Subject: RE: Ironman Louisville
Congrats Ironman (not to confuse you with Ironchef)
I'm so glad your back held up so you could do the race...scary thing to have happen before the IM after all your training.
Seems the change in swim course was the right decision...it would be strange to swim and swim and get nowhere.
Your knack to go back and check your bike one last time was super...glad you found the issue, the bike guys were able to get you set up with a different wheel with your 12-27 which sounds like it was needed. You dodged another potential big issues....you were meant to do this race given all the obstacles in your way.
What a great RR thanks for sharing it with all of us especially those of us who plan on being BOP IMers next year
Enjoy being an Ironman...you earned it!
World Triathlon Corporation
85F / 29C
Overall Rank = /2131
Age Group = 44
Age Group Rank = 0/
I finished my first ironman. It took me nearly 16 hours but I finished. By the time it was over, I felt more like jelloman than ironman.
Hotel – The Galt House
I took Friday off of work and drove up to Louisville. It’s only about a 4 hr drive from Huntsville so I got there about 1 pm. I checked into the hotel, the Galt House. The Galt House is a nicer hotel but an older, more mature place. The room rate was $138 a night but by the time they added taxes and parking @ $9/day, it came to right at $500 for three nights. When I booked the room back in November, I requested a room “high up in the hotel” and they put me on the 24th floor which provided a wonderful view of Louisville and the Ohio River.
Race check-in went smoothly and they gave us blue, red and green colored plastic bags for pre-race gear, T1 bag, T2 bag, and a run and bike special food bags. The special foods bag would be available to races at the half way points on the bike and run but I didn’t have any special food needs. We filled out medical forms and there was a place for your weight and I filled in 252 lbs which is what I weighed Friday morning. The next stop was to turn in your medial form to the med people and they had you step on a scale and got your actual weight. I weighed in at 256 lbs and she crossed out my number. I thought this was a good precaution. If you end up in a medical emergency they can quickly tell if you are under or over hydrated.
At registration they gave us blue ironman wrist bands like the kind you get in the hospital. This allowed you entry to the banquet and entry into the race area. It was really neat walking around the hotel as you could immediately tell who was racing. I was always on the look-out for other full-figured gals like me but there were not many. Unlike me, most of the athletes looked like athletes!
After I got my race bag with IMKY race tee-shirt and my timing chip, I went to the expo. It was not much of an expo – not compared to the expos they have at the marathons I’ve done. Of course, there were only 2131 participants unlike the Disney marathon and ½ with like 25,000 participants. I saw where they were giving massages and since my back was hurting really bad, I got a 15 minutes massage (for $15 – well, $20 with the tip). The guy doing the massage, Rocky, had me do some stretching to pinpoint the pain and then worked on that spot. He did such a good job that I also booked another $15 for Saturday. That evening I went to the athlete’s briefing but there was not much information given out that wasn’t in the paperwork they had already given us. They did talk about the change to the swim course because of the stronger than expected current in the river. Now instead of swimming 1.2 miles up the river and 1.2 miles back down, we would swim about ¾ of mile up the river and about 1 ¾ back down. They also said the forecast for the river was for the current to subside considerably by Sunday morning.
My back hurt all day Saturday. If I was on my feet for more than about 5 minutes, it would just ache; nothing very painful but just a constant ache. After a while, it would ache so much I would have to find a place to sit down. After a few minutes the pain would subside. This was really shaking my confidence – here I was about to attempt an ironman and I couldn’t walk more than about 100 yards without my back hurting.
Friday night was the Pre-race Banquet. I met up with half a dozen internet triathlon friends and we went to the banquet together. The dinner was ‘free’ to athletes and $30 for family/guests. I say “free” because the race entry free was $470. The food was good but the food was a $10 meal not a $30 meal. The mayor of Louisville welcomed the athletes to Louisville and then the president of Ford Ironman and the race director and others spoke. One of them encouraged us with a saying triathletes know well, “Swim 2.4 miles, bike 112 miles, run 26.2 miles and brag for the rest of your life.” J I really got tired of people telling us to “hydrate” and that “it’s gonna be a long day”. I doubt there were any participants who did not know how to stay hydrated and I think the “it’s gonna be a long day” is pretty much a given.
