Today is my day

Text from my Coach: Today is YOUR day!

2012 Ironman Louisville

Where to begin? I fear this will be extremely long but I want to include everything before I forget.

A few words about the night before the race: You never sleep a lot so the big nights sleep was Friday night. Saturday was all about resting, hydrating and staying off my feet. We spent the majority of the time in the atrium/bar of the hotel well positioned on a group of couches. John went out to get dinner and we relaxed and socialized in the meantime. I got a call from my coach and told him I was feeling a little concerned about the swim but otherwise was good. The practice swim that morning had made me feel a little panicky but that is not unusual for me. The enormity of things tends to settle in at that point and you wonder if you are up for the task. I told myself to remember Phil Sustar and his advice to Terrie during the swim around Key West – “Put your head down Princess and swim”. Coincidentally, Phil called me when I was on my way back to my room for final preparations and I told him I would think of him during the swim. 

Back in the room for final prep – nutrition bottles for the bike needed to be prepared and final checks of special needs bags, clothes and anything else I needed to deal with. The plan was to be in bed by 8. It was more like 8:30 but still good. I was reading a little Game of Thrones to distract myself when John told me Terrie would be be joining me. Corona, Miles and Mike had just arrived and would be staying in her room so Terrie took the other double bed and John slept on the couch in the other room. Alarm was set for 3am and then it was time to try and get some sleep.

I slept solidly until 12:30 and then I was awake every hour after that. Finally at 2:45 I just got up and started getting ready. I had all my gear, breakfast done and stuff together by 3:45 so John decided to take Terrie and I down to transition to wait for it to open. We picked up Adrienne in the lobby, she couldn’t sleep either, and the 4 of us went down to transition. As we drove the short way to the river we saw numerous clubs with people still partying from the night before. It was a little surreal. 

We arrived at transition to be the 2,3 and 4th person in line for the 4:45 opening. We had our little stools to sit on to rest our legs and we just nervously chatted for the next half hour. The race director snapped our picture for the Ironman Louisville facebook page so that was pretty cool. In the meantime John went back to the hotel to shuttle Harry, Kim, Todd and Tripp down to get in line.

Me, Adrienne and Terrie waiting for transition to open

4:45 – transition opens – the goals now is to get in quickly, pump up our tires, get our bikes set up, drop off bike and run special needs bags and get the hell out and down to line up at the river for the swim start. Terrie, Kim and I accomplished this first – Adrienne had some tire issues that Tripp was helping her with so we jumped in the van and John drove us to the swim start. John had procured a IM support vehicle sticker for the van so we could do this with no problem. John sweet talking any woman into doing anything for him is a miracle in itself but we were eternally grateful. Anything to make this easier.

Louisville is unique in the fact that the swim start is “time trial” which means each athlete lines up and jumps in beginning at 7:00. Your chip time starts when you get on the dock and the swim cutoff begins when the last athlete is in the water at around 7:45. Almost all of the other Ironman’s are mass start swims where everyone goes in at once and the cutoff is 9:20am. 

We got a great spot in line and the volunteers were on hand to be sure that people were not saving spots. We did our best to follow the rules but with the permission of the people behind us we put Todd and Tripp in line with us since we are collectively the weakest swimmers of our group. Now all we had to do was wait. The waiting seemed forever but our friends and supporters showed up and made things fun. We had about 15 people come from Atlanta to help out and it was so great to see all those friendly faces. Once things starting moving it was quick. We had to get ready to go so we grabbed goggles and gave all of our swim bags to Teesha – I wish I had a picture of her holding 3 bags and various stuff while we ran off to get ready to swim. 

We made our way down to the docks and by then everyone had to really pee. It became a huge topic of conversation since it seemed difficult to pee while swimming especially without a wetsuit. I am not that talented. A few guys dropped their lower halves into the river and held onto the dock while relief spread over their faces. Terrie joined in but I was afraid I would not be able to jump back up or worse cut myself in the process. I would wait till I got in the water and figure it out from there.

In the meantime, Tripp, Todd and I devised a plan to try and stay together until the end of the island and then see how the swim would go from there. Earlier in the year Tripp and I would swim together and he would pace off me. He said I kept him even and consistent and on a good relaxed pace. The most recent long swim we did together I pulled away a bit and swam at a faster pace than I had been able to maintain in the past. We thought this was a good compromise to stay together until the end of the island and if I felt good I could swim ahead or vice versa.

