Iíve never appreciated the fans, volunteers, and race supporters more than when I raced in an Ironman. What an ordeal, what an experience, and I never would have made it through the marathon ďwalkĒ with out the great on course support for fans and volunteers. For seven hours I was on the street dreaming of the finish line, thanking the heavens when the sun finally set, stopping by every aid station for wet sponges, water, Gatorade, and oranges, and seeing the same dedicated supporters in the heat and throughout the night. Thanks to everyone that volunteer and help out in Ironman events.
My goal time for the Ironman flew out the window when I bonked on the run in Vineman 70.3. If I canít finish strong on a half-Ironman then I definitely canít finish strong on a full Ironman. My goal was to just finish it and join in the ranks of other Ironman finishers. I had another set back when I was ill during my vacation to Japan one week before. I wasnít too sick to race, but it affected my energy and breathing. I was determined to finish and there was no way I will waste a year of preparation on being sick.
I brought my computer with me just in case I needed to catch up on work but I used it to check my Facebook instead. I was very inspired by all the well wishes and all the good thoughts coming my way. If I think positive and be receptive for everything thatís going to happen then I could make it through the course.
Prior to the race I toured the bike course in an air-conditioned rental. I decided at some point to turn off the A/C and rolled down the window to get the full experience. After about 30 minutes into it, I had to roll up the window and crank the A/C back on. Ha! It was a little shot of reality but I wasnít fazed. I could deal with it when I have to deal with it. Yeah!
One of the highlights of IM Louisville is the unusual swim start. Instead of a mass start or starting in waves, it is an individual entry first come first serve. We were like lemmings following each other in a huge line, plunging in one-by-one. The water was 80 degrees, my first race in warm waters, I thought I would burn up but even in my swim skin over tri clothes, the temperature was fine. I used a strategy some guy in line was talking about by staying close to shore swimming upstream and away from shore downstream. Iím not sure if it worked but the strategy makes sense since current is almost always the strongest at the center of the river. I took to the waters at a very slow pace, conserving as much energy as possible. I learned the art of coughing underwater and coming up for breath. At the end of the swim I thought one down two to go!
If it wasnít for the distance between the swim exit and the bike racks, my T1 time would have been a lot faster. I loved how a volunteer would call out my number and another volunteer would run and hand me my bag. How wonderful is that! I was in-and-out of the change tent. I didnít want to stay too long. It felt like a sauna in there and the scent of hundreds of hot sweaty men is not very appealing.
I began my nutrition with a couple of Laura bars, rice with salted seaweed, and a plain flavored gel. Iím still in search for better nutrition that wonít make me feel sick in my stomach. I experimented with bagel chips and roasted, salted cashews. The bagel chips were too greasy and the thought of cashews already made me ill. As with the swim, I took to the bike course at a very leisurely pace. I had my HRM on and kept the rate between 130-150 bpm. I kept good pace with a guy from Canada for 40 miles or so, he has ridden the course twice before and was helpful in giving me a course orientation. Overall, it is a fun bike course with lots of big rollers but no major climbs. The road conditions were perfect, very few rough spots and absolutely no hazards. I was surprised to see three (maybe more) ambulances picking up crash victims. A couple of times I came close to crashing due to gusts of wind while descending. I ride with very deep (100mm) front wheels, and Iíve had near crashed with them on each of my triathlons this year. Iím seriously considering replacing them before something bad happens. The town of La Grange had a terrific support area with lots of screaming fans yelling out words of encouragement. The course looped around the town twice so we would have one last shot of encouragement before we made our way back from our long bike ride. My time spent on the bike took its toll but not completely draining. I kept dosing my head and body with a water, and made sure I was well hydrated.
It was great having volunteers rack my bike for me and again my bag was waiting for me with a volunteer. This time I could smell the stench oozing out of the transition tent, wow was it gnarly. I canít even describe the smell, only that it was a mixture of sweat, dirt, piss, and ass all mixed into one. Luckily I didnít have to change so I put on my shoes and was out of there like a bat out-of-hell.
I can swim slow, bike slow, but why on earth canít I run slow. Of course I started out way too fast, about 9 min/mile. I should have been going around 11-12 min/mile, but I donít know how to run that slow. Iím sure thereís a trick to it. My heart rate was around 160-170 for the first two miles of the run course and thatís all I could handle. The heat really got to me and I started to feel very dizzy and woozy. Thank goodness for the wet sponges at each aid station I was able to stay cool, but I could run no longer. It didnít matter, I felt strong enough for walking to the finish. I ran into Lamar Sepulveda and he was in the same boat. He had issues with his front derailleur and couldnít shift into his granny gear, so he had to walk up some of the steeper rollers. Lamar is such an inspiration; he has done so much with the pay it forward challenge and never gives up. Although I was far from giving up, I had enough boost from Lamar and the supporters to carry me through. Dreams of completion and getting that medal were a persistent thought that drove me to the finish line.
I always look at the positives of each situation for each event that occurs, occurs for a reason. Due to my illness, I didnít exert much physical strain on my body and I feel almost fully recovered. I knew going in that I wouldnít get the time I wanted regardless of my health, so Iím glad I saved my strength and look forward to another Ironman maybe next year.
I AM AN IRONMAN!