Thursday, September 13, 2012

IM Louisville 2012 Race Report

Ironman is a long weekend, a long day, and an unforgettable experience (so of course this post is long).  My mind turned to all things IM as I walked out of work on Thursday afternoon.  Did I have everything packed, was my bike going to make it out to Louisville ok, had I prepared well enough...Soon enough I was walking through the Louisville Airport, getting my bag, and meeting up with Zach for a ride to my hotel.


PRE-RACE: FRI - SAT
Friday morning started nice and early with a short ride/run with Zach, athlete check-in, preparing special needs and transition bags and nutrition, and the athlete banquet, as well as the arrival of my crew.  As much as I was reminded to stay off my feet as much as possible before IM it was difficult.  The host hotel was about 4 blocks from my hotel and I had to walk there for athlete check-in, stay on my feet during all of check-in, and then walk back.  I was able to sneak in a post-lunch nap on Friday which felt amazing.  The energy surrounding the entire city and downtown area was everything Ironman.  It was an energy the made me excited to be there, excited to race, and confident that I would have a good day in Louisville.  My mom arrived Friday afternoon and I was relieved to have someone else there helping me navigate, plan, and just share some of the stress.  I hadn't seen my mom since my May graduation so it was about time for a visit, and what better place the Ironman Louisville.  Mom and I headed to the athlete dinner and race briefing in the evening.  Dinner was pretty good and efficient.  I can't say the same about the briefing - it was long, repetitive, and a bit boring.  Luckily entertainment came in the form of more DC Tri support showing up mid race briefing :)  The last two members of my support crew got caught with a delayed flight and arrived late so  they stayed in a different hotel on Friday night so they wouldn't disturb my slumber - best sherpa team ever.

After a solid night of rest mom and I woke early and headed down toward the swim exit and transition area for the practice swim.  It was a 600m course out and 600m back.  The current wasn't horrible but definitely noticeable and helpful on the way back in.  Once out of the water mom and I took a gander at transition, people watched from the shade and awaited the arrival of the others.  Once all together we split up so Adam could get an Ohio River swim in, the fam could see Ironman village and make signs, and I could sit in the AC.  Once the signs were made, free samples obtained, and giveaways gotten we headed to lunch before getting back to the hotel room.  I needed to finalize my transition and special needs bags - nutrition and items to be in each as well as make final preps to Mr. Velo before taking him down to transition for the evening.  The other part of Saturday I didn't even want to think about was dinner - Louisville was jam packed with triathletes looking to carb load the night before their Ironman.  Luckily I had some of the best sherpa's ever, and they scouted out a great lil pasta joint that wasn't crazy packed just a few blocks from our hotel.  After dinner we went back to the hotel and I got ready for bed while the others headed out to 4th Street Live for a bit.  I was in bed by 9:15 - tired but had trouble sleeping.  My legs felt restless, I put on my compression pants and all was right in the world again.  I passed out and slept pretty soundly until the alarm sounded at 4:30am.

RACE MORNING
The alarm sounded and I was out of bed in no time ready to start the "plan".  Special K Red Berries, banana, peanut butter, almond milk.  I was happy.  Got dressed into race kit, woke the others, grabbed pre-made hydration from the fridge and headed out the door around 5am.  Transition was buzzing with athletes making final preparations, inflating bike tires, and loading nutrition onto the bikes.  Once the bikes and gear bags were finalized athletes had to walk about 3/4 of a mile to the swim start.  Once at the swim start you had to walk to the end of the swim start line.  For mom and I that was about another 3/4 of a mile.  Rory and Kara took care of sherpa duty #1 and ran back to transition to have someone pour H2O into my aerobottle, since I forgot to take care of that.  Mom and I enjoyed our time standing/sitting in line, meeting other athletes, getting soaked by sprinklers, and for me finding make shift bathrooms out of the surrounding weeds and parking lots - at least it was dark out still.  The pro's started at 6:50am and we got to see this swim by about 500m into the course, they were moving in a tight draft pack.  Once the age grouper's were in the water the line started moving pretty steadily.  Rory, Kara, and Adam were able to find us and share the last few moments with me before atheletes were separated and sent down to the dock.  My last question and concern of the morning - was it ok to pee my pants on the dock before I jumping in the water?  Adam's answer, as he looks at the ground I'm walking on, "Looks like you wouldn't be the first."  So as I zigzagged down the dock to start my Ironman I convinced myself that it was ok and that I would be much more comfortable if I just let myself pee.  For some reason peeing your pants is easier when you're already soaking wet with water and sweat.  I was able to get over the fact that the people behind me were probably judging me and just let it go.

