Ironman Louisville Race Report
Unlike my previous Ironman Race Reports (2011 & 2013), I’m going to keep this one to a single post.
I had my alarm set for 3:30AM on race morning, but I woke up at 3:10 and had to pee. So at that point, I just decided to get me day started. I ate a medium sized sweet potato with almond butter and started to grab all of my nutrition bottles and put the final items into my Special Needs bags. I was out the door by 4:15AM. I drove down and found a good spot to park not too far from transition, making sure I wasn’t in a spot where my truck would get towed (yes, that happened to someone!). Transition area opened up at 5:15AM, but when I got there at 4:40AM, the line was pretty long already. I stood there talking with people. The energy associated with an event like this is unmatched. You can tell just talking to people how much this day is going to change their lives.
After they opened up transition, I ran down to my transition bags and put my nutrition into my run bag and turned on the GPS tracker in my bike bag. Then I headed to my bike where I met my friend Aaron. We had worked out a plan to get in and out of transition quickly and have his mom drive us down to the swim start so that we could get close to the front of the line. I put my bottles on my bike, calibrated my power meter, pumped up my tires and we were out of there quickly. He called his mom and in true get-away-car fashion, she pulled right up to the curb, we jumped in and she sped off toward the swim start!
Despite our elaborate plan, there were still lots of people that beat us down there. We were probably 100 or so deep, but I was still happy with our spot. We settled in with some fellow Landsharks and tried to keep the chit-chat going to ease the nerves. One of the things that I had to think about regarding the change of the race from August to October was that it was going to be cold in the morning. It was about 45F as we stood in line, so I’m glad that I decided to wear a sweatshirt and sweatpants. Thanks to the VIP Pass from the Landsharks, my wife Jessica was able to get down to the swim start. It was really good to see her just before getting in the water. She’s my number one supporter and I there’s no other smile in the world that I would rather see to get my mind right before starting an Ironman!
It was still a little dark and there was fog on the water as I started my 140.6 mile journey. I had planned to swim next to the island, but things were pretty crowded over there, so I stayed in the middle of the channel. I got into a good rhythm and settled in quickly. I felt like my sighting was good and I was able to spot the next buoy in line pretty easily each time. When I got to the turn-around, there was a log jam and I had to stop abruptly to keep from running into a few other guys. As I did this, both of my calf muscles locked up. Rewinding to Thursday night before the race, I woke up twice overnight with severe cramps in my calves. I was well hydrated, so I was at a loss as to why I got the cramps. My muscles were very sore on Friday and even into Saturday. At the suggestion of my Herbal Medicine doctor, I took several tablespoons of Blackstrap molasses and rubbed Lemongrass essential oils on my calves on Saturday. I was a little worried about how they would hold up during the race and having the cramps come back during the swim was not good. I had to stop and stretch them out as I floated in the river. I then swam with my toes pointed down toward the bottom of the river for a little bit (it’s like riding a bike with the brakes on). The cramps went away, but the thought of them coming back stuck with me.
I had my goggles kicked about half way through the swim, but not bad enough to have to stop again and adjust them. I also had someone continuously pull on my ankles. I assume that they were drafting behind me and were inadvertently grabbing me as they were trying to swim. Either way, it was annoying. I was hoping for a swim time under 1 hour and 10 minutes, so I was happy to see 1:08 on my watch as I exited the water. In years past, I’ve noticed an increase in my speed at the turn-around as the current aided me. This year, there was little current and my speed up-river was not any different than when I was going down stream. I honestly enjoyed the swim and never swam faster than the pace I could comfortably hold. The algae wasn’t an issue for me and other than a normal Ohio River “smell”, I had no problems.
2.4 Mile Swim
1:08:31 (1:46 / 100m)
83rd out of 309 in Age Group
584th out of 2573 Overall
I thought about just pulling my wet suit off once I got to the changing tent in transition, but when I saw my friend Charlie was a wet suit stripper, I ran over and let them pull me out of the suit.
