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Ironman Louisville #IMLOU October 9, 2016

I made a decision to go for it again. I completed Ironman Texas in 2014 and several other endurance and other ultra-endurance events since. Ironman Louisville fit my schedule quite nicely and so I registered and did the training for it. Like all my racing experiences, this one had some highs and lows. It truly is quite challenging to have the perfect race day. For me, this one was not my perfect race day, but had some awesomeness written all over it. Here’s how it went down.

The race, Ironman Louisville was Sunday October 9th in Louisville, Kentucky. Living in Toronto, we made the decision to drive to the race (about 10 hours by car). As it is, Ironman races are very expensive just to for registration. Add a flight, hotel, bike transport, food, souvenirs…it adds up very quickly. My wife, Shush and son, Russ, were my crew and joined me for the experience.

We left Friday late morning and drove to Louisville arriving after 9pm to check into our hotel. I wanted to stay at a hotel that was right near the finish line so I chose the Marriott Downtown. It’s a beautiful hotel with a pool and hot tub. I wanted the pool for Shush & Russ (in case they wanted something to do while I was racing), I wanted to hot tub for me.

imlou-crewSaturday morning we headed to the Ironman Louisville Village, about a 15 minute walk from the hotel to register, pick up everything I needed (bib, stickers, drop bags…).  At 12pm bike drop off opened in the transition zone, so I took my time getting everything together, listened to the mandatory athlete briefing and then dropped of my bike. I’m so glad they take pictures of our bikes as we bring them into transition, especially since at another brand’s race, my bike was stolen straight out during my run portion of the race (but that’s another story). I dropped off my bike bag and run bag in transition and headed back to the hotel for some rest.

Sunday morning, transition opened at 5:15am for me to drop off my nutrition, pump up my tires and do any last minute things. As I left the transition zone I had my body marking done and started the walk to the swim start lineup.

The swim start lineup was pretty long. This race was a rolling start, meaning athletes jump into the water off a dock almost one at a time. The line moved very quickly, but only once it started. I was in line by about 6am and there were many others ahead of me. It was still very dark and we were using flashlights to get around. It was also quite cold and before long I found myself putting on my wetsuit just to keep myself warm. The line started moving forward and before I knew it I was saying bye to my crew and handing off any last minute items.

The Ironman Louisville race officially started at 7:30am, but I didn’t jump into the water until about 7:50am. The air was so cold I was actually shivering a bit, but when I hit the water I was instantly warmed up. The water was 72° and wetsuit legal and when I felt the water it was a sigh of relief – it was warmer than the air!

imlou-swimI felt very calm and confident going into this race. I felt good about my training and proud of how far I’ve come. The swim experience was incredible for me. I wasn’t concerned about the other bodies kicking me, elbowing me, punching me, swimming over me. I was strong and determined  in the water and got myself into a rhythm and space and just went for it. As I swam upstream in the Ohio River I realized the water was pretty gross. The water was quite dirty with lots of choppiness and going against the current wasn’t so great. After making the turn around the island to head back, I knew the first chunk of the swim was done, the harder part.

Now, the current was with me and I was pushing myself to swim in to the finish. I was cruising, I felt it, I felt so strong in the water and I felt good about it. I remember getting out of the water and looking at my watch…1:04! Crazy…my fastest 2.4 mile swim to date! I was pumped and excited to get the wetsuit peeled off of me and get onto my bike.

The swim out was a bit of a trek to my bike bag and the changing tent. It seems that transition included about a 0.5 mile run in and out, so my transitions took some time. After the wetsuit strippers took my suit off, I ran and grabbed my bike bag and headed into the tent to get my socks, shoes, helmet and glasses on. I got sprayed with sunscreen as I exited the tent and grabbed my bike and headed out for the 112 mile ride.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, the sun was shining, not many clouds overhead and there was some wind. 112 miles is a long ride no question about that! This bike course was the one aspect of the race I was not so excited about. The hills. I’m not a big fan of hills. They call them rolling hills. I call them torture. I already had a problem. My power meter didn’t calibrate properly and I had no power or cadence readings. I went off HR.

imlou-bikeThe first 10 miles or so were flat and very fast for me, I think the adrenaline from the swim was all over me. The hills were gradual in some areas and quite steep in others. The one good thing about hills is once you get up, you’ve got to come down. On some of the downhills I got up to speeds like 25, 32 and at a couple of points 38 miles/hr. It was so crazy fast that it kind of scared me. Thinking about hitting a pebble on the road with the wrong angle and then hitting the pavement at that speed…ouch! The crazy part is that even at those speeds, other athletes were actually bombing right by me!

It truly amazes me how incredible the human body is and what we are capable of. I was very happy to get to the 55 mile mark (almost half way) and ready for my 2nd loop of the course. At mile 60, I had to stop to get off my bike at the aid station to pee. I haven’t practiced peeing on the bike and know many do it, it just didn’t work for me.

At about mile 70, things changed for me. I started to feel some pain on the outside of my right knee. It wasn’t a pain I’ve ever experienced in that location. It felt like a nerve being compressed and was a sharp shooting pain. The worst part was that every time I put any power into my right leg (pedal), it shot some pain. I slowed down. I started to coast.

The last 30+ miles I coasted as much as possible and so my awesome bike ride was becoming painful. So painful that the thought crossed my mind that my race was over and I should stop, but I kept going and I coasted a while and tried to push again, but no success. The pain was getting worse and now was shooting from my hip to my knee, but only when I pushed on the pedal. I coasted and I was prepared that when I got to transition, my race was done.

The hills were behind me and that flat, fast 10 miles were back. It was hard to coast so I had to pedal and it was more painful than anything I can remember. I finally saw the transition and dismounted my bike expecting to be done.

imlou-run1Usually I’d run my bike through transition, but this time, I walked. The pain disappeared to my amazement. I handed my bike off to an awesome volunteer and proceeded to pick up my run bag and off to the tent to change my shoes, grab my hat and go. I felt ok. The pain wasn’t there. I got excited to be able to run and that meant I’d finish the race. Not only that, I was on pace for a PR and sub 12 hour finish. I ran easy for almost the first half of the marathon feeling quite good. I stayed well hydrated and nourished and was enjoying the flat run. At about 12 miles into the run, I started feeling that pain again…it was coming back. That was bad.

With every run step I took, I got a shot of pain. I slowed down to a walk…I didn’t feel the pain when I walked, so I kept going walking as fast as possible without the pain. Again I tried to run, but couldn’t and I knew that I was done. I knew this race wouldn’t be a PR or a sub 12 hours, so I accepted it and continued walking as best I could. Finishing off the 1st loop was a huge tease as I had to walk right past the finish line knowing that I had another half marathon to complete before I could be done.

The pain got so bad that I started dragging my leg a bit and at some turns I actually needed to lift my leg using my arms. I walked a half marathon as quickly as I possibly could and I finished the race at 13:39. I am now a 2 X Ironman finisher and couldn’t be happier.

Overall Ironman Louisville was a great experience, even with the pain. The organization, volunteers, support and the spectators were awesome (especially mine). imlou-finishThank you to my sherpa wife, Shush, and my big boy Russ for all their support. Thank you to all the volunteers that were at this race and that go support any of us athletes in any other races around the globe. Thank you to my favorite source of training and race day nutrition – Amrita Bars.

The bottom line:

I am so grateful to have been able to have this experience at Ironman Louisville and now that I’m 42 years old, each day is a blessing and bonus. When I was 36 I was told I’d be dead at the age of 40…I proved them wrong and continue to improve my health and fitness level each day. I’m in the best shape of my life – can’t wait to see what comes next!

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