Ironman Louisville 2016 – Race Report

Good morning #fitfriends,

Ironman Louisville will forever be one of my memorable experiences.

I woke up around 4 am after having a pretty terrible sleep. I was truly terrified that I would DNF and let myself and my supporters down.

I got up, went to the hotel breakfast area, made myself some oatmeal, and grabbed a coffee.

Back in my room I started getting ready by having Tim apply my Tritats.

That was a total Shitshow! Lesson learned do not have your half asleep partner apply crucial Tri numbers to your body race morning. Now that I know that Tritats are practically permanent (2 weeks later and my leg tattoos are still hanging on) I will apply them the night BEFORE my race.

Tim did his best to draw on some race numbers using a sharpie borrowed from the hotel.

My race motto was – “control what you can; let everything else go…”

I ate my oatmeal topped with Sidder’s maple syrup, banana, and drank my coffee. Mixed up my 6 bottles of Infinite. 3 for the bike 3 for S/N

I got dressed in my sports bra and bikini bottoms and added a few layers, braided my hair brushed my teeth and set out to take on the day.

As we left the hotel I decided I should take an allergy pill, just in case. I didn’t want to have a runny nose all day.

I sipped from a bottle of infinite …

When we arrived at transition I found that I failed to close said bottle of Infinite and it had emptied into my morning clothes bag. My swim cap, goggles, and wet-suit were now full of super sugary lemon lime liquid!  I dumped the excess liquid out of the bag, said good bye to Tim, and walked to find Gretchen leaving a little trail behind me.

I still needed to fill my bottle. I used one of my special needs bottles to fill my aerobottle, knowing  that I could replace it later in the race with one of the 6 baggies of powder I had in my bike jersey.

With 2 screw ups already going down that morning, I just shook it off and made my way with my soggy bag to the swim start.

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The Wait

I spent the next hour sitting on the cold pavement under an overpass among my fellow competitors. I pretty much kept to myself, but did chat a wee bit. It hard to be social that early in the morning on your biggest day of your life.

By this time I really had to pee, but didn’t want to wait in the long lines, so like a good Northern Girl I popped behind a tree …

Tim found me around 7 am and helped me into my sticky wet-suit and washed my goggles off.

The sun was starting to rise and I started to get super excited. I was repeating  to myself – “Holy Shit I am doing an Ironman today!!!”

There are no words that express how it felt to be there in that moment will all the people around me all getting ready to take on one of the biggest days of our lives.

At 7:30 am the bugler played  “Call to Post” and the swim start officially began. The line moved pretty quickly, before I knew it I was entering the swim shoot. Goggles on and ready to take on my day.

The Swim

Standing in the line I heard “TRIHARDMAMA” I turned and Kathtris was standing there. I hugged her and moved on down the line.

Louisville swim has a rolling start of the dock, no time to think you just go. I hesitated a bit trying to decide on which dock to jump off, then took the plunge. You can watch the swim start here... I can be seen at 2:09 in the video.

I ALWAYS panic at the beginning of a race, but not that day… I just put my face down and swam.

I started out up stream long the Towhead Island in the Ohio River. There was minimal contact, I had to stop a few times to get around fellow swimmers. I moved up stream for what felt like  forever – it was only about 20 mins…

I rounded the buoy and made my way back down the Ohio. It was a bit overwhelming at times, not the swim itself, but just the expanse of the river and the distance. When I looked up to see where I was going I felt like I would never reach the swim out. The bridges above me were enormous, I felt very small. I don’t think I ended up staying in the slip stream, I ended up on the wrong side of the buoys. My swim felt reasonable but not overly fast.

And then I was there at the swim out, a volunteer helped me out of the water, another volunteer unzipped my wet suit. I walked to the wet-suit strippers. Someone offered to help me but I immediately found Tim, I gave him a big hug and smile and said “I did it” I finished the swim! He and his partner removed my wet-suit and I was off to T1.

Swim complete!

Swim Goal – 1:30 Swim time – 1:17:25 Rank – Div. 64, overall 1504

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T1

I grabbed my bike bag and headed into the change tent. I could not have been prepared for the chaos I found… organized chaos maybe, but still chaos!!  There is ZERO modesty in an IM change tent!! I ended up completely naked in the door of that tent, probably gave an eye full to many passing by, but I had a mission. Get changed and out as quickly as possible.

I ran out the door found Gretchen and walked to the bike out line…

T1 goal 15 mins – T1 12:23

THE BIKE!

The bike is my nemesis. It is my weak link. I am truly still a beginner cyclist. I am slow, I am weak, I was passed by 946 people, not including the 1501 people already ahead of me who passed me on loop two.

But here’s the thing … I KNOW I suck on the bike. Its not a surprise. I went into this race expecting a poor bike split. I can ride the distance, like a turtle, but could I do it during the alloted time.

I put my head down and rode. I tried to stick with people my pace to remain consistent, but that didn’t work out. So I just peddled the only way I know how. The first stretch was pretty easy and flat, by mile 10 we were starting on the hills.