Getting ready to jump off the dock

The cannon goes off and within 2 minutes we are in the water. I immediately lose sight of Tripp but start swimming while staying on the outside. There was a lot of thrashing and I wanted some clear space to myself. Within 5 minutes Tripp had found me and we swam together towards the end of the island. I felt a bit panicky, as per usual, but I could see I was making progress and having Tripp beside me made things better. When we reached the end of the island we knew we had a ways to go to get to the turn buoy. Also, it got really shallow at one point and people were getting grounded. It looked like a great opportunity to rest a second or two and maybe pee. Tripp and I headed toward the sand bar, scooted along and I took care of business. At that time we saw Harry and then he was on his way. I could still see people in line walking up to get in the water and I was so glad we were already a good way through the swim. 

We continued up river to the turn buoy and then it was all down stream from there. I found during the practice swim there was a tiny bit of current so I was looking forward to that turn. It got very crowded at this point so Tripp and I stayed right and continued on our way. This is when things got really crazy. The 2000+ people in line behind us were now all in one place. The water was churning, the arms and legs were everywhere and it was insane. I started to get more panicky but having Tripp with me calmed me down. We just kept going and heading for the first bridge. Typically, I feel a bit panicked in the beginning of the swim and once the super fast swimmers are gone I will have room to settle in and just do my own thing. This NEVER happened. I alternated 20-40 strokes with about 10 side stroke while I tried to get my breathing under control. This went on for the entire swim. There were times when hanging on a kayak seemed like the best thing in the world but Tripp helped me stay focused and moving forward. He kept telling me I was doing great and I would tell him the same. I was tempted to look at my watch but would not let myself do it. The swim always seems so long but you have no real idea of time. I didn’t want to freak myself out until I got out of the water.

Finally, we made it past the bridges and we could see transition and the finish. The last couple of yards went so quickly we were basically sucked into the stairs by the swirl of humanity around us. I was up out of the water and 2 seconds later there was Tripp. I looked at my watch – 1:48 – woohoo! and gave Tripp the biggest hug – swim PRs for both of us. My normal swim time is 1:36 to 1:40 in a wetsuit so I was very happy with this time. My ultimate goal was under 2 hours. If all went well I thought I would be between 1:45 and 1:50 so I was on track despite the extra yardage and panicky swim. 

T1 – Tripp and I walk/ran into transition. I grabbed my bag and got ready to change for the bike. The volunteers here were a little less experienced than I was used to. They kept asking what we wanted them to do instead of suggesting things but it was all good. I got everything on, put on my helmet, went to lock it in place and the clasp fell off. WTF??? I started to panic, expletives flew out of my mouth but I somehow was able to nimbly grab it, re-thread the strap and get it back together pretty quickly and then onto my head. Crisis averted. I ran out, grabbed my bike and saw all my friends cheering me on – I felt great!

Don’t tell Dan those are insulated bottles on my bike

BIKE – The bike starts out flat and I followed coaches orders and spun easy and made sure I got my heart rate down. I had ridden most of this course before but this part was new to me. I enjoyed the sights and kept things going smoothly. A few hills along the way but nothing crazy. One long one that I noted would be nice on the way back in. Soon, I was approaching the “stick” and familiar territory. 

The stick was an out and back section with the biggest and longest hills of the entire course. When we rode this back in July it was nice to see that the worst of the course was typical Georgia hills and presented no big problems. The problem it did present was the fact that all the bikers were on this road at the same time. All the fast swimmers were now hammering away on these hills and zooming by on the downhills. People were flying by crazy fast in both directions and things were very congested. It was VERY scary. I am sooooo glad I knew what to expect on this road because this added wrinkle would have been really unnerving. I climbed the first big hill to be greeted by the grim reaper and the devil. Always nice when the locals come out to cheer you on! I spun easily and kept the HR down. There were many hills in my future. Now it was time for the turn around. I kept it easy and made it! On the way back I saw Tripp and knew before long he would be passing me. The water stop on this road was very congested and I had to gently urge the riders in front of me to keep moving and not lollygag with their water bottles. 

I headed down the last hill and started up the final climb when I saw a girl flat on her back on the side of the road and 2 people around her. Looked like a bad bike crash but she was being attended to so I said  prayer and kept on my way. I was very glad to be off that road. 

