IM Louisville Race Report
When I finally decided to do my first half Ironman in 2016, I never thought that I would enjoy it as much as I did and be crazy enough to actually decide to do a full Ironman race. But that decision I made last October and one that I am so glad I did make. With the help of the Atlanta Triathlon Club and their support, I knew that I had the “team” and “friends” that I needed to accomplish this journey successfully. I fully engaged a coach from the Energy Lab, Sara Scott, who might regret my crazy desire to make sure that I have all my workout ducks in a row every Sunday night so I can plan my week, and I made sure to do my best to understand and complete all the outlined workouts. I come from a running background and not “running” was at first difficult, but I had faith in the process.
I spend my summers in a small community in western NY state between Buffalo and Erie, PA. The good news is that it is a fantastic place to train for the bike, run and swim (if the lake allows). I also have a community of cyclists up there that I can ride with – pretty much any mileage I wish – over quite hilly terrain. The only drawback is that nothing is flat – so it was/is/can be tough to do some of the bike intervals workouts, but I did get them all done even if it was on a stretch of road that was only 1.5 miles long. I also am somewhat forced (or force myself) to ride my road bike on those hills since riding in “aero” is not easy to do with the terrain. I have learned that I will try to ride my TT bike more next summer regardless of what race distance(s) I decide to embark.
I returned to Atlanta the last week of August – just in time to join the ATC group headed to Louisville for a course ride and run. This was so very helpful to me and I cannot thank George Cone, his wife, Cynthia, and the ATC Lou Crew for this opportunity. I also made sure to ride all of the additional rides I could with the Lou crew and I thank Alexa Johnson and Joedy Price for pulling me through those last couple of very long rides especially the 115 mile Silk Sheets endeavor.
Once race week arrived, I did everything I could to enjoy it. The last pool swim, the last run in those 90F temps, the last bike ride down Columns Dr. Race day was looking great temperature-wise, so I took the opportunity to finalize my clothing for the race.
What had also changed was the water. As expected, the water temps dropped quickly to wetsuit legal levels but something else changed too. Due to the low rain and extended warm water season, an algae bloom had appeared in the Ohio River. Local officials released a warning against swimming in the water due to the harmful nature of the algae. The IM Lou Facebook group I joined said that it would dissipate quickly with the cooler temps and the forecasted rain Friday before the race, but I had my doubts. I didn’t get to swim as much as I would have/should have in Chautauqua lake in the summer due to the same blue/green algae that shut down all the beaches. You could swim in the middle of the lake, but in order to get into the middle of the lake, you had to swim through it. If there is one thing that I have learned in all my years as a marathoner, it is that you learn to control what is within your control. I cannot control the weather and I certainly could not control the algae in the river. You race what you are given.
I drove to Louisville on Thursday with another friend, Amy Delguercio, who was doing IM Louisville for a 2nd time. Amy was very helpful in answering my questions and in convincing me that I could absolutely do this thing. We got to Louisville around 5 pm, went to our separate hotels and relaxed until the next morning.
On Friday morning, I met up with Amy, Andrew and Risa to do a quick ride. It started sprinkling about 15 min in, and Amy and I turned to go look at the swim start. It was then that we realized the algae was a lot worse that we thought and we both assumed that we might not get to swim. I headed back to my hotel to drop my bike, and it was at that time, that Ironman sent out an email that indeed cancelled the swim.
I met up with Andrew to go grab lunch and as we were leaving the hotel, we ran into Tim and Rogue. They were the people I need to see as Tim immediately reminded me that the cancellation of the swim was completely out of my control and that my job was to race the course given to me. Kona spots were still being given out and in the eyes of Ironman, I would indeed be one if/when I got to that finish line. I went to the Expo with Andrew to check in and then shop through all the IM gear. Later that evening, we went to dinner with the whole IM Lou group which was a fantastic experience and honestly helped me stay calm and remain on point.
Saturday morning arrived and I met up with Andrew, Elsa, and Stephanie for a short shakeout run. Andrew and I decided to cross the bridge to Indiana – cause we could – and then I went back to my hotel to meet up with my daughter and husband who were coming in to watch and volunteer at the race. They helped me pack up my T2 and Special Needs bags and bring my bike and bags down to check in. We then came back, had a nice dinner and I went to bed while they went out and explored the night life of Louisville.
The race was now to start with a time trial bike. Two cyclists were to start every 5 seconds. First were AWA triathletes, then women by bib number, then men by bib number. I decided to start in the back of the AWA athletes even though I could have started earlier with my #420 bib. It was a good decision since then not as many bikers would have to pass me during the ride. It was cold at the start – 39F – and I really didn’t know the best way to dress. In retrospect, I probably should not have worn my Tyvek jacket as it certainly wasn’t very “aero”, but I’m not very aero either. Sara and I had set a target HR for the bike and I had set my watch to “beep” whenever I exceeded that target. I also set an alarm to go off every 20 min to make sure I drank my Infinit and “eat”.
The course starts out with 10 miles of closed roads. Then 5 miles of protected roads (you ride on the left or right of cones with traffic). Then 5 miles with traffic until you turn off on the loop. I’m not a fast rider and I tried to stay to the right and on my targets. My biggest issue is that I had to pee almost immediately after I turned onto the first hilly section around mile 10. I had planned on stopping to remove my jacket at the first water stop and I ended up stopping to pee as well. I loved the section of the course through LaGrange and felt fine riding through the next .
