Saturday, September 24, 2011

Ironman Louisville Race Report

So, today is the first day of Fall and it has been almost four weeks since my Ironman. Within that time I went through all the post Ironman finish phases…..I had my Ironman high, ironman ‘blues’ and now the ‘I need to start training again, but my legs are heavy and yelling at me’ phase. I wrote up my race report a few weeks to post on the DC Tri site but just now getting it posted on my blog. (Just a heads up...some of the things I have in my race report might have been written in previous blogs about my training.)

Where did the summer go?! I know…it was spent running/biking hours in the heat and early morning swim practices at Hains Point, training for my A race, Ironman Louisville! (Ok who am I kidding?!  I didn’t spend that many mornings at Hains Point and had to force myself to get to the pool a few times a week. Why can’t I like swimming more?!) I’ll start off my race report with my reason for wanting to do Ironman Louisville this year. I have never come out and said it in writing, because I didn’t want to jynx myself, nor did I know if I’d be close to achieving my goal.
Last year after Ironman Cozumel, I noticed some athletes with ‘Zoom Performance’ gear on at the resort we were staying at. I knew that Zoom Performance was a triathlon coaching business started in Des Moines, IA, close to where I’m from. I started chatting with one of the coaches, Matt Zepada, and telling him about my ‘Kona dream’ goals and trying to get faster at the Ironman distance, wanting to break 11 hours. Yes, I’m one of the many triathletes who would love to go to Kona someday, but also know it’s a very difficult goal to achieve. I had told myself and Ron that I wasn’t going to be doing an Ironman in 2011. Matt was very excited to tell me about Mackenzie Madison (my coach in case you haven’t read my other blog posts), and how he knew she could help me reach my goals. Well, of course I was on my Ironman high having just completed my 2nd Ironman so I was getting real pumped thinking about training hard for another Ironman in 2011! After doing a little research, and discussing things over with Ron, we both thought that I should go for it and sign up for Ironman Louisville. Ironman Louisville is the last qualifier for Kona 2011 and had more slots to give away, making the odds of qualifying a bit better than some of the earlier season Ironman races. So, that’s how I came to find Coach Mackenzie and started off with my training in February.

This brings me to pre-race. Hurricane Irene was pounding the East Coast and our flight left early Friday morning. We got out of DC just in time before flights started getting canceled. Whew! I had been nervously watching the weather all week fearing that Irene would decide to effect more than just the East coast. My other fear was that it would be unbearably hot like it was last year. Apparently, it was around 100 degrees race day with the heat index.  But, by Friday I knew that the weather in Louisville would be just fine! In fact, it was more than fine. Sunday was going to be the coolest day of the weekend with a high in the low 80’s and no rain! I was very thankful to say the least.
Race Day

It’s finally here! I had worked hard all spring/summer, got many century plus rides in, multiple long runs in the crazy heat and worked through some motivation/minor injury issues. Three weeks before the race my body finally broke down and I got a bad cold. Then I went on a work trip to NYC for a week. So, needless to say, my much needed taper was pretty much forced. I did end up getting in my last 20 miler in at Central Park two weeks out from the race and it felt great! Come race day, my nerves were a little less rattled with it being my third Ironman having an idea what my body was going to feel like with the demands this distance puts on it. I was excited and ready to race!
Swim course

Hillary and I waiting for the swim start
The water was above 80 degrees, so there was definitely no wetsuit being worn for this race. This swim is a time trial start, so basically, when you show up, that’s where you start. I found fellow DC Tri/High Cloud team member, Hillary Peabody, so joined her in line. Thanks Hillary for letting me hang out with you in your comfy lawn chairs! Ron and James were there to see us off to the start and take some pictures. A few other DC Tri friends, Kevin and Richard, joined us in line. We saw club President, Steve Carlson, but he didn’t jump the line to be with us. Guess he didn’t want people to yell at him. ;) It was nice to start with a group of friends and share our race start anxiety together. Athletes are let into the water two seconds apart. We all started at about 7:15 am. The water was warm and smelly, but not too choppy so I was calm and ready to get this swim started.

