Today, I want to try something new. I want to share someone else’s story. This isn’t something that I’ve done before so here goes.
This is Jeff’s story which he shared pretty publicly last year after completing his first Ironman. I’ve gotten his permission to share his race report, his story, as he hopes that it will inspire other to keep going when they just don’t think that they can. And I can tell you first hand, that Jeff’s story inspires me every single time that I read it, hear it and see pictures.
Last year, Jeff was competing in Tinman 70.3, the same race that was my first 70.3. In fact, this may have been one of the first times that I really “met’ Jeff. Unfortunately, Jeff crashed his bike at the turn around and broke his clavicle. I remember riding past him and my heart broke for him. I knew how hard he had been training for Ironman Lake Placid and I couldn’t believe that he was lying on the ground. After I finished Tinman we ran into him and the break was confirmed and at the time Ironman was over for the season. Or so we all thought… Here’s his story, in his words. (I may interject here and there, but I’ll be sure to note it!)
Ironman Lake Placid 2012 August 6, 2012 at 11:36am – By Jeff Cornick
I’ve been asked by a few people about my race report and what the status was. I had kept it else where but figured I would post it here for people who like LONG and BORING race reports. (sarah here – NOT boring…. not boring at all!)
6/30 – I break my collar-bone in a half iron distance race and am told that I’m out for IMLP as I will be in a figure brace for 6-8 weeks. Heartbreaking, I cry everyday as my training was solid and was looking at having a great finishing time for the event.
7/12 – Follow up appointment since my brace isn’t tight enough anymore and seems to be stretching out. Dr says that my healing is within margin and I don’t need surgery (yay! ). Also says that the healing is going REALLY well and I don’t need the brace anymore…nearly 3.5 weeks early! Also says no contact sports yet. I took that as no basketball, football, and rugby. Don’t you? Swimming (although it can be sometimes ), cycling, and running aren’t…
I call my swim coach and ask to meet him monday night to see if I can figure out a way to swim with one arm.
7/16 – We work for about 200 yards on a stroke that might work. Some of it might need tweaking on race day…but looks like we found something that *might* work.
7/17 – Get my bike back to see if I can even hold myself up or get into aero position. I CAN! AWESOME! I ride all the way down my street (.2 miles lol ) and head home. I’m in. Call my parents and let them know I’m at least going to try…see what I can do. What’s the worst that can happen? I’ve already broken it…
Got up at 3:30 and just made sure I had packed everything I needed the night before. I had made a checklist to just to make sure and it came in handy because I almost walked out without a couple smaller items.
I haven’t swam, biked, or run in 3 weeks so I have NO idea what to expect from race day. All I wanted to do was finish…that was it. My original goal time was going to be way out and not come close and I was ok with that. I shouldn’t have been racing in the first place.
Dropped the nutrition off at the bike, put last-minute things in my gear bags in the transition area. Went off to get body marked and then up to our family tent where my parents, mandy (Jeff’s wife, and the boys (his two kids) were hanging out. Went up and dropped off the special needs bags then back down to the tent to get the wetsuit on and head off to the lake.
I didn’t do any warming up. Today was going to be a battle of mind over body. I would need the ability to sustain an extraordinary amount of pain throughout the day for this to happen. The week leading up to race day I started mentally preparing myself for the pain tolerance level I would need. If there is one thing I can handle – its pain. So I thought if I start preparing myself now I can wrap my head around what I might go through it might put me at another level.
Sarah Here – Ok, and Jeff didn’t really tell many people that he was going to go for it and try to complete the race. I still remember how shocked I was that morning to see him standing in his wetsuit on the shore. Holy …. what?! That man must be crazy or unbreakable. I didn’t know which, but we were ALL rooting for him from the start.
This was…uh…interesting to say the least. Knowing that I couldn’t get in the mix of the washing machine start I had to stay in the back. I was standing on shore when the canon went off and that was the right call. I waited probably 20-30 seconds before I even moved forward at all. I started to swim and quickly found myself at the starting line. I didn’t want to be there that fast as I knew if my shoulder got kicked my day would be done.
So I stayed back a little bit and let a few more seconds go and that seemed to be the time I needed. It really had strained right out and I had most of the room I would need. I needed to do a lot of sighting since I was only swimming with one arm. I found myself pulling to the right a lot (naturally ) but quickly found a way to fix that problem. But one problem was that every time my left shoulder would come out of the water it would ache from the pressure change but every time I turned on my left side (Shoulder down ) it hurt from the shoulder dropping. Within a few minutes I knew this was going to be a rough swim.
