Here's the down and dirty info on my first full Ironman which ended in a near DNF disaster.
Swim - 1:17 (goal 1:20)
Bike - 5:47 (goal 5:45)
Run - 6:14 (goal 3:30)
Total Time - 13:31
After my second Ironman 70.3 this summer in Lawrence, I decided to sign up for a full Ironman race in Louisville, which took place one day before my 42nd birthday. Shortly afterward, my sister Sarah also told me she was entering the race. It's so cool to have a family member to share experiences with.
I was about as dialed in as I could get with the limited time I had to train. Although I have some flexibility in my work schedule, I still have a life so I really limited my training volume except for a couple big weeks.
I arrived in Louisville on Friday afternoon and Sarah and Curt picked me up at the airport along with their son Gavin. From there we went to the hotel room, got some lunch and then I checked in at the expo center. Nothing much to it except for the usual Ironman circus (people walking around in spandex, compression gear and aero helmets for no good reason).
Saturday I did 15 min each of run/bike/swim and then relaxed by the pool until it was time to check in our bikes. After that it was relaxing and trying to stay off our feet as much as possible while the boys toured Louisville.
I woke up about 3am, downed my normal breakfast of Ensure plus and Musclemilk, and slept for another hour until Sarah woke up. We had our coffee, got our gear on and made our way to the bike area to drop off our nutrition.
From the bike transition area we walked for about a mile to the swim start and then stood in line way too long for a Porta Potty. From there we made our way to the end of the line that was literally almost mile long (about 3 miles of walking before we even start the swim). In line we met a couple who were doing their 11th IM and absolutely loved their attitude. That conversation made the whole morning for me.
The swim at Louisville is a rolling start from 2 docks. Everyone walks in single file line to the end of a dock and jumps in to start swimming. From there we swam upstream on the Ohio River for about 3/4 mile before turning around to swim downstream. For a little as I swim, I was very pleased that I never got tired or wanted to stop. I credit this to the fact that I swam 5-6 times a week for the last 3 weeks before the race. The farthest I've swam ever is 1.2 miles, and I beat my Half Ironman pace. The only issue I really had was some cramping in my foot, so at times I had to keep my foot straight down instead of kicking. No problem there since I don't have a strong kick anyway. I finished the swim almost wishing that it was longer (really strange since I don't enjoy swimming laps at all).
Swim time 1:17
I started the bike with the sole intent of keeping my power in check. It always feels deceivingly easy when starting a race because of the adrenaline and fresh legs. My average speed on the flat section was about 21 MPH with power reading slightly below my target. From there we started into the hills and that's where the real fun began. I've always said that I enjoy a hilly course over a flat one and this was no exception. The countryside around Louisville was so pretty with rolling hills, trees and horse farms and I couldn't really ask for a better place to ride 112 miles.
My strategy for the hills was to conserve energy on the uphills and keep the power constant on the downhills and flats. This seems to be the exact opposite strategy of most other riders around me. I would get passed on the uphills by riders who had no business passing me along with the hammerheads who were probably pushing 400 watts or more. I would then pass everyone on the downhills and pull away on the flats when they were resting from the hills. In doing this, I conserved lots of energy and didn't shred my quads. Toward the end of the bike race, I was passing everyone in sight even though my power was lower than my goal.
I started taking in my Infinit mix as soon as I got on the bike and kept to my schedule for the first 1.5-2 hours. After that, I began having trouble getting enough down as my stomach wasn't emptying fast enough. By the end of the ride I still had 900 calories left over, which means I only took in 900 during the ride (not good.) The other problem is that my calories and electrolytes were all in the same mix, meaning that I didn't get near enough electrolyte replacement and/or water. The last hour of the bike I switched to only water so I could at least get another bottle of liquid in me, but already my legs were beginning to get goose bumps from dehydration and heat. But, I really didn't think too much of it was I still had power in my legs.
Bike time: 5:48
At the run transition I changed, grabbed my stuff and headed out. I felt really good and started at a relaxed 7:30 pace. By mile 3, I started to feel a little faint and stopped at the aid station to walk it out. I then played a walk/run game hoping I would just hydrate it away. I finished the first loop in an abysmal 2 hours wondering what the heck was going on with my body. On the second loop I ended up on the side of the road trying to keep my head from spinning. I got up and walked, only to go down again. The third time I started puking and shaking and figure something must be wrong (duh). I laid there for about 30 minutes trying to get up and was almost going to throw in the towel.
Just then a man came up to me and asked if I had ever finished an Ironman. I said no, this was my first one. He then got out his drill sergeant voice and told me to get up a few times until I did. I then trudged along like zombie until the next aid station where I drank some chick broth. My death march continued until the turnaround with only about 6 miles to go. From there I jogged when I could and walked when I felt dizzy. I ran the last mile or so and got the finish line. From there I basically laid on the sidewalk until I started to feel better. I made a beeline to the medical room and got an IV, which made me feel much better. I arrived back at the finish line just in time to see my sister Sarah finish her race. Very exciting.
Run time - 6:15 (yuck!)
I really enjoyed the Ironman distance but learned a couple valuable lessons.
1. Have a backup plan for nutrition and be willing to change the plan if it isn't going right.
2. Get stronger legs for the bike.
3. See number 1.
I was feeling kind of ashamed of my finish until I got back to Houston and talked to a coach who told me it took him 7 races to really dial in his nutrition, and that he's also walked the marathon. I don't want to do that again, so I'm going to switch to liquid hydration and gels/solid nutrition for next time, giving me options. I'm also going to cut out the Maltodextrin as this seems to be the culprit (as determined by process of elimination. It works fine for me during training, but not in races.
Other than that, I'm thankful for the learning experience and can't wait to try it again. I just hope it doesn't take too many times to nail a good race, because these things take time.
Total time - 13:30'ish