Ironman Louisville was great. The end result was really nothing to brag about but there were parts of the day that were really great and it is the first pro race I feel good about so far this year. The weekend overall was spectacular.
First of all, why jump in Ironman Louisville especially with Ironman Wisconsin 2 weeks later? There were 5 Ironmans over the last 2 weekends. 1 additional Iron distance pro race in those weekends. 6 races Iron distance races in 2 weekends, definitely a good window to race. Wisconsin scores Kona points for 2014 and is usually disproportionately competitive. Earlier this month I thought about the number of IMs and figured Louisville would require no real financial investment and was a better chance to get a check than Wisconsin. Why not roll the dice and give it a shot? If things were not going well I could always drop out after a couple miles of running and it would be a stellar workout. If things went well it would be a good chance to have a solid result for the year. I was able to get a fabulous homestay and my online-only friend Steve wanted to make the trip down so everything lined up perfectly.
Louisville is a really nice city (for some reason I had visions of a murky swamp) and the bike course there is really fun. There is a fair amount of up and down but most of it isn’t too dramatic so you can roll through and the roads have more curvy corners rather than the sharp turns of the Wisconsin course. My main complaint is the aid stations were much further apart the second loop of the run. If you know you race well in heat you will love Louisville!
I did not have a super specific, meticulous race plan. I wanted to enjoy the race (it has been a thoroughly un-enjoyable season of pro racing thus far) mix it up with the guys and try to get paid. I needed to get a little confidence back and get my mojo flowing again.
The swim was fine. There were no superstar swimmers and they sent the men and women off together. I cruised in the main field behind a guy I didn’t recognize who was behind Chris McDonald. We came out with the front three women a few seconds down to Andrew Hodges.
Onto the bike I rolled up the the main string of guys. I could see Chris was already up with the lead vehicle and guys were slipping back. I motored around the boys and after 20-25 minutes of a solid time trial effort I was behind Chris and the lead vehicle in 2nd. This was awesome, being close to the front of an Ironman is fun stuff. Out into the country I saw Chris take a look back. He may have been surprised someone was still there as he seemed to accelerate away a little. Through the descent on the out and back I fell a bit behind and got a chance to see how things were shaping up with the rest of the guys. I saw Tom Gerlach and Pat Evoe were 3ish minutes back and rolling through the field. Once Chris was away I cruised comfortably and enjoyed having the road to myself on a cool morning.
Between mile 45 and 50 on a short, steep climb Tom and the boys caught up. Tom rolled up next to me and bright and cheerful yells “Hola” right in the middle of the hill. I was looking over to respond when BAM my chain drops. Tom is officially a bad luck charm. I hopped off and sheepishly scurried to the top of the hill on foot as the guys went by. I got the chain back on and had to time trial hard back to the group of 4 that Tom and Pat Evoe were leading. I could not believe he used such a cheerful greeting to knock my chain off.
At that point I started to pay the price for my fun at the beginning of the ride. In the excitement of time trialling up to Chris I neglected calories and fluids. The first hour I probably only had only 25-50% of the calories I should have. Oops. Amateur hour. I sat with the group but wasn’t frisky enough to take any pulls.
Onto the second loop we encountered a really bizarre situation. Moving through the age groupers was a bit dicey as the road wasn’t too wide and there was quite a bit of congestion. All the sudden I noticed some guy with 50 on his calf mixing it up in our race. He was angry about getting passed or something and was determined to stick it to us pros. He pulled in to draft off several of the guys and was riding all over the place. Worse still he was angrily yelling at Tom and Pat and generally acting crazy. I have never seen road rage in the middle of an Ironman but he was definitely raging! He would stand and absolutely mash up the climbs. I couldn’t believe anyone would ruin their day that way and I couldn’t see what he was so vexed about but he hung around for maybe 10 miles. The guys kept calling over the ref who was watching our group and the ref did give the rage-aholic a penalty but he couldn’t get the guy to leave us alone. Apparently he even told Tom he was going to “find him on the run and beat him up!” Weird stuff. Eventually he disappeared, and no he did not give Tom a beating later. Maybe he will leave an angry comment on Tom’s blog.
I ended up losing contact with the group as my energy faded further. The final 20 miles I was pretty tuckered out. The final 10 miles I was getting that special Ironman-bonk depression. Going through T2 I had no thoughts of finishing. Like magic within the first mile of running my morale rebounded! On my feet I came back to life. I saw Steve and he looked at me like he was favoriting one of my tweets and that gave me a surge of strength. I was feeling good again and slowly catching back up to Ryan Bates. The run is a simple double out and back. Just before the first turn around I caught Ryan. We ran a few miles together but just after the Churchill-Downs aid station I slowed a bit. My legs started to give out and I went from running to using my patented Ironman trot. 7th place was able to catch me before the final turnaround and I was relegated to 7th, the first un-paid pro finisher! Coming into the final 10k I got some strength back and, except for a brief bout of cramping, ran better into the finish. The final mile was actually pure joy. I gave a big shout out to someone else in a Gear West Bike jersey and I whooped it up in the finishing chute. That was by far the most I’ve enjoyed an Ironman finish. My homestay Kellie was captain of the finish line volunteers so it was amazing to have a familiar face to greet me.
I ended up not getting paid. I bonked on the bike just like I have the last 2 Ironmans and I was forced to slow dramatically on the run just like the last 2 Ironmans. My swim (current aided) was my fastest at 48:59, my bike was my slowest by 5 minutes (4:45), my run was my slowest by 7ish minutes (3:35) and my overall time was 10 minutes slower than my first (IM AZ 2010). Despite the shortcomings, challenges, and goof-ups, I am really happy with the race. It was actually much easier mentally than my first two. I mixed it up and I had fun. I realized I’m much closer to a good Ironman than ever before and I know I can roll with the guys.
At travel races it is always extra fun to spot other Minnesotans, I saw Diane Hankee, my friend Gillian, and teammate John on the run. I couldn’t help but holler when I saw a Gear West, Urban Tri, or Tri Rochester jersey. I bumped into Diane after the race and she had ripped a 10:20!
Steve got a few good pictures from the weekend. I do not have a smartphone so I stole all his pictures.
Steve was extremely excited to throw on a Gold Gopher Guys Jersey! He could not have been more proud to become a Golden Gopher Guy for the weekend. What a guy. Often he would spontaneously yell “Ski U Mah!”
Race morning, we lucked out with a cool start to the day. It warmed up and the wind did pick up but it never got miserably humidComing out of the swim with the main group:My QR CD0.1 and I made the Ironman.com live coverage! We work well together. Even in the throes of my bike-bonk depression I could stay in the aero position because my fit is so solid.
After a prestigious 7th placing, the Gold Guys asked me to host a press conference and I was more than happy to oblige. I got a few strange photo-op request from the multitude of journalists.After the press conference Steve, my functional strength training coach, told me the Ironman was enough aerobic work but I should get a quick strength session done:That is the whole story. Where does this leave the Gopher-Badger Ironwar? We will see. This was a good first battle but Tom “Ironmore” Gerlach has won the opening round. Ironman Wisconsin is a little bit tentative at this point. If worst comes to worst, it will just be a Badger on Badger on Badger day with Blake “Dreamboat” Becker and Tom and Paul “Babyface” Eicher (I think Paul is 17) all smashing each other to be King of Madison. I just bought my tickets for Ironman Arizona and Tom and Blake always race there so if nothing else the three of us will have a showdown in the desert.
Have a great week and see you in Madison! I’ll be there to race or to watch my Badger rivals tear each other apart.