Hillary, Kevin and I ready for the swim

You swim 900 meters against the current, turn for about 400 meters around the island and then head back with the current the rest of the way. It wasn’t too bad of a swim and I actually felt decent the whole way. I don’t think I swam in the right area to get the current pushing me in, because my time wasn’t really any faster than I thought it would be. The one hilarious thing about this swim was as I was swimming along in the first half, I looked over and see some guy standing up and walking! A friend of mine who had raced Louisville a few years ago had told me about this area of the swim where you could stand, but seeing it while you are swimming takes you by surprise! He literally looked like a swamp man wading through the water! This gave me a little chuckle and took my mind off swimming against the current for awhile.  Although, I think I gulped a little water from laughing out loud! A few times in the last half of the swim, I’d be swimming along and all of a sudden run dead on into someone doing the back float. That’s the only problem with a time trial start. You aren’t always swimming with people of the same pace and get a little surprise bonk on the head that will all of a sudden slow you down. I do feel like this type of start provided much less congestion and I didn’t get pushed under water or as many elbows thrown at me as I have with a mass start. The rest of the swim was pretty uneventful and as with any triathlon swim, I was very excited to get to the steps that take me out of the water and get ready for the sports I really enjoy.

Swim time – 1:16:35
T1 was pretty uneventful. The transition area was so organized! The man who was in charge of organizing the transition area is a friend of Adriana and Matt from High Cloud. He also organized a bike course preview the day before so I was very thankful to have been able to meet him and check out the course before race day.
At this event, you run down the row of your number and get your bag (handed to you by a volunteer), run to the changing tent and then run and get your bike. I’m still pretty slow at my transitions, but I made sure to get all my body glide, chamois cream and sunscreen on, because it was going to be a long day in the sun and saddle. I trained all summer in bike shorts, but opted to do the whole race in my tri kit to try to save time by not having to change.
T1 – 6:31


On the bike course
The first 10 miles of this course are flat. Coach Mackenzie and I chatted several nights before the race about my plan. I needed to be sure I didn’t hammer it the first part of the race and hold back. Having seen the course the day before, I knew it would be very easy to take off for that first half hour or so of the ride. I kept reminding myself to ease into it, keep my HR down and save it for later in the ride. At about mile 18 you turn onto the portion of the course that looks like a ‘tumor’ jetting out. This was a five mile out and back hilly portion. I don’t know if it was because this part was at the beginning of the ride or what, but it looked much more difficult in the car. This was surprisingly one of my favorite parts of the bike. I was dreading it after seeing it the day before. There were several steeper hills but going down them was so fun! This is where you could see where your competition was as well. Although, given the time trial start, it was hard to tell where anyone really was time wise. The sound of the race wheels going down the hills was so loud and made me smile. It’s such a cool noise!
After the ‘tumor’ portion of the course you start the first loop that brings you into LaGrange. This was where all the spectators got bussed to and where you got that needed burst of energy from the crowd. Right after this town, I started to get passed by some of the pros on their 2nd loop. The lead motorcycle passed with a video camera. My first thought was, “Hey, this is pretty cool. I get to be on TV.” I just thought they were randomly filming the race. Then I realized that the leader was coming up. Ha! It was cool to see him go through the special needs area. He was handed his bag on the bike, threw out his empty water bottles, got the new ones out and was on his way. Very speedy!

Right after this, I came up on one of the girl in my age group that had passed me early on in the race. I recognized her name as one of the faster girls. I’m not sure I should admit this, but yes, I went through my age group and made a spreadsheet that included everyone who I found that was going to be my top competition. Little did I know, three of the girls who beat me weren’t even on this list. Damn you Athlinks and Google for not providing me details on these women! ;)  I admit this is very ‘stalkerish’, but I want to know what type of competition I’m up against. It just helps mentally to know what other people’s strengths are. (Side note my wonderful boyfriend, Ron, was back in the hotel room throughout the race in between my loops figuring out where I was place wise and trying to figure out how far behind I was from everyone ahead of me. The time trial start gave him some math to figure out. ;) I debated passing this girl because I knew I’d be setting myself up for a chase the rest of the race. Well, I passed her, and that’s exactly what happened! I knew this girl had to be a fast swimmer given where she was in the race and also that she had to of slowed down since I caught her. We went back and forth throughout the entire next loop. Finally, around mile 90, I let her go. My HR was starting to get too high and I told myself to keep within myself, don’t get caught up in someone else’s race. I also figured I’d see her on the run. I wasn’t going to wear my legs out too much to ruin my marathon. (I found out after the race we had the exact same bike time!)
Earlier on in the bike I broke a race day rule and tried something new for nutrition. At the expo I bought some of the new power bar gummy things that have gushy stuff in the middle. I bought the coca cola flavor, thinking the extra caffeine/sugar would give me that pep I knew I’d need when the bike started feeling tough. On the second half of the bike course, we had some head wind that wasn’t expected so I decided to take a few of the gummies during this part b/c it was getting tough constantly pushing through the wind and hills. I started to get a stomach ache, so after three of the gummies, I decided to not take anymore. At that point I had a few hours to go before the run so wasn’t too worried.