I needed to fix my problem of pulling to the right but also keep an eye on sighting as I had started to merge towards the line and it got way too crowded for me as I got kicked in the chest once and in the right shoulder. I quickly moved out towards the open and started to work on a form that would allow me to sight while nearly taking a stroke. While I was bringing my arm out of the water if I tilted my head upright just enough and shove my eyes into the top of my head I could just barely spot a buoy. It was enough of a sighting to keep me in line….which lasted for the first half of the first loop. Didn’t work that well on the second half of the first loop as the sun was killing me since I could only breath on one side.
I got out of the water in 46:39. Too fast! I used too much energy kicking and didn’t even know that I was going fast. I wanted to be around 52 for the loop but I realized I never rested either which is something I wanted to do.
Got back in the water and took my time, took my goggles off and looked around to see if I could see Mandy and my parents but there are thousands of people so I didn’t look all that long. Goggles back on and back to swimming!
The second loop I was right on pace. 52:38. I took a couple rests and it would work out great. At the first buoy of the second loop I’m just bobbing there and a life guard comes over and asks if I’m ok. Yup I’m good. Need anything? Nope, well, can I grab your board to hold onto? Yup. I’ve only got one arm…so I’m a little slow and getting tired. Seriously? Yup, broke my clavicle 3 weeks ago and I can’t use it to swim. And you’re stilling doing this? Good luck. Thanks!
Let go of the boat and off I go with my club for an arm.
There he is … out of the swim!
I went to the first stripper I saw and told her immediately that I had a broken clavicle and that I would just need a little bit of help but to be nice. She was AMAZING. She helped me pull the wetsuit out off my shoulder and easily down my arm. You would have never known I was hurting like crazy.
Layed down and her and another guy ripped it off. She grabbed me by the right hand and pulled me up…she did EXACTLY what I needed.
Held the suit, cap, and goggles in my right arm and just pinned my left arm to my stomach so it would bounce as little as possible. Saw mom and Mandy on the way out and gave her a big kiss.
Got to the tent and most everyone was gone…which I was pleased to see. I knew my swim time was going to be slow and I was ok with that.
Guy came over and helped me in the tent, explained my problem and he did everything he could. While I was getting socks and shoes on a dude with sun screen came over and lubed me up. Out I went! Hit the porta potty on my way out…ran into Allie (a tri friend) gave each other a high-five and away we went.
Uh yea, the wheels came off.
I’ve trained on this course a couple of times and pulled 6:15 and 6:30 for times. Not today!
I’m a power rider, I pump my way through hills using my big strong legs and today I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t pump my bike like I’ve done millions of times to get me up climbs. And it never occurred to me while I was tossing around the idea to still do the race that I couldn’t do that…
So, I became a spinner, which I am NOT. My bike never left the small ring in the front for the entire day. I would need to conserve as much energy as possible.
First loop is fairly uneventful but there are so many people out on the course that you strike up little conversations with people as you go back and forth. Less than 7 miles out-of-town there are people already sitting on the side of the road, one lady was leaning up against a State Trooper car. You don’t know why they are out but most likely that early in the race it’s either sickness or nerves of some sort. This is not a race for the weak-minded. One guy I met in the first 25 miles, Jack, is an auctioneer! Never met one of those before. In small talk he wants me to build him a new website…who knew you could make money while doing an Ironman race!
I saw Ray on the first 12 mile out and back as he was headed back towards town. On my route back into town I saw Ben who was just plugging along doing his thing.
Through the cherries on the first loop I passed a guy walking his bike. Going uphill so we are slow, I had time to ask him if he needed anything. Nope. You good? Yup. You sure? Yup, I quit. I didn’t say this to him but certainly thought it…BASTARD! You have two working shoulders and you quit this race 48 miles into it?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!! Enjoy your 8 mile walk back into town buddy.
I felt great coming into special needs; threw my special needs bag to John (a tri friend) and off I went. Mandy was at the end of special needs so I stopped and gave her a kiss. She asked if I was ok and I said yes. Asked if I was going to keep going and I said yes…which drove her nuts! She was an emotional wreck the whole day. Wrapping my way into town passed my parents at our tent and waved at them! First loop I did in 3:33 which is what I expected to be around for this.
The second loop is where the wheels started to fall off. I’m not sure what happened but I think it can be not being on the bike for 3 weeks and having to kick a lot more on the swim but my legs were out of gas. About mile 75 I started to not feel well. I couldn’t stomach the Inifinit anymore…it was warm and just didn’t do it – I couldn’t even choke it down. So I stopped at a porta potty and chilled for a couple of minutes and tried one of those Ironman drinks…oh lord was it horrible. I threw the whole thing away I couldn’t drink it. Got back on the bike and started going again.
Second time to Willmington I could feel the exhaustion kicking my butt. I was grabbing water as much as I could but my stomach was getting worse and I was starting to overheat. I was constantly poring water over my head to try to cool my body down.