THE SWIM 1:28:55
"Soon you won't be thinking about Ironman, because you'll be racing one.  The swim is long, it's long for everyone."  So true.  Once you step across the timing mat and jump into the water you're racing your Ironman.  You'll try to stick to plan A, may have to go to plan B, and from there may just have to keep moving forward the best way you know how.  The first 800m or so of the swim felt great.  I felt like I was cruising along, passing people and swimming strong, steady, and smart.  I did not want to feel like I was redlining at all during the swim.  The day would be too long for that.  I was expecting to swim past Towhead Island and making a U-turn to begin swimming back toward the swim exit, not the case.  There were about 3 more bouys past the end of the island!  Once out from behind the island you could feel the choppiness of the river and a bit of a struggle against a current.  Whatever current there may have been it wasn't very helpful once we made the turn around to head to the swim exit.  I still felt strong and knew I was passing some people and felt that my sighting was pretty good.  I hadn't had too much contact with fellow swimmers and was carrying on at my steady little pace toward the swim exit.  About 300m from the exit I got clobbered by a dude, he dropped an elbow right on my ear, talk about painful!  I couldn't do much except keep swimming, so I did, and the pain subsided.  As I began to think about the bike and my bike plan I forgot that it happened at all.  Finally I was turning left toward the swim exit and the final 50m was super congested.  I swam through and around people as I approached the stairs leading out of the river.  Once near the stairs a volunteer grabbed my arm and pulled me onto a stair and put my hand on the railing.  Thank you for making the swim exit a bit more manageable volunteers!

T1 4:11
I ran up the slight incline from the swim exit and around the corner to grab my bike gear bag.  With bag in hand I ran down and around another corner into the women's changing tent.  I put on my helmet, stuck PB sandwich in shorts, donned sunglasses, bike shoes, and race belt before heading out of the tent.  Once out I paused so I could get slathered in sunscreen.  I ran down toward row #2, just behind the pro's, where Mr. Velo was racked.  I accidently ran down a row too early, but there was a nice group of bikes missing and I just ducked under the rack.  Once Mr. was in my possession I headed for the mount line.

