible to see and got me fired up to race and get into the bay myself. When the pros went off at 6:45, I was in line and ready to file my way into the bay for my turn.

Once I got into the water, I made my way up to the front of the water treading pack, and picked my spot to begin the wait. As the start approached, a number of native musicians began beating on wooden drums all around the bay, building the excitement in the water to a fevered pitch. Suddenly the cannon sounded and we were off. I thought that I had picked a good position in the middle of the pack (from left to right) to avoid the worst of the start's chaos. I was wrong apparently, or I may have just inadvertently angled over towards the buoy line too quickly, because soon I found myself swimming through a sea of bodies and not the Pacific. That is the most frustrating time of an Ironman to me, when you are swimming over people and vice versa, elbows and feet everywhere, and you can't find clear water anywhere you look. If you are unlucky enough to find yourself in that position because you didn't get out ahead, you're just stuck until it thins out on its own. Luckily the chaos didn't last quite as long here as it did for me in Lake Placid, and soon I was cruising along and feeling pretty good. At about a kilometer out, I found someone that seemed to be pretty strong and I latched onto his feet for a ride. I was doing pretty well and stuck with him for maybe a 500 or so when I let a little gap of about 4 feet form and boom, someone snuck in from my hip and took my draft! I had never witnessed a move like this before in an open water swim, but I guess at the World Championships if you snooze, you lose. I continued on, going from person to person when possible, but often just swimming by myself.
At the turn around, I happened to swim right up alongside someone that was immediately recognizable to me in the water, Rudy Garcia-Tolson. Rudy is the first ever double above knee amputee to attempt the Hawaii Ironman. I had first read about Rudy years and years ago in Triathlete when he first started competing in tris in California and made a name for himself. I had heard that Rudy was a really strong swimmer, but now I got to see it firsthand and swim alongside him for a little. Very cool. I continued on back towards shore, just trying to keep it steady and keep everything balanced and loose. I came up on shore and ran up the stairs onto the pier in 1:05:56. Not my best Ironman swim, but considering the chaotic moments, this was something I could work with.

I was in and out of transition in 4:19 to start the bike. I started riding and immediately got into a good tempo as I was cruising through town when I went over a rough patch of road at an intersection, where two of my water bottles with my liquid nutrition were promptly ejected from my stupid, behind the seat bottle cages. I briefly considered stopping to pick them up, until I saw that they had also opened, spilling my Accelerade onto the pavement. I pushed on, fairly energized by my anger over this incident. The first 40 miles flew by, and it barely seemed as if I was expending any energy at all, averaging over 24 mph over a gradual uphill trend.
I was pretty sure there was not a tailwind for this section, as I was repeatedly pushed to my side by the wind, and also felt it in my face. I did also begin to notice the heat now, after riding by lava rock for more than an hour with reported temps in town in excess of 95 degrees, but I took the opportunity at every aid station to dump ice cold water over my head and back. Luckily along this stretch of the Queen Ka' ahumanu Hwy, the aid stations seemed to come by almost every 3 or 4 miles so I was at no loss for calories or cold water, despite losing most of my energy drink earlier - I was making good use of the Gatorade Endurance and Power Gels that were available at the numerous aid stations. But just as I was getting used to these plentiful aid stations, when I made the turn at Kawaihae and then started the long gradual climb to Hawi, the aid stations began to get much more sporadic. Unfortunately this also coincided with the arrival of some serious, noticeable winds. For the most part, I was keeping a steady pace up towards Hawi, but the final 4-5 miles to the turnaround on the steepest grades were made that much more challenging by the howling head/crosswinds. At the turnaround I successfully grabbed my first ever special needs bag with 3 additional bottles of Accelerade and was on my way down the hill. This short but roaring descent made the recent climb up into the winds completely worthwhile. The road leveled off for a little while and the course seemed fairly benign for another 15 miles or so, but once I turned back onto the Queen K/A Mamalahoa a little bit before mile 80, things started getting ugly. The course itself through this section wasn't particularly difficult topographically, but the winds stepped up and did the job perfectly. I was still hovering around 22 mph for my average up until around mile 80, but then it took a serious nosedive. The next 20-25 miles were a real struggle. The gradual uphills on the way out of town that I was hitting at 23 mph, now I was struggling to hold 16 mph on the downhill inverses. I asked myself a couple times if I thought I had had it, if maybe I had cracked, but I don't think that was it. I wondered if maybe I had gone out too aggressively, or maybe I was bonking mildly from a calorie deficit, but I don't think that was it either. The legendary Queen K winds had simply smacked me in the face. The final miles into Kona were very difficult and frustrating, but I had to remind myself that the race was not over and that I still had a chance to run a fast marathon. Every time I got frustrated and down on myself, I merely had to look at the beautiful surroundings and remind myself where I was and what I was a part of. I pushed into town as quickly as possible and tried to really lift my cadence to a high rate to prepare the running legs. I hit the end of the bike leg with a 5:33:46 split which worked out to be a 20.13 mph average.