Went through Willmington and stopped at a swimmers hole (not sure of location but had parking area off to the right) and decided I needed to stop for a bit. I sat on a railing and leaned the bike up against it. Within a minute or so I was getting very light-headed and threw up. Ben came spinning by me and told me to keep plugging along. At that point there were two other people who had stopped as well, told them I was going to lay down in the shade as I was burning up. I walked over, sprayed down the pavement with water so it wasn’t too hot and laid down. Just what the doctor ordered. I laid there for a couple of minutes just collecting myself, drank some water, and cooled off. Jack showed back up and he said he wouldn’t be disappointed if a SAG vehicle came and got him at this point…he was done. I encouraged him but I had to get going…and he came along. Got back on my bike and started to climb again.
I continued on but needed to rest 2 more times. I knew how much time I had to get into town so I was good there. But wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to knock myself out of the race because I was pushing myself too hard when I didn’t really need to when I had some time to play. The first time I stopped and sat on a guard rail again and Jack was nowhere to be seen he had dropped off. By time I started going again he had shown up…but was done racing. He had taken as much as he could and decided that his 5th Ironman would not be a success. One more quick stop before you climb the Bears and back in town. I had the time I needed so I used it to my advantage to freshen up a little bit.
Got off the bike at 4:45 with 45 minutes to spare…and I was going to need that time!
Amazingly looking great out there!
I thought I was done, I really did. I got off the bike and Mandy was yelling at me from 10′ away…barely heard her. I was getting dehydrated and really over heating at this point. I went over to her and she told me I didn’t have to continue and that she was proud of me for even trying under my circumstances.
I just gave her a kiss and walked away…barely. I slowly made my way to T2 tent with my bag but was greeted by my friend Cory at the entrance. Oh what a site…I needed to see an athlete that I knew.
I sat down…and did just that…just sat there. A medic came over and looked at me while Cory got my stuff out of the bag. The medic felt my neck, asked me some questions that I was able to answer very slowly. He said that I needed to get something in my body fast as I was dehydrated and was going downhill quickly. He did say that I wasn’t at the point of no return yet and he wouldn’t pull me from the race but I was on the verge of it. I started mixing my Infinit with some cold water so I could stomach it and that helped a TON.
As I sat there with my sneakers on and all my stuff out with Cory just encouraging me, giving me updates on time and telling me to take my time to compose myself I look around. I looked at the other athletes in the tent. Some had been taken out of the race, some had quit, somewhere in and out frantically. I tried to soak it all in and I remembered how I felt after I collapsed at Big George. I felt WAY worse than that race but I was still with it for some reason. I kept watching this guy to the left of me as he put his sandals on, got out his cell phone and called someone while his head was low and dejected. I could FEEL the heartbreak he was going through and I didn’t want that. I turned to Cory and stood up and he helped me put my Fuel Belt on, strapped my arm in the sling and taped it to my chest so it wouldn’t bounce. Started walking towards the exit…he then pointed me to the correct exit lol. As I walked out he was putting sun screen on me and just encouraging me to take my time and walk a bit let my body catch up.
I was not with it. I just knew I had to keep moving forward if this was going to happen. I had taken a lot of time in T2 to let my body compose itself and it started to work. Mandy was at the T2 exit, she said it was fine if I was done and there was nothing more that I had to prove. But I did – I wasn’t done.
I walked out and took the right, saw my parents immediately and gave them both hugs and kisses but couldn’t muster up the energy to talk. I just kept going in a daze. Started hearing the crowd a bit and encouragement coming in from people…the water and Infinit started to sink into my system and I was feeling pretty good around mile 1.5 or so. So I decided to start jogging. About mile 2 another runner gave me some ibuprofen and chugged that right down hoping that would help with the pain of my shoulder bouncing. I’m not sure if it did to be honest, I was still pretty out of it at that point. Matt came by quickly after that, did a fist bump in the road and just encouraged each other. Not long after I saw Ray, he came over and shook my hand and he said “you are one tough son of a bitch!”. That meant a lot, strange I know. But I was working hard to keep going and someone saw that.
I kept doing a run walk for a while. Drinking water at every station and mixing my Infinit with it. Around mile 11 or so I saw my parents and pops helped me with my bib and fuel belt…it’s amazing the things you can’t do with one arm! At this point I was starting to wake up a little bit more! John helped me with my arm as the brace was starting to fall off and it wasn’t holding very well, got it retaped and off I went. We did the math on how many miles I had left and how much time, figuring I needed to average 17 minutes a mile to complete it in the time allowed. He jogged with me for a bit but told him I wasn’t sure how strict they were about having company while you run so I told him to shrug off just in case. : )
I continued to do my run/walk splits out-of-town and just kept moving keeping the pace around 12-13 min/mile as I was feeling ok but then my body started to shut down. My feet started feeling really strange and the inside of my mouth was starting to feel like I had a cotton ball in it. Oh no…here we go…dehydration is really starting to kick in. How can this be?! I’m drinking every station, I’m still sweating! Kept mixing my Infint with the water to keep the electrolytes coming in as I couldn’t stand the Ironman Perform.
