IRONMAN LOUISVILLE 2013: 112 Miles Feels Even Longer in 90-Degree Heat and with 7,200′ of Elevation Gain
Once I was out of transition, I immediately started hydrating and sucking down my homemade coconut milk and whey protein race fuel concoction. It’s important to start eating and hydrating as soon as you get on the bike because you obviously weren’t able to eat during the swim. I was feeling great and keeping my cadence high on my FELT AR5 bicycle with brand new Profile Design Aeolus 80.5mm tubular wheels. I’d picked these up just in July when I was out in California and was really excited to use them for the first time. The guys (and girl, thank you, Larissa!) at Profile really helped me out with the wheels, a few hydration bottles and a FuelBelt for the run.
The bike course at Louisville is deceptively hilly. Even though there aren’t very many significant hills, the roads are almost never flat. The course is always up or down and it behooves you to constantly be shifting to maintain a higher cadence to rely more on turnover speed than burning up your legs with powerful pedal strokes. The layout resembles a stick figure with one arm and no legs. You ride up the body and take a right at a Y-fork for the arm, down a hill and then up to a turnaround. Come back down the arm and then do two loops around the stick-man’s head and finish back the way you started.
The first part is actually pretty flat and then the descent down the arm gives you quite an adrenaline rush, which is always welcome. I was still feeling good as I finished coming back down the arm and took the right turn to go out for the two loops, just before mile 30.
Miles 30-60 were probably the best miles of the day. I felt strong and the temperature hadn’t reached its peak yet. There was a Foster Grant straightaway in a middle-of-nowhere town that felt like somewhere because the whole half-mile to a mile stretch was lined with people on both sides. When I race, I like to interact with the fans on the side of the course and draw from their energy. We hit the Foster Grant section for the first time at about Mile 45 and I rallied the crowd and hit about 28 MPH, pumping my cranks like pistons firing. The second time through was close to Mile 75 and it felt like the only energy I had was coming from the crowd.
That second loop is Miles 60-90.That’s when it really started to suck. My legs had been feeling good up until that point but at about Mile 65-70, I started to have thoughts of “Why do I do this again? I’ve raced two IMs before so I know what they feel like and how bad they hurt. It’s gonna be 90 degrees before too long and I’m barely into this race.” In the words of country music singer Dierks Bentley, “What was I thinkin’?” For those of you who have not raced an Ironman or any endurance event longer than a half marathon, Mile 70 of a 140.6-mile race is WAY too soon to be having those thoughts. It’s perfectly normal to be having those thoughts at around mile 15 or 16 on the run. It’s even OK to be saying, “The last thing I want to do is run a marathon right now!” when you come in off the bike. But if you’re legs are screaming at you by Mile 70-80, you’re in for a LONG day out there. Barring an act of God, your best case is “finishing” the race. Any aspirations you might’ve had of “racing” are out the window. Like super far out the window. Like so far out the window you can’t see them anymore. Like… Ok, ok I’ll stop now.
A brief aside: As I’ve mentioned before I trained for this Ironman solely using the CrossFit Endurance protocol. That basically can be summarized by 4-5 days a week of CrossFit, and about 2-3 days of each sport her week. Sometimes I did three days of a sport. Usually a short interval workout (50s or 100s in the pool, 100-400m repeats or less than 2-3-minute intervals of running, 1-mile or shorter repeats on the bike), a longer interval workout and then a Tempo or Time Trial workout in 2 or 3 of the sports. Also included were 2-3 days a week of Olympic lifting of varying rep schemes, usually a dynamic effort or max effort lift. For my time trial/tempo work, I built up to about a mile in the pool, 65-miles on the bike and a half marathon on the run. Other key swim workouts were 6x500yds and 3x1000yds. I did a 3×10-mile bike TT workout at one point and then my favorite was 3x5K run with 10-minute rest periods.
