Overall Time – 13:29:04
The entire experience of Ironman Louisville was great. The race was well organized, the bike course was gorgeous, the local support was great. It was a fun experience that I would recommend to anyone looking to go the full 140.6.
I was a little nervous about the self-seeding. We were told to account for the river current as we placed ourselves into corrals similar to marathon starts. My swim has been improving and I was pretty sure I could manage to complete the swim in one hour and ten minutes. When I arrived at the swim start area, I could see the corral groupings were organized in increments of 10 minutes: 60 minutes and under, 1:00 to 1:10, 1:10 to 1:20, 1:20 to 1:30, … I stood between two corrals for a couple of minutes. My estimated time was on two corrals! Should I swim with the group where I will be the slowest or swim with the group were I will be the fastest? I choose the 1:00 to 1:10 corral. I planned on waiting at the back of that line, but the poor volunteers needed help. They kept trying to get folks to break it into two lines, but nobody was listening. I walked up to where they wanted the second line, stuck my hand in the air, and yelled, “This is the other line.” I was now lined up to be one of the first swimmers in a group that would be mostly faster than me. Oh well. We marched to the dock and went in like lemmings.
I expected to be passed throughout the entire swim and I was right. I tried not to pay attention to folks banging into me and stay focused. For the first 400 meters, I struggled to catch my breath. I finally figured out that splash of the other swimmers was filling my breathing space with water! There was not much I could do about that except breathing more often to make sure I was okay. As the crowd thinned, the breathing was easier. I got into more of a rhythm and felt stronger. This was crucial because we were swimming upstream. I could not feel the current, but I knew it was there so I pressed hard. As we neared the turn around buoy, I could tell we were moving out to a stronger current. Those last 200 meters upstream were more challenging.
At last I made the turn. It had taken me 26 minutes exactly to go about 1400 meters upstream. Once I made the turn, things got easier. There were still lots of swimmers, but we were a bit more spread out. Now I could relax a bit and just cruise with long strokes. In training, I have been learning to take a breath on every 2nd stroke, 3rd stroke, 4th stroke, or 5th stroke. For me, the more strokes between breaths the more efficient. This flexibility paid off big-time. I did 5 strokes when I could, but a lot of my breathing was determined by the proximity of the nearest swimmer. If a swimmer was on my right, I would breath on the left.
I aimed for 1:10:00, but I finished the swim in 1:08:07. Bam!!!
I knew there was a lot of elevation gain on lots of rolling hills. I watched my Garmin carefully so I would not exceed my pre-planned maximum effort as measured by my power meter. I was going fast on the way out, but I was sticking to the plan. The first miles were just easier. Then came the relentless rolling hills. I upgraded my bike to prepare for this, but I think it just wore me down mentally. They just wouldn’t stop. I would refocus periodically to stay positive. First lap done. On to lap two. Then came the rain and very strong winds. There were many points where it felt as if the wind were trying to rip the handlebars out of my hands. It was intense.
All that being said, there were a lot of positives. The course was a gorgeous ramble through Kentucky horse country. Awesome. I did not miss that. I saw it and it made me happy. I also saw the fans. Some were local and some were out-of-towners there to support their athlete. They were there. They had cowbells, signs, those hand clappers things. There was one tiny girl sitting on her driveway bang on a cooking pot as loud as she could. That smile was priceless. These things all helped lighten the load of the tough course and the inclement weather.
I was hoping to finish the bike in 6:30, but I was happy to settle for 7:08:25 under these conditions.
I had been looking forward to the run most of all. I held back on the bike with the goal of having a very strong run. By the time I ran out of transition, I knew my A-goal for the run was not realistic. I decided to just go out, do my best, and enjoy the run. Well, I did enjoy the support, the crowds, and many other things. My run started off slower than intended and it went downhill from there. I felt healthy (unlike last year’s fiasco), but I had very frequent breaks at the port-a-potties and I just kept slowing down. I went as fast as I could without cramping. I went into run/walk mode and just tried to make the best of it.
Then I hit the wall. I had underestimated how many calories I would need to consume. There were two times on the second loop when I had to focus on getting a lot of calories in the tank right away. I was getting lightheaded. I was very well hydrated. I had balanced my electrolytes. I just had not consumed enough calories. In hindsight, I should have packed more Honey Stinger Waffles (gluten free) and I would have been fine. I may have been able to maintain a consistent pace had I started consuming heavy early in the run. Remember, this is only my third attempt at a 140.6. My lack of experience and miscalculation slowed me down.
I finished the run in 4:51:57. Honestly, this is the only part of the race where I think I could have done better. It was not for lack of effort. More lessons learned. Next time I will over-pack for the run. I will bring more calories than I think I need just to make sure.
I am sure that I would forget someone if I tried to name everyone who supported me in this endeavor. IronMuna, David, Melanie, Jim, Jennifer, and several more were there at every big moment to cheer me on. We had several members of the Rocky Top Multi-sport club racing. Their support is priceless.