It gets crazy once you hit  the loop, the downs were so much fun, the climbs not that fun. I found I was a stronger climber than some, but they would blow by me on the declines, not due to fear, I think just due to physics. That made it hard for me to decide whether to pass.

I skipped the first aid station, stopped at 2 to refill a bottle.

Going through La Grange was everything the promoter had said, the crowds were great! The rest of the course was pretty quiet.

After La Grange we turned onto a little side road, I am not sure if it was Ballard School Road or Old Sligo, I just followed the course signs, but it got crazy! (Navigation is not my best skill)

The road itself was fine, narrow, but fine however there were a few insane hills were you would be flying down and BAM a huge bump in the road followed by a short but steep climb. There were bottles and bike carnage everywhere. The first time (2 loops) I braked hard and had to climb out of my saddle to make the climb. The second  time I braced myself for impact and hit the bump hard. Luckily I didn’t loose and bottles or have to deal with debris.

I tried my best to stay positive on the ride. The sun was shining, the scenery was breath taking, I just told myself over and over that it was just another Sunday ride! A ride full of relentless rollers. I spent the entire day switching from big ring to small ring and moving up and down my cassette.

I stopped again at the third aid station, it was really the best aid station. I mixed a bottle, and peed.

Before I knew it I was on my second loop, okay that that quickly it did take 4 hours to complete the first loop!

I enjoyed the first big decent, cursed the first big climb but reminded myself it was the last time I would ever have to climb that hill.

Just before La Grange I stopped at Special Needs. A kind gentlemen held my bike, another volunteer brought me my bag. I filled my bottles, grabbed my emergency kit, popped a few Advil ate a handful of Chicago mix popcorn and set out again. I really wanted to apply more chamois cream, but didn’t want to make a porta potty stop and couldn’t bring myself to apply it in front of that lovely gentleman…

I continue to truck along, slow and steady averaging over 14 miles MPH, but my splits were lower due to my aid station stops.

My nutrition was working out well, 1 bottle of infinite per hour and 1 rice ball, which were super gross by the way. Future Note – frozen and thawed rice balls that have been transported across two countries are absolutely DISGUSTING race day! But I sucked it up and stuck with my race plan, until my last hour where I swapped in a cliff bar mini!

When I saw the sign 33 miles to Louisville I couldn’t have been happier. the tough sections were over. I had learned that those last 33 miles were were your bike split was made. I put my head down and focused. They were right, my pace picked up as I headed back to town.

The day was beginning to feel long at this point. I was anxious get off the bike, but butt was SORE! My legs were aching, as was my back! Around mile 93, I think they really all blended together at one point, a lady shouted to me … “only 7 more miles and the hills are done. I watched my Garmin closely as I ticked off those miles, and she was right, Mile 100 (160 km) the relentless hills of Louisville were over!!!

I shouted out to a fellow athlete asking for the time … She said its only 4:50pm, at this point we should be done by 5:30 pm which mean you can walk that marathon and still make the cut-off. I was ECSTATIC!

At this point of the ride I was starting to HURT. The bumps in the pavement of River Road where excruciating. I tried my best to push out the pain and get it over with! The chatter among cyclists started to pick up as we  were all suffering tremendously,  8 hours on the bike is a long freaking time! I tried to spend my day focusing on the section I was in to not get overwhelmed. However I was now thinking ahead to the run, wondering how on earth I was going to find the energy to run a marathon. Would my training be enough, would it work???

I couldn’t have been more happy when I approached the bike off line. I called to the volunteers asking where to get off, I learned it had to be BEFORE the line. I couldn’t  risk a DNF after suffering through 112 miles!

I walked my bike to the bike catchers and guess who I found?? Tim had so much fun striping wet-suits and he signed up to catch bikes as well.

I gave him the BIGGEST hug, I am pretty sure I jumped into his arms! I was so PROUD to have made the bike cutoff, nothing else mattered to me at this point. I had over come the hard part in my mind. I knew I could walk most of the 26.2 miles and still finsih this race! I was going to be an Ironman by the end of the day!! (tearing up as I write this… the emotions are still really high for me)

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Bike goal – 8:00 hours Bike split 8:05 Rank – Div 123 Overall 2450

T2

I actually ran to my run bag, an awesome volunteer helped my in the change tent she carefully dumped out my gear laid it all out and worked with me to change. She was super friendly. I probably chatted with her a bit too long, but I has spent most of my day in solitude. I was grateful for her help.

Outside the change tent I took the opportunity to pee and reapply sunscreen and then I was off to run a marathon!

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T2 goal 10 mins T2 split 11:28

THE RUN

The run out at IM Louisville feels crazy long, I wasn’t really sure where I was even going at that point. I just tried to follow the signs and the few other runners that happened to be leaving at the same time as me, there were very few at  that point of the day.

After a few turns I finally figured it out and was on the “loop”. IM Lou has a 2 loop run course, its about 10 km out 10 km back twice. I had broken it up into my head as such, I just had to run 10 km 4 times.

My race plan was simple – run to each aid station about 1 mile, 26 times, and walk the aid stations. I had planned GU every 4 miles and water every mile.

Simple….

