2012 Ironman Louisville Race Report

Here's the quick version, since this is 2012 and our collective attention spans average about 4.7 seconds at this point. It'll be down to 4.6 by the end of this - LOOK A FUNNY PICTURE OF A WALRUS! - sentence. In short, I swam 2.4 miles, biked 112, and ran 26.2. Overall, it was a solid and smart race. Finished in - BOB ROSS PAINTING ECCE HOMO - 10:35 for 12th in my AG and 102nd overall. Very happy that it's over. Now for the long version (that will hopefully take you less than 10 hours to read)… I signed up for Louisville in February, totally pumped to be doing another Ironman. But then I had to train for it. After a few unfortunate conflicts, it turned out that the NYRR Sprint Triathlon would be my (only) tune-up for Louisville. Staying motivated through a ton of training and little racing was pretty tough (see chart).

I showed up to the race well-trained, yet still a bit unsure of how I'd fare in a race approximately 10 times as long as a sprint triathlon...

Pre-Race: Louisville is a lovely little town on the banks of the Ohio River that is an approximate 12 hour drive (13 including resulting traffic from an earlier accident that occurred less than 50 miles (!) from our destination after we had driven for 11 hours and almost 600 miles without any problems). Our hotel (Galt House™, the Official™ Ironman™ Hotel™ of Ironman™ Louisville™) was within walking distance of many attractions including the Yum! Center, the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Louisville Museum of Arts and Sciences, the Muhammed Ali Center, and Joe's Crab Shack-Louisville. I'm mildly embarrassed to report that we didn't visit any of these places. Relaxing was the name of the game on Friday and Saturday before the race. We did, however, manage to catch The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX for a paltry $10.50/person, which pretty much made the trip worthwhile right there.

Swim: Louisville is the only Ironman™ race with a time-trial start. Everything I had read on Slowtwitch had advised me not to worry about getting in line early in order to get started early. That was a huge mistake, as I was definitely one of the last 20% to enter the water. I finally made it in around 7:35 (35 minutes after the first age-groupers began the swim), and found myself swimming through the carnage of the 2000+ people in front of me. The crowds didn't really bother me and I felt fantastic throughout the swim. I had a great rhythm going and felt totally relaxed. I exited the swim feeling like I hadn't really done anything (a rarity for a moderately-okay swimmer like myself). As I looked at my watch, I realized why I had felt so great: my swim time was an abysmal 1:15. Guess I should've worked a little harder…

Bike: Anyway, five minutes wasn't going to kill me (I had planned on swimming around 1:10), so I zipped through transition as fast as I could and got on my bike. Ironman is a long day, so the slow swim wasn't the end of the world. I was moving onto my second strongest discipline, and was confident in my ability to make up some (but not a ton) of time on the bike. Coach Cane gave me some great advice before the race knowing that I'm a strong runner. He said, "There's no such thing as a good ride and a bad run. If you have a bad run you didn't have a good ride." The first 15 miles of the bike are dead flat, so it was tough to keep myself in check, but I forced myself to spin more than hammer, and reached mile 15 slightly (but not suicidally) ahead of my goal pace. After the flat, the course turns to a brief out and back that is quite hilly. Less than a mile from the turn I felt: 'bump…….bump…….bump….bump…bump…BUMP…BUMP. BUMP. BUMPBUMPBUMPBUMP'

My rear tire was flat. First flat in roughly 25 triathlons. I guess I've been lucky up to this point, and honestly if I had to pick a race to get one, it'd be an Ironman. I still don't know what caused it. Because the flat happened so early on, I took extra care to ensure that I wouldn't get another one from the same cause, but lost a little over nine minutes as a result.

From then on, I was racing under a tiny grey cloud of disappointment. It's tough putting hours and hours (and hours) of training in, to have what you'd hoped would be a near-perfect race go out the window due to something that's 99% out of your control. I still had over 90 miles to ride and 26.2 miles to run, so there was lots of time to think "what if". Nevertheless, I stuck to the game plan of riding smart, and leaving something for the run. The bike course in Louisville is definitely no slouch. There's everything you'd want (or not) in relentless rollers, tight descents, and long windy stretches. With the exception of the first and last ten miles, the course is pretty tough. There were some dark moments between miles 60-90, especially when I'd think about where I could've been had I not flatted early on. To say I was thrilled to get off the bike would be an understatement (bike time was 5:51).

Run: My stomach wasn't quite as thrilled as I began to run. For the most part, I was able to get in a decent amount of calories on the ride, but there were some stretches late in the bike where my stomach voiced its displeasure. Oh, and it was HOT by this point. I was pretty miserable during the first two miles, but then I discovered another benefit of one-piece tri suits….

…dumping a cup of ice down the front of it allows for, um…cooling of a region of one's body that is extremely satisfying (which wouldn't be possible while wearing a two-piece). After the first two miles, I felt more relaxed and found a good rhythm. The run course in Louisville noodles around a bit for a few miles before settling into a twelve-mile loop that each athlete completes twice. As I began the first loop, I passed Heather Gollnick, who, at the time was in second place in the women's race (and beginning her second loop). She asked me (assuming I was on my second loop), how far the third place women was behind her. I sheepishly told her that I was on my first loop and couldn't be any help (she ended up finishing 4th).

That little interaction was a nice break from a mental back-and-fourth that had been raging inside my head for the previous 5+ hours. At that moment, I was reminded that I'm not a pro racing to pay for a mortgage, tuition, food, or travel to my next race. Getting mad about a flat tire isn't worth it for someone in my situation who races hard, but ultimately without consequence. Athletes like myself are lucky to be able to experience certain aspects of racing without the cold reality of it being our way of making a living. There's no way I would last more than a week as a Pro. And while I revere their talent and drive, I'm well aware of my ceiling as an athlete. A flat tire is not worth the headache.

From that point until around mile 18, I clipped off consistent miles in the 7:20s without any problems. Between mile 18 and 19, I found myself in the same dark place of miles 60-90 on the bike as the wheels started to come off. 8 miles is still a decent distance, and I was pretty tired of running at this point. Had the race gone differently up until then, I may have had more heart to gut out the last eight miles. But after what had transpired, I was happy to cruise my way home (and slow up a bit in the process). Between miles 20-22, I ended up running a bit with a college friend (who is racing 70.3 Worlds this weekend). He had an even unluckier day on the bike, losing over 20 minutes to two flats. And at that point, our misery was happy for some company.

However, during the last few miles of the race (once I realized that, yes, I was going to finish well), I was able to reflect a bit on what an intelligent and solid race I had run. I held pretty consistent pace during each discipline, and was never slowed past steady forward motion. I was happy with my execution of the race, and happier to cross the finish line 10 hours and 35 minutes after jumping into the Ohio river to start the race. [Splits were 1:14, 3:16, 5:51, 3:03, 3:23 for those of you (no one) scoring at home]

Major congratulations to City Coach stud and my personal hero (and namesake), Mike Terry, for his 3rd place finish in our 25-29 age group and securing a slot to Kona! I almost wish I was as fast as he, but the idea of racing another IM in a month sounds pretty horrendous.

Man, am I glad this whole Ironman thing is over! I think the next phase of my career will be as NSQ's domestique.