Ironman Louisville Race Report

There's nothing like travelling to an Ironman to make a long weekend pass by in the blink of an eye.  It was less than two weeks ago, but already seems like ages ago.  Louisville turned out to be an amazing city, and the race itself was fantastic and I definitely recommend it.  Here's how it all went down.

Arriving only a couple of days before the race didn't leave much time to see the sights.  We did our best, but really the focus was on getting everything ready for racing.  Between checking into the race, driving the course, packing our gear bags, checking in our gear, and doing our pre-race training - the days went fast!  We did squeeze in enough time to try some bourbon (verdict: surprisingly delicious) and a historic speak-easy tour (which turned out to be a total highlight - if you're ever in Lousiville, put that on your must-do list).

Transition area.

We went by Churchill Downs when pre-riding
the run course.  I'll probably watch the Kentucky
Derby every year from now on.

Our hotel - the Embassy Suites Downtown -
was the perfect location.  This was right out the front door,
steps away from the finish line!

When in Kentucky...

Onto the race itself...

Ironman Louisville is different than many other Ironmans (and different than any Jason and I had done before) as it has a first-come-first-served time-trial start.  The downer was it meant lining up really early if you want to be near the front of the line - which, being stronger swimmers we did, to minimize the number of people we'd have to swim around.  There was lots of chatter before the race about athletes worried about cut-off times getting to the start around 3:30am to line up (the race started at 7:30 but still finished at midnight, meaning you had 16:30 rather than 17 hours to finish).  Yuck - and definitely not our plan!  I was a bit stressed thinking of how long a line with 3000 athletes would be, when would we get there, etc. etc.  We decided to be at transition as soon as it opened (5:15 am, we got there about 10 minutes before that), put our nutrition on our bikes, pump the tires, turn on Garmins... then walk the mile to the swim start (it's a point-to-point swim).  We got to the swim line probably around 5:40 and there were a few hundred people in it already - some looking like they had been there for awhile. We hung out, ate breakfast, put our wetsuits on, and soon enough they were playing "Sweet Kentucky Home" on the bugle and herding down onto the docks!

Hanging out on the sidewalk, waiting for the start.

Athletes jump off the docks two at a time, and I could see from the clock that it only took us 7 minutes to get from where we were in line to jumping into the water - not bad as apparently it took about an hour to get all 3000 in.  (BTW your time is chip-activated and doesn't start until you jump off the dock).  There was some stress leading up to the start of the race, as there had been a water quality advisory for a month - toxic algae was in the river and it was closed to swimming.  Ironman got the go-ahead two days before the race that the swim could proceed.  I have to say it wasn't the nicest body of water I've swam in, but it wasn't the worst (not really a high bar when I think of some of the places I've swam, but whatever).

For my first time-trial start I actually enjoyed it, there was very little contact and it seemed like it only took about a kilometre before I'd swam around the bulk of athletes in front of me, and was pretty much on my own.  You swim 1 km upstream, then 3 km downstream.  I didn't really notice a current, and apparently neither did anyone else (I guess they had shut the dam to deal with the algae issue... rumour anyway... but I also heard afterwards one kayak volunteer saying he didn't have to paddle to stay in place, so the current was a non-factor).  Just before I jumped off the dock, Jason looked at me and said, "make every stroke count".  I thought about that the entire swim, and how hard I'd worked on my swim all year.  I really wanted to swim sub-1:05.  So I made Every. Stroke. Count.  When I hit the end and volunteers helped pull me up the ladder I'd done it!  1:03:30!  6th in my age group (I was hoping for top 10) - and pretty much the time I thought I could swim if I had the perfect swim.

I ran into the change tent and there were only three other women there.  My volunteer was awesome and got me all ready to get on my bike.  It was a long run (OK, I walked) with my bike to the mount line, probably 200m, but soon enough I was off and saw Ken cheering for me as I headed out of town.

I was really hoping I'd see Jason in the out-and-back section, and when I turned in I knew I would, as riders hadn't come out yet.  When I saw the lead car - guess who was in 2nd overall behind it!  Jason and I waved at each other and carried on... turns out later, partway through the first lap he'd passed the first guy, and was the lead cyclist the rest of the way into transition.  He said coming into transition in first on the road (remember the staggered start so he wasn't first by time) was the highlight of his racing career.