My goal pace was a 12 min mile for the first few then the hopes of settling into a 11 min mile and finishing in about 5 hours.

It was still pretty early in the evening – I think around 6 pm… the sun was still shining and the course was full of people, athletes and fans.

I was able to keep a really solid pace, a little faster than anticipated, but since I was walking the aid stations it kind of leveled out.

My Belly hadn’t been right for much of the day and within the first 2 miles I really had to GO! I found a porta potty, but couldn’t make it happen, so I trucked along feeling icky. Happy but icky!

I had taken my Gas X which was a life saver, continued to drink water and hope that I didn’t have an accident in my TRI shorts! They have a saying – “Never trust a fart in Ironman” and I was taking that very seriously.

Despite the tummy issues, I was having a great run, smiling, checking out all the other athletes out there, many finishing, some on loop two, some just starting out like me.

I ticked off the miles scouting down … 25, 24, 23, 22 to go.

At mile 4 I took my first GU, it went down just fine… and kept running on target.

I was amazed by how many FIT athletes were out there walking, way more than I had expected.  Although my bike split was pitiful, I was still able to keep my run goals… and didn’t have to walk except during my aid stations

Before I knew it I was at the turn around – about 1:20 mins for 7 miles.

My tummy was still pretty angry, I tried my second Gu at mile 8, but I couldn’t even swallow it – I have no idea why. I hadn’t been taking Gu, I wasn’t tired of sweet, but my body just said nope don’t want that. So I had to think on my feet.

I knew that if I over loaded with calories and sugars adding more wouldn’t get me any where and the solution was to simply drink water.

Which I did for a few more miles.

At about mile 10 there was a RED BULL aid station, I decided to give it a try, after-all who doesn’t want wings 12 hours into a Ironman!

It went down well, I felt energized I trucked along…

It was starting to get dark, but the temps stayed warm….

I continued my pattern and decided to take in what every fuel I could tolerate, I had read that advice on the Women for Tri Facebook page, eat what you can and keep moving forward. I also remembered “drink the chicken broth” It was surprisingly amazing, warm, savory and full of nutrients.

Somewhere along the way I finally jumped into a porta potty and found some relief for my poor belly.

I was just about my first loop, I came up to 4th STREET LIVE, the crowds were roaring, people were achieving their goals, some people might have felt discouraged to have to go out for another loop. Not this girl! I was so choked up hearing that party I was BUOYED!! I knew that after ONE MORE short loop, just 13 miles I too would hear those magic words. Short loop lol, when did a half marathon at the end of a Ironman become a short loop…. seriously!

I quickly stopped at the Special Needs stop grabbed another emergency kit and went off feeling very encouraged.

Not long after a group of guys were chatting behind me, then one guy ran up next  to me and we started talking.

THAT MAN MAY HAVE SAVED MY RACE….

I can’t be sure of course, but JJ and I ran together for the remainder of that marathon. We laughed, we cried, we told jokes, we suffered sometimes in silence, but we were together.

We continued my pattern run to the aid station, grab what ever you could and then run again….

Together in the dark we ticked off the miles….

And then…

We were close so very close….

We were hurting….

We were tired…..

I had to pee….

But we never once stopped or slowed or became discouraged!

We kept positive and kept moving forward at a very decent pace.

Run Goal – 5:00 Run time 4:55:19 Rank – Div 92 Overall 1989

And then I heard it, I saw it, The Finish line…

IT WAS SURREAL!

We fought over who would finish first.

JJ forced me to go first.

I was choked up..

I slowly ran down that red carpet, taking it all in, looking at the faces, the finishers in their glory, the fans, high fives all around.

I saw Tim he was on the sidelines waiting for me…

I looked at him and told him ” I did it”

He hugged me…

AND I CROSSED THAT LINE ….

I WAS AN IRONMAN!

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Race Goal – 14:45 (but really just make the cut off of 16 hours) Race Time – 14:42

There are not words for how that moment felt, I am sitting here barely able to breathe, crying as I write this post 3 weeks later.

I was so filled with JOY and PRIDE!

I hugged everyone!

The pain washed away!

I found JJ, he ended up finishing first and thanked him and hugged him for running with me. He still argues that I pulled him along, but having someone with me kept me from going into that dark place they talk about.

I received my medal, finisher hat and tee, was wrapped up in a foil blanket and sent out to Tim!

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We picked up my bags and headed into a bar for a drink and bit to eat.

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I was so elated!!

However my tummy issues were just being masked by the endorphins.

After a short while I went out to watch a few finishers, then made my way back to the hotel.

What happened next was not pretty.

All that fuel, – Infinite, rice, cliff bars, oranges, red bull, water and Chicken broth decided to vacate my body at a rapid rate.

I sat in a hot bath for a few moments then spent the next 24 hours either in the bathroom or in the fetal postilion in bed.

I suffered for days…Lived on Gatorade  travel was uncomfortable to say the least.

It was a small price to pay…

Even with all the post race sickness I was smiling, giddy,

I am AN IRONMAN!

I had worked my ass off for 10 long months and achieved my dream!

No one can ever take that away from me!

I still smile about it all the time!

 

 

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