Saturday before the race
Saturday morning I got up early and went for a short bike ride. My back did not hurt at all on the bike but I was really worried about the run. After the bike ride I got my swim shorts and goggles and went to the practice swim. They had a 2 hr window where you could get in the river and swim. They provided kayaks and boats for safety. I was told that on Friday the Coast Guard had to pull two swimmers out of the river because of the current. I got in the water and started swimming and found my groove and was just swimming away thinking I was making great progress. After about 15 minutes I turned back to look at the dock to see how far I had come and doggone it, I had just barely moved! I swam into the current for 30 minutes and then turned around and headed back – it took me 4 minutes to get back to the dock! Unbelievable!! If they had not changed the swim course and/or the river had not subsided, it is doubtful I would have made the swim cut-off time. I can swim forever but I’m not fast and you’d have to swim faster than the current to make any forward progress.
For lunch I met an internet friend of mine who lives in Louisville and we went to a seafood place that was right across the river in Indiana. We had a wonderful view of the transition area. After lunch she gave me a tour of the city. We drove by Churchill Downs and we drove the marathon course. She told me that Louisville was a city of 600,000 people in the metro area. The next day on the bike course I saw a “Welcome to Louisville” sign that boasted “…the 16th largest city in America”.
After my private tour of the city, I got my bike and my transition bags and walked to the race site. The race site was only a “short” distance from the hotel – a ¼ mile up the river. It felt good to check my gear. I don’t know why but checking in my bike and gear really felt like the race was getting close and was actually gonna start soon. That night, after getting another back massage, I went to the Old Spaghetti Factory for a good carb dinner.
Since I had stayed up late Friday and got up very early, I had no problem going to bed early. Casey had sent out an email with my hotel phone number to family so they could call and wish me luck so I unplugged the phones and turned off my cell and hit the sack at like 7:30 pm.
Race morning started with 0400 wake-up. My back was hurting when I woke up so I took 2 Advil but it didn’t seem to touch the dull, aching pain. I took a shower, had a cup of coffee, a Cliff Bar, power gel, a couple of fig newtons and a bottle of Gatorade. I then walked down to the starting area to prep my bike. I aired up my tires, filled my water bottles and reset my bike computer. I was ready. One of my internet buddies came by and wanted me to go look at his new bike so I walked over and looked at his bike. I then came back to my bike, gave it one last going over then walked out of the transition area.
Now this is where it gets spooky. I was gonna go ahead and head on up to the swim start area when I had this ‘feeling’ that I needed to go check my bike again. The previous day I rode my bike down a steep hill by the hotel and my rear brake squealed - no big deal as I figured it had some oil on the rim from my last cleaning. But when I rode it to the transition area I went down the hill again and it didn’t squeal and I was riding with one hand as I had my transition bags in the other hand and that brake would not stop my bike. This struck me as odd because, while I usually apply both brakes simultaneously, either brake will stop the bike by itself. So I wanted to check it out and see if maybe my brake pad was bad – even though I had very recently put new pads on the bike. I went back to my bike and the brakes looked fine. I spun the wheel and it went ½ turn and stopped! It was hitting the frame! Oh no! It was out of round. This was NOT good. I did not want to try to bike 112 miles with a tire rubbing. That would be like riding with the brakes on. I took my bike off the rack and then I saw my two internet buddies, Aaron and Andrew and showed them my wheel. They told me to take it to the bike tech guys and they could true it up. When I got the bike tech area no one was there. I asked someone where they were and they said “they are late….they are supposed to be here.” They showed up about 10 minutes later and one of the techs started adjusting my spokes to true up the wheel and he found a broken spoke! My heart raced. Could they fix it? No, evidently there was not enough time. But they had spare wheels. I have a 12-27 cassette on my rear wheel instead of the typical 12-23 on most triathlon bikes. The bigger cassette gives me 17% more climbing power and I was gonna need this on the bike. The tech said they would put my cassette on the loaner wheel. I watched in horror as he changed the cassette in the grass in very poor lighting! The new wheel on my bike, I racked my bike and headed to the swim start. My head was still reeling thinking about finding that broken spoke and I supposed that someone must have been praying for me.