THE BIKE 6:01:46

Ready to dismount
112 miles of Louisville, here I come, you don't scare me.  The way out of town was filled with energy from all the fans and  especially seeing my family and friends and hearing their shouts and cheers.  The way out of town was flat and fast, we had a nice tailwind making the effort seem easy and speeds easily over 21 mph.  The first water bottle hand off came quite early and a chose to forego it as I was well stocked starting out on the bike.  Before I knew it I was making a right turn on the out and back portion of the bike course.  From everything I had  read and heard from previous IMKYer's this would be the toughest part of the course.  Early in the season  I probably would have felt that the "climb" was tough, but really it maybe took 4 minutes to get up and was super fun on the way down.  The tight U-turn created some congestion, especially with a guy taking a spill (don't leave your inside foot down, you'd think you'd figure that out after spending hours on the bike).  Volunteers helped him up and get his bike out of the way as quickly as possible, because he was blocking the entire lane.  I had to slow but didn't have to stop or even take my foot out, meanwhile this 42 year old lady comes flying passed most of us screaming "on the left" and yelling at the man who had fallen to get out of the way.  She soon came to a stop and then once again tried to shoot passed us on the climb back up the hill, needless to say she didn't last long ;)  Once back on the main road up to La Grange I was continuing to pass people, at one point I passed a guy and he yelled, "holy crap" so, shocked I looked back hoping I hadn't cut him off or messed him up somehow and he followed it up with "you're fast!"  Well, duh, I am chicking you right now.  The rest of the ride out to LaGrange was nice and mildly rolling but nothing to difficult.  Once into LaGrange there were a few different pockets of fans - which was super nice. For the first 35ish miles we hadn't seen much in terms of crowds and support except when we were just leaving town.  LaGrange had a nice slight downhill portion where the main announcer and most of the crowd was gathered. I rolled through, spotted my crew, gave them a wave and set out to knock out the 1st loop.  Once on the "back" side of the loop around LaGrange the rollers became it bit more difficult.  Nothing too crazy but definitely a bit more than what I was expecting.  As I continued on around mile 50 I began to notice an unusually large # of people changing flat tires, then I noticed an official squatting in the middle of the road looking at the pavement.  Oh no, the dreaded Louisville tack monster had done it again.  I tried to watch to road as close as I could and was thankful to make it off that section of roadway rolling smoothly.  Just before I began the 2nd loop was when I really started to feel the heat of the day.  I was drinking fluids constantly on the bike and taking water and/or perform at every handoff.  I was trying to dump cold water into my aerohelmet and down my shirt.  I had stuck to my nutrition plan and was feeling good in that way.  I just needed to keep my body cool.  Taking \care of yourself on the bike really sets you up for the run.  About 60 miles into the bike I began to put down my peanut butter and banana sandwich.  Small, small pieces were all I could choke down.  Small bite, gulp of water.  Eventually I got it all down minus the part the got stuck all over my aerobottle.  As planned I cruised through the special needs area without stopping and was onto my 2nd loop.  My support crew had moved up and I saw them sooner than anticipated which gave me a little kick of energy.  As I got through town and onto the more remote side of LaGrange the athletes were really spread out and at points I almost felt alone.  I was hot and continuing to poor cold water into my helmet as often as possible.  After going through one aid station where I took 2 waters and a peform I had a guy roll up next to me and ask me for some water.  After dumping about 1/2 the bottle on myself I handed it over, as I would have just chucked it the side anyways.   I continued to carry out my nutrition plan as best as I could. I missed a bar but was able to get down a couple gels and one bar after the sandwich.  As I finished up the final loop of LaGrange I was excited to be hitting some flats and rolling back into town.  Not so fast.  After getting passing the road of the out and back in which the course should have seemed flat or even slightly down hill we got hit with a pretty strong headwind.  Oi!  I kept at a solid state but was only going about 18mph.  I toyed with the idea of really dropping the hammer and getting in under 6 hours but the thought of the marathon right around the corner scared me off.  I hunkered down, stayed aero as best I could, and enjoyed the moment.  As I got closer to town and transition I could hear the crowds and knew it wouldn't be long until I hit the ground running.  By the last few miles I was more than ready to get off my bike.  I love my bike but holding my head had become so difficult and I knew no mechanical issues could arise during the run.  I rolled to the dismount line with my feet on the tops of my shoes, jumped off Mr. and he was taken away oh so very quickly.

T2: 4:17
A volunteer was right there to take my bike, all I had to worry about was getting my gear bag and getting into the tent.  Another volunteer had grabbed my gear bag and ran with me into the tent.  She dumped out the bag and went through everything inside of it - do you want to change your shorts? do you want these gels, do you want this?  do you want body glide...?  She didn't miss a thing and as I was slipping on my shoes another volunteer brought me 2 cups of cold water.  One over the head one into the body.  I ran out of transition, made a quick stop to be slathered with more sunscreen, and headed out to tour 26.2 miles of Louisville on foot.