By mile 14 I was reduced to a complete walk. My feet were killing me, getting slightly light-headed, my stomach was turning into a mess. This was NOT a good sign.
Mile 16 I had shooting pain in my right arm and couldn’t figure out what it was from! Then realized that I just swam 2.4 miles with that arm, biked 112 with 90% of my weight on it, and I was 16 miles into a marathon with only one arm to pump with…I can see why it would hurt!
From mile 16 to mile 18 I sat down in two porta potties and one guys lawn chair (lol). I needed to rest otherwise I was going down. I had done the math so I knew how much time I had and what my average needed to be to finish and I was good leading up to that with plenty of time to spare.
Heading back into town when I got to mile 20 I knew it being only a 10k left that I could really do this even if I had walked most of the last 15 miles or so. There was a guy leaning up against a guard rail sitting on the ground, out cold. Don’t know if he fell asleep or what but he didn’t look good. About mile 22.5 John met me outside of town and just walked with me. He was trying to make small talk to take my mind off the pain but it wasn’t working…partially because I couldn’t talk. I even told him I didn’t have enough energy to talk to him. Two more porta potties later and one stop on a concrete block where a state trooper came over to make sure ok I was back on my way.
About mile 23.5 my father showed up and walked with me as well. Was nice to have company as I was going to need it. There was a couple of times that John had caught me from going down when trying to get into the porta potties. I sat down at one of the hotels signs and made a comment to him that I was about to fall asleep. He got me right up and got me some coke, said I needed some simple sugars in my system to waken me up…and that it did. I wasn’t exactly perky and ready to run or anything but it kept me moving. I kept sipping coke for a mile or so and I was getting better and better.
Mile 24.5ish on the climb back into town my whole family was there. Mom, Mandy, the boys were there at the peak of the first climb. Brayson (Jeff’s six year old son) was cheering for me the whole time “Daddy, you can do it! C’mon Daddy! You can do it daddy!” Seriously? Make me cry again during this race? He absolutely melted my heart and he gave me the strength to keep going. I can’t wait until he’s older and I can tell him the story of what that did for me and some day do the same for him. Mom joined Pops and John to walk with me for a bit.
Around mile 25 I was actually feeling pretty decent and started to jog again. That lasted for a 100 yards or so and I decided that was enough and I had more than enough time to finish the way I was. My legs hurt so badly at this point from so much kicking in the water, spinning on the bike, and walking/running in the marathon. I told myself that I was good with the effort I had given and I could look everyone in the eye and tell them I left nothing on the course. I walked the rest of Mirror Lake out and back and picked up the running about .4 from the finish line, I did save some energy for that. I wasn’t going to walk into the oval!
I had caught a lady in front of me by time I got to the oval and I didn’t want to go sprinting around it and I wanted her to have her moment of glory, so I literally stopped and let a little space create between us. Turned to two ladies in the crowd as they were looking at me a little funny for just standing at the oval so I explained to them what I was doing and they just smiled and said that was nice.
Headed into the oval and the first two people I saw were Matt and Ray, my two training partners who had great races, both finishing in the 13:00 range. Gave them hugs, told them I was proud of them and everything they did. I continued through the oval and got 35 feet before I saw my parents. Gave them both BIG hugs and started to tear up a little bit as it was becoming a reality that I was going to be an Ironman.
I started smiling from ear to ear and moved around the oval and started pumping my fist like I was a hero that won a war or something. I didn’t know how to express myself…especially with one arm. It was becoming an out-of-body experience for me, I had energy again, my emotions were through the roof! Thankfully I saw that Mandy and Bray were on the right just a bit before the finish line and I gave them both kisses. Kept pumping my fist and jumping around as Mike Reilly said the golden words “Jeff Cornick…YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!” I was overcome with emotions and pride as they gave me my hat, shirt, and lay the medal around my neck.
Total time: 16:46:53
It may not have been the race I wanted but I still completed an Ironman in the time allowed. I can’t thank everyone enough for each role they played.
Sarah here – Jeff’s finish at IMLP was a true triumph of the human spirit. He proved that if you want something bad enough you can do it, if you just keep with it. He was everyone’s hero that day and everyone was so proud of him for getting to that line. In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Jeff better. And I can tell you that not only did he triumph that day, but he decided that this year he is going to show Ironman Lake Placid who the boss is. He has big goals for the race and I am glad that I’ll be there yet again as a spectator and bike volunteer to see what true dedication can do. But seriously, take Jeff’s story to heart here. You can do anything you set your mind to. And it will change you. Forever.