Long story short, the main thought going through my mind was “Well, I guess that wasn’t quite enough.” What made it easier to take was the fact that I knew I was rolling the dice and experimenting with this one from the beginning. It’s a heck of a long distance to gamble on but the process of registering for an Ironman lowers a person’s IQ by at least 30-50 points. So when you see that “REGISTER NOW!” button, it beckons you to click it like a dog that’s ready for their walk so you say, “OK, fine I’ll do it!” And then you’re in and you fall in love with the idea of race day and lose your entire social life due to training, proper diet and rest/recovery.
I finished the second loop at Mile 90 and 22 miles seemed doable. Right around this marker, I noticed that my feet were really starting to ache. The longest I’d been in my bike shoes in training for this race was about four hours. I was nearing five hours at this stage in the game and the stiff bike shoes were taking their toll. The constant hills weren’t helping much either; it’s a little known fact, but the Louisville course is actually hillier than IM Madison and was ranked the fourth toughest Ironman last year, behind St. George (which was canceled after a nearly 25% DNF rate in 2012).
95 miles came and went and hitting 100 had never felt like such a relief. My dreams of a sub-5:30 bike time went up in smoke and even sub-6 seemed unrealistic. The temperature had risen to ~90-degrees at this point as the clock neared 2:00 p.m. Passing Mile 110 is about the distance when you feel relief with the knowledge that you will be off your bike in a couple miles, but simultaneous dread at the thought of RUNNING A MARATHON in a couple miles. RUNNING A MARATHON is in all caps, bolded and in bright red because that is the font that your mind uses for that thought. And it’s flashing like a warning light in your car.
I unstrapped my shoes and slipped my feet out as I rolled down the transition chute into BIKE IN and dismounted at the line. My feet hit the ground and I forced myself to start jogging despite jarring pain with each footfall. There were a few good thoughts in my mind, like “My feet should loosen up as I start to run…” and “Maybe I’ll start to feel my legs soon,” and “The good news is that I’ve already swum 2.4-miles, biked 112-miles and my family and friends are here to support me.” I grabbed my Run Gear bag and headed into the change tent, desperately looking forward to sitting down on something larger than 3″x6″ (i.e. my bike seat).
To Be Continued in Part 3…
“Why is everyone swimming that way?” I thought to myself as my arms churned through the waters of Lake Cahuilla in La Quinta, CA, just outside of Palm Desert. During the swim warm up before Wave #1 of the 2012 Desert Tri, one of the paddle-boarding life guards had pointed out a buoy that I thought was the first turnaround point. This was not so, I discovered soon after the gun went off, and I hastily corrected course and fell in behind the other swimmers. Thankfully, this rough start to the race would not be a foreboding for my finish line result.
I got through the 3/4-mile swim in a terrible time of 21:38. There were rumors that the swim was somewhat longer than 3/4-mile, which made me feel a little better about my time. Regardless, I’d only swam maybe a dozen times since resuming training (post-Ironman) in January, so I couldn’t beat myself up too badly. I blitzed out of the water and one minute and fourteen seconds later I was clipped into my FELT AR5 bike and flying across the flat and fast roads of Palm Desert. Did I mention it was a very flat and FAST? The Bontrager HED 9.0 deep dish wheelset, courtesy of my coach last year, Anthony Barton, helped a great deal also. For the first half of the 24-mile bike portion of the race, I was averaging nearly 25 MPH! Being 6’3″ and close to 190 pounds as a triathlete sometimes makes it tough to keep up with some of the smaller guys, but when the bike course is flat, I eat those guys for breakfast, lunch and dinner. My speed tapered off towards the very end as I could definitely feel the fire-like burning of the lactic acid building up in my legs and although I blazed through T2 in one minute flat, my body felt like lead and my lungs were like a forest fire. My bike time was 1:01:13.
I started the run off at 6:30 min/mile pace with my coach, Ariel Rodriguez, running beside me for the first few minutes to spur me on. As hard as I tried, I couldn’t hold that pace for long and it took all I could muster to keep it under 7:00 min/miles foe the remainder of the race. The 6-mile run course was two laps around the lake and mostly flat with a mixture of dirt and paved trails. I finished with a time of 41:26 and an average pace of 6:54 min/mile. After the finish, I cooled down with one more lap around the lake to make it an even 9 miles of running. This was done primarily in lieu of the upcoming LA Marathon on March 18th that I’ll be running.
