I participated in Ironman Louisville on Aug. 26, 2012. This is my recap of that race. Unfortunately, however, at the moment I do not have internet connectivity at my house so I am writing this blog entry on my iPhone. Let’s see how this turns out…
First-off, I was reticent to compete in a full Ironman. After I grinded my way through the Eagleman Half Ironman I did not think I was in sufficient shape to complete a full Ironman. The run at Eagleman was brutally hot and long. Every mile was hell for me. I did not know how to properly manage my body heat and I was dehydrated, even though I stopped for fluids at every aid station. In July, I almost resigned myself to the idea that I just was not Ironman material. Nevertheless, my coach, Karen Talley-Meade, had faith in me and encouraged me to press on toward the goal, so I did.
There are alot of wonderful details about my trip to Louisville, including my visits with assundry family in Lexington and New Albany prior to Sunday’s race, but I won’t bore with those details.
Friday I had my Zipp 404 Clincher Wheels installed. I had broken a few a spokes on my regular wheels in the weeks leading up to the race, so I figured renting some wheels would provide some much needed peace of mind. I was right and the wheels worked out well.
Saturday night I slept pretty well. I went to bed around 10:15pm and fell asleep around 11pm. I was concerned about hydration so I started drinking my Ironman Powder Drinks since dinner, which combined with some pre-race jitters, made me have to pee alot. All-in-all though I felt pretty refreshed when I woke up at 0345. Getting some sleep the night before any race, much less Ironman distance races, is critical in my opinion.
Finding parking near the swim course at 0500 was not too much of a problem. I had plenty of time to turn in my special needs bags, get my body marking done, and get in the swim line. I was shocked at both how long the line was when I finally found the end of it, as well as how many people got in line behind me. I ended up being about right in the middle of the swim line. I met two super nice Ironman newbies like myself who were in line next to me: Kathy from Kansas and Jim from Fairfax, VA (small world as I’m from Falls Church, VA). Talking to them about their training regimens and what they hoped to get out of the race really put me at ease and totally set the tone for an awesome race.
Once 0700 rolled around and the race was on, the swim line moved incredibly fast. The energy reached a fever pitch as we approached the spectators and the docks down by the river. I couldn’t wait to jump in!
The water seemed cleaner than I expected, and the swim was a bit longer and warmer than I expected. There was hardly an inch of room to manuever in the entire 2.4 miles of the swim. I took my time and saved my legs as best I could. My Grandad was an engineer on the Southern Railroad. He lived in New Albany before he died. I heard a train whistle in the distance as I approached the first bridge and felt like my Grandad was saying hi and goodluck.
My parents and son were cheering me on as I exited the water to transition to the bike. It was still relatively cool and having just gotten out of the water, I felt great. I hopped on my bike and settled-in to a relaxing cadence for the 112 mile ride. The first 10 miles or so were flat and shaded. Then the fun started. The majority of the bike course was one annoying hill after another, and as the day wore on, the combination of heat and hills were starting to take a toll on some. Others were unlucky to have gotten a flat, while the unprepared who got flats had no choice but to sit and wait for assistance. I tried to stay relaxed and hydrated. My goal was to finish and I was mostly concerned about having enough legs and energy to finish the marathon run still ahead of me. Thankfully, the last 10 miles back to the river were flat again, and by this time the afternoon sun was starting to cool off.
Transitioning to the run was surreal. The transition tent was stifling, noisy and stinky. Nevertheless, once I had changed into my running gear, I just sat on the plastic folding chair I claimed as home base for at least 5 minutes as I tried to rehydrate from the water the awesome volunteers made sure to supply me with.
I walked out of the tent, had a lovely lady slather me with sun tan lotion (but didn’t get her number) and then jogged out of the transition area to the cheers of my parents, sister, son and nephew. What a great cheering section and a welcome site! They really motivated me to carry on.
Being on the run course, finally, was my favorite part of the race. I loved running out over one of the awesome Louisville bridge that took us out over the river I had swam in hours earlier. I challenged myself to run 7-8 miles before walking. I made it that far and then some. Around 15 miles I started hurting and was walking about a half mile for every mile I ran. The water tents were a welcomed necessity, as was the chicken broth at each station. I knew replacing all the salt I was losing was just as important as hydration.
Running by the finish line at 4th Street Live before having to run back out on the course for a second loop was a horrible mental challenge. Volunteers passed out glow stick lights as we made the turn into the second loop, which I started just before the sun was going down behind the tall buildings of the city. Using the glow sticks as indicators, one could tell which runners were on their first lap and which ones were on their second. My glow stick emitted the purple light of hope as I gave thanks for not still being on the first lap once the sun had disappeared.
As I closed-in on the finish line, a volunteer enthusiastically ran out into the street and yelled: ‘You’ve completed 140 miles today and now you only have .6 miles left to go!!!’. A little girl was sitting on the curb along the street we were running on and she screamed at us: ‘You’re an Ironman!!!’. I was so stoked at that point. Nothing could have kept me from crossing the finish line now!
Finally!!!! Fourth Street Live came into view…again. Except this time I got to cross under the Ironman Arch and stop my body from moving. Finally!!!! I gave high-fives to every spectator in my field of vision. The announcer congratulated me on becoming an Ironman. I had done it!! Final time was 15:31.59. It was a slower time than I had hoped, but I was higher than a kite for finishing and living through the experience and for having my parents, sister, son and nephew at the finish line with me. I’ll never forget the experience and gratification from that sense of accomplishment.