After mile 90, the rest of the course was downhill and flat. I used this time to take in the scenery a bit and just keep my HR nice and steady. I was thankful that I made it through the 112 miles without a flat or any mechanical malfunctions and felt ready to get off the bike and run!

Bike time– 5:46:45; 19.38 mph
T2 – 4:19 - got more sunscreen and body glide on my feet!

First few miles of the marathon
This is the portion of the Ironman that can make or break your race. I wasn’t sure how exactly I’d feel coming off the bike but was hoping I didn’t feel like I did in Cozumel. My legs felt horrible on the marathon in Cozumel and the heat got to me. I didn’t want a repeat of that. I knew my training had been different and confident that all the long training runs I got in this summer prepared me well for the marathon. I found out after the race that the temperatures were in the middle 80’s but fortunately, that didn’t bother me too much. Must have been all the runs I did in 90’s and high humidity all summer!

As I was running out of T2, Ron let me know I was in 11th place. That meant I had to run some girls down! I had already passed one girl in my AG out of transition so I was up to 10th. The first two miles are an out and back on the bridge and the rest of the race is broken down into two loops. Right after mile one I found the girl who I had played frogger with out on the bike course. She was actually walking when I passed! This gave me some adrenaline and I probably ran the first several miles a little fast, keeping it under 8 min. pace. I slowed my pace a bit and just tried to keep it steady between 8:00-8:10 for awhile. I didn’t want to have to worry about any stomach issues popping up so took an anti-diarrheal pill. My left hamstring has given me problems throughout the season and it was starting to get a little tight. I had some Advil with me and couldn’t rip it open with my teeth after multiple attempts. So, the next water stop I saw they had a knife. I quickly ran over and ripped it open then was on my way again.  Throughout the first loop I passed a few more girls in my AG. I decided I should stop at the special needs and fill the two fuel belt bottles I had with me back up with Infinit. I wasn’t too sure if the Power Bar drink would mess with my stomach and didn’t want to take any chances. I may have lost a little time doing this, but the alternative could have been bonking the last few miles of the marathon.  I needed to stick with water, Infinit and gels….just like my training runs. No nutritional experiments on the run! I know better than to try that with my sensitive stomach.
Finish line!! (not right time b/c of TT start)
I came to the end of the first loop, which takes you right by the finish line. Oh, that is so painful! That mental downer only lasted a minute before I saw High Clouders, Adriana and Matt. Ron was also there and he let me know I was in 6th in my AG! I got chills and excited knowing I had gotten closer to the top contenders. This gave me some motivation and energy to speed up a bit. On the 2nd loop I saw many DC Tri and High Cloud friends and it was so great to encourage each other. My legs didn’t really feel like they were running a marathon until about mile 22. This is when my pace slowed a bit more, but I was still able to keep in under 8:30’s. At mile 24, Ron had found me and told me I was getting really close, to just keep going and finish strong. I knew since he didn’t tell me exactly how far I was behind, he wasn’t sure how close I was to the girl in front of me. He ran ahead of me on the sidewalk with his cowbell getting the crowd fired up. Finally, with one mile to go I knew I just had to reel it in. I knew I’d come in around 10:50 if I just kept that pace. The finish line appears and I’m all smiles. That crowd was amazing! The finish line of an Ironman is definitely my favorite part of the Ironman. Music is pumping, everyone is yelling and you know that all the hard training has paid off! I knew I had gotten a PR, pumped my arms that last block, got chills and took it all in. I had finished my third Ironman and felt pretty darn good!

