The Ironman Louisville swim is in the
River, and swimmers file into the water first come, first served.
The swim start was ,
and when I got to the line at 6:30, it was already a mile long, and clearly
people at the front had camped out for their spot. We were lucky to swim at all; for the weeks
leading up to race day “algae bloom” threatened to keep us out of the water,
but someone finally decided we wouldn’t start glowing green and sprouting
mystery appendages if we jumped in. The
water temp was perfect, at 69 degrees, and I jumped in at .
The first part was against the current, but it was a protected inlet, so
it wasn’t bad at all. The parts with the
current did include some cross current, so not as easy as it sounded.
I’m a weak swimmer, and I usually seed myself out of the fray. Because of the way the swim was structured, there was no “out of the fray” in this event. Three quarters swim/one quarter
discovered that even though my kick is not good enough to propel me forward, it
is sufficient to let the guy holding on to my feet for a tow know that I’m not
Yet again in a tri, as if I needed more evidence that my body is not designed for swimming, my swim cap popped off, necessitating a trip to the kayak to put it and the goggles I knocked off trying to fix the cap back in place. It tried to peel off again, but I forced my way to the finish before it dislodged. My head is now actually physically rejecting this swimming habit.
Transition to the bike was long, because there was a quarter mile from bike out to the timing mat/mount line, all on concrete, and since I haven’t figured out how to get into shoes on the bike I had to do this on cleats. I had driven the bike course on Friday, and I was really intimidated by the hills, which are my biggest bike weakness. About
20 miles into the ride,
there was a turn onto a road with 3 miles out, 3 miles back, all twisty
hills on a narrow road with no shoulder.
This is where the late swim start and the slow swim and transition times
actually helped me. As I was climbing on
the out, I saw how congested the back part was, and I passed four crashes, two
of them apparently major, in just that 6-mile stretch.
The perfect weather helped on the ride, and while the hills weren’t easy, I handled them well and had a blast on the descents. The course was beautiful, and everyone was incredibly friendly. The only real issue was that the roads were not closed to traffic, and they were single lane roads with no shoulder. At one point, an F350 tried to take me out because he wanted to get away from the traffic, but since I commute on a bike, I’m used to cars trying to kill me and I managed a quick adjustment and an appropriate hand gesture. On the way back, I got stuck a couple of times behind cars that could only move as fast as the slowest cyclist of front of them, which was super frustrating. The last
10 miles of the course were
flat, and I time trialed them back to the finish (a couple mph slower than my
TT pace, but I don’t typically warm up for TTs with a hilly 100-mile
ride). I passed lots and lots of people
on the second half of this ride, which always gives me a bump, especially
considering how many riders cheered me on as I overtook them.
I felt really good coming off the bike. My legs felt heavy starting the run, but they always feel that way until I get going a bit. I was confident that once I got underway, and more importantly once it started cooling off outside, I would feel stronger on the run. Unfortunately, my right Achilles tendon was really painful right from the start, despite all the ibuprofen. I kept moving, and was hanging on ok until about mile 13, then I started fading. At mile 15, I started feeling really dizzy and shaky, and I was started to wobble as I walked. I made my way to the mile 17 aid station. I used the portajohn, and had fun trying to pull my sweaty trisuit back up in this condition. When I left the john, I felt like I was going to pass out, so I sat on the curb, shivering and sweating at the same time, and put my head in my hands. All I could think about was how much I didn’t want to DNF. A volunteer noticed me, and he kept bringing me different food items and fluids until I started to feel better. The solid non-GU type foods helped, and I was able to get up and start moving again. I started with a slow walk and settled into a brisk walk to get through the rest of the race.
My final time was significantly slower than my objective, but given the mile-17 issue, I’m thrilled that I finished. Most importantly, while I definitely suffered, I really enjoyed and had fun at this event. I hurt, and there was a time when I felt like I was dying (and still was more concerned about a DNF), but I was reminded throughout the day of how much I love this sport and the people who participate in it and support it.