THE RUN: 5:14:10
The last long run of my Ironman summer.  Yay!  I smiled, I high-fived my support crew on my way out to the course, and I took in the moment.  The first couple miles are an out and back on the bridge toward Indiana.  The breeze across the bridge felt good, I was keeping an eye on my watch for my pace and had hit 8:40 for my first mile.  Slow it down, be patient, it's going to be a long run.  I took water and perform at the first aid station, walked 20 steps and continued running.  Repeat at aid station 2, though this time I noticed I had slowed down more than I was planning on.  Repeat again at aid station 3, I was just around 10 minute miles, and feeling a little frustrated.  I turned the watch off.  It didn't matter.  I was doing my Ironman.  The run was going to be a test of patience.  Around this time Adam appeared on a bike.  He rode near me for a bit, skipped ahead, rode with me some more.  The first few miles I didn't speak to him much.  As I grew more comfortable with the run and with the pain I began to carry on a conversation with him.  The run hurt but I had expected it to, so I wasn't too surprised.  I made sure to enjoy every moment, take in as much as I could, and smile.  Apparently, I couldn't take in too much of the scenery as I was clueless that I had run through a college campus 4 times and I only noticed Louisville Downs once out of the 4 time we passed it.  Whoops.  The first 3-4 miles I kind of forgot about nutrition other than liquids.  As I remembered I began to take gels every few miles.  I was slowing and tiring mid-run and thankfully Adam reminded me to take salt pills and drink the chicken broth.  DRINK THE CHICKEN BROTH.  It sounds gross, but it's absolutely delicious and on a hot Ironman day, it's what your body is craving.  I made small goals for myself during the run.  Special needs was at about mile 14 - I got to changed my socks and grab my peach.  I loved on that peach.  So yum!  The next goal was single digits....yes mile 17 would mean I had single digits left to run....woo woo!  I think Adam thought I was nuts for cheering for single digits.  I had to keep myself going somehow.  Mile 20 wasn't too far away and we all know what happens at mile 20 - only 10k left!  10k to pick it up and make sure you leave everything on the course.  I was still smiling, I was cheering on fellow DC Tri-ers and enjoying the pain.  When the run really started to hurt I knew I could make a decision - let the pain take over my mind and suffer through the rest of the run, or embrace it, enjoy every step of it, and put it outside my mind.  I chose the 2nd option - I let it hurt for a moment, remembered I chose to do this, and was thankful that I just got to spend ALL DAY doing something I love.  I put the pain outside my mind, there was nothing I could do about it then anyways.  As I got near the last couple miles of the run I could feel the excitement of the finish line growing nearer.  Adam took off to meet up with the rest of the crew once we hit mile 24.  Adam, Mom, Rory, and Kara and all the other IM support crew peeps helped me through 138.4 miles.  The last 2.2 I was running with Dad, just him and I.  As I rounded the last few turns toward the finish chute the noise and excitement continued to grow.  I saw the lights, heard the announcer, and dug for one last kick toward the finish line.  I spotted my crew just before the line and I put my arms up as I crossed the line.  I was done.  I was an Ironman.  A volunteer caught me - I let him do the work and let my legs wobble a bit. He asked me a couple questions, got me some water, got me a shirt and hat, and connected me with the family as he walked me through the finish chute.  Hugs, tears, chocolate milk...I was happy!  We walked a few steps and then I needed to sit.  the curb was the closest seat so I sat.  It felt good to sit and not so good the stand back up.  I couldn't stand on my own.  I couldn't stand with Max Assist x1, it took Max Assist x2 to get my butt off the curb.  Ironman does that to you.


OVERALL FINISH TIME: 12:53:19

video



5 comments:

  1. Great recap Hols! I am very proud of you and so glad I was there to sherpa and cheer you on. Luh-vull was so much fun!

    The energy at the finish line was amazing, especially when we went back at 11:30pm. I had a finisher in his mid or late 50s look at me and all he could do was point to his finisher's medal and get emotional as he reflected on what he had just accomplished and told me how people had told him he couldn't do it. It was wild.

    More cowbell!

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  2. OMG Hols,
    I am just crying, tears of happiness and JOY! What an experience it was for all of us, including your dad! I will never ever forget it! You are an AMAZING young woman and YES, The future is bright...I loved every second..God Bless You!!!

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  3. Fantastic Holli!! I admire you so much. What a will you have. Nothing can stop you. Congratulations Dr. Ironman!

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  4. Nice job.Congrats on becoming an Ironman.

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