One thing that I do different during an Ironman as compared to any other distance is that I don’t try and speed through the transitions. In T1, I pulled off my swim jammers and got into my tri suit. I took the time to put on some chamois cream and sun screen. I grabbed my socks and headed out to my bike. I put my socks on while standing at the bike rack and then ran with my bike down the shoot to the street. T1 was longer than in the past as we used to mount on the sidewalk. My T1 time wasn’t fast, but I got on my bike and felt comfortable and ready to ride!
About 5 miles into my bike I noticed that my chin strap was loose. I as tried to tighten it, I noticed that the strap had come out of the buckle. I attempted to loop it back through while riding, but I couldn’t get it. I thought about riding with it loose, but I knew that if I did have the unfortunate luck of finding myself hitting the pavement at some point, my helmet would undoubtedly fly right off. So I made the decision to stop and fix it. I pulled off on River Road and took my helmet off to fix the strap. While stopped, I adjusted my Bento Box (it was running my inner thighs) and took a minute to relieve myself as well. Looking at my Garmin data, I only stopped for about 90 seconds…well worth it!
One of the reasons that I wanted to get close to the front of the swim line was so that I could get out on the bike course and get through the out-and-back portion of KY-1694 before it got too crowded. I accomplished this and was even able to see the race leaders coming back the other way as I was going out. As always, I had a very specific race strategy and I stuck with it. I saw lots of people that were clearly letting other riders influence their race pace and effort…which is never a good thing! I felt pretty comfortable during the first loop and was preoccupied with sticking to my nutrition plan and maintaining my goal Nominal Power. I was beginning to get uncomfortable in the saddle about 50 miles in and was really looking forward to getting to my special needs bag, where I had some more chamois cream. The tri kit that I had on offers very little padding and my training plan doesn’t offer my much time in the saddle to toughen up my skin, so I definitely had some chaffing going on!
Having the bike course open to traffic always makes things interesting. At one point on KY-146, I (along with 4-5 other riders) got stuck behind a pick-up truck. The driver clearly didn’t want to try and go around the cyclists in front of him, so he was just cruising along waiting for the bike course to take us away from his planned route. As the seconds (seemed like minutes) ticked by, one of the riders that was stuck with me decided he couldn’t wait any longer. He attempted to pass the truck on the left…going over the double-yellow line. Just as he pulled up along side the truck, another vehicle came over a hill in the opposite direction. I honestly thought I was about to witness someone die. The cyclist stood up and peddled as hard as he could and fortunately, the driver of the pick-up truck saw what was happening and hit his brakes, allowing the cyclist to cut in front of him and avoid the head-on collision with the car coming in the other direction. It was one of the most idiotic moves that I have ever seen by someone on a bike. It was a good reminder to me that this is just a hobby. Of course I’m out there to race and leave it all on the course, but I’m not about to risk my life for any of this!
As I made the final turn back toward Louisville, I knew that I was going to be facing a head-wind. In an effort to stay in aero position, I started to feel my lower back and neck tighten up. So on some of the down hills, I made the decision to stand up and stretch it out. I realize that this was turning my body into a giant sail, but it felt good to ease up the tension. The last 15 or so miles were tough. The combination of the wind, my inability to get comfortable in the saddle and the fact that I was riding further than I had during any of my long training rides made for a less than pleasant experience. I was still managing to pass people on River Road and was able to hold me goal power all the way in.
112 Mile Bike
6:03:34 (18.5 mph)
190 Watts Nominal Power
113th out of 309 in Age Group
563rd out of 2573 Overall
T2 was much like T1. I took my time. I put on some more chamois cream and sun screen. I changed into dry socks and put on my running shoes. Believe it or not, the thing that took the longest was to get my race bib number onto the My Athlete Live race number belt! I of course never thought to practice this part of transition. The holes on the race number weren’t large enough for the strings coming off of the belt to fit though. A volunteer and I must have spend a full two minutes working on it! Surprisingly, I wasn’t upset or angry about the wasted time. It all about mindset. I knew that my transitions were going to be long, so a little snag like this didn’t stress me out.
