Saturday, November 2, 2019

Ironman Louisville 2019 Race Report – Rise Up!

In 2013 I completed Beach2Battleship 140.6, my first iron-distance race.  It was an absolute blast.  I was immediately looking forward to my next big race but my path to Ironman Louisville wasn’t exactly traditional.  As has been well documented, I fell into a few years of dealing with injuries starting in 2015.  Once I was able to complete a full marathon last year, I was absolutely ready to take on an Ironman.  

Training was grueling. Thoughts of this being my last 140.6 entered my mind multiple times.  June was tough.  It was hot, it was rainy, I had a bike wreck (didn’t impact training), I had a bad 70.3 race.  I did what I could and learned from it.  July was a massive turn around.  I had my first century ride in years and it went great.  The redemption 70.3 race in Muncie set me up for a half ironman PR even though I was pacing myself based on 140.6 race strategy. August was good with some massive fitness gains and taper finally arrived! However, August did not end well.   My return to ironman racing at Ironman Wisconsin was in jeopardy and I ultimately had to back out due to the messed up shoulder from my bike wreck on August 26.  I wouldn’t be able to finish the swim, so better regroup… again.

Two weeks out from the race I finally joined an Ironman Louisville 2019 unofficial Facebook group.  Lots of questions about water temps.  Two weeks out and it was still being reported at over 80 degrees.  Locals were posting that it will drop quickly as soon as the fall weather arrived, which it hadn’t.  I ordered a ROKA swimskin just in case.

Once race week arrived, I did everything I could to enjoy it.  The last pool swim, the last run in cold temps, the last bike ride at the downtown airport.  Race day was looking great temperature-wise, so I took the opportunity to finalize my clothing for the race.  

What had also changed was the water.  As expected, the water temps dropped quickly to wetsuit legal levels but something else changed too.  Due to the low rain and extended warm water season, an algae bloom had appeared in the Ohio River.  Local officials released a warning against swimming in the water due to the harmful nature of the algae.  The Facebook group said that it would dissipate quickly with the cooler temps and the forecasted rain Friday before the race.

If there was one thing I learned over the previous month: focus on things in your control.  My race prep was in my sphere of influence.  The algae was not.  It will be what it is.

I left Thursday morning for Louisville.  A long solo drive that put me into Louisville a few minutes past 5pm.  Was hoping to get there a bit earlier so I could get my packet and checkout the merch tent.  It will have to wait until Friday.  I completed a run along the river on the new run course.  The temps were still warm, but the run felt great.  Probably went faster than I should have considering the looming long day on Sunday.

Friday morning I had an optional short swim on the calendar so I hit up a local YMCA about 6:45am. Went to Wild Eggs and ate a Mo Power Quinoa Bowl for breakfast. Really good.  I made it to packet pickup right at the 9am opening time and worked my way through the merch tent.  I managed to leave spending only $33!

I needed to pick up TKB at the Louisville airport at 11am and that gave me time to do something I have never done for a race.  Yeah, I know.  Nothing new one race day.  I still had a swim, bike, and run on Saturday to cancel that out.  (Warning: Flashback).  On our way to Muncie with Kevin and Josh, Josh read us an article about a triathlete who did a wind tunnel test before and after shaving his legs.  It turned out to be a 15 watt savings (or roughly 5 minute time savings on the bike).  Why not?  I’m not going for a podium position, but 5 minutes is five minutes J  If you remember (You don’t, that’s ok), I missed the podium at Beach2Battleship by 5 minutes.  

Electric razor then straight edge then lotion.  I didn’t time myself, but it definitely took a while.  Felt really weird putting on pants.  So, there’s that.

After picking up TKB we found a local cafĂ© for lunch and then drove the bike course.  Nothing really concerned me on the bike course, but I focused on some of the descents that had wicked turns at the bottom.  It was a pretty course with all the horse farms.  I found the roads to be in pretty good shape as well.  It was going to be a fun ride.  By now it was late afternoon and time to head back to the hotel.

I had already started prepping all my bags that morning and now time to finish.  It should be easy because I went through the same thing a month prior at Madison.  Well, it wasn’t exactly the same.  By now Ironman had announced that the swim was cancelled.  After consulting with local officials, the ban on swimming in the river was still in effect and was to last through the weekend.  

