2011: The Finish

Some of my most authentic moments as an athlete have come at the finish line of an Ironman. On Sunday, November 20th (yes, its been 2 weeks now) I had one of those moments.

The finish line is the culmination of the day. I can exalt in my physical efforts, disregard the emotional battles from the marathon, embrace the challenges on the day, relish in the high points, and put the nail in the coffin on the low points I overcame. And most importantly - I don’t have to run another step for a realllllllyyyy long time.

I crossed the line at Ironman Arizona in a remarkable time of 8 hours and 54 minutes. Moments after finishing, Mike Reilly (the legendary race announcer) asked me how I felt. I told him that I felt like I had just won the race - all while grinning from ear to ear. The truth is, I had come second - for the third year in a row at this event.

At the 2010 Iroman Hawaii I got a sticker in my race registration packet where you could enter your goal finish time. I boldly turned it to 9:00:00. It was one of those big, dreamy, feel-good goals. Something you don’t really think can happen, but you want to have on the back burner. For a whole year - every time I went to the fridge 9 hours stared me in the eyes. I knew going into Ironman Arizona, the winner would go under 9 hours.

And so, my goal for Ironman Arizona was set: to break 9 hours. Matt Dixon told me I needed to swim 57 minutes, ride around 4 hours 50 minutes, and run just under 3 hours. To make this happen would require my best performances in all three disciplines.

The 6 week turn-around
Ironman Arizona is always one of my favorite stops on the race calendar. I always feel a bit more relaxed than other big events. People often ask what I do between Kona and Arizona. The truth is: chill out! The hay is in the barn at this point. The idea is to capitalize on my fitness gains from Kona and treat myself to a great race! Thanks to my “recovery coach” - my workouts often consisted of simply turning my brain off. I didn’t over-analyze if I felt good or not. I just put my head down and got the work done. The goal in the 6 weeks is to keep the body moving and the engine open. I also took extra good care of myself with lots of body work (thanks, Doctor Ball!), extra sleep and good nutrition - Big Sky beer included.

Race week
I always enjoy the lead up to this event. I have many friends in the area (and now many new ones) that put me in a good mood. My dear friend & training partner Meredith always races, so we are reunited!!! TRIBE Multisport takes great care of me & my bike and puts on a great party on Friday night at the shop. Of course, my parents were there for the main event too. Not to mention perfect weather. The week hurries past and it is onto race day and I am always excited to jump into Tempe Town Lake and get the party started.

The main-event
The party got started with a great bang! I exited the swim with a personal best time. This included getting kicked in the face and flooded goggles. The speedy swim may have been a highlight of the whole year - as I have diligently been chipping away at my swim times for basically 10 months now. As I hopped on my bike and was pedaling with the race clock still under an hour, I smiled & thought I could drop out now and still be happy. But, there was 112 miles to ride first - so no dropping out Corbin! I have to say I felt great for the first 3.5 hours of the ride. I was ticking away the miles and moving my way to the front of the race. My watts were on track. My nutrition was going according to plan. However, by the final lap of the bike course fatigue set in. Darn it! I knew to just ride it out, focus on myself, and hopefully it would pass. Unfortunately, I lost time to the leaders of the race. I tried to not get discouraged as this also happened at IMCDA in 2010, and I was able to reel the gals back in on the run. Off the bike, into my Sauconys and it was time to run that sub-3 marathon I have been oh-so-close to many times now. I started running and looked down to see my watch had also flooded and I had no way to track my time/pacing. This may have been a blessing in disguise as I ended up running off of feel, took my nutrition according to mile markers, and focused on my normal cue of “quick feet.” I moved up nicely throughout the marathon with a few highlights:

1. Seeing my family all over the course. The three loop affair made for a fun day of spectating for Chris and Ma & Pa P. My mom loves to do jumping jacks to get my attention. This makes me smile inside. Nobody is more passionate about me as an athlete than my dad, so he’s a guaranteed loud cheerer! This pushes me along nicely. Most importantly, I can always pick Chris & his big smile out - he always has the right thing to say and knows me better than myself at times. To be honest, everyone else was one big blur.
2. Catching MBK. It’s always tough to see a friend going through a rough patch, but Mere had a wonderful swim, and ride. She is the toughest cookie I know and was putting up a real good fight! As I came up in the distance she stuck a hand out. As I passed we held hands, I gave her a squeeze - and encouraged her to come with.  Then I had to get back to my “quick feet” mantra as my rough patch was kindly awaiting just a few miles up the road. Congrats on your amazing 9-hour performance MBK. Sub-9 awaits you in 2012. I am sure of it!
3. The Arizona community. I have a strong affinity for the passion & enthusiasm of the Arizona running & triathlon communities. Its one of the most welcoming groups of people I have ever interacted with. It was great to have local athlete, Elliot, as my lead biker for a large part of the race. His buddies got a real kick out of the fact that he was guiding the way for me. Of course, there were all those that were touched by Sally Meyerhoff - the epitome of being relentlessly positive. When things got tough, I did my best to be relentlessly positive. I also can’t say enough for the spirited aid stations & all the shouts of encouragement I received on the day. Among the massive blur I remember there were speedos, naughty cops & robbers, orange t-shirts, a few “I love you’s,” pink knee highs, just to name a few. A giant thank you as I used all of this energy to propel me to a great finish & I apologize for not being able to cheer or smile back at times. Oh boy! I was “in the well” on that marathon.

The finish
Before I knew it - all the pain, suffering, doubts, cramping legs, it all went away. There was Ma P affectionately jumping up and down with my cowboy hat in hand. The finish line was in sight - and for a moment - things slow down and I realize, my dream of breaking the 9 hour barrier is going to come true. No more telling myself “quick feet”, no more gels, no more doubts: it’s all over. A year of ups, downs, fitness gains, remarkable performances, emotional let downs, amazing training days, consistent swimming, bad weather, bad tan lines, many massages, great memories. The 2011 door closes and a new one awaits in 2012.

I want to congratulate Leanda Cave on a remarkable win and bringing out the best in all of us. You were a great competitor! I also want to recognize all of the first-time Ironman competitors that shared in the day. Most importantly, I want to express my sincere gratitude for all the amazing support this year from Chris, my family, friends, training partners, sponsors & Matt Dixon. Thank you for your continued support along this journey.

Life is good and I am continually amazed! Onto the next chapter…. exciting things await in 2012.

Linsey N Corbin