Marathon – 3:37:36; 8:18 pace
Total time – 10:51:46; 5th in 30-34 Age Group; 13th Overall for age groupers  

Post Race

Ice Bath!
The volunteers are amazing at Ironman races and the finish line volunteers were so concerned and caring for everyone. They would not let me leave the area until I found Ron and they knew I was safe with someone. I found Ron, got some post race food, and headed back to the hotel where I sat in the ice bath that Ron had all ready to go for me. I hate ice baths but man do they work!  Ron’s support was simply amazing and I couldn’t have gotten through all this training and racing without it!
I was very amazed at how great I felt! Of course, I felt like I had just finished an Ironman, but I didn’t feel sick or like I needed to lie down right away like my last Ironman. I finally got to go down to the finish line, have a few beers, and see the last person finish. That’s a very emotional thing to see and very inspirational!
Blue Moon for post race drink!

Next morning was Kona slot allocation. I knew that my age group would probably get at least three slots like last year. I found out that four had been allocated to F30-34. This meant, one woman had to decline for me to get a slot. We went back to the room and I tried to nap and relax (yeah right!) Then at 11am went to the roll down allocation. All four women had accepted their slots! Bummer! I felt my heart sink. I was so close with just being three minutes behind the 4th place female. Ron and I sat down and waited to see if there would be another slot from another age group. They got to F25-29 and said there was a slot that a woman in the F60-64 didn’t take so for some reason it was up for grabs and rolled to their AG. They called name after name and no one was claiming it. I was starting to get excited knowing that if no one in this AG took it, it would go to my AG. Finally, someone claimed it. I’m not trying to sound negative or rude, but I have to admit this really ticked me off. This girl was over an hour from the two other girls who got a slot in her AG. That’s the way it works out sometimes, but I honestly don’t think this is the most fair way of getting a Kona slot. I still do not know why that slot went to that age group b/c the F30-34 had the most starters and according to their rules if there is a slot from another age group that is not taken, then it will be allocated to the group with the most starters. I have asked WTC to explain this to me and they told me that their race officials have some sort of algorithm that figures it out. 

Hillary, Steve and I

Best Sherpas ever!

Kevin and I after the race
Giving Ron a huge hug :)
Ron and I went back to the room and I just needed 15 min. to myself to let out some of my frustrations. I was also angry with myself for letting this override the great race I had just had. I really, really did not want this to bring me down after having such a great day. I played the ‘what if I hadn’t done this or that’ game and then told myself to suck it up. I am happy with the way my race went and so thankful I had the race and race conditions I had. I gave it my all and left it all out there on the course! I couldn’t have asked for better weather, I actually enjoyed the rolling hills on the bike course and I felt sooo good on the marathon! I surprised myself with how I ran and had a fun time at Ironman Louisville! The F30-34 AG is so crazy competitive and I am very happy with where I placed. The lava fields will just have to wait. I may not have made it this time, but I still have plenty of time to try again. Some of my friends have already tried to convince me to sign up for Ironman Coeur d’Alene, but I won’t be doing an Ironman in 2012. I do believe this is the race distance for me,  but after doing an Ironman three years in a row, it’s time to focus on keeping my body healthy and getting my speed up for half distances and under for 2012. In 2013 I will be in a different age group so I might try again when I’m 35!
Off season will have to wait another two months. Next up, Club Championships at Myrtle Beach and USAT Long Course Worlds in Henderson, NV. Time to get in the pool, back in the saddle and lace the shoes up for more training!


  1. Good job and nice report. Sorry you didn't qualify for Kona but sounds like you will make it their soon. I might have been the guy you saw walking in that portion of the swim :). I saw others walking so I was like what the hell I will take a quick little break. Louisville was my first IM but hoping to make it to Kona one day myself. Good luck on your upcoming races.

    Fellow DC Tri Cluber Jay

  2. Thank you Jay! Ha that's funny. Maybe that was you walking in the water. ;) Congrats to you too!

  3. Congrats on a great race!!

    Thomas Gerlach
    Professional Triathlete

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