Hello friends. Welcome to another long post, recapping the trials and tribulations of Ironman Louisville weekend. If you do not want to read about every detail that should be in Gossip Girl, feel free to skip to Game Day.
As my fifth start and my potential fourth finish (DNF in 2016 – Lake Placid), I wished to try something different with training. Yes, I am a “back-of-pack” just finish type of dude, but I figured I should “try harder” this time around. I signed up for TriDot and Trainerroad to improve my performance this season. TriDot does a good job taking historical data, building a plan and predicting your finish time. Trainerroad is renown for indoor bike training and improving cycling. Six months out, it was 4 hours a week of training (life gets in the way). Four months out (I followed TriDot), it was 8-10+ hours a week of training. My longest workouts were as follows: swim 3900 yards, bike 70 miles at 4k elevation, run 6 miles.
Goal: Finish < 15.5 hours, injury free
Swim – 1:30 | T1 – :15 | Bike – 7:30 | T2 – :15 | Run – 5:59
I know myself and as a weak cyclist a sub 15 was not realistic. I can live with that.
I flew in Thursday morning, dropped off my bags at the hotel and went to Ironman Village for athlete checkin. It was desolate and I got checked in very quickly. I attended the 2 PM athlete briefing.
I picked up my bike from Tribike Transport and rode back to the hotel. I met with the TriDot team at 5 PM for a light 3 mile shake out run, with questions and answers about the course.
Coaches Elizabeth James and John Mayfield showed us the swim exit and swim entrance. They officially cancelled Saturday’s swim practice as it was not safe. The water was green with toxic algae and the unpleasant odor was enough to avoid it.
Friday morning, I met up with Scott Flathouse, professional photographer for a photoshoot. I cycled to the Four Bridges and met him and his wife Kara. We had a 30 minute session and had a lot of fun.
Once I was done, I met a TriDot teammate and carpooled to LaGrange for a group ride. We met at LaGrange coffee roasters and took a group photo.
Then we set off to a 40 min ride.
It was a nice test run as I experienced the hilly inclines. I also hit a bump which ejected some items that I needed to secure on my bike for race day.
After the ride, the announcement was made via email:
Welcome to Algaeman 138.2! The swim is cancelled. Here are the new rules:
• 7:30am – Transition Opens-Management
• 8:30am – Bike Time Trial Start
• 10:00am – Anticipated Last Athlete Starting Bike
• 2:45pm – Intermediate Bike Cut Off (Mile 55)
• 6:30pm – Bike Course Closes
• 10:30pm – Intermediate Run Cut Off (Mile 16.3)
• 12:24am – Intermediate Run Cut Off (Mile 24.6)
• 12:45am – Run Course Closure
All athletes will have 8 hours and 30 minutes to complete the entire bike course regardless of when they start. Any athletes who take longer than 8 hours and 30 minutes to complete the bike course will receive a Did Not Finish (DNF). All athletes will have 14 hours and 45 minutes to complete the entire race (both bike and run) regardless of when they start. Any athletes who take longer than 14 hours and 45 minutes to complete the entire race will receive a Did Not Finish (DNF).
I shrugged it off. It was disappointing since I spent a lot of time in the pool, but it is not worth risking your life for any race. Also worrying at this point of race weekend is a waste of time – I focused on being chill, happy and trusting what I practiced the last several months.
Once I returned, my sherpas arrived, I checked out of the hotel and migrated to our spacious AirBnb on South 4th street (1 block away from the run finish). Saturday morning, I decided to run solo and completed an easy 3 mile run. I had breakfast with my sherpas then prepared for bike and bag checkin.
After that, it was chill-mode. We went back to the AirBnb and started a Breaking Bad viewing marathon (last season). It was time well spent as I did not worry about the race, especially the swim.
For dinner, we went to Pesto’s, a Persian/Italian restaurant. Service was slow, but the food was good. No complaints, as I carb loaded well.
9:30 PM I headed to bed, while the sherpas binged more Breaking Bad.
I woke up at 3:00 AM without the aid of my alarm (that was set for 5). I laid in bed until 4. I got up, made some coffee, ate two mini bagels with peanut butter and a honeycrisp apple. I went to the restroom and stretched slowly until 6:45.
At 7:00 AM I walked slowly to Iron village. It was 39 degrees F. Thank goodness for no swim, as I was cold with clothes on. In transition, I inflated my bike tires and topped off my fluids in my bike bottle and aerobottle hydration system.
Algaeman started at 8:30 AM. With the pros all at Kona World Championships the day before, the All World Athletes (AWA) were treated as pros and started first. After the AWAs, the bike time trials went in numerical order. So it was in a linear succession: 1 – 200, 201 – 300, 400, etc. After 500, they called all late registered AWA athletes, then moved onto the rest of us triathlete peasants.
I had a lot of waiting around to do. I did not line up until 9:15 and slowly inched to the line to the mount point. They sent 2 cyclists at a time, a few seconds apart. My sherpas saw me and cheered.
As I approached the mount line, the announcer noticed me and said, “hey, here is the best dressed!” I had a white trash bag on and wore socks on my hands (it was cold!).
The first 10 miles were flat and I spent time in aero and upright, because the road conditions were not good. It was bumpy.
“On your left” was my theme song.
Many also passed me silently.
Due to the time trial start, the draft packs were rampant (6 bike lengths, remember?). I am not sure how anyone could enforce this.
Boring technical plan: consume one bottle of EFS-Pro (between the aerobars) and one honey stinger waffle every hour (~ 310 calories/hour). At each aid station, dump the bottle into the aerobars, then take water and fill cage bottle with EFS-Pro (4 scoop bags), shake and sit in cage until the next station.
