A long race deserves a long report...
I signed up for IM Louisville last summer hoping to follow in the inspirational footsteps of Julie Kennedy and Angela Dilks who told me about the experience they had at IM Lake Placid. Even though I was still new to the sport (I did my first Oly last June) I felt that the time was right. I also found a great cause to support, the Carpenter’s Shelter in Alexandria, VA, which gave this challenge a lot more meaning as I set about fund raising along side my training.
I should also add that last October I did my first half IM, the Longhorn 70.3 and had possibly the worst athletic experience of my life, limping home in over 7 hours after a miserably slow day! Luckily, this scared/shamed me into a solid winter of base training which led to some much more encouraging 70.3 performances this summer including a 5:18 at the Kinetic Half – its amazing what consistency can do for you. This gave me some confidence for a strong showing at IMLou - at least in the bike and swim portions.
I checked into the race hotel, the Galt House on Thursday afternoon, remembering Laurel Brown’s report from last year which mentioned the sea of technical t-shirts that were ever-present in the hotel lobby (totally true). I did my best for the next few days to block out the palpable nervous energy amongst racers in the hotel, preferring to hide in my room watching DVDs rather than going out for 10pm runs with Garmin GPS watches, wearing tri suits and fuel belts as some other hotel guests chose to do!
On Friday I spent the morning lapping up the free ART services and chatting to neo-pro and DC Tri clubber Kelzie Beebe. The highlight of the afternoon was pulling off the unique trick of breaking my front brake caliper as I tried to change a brake pad. While I did learn that brake pads slide in much more easily when bodyglide is applied, the brakes themselves were locked shut, which seemed problematic two days before an Ironman. Luckily the race bike mechanic knew what was wrong (broken spring), so I let him take care of this while I headed out in the rental car to see how bad the rolling hills of the bike course really were (not terrible).
After Saturday’s practice swim, a nice spin on the bike and the laborious task of sorting various possessions into multiple gear bags (thanks DCRainmaker.com for the Excel checklist), I tried my best to get off my feet and relax. I headed to an early dinner at Bistro 301 (delicious) and got to bed by 10pm - perfect.
I woke up at 4.30am on Sunday feeling alive and ready to go. Lindsey whipped up her famous and well-practised raceday “eggbomb” (documented at http://rookiepros.blogspot.com/2009/10/longhorn-703-eve.html) using nothing more than a kettle to cook with. I put this away with a PB&J and an orange juice before heading out. Of course, by the time I arrived at the swim start at around 6:15 am, I was right at the back of the mile-long line. I probably arrived hours after the front of the pack overachievers who, unlike me, are apparently not the biggest fans of their pillows and comforters! Never mind, I was happy for the sleep and I didn’t have to wait long before I was jumping/getting pushed into the water by volunteers.
I got into a nice rhythm early and knew within a few strokes that I was going to have a good day. Even though I was focused on the task at hand, I tried my best to enjoy the moment and take in the excitement of actually being in a real Ironman race. Quicker than I ever thought possible, I emerged from the water and headed to the changing tent to put my bike stuff on. Getting changed in a room with no windows or lighting was an interesting challenge after an hour of staring at the sun every other breath but I emerged with all my gear located on the appropriate parts of my body. I spent a few seconds at my bike turning on my BlackBerry’s GPS so my friends could track me using Google Latitude (not a transition best practice) and be in perfect photo-taking position along the way.
Swim split: 1:11 (1:52 pace)
The bike started out like a dream. I was putting in what felt like next to no effort (thank you, taper) and kept a pace close to 20 mph for the first couple of hours. I knew I could push much harder but I stuck to my plan of “controlled patience,” knowing that the hot, humid conditions would favor those who held back. Unfortunately I hit the doldrums big time around mile 50: I was overheating, had run out of Gatorade and still had another 8 hours of racing to go… life was not good. Luckily I had been warned about the inevitability of such negative thoughts, so I tried my best to leave them behind in the horsefields. A tour de France-inspired bottle of water down my helmet at the next aid station did help, although two dropped chains going up steep hills did not, and just like in le Tour, no-one stopped to wait for me as I fixed them.