Damn.  This sucks.  

As I mentioned before, focus on things in your control.  Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend this year.  This was my fourth triathlon of the year.  Ironman Muncie 70.3 was the only one to have the race go as planned (albeit, non-wetsuit legal).  Kansas City Triathlon had extremely cold temps that shortened the swim.  Halfmax 70.3 had the swim cancelled by storms and replaced with a mile run.  

The race was now to start with a time trial bike.  Two cyclists were to start every 5 seconds.  First were AWA triathletes, then women by bib number, then men by bib number.  Since I registered so late, I was bib # 2334 out of 2415.  My day was going to start at 10am.  Had we done the swim, I probably would have been on the road by 9:00am.  Ugh.  Not pleased.  The main concern now was before I estimated a finish around 7pm.  Right before sundown.  Now I’m definitely going to finish in the dark.  I wear prescription sunglasses. Rules state you can’t receive or give anything from spectators.  So I wouldn’t be able to swap sunglasses for real glasses with TKB.  I also didn’t want to do the swap in my run special needs bag because I wouldn’t get it back.  The night before the race we stopped at a pharmacy to buy some fancy clip-ons!  I would put those on in T2 with a pair of glasses packed in my bag.

Trying to be positive I looked at the temperature forecast. It was going to be 50 degrees around 10am.  A full 10 degrees warmer than 9am.  So now I was going to start the bike completely dry, warmer temps, and with 2,300 athletes to chase down!

Friday night my parents arrived, and we met up with them for dinner and then back to our hotel.  I wanted to do a little work on my bike’s drive train.  It rained on me pretty hard during the drive to Louisville, so I cleaned the chain and lubed it up.  Fell quickly to sleep after that as I was exhausted!

Saturday morning the alarm started blaring at 6am.  I had a short bike and run to do.  It was 37 degrees out and dark.  Not what it was going to be like on Sunday, but I wore close to the same clothes I planned.  No need to join the practice swim at 8am now!

As part of this trip we added another race.  TKB has been doing some consistent training this past year either on her own or by taking Rieger out on runs.  She was curious to see if she would set a new 5k PR so I found her a race in Louisville.  Actually, two of them.  She ultimately decided on the Susan G Komen 5k that starts and finishes at the University of Louisville Cardinals football stadium…. parking lot.  

So after I got done with my bike/run we met up with my parents and TKB was off on her race for the weekend. We were hoping the Race for the Cure race would be timed like it is in KC but it wasn’t.  She fought her way up through the crowd in the start coral and was soon off! Let me just say this, she did such an awesome job that we almost missed her at the finish line!  She slaughtered her 5k time by 4 minutes with a 28:30 finish!!!!   

I asked her for her race report and she said “I ran.  I didn’t walk.  I passed a bunch of people going uphill on the bridge.  There was a thinking man statue on the campus”.  I have a thing or two to learn from her on concise race reports.  I’m super proud of her.  It just shows how dedication and consistency makes a big stride to meeting and exceeding race goals.

TKB wants to call this a 28:30 finish due to a shortened course.  Not timed and likely not officially measured.  It's still a massive PR either way!

We made it back to the hotel and then back down to the expo with my parents.  I wanted to show them around the area so they would know good spots to spectate.  We also attended one of the last athlete briefings to gain any information about the race morning with the changes to the race.

After going through the merch tent one more time (and spending a bit more cash), I went back to the hotel to grab my bike, bike special needs bag, and run bag.  From the briefing they said you could drop special needs off Saturday, but you don’t need to bring your bike bag.  So I followed suit.  Everything was now all checked in and ready for Sunday.

After all that, we went back to the hotel and rocked a hard nap.  I still needed one last race prep and that was getting my bike nutrition ready.  5 water bottles of Tailwind (with one being super concentrated mix for 3 additional bottles to be made on course).  Chatted with Coach Ken on the phone for a bit.  Good to have a nice pep talk prior to the race!

Dinner was at a pizza joint right next to our hotel and I had a tasty pasta dish.  Gotta go with the ceremonial tradition.  Instead of forcing myself to go to bed early, I just went to sleep when I was tired since there was no need to get up super early.  Another long day, so didn’t take much for full on Zzzzzzz’s.

