Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Ironman Louisville Race Report

Louisville is a great, up and coming town. It’s been four years since the downtown area has been undergoing a revitalization. This town has got a lot of energy and there were a ton of activities going on and around the city un-related to Ironman. We got to visit some great places like the Muhammad Ali Center, Louisville Slugger Factory, and a very cool museum/restaurant called Proof.

4:15 am. My pre-race meal consisted of two bottles of Ensure and one banana. I took a Gatorade Endurance with me for the two mile walk to the swim start. Ben and I walked to transition together pumped our tires up, put bottles and nutrition on our bikes, and headed south to the swim start.

The swim start area in Louisville is a narrow channel that starts between an island and some boat docks. Therefore it’s impossible to put 2000 athletes in the water at the same time. Unlike most Ironman races, Louisville is a time trial start; each athlete lines up one after the other, crosses the timing mat, and hops into the water to begin the race. They estimated it would take 45 minutes to put all athletes into the water. We wanted to be closer to the front and it turns out, Ben and I were in the water 18 minutes after the 7am start.

The shape of the swim course looks like the letter “J” as you start by swimming south in the Ohio River around Towhead Island before turning north. At the pre-race briefing, Lance Watson suggested that for the .75 mile initial portion of the swim to keep the turnover in our strokes a little higher because of a small current in the channel between the island and shore. I took his advice and had a great start to my swim, passing many swimmers and plugging away. As we started to pull away from the island and closer to the turn-around point, you could feel the current working against you. I got to the turn-around and had to choose whether to swim closer to the middle of the river or near the shore line where the buoys were lined up. Lance Watson noted that at a camp he hosted a month prior to Ironman, he had two groups of athletes swimming 1) near the shore, and 2) in the middle of the river. The athletes in the middle of the river were moving faster. I chose to go close to the middle but I could see athletes even further towards the middle of the river off to my right. We had to swim underneath three bridges and underneath each bridge, you could feel a small current working against you as the water bounced between the pilings. It didn’t feel like my goggles were on too tight but after awhile I had to move the muscles in my face and squint a bit to relieve some pressure from the goggles. That seemed to help and I kept plugging away. I exited the water and heard the cheers from my family and Ben’s then ran to the Great Lawn and T1. A volunteer handed me my race bag and I headed for the changing tent. I pulled my Blue Seventy Speed Suit all the way off put some Assos chamois cream inside my shorts and headed to my bike. I put on my Spiuk Time Trial Helmet, sunglasses, and off I went, shoes on my bike. As I ran to my bike, I saw fellow triathletes, Reid Keiser and Scott Baldwin on the sidelines cheering me on. It was great to see and hear those guys.
Swim Time: 1:10:10 (1:50/100m pace)
T1 Time: 2:20

The first 20 miles of the bike is fairly flat, fast, and moderately rolling as it takes you along the banks of the Ohio River south towards Oldham County. There is an out-and-back section that breaks up the terrain around mile 10 with some short climbs that felt like ant hills compared to my training rides. I kept my wattage in check for the 1st hour of the bike; average watts: 173, average speed 21.1 mph.

After the first 20 miles or so you link onto the La Grange Loop which takes you through some beautiful horse farms in Oldham County. Though, I didn’t see many horses, I enjoyed the rolling terrain and smooth roads along the loop. The small town of La Grange puts on an Ironman Festival like you wouldn’t believe and encourages spectators to come out. This was a great spot to break up the monotony of the ride. This was a highlight of the ride as we would pass this area twice on the loop. I drew motivation from the cheers of the crowds. Rows of spectators lined the streets of La Grange as the noises of cheering and cow bells filled the air. I saw my family and Ben’s again as they were able to take the courtesy shuttle to La Grange.

My on-the-bike nutrition consisted of: 1-650 calorie aero bottle of Infinit on my down tube, constantly filling up on water in my aero bottle between my aerobars, an occasional packet of GU, and 1-3 Thermolyte tablets per hour. I threw away my 650 calorie aero bottle at my special needs bag on mile 66 and grabbed another bottle with the same mixture for the rest of the way. Let me just say that the profile aero drink bottle, while a good concept, is a piece of crap. The flapper that is supposed to keep liquid from splashing up into your face and legs fell down into the bottle. I must have spent a majority of the ride continuously sticking my finger inside to pull it back up only to have it fall back down when I hit a bump in the road. Finally it flew off my bike so I no longer had to worry about it.

I don’t know why but I was unable to keep my wattage near my goal watts and I was significantly below where I should have been. My FTP is 265 and my goal wattage was 172-198. I ended up with an average of 157 for the entire ride. I didn’t sweat it too much if I undershot my goal as I felt good the entire ride and averaged 20.4 mph for the entire ride. I knew my legs were going to feel good getting off the bike and running strong was more important than my bike split. Interestingly enough, my powermeter read 113 miles for the ride. Go figure. I took my shoes off as I approached transition and set my feet on top of them as I pedaled the last hundred yards in. At the dismount area I threw my leg over the side and handed my bike to a volunteer, grabbed my run gear bag, and headed into the changing tent. I made it a point to turn my Garmin 305 on first to give it a little more time for the satellites to upload. I put on socks, shoes, took another dispenser of thermolyte tablets, put on my hat, and was out the door for the run course.