I did get my momentum back though and was pumped up going into LaGrange for the second time, somehow spotting my loved ones cheering me on amongst the raucous crowd of cowbell ringers. I cruised through my second lap and got to mile 90 thinking, “sweet, just 12 miles left.” It was a silly mental mistake because when I realized it was actually 22, I got super demoralized and didn’t have much will to keep pushing on even though the course was largely flat at that point. I love biking but I was well and truly burnt out – at least mentally - and couldn’t wait to get to T2 for a change of scenery.
Bike split: 6:08 (18.2 mph)
I entered the tent of darkness to put my running shoes on with no idea what to expect from my body during the run. I had never done a training run longer than 13 miles, hardly did any bricks and had been struggling with some nagging injuries. I decided that the phrases “take it one mile at a time” and “just keep moving forward (for the love)” would be my mottos for the marathon. This worked well… slowly but surely I made forward progress and before I knew it I was heading into town to finish my first loop. Its at this point that the course gives you a nice teaser of what awaits you later – a noisy and exciting finish line and my friends and family cheering me on – before sending you on another 10 miles of running. Luckily the sight of the finish line and all the crowd noise got me energized and I started to feel like I could do this thing.
By mile 15, many around me were dropping like flies – walking, sitting under trees or getting picked up by golf carts – which was a shame for them, but a good sign for me that my ultraconservative bike was starting to pay off as I never had to stop running, except to reload at aid stations. With Lindsey’s encouragement (she borrowed a bike and entertained me as I ran) as well as some amusing spectators in costumes (my favorite was the bananaman) I got to mile 18 or “the promised land,” where many say the real race begins. I made the last turnaround, glad to be heading home and at mile 23, it finally hit me that I had this race in the bag. I declared it was now time to “empty the tank,” as I picked up my pace and stopped walking through the aid stations. As I entered the finisher’s chute I was ecstatic – online viewers said I “looked like I was at a rave” – and totally full of joy that I had finally accomplished my goals of finishing the Ironman and raising $5,000 for the Carpenter’s Shelter.
Run split: 4:39 (10:40 pace)
Overall time: 12:14 (60/280 AG)
I would like to thank all of my individual sponsors who generously donated money to the Carpenter’s Shelter as well as my corporate sponsors, DanielLombardi.com (for designing my Union Jack-inspired tri suit and being my race photographer), Joe Schultz and Robbie Wade at Pacers Running Stores (for their fantastic running shoe fittings), Sarah Thorpe at Sports+Spinal Physical Therapy (for keeping Lindsey’s body together), Dr. Marty Skopp at Skopp Chiropractic (for keeping my body together), Ron Taylor at Wheel Nuts bike shop (for keeping my bike running smoothly) and my colleagues at Peer Insight who have supported me throughout. I’d also like to thank Paul Hoover for saving my season when he exchanged my bike frame for one that fit me and gave me an awesome fit, West coast pro Lauren Harrison for all her advice and my masters swim coaches, Tammy Lowengrub, Denis Crean and John Flanagan. Finally, I thank Lindsey for being an unbelievable mentor, coach, nutritionist, chef, training partner, fund raiser and superfan during the whole of this journey!
Great race! Congrats!!
Congrats on a good finish -- certainly much faster than I went last year.
I have a question about the race:
Are they handing out Ironman Endurance drink on the bike, and does it have a twist off lid or one where you can just squeeze the bottle?
Awesome race, Carl. You really earned it through a lot of hard work.
Now enjoy some downtime and the post-IM glow. You'll have that for about 2 weeks and then you'll starting thinking about signing up for another. 2 weeks later, you'll be signed up for IMxx 2011.
See you in the pool?
bad ford - its the new powerbar perform drinks that come in an easy to drink squeezy bottle
yes, phil see you in the pool soon, but i don't know about another IM!
Great race Carl! I'm glad my advice was helpful in some small way - ha! Sounds like you had a great day, and were easily able to put aside your negative thoughts. Good work on the swim especially- all your hard work this summer really paid off. And Lindsey- congrats on being a good ironsherpa- that's hard work too and it sounds like you aced it;)
Congrats, Carl!! Great race report! You make it sound almost....fun. Your finish line pic definitely makes it look like fun. Thanks for sharing. Enjoy your recovery!