Race Morning

A different change of pace for race morning.  I woke up much later than I did during training.  6am.  Weird.  I got all dressed up and we went hunting for some coffee to get that final bathroom stop going.  I had told my parents to meet us around 9am at the race site but we got there a little after 7:30. Added all my nutrition to the bike and double checked my run bag.  And…. Wait.

Mom and Dad arrived at 9am and a few hundred participants had already been on the bike course.  We chatted a bit until around 9:30 and then I started getting itchy to get moving so I said good-byes and went back to my bike. 


They called for our rack and started moving up to the mount line.  During this I decided to adjust my planned clothing for the bike.  I was wearing my team tri kit (tri shorts and tri top).  Toe covers on the cycling shoes.  Arm warmers (but I went with the lighter weight material).  Full fingered gloves.  My team cycling jersey over my tri top.  Under my cycling helmet I was wearing a thin skull cap that covered my ears. As the temps had risen, I decided to take off the skull cap and put it in my jersey pockets.  I noticed I had put in some LARABARs in my bike jersey so I went ahead and ate one of those. 

Before I knew it, I was at the start line.  Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Booooooooop!  I’m racing!  I’ve done a few time trial races, so I had my gearing set but also was careful to not break a chain at the start.  It’s a long day.  Don’t blow it at mile .00001.

The course starts out with 10 miles of closed roads.  Then 5 miles of protected roads (you ride on the left or right of cones with traffic).  Then 5 miles with traffic until you turn off on the loop.  2,300 people in front of me so plenty of people to pass.  Doing my best not to draft.  Leap frogging with a few other cyclists, but everyone was pretty well behaved.  After you turn onto the loop you start to really hit the rollers and a few climbs.  Nothing horrible compared to what I train on, granted I was preparing for the long climbs at Ironman Wisconsin.

Around mile 30 you turn off onto a winding narrow road with some climbs. On one descent I remember seeing a sign, thinking it was a slow sign but was just a realtor sign.  Immediately a curve on the descent and then you see a sign with “BUMP” on it.  You travel onto a bridge with a lip that was marked with tape along the ridge.  I slowed down as much as I could, but still hit it with some force.

Almost immediately I could tell something was wrong.  The rear of the bike seemed sluggish.  After a mile or so I turned into a driveway to check.  No flat.  Hopped back on and kept chugging along.  5 miles later was a brief little out and back and then a screaming descent.  After 10-15 seconds I heard the sound no cyclist wants to hear. My rear tube blew.  This time I was going 35mph!  I managed to slow down and pull off.  

I’m pretty good at changing tubes away from home, but this is the first time I’ve had to do it with the race wheels AND during a race. I started working through it and within moments a bike tech on a Moped stopped by.  He grabbed everything from me and told me to stand back and relax.  He was quick.  He also had a bike pump instead of me having to burn a CO2 cartridge.  When he put the wheel in, he noticed the tire was rubbing on the frame.  CRAP.  

(Warning: Flashback-ish).  Almost every time I install my race wheels, I have to adjust the horizontal dropout screws to align the wheel on the frame.  The rear race wheel usually installs the first time with the sidewall of the tire on the frame.  When I installed them this time, it was true.  I even rode on them for 90 minutes prior to the race without issue.  That bump must have jarred something and it misaligned it.

I asked the tech to adjust the screws, but instead he just pulled the wheel out on the horizontal dropouts to keep it from rubbing.  Now I’m concerned about the alignment of the brake pads on the rim of the wheel.  

Either way, I’m on the road again. 7 minutes of stoppage time.

It was interesting.  After getting on the road again the day just seemed different.  My expectations of the race had to adjust a little now but that wasn’t it.  I eventually realized that it no longer felt like morning.  It was decidedly afternoon.

After a bit I could tell something else wasn’t quite right.  Bike didn’t seem sluggish but I could hear a noise.  I didn’t think it was the tire rubbing so I just kept going.  Around mile 45, the noise changed.  Maybe I picked up a leaf in the spokes?  I had to stop.  Once stopped, I had the realization that I may never get moving again.  I found a hole in the sidewall of my tire.  The tube had filled in through the hole and started leaking air.  