Bike time: 5:29:06, (20.42 mph)
T2 time: 3:36


I got going on the run and I was feeling the effects of the heat a bit and the long ride but overall, I felt pretty good. My legs felt a little crampy getting off the bike but I think it was due more to the heat than anything. I took 2 thermolyte tablets at the first aid station and found myself easily running a sub-8 min mile pace. I had to force myself to slow down. Rich Strauss from Endurance Nation was great. He was on a bike and rode up next to me. He simply told me to “slow down” for the first 6 miles. I knew this already but I needed to hear it again as my legs just wanted to run. The Garmin was a great tool for this point in the race as I had to force myself to slow down. You do a short out and back on one of the bridges during the first few miles before getting onto the main run course. It was hot. I took water, sponges, and ice at the first aid station and doused myself to cool down.

As we approached the downtown area, I saw an electronic bank sign that read ninety-two degrees. Along the route there are places where you can run in the shade along the curb and near the trees. The draw back is the road is canted there and the amount of shade wasn’t enough most of the time to make it worth it. Kevin Kunkel passed me around mile 3-4 and we both gave each other words of encouragement.

I saw Rich again and he told me to hold it back until mile 6. I was grateful to have him there and it gave me something to focus on. I feared I wasn’t holding back quite enough on those first 6 miles however. I picked up my pace after six miles and I think I made a mistake at this point as I felt the effects of trying to go a little faster. I was feeling good until about mile 8 and whatever it was; the heat, the distance, just got to me. For the middle 8 miles, I was suffering but still plugging along. At that point, I was just trying to get from aid station to aid station to cool myself off. Those aid stations were little oasis’s in the heat of the day. I was grabbing water, cola, or gatorade at each aid station and pouring water and ice all over myself. Rich rode by me once again and told me I was 15th in my age group and to not slow down.

Going back into downtown Louisville, I started to feel a resurgence as the cheers from the crowds and seeing friends and loved ones again, gave me an extra boost. I didn’t start my watch at the beginning of the race on purpose so I had no idea of how I was doing on my total time for the day. I caught up to Kevin again. He was walking and not in a good place. He said he was cramping whenever he ran. He later pulled ahead of me again briefly, only to stop and dry heave on the side of the road as I passed him. There were a TON of people walking. The heat, poor pacing, or what have you was taking it’s toll on the majority of the field.

I made it a point after the turn around at mile 13 that I would only walk briefly at the aid stations to take down fluid. Other than brief moments at the aid stations to take fluid down, I never walked the entire race. As I approached mile 16, I was in my zone, focused, and determined. I told myself not to slow down. Making matters worse however was a blister on the left ball of my foot that started at about….oh, mile 3 and was quite painful. I took heart that I was nearing the end and told myself to suck it up and not let it get to me.
With 4 miles to go, I started to kick it in and good lord did an 8:30 pace feel hard and anything below that feel like sprinting. I saw the buildings from downtown Louisville drawing closer and closer and finally I made the left and right turn down the homestretch. 4th Street Live has got to be one of the best finish lines EVER. It’s a busy street lined with restaurants, cafes, and bars and filled with energy. Again, I had no idea what my time was and I wasn’t about to let up at that point so I gave it a good effort the last two blocks. The clock time read 10:58 but that included the 10’ professional buffer and I didn’t know how long it had taken me to get into the water at the start. I estimated my time to be around 10:45-10:48. They took me over to the Kentucky Convention Center to medical where I would get some treatment for the blisters on my feet. They set me down right next to Heather Gollnick who was getting and IV and not looking too good. She waved to me and I smiled back.

Total Run Time: 3:55:03 (8:58/mile pace)
Total Race Time: 10:40:15, 72nd overall, 14th in the M30-34 AG.

Kona Roll Down the following day:

I’ve been to Kona as a lottery winner and I would like to get there as a qualifier. I had a good race but not quite good enough to get to Kona. However, I wanted to show up, cross my fingers, and just enjoy even being remotely close enough to stay for roll down. As it turned out three out of the four slots had been taken already for my age group. Only one slot remained. It rolled down to 6th place who finished with a 10:25. My goal time was 10:15-10:30 but I was happy with my race. I put together a smart race and I ran well off the bike. I know I need to continue to get stronger in the run to get closer to my goal. It was a 48’ P.R. for me over my 2005 race at Ironman Canada. Who cannot be ecstatic about that? I made some tremendous break throughs in training this year and I intend to continue that into next year after some much needed rest.

Special thanks to:
My family for their support. Rich Strauss from Endurance Nation, Eric Sorensen, Pete Warner, Catherine Freck, and Mike Flanagan, and last but not least my good friend Ben Britton for their advice, suggestions, humor, and friendship. It makes all the difference in the world to share your accomplishment with people that care about you. My mom handed me my phone and I had a bunch of text messages, voicemails, and e-mails congratulating me and letting me know they watched me finish on the live streaming video. Even though I knew they were probably watching, I was touched. I'm not going to list all the names but you you know who you are...THANK YOU.


Scott said...

I know the residents of LaGrange and Oldham County will be appreciative of the kind words. I'm glad participants enjoyed our country side and the cheers.

Scott Hack
Oldham County Wired

Endurance Nation said...

Jason -

That's a huge PR and you are (seriously) not that far from a qualifying time on that course. Sounds like you have some good perspective and are ready to tackle the challenge! Enjoy some rest first! :)


Barbara Manley Edds said...

Thank you for your complimentary words for La Grange. We are looking forward to this year's Ironman and will be waiting for you with our hospitality and cheers. It is the best place to watch the cyclists. This year will be the best yet!

Barbara Manley Edds
Discover Downtown La Grange

Barbara Manley Edds said...
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