The bike was fairly non-eventful, as Ironman bikes usually are.  I spent A LOT of time looking at my powermeter, trying to modulate power on the hilly course.  It's a really pretty course - but I'm glad we drove it on Thursday otherwise I'd never have known!  It was actually really tough to ride even power with all the hills, and I knew I wasn't quite hitting the power numbers I'd planned, but the hills were tough and the winds were tough as well.  I was riding a strong pace, so I wasn't too worried about it.  One super frustrating thing was all the guys that would pass me, then pull in front and basically ride my speed.  It meant I had to slow down to get out of their draft zone (that's the rule when you're overtaken), and I could literally see later when looking at my power file all the times that happened.  Dudes, just because you see a woman with 45 on her calf doesn't mean you have to sprint ahead and pass her - unless you're going to keep going that speed.  I think I lost at least 10 minutes during the bike leg because of that.  Another annoyance was when I'd pass a guy and he'd pass me right back immediately - meaning he wasn't following the rule of dropping out of the draft zone when passed.  Why was it only guys doing that?

We had a headwind for the last 55km coming back into town, so I was a bit on the conservative side as it was tough to push into that after all the hills on the bike course.  I came back into T2 with 6:15 on the bike clock (18th in my AG - I was hoping for top 25 so success!), my goal was 6:14 (dammit!- I spent 3 minutes combined at a porta-potty and grabbing my special needs) and super-secret goal was 6:00 but with the hills and wind combo that day, I knew that wasn't going to happen.   Again, I walked the long chute into transition, it was still pretty empty in the women's change tent, and I had another awesome volunteer help me with everything I needed for the run.  Leaving transition again, I walked so I could get some food & fluids in, then started running as soon as I hit the timing wire onto the run course.

Bike elevation profile.  Hilly... and then at 73 miles when it
starts to decline/level off, add a headwind.

The run starts uphill from the river into downtown, and I was keeping an eye out for Ken (who somehow would have missed me if I hadn't yelled at him - how that's possible I'm not sure when I was wearing head-to-toe flo pink, but anyway).  Right after I went by Ken, Jason passed me on his second loop.  I am not sure what place he was in, but he had a bike with him which was a great sign.

I think I was yelling at Ken
who was looking the other way here.

Found me!

I stuck to my plan, ran the pace I'd trained for, walked my pre-determined walk breaks, and just kept going.  Somewhere out past Churchill Downs Jason came back towards me, with the 3rd place overall bike!  After a very quick hug we continued in opposite directions, and I just kept doing what I'd planned.  I got back to downtown to finish the first lap (right on my goal pace), had a quick chat with Ken and Jason (who did finish 3rd overall and won his AG - hello Kona 2016), turned a corner and had a very quick hug and chat with Betty teammate Kate (her husband was racing), turned another corner and grabbed my special needs bag, then headed out onto the second lap.

My other goal on the run was to keep smiling.
About 5km later my knee (yep, that knee that my doctor, chiropractor, and ortho surgeon said no more long running on) started to get really sore and I noticed it was super swollen.  I didn't think that was a good sign, so I started walking which didn't hurt, but didn't make it less swollen.  I walked and walked and tried to walk at an ok pace.  I didn't want to give up, but I didn't want to really hurt myself.  So I kept walking.  Of course, who can walk once you're almost done - so I "ran" the final km to the finish.  I finished with my 2nd-best time - 13:50 - and 72nd in my AG.  I wanted to be under 14 hours (and think my walking cost me about 15 minutes overall), so I'm happy with how the day went.  I also wanted to finish in the middle of my AG, and there were 151 women in the 45-49, success!

It was great to have Jason & Ken at the finish line, and then limp the half block back to our hotel to shower, change, eat, and head back out to watch the late-night finishers.  Not an easy task when I felt like I'd been run over by a semi-truck!  I was hoping for a celebratory glass of bourbon, but in the end, nope!  Oh well, I picked up a bottle when I got home instead.

My fourth Ironman is done, and I am more than likely done with Ironman for good.  I love the training (usually - sometimes those 6+ hour bike days though...), but have to be honest that my knee is done even if my heart isn't.  I still have lots of racing plans, though, so stay tuned!

Jason's podium.

Winner winner veggie dinner!

Of all the bourbons we tried between
the three of us - this one was our favourite.
Post-race souvenir!

Thanks to Betty Designs for getting me through my training and racing in style, 
and thanks to Sound Probiotics for getting me though healthy!

1 comment:

  1. Nicely done....hope you can get the knee back in working order soon.