This Sunday will be my third time racing Ironman Louisville. This year will be different from the previous two in the fact that they race is in mid-October instead of the end of August. This means cooler temperatures and a wet-suit-legal swim. There was some concern about algae blooms forcing the race organizers to cancel the swim, but literally about 15 minutes prior to me writing this post, the all-clear was given, so race will include the the 2.4 mile swim!
I checked-in in this morning and tonight I will get all of my gear in order. I’ve been waiting for the nervous/excited feeling and after being down at the Athlete Village…I finally have it! I’ve trained for this race for 36 weeks. I’ve sacrificed a lot (mainly sleep and eating crappy food) to get my body ready for this race. I’ve taken myself to dark places during my high-intensity workouts in order to maximize my training time of just 7 hours a week. For better or worse, it all comes down to this race.
For my race preview, I thought I would share some tips for my fellow athletes that will be on the course with me Sunday.
Pre Race Tip – Plan Ahead
I’m a planner. My engineering mind forces me to plan for things. I have pages of notes and check lists that I use for my Ironman races. I’ve gone over that list and revised my notes for this years race. I will continue to go over them from now until race morning. I want to control what I can and not stress about thinking I’ve left something out that I will need at the race start or out on the course. I will mentally walk through the entire day several times, starting as soon as I wake up (What time will I get up? What will I eat before I leave? What time will I leave the house?, etc.) and ending when I’m back home that evening. Some things that I think some people might forget to think about? What you will wear at the swim start. It’s going to be in the high 40’s, so standing around for a few hours might get chilly without a sweatshirt or jacket. Another key thing to consider is what you want to accomplish at the aid stations on the course. Will you just need water, or are you relying on the nutrition supplied on the course to get you through the day. I have a very specific plan for each aid station and I will visualize what I’m going to do as I come up to each one. This way I can get through quickly and not forget something I need.
Swim Tip – Draft
Drafting is illegal on the bike, but not on the swim. I will do my best to stay close to Towhead Island for the upstream portion of the race and then try to get on someone’s feet to draft as we head downstream. Drafting is a technique where one swimmer aligns himself/herself with another swimmer to reduce the overall effect of drag forces. The lead swimmers forward momentum will create little whirlpools behind them, allowing the swimmer following to ride the wave. This wave starts at the lead swimmer’s shoulders and continues out sideways. The following swimmers best spot is close the lead swimmers hips. This can reduce the following swimmers perceived effort by up to 20%! The trick is to find someone that is just barely faster than you to draft off of. So I will wait until I see someone slowly passing me and then I will try and move onto their hip, with the goal of swimming at the same effort, but going faster.
Bike Tip – Use All of Your Gears
Most triathlon bikes have two chain rings in the front and a cassette with 10 or 11 cogs in the back. This gives you between 20 and 22 different gears. On the Ironman Louisville course, you should use almost all of them! With the exception of cross-chaining (big ring on front, biggest cog on the back and smallest ring on the front, smallest cog on the back). So in reality, you have 18-20 different gears. After going out of downtown on River Road, you will turn left onto US-42. This is the start of the hills. You will still feel pretty good and your legs will be ready to climb…but resist the urge! Powering up that hill at mile 8 will leave your legs feeling like toast at mile 80! So drop down into the small ring in the front and let people go right on past you…you will catch them on the run!
Run Tip – Start Slow
After 112 miles on the bike, it’s natural to be excited about starting the run. You will likely “get your legs” about a mile or two into the run and have the urge to go faster than your planned pace (hopefully you have a planned pace). You have to resist the urge to run fast and I even force myself to run SLOWER than my planned pace during these first few miles. I know that there will be a point during the marathon where things will start to go south and I will be glad that I didn’t waste too much energy early on. So start slow for the first few miles, run your planned pace for the majority of the race and then give it all you’ve got for the last few miles…and enjoy the finish shoot! Stop and high-five spectators, look around and soak up all the sights and sounds.
As for my goal, I’d like to set a PR. My best time for this race is 11:55:26. If things go well, I should be able to beat this time. There’s no such thing as a perfect race, so it’s just a matter of what goes wrong and how much time it costs me. I will stay positive all day and no matter what the outcome, if I can cross the finish line knowing that I gave 100%, I will be happy. I may not be satisfied, but I will be happy!
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