A few people have been asking for my report on Ironman Louisville 2014, so here it is!! Wow, what a day!!
Going into Louisville, I felt great. It was a “no excuses” race – my body was healthy and I was ready to go! I also felt like this was a special race because it’s my fav North American Ironman – and this was the last year it would be a pro race!! (Ironman has decided to cut the pro field out of a number of the North American Ironman races). Louisville is a city that I really like – and I’ve had some good experiences at this race so it holds a bit of a special place in my heart.
The few days leading up to race day were fairly typical – trying to fit in some workouts, re-learn the course, check in, etc. The difference this time was that my parents were at the race with me (I was happy to have them there! They haven’t been to a race since 2007) and therefore we were staying at a hotel across the river in Indiana rather than staying with a homestay. This meant eating restaurant food too often and feeling like we were constantly running around.. trying to find food, get workouts in, etc. But all in all, it was a fairly “normal” pre-ironman week. My friends from QT2 Caroline Gregory and Amy Javens were also racing and so it was great to be able to ride with Caroline and eat pancakes with Amy – it’s a great thing to feel like you are racing with friends and despite the fact that we’re all racing eachother, that we also all support each other out there on the race course.
Race morning we (my parents and I) headed into transition at about 5:00 am. Got into T1 and something was up with my front tire, I couldn’t get the valve to open to get air in there properly. It “felt like” the tire pressure was right, but I took it to the people who were pumping up tires to see if they could check it. A nice lady fixed the valve for me and made sure air pressure was right. Other than that, things went fine getting stuff in order, and I was fairly quickly taking the 1 mile walk to the swim start. At the swim start we hung around for probably 45-60 minutes before the race started. Amy, Caroline, Rachel and I were all there, along with Coach Tim and my parents. I obviously felt a little bit of pre-race anxiety but nothing out of control. I felt good.
When the time came to start the swim warm up and we all jumped in, we quickly realized there was quite a current in the river! In order to stay in one place you really had to side stroke to not get dragged down the river. The first approximately 800m of the swim was going to be against that current! But the good thing was that once we made that turn at the 800m mark we’d be swimming with the current – so mentally it was just important to be aware that it was there, get through that first piece of the swim, and then it’d be smooth sailing. When the gun went off, we were off! Pro men and women were started a few minutes apart at this race, so were were on our own. The fastest swimmers took off, and I was swimming with a couple of other girls for pretty much the whole swim. Like Texas, it ended up that I lead that second group, which is great to know I’m not at the end of the swimmers anymore, but which means I have done a terrible job finding someone to draft off of at all my races this summer :-). But I”m very happy with my progress on the swim – I feel stronger, faster, and have been coming out mid pack this year which is a great way to start the bike ride.
Out of the water and into T2 all was good. Out of T2 seemed fine. Until about 1 minute down the road when I tried to make a turn and realized my front tire was flat!! Booo. So I kept myself calm, got off my bike and started collecting what I needed to change it. And realized I had no CO2 valve. It must have bounced off when I came over that bump coming out of transition. I realized what had happened, and I thought “my race is over. I came all the way here to do a swim, and now I”m done.” A minute or two later, the bike tech guys came by on motorcycle and they gave me a new wheel to use! Yay! My friend Brooke got a flat last year and ended up coming 2nd overall in the race… so I thought of her, I stayed focussed on what I was out there to do, and off I went! I was on my own for about 2 hours and then finally started catching people. I passed a few girls and rode strong for about 3/4 of the course, then started feeling the heat! Pushed on to the end of the bike, thinking “just keep going, it’ll be over soon and you’ll be fine once you start running”…
When I got to T2 I got off my bike and started running to the change tents. My legs didn’t feel great, but that’s typical for that point in an ironman! I got through T2 and right away my stomach and legs were rebelling. I ate the banana I was supposed to eat as I ran out of T2 and I couldn’t take in the whole thing. I thought “okay, just run, it’ll get better”. My first mile was significantly over 8 mins/mile. My stomach felt nauseous. My mind wasn’t positive! I ran 3 miles before seeing Tim out on the course – he asked how I was feeling. I said “I feel terrible, my stomach is nauseous.” At that point I was running 9+/mile. He said “don’t worry, just slow down, it’ll pass”. I thought “but I’m already running close to 10 mins/mile!! You want me to slow down even more??” But I did what he said… and after a couple of miles I really did feel better. But only better enough to be running back in the 8’s! And this went up and down for the entire run. I’d feel “okay” for a mile, then terrible for a mile, and repeat. I knew after seeing him a second time that I was in it for the long haul, that he was going to make me keep going, so I just thought, okay, keep running and get to the end of this race!! The fact that this race is an out and back run course that you repeat twice was a race-saver. It meant that I could see the other girls racing a number of times – and I could see that they were all having a rough time out there as well!! I knew that if I just kept plugging along I would probably be able to catch a few of them, even if I was going slow! So that’s what I did. This was the hardest marathon I’ve ever run in an Ironman – harder in a different way than most races are. By this time the temperature was near 42 degrees celcius with the humidity and the air was still – it was like running in a sauna. People were dropping on the race course. You could see them running one minute and lying on the ground the next. It was a tough day out there!! The final 5 miles were so hard. My legs felt like they could cramp at any moment and I knew if they did I’d be on the side of the road and that would be it. I prayed that they would hold out and keep me standing – I took in salt and calories and fluid as much as I could. Amy was running in front of me and I was smiling watching her run, knowing she was in the same situation as I was!! Talk about the “Ironman shuffle”, we were doing a good job showing the spectators what that is all about! At mile 25 I started crying suddenly and without warning. One mile to go and I didn’t know if I could get there!! But I did.. finishing another Ironman at the end of a brutal day.
I’m happy to say I did end up finishing the race in 10 hours 10 minutes and placing 6th. This was not as good of a result as I was hoping for, but you have to respect every race and every race day, and considering the day I am very happy with the result. Thank you to Tim to keeping me on that course and not letting me stop! As has been quoted about this day between my friend Amy and I, it was a “breathing fire” kind of day, and this race experience definitely added to my toughness bank!!
Lessons “re”-learned include:
– Never give up. Well, this is a lesson learned over and over again in this sport. There is never a race where you feel positive for the entire thing. It’s important to recognize negative thoughts, be okay with them, and surpass them. It happens to all of us.
– Even when you think you’re at your wits end, you can keep going.
– Ironman is a race of patience. It’s a long day and a lot can happen – to all of us. Be patient, race your own race, and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. If you’re having a rough day, it’s likely others are as well.
Thank you to Tara Rash and QT2 Systems (and Tim Snow for being out there on the course), Quintana Roo, Normatec Recovery, Powerbar Canada, Rudy Project, NUUN, Rick Choi and Reel Kool Products, Mizuno Canada, and my supportive friends and family for helping make this all possible!