Ironman Louisville Race Report
Here I am 4 days after Louisville and still kind of can't believe it's over. It was the focal point for so long that I'm sorta sad it's over. But I'm very happy with what happened out there in Kentucky, so that's good. Here's the long and the short of it.
I did Ironman Wisconsin last year and figured out that it will take a few of these Iron distance races to learn how to "race" them. In that first one you're simply trying to survive and keep moving. I was pleased with Wisconsin, but looking forward to building to a great Louisville. My goal was to go sub-10 hrs and perhaps get a Kona slot.
I had a good off-season and let my fitness slide some after Wisconsin, ramping back up in January/February in training for the Boston Marathon. My riding suffered because of training for Boston, but I figured it was worth it because a) it's a great experience, and b) any cardio benefits gained from all the runing would apply to riding later, and c) I'd have a strong running base. After Boston, I turned my focus to riding hard, swimming just enough, and maintaining my run fitness.
I had a lot of help from Kelzie Beebe who I convinced to coach me and to take money from me for doing it. She did a great job keeping me on track and cracking the whip. Dedication to getting up in the morning or running after a long day of work came from me, but the structure came from her.
I did 3 weekends out at Deep Creek Lake with Sean Ward and the other big boys, riding serious serious hills. The training benefits of those weekends cannot be overstated.
Midway through the summer I did a sprint and a half on successive days (Musselman) as a tune up. I found that the running was still there, the swimming too, and the biking was getting there. I knew that having not suffered on the bike and/or trainer all winter and spring long, I was never going to be perfect, but I was sure gonna get as damn close to my peak as I could.
Coming into the last part of the summer, the cumulative training load was tiring me out, so the taper was a great reward. I felt good after a little rest. Strong, and ready to go.
We (me and Laurel) drove down to Louisville a couple days before the race. It was a long, pretty drive. We stayed in downtown at one of the race hotels, and enjoyed the city. We did the whole expo thing and got all checked in. I got an 808/1080 combo for the bike from racedaywheels. We took the bikes out for a spin and I realized I had a problem. The clearance between my frame and the back wheel is very very tight, and some tires are too big. This was one of them. It was late Friday, so I had to get problem solved on Saturday in time to check the bike in. I was very nervous. Sometimes finding narrower tires can be hard. On Saturday I took the bike in, and they just ended up using my training tire, which works like a charm in the frame. It was fixed. Phew. Laurel and I checked our bikes and gear bags and went off to meet up with her family for dinner. After dinner we did last prepping, and tried to sleep (ha).
4:30 a.m. the alarm went off. Both of us were awake in advance (for the previous 3 days we had been setting an alarm for this time waking up, talking a little and going back to sleep). We ate a pb & j sandwich, a couple hard-boiled eggs, and bananas. We hit the road. Dropped our special foods bags, pumped tires, put water bottles on the bikes, and started for the swim start. It's about .75 miles away from the transition area, and when we got there at 6:20ish, the line was already another 1/4-1/2 mile long. We went to the back and sat down. It was cool but not cold, which boded well for the day. A couple pit stops in the bushes across the way and some more food later, we heard the cannon for the pros go off and the line started to move. Game time.
The swim start at Louisville is time trial, meaning they send athletes into the water a couple at a time every couple seconds until everyone is in. You cross a timing mat right before you start, so your chip time is correct as to when you started. The line moved fairly quickly. We handed our morning clothes bag off to a volunteer right before the ramp down to the actual start. There the line stopped moving like a line--the athletes started to run! We ran after them, and realized that there was no stopping now. A quick good luck to each other was all we had time to say, as we ran to the end of the dock and hopped in. The water was a nice 84 degrees, and fairly murky. It was not wetsuit legal, but I was wearing a borrowed speedsuit. Those are awesome--I highly recommend it--as you are more slick and slightly more buoyant.
