Thursday, September 01, 2011

Ironman Louisville 2011

This race report has been a long time in the making.  Because I don't anticipate attempting another Ironman in the near future, I'm probably going to be long winded in this blog post.  I want to capture my thoughts and experiences throughout the last five days.  It's been a whirlwind that has taken so long to get here, but has flown by so fast.  With that said, here's my race report for Ironman Louisville 2011.


Paula and I left OKC on Thursday night after work, hoping to make Springfield, MO by nightfall.  After a brief dinner with friends in Tulsa, we arrived at our hotel for a quick rest.  The cool Missouri air was a relief from the oppressive heat we've been experiencing in Oklahoma.  We hit the road the Friday morning, knowing we had to get to Louisville before 5:00PM for check-in.  We made it.

Check-in was quick and easy.  After figuring out where the expo hall was, we made our way to the tables. The process itself is quick.  Give your name, get a card with your BIB number and head on in.  Then you get wristbranded, grab your gear bags, activate your chip, and get on your way.  Smartly enough, the line empties out into the Ironman Merchandise Store.  We purchased a poster that has every participants' name listed in the shape of the M-Dot.  I'll have to take a picture once we frame it.  I debated purchasing "finisher" products, but didn't want to jinx myself.  I figured I could grab something on Monday in the event I finished the race. (Well, to spoil things a bit, there wasn't much there Monday afternoon after I finished).

After check-in, we headed to the hotel I booked ahead of time in Indiana.  Well, upon arrival, we determined we couldn't stay there.  The Galt House gave us an extra night at the discounted rate, so we headed back into Louisville to check in.  I highly recommend staying in the host hotel for the duration.  It takes the hassle out of moving around and keeping your belongings together.  I got my bags and bike ready:

We then headed to the dinner where we sat with a couple other thousand people.  See, I wasn't the only crazy person doing an Ironman:
I woke up around 8AM and headed down to the practice swim in the Ohio River.  It was a well-run affair with plenty of support.  The water itself was cleaner than the lakes I've been swimming in here in Oklahoma.  It was a quick 15 or 20 minute swim.  Paula and I cleaned up and went out to drive the bike course.  While stopping in La Grange, Paula stumbled upon a Yarn Store:

She was very excited to enjoy the town and the shops while waiting for me to come through town during the race.  When we returned to the hotel, Paula had to run a super secret errand, while I headed down to transition to turn my gear in.  I met a nice volunteer who had raced Louisville the previous year and he gave me some advice:  Enjoy the race.  It'll be over before you know it.

After milling about for a bit, Paula and I went to Glassworks with the intention of making some glass art. Unfortunately, the employee didn't seem real interested in helping us while we were making magnets and a pendant.  What was supposed to be a fun crafting experience turned into a quick and frustrating activity. The shop will mail our final pieces after they've been fired and processed.  So, hopefully we'll have some classy mementos to remember our Louisville trip.

That night, we ate Italian food at Buca di Pepo's.  Fairly uneventful meal.  It sure is nice to have a reason to eat four plates of spaghetti and a bunch of breadsticks.

We headed back to the hotel and I tried to get some sleep.  I think I passed out around 10:30.  Four alarms and a wake up call were scheduled to wake me at 4:00AM.

The Race
Wake up call at 4:00AM.  Contacts in. Banana, bagel, OJ, and yogurt forced down.  Water chugging commenced.  Battle uniform on.  Final gear check.  Wife up and ready to roll.  Hoping Irene doesn't destroy South Jersey.

We headed down to transition around 5:15AM.  Paula took a quick shot of me on race morning:
The Swim
Ironman Louisville has a unique swim start.  While the pros have a mass start at 6:50AM, the commoners line up and start heading into the water at 7:00AM via two docks.  Your time starts after you cross the timing mat and shortly before jumping into the river.  As a result, you have to line up.  And I'm pretty sure I was toward the back of the line.  I met a couple veterans who gave me some advice.  Again, I was told to take a moment and enjoy the race because its over before you know it.

Once the line makes it to the piers, it gets exciting.  Your race is about to begin.  Paula grabbed a good shot of me just as I was starting my watch:

Once I jumped in feet first, I notice my goggles had dislodged.  I took a moment to adjust:

Then I was on my way.  The swim itself was very pleasant.  There was minimal contact; probably the least contact you'll get in an Ironman swim (or at least I'm told).  I kept my strokes long and smooth.  I wasn't trying to go fast.  I was trying to conserve. When nature called, I was graced with a sudden sand bar which allowed me to stand for a moment and take care of business.  Sorry to those behind me.  Face back down in the water, and on to the turn around buoy I went.  Once I turned, it was slow and steady again:

I'm pretty sure I swam further than I needed to.  The line of buoys marks the path to the swim exit, but I kept drifting left (south).  I wasn't immediately concerned because there were others further south.  Once I figured out where I needed to go, I took a direct route to the nears buoy and got back on track.  It got a little busier with all the other swimmers, but at least I was on track to the swim exit.

Coming out of the water, I looked at my watch for the first time and saw that I was right on schedule.  Paula spotted me coming into T1:
Time: 1:16:49
Pace: 1:49/100yds

Swim to Run Transition (T1)
Well, here's where my race went astray.  I was planning on taking my sweet time in T1.  I grabbed my bike bag from a volunteer and headed into the Men's changing tent.  Musty and warm.  Super.  No worries, though.  Found a clear spot and dumped my bag out.  Bike shirt, shoes, helmet, food, heart rate monitor: check.  Garmin watch?  Negative.  I left my Garmin in my hotel room charging.  I left the one piece of equipment I've used in every training session, every run, and every bike ride.  What to do?  Well, there wasn't much to do, but accept it and race without it.  I put my gear on and headed out.  A quick trip to the sunscreen tent and bathroom later, I was ready for the ride:

Time: 8:46

The bike route has three main sections.  First, there's a long flat ride along the river.  Then there's an out and back through some hills.  Next, the course takes you on a loop (which you do twice) that travels through horse farms and country, as well as the town of La Grange (see above).  Finally, you take the flat section back to Transition.