I felt good starting the run, but I wanted to be careful not to get too excited. During the first mile, I chatted with a guy from Wisconsin. He had done IM Wisconsin a few times, but his was his first trip to Louisville. We talked about how good it felt to get off of the bike and start running. I told him that it was only a matter of time before we would be sick of running too! After running through the first two aid stations I had to remind myself that even if I didn’t feel the need to walk, I should start walking 20-30 seconds through each aid station to conserve energy. I knew that my family would be posted up on Southern Parkway, so I broke the first part of my race down in a segment that ended at that point. I was able to maintain a pretty constant pace and still felt really good as I reached my cheering section around mile 6. The great thing about this course is that you pass the same places multiple times during the run. I got to see them all again on the return trip.
Things started to get hard around mile 12. I was anxiously awaiting Special Needs. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was, but I was getting some hot spots on the bottom of my feet and my nutrition was warm. I had frozen the replacement bottles that I had in my Special Needs bag, so I was looking forward to getting some cold drinks! Since my nutrition was the same on the bike and run, by mile 13 or 14 of the run, I was having force it down. I was sick of the taste, but at that point it was strictly about getting in the calories.
The last half of the run was hard and I had to take it mile by mile. I concentrated on running just to the next aid station (1 mile) and then walking through it as I drank water and put ice or sponges under my hat. Getting myself running again at the end of each aid station became harder and harder as the miles rolled on. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could hold out, but once I got to mile 23, I knew that I could empty the tank. For the first time all day, I switched my watch over to see my total race time. I was at 11 hours and 8 minutes. I knew that I was going reach my goal of setting a PR and I knew that if I could get down to 8 minute miles, I would be close to an hour and a half. So I dug deep and stopped walking the aid stations. My last three mile splits were 8:42, 8:32 and 7:52. I still can’t believe that I ran a sub-8 minute mile at the end of an Ironman!
26.2 Mile Run
4:03:09 (9:16 / mile)
62nd out of 309 in Age Group
301st out of 2573 Overall
As I approached the finish shoot I knew that I wanted to enjoy the moment. So I slowed down and gave high-fives to people on both sides of the shoot. I looked all around and soaked it up. The sights, the sounds…it really is amazing!
Overall I couldn’t be more happy with my race. I had a plan and executed it almost perfectly! I’m also very proud of the fact that I was able to complete the whole race without the use of sugar! I didn’t have to deviate from my normal eating habits to achieve a great result in an endurance race, which was very important to me.
78th out of 309 in Age Group
372nd out of 2573 Overall
I’ve been enjoying the week off from training and I really don’t know what’s next for me. I will definitely do more triathlons next year, but I also might venture out into some other sports…we’ll see!
2XU C:2 wetsuit
Aqua Sphere Kayenne goggles
De Soto Forza Trisuit
Argon 18 E-112 Triathlon bike with Zipp wheel set (404 front, 808 back)
Bike Javelin aero helmet
Adidas adiZero adios running shoes
Pre-Race – (1) Small Sweet Potato with Almond Butter 3 hours prior to race; 1 scoop of Plain Generation UCAN with 200 mL of Vita Coconut water w/ Pineapple half hour before race start
Bike – (2) 24oz. bottles mixed with 3 scoops of Plain Generation UCAN with 375 mL of Vita Coconut water w/ Pineapple; (5) Packages of Justin’s Almond Butter
Run – (4) 8oz. bottles each mixed with 1 scoop of Plain Generation UCAN with 250 mL of Vita Coconut water w/ Pineapple
Thanks to all of my sponsors for the 2015 season, I couldn’t have done it without you!
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