It was about a half mile walk to the swim start area. I was more than ready to get started. Someone sang the National Anthem and they played the bugle like they do at Churchill Downs and at 6:50 they started the pros! Ten minutes later they started the rest of swimmers into the water on a 1 second interval. Historically ironman races are done with a mass swim start not the interval, time trial type start but because of the last minute change to the swim course because of the current, a mass start was not feasible.
I went in the water about 0710 hrs and it felt so good to get started! It was 10 months ago that I’d signed up for this race and it had finally started. The up-river swim was in an area separated from the main channel by an island so the current was less than it would have been had we been out in the main channel. Even though we didn’t have a chaotic mass swim start, I got kicked a few times by other swimmers especially in the congested area near the buoys. I took a swim split at the buoy that marked the furthest up-river point of 38:39. After we rounded that buoy and headed down the river, the swimming got easier and I was really, totally enjoying the swim! I took time to look around and see the ‘big picture’ and it looked way cool to see all the swimmers. I started to get a headache from the goggles so took them off for a little while. It was a pain getting them back on. My back was hurting a little so I took a moment and balled up into a ball to stretch the muscles in my lower back. I’m sure the guys in kayaks were wondering what the heck I was doing. I can’t say enough how much I totally enjoyed the swim. I’m not a fast swimmer but I really love swimming. I eventually made it out of the water in 1:30:01 according to my watch. This was pretty much what I had been expecting. In the pool, 2.4 miles usually takes me 1:35 so this was very comparable.
I had some ‘issues’ in T1 as I put my biking shorts on and noticed the tag on the inner garment was in front. So I had to take them off and fix the inner lining. I’m really not sure what took me so darn long in T1 but my official T1 time was 10:54.
My quads were burning the first 10 miles of so of the bike course but I’m not sure why. Normally my quads will burn for a couple of miles till they warm up some and the lactic acid flushes out. If I had to sum up the bike course in one word it would be: brutal. Their idea of “rolling hills” and mine are quite different. I consider a “rolling hill” as one that I can gain enough momentum on the down hill that I can make it to top of the uphill with maybe one or two down-shifts. Going over the course in my mind, I think there were about 15 to 20 hills that brought me to grandma gear where I was spinning like a hamster and moving 6 miles an hour. On these hills, you can either sit and spin and let your quads burn or you can stand and pedal and try to power your way to the top.
About 10 miles out there is a spur to the right and we started going down, and down and down for a MILE! I hit my max speed on this hill of 44.6 mph! The problem with this downhill is, you gotta turn around and climb back out of this canyon! This spur part of the course included a mile downhill and then about a mile back up. Then we turned around and did these hills the other direction. This certainly warmed my legs up! I really spent some serious energy on this part of the course. The bike course had wonderful support about every 10 miles. They had bottle exchanges where you tossed off your water bottles and they handed you fresh one with cold water. They also provided bottles of Gatorade that I dumped into my aerobottle. The course was very well supported and I couldn’t imagine anything they could have done better.
We went on two loops around the town of LaGrange and there were lots of spectators lining the course cheering us on. This was one of the coolest parts of the course I thought. The miles slowly clicked off and I finished the second loop and smiled when I saw a green road sign that said “Louisville 33” and knew I was heading back. The bike course took me 7:20:59 and it felt good to finally get off the bike. After over 7 hrs sitting on a narrow little seat hunched over I was worried that my back might not straighten up but I didn’t have any problem.
They had people in the transition area that took your bike so we didn’t have to worry about racking our bikes. I went into the changing tent, stripped off my bike gear, put a generous amount of Vaseline in strategic places, put on my running gear and headed out. I walked into and out of T2 and did not get in any hurry. Looked at my T2 time now, 13:27, it looks like I laid down and took a nap! I don’t know why it took me that long in T2.
Heading out on the run I knew it would take a while to get my running legs back. At the first mile point someone called me by my name and turned out to be one of the volunteers who is a triathlon internet buddy of mine! He recognized me from pictures I’ve posted on BT in the past. Pretty amazing. It was good to have someone call me by name.
