Ironman is something you need to experience in order to really know what it’s all about. It’s the anticipation of the unknown, pushing your body and mind past limits you thought didn’t exist, and the lure of the finish line that brings an addicting adrenaline rush and sense of accomplishment that you can’t describe. But here’s my attempt to let you in on what a day Ironman Louisville 140.6 was.
With 13+ years’ experience in endurance sport, nerves aren’t new to me. But since I’ve started triathlon, I don’t often get nervous before a race. I thought this would be an exception as I’ve been battling an injury that has prevented me from running for the past two months. It wasn’t. I was excited, confident and ready as we walked down the dock to jump into the O
hio River. That shows the true power of what mental strength and a positive attitude can do. The swim a mix of the washing machine feeling followed by what felt like swimming solo. As I reached swim out, an awesome volunteer basically tossed me to the top of the stairs. I looked down at my watch and saw 1:20. Pure panic. My first thought was “where in the world am I going to make up 15 minutes.” But I composed myself, hustled through transition, hit the lap timer to start the bike. It said 1:08. I knew my T1 was around 5:00, which meant I swam 1:03 (Official time 1:03:03). That was a positive burst of energy to kick off the ride.
The bike. The first portion of the stick out to La Grange was flat and freezing. My toes were numb and I couldn’t feel my quads. I paid attention to my numbers and was pleasantly surprised with the 21-22mph. As soon as we made the turn onto the loop I knew the course was going to be much more challenging than I expected. I’m a fan of rolling hills which was one of the reasons I chose Louisville. But wow, I wasn’t expecting the rollers to be as long as they were. However, it was awesome! The long rolling up hills were followed by solid descents that weren’t too technical. It was easy to make up and gain time. For me,
the most enjoyable moments of Ironman are seeing my family and friends. They provide a burst of energy as you pass and more motivation to crush through the miles to see them again. I’m lucky enough to have an amazing support crew that I was able to see every 15 miles or so. I stuck to the game plan. 1 bottle of INFINITE an hour, BASE salt every 30 minutes, 75-80% of FTP, and don’t kill myself on the uphills. It worked. What once was my weakest discipline is now my greatest weapon. A little over two years ago I couldn’t ride 50 miles at 18 mph without drafting. This weekend I rode 112 miles in 5:31:29, averaging 20.3 mph. I was 1st in my age group and had the 10th fastest bike spilt on the day. It was proof that the many 100 mile solo rides and countless hours in my living room on the trainer were worth it.
Going into Steelhead I was mentally and physically stronger than I’ve ever been. My qualification for the 70.3 World Championships confirmed that. But since then, as I mentioned, I’ve battled an injury that has prevented me from running. My piriformis muscle is pushing on my sciatic nerve shooting pain through my leg from foot to back. It prevents the power needed to create a strong stride. Going into the race my longest run had been 6 miles. I knew it would be a shot in the dark. My leg held up through 11 miles. It still took 13 miles for second place to catch me and maybe 18 or so miles for first. That speaks volumes for my cycling and my potential once I’m healthy and running again. I had a strange stride for the remainder of the race, just trying to g
et through it without hurting anything else. The worst part of the run wasn’t my pace. It was knowing that I had the energy and mental strength needed to qualify for Kona but not being able to do anything about it. It’s a tough pill to swallow. But, the finish was perfect. I saw my mom, brother, and some of my closest friends as I hit the chute. It was electric as you ran through 4th Street Live with thousands of people cheering. There is NOTHING that can compare to what you feel as you cross the line and hear “You ARE and IRONMAN.”
2016 was a rollercoaster season. Training and racing had massive ups and downs. As the fatigue fades, I can’t help but to feel disappointed in my overall finish. But I take solace knowing that I did everything I could. I put together a great swim and an amazing bike. My official time was 11:13:40, a 34 minute PR! There’s a lot of potential for me and I’m excited to tear it up in 2017. The quest for Kona continues.