A hole in the tire is a day ender.  You can’t just stick another tube in there, fill it, and go.  That tube will poke through and flat again.  As they say in the athlete briefing, just keep moving forward - even when things seem bleak.  Just keep moving forward.  I realized I had another LARABAR in my back pocket.  The wrapper could maybe be used to patch the sidewall hole.  I started eating the bar while changing the tube.  My last tube, by the way.  I got everything set up: tube in the tire, LARABAR wrapper inside the tire covering the hole. Everything was set on the wheel.  I attached my valve and started filling it up with air.  Nothing.  Tried again.  Nothing.  Apparently I had packed a used CO2 cartridge.  Ugh.  Two more in the tool bag.  Reattached a new cartridge and within half a second the tube was filled with air.  The other half of the second was filled with despair.  There was a new leak.  I checked and it was on the tube near the stem.

Double crap.  Bad Tire. NO tubes.  I had my Apple Watch with me, but I had all the communications and screen turned off for the race.  I turned everything back on and sent TKB a message: “Day may be done.  I’m out of tubes and I have a hole in my tire.”

About the time I had stopped initially a triathlete had walked by.  He had a broken derailleur and was walking the bike until someone took him back to Louisville.  I noticed that he had stopped to talk to someone in a car.  I figured maybe if he was getting a ride into town then he might be willing to drop me a tube.  I started walking over to him and then realized he was talking to a bike tech who was solving his issue. I asked if she had tires and extra tubes.  Yes!  She did! 

Grabbed a Continental GP-4000 along with an 80mm stem length tube.  About the time I was to fill it up the tech came over.  I talked to her about the issue and she decided to grab a 23mm tire instead of the 25mm I had.  She also adjusted the dropout screws to align my wheel.  

Message to TKB: “Back on the road turning this off”.  32 minutes after I stopped, I was cruising again!  

I asked the tech if I could get a spare tube, she said no.  Not allowed. Totally understandable.  While I originally had planned to skip the bike Special Needs bags, I had to stop now.  I had packed extra nutrition, a spare tube, and CO2 cartridges.  This was located at mile 60 so if I could make it 15 miles without a problem, I was in good shape. 

Once at the Special Needs pickup I also decided to use the port-a-potty and prep an extra bottle of nutrition.  I figured I was going to be out an extra hour so I should have a 7th bottle ready.  All said and done, this took another 7 minutes.

When I start almost dead last and then have a 45 minutes of bike related stoppage… you tend to have a lot of people in front of you.  In fact, I was now in 1,188th place out of 1,299 male athletes at the 3rd checkpoint.  I dropped over 850 positions during those 45 minutes.

The last 67 miles were fairly lonely.  I typically had a triathlete always in sight but there were big gaps.  Either way, it helped keep me motivated.  I’d rather be passing them on my bike instead of the back of a SAG vehicle with a DNF on my race result.  

By the time I got back to transition I had moved up 370+ positions.

I did a flying dismount and RAN my bike back to the volunteer to take and then RAN into transition with my run bag.  Everyone else was walking but I was ready for this marathon!

Flying dismount!

Time: 6:38:16 / 16.70 Average (Includes 45 minutes of stopped time)
Rank: 149 of 207 Age Group

T2… er… T1

Fairly simple change.  I took off the jersey and put on calf sleeves with a fresh pair of socks and then my shoes.  Out of the tent and straight into the port-a-potty.  

Time: 7:08 


My goal for this race was to run the entire marathon.  I would allow walking the aid stations.  I had been planning for 9 minute miles plus walking those aid stations.  As Coach Ken told me the first time we ever talked: The key to a great race is to have a great run.  The key to a great run is to have a great bike.  I felt like I stayed within myself on the bike.  I obviously had some time that I worked too hard on the bike (especially while the wheel was rubbing on the frame).  This goal is what I worked on leading up to Muncie 70.3 and now Ironman Louisville.  

It is so easy to go out too hard on the run.  I’ve watched many people start Ironman marathons totally awesome and then fade out. This was not going to be me!!!

Green is the color of the day!  Missed out and should have gotten green arm sleeves.

First mile: 8:04.  Second mile: 8:08.  Crap.  Third mile: 8:20. Better.  Fourth: 8:14. Consistency counts?