After a surprisingly quick transition of 3:31 (considering we ran to the end of the pier and around every last bike before getting to the changing tents) I was off running on the shadeless and stiflingly hot streets of Kailua-Kona. My first two miles were quick and I was right where I wanted to be at sub 7:30 miles, but then the novel energy of the transition faded and my pace started to slide. I tried to keep it fast and my feet light, but my legs were beginning to slow dramatically. As I headed out on Ali'i Dr, I knew I would see my family and that would give me a boost of energy, however this turned out to be short lived and I found myself quickly withering under the heat.

I was still dumping ice water on my head, but now I was also pouring ice down my uniform and holding cubes against my chest until they melted away. In addition to the slowing legs, my stomach was also beginning to give me problems and the Gatorade I was drinking was not sitting well. Water wasn't much better and it took almost 3 miles before I remembered Jocelyn saying that she had the same problem at Lake Placid until she started drinking cola at every aid station. I don't know why this didn't occur to me earlier, and maybe the heat was affecting my ability to reason, but once I started downing the cola my stomach settled very quickly. Thankfully, this problem had now been solved, now I just had the problem of running about 20 more miles in brutal heat with unresponsive legs.
Once getting up onto the Queen K highway again, but this time for the run, I realized how close this run was going to take me to my limits. I had never had to resort to this method before, but I adopted the "one step at a time" mantra as I was running down the lonely highway, trying to be completely present in the moment. There were many times out on the Queen K, and then especially at the Energy Lab, where I wanted to stop and walk, but I constantly reminded myself of how hard I had worked to get here, that I couldn't let Jocelyn, my family, my friends and training partners down, and that it really wasn't that bad. I couldn't give up that easily, I couldn't resign to such mental weakness. I finally reminded myself of the charity that I was racing for, Ballou Skies, and that the young men and boys that it benefits eventually get to a point where they don't have a choice whether they can walk or run if they so desire - it is taken from them by disease. I committed to not walk another step, to finish the race running, and to run the closing miles as fast as I could.
I couldn't muster much more than about 8:20-8:30 miles coming back into town, but once I felt the energy of the crowd again and the finish line luring me in, I was somehow able to run my final mile in 6:45. Now mind you I was also seeing spots as I made the final turn for home, but it felt great to be able to run down the finishing chute of the Ironman World Championship with such focus and determination. I completed the marathon in 3:40:47 (8:25 pace) and the race for a total time of 10:28:19. Crossing the line was a dream come true in so many ways and I feel tremendous relief and satisfaction that I accomplished this goal, but it also has me more motivated than ever to work even harder to return to the big island next year and race with even more strength and conviction.

I would like to thank my new wife Jocelyn, my family, extended family, friends, training partners, coworkers, and sponsors for believing in me and my dream to race in Kona. I couldn't have made it to the the starting line let alone the finish without you, and I am forever grateful for your support, love, and friendship. You have all helped me become an Ironman in Kona!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Greetings from Kona

Since arriving in Kona late on Wednesday afternoon (really late for us Easterners), it has be a whirlwind of activity trying to settle in here and prepare for the race. A hot, humid whirlwind! We arrived at the Keahole airport and stepped off the Hawaiian Airlines plane directly onto the tarmac on what seemed to be part moonscape, part paradise.

The airport is right on the western coast of the Big Island, right smack dab in the middle of a volcanic plateau, formed over the years of lava flows from Mauna Kea. After a somewhat lengthy stay at Hertz for get our car rental (in my experience, Hawaiians are super friendly and can talk forever), we were on our way into Kailua-Kona and our condo. When we got to our condo, thankfully my bike was already there waiting for me and check-in went smoothly. Once my family and the Smith family got situated, most everyone's first priority was to get some food after the long day of travel. An Ironman athlete's first priority is often different however, and I decided to get in a short run to stretch out the legs after 13 hours of airline travel. I ran to the restaurant, and met everyone there. Dinner was very good and long overdue for this group of travel weary zombies from Pittsburgh.
I think just about everyone was asleep within minutes of walking back through the door at the condo.

Thursday morning came early at 5am since it was pushing noon for our eastern time zone accustomed bodies, and my sister Jenny, brother Chris, Chris' girlfriend Alyson, and I congregated on the volcanic rock outcropping that served as part of the beach just outside our condo's balcony.
There we watched the waves crash, crabs scurry about, and morning surfers and paddlers do their thing while we waited for the rest of the crew to wake up. After a short run with Chris down Alii Drive into town and back, it was time to get on with the day. We went and got some breakfast at a great little bar, Quinn's Almost By the Sea, that only does breakfast each year for Ironman week. I have been told they are famous for their fish and chips, but they make a pretty mean western omelette as well! Then I parted ways with everyone for a little and went to packet pickup/check-in at the King Kamehameha Hotel, and then browsed all of the IM merchandise at the Ironman Store "trap" that caters to all of the proud athletes with open wallets. In the picture below, I had escaped the store with minimal damage done and posed with this huge, floral m-dot.