Back onto the main road and heading into the first loop. For some odd reason the Scandal song “I am the Warrior” is playing in my head. Did I hear it along the way or was it how I was feeling? Still keeping things light I began to feel pain in my rib cage on the right side like I felt at Wisconsin. Since I knew this most likely meant I had to pee I began to plot out my strategy. Next rest stop I was going to go if there was not a line. Thankfully, there was no line and I was able to quickly get in and out and back on the bike. I figured Tripp passed me by now and I would not see anyone else until the run. I made my way through LaGrange, remembering the torrential thunderstorm I got caught in last time I was out there, and then over to the hilly section of the loop. This went fine and then I was in the homestretch of loop one. 

At this time I could feel the heat creeping up and knew I was going to be having issues soon. I had been steadily drinking and taking in nutrition but it was time for ice and water. Around mile 50 I stopped and poured water over my head, drank some down and put ice in my shirt and back on my bike. Back on Rt 42, headed in to start the second loop. 

I was instructed to not look at my watch but knew the cutoff to start the second loop was 2:30. I could tell by my avg speed that I was doing fine but was curious so I looked anyway. It was just after 1:00 so I knew I had plenty of time. I made it to the special needs bags, got more water and ice and another port a potty break. I saw Tripp briefly which was nice and then continued on my way. One more time through LaGrange, the hilly section and then we were in the home stretch. I looked at my watch again and knew I should be able to get back in by 5:00 – this was huge for me. The typical IM cutoff is 5:30 for the bike so I knew I was doing well. I kept saying to myself  “Do nothing stupid and don’t let anyone do anything stupid to you and you will do this”. I spun easily and passed a lot of people in the last 30 miles. Lots of flat tires and sick people along the way. I heard there were tacks in the road again – some locals don’t appreciate the race – but thankfully I had no troubles. 

I climbed one of the last hills around mile 98 and saw Miles, Mike and Corona cheering me on – that was so great to see. I knew I still felt strong and good and was doing well. That little burst was what I needed to seal the deal. The last part was flat or downhill and I particularly relished zooming by a 24 yr old guy down hill at mile 100. Seriously dude, I could be your mother. 

I could see the city now and I was almost home. I never pushed it and stayed smart with the water and ice and I was going to finish this thing unlike the tons of people I passed on my way back into the city. I pulled into transition to lots of cheers from my friends and grabbed my T2 bag. 

T2 – I ran into the tent to see Adrienne putting on the final touches before heading out and I screamed “Adrienne, we are in the fucking tent”. Coach Vader told us to take a second and be thankful we are in the fucking tent before we head out for the run or bike. I grabbed my stuff, changed and headed out on my way. I made the last minute decision to take off my HR strap – it has been cutting me up on every long run and I was very sure I could tell my zones by my breathing. 

Lots of cheering from our group and I was feeling good. “Don’t Stop Believing” was playing and I took that as a good omen. Almost teared up a bit but kept it together for the long road still ahead. I was a little confused by the run course since we had to wind around a bit to get to the bridge but trusted I was going the right way. Then it was up and over the bridge and then back again. I grabbed some water and ice and poured more water on my head. Still so freakin’ hot. I smiled for the camera and headed out to the run course. As I came off the bridge I saw Cari and the Goslow children and that was very sweet. Reminded me of running into them on the comet many times this summer. 

Not sure what is going on here – looks like I am saying WTF am I doing?

I had been leapfrogging 2 Chicago police guys since mile 90 on the bike. I chatted with them a bit more and told them I would see them at the finish. I was run walking at this point because I knew my HR was high and I was still really hot. My original plan was to run as much as I could and then go from there. New plan was to take it easy – I had lots of time – and when the sun went down run as much as possible. 

I started the out and back and soon running at all was becoming hard. I could not drink my nutrition anymore and water was the best I could do. I began to wonder if I was drinking too much water but pushed that to the back of my mind. I continued to power walk and try and stay positive. I saw Chris, Anne, Mike, Catherine and Terri – all of which were so happy to see me on the run. Terrie showed me a bunch of abrasions on her shoulder and told me she got hit by a car – WHAT????? – OK, she is still moving so that’s good. I saw Kim, Harry and Adrienne and everyone looked good. The only people I did not see were Tripp and Todd. 