The first climb happened around mile 11 but I expected this… slow and steady. I stopped at the first aid station. It was warming up and I channeled my best Hulk Hogan and tore the garbage bag. I had to pee too. Usually I would have let go in the wetsuit, but that didn’t happen and I refuse to pee on my bike (sorry, Coach Agi). My bike and I don’t have that kind of relationship.
Around mile 17 was a church and my checkpoint for nutrition. I was methodically sipping on my liquid EFS-Pro fuel.
Mile 20: was the beginning of the 2 loops, as I turned right and met the the hills on 393. Grandma’s Hill, yes my legs started to hurt and it was a steep climb. There were many amusing signs with triathlete humor. And there were a lot of spectators at the top, motivating us to keep going.
Mile 25: I passed special needs and made a left onto 146, heading into LaGrange. I never use special needs bags and skipped that.
Hello rolling hills… going up and down. Some athletes enjoy this ridiculousness, but I was not in love with it. I would push hard at the top of each climb then hope I could use the momentum to get to the next hill. Often, I did not win that game and kept pedaling and suffering in silence.
Mile 33: made a left onto Ballard School Road and spent a lot of time on the small chain ring. I focused on nutrition, sipping every 20 min. At mile 35, I saw the sign for 70 miles. I knew the first loop was coming to an end and could calculate where the mile markers (for loop 2) would be.
There were 2 short steep climbs where it was pedal nation; no nutrition intake since it was too steep. There were a lot of water bottles going across the bridge (due to a nice bump – which ejected a lot of bottles).
On the third climb, there was a long descent before you made a left turn onto Old Sligo and the new loop. I made the time cutoff for loop 1, and I was relieved. 56 more miles to go…
Meeting Grandmas Hill the second time was unpleasant as I saw fewer cyclists on the road (they started earlier, were probably faster and were heading back to Louisville to start running).
I kept pedaling and noticed fewer cheering sections as well. I thanked each one as I passed them. I did not have fun memories on loop 2, except that I had another 25 miles to get to 80 and start my “descent,” returning to Louisville.
Lies triathletes say about Ironman Louisville – ALL I HEARD was that it’s a cake walk after mile 80.
It was not.
The elevation map made it look like a descent where I could chillax for 32 miles. Nope, more mini rollers. Meh. Headwind. Bah. River Road was right at 101 miles… and the flat road back… just bumpy. I saw many triathletes already on the run course on my left. It was discouraging but I had to keep pushing and get this over with.
I was relieved to see the bike-in chute and dismounted my bike.
BIKE TIME – 8 h 11 min. For a bad cyclist, I’ll take it.
My sherpas were there to see me.
“Can I go home now?”
With “look” pedals, it sounded like I was a horse clip-clopping into T2. I handed off my bike to a handler and yelled for my run bag. I got changed slowly and enjoyed another Honey Stinger waffle.
T2: Bike to Run: 15 min 23 sec
My legs were cooked. I had no desire to continue but I could not disappoint my sherpas.
I always bragged to myself, “if I get to the marathon, it’s over!”
Feel free to violently smack me if I ever state that in your presence (the arrogance!) 26.2 miles were waiting and it was going to be a fight as the sun was setting.
I mentioned earlier that I never ran more than 6 miles in training. For most triathletes, this is sacrilegious. I had a different plan, which was focused on cycling performance (hill repeats) and I was going to run-walk this time. In previous Ironman marathons, I would run continuously from beginning to 13 – 15 miles, bonk, then walk the rest of the way.
My plan was 5 min run, 1 min walk. My Garmin Fenix 3 was programmed with the alerts so I did not need to keep looking. In addition, I would walk through aid stations if necessary.
The first 6 miles (first loop, yellow wristband) seemed fine, until I realized everyone around me was on loop 2. The second loop (red wristband) was tougher as the sun set (and it seemed everyone was a loop ahead of me). The third loop (blue wristband) was tougher, but I stayed the course with the 5:1 run walk. There were several areas that were PITCH BLACK and you could not see 5 inches ahead out you. I was prepared with my runner’s flashlight.
Nutrition wise, I followed my plan from the Philly Marathon: 1 gu/gel every 5 miles, until mile 20. From there, chicken broth, red bull, coke, whatever to get to the finish line. I had only one quick bathroom stop – mile 22.
Once I got to mile 24, I was excited. I maintained a consistent pace the entire marathon. Then mile 25, I decided, no more walking. I was approaching Fourth Street Live… and I saw my wife. Gave a kiss, then hustled towards the finisher chute.
“Peter Kim, you are an Ironman.”Ironman emcee, not Mike Reilly
RUN TIME – 5 hr 9 min. Wow. My last 3 IM marathons were ~ 6 hours and longer. This was quite an improvement.
TOTAL TIME 13 hr 36 min 21 sec
I felt pretty good. I met my sherpas and we walked to transition to pick up my bags and bike. I dropped off my bike with TriBike. We had to walk back to Fourth Street Live since that’s where my other bag (morning clothes) was parked. Sadly, there were no restaurants open so my dinner was a light beer *groan*. I showered and went to bed in my Normatec compression boots at 1 AM.
The next day, I hobbled to Iron Village at 8 AM to pick up my finisher jacket. Then I ate breakfast with the sherpas and we went on some distillery tours.
I don’t know but the next IM bike course will be flat. Hello Florida?
Would I do it again? Sure, and hope the Ohio River is free of algae.
Thank you volunteers! From the laid off wetsuit strippers, to athlete checkin, to aid station, to transition and to finish line catchers. You guys helped create a wonderful experience.
Thank you TriDot Coaches Elizabeth and John, who coordinated the meet and greets in Louisville. It was so helpful and the Facebook groups were an excellent vehicle to keeping me motivated.
To my sherpas. You always lift me up. Every time I wanted to quit, I thought to myself, “shit, I can’t let them down.” Thank you.