Race Report: Ironman Louisville

Ironman Louisville was my 9th Ironman since 2008 and my second Ironman of 2016.  I changed up my training a bit from prior Ironmans and did a little more volume than I ever have leading into my taper 3 weeks out, and then did less volume than I typically do leading into a race.  I wanted to be very fit, but also well-rested and ready to race.  I think in the past I've done too much work too close to race day and carried some fatigue into the race and I didn't want to repeat that mistake again.  I think this plan worked out well as my legs felt strong on race day.

Swim - 1:05:04

The Louisville swim is a time trial start.  I didn't feel like getting up really early to try and get to the front of the line so I slept in a bit until 4:45 and got to transition about 6.  Fortunately there wasn't any traffic and the lots across from transition were open so getting to transition was really easy.  Since I got there a little later, transition wasn't busy so I got my stuff done and got in line only to find out, to my surprise, that the line was all the way back to transition (about a mile long).  Wow.

So we waited....and waited...and waited....

I finally got in the water about 8:10, 40 minutes after the first swimmer.  The swim was pretty uneventful. I had very little contact and just focused on my own swim.  I didn't get any cramps like Texas, which was a good sign, but my left calf did threaten to cramp several times (an on-going issue since my back injury so I expected it).  I predicted a swim time of 1:05 so I was happy to see a 1:05 on my watch when I got out of the water.

T1 - Since I started late, transition was packed.  There was a line to get in the tent so I emptied my bag outside the tent and put on my helmet, grabbed my bike shoes, put my wetsuit in my bag and then plowed my way through the change tent to get to the bike racks.  

Bike - 5:07:18

I loved the Louisville bike course.  It was really crowded the first 30 (ish) miles, and cold, which sucked, but the course itself is awesome.  It's challenging enough to be a fair course, but it's not that hilly and still fairly fast and the road conditions are really good.  The roads are narrow and I got held up by cars about 6 or 7 times which was a new and frustrating experience.  I've never been held up by traffic in an Ironman before.

I trained to hold about 210-215 watts but decided to go conservative to see if I could really nail the run so I held about 205 the whole way.  I dialed it back on the way back into town and I think my final average power was 203.  I had predicted a 5:05-5:10 split so I was right in line with that.  The best part was that for the first time ever in an Ironman, I had to pee on the bike...twice actually.  And my legs felt strong coming off the bike.  They haven't felt this good at the end of the bike since 2010, and with the perfect weather I was in a good mood and looking forward to the run.

T2 - I got through T2 pretty quickly except I had to pee again so I stopped to do that so my T2 time wasn't very fast.  I had estimated about 10 minutes for both transitions combined and that's where I ended up so still right on target.

The run - 4:12:38

I wanted to run between 3:20 and 3:25, hoping maybe I could break 3:20.  I started out holding a 7:45 pace and was hitting that mile after mile.  My legs felt good and the pace wasn't a struggle.  My stomach didn't feel great, but it was good enough that I was able to take in water at every aid station and I stuck with my plan of 3 gels per hour and a few salt pills per hour as well.  

Everything was going great...until it wasn't.  I started struggling and feeling weak and a little sick.  Nearing the turnaround I knew it was going to be tough to hold my pace, which was already slipping.  My legs felt like they had more, but I was beginning to struggle.  A friend of mine, Anton, caught me and ran with me for a while trying to help me get back on track, which helped a ton, but I lost him soon after the halfway point.  After that the wheels completely fell off and I ended up doing a lot of walking on the second half.  I still took in fluids and calories (I tried it all - coke, broth, pretzels, grapes, gels)  but I couldn't get moving again.  It felt like Texas all over again, and soon my motivation was gone. My only motivation to continue running was to get the race over with sooner.

Overall:  10:35:04

Once again, I ended an Ironman in the med tent.  My blood pressure was really low and I needed an IV.  The low blood pressure issue I have with Ironmans tends to be related to electrolytes, and even though I drank a lot of gatorade and took salt pills, I guess I didn't get enough. It's extremely frustrating and disappointing, especially since the weather was perfect.  I felt like I had the fitness and the discipline on race day to finish with a strong run.  I was on pace for a 9:45 (ish), which it turns out wouldn't have been enough for a Kona slot, but would have been a race I would have been happy with.

What's next?

Not Ironman.  It's a distance I struggle with.  I've done 9, and all but 2 of them have left me disappointed and frustrated feeling like I didn't race to my potential.  It seems to be more related to electrolytes/fueling/hydration than fitness, which I guess is why I keep chasing this elusive perfect race.  Honestly, taking a break from Ironman after several bad races makes me feel like a quitter.  Deep down, I want to have the desire continue that chase, but the truth is I don't.  The fun is gone.  The drive is gone.  I'm tired of it.  I won't say I'll never do another Ironman, but for now I need a break.  

I want to get back to shorter races, higher intensity training, racing more often.  I want to find that speed I feel like I've lost over the past few years. I want to bring the fun back. 

I will either focus on olympic distance or maybe half ironmans.  I really enjoy the training for those distances and the lower training volume allows me more time to focus on my coaching which is something I really enjoy.  70.3 Worlds is in Chattanooga next year so it's tempting to try and qualify for that and see if I can do well there.  I had a lot of fun at AG Nationals this year so that will definitely be on my plan for next year.  It's a qualifier for Worlds in Gold Coast, Australia in 2018 so I may put my focus on that.   


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