Around the turn around I started to beat myself up mentally as to whether I was not running because I didn’t want to or if I really couldn’t. So, I tried to run some more. I was successful for a little while but every time my HR would skyrocket and I would get so incredibly hot. More water, more ice, more power walking. Soon, I was back at the start and knew I would get my special needs bag. I wanted to ditch my camel bak since I was not using it anymore. I saw lots of friendly faces but no John. This really upset me. I asked more than one person where he was but no one knew. I was starting to feel bad, I hadn’t eaten anything in a while and I really wanted to see his face. Not good. I tried to put it out of my mind and keep moving. I tried to eat one of my Oreos and that did not go well so I ditched them. My Mountain Dew was equally unappetizing so I ditched it too. Stomach was increasingly beginning to be upset.

I knew I had not eaten anything in a couple of hours and things were going to go south soon. Combined with the unhappy tummy I started to get worried. I also wanted to punch John in the face. The one thing he was supposed to do was be there for me and he was no where to be found. I was in this super happy place when George came pedaling up with Tripp. Thank God! I talked to Tripp for a while and in turn he helped keep my mind off things. I was beginning to worry about time and was busily calculating my splits and how much time was left. Things still seemed on track but I was definitely disappointed in how far south things had come. I was really hoping for a strong run and this was not what I had in mind. Tripp was feeling good so he went on ahead and George stayed with me.

I had just told George that each burp seemed more ominous than the previous one when uh oh – I ran to the curb, grabbed the road sign and started hurling. I see a man come running towards me and I think its his house and I have just puked on his lawn. I start apologizing and he says what are you apologizing for? I then realize he is an EMT and he is making sure I am OK. He stands there while I empty my stomach of chicken broth – that was a bad idea. Once my stomach is empty I stand up and say I think I am OK now. He looks me dead in the eye to make sure I am all there and lets me go on. I felt like a million bucks compared to how I felt 30 minutes prior. All right lets get this thing over with!!

I keep power walking along and try to drink some water – no good. Still sloshing so no more water. George suggests some orange slices and using the water to swish around my mouth and this plan works pretty well for the last bit. Around this time I am joined by Randy – a guy who was waiting with us at the start of the race – we start talking about our day – he had a horrible swim – leg cramps – and we help keep each others mind off of our own personal misery. Although other than being thirsty and not being able to drink anything, I felt pretty good. I was worried if I started running that would change so we kept a strong power walk going (ultra training made this easy – many people remarked on how my walk was faster than their run) and motored toward the finish. 

We were within a few blocks and were joined by Leslie, David and Celi – I think Celi and George went off to look for Tripp since he had not finished yet and as far as I knew he was ahead of me. Randy and I decided to save the sprint for the finish chute since he was afraid of a cramp and I was afraid of hurling. He got a little ahead and I let him go, saw the lights and finish line and started to run. The soles of my feet were sore from the heat and walking so this was a bit painful but soon I could not feel anything. I had pictured this in my mind and knew I would cry but somehow I didn’t, more likely I couldn’t I was so dehydrated. I saw all my friends sharing in my victory and finally I crossed that finish line.

A volunteer stepped up to help me and get me a medal and finishers shirt and hat. I told her I felt pretty good BUT had not had anything to drink or eat in hours so a visit to the medical tent would probably be a good idea. We headed over and they got me an IV – first in my life – and while I relaxed I heard Terrie’s voice calling out my name. She was being wheeled in for her own IV with Mike and Miles. Mike hung out with me while Miles stayed with Terrie. Terrie refused to do anything until she saw Tripp and I finish. I later learned Tripp had some tummy issues himself but finished just after me.  We all finished under brutally HOT conditions – the No Boundaries Lou-natics were all Ironmen!!

Final Numbers: 

Swim: 1:48:47
Bike: 7:57:03
Run: 6:37:19
Overall: 16:48:58

This meant so much to me! I finished the Great Floridian 140.6 in 2010 but they were extremely generous in their time cutoffs. Even though I had done the distance I never truly felt I was an “Ironman” and would never really feel that way until I did it under 17 hours and within the normal cutoffs. This time I did it. Going in I felt a 16 hour race was reasonable but given the heat and my nutrition going south a finish was a finish and I will take it!

There is so much more I want to talk about but I will write about that in followup posts. In the meantime here are some more pictures:

At the finish line

Some of our awesome supporters!

The No Boundaries Lou-natics – Adrienne, Tripp, Kim, me, Harry, Terrie and Todd – all finished! 

Even more pictures here:

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