I placed 1st in the M20-24 age group in what was my last official race in that category since my 25th birthday is this Friday! My official time was 2:06:31 and my closest competitor was 12 minutes back. Here’s the link to the results page: 2012 Desert Tri Results
Pro Heather Jackaon ended up winning the whole race and therefore “chicking” every guy there! Her background is in ice hockey and so that’s where she got her legs! Her bike speed is ridiculous and she can run. She shreds it in the swim too! check out her cover article in this month’s issue of LAVA Magazine: http://lavamagazine.com/features/video-behind-the-scenes-with-heather-jackson/#axzz1oVOl02En.
My friend Jason May got 4th overall and won the 35-39 age group. Another friend of mine, Reilly Smith, won the 30-34 age group and got 11th overall. Friend Tom Burbank won the Clydesdale division and Scott Chaney got 2nd in the 35-39 age group and 6th overall. Another friend and colleague of mine, Curry Michels, got 8th in the 30-34 age group. Overall, it was a great day!
My next race on the calendar is the LA Marathon in 11 days on March 18th. For those of you living in Southern California, it’d be great to see you out there somewhere along the course as I run from Dodger Stadium all the was to the Santa Monica Pier. 🙂
I dug this up from an exercise I went through about 14 months ago while reading a book called The Dream Giver, by Bruce Wilkinson, a book that explores the concept of discovering one’s created purpose. I highly recommend it for those who are searching for fulfillment or who feel that there’s got to be something more than what they’ve experienced so far in life. I know this book helped me tremendously.
It’s a bit raw and uncut but I’m posting it because it re-inspired me as I read it today and I hope it inspires you as well! Enjoy. 🙂
Q: What have I always been good at?
A: Talking with people, meeting strangers, connecting people, communicating, public speaking; athletic pursuits, racing, being active, pushing people in sports, motivating and inspiring people because of who I am and what I do; traveling solo; snowboarding; writing; numbers, financial concepts.
Q: What needs do I care about most?
A: The need to protect unborn children; the need for people to be healthy, eat well and exercise to prevent numerous types of injuries, diseases and problems; the need for people to be inspired and motivated–to be excited about life; the need for people to feel accepted and valued and to feel that what they’re doing matters and is having an impact.
Q: Who do I admire most?
A: My dad, Bono, Lance Armstrong, Mark Zuckerberg, Tony Robbins, anyone who’s raced an Ironman, people who are living their dream, my mom, Heather, Joelle, Troy, my family, people who quit their job to go travel around the world, Paul Richardson, Tim Ferriss, Daniel Silva, Richard Branson, Laird Hamilton, Erwin McManus, Tim Chaddick, Joe Focht.
Q: What makes me feel most fulfilled?
A: Pushing my body/mind to the physical/mental limit, essentially challenging myself; traveling, international travel, adventure, thinking on my feet while traveling, being somewhere totally new in the world when no one knows me and no one that I know has any idea about exactly where I am; having deep conversations with people about their passions or dreams or brainstorming new ideas; the feeling I get when I know I’m doing what God created me to do.
Q: What do I love to do most?
A: Experience adremaline highs; go fast downhill on my bike; travel around the world; meet random people on the way, there, and returning from trips; read Dan Silva novels; write about intense experiences and dreams and create writing that moves people; connect/talk with people; adventure with my family; snowboard; go for a swim in the ocean with friends on sunny days with no wetsuit; trail run; mountain bike; watch inspiring movies; race; speak in front of people and inspire them.
Q: What have I felt called to do?
A: Change the world; travel around the world going on adventures and meeting new and interesting people of all cultures; live in a foreign country(ies); learn the 6 UN languages over a period of 5 years by living in each of those countries somehow and discovering a way to finance it without having to go into debt; race an ironman (CHECK!); start a nonprofit; become a motivational speaker; race triathlons at a higher level.