You swim up a fairly narrow channel filled with people splashing along. I would say that my advice to anyone doing this race is to line up EARLY. People get in the water based on line position, not ability, so if you're a better swimmer you want to be up front, but if you're not, you still want to be up front. I swam along, dodging people, and trying to get in a rhythm. It was hard with soooo many people. Usually I shoot out the front of the pack on swims fairly quickly and get clear water, but this was not to be. After clearing the canal, we were out into the main channel of the Ohio and headed upstream toward the turnaround buoy. At one point I saw people standing up and walking/running through the water. I tried quickly, but realized that it was still going to be faster to swim, as the water was just a little too deep for moving quickly.
After the turnaround, things spaced out and we were headed with the current. It felt good, and I was able to get my rhythm. All the work down at Hains Point was paying off, as I felt great. I came to the last buoy and went up the stairs into the chute to T1. I looked at my watch. I had forgotten to start it. Darn. Also, I didn't quite know what time I dove in. I could tell it was under an hour for my swim, but didn't know the precise time. No matter. My thoughts were now on moving quickly through the transition and getting out on the bike. I was trying to pull the speedsuit off my top as I ran -- but something was stuck. The zipper had caught on my trisuit underneath and was jammed. I tried and tried as I was running but nothing was working. So finally I just yanked. I heard a tear, and was out of the top.
Swim time: 55:35. I was 13th amateur.
T1: After the speedsuit issue, nothing else went wrong. I learned later that I had ripped my tri suit, not the borrowed speedsuit, so that was a relief (though I did get a sunburn on my back through the tear). Time: 3:23
I rolled along the flat first 8 miles feeling pretty good. The hills started at mile 8 and it was pretty much uphill till hitting the rolling 2 loops at mile 20ish. I spun the legs out and then shifted into race mode. Cranking along, staying aero and ignoring those passing me or getting passed. The weather was great. I was having a lot of creaking/clicking in the bike frame, which was a little worriesome, but nothing ever came of it, thankfully. I was mostly passing people, especially on uphills, but because of the swim start, this really meant nothing. I stuck to my nutrition plan and was feeling quite good through the first three hours.
My computer was a little screwed up too, so I was basically relying on mile markers and mental math to see what my speed was like. I passed mile 20 a few minutes under an hour, mile 40 a few minutes under an hour after that, and so on. I was above 20 mph avg, including the first uphill, so I knew that as I came down those hills at the end, I'd jump the avg up a little.
But as we came around for the second loop, I had caught the main pack. The roads were FULL. Passing people became ugly as they were often passing someone themselves. The officials were lenient, thankfully, because there was no way to avoid some amount of pack-like riding--especially on the uphills. I just tried to constantly be passing and keep way to the left (but not over the yellow lines). Moving through the pack hurt my time. Perhaps I was too cautious, but a penalty would have hurt my time more.
Finally I was through the majority of the pack and then off the loop all together. I flew back down the hills into town and sped along the flat 8 miles at the end. I was really sick of being in the aerobars, sick of my nutrition, sick of my bike and just ready to run. Luckily, I had 26.2 miles of that coming up.
Bike time: 5:20:43 (21 mph). I was in 25th place of amateurs after this.
T2: Nothing to report. Out of there in 3:59, including 20-30 seconds for a portapotty stop.
I felt very good about my running fitness coming into the race. I had a lot of miles in my legs from the spring training for Boston, and I knew what I felt like at my worst (last 2 miles of Boston) and knew that I could push through that. I zipped up onto the bridge and down into downtown at the start of the run course. That's the only real hill on the course, and I just pushed to get it taken care of. At mile 3, I decided to see what I was splitting. 20:34 for those first 3 miles. Ooops! Too fast. I scaled back the speed and just got into a rhythm.
The miles were clicking off. I was taking water, sponges and gatorade at each aid station, and a gel every couple. I'd hold the gel till before the next one and eat it just before getting there--then take a water and wash 'er down. That was working well.