The bike began to feel hard as we were heading done Highway 42 to the 2nd loop and I attribute it to the strong headwinds coupled with the climbing. I usually try to push up the hills, but that would cause my HR to go up – so I would settle back down. When I hit the 2nd loop, I was fine riding the hills, and I planned to stop again at Special Needs to fill my last bottle. I did this and found that I once again needed to pee – oh well, it might be a race, but I also need to be comfortable on the bike.
The 2nd loop went fine until I made it to Highway 42 and the final 33 miles back to the city. It was again tough with the wind and it was totally compromised by this nasty blue pickup truck that insisted on driving very slowly and right in the way of the cyclists on the road. The driver placed himself just so you couldn’t pass on the right and only faster cyclists attempted and did pass on the left. It was quite frustrating and combined with the hills and wind, I was getting so ready to just get off the bike. I actually stopped at the last water stop since I was just frustrated and well, of course, I had to pee. When I finally got to the final 10 mile stretch, I was trying hard to keep up the pace. Once I got to the last 5 miles, I did slow as I knew that I was getting ready for a long run.
Time: 7:14:40 / 15.46 Average (Includes 3 stops)
Rank: 28 of 43 Age Group (43 finishers although there were 54 starters)
I was not happy with my transition as I really got no assistance in the tent. I did quickly change my shoes, removed my helmet, grabbed a coke and ate some chips and then I was out of the tent and straight into the port-a-potty to once again Pee!
Overall time in transition: 14:18 (Way too long and something to remember if I ever do this again.)
My goal for this race was to run the entire marathon and to stay within my HR target of 130. Prior to IM Louisville, I had run 53 marathons (!) but none of course after having biked 112 miles. I had been told by a very good friend who has done 12 Ironmans, that I would want the first couple of miles back, and I didn’t doubt that they would be “fast” but as long as they were at or below my target HR, I had no problem with the pace. I knew I would settle in after 3-4 miles, and that I did. I simply wanted to stay steady, keep running, and not fade into a shuffling walk. Running is the strongest of the disciplines and I needed to use it to my advantage.
The first loop pretty much flew by. I stayed on target, didn’t stray, and enjoyed taking in the noise and energy. I had set my watch to take a gel (or chips or pretzels) every 45 min, and I took in Gatorade or water at most of the aid stations. I did have my hand held which I filled with Gatorade at one of the aid stations (my only stop in the first loop) and I ran on. It was a lot of fun seeing so many ATCers on the course and it certainly helped my psyche to actually run by and pass many athletes on the course.
In the 2nd lap, I actually stopped at a port-a-potty early on to (you guessed it) pee, but then continued running and keeping my HR on target. I had no idea of my mile pace, and I didn’t care as that was not the goal. It was somewhere in the back side of this loop that I caught up with Nico who was trudging along at a slow walk. Now Nico and I have a funny history in that we both used to run with a running group at Marist on Tuesday nights, so I made him tag along and run. He told me that he had gone out too hard on the bike and was paying for it on the run. I was glad that wasn’t me. And as we ran along (for 3 miles until the next loop transition), he laughed when I’d slow every time my HR went above the target and I would slow. It was also in that back stretch with Nico that I gave my hand held to a kid at one of the water stops who filled it with Gatorade and had it ready for me as I came around to the other side. I gave me my Volunteer appreciation bracelet.
I entered the 3rd loop and immediately saw the ATC group again. I knew I had a little over 8 miles to go and I made it my goal to get back to them running, not walking. I was also in the zone and didn’t even realize that I saw Jerome on the course until a couple of mile later. During this last loop, it became dark and although I had a head lamp, there were some very dark stretches where I knew I slowed a bit (so I wouldn’t fall). It was also along this stretched where I passed or saw a few more ATCers including George and Stephanie (for the 2nd time). I didn’t need to stop at Special Needs and just kept following the course, following my HR, and running. I was passing a lot of walkers at this point all who cheered me on as I went by. There were a couple of tough spots where I had to run through walkers. I would usually cheer them on as they cheered me.
When I got up the little hill around mile 22-23, I looked up and saw the City of Louisville in all its lit up splendor. I was running with another girl at that point and we were the only ones “running” at that point. We both realized together that we were going to finish this thing. I waited until mile 24 to decide to pick it up, and then I did. After coming off the loop you run about .5 miles up a 100-foot incline. Make a right turn. Run a block. Make another right turn and you are on the red Ironman carpet! I will admit, I didn’t take it in as much as I wanted to. In fact, once there I started running faster. I weaved left getting high fives from the crowd. Then back to the right side. Then left. Then right. Arms in the air and punctuated it with a yelling leap right under the clock. My daughter and husband had worked the finish line all afternoon and there they were to greet me, and as I crossed under that banner, I heard them announce that I was an Ironman!
Time: 4:39:01 / 8:27 Pace
Rank: 9 of 43 Age Group
Rank: 16 of 43 Age Group
Wow! I am now an Ironman! Thanks so much to my family for being there at the finish, for my Chautauqua riding group, for my ATC family, and special thanks to Tim for convincing me two years ago that I could indeed be a triathlete and to Sara for believing in me and providing me with coaching and friendship.
Torn as to whether I will do another although, I am still thinking that I would like to do one and actually get to swim. Although tough, the training was not as bad as I thought it would be and well, I actually enjoyed it.
We will see!
And two things I learned: Base Salt and Coke are "Da Bomb"
And two things I learned: Base Salt and Coke are "Da Bomb"