My 2011 Ironman Louisville Race Report
Do you ever walk down the street and notice a passing pedestrian and for whatever reason they’re smiling? They’re walking alone and not listening to any music, so what could they possibly be smiling about? Did they remember a funny story? Ahhhhhh, maybe they saw someone trip over their shoelaces. That would be pretty funny, right? I’ve honestly looked down at my fly before as I thought maybe it was open and the joke was on me. I’m not sure why, but for some reason this has always bothered me. Why are these people smiling?! After crossing the finish line of Ironman Louisville this past Sunday I can now safely say I understand why those people are smiling. They MUST be an Ironman. As a matter of fact I’m sitting here right now writing this with a big dopey smile on my face. I’m guessing it’ll be around Christmas time when my face starts to mold into a perma-grin a la the Joker.
Thursday – Sunday
I packed up the car along with Wifey and our youngest, Jossy, and we headed out for the 12+ hour trek down to Louisville. It was a looooonnnnnggg drive especially with traffic out the wazzoo and a very pregnant wife. We eventually settled in and spent the next few days enjoying family and friends.
Friday morning Team ReserveAid was featured briefly on the local Louisville Channel 11 newscast. Pretty cool if I do say so myself!
On Saturday there was even more to do:
Team RA brunch
Meet up with family and friends
I can’t express enough what a difference it makes to do races with friends. The folks on Team ReserveAid are amazing and made the experience all that more enjoyable.
A lot of folks mention the nerves and the butterflies keep them from a good nights sleep the night before an IM. I had no such problem and was knocked out by 9:30pm on Saturday. I begrudgingly woke up at 2am for my middle of the night snack (Pop tarts and 20 oz. of Gatorade) and was back to counting sheep within minutes. At 4am I was up for good and ready to start my day – still no nerves though. I shoveled down two bananas, some Powerbar Energy Blasts and 20 more ounces of Gatorade and was off along with my Team RA cohorts to begin what would be a very long day.
The swim is easily the most uncomfortable of the three disciplines for me to really get a handle on. I’m not uncomfortable being in the water, I just don’t like swimming. I’ve worked hard over the past two months to get myself to the point where breathing easy and staying relaxed would allow me an efficient swim. I honestly didn’t care how long it took me to complete the 2.4 miles only that I would step out of the water with energy and the confidence to know I could continue on the bike with some enthusiasm. Using my July IM Rhode Island 70.3 swim time of around 47 mins (1.2 miles), I expected to complete IMLOU in around 1:30. I figured the work I had put in since Rhode Island should afford me some improvement in my time.
Swim time: 1:22:27
I emerged from the Ohio River with a surge of confidence and huge smile on my face. I jogged past my beautiful family and saw my good friend, Jesse, as he snapped away on his camera. I grabbed my bike gear and headed into the changing tent. Shortly after I started to put my things on Team RA member, Brian Lee (BLee), plopped down next to me and began his transition. Little did we both know that we’d see a whole lot more of each other later in the day.
T1 time: 8:18
I have no idea why this time was so slow – it’s not like I had a picnic and a massage. Will have to work on this if there ever is a next time.
Starting out on the bike was a bit rough. My neck and upper body were already a bit sore from the constant breathing rotations on the swim. Getting down into my aero bars took a few miles to get used to. Keep in mind the bike I was riding has been in my possesion for less than a month as my old bike was still in the shop. I had one 4+ hour ride and a few smaller rides, but nothing close to 112 miles. I settled in tried to purge from my mind how long of a day this really could be. Thankfully, the site of all the other riders and countless spectators were enough to keep my legs rotating forward.
I had been informed the course was hillier than people would expect, so I wasn’t shocked when I felt myself going slower up the countless inclines. The strategy was to relax and take my time going up (conserving energy) and then giggle like a little school girl as I bombed passed the suckas who were too tired to pedal because they had huffed and puffed their way as fast as they could going up that same hill. Now I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but I also wasn’t a riding like my four year old with her training wheels. I stuck to my conservative power numbers ensuring I would have enough juice left for the ensuing marathon.
Other than being very long, there were really only a couple noteable things worth mentioning during my ride. The first was my cramping that started around mile 48. I was so pissed when this started as I had been following my nutrition plan to a T and there was no way I was exherting too much power on the bike. I dreaded having to ride another 64 miles fighting through cramps with a 26.2 mile run to follow.
