Ironman Louisville Race Report

This was supposed to be my “off” year of Ironman as I prepared for my big push in 2012 to a new age group (45-49).  After Wisconsin, I decided that if I really wanted 2012 to be my best effort, I better continue to spend 2011 laying the foundation.

The only problem was that I made my decision at the point when all the other races had filled.  Louisville was the only race left open.  It was the race I made fun of because of the heat and the nasty swim in the Ohio River.  With trepidation I signed up.

A few days post race and I am quite happy that I took the risk.  Louisville has turned out to be a race that fits me well for many reasons.  Yes, in fact, I have already signed up for 2012.  Onto the report…

My home is only an hour and forty-five minutes from Louisville in a similar climate (the same heat, slightly less humidity, and the same hills).  We drove down Friday afternoon, checked in and began the countdown.

I was nervous, but not as nervous as my last three Ironmans.  What was different this time?  I was more excited than nervous.  I wasn’t at the race trying to get out alive, I was here to race.

Swim: The strategy was to line up in the middle of the time trial start line.  This worked well and I loved this start format.  There was some contact in the channel (I received a nice solid kick in my stomach) but overall it was much calmer than the typical Ironman mass starts.

I kept the pace steady in the channel steady alternating my breathing every three.  The water was warm but no warmer than my outdoor pool.  I was surprised how many people I had to pass.  It seemed that once we cleared the channel, the current in the river required a bit more effort to get to the turn buoy.  Once I hit the turn buoy, I felt the slight push of the current in the direction toward the finish.  As I reached the end of the island, I decided to do some work and push my pace to a moderately hard level (breathe two left and one right).  I felt like I was flying.  I had to slow up a bit at the end due to congestion at the exit.  I was thrilled when I got out of the water and saw my time.  Huge PR especially for a non-wetsuit swim.  I love current!  I ran to transition and quickly departed on my bike.

Bike: The plan was to finish my bike strong with a push at mile 80 to the end.  I had to slightly modify the plan due to an unusual 10-15 MPH tailwind at mile 80 to the end. Everyone was going to be fast in this portion.  As a result, I picked it up during the second loop into the hills and headwind.  I think this served me well and I still was able to lift my effort back into town.  I don’t have a lot more to add to the bike except I felt great the whole ride and stayed within my heart rate/power zones.  I arrived back into T2 ready to run.

Run: As I started the run, I had some slight tightness in my stomach.  I stretched a lot on the bike and for the first time had no side stitches.  I am not sure if the tightness in my stomach was from my cycling position or the kick I received in the swim.  It went away pretty quickly.  The course itself is flat, fast and exposed to the sun.  The slowest part of the course is the many turns you take near the finish to begin your second loop.

The first three miles I built into my pace.  Okay, that is a lie.  I was on pace almost immediately.  Oops.  In my defense we had to climb a bridge and I was able to run in the shade of the beams.  Plus there was a downhill.

My plan was to fast walk every aid station.  I would walk through one part of it for up to 30 seconds as I took on ice in my hat/bra, sponges and fluids.   Seriously, I walked through 25 aid stations.  I decided the last one was overkill.

The first 15 miles of the run I spent monitoring a twinge in my left calf in fear that it would cramp.  I also realized after the first hour that I needed to cut back on the caffeine. I felt like I had skipped a heart beat and was getting a bit nauseous.  I immediately switched to the on course race drink and felt better.

After mile 15, the run became a battle of my will.  My quads were very painful and very pissed.  I knew the only thing worse than what I was feeling would be to extend the pain by walking the damn quads into the finish.  The sooner I was done, the sooner my quads would stop feeling like someone was driving a knife into them.

At mile 15 I lifted my effort and at mile 19 fueled myself to the finish with Coke.

Some highlights from the day:

  • Getting passed by Chris “BigSexy” McDonald on the bike like I was cycling backwards.
  • At one point on the run, I was passed by a guy on a mountain bike.  A few seconds later I heard a voice on my shoulder say, “Nice pace.”  We ran together for a bit when I realized it was the woman pro in second.  I stayed just behind her until I realized I needed to run my race, not hers!
  • I loved cheering on our EC pros during the loops of the marathon.  Chris McDonald won the race.  Justin Daerr was third and Marilyn McDonald had a very successful return to IM form after a multiyear layoff due to injury.

The good:

  • I improved significantly with a 47 minute PR.  My fastest Ironman to date had been 12 hours.
  • I was able to lift the effort in the last third of the swim, bike and run and finish strong in each.
  • I was the fastest marathon in my age group and the 6th fastest amateur woman marathoner and 13th overall.
  • Excellent nutrition plan.  Little to no post race nausea.  Approximately 200 calories per hour, drink to thirst and plenty of caffeine.
  • I used no special needs bags and made no clothing changes.  I was smooth and efficient.
  • A marathon PR including all my open marathon times.
  • Much improved body composition.

When I crossed the finish line, I knew I had the time from previous years to qualify for Kona.  Unfortunately, some new women in my age group decided that three of them would break 11 hours.  We had four slots total and the rolldown dropped to 5th.  I missed Kona by 10 minutes.  I know that it was 10 minutes I can and will cut off on the bike.

As I reflect on the race, I smile.  I am very happy and excited about continuing to improve.  After arriving back in Bloomington, five of my friends and family congratualated me and then berated me for not upgrading my cycling equipment before the race.  I have been informed by KT that I am to have a new bike and a new wheelset purchased shortly (it will cut 5-6lbs off my bike weight…significant when you weigh 127 lbs and improve my aerodynamics).

Ironically, the bearings in my headset of my five year old bike started to fail in Louisville on the shakedown ride before the race.  It had no effect on my race but I was scared to death the bike would break down during the race.

Thanks go to my coach, Gordo Byrn.  His plan was tough, challenging and it delivered.  I remember lamenting to Gordo how I didn’t like the time trial format in Lousiville because I couldn’t pick off people on the run.  Gordo’s response was, “Just beat them all.” It worked.  Thanks Gordo for providing me with the training I could trust.  Thanks to all on the Endurance Corner team for their kind words and support.

Special thanks to KT and Bob for the race support.  They truly shine during the marathon as spotters.  KT monitors the Ironman Live website for my position in my age group.  Bob rides his bike and spots how many are ahead of me and how far I need to run to pass them.  It is a total team effort.

The recovery from this race is going well.  My aerobic system feels very good. Structurally my quads are still painful and I will be losing 3-6 toe nails.  I don’t think my toes have ever been this painful.

Amazing, how soon the memory of the pain passes and is replaced by the quiet satisfaction of a day well spent and a year well traveled.  Only 51.5 weeks of training left…





3 Replies to "Ironman Louisville Race Report"

  • comment-avatar
    Jen Harrison
    September 1, 2011 (12:50 pm)

    CONGRATS on your race!!!!!! AND PR!

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    November 25, 2011 (3:41 am)

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  • Tucson Camp Day 3 | FeWoman
    February 29, 2012 (11:17 pm)

    […] that she was the pro that spoke to me during the Ironman Louisville marathon (original blog post here).  I thanked her again for her added motivation on race […]