Nice, Carl. I can't really stand longer-distance anything, but like Sandy said, that finish line picture makes it look like fun. I think your run was epic... 4:39 without any runs longer than half the distance? Awesome!
Terrific job under tough conditions.
Collin (vetern bonker on the IMLV run course last year)
Great report and great race!!! I can't wait to get back and start training again!!!
Like you (last year), I just did my first oly in June and am doing my first half this fall-- and I just threw down the dough and signed up for IM LOU 2011. I'm also planning and to fundraise through my training, and to be frank, I found your report motivating and down right inspiring. All I can hope for now is that my excitement now (363 days out) will be with me on race day!
What an amazing race you had -- well done, and thanks for sharing the report.
Good job, Carl! Congratulations!
Great race report... and congratulations.
Congrats on an awesome race. I'm so glad to see that you took my advise to smile for the finish line photo!
Big Congrats friend. It was awesome to see you at mile 15ish! The finish line was simple SPECTACULAR! Amazing feeling, totally worth it! Cheers! Adriana
Carl, congrats on your amazing ironman experience. I truly enjoyed being part of the team and watching you accomplish your goal.
Folks, Carl executed a solid ironman performance after 8 months of consistent and disciplined preparation for the event--and that meant anything under 10k/wk in the pool was unacceptable. :) Carl definitely held it together, but I was most shocked that after the race he had a mere SLIVER of sun tan on his wrist. No sun burn after an Ironman?!?! This speaks to the thoroughness of his preparation to learn that desoto coolwings are a worthwhile investment for this undertaking. Impressive as less than a year ago, Carl didn't know that a fan is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY for a trainer ride.
I'll be called out if I don't share my ironman spectating story (i.e., confession): I borrowed a 1-speed for the weekend to stalk Carl on the run course. I headed out on the bike before Carl hit T2 to encourage the pros and hours later, before Carl finished his first loop, I was ready to call it a day. I'm an eater, and since I only had a single bagel breakfast sandwich at 10:30 AM, by 4:00, a nature valley bar and 2 bottles of water just doesn't cut it in that heat.
I was desperate and asked Carl to discreetly pass me an orange slice from an aid station--I realize this is highly illegal. I'm sorry. Minutes after this request, Carl handed me TWO orange slices and half a banana. While coasting on the bike, I slurped up the orange slices (nectar of the Gods), got clumsy and unsuccessfully juggled the half banana and its peel. I lurched forward with a singular goal to not let that banana hit the pavement, but it did, and I slid forward off the pedals, knocking the bike bell to the ground. It clanged as it bounced around to make sure that Carl, and nearby racers, did not miss the action. Moral of the story for ironman spectators: it's a long day for you, too. Bring Reserves.
Hillary, I wish you the best with your ironman prep!
Laurel - your report was a great help - especially the part where you said that the hills seem worse in a car!
Sandy - that's because it WAS fun!
Andy - I don't necessarily recommend my minimal long run training approach, although strong bike fitness and decent run frequency (4x a week) seemed to help me
Hillary - glad you were inspired and best of luck for IMLOU 2011, i'm sure you'll have an awesome experience!!!
Adriana - great to meet you too... enjoyed our mid-run handshake
LJ - glad you recounted the "banana bell" incident in its full glory. also enjoyed how you make it sound like i was allowed to do <10K a week in the pool!
Carl? from Hains Point? Hey! Am I glad to have stumbled on this (while sneakily browsing through the forums at work... shhh).
Congratulations on an awesome race. Sounds like you had so much fun out there. Amazing. I'm so impressed. Next time I see you (maybe at AU?), I'm going to pester you with a zillion triathlon questions.
Hey Julia! Yes its your lanemate from Hains Point (I guess I look different when I'm groggy-eyed and wearing a swim cap). Why don't you email me at my username @ gmail.com and we can chat about swim and tri training!
Congrats and thanks for raising money for Carpenters' Shelter!