During the flat portion, I conserved as much as I could.  I didn't know how hard I was working (no heart rate monitor).  At the first aid station, there was a wreck right behind me.  A woman went down and took 3-4 people down with her.  Scary.

The hills weren't terrible, but they didn't feel great either.  Again, it was a matter of getting up them without using too much energy.  I think I did a pretty good job of riding them out.

I set my watch to tell me to eat every 30 minutes. Beep:  fig newton.  Beep: gel.  Repeat.  Water and Gatoraid throughout.

I was really looking forward to seeing Paula in La Grange.  When I got there, there were hundreds of people lining the streets.  It was so fun.  However, I didn't see Paula. On the second lap through, I caught a glimpse of her and said "Hey!" That was it.  Turns out the shuttles to La Grange were overwhelmed and she waited over two hours to board one.

At the special needs bag, I grabbed my spare tube and food.  I didn't want to leave it behind.  I also waited a few minutes to use the rest room.

Back on the bike I went.  The rest of the ride was uneventful.  My left knee started to really ache around mile 75 or so.  Also, my right toe would alternate between hurting and going numb.  By the time I made it back to Transition, I was ready to get off the bike.

Time: 6:17:57
Average: 17.8 mph

Bike to Run Transition (T2)
I walked to my gear bag and the changing tent.  I sat down next to a guy who needed medical because he was overheating.  I got my act together and changed into my running top.  I grabbed some more sunscreen and headed out for the run.
Time: 8:35

The run begins with a trek out of transition.  Paula caught me right before heading out onto the course:

We chatted for a bit.  At this point, I was feeling great!  My legs felt steady and my stomach was solid.  I knew it wouldn't last.  I thought I'd make it to mile 5 or so before I fell apart.

I headed out onto the bridge and made the turn around.  On the way back, there's a really cool view of downtown Louisville.  Again, I saw Paula:

Still feeling good and trucking around a 9:30 pace while walking the aid stations.  Sure enough, I began to fall apart.  However, I was doing well until mile 10 or so.  My stomach began to disagree with me and didn't want to take any more Perform or Gels or Bars.  On top of that, my left knee really started to hurt.  At this point, I started to walk.  I didn't have a lot of motivation to run because I knew I'd finish even if I walked the rest of the marathon.

Here's a shot of me walking towards the end of the first loop:

Then I notice there's a camera, so I fake some running for a little bit:

At the end of the first loop, you can see the finish line.  It's such a tease.  I made the right turn away from the finish, and headed back out for a second loop.  There was a lot of walking.  I met some people that had just started their first loop and they were concerned about making the time cut offs.  I knew I could make it, so I didn't really hustle all that much.  I tried running four cones and walking one for a bit.  That worked.  Then I would run for five minutes and take a break.  All the while, I ingested Coke and water.  That's about all I could handle.

Towards the end, I bumped into some guy and we started chatting.  Turned out we had a lot in common.  We used each other for motivation and ran a good portion of the final part of the race.  After the last aid station, he met another friend he knew and I decided to take off running.  I only had about a mile or so left, so I trucked it in.

The bright lights and sounds of the finish line were awesome.  The crowd was cheering a bit louder for me because I was hauling it in.  Paula caught a quick shot:

I think I heard my name.  I think I was told I was an Ironman.  That was really cool.  I sort of wished I took my time finishing so I could remember it a little more:
Run time: 5:14:57
Run speed: 12:01min/mi (eek!)

Final time: 13:07:04.  

Once I finished, a volunteer congratulated me and gave me my medal.  Awesome.  He then grabbed me by the arm and wouldn't let go.  He kept asking if I needed medical attention.  No, sir, I'm OK.  Can I go hug my wife?  Thanks.

Here I am after it was all done:

Here we are eating a well deserved meal:

Paula surprised me with some local cupcakes (the super secret errand from Saturday) and my birthday present she's been (and continues) working on:  A scrapbook of all my triathlons since I started way back in 2006.  So cool.  I will share it on this blog once its ready.  Such an awesome and crafty wife:  

Overall, I'm really happy and pleased with the Ironman experience.  My training allowed me to complete the race in relative comfort.  Apart from some knee pain and a briefly upset stomach, I made it through great.  I raced "blind" (without my Garmin watch and HR monitor).  I didn't hit my time goal, but I'm not so worried about that.  It looks like my result is right on average with the mean time of all IM Louisville finishers.  So, I truly lived up to my "Medium Guy" name.  Average in all respects.

I have so much more to say about the race, but this entry has gotten out of control. Thanks for reading, and please leave me a comment if you have a chance.

Its hard to believe this Ironman journey is at an end.  I have no plans to complete a 140.6 triathlon in the near future.  I'm ready for the next challenge, endurance related or otherwise.

Thanks again for reading.


Paula said...

Job well done my friend. I couldn't be more proud.

Jim Butler said...

Way to go buddy!! Glad we got to experience it with via modern technology. Looking forward to the next challenge to follow along.

Anonymous said...

Loved your report. I'm thinking about entering IMKY and wanted to hear about the course - thanks for all the great details! Congratulations!!