The second “thing” worth mentioning about my ride was how emotional I became. Around mile 38 all participants ride though the small town of LaGrange. Spectators line the streets as racers stream down the narrow corridor celebrated as if they were hero’s coming back from war. It’s really a site to behold. I first spotted Jesse (again, behind the lense of his camera), then my mom, followed by my step dad and then my gorgeous wife and youngest daughter. The jolt of adreneline shot through my veins like a drug (not that I’d know what that feels like) – spotting them was exactly what I needed. Shortly after seeing them I felt a few tears stream down my face. I don’t know how I became so emotional – the powers of an IM are mysterious, but I knew right then and there that there was 0% chance I would not finish that race. I continued on the two loop course counting the miles down until I headed through LaGrange again. Again, there was Jesse, my mom/step-dad, and my two girls. This time I slammed on my brakes and planted a big wet kiss on wifey and Jossy. My time at this point was irrelevant. The least I could do was show them how appreciative I was that they were there supporting me. After the quick smooches, the surrounding crowd errupted into a HUGE ovation. It honestly felt like a movie. As much pain as my legs may have been in I didn’t want the day to end.
Bike time: 6:30:02
I was ready to get off that bike. My ass was ready for me to get off that bike. Having never ran a marathon before I was curious to see how I’d fair. I quickly changed into my running gear and was on my way. Again, there was my crew as I left the chute to head on to the course. I have to be the luckiest man in the world.
T2 time: 6:20
The legs felt heavy – extremely heavy. It felt similar to having a charlie horse in both legs. They were tight and just didn’t want to move. The lactic acid began to flush it’s way through and finally I was on my way. The details are boring: run to aid station, walk while intaking calories, water or ice, start running again until the next aid staion and then repeat. The plan was to run a 9 min per mile pace for the first 6 miles, an 8:30 pace for the next 12 miles, and then push on running at whatever pace I could muster for the final 8.
While not the most exciting course, the run was easily the most enjoyable aspect of the race. I saw every single Team ReserveAid member and everyone was looking strong: Zman, Pete, James, Withrow, LT, Thea, BLee, Geoff, Lou, Jess, Carolyn, and Jill … I saw all of ‘em. I felt strong enough that I actually passed a few team members midway through the second loop: LT, Thea, and BLee. I actually slapped Mr. Lee on the ass as I went by and I hear “damn, you caught up to me?” At the next aid station I stop for my third porta potty break and he catches back up to me. From there on out we decided to run the final 8 miles together.
I’m not gonna lie, he was exactly what I needed. I needed someone there for accountability to make sure I kept on going. The mind can be a very powerful de-motivator, so having another Team RA member there to push me was very helpful. Could I have picked up the pace and ran harder? Yes. However, after we decided to run together I said screw the plan. I knew I was going to finish and I knew it would be uber-cool to finish with a fellow teammate. We chatted about everything from our kids, to our jobs, to other endurance races we’ve participated in. After hitting the second to last aid station BLee says to me “Once we start running, we’re not stopping until we cross that finish line.” From that point on we put our heads down and headed for the finish. We made a left and then a right and finally we could see the bright lights ahead. I don’t remember either of us saying anything those final few minutes. We enjoyed the crowd, the limelight, and most importantly the thoughts of becoming an Ironman.
I vividly remember crossing the timing mat, belting out a loud scream / sigh of relief, and holding my hands in the air. I did it. I was an Ironman. Immediately to my left was my tearful wife who looked at me and said “you did it!” Kisses again for her and my munchkin, hugs for my mom and my step-dad, and tears flowing from everyone. It took very little time for it to all sink in and for the realization to set in as to what I had just done.
Run time: 4:3:38
I only had a few goals heading into my first Ironman. I wanted to finish first and foremost. I wanted to finish while the sun was still out which meant under 13 hours. I wanted to do this all with a smile on my face. Finally, I wanted to raise awareness for ReserveAid. Check, check, check, and check. My legs were sore for the next couple days, but nothing compared to what I thought I was going to feel. I had dreams of being plastered to the pavement with medical personel attending to my needs. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever contemplate finishing 140.6 miles with a smile on my face. Only now do I realize what people are thinking when they’re walking down the street smiling at nothing. Yes, they must be an Ironman.
Final time: 12:30:44