When I got to mile 3 it came to me, I was exhausted! I had been on the course for 10 hrs and I still had to run 23 miles! I couldn’t help but do the math in my head and estimated that I had another 5 or 6 hours ahead of me. This was quite daunting but I refused to dwell on it and focused instead on how I was gonna make it to the next mile. I set my goal of 15 minute miles. This would be a 6:30 marathon and given that the swim took me 1:30 and the bike about 7:30, add in the transitions and this would put me at about 16 hrs. I would run as long as I could and then walk some and then run. It seemed like when I was walking that my back muscles would begin to tighten up. I was worried that if my muscles in my lower back cooled off, they would seize up and bring my race to an untimely end so I tried not to walk too long before running again. I took every one of my running splits: 11:48, 14:13, 14:34,13:36, 14:28, 15:05, 16:53, 14:56, 15:46, 13:29, 13:46, 14:41, 13:32, 15:07, 13:20, 14:08, 16:44, 15:00, 16:45, 15:07, 14:32, 18:14, 18:28, 20:12, 18:50, 15:57 and 2:51 for the last 0.2 miles. So up until mile 21 I was doing pretty well at maintaining my 15 m/m goal.
I cannot begin to describe the exhaustion. The marathon is a two loop course so you don’t really know if someone is on their first or second loop. But for a back-of-packer like me, when I was on my second loop I knew everyone was on their second loop also. My toes were hurting something fierce and it looks like I will lose my big toe nail as it is turning blue from slamming into the front of my shoe for 26 miles. I saw a few people tossing their cookies and the thought crossed my mind to do likewise a couple times. Usually that was an indication that I needed to take in some fuel. Like the bike course, the run was very well supported. I’ve done 5 other marathons and this was by far the best supported marathon course I’ve seen. There was an aid station every mile with water, Gatorade, ice, sponges with ice water, cookies, power bars, chicken broth, pretzels, banana, and oranges. I took in water and Gatorade at every aid station and occasionally would eat something or use the sponges to put some ice water on my head.
At about 20 miles I saw a girl being tended to by medics and I reminded myself that this race was a long way from being over and I needed to stay hydrated and fueled or I’d end like her. On at least three other occasions I heard the ambulances on the course and felt bad for whoever just fell short of their goal.
At about 21 miles my back was really hurting and I had to stop often and bend over and stretch. People would ask if I was ok and I said I was ‘just stretching’. I saw Matt and Andrew – internet friends of mine - on the road and it was good to see someone I knew. A female runner on the course passed me and yelled, “Hey! Floor 24 guy!!” as she passed. I thought to myself, what a nut! What the heck was that about? And then I remembered. That was a woman I was talking to on the elevator in the hotel as we both got off on the 24th floor.
Well all good things eventually end – even this marathon race report – and I rounded the corner of mile 26 and perked up for the last 0.2 mile jog down the red carpet across the finish line. It was good to finally be done. I had been going for nearly 16 hours and it felt good to stop moving! I got my finisher medal which is a very cool horseshoe shaped medal.
After getting my picture taken with the medal, I went over and had some pizza in the KY International Convention Center. They had pizza and ice cream for the finishers. Pizza and ice cream are my two favoritest foods but I was too tired to eat the ice cream. Now THAT is tired. J I then found out I had to walk all the way back to the starting area to retrieve my bike and T1 and T2 bags. After 140.6 miles, the walk down to the transition area seemed to take forever. When I got there I was glad to see that the bike tech folks had returned my wheel to my bike but disappointed that they hadn’t fixed the broken spoke.
I got back to the hotel room at about 1 am and took a shower and fell into bed. I woke up several times in the night to pee so evidently I was doing a good job of staying hydrated! By now my back had begun to stiffen up and was hurting pretty bad but so was the rest of my body!
Brush with fame – sort of
I woke up early, packed my bags and headed south. Four hours later I was back home. And I’ve already had an interesting thing happened regarding my feat. As I got close to town Casey called and said she was talking Jamie to the pediatrician to have her checked for a sore throat. She had another meeting afterwards so I said I could meet her at the docs. I was talking to Dr Teng and seeing me in shorts and tee-shirt she asked how come I was not at work today. I was all proud and told her I had done an ironman in Louisville yesterday. She got all excited and in her oriental accent said “Ohh, I never metta anyone who did that!” She came over to me and took my hand and said “Let me congratulate you! I want to shake your hand!” I was kinda going ‘aww shucks’ when she added “So, what did you learn to cook?” Huh? What? What did I cook?! “Uh, Dr Teng, I did an ironman triathlon. I think you are thinking about the iron chef cooking school.”