At about mile 4, I fell in with a Quebecois guy named Jean-Francois, who was about my speed. We paced each other -- not too much talking other than splits and such.
By mile 13.1 and the turnaround right before the finishline for the second loop, I knew I was going to have to focus. My legs were tired. I bore down and pushed through to mile 18-19, where I really started to suffer. I took some cokes at the next few aid stations and tried to just keep a steady pace. Despite the pain in my legs, I was feeling great about my time, because I knew I was going to hit or come close to my goal, unless something awful happened.
At mile 24 Jean-Francois pulled off to hit the portapotties. He said with his heavy accent. "I have a strong finish, so go ahead and maybe I will catch you??" I said good luck and kept on. At mile 24.5ish, he came flying by and disappeared up the road. Whatever happened in that portapotty must have really liberated him cause he was flying. I plugged on, battling fatigue and a sense that my hamstring was about to cramp. It did once, right at mile 25.5, but with a quick stretch, it was gone, and I came around those last couple corners to the finishline feeling good. I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and took a deep breath. Depending on how long my swim had taken, I had hit my goal and was either under or well under 10 hours. (The clock above the line showed the time since the pros took off).
Run time: 3:25:44 (7:52 minute/mile). I had dropped one spot over all to 26th amateur.
Final time: 9:49:24
I was 2 places and 2.5 minutes away from an automatic Kona slot. 9:46:54 was the sixth and final slot. No dice on a rolldown. This only means one thing: Next year I am gonna have to work a little bit harder, and earn that slot on my own. Honestly, I had some hopes of getting one, but I'd rather get it on my own than a rolldown. All in all, I was really, really happy with my race, and hitting my goals.
I really appreciate all the training partners, support and advice that the club and its members have given me. Sometimes I felt like people in the club had fewer doubts about how I'd do in this race than I did. That's a good feeling.
Thanks for reading.
PS: I should have mentioned this earlier, but the weather was awesome and totally not normal. 75 and sunny with zero humidity. Unreal.
Ooooooo I am the first....CONGRATS PHIL! You are so inspirational! ;)
Incredible race Phil! Kona is in your future!
Maybe you should have jumped in the portajohn with that guy.... Sounds like he knew exactly how to git 'er done in there.
Awesome race -- You're marathon time was faster than my stand-alone marathon PR. Sick.
Congrats and Kona in 2010 will be just as sweet.
Good read. Thanks. Great accomplishment. You should be proud. I am. I think announcing increased effort to do better next year is the most inspirational thing. The Sky is the Limit.
Phil, you are a badass. A great race by a great triathlete. Think how sweet it will feel when you do qualify for Kona.
Congrats on a stellar race. When I saw your finish time I had my fingers crossed that you would get a slot to Kona. I know you'll get it soon.
I'm curious to know what you thought of the bike and run course compared to IM Wisconsin.
I think Louisville (without the heat) is an easier course than Wisconsin. Probably the elevation changes are about the same, but Wisconsin has like 40 turns--many at the bottom of hills. You bleed off your momentum, while at Louisville you can ride it up the next hill. The run in Louisville is far more straight too. You aren't twisting all around like Wisconsin. I think Louisville is a tough course, but it's much more straightforward.
Awesome job out there in Lu'ville! Your story is very inspiring!! Keep training hard and IM-Kona will happen. Glad to see that you're in for CDA, that is a beautiful course. It's very similar to Wisconsin and it'll be great to see you out there.
Great race! It was a lot of fun following you online as you were throwing down some impressive numbers across all three disciplines. I have no doubt that you'll continue to get stronger, which is kinda scary, and you'll be lining up on the pier in Kona one day. Congrats!
Again, congrats on an incredible race and thanks for the good read. And, if you note in your FB results photo, it apparently only gets better with age.
I have just one word for you: BEAST!
look at it this way Phil - at least you don't have to hope on the lottery or wait til your 77 for Kona like the rest of us. great race and thanks for continuing to lead the whole club with your dedication and accomplishments!