After meeting back up with the group to coordinate, Jocey and I were off to the governors office to get our marriage license for the big day on Sunday!

Next stop was the 'Anaeho'omalu beach on the south Kohala coast, for some sun worshipping and a little snorkeling. There wasn't too much to this beach, not a large swath of sand like I am used to from the Jersey Shore or North Carolina, but it had some really interesting sand, very coarse and multi-colored, most notably with some small green crystals of something mixed in with the larger percentage of salt and pepper type large grains.

Also at 'Anaeho'omalu was some pretty good snorkeling, with a fair amount of coral to swim over and inspect, with numerous types of tropical fish and even a good deal of sea turtles. Here you can see one of the fast moving reptilian fellows, staying a couple strokes ahead of the pesky, drafting triathlete swimming behind him.

After leaving the beach, we started on our way back to Kona for the Ironman Welcome dinner, aka pasta dinner and athlete's meeting. Here along the Queen Kaahumanu Highway, I got one of my first looks of the bleak and challenging landscape that I will be dealing with on Saturday for so many miles on the bike leg and marathon. I know it is going to be pretty hot out there, but I am crossing my fingers that the winds are reasonably light for the bike leg. Here is a view heading south, between Waikoloa and the airport region.

Next I went into the welcome dinner, where I got to stuff my face and meet some other athletes doing the race. I had a nice chat with Dana and Rob from Tulsa Oklahoma, and Temu and his wife Mia from Finland. We had some nice tri-talk and race prognostication, and learned a little bit about each other and how we all came to be in Kona. There was a cool hula dance and fire dancer performing at the beginning of the dinner, and that definitely set the tone for the evening and the race to come.

After the welcome dinner I walked down Ali'i Drive and met up with the rest of the family at Bubba Gump's where they were eating before heading back to the condo to turn in for the night. After a night of a little bit more and better quality sleep, I awoke for the last day of prep and relaxation before the race. There really isn't too much exciting going on with me today, just trying to hydrate and rest as much as possible. I will be dropping my bike and gear off at the transition area shortly, and then the real countdown will begin!

In other exciting news though, Happy 33rd Anniversary to my parents! Here was a little early morning Hawaiian offering/note to my parents from Chris and Alyson.

I don't really have too much to say about the race tomorrow, except that it is going to be an incredible challenge amongst some of the best athletes in the world on one of the toughest imaginable courses. The race will surely be a brutal affair and one that will test me to the limit, but I simply plan to stay on top of my nutrition, attitude, and effort, and the rest will take care of itself. I thank everyone who has helped or supported me along the way, this race tomorrow is for you! I will post more as soon as I am able. Aloha hiahi!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

maiden blog post

Well after maybe a year and a half of being signed up for blogger and never posting anything, I have finally decided to make my initial, maiden blog post, prior to my maiden voyage to Hawaii for the Ford Ironman World Championship. I had previously considered posting some race reports and getting this thing off of the ground, but they never seemed significant enough to venture into this unknown world, of which I was uncertain whether I was either creative or interesting enough to inhabit. I am sure the creativity question will bear itself out in time; however I hope this big upcoming adventure in Hawaii may be sufficient for satisfying others’ interest.

The race now is 6 days out, and itself is just part of a much more profound trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. The entourage and I leave at 6am Wednesday morning for about 17.5 hours of travel before arriving in Kona Wednesday afternoon. My bike is already on its way, having been sent out on Friday and is now at a FedEx location in Memphis awaiting its flight over to HI tomorrow morning.

I think everything really started to sink in a little bit more once the bike was packed up in the bike box to start the journey. I haven’t really packed anything else, but how hard could it be? I’m only going to Hawaii, and the way I see it I’ll only need my racing gear, one pair of shorts and shirt, flipflops, and board shorts!

In reality it will be much more complicated than that, but I’ll spare you the gruesome and meticulous details. There will be plenty of time and future blog posts for that! Though as I previously alluded, I am still trying to come to terms with this trip and the magnitude of it, but with each passing day it is becoming more real and the excitement is building as well. I actually did a live radio interview with KDKA’s Rob Pratte this morning, detailing my training, the upcoming race, and my involvement with a great charity, Ballou Skies. While I must say that I was fairly nervous doing this, it wasn’t quite as nerve-wracking as I expected and actually pretty fun. Maybe this experience will help to prepare me for the circus that I have heard is Ironman week in Kona. Time will tell!

In any case, I will be posting along the way from Kona in the lead-up and following the big dance. I would like to thank my wonderful girlfriend Jocelyn, my family and friends, all of my training partners, and sponsors for helping me to get to where I am now, the doorstep of the biggest triathlon in the world. I couldn’t have done it without you and am forever thankful and grateful for your love, friendship, and support. However the best is still to come, and race-day and the biggest weekend of my life is less than a week away!