Here’s the thing.  I had already passed four aid stations.  Those splits included walking the aid stations.  So I was MUCH faster than what the splits indicated.  I’m getting a little nervous but I’m also feeling great.  I continue to coax myself into a slower pace.  When I would hit the inclines, my legs would fill with lactic acid but almost immediately return to normal after cresting the top.

I consumed a gel every 3 miles.  I only brought a few with me so I restocked on-course.  That strategy seemed to work pretty well.  I also opted to not wear a hydration belt this race.  I typically do for any race over 10k but this year it’s been giving me stomach issues.  The gels did cause a little bit of distress but it was very manageable.

I didn’t know what to expect with a 3 loop course.  How crowded would it be?  Is it going to be annoying passing the same things three times?  The nice thing about this setup is that you never see the finish line until the end.  In fact, you NEVER have to see the finish line until the end. Most courses will do half marathon turn around right by the finish chute. This finish is another .75 miles off the loop.  

1st lap done: 1:09
I actually had a couple sub-8 minute miles here.  Maybe I ran an aid station or two?  I kept telling myself to slow down.

2nd lap done: 2:17
I kept track of one stretch of the loop to check my pace. The first lap I was running 8:10 pace.  Exact same for the second lap.  The third lap I had slowed down to 8:35. I could easily accept a 25 second slower pace with only a few miles left.

Right near the special needs bag station(I didn’t even have one for the run), I ran by a guy talking to a woman saying “Look at all the ‘Ironman shuffle’ going on here.” Right after I pass I hear him say, “and then that guy shows me up!”.  Sorry, I was feeling great!

3rd lap done: 3:30 
I allowed myself to walk up one stupid incline this loop.  About 20 yards in length but I kept up a high turnover.  It was also getting dark, so I tossed my clip-on sunglass lenses. The course did have lights along the way but there were definitely some very dark sections.  If you weren’t paying attention in the daylight, you would surely have tripped up on some poor road/trail sections.

Only official race photo from the run.

So, about that finish line again.  I made sure to not see the finish line until mile marker 140.6 (or in this case, 138.2).  TKB asked me at one point during the weekend if I wanted to stop by.  I told here “No.  I waited 6 years to see the finish line, I can wait a few more days”.

After coming off the loop you run about .5 miles up a 100-foot incline.  Make a right turn.  Run a block.  Make another right turn and you are on the red Ironman carpet!  I will admit, I didn’t take it in as much as I wanted to.  In fact, once there I started running faster.  I weaved left getting high fives from the crowd.  Then back to the right side.  Then left.  Then right.  Arms in the air and punctuated it with a yelling leap right under the clock.  

Time: 3:43:08 / 8:27 Pace
Rank: 32 of 207 Age Group


Time: 10:28:31
Rank: 85 of 207 Age Group

This was setup for another great race.  Perfect weather and an extra few weeks of training J  I am thrilled with the run and honestly feel like I could still be out there running.  It turned into a day in which I had to truly focus on moving forward and keep things in control.  I could have easily gotten frustrated and started thumbing my ride back to Louisville, but instead I kept focusing on the positive.

I alluded to this possibly being my last Ironman race.  Probably not.  That’s all part of the mental game you play during the year.  It is tough getting in all the training knowing you are missing time with family and friends.  I have some of the best family and friends who supported me during this endeavor, and I absolutely love them for that.  Even some that I rarely get to see sending me messages or comments about my bike wreck.  Thank you!

Couple tidbits:
  • Now that I look at my data, my normalized power was actually almost 30 watts higher than I was shooting for.  Oops.  I’m sure it was aided by my shaved legs J
  • Don’t forget to put sunscreen on that bit of skin on your back right above the waist line.  Mine was smiling at the sun for 6+ hours on the bike and is a “bit” red right now.

Special thanks to my parents for coming out to Louisville to cheer me on.  I really appreciate it!!  

Lastly, the title of this post is “Rise Up!”.  I adopted it as the theme and mantra of the last month of training.  Cranky about having to do four more weeks of training?  Rise up and get through it.  Blow a tube (or two) on the bike course?  Rise up and work through it.  Don’t feel like running anymore?  Rise up! Almost done!  

The phrase came from a song that also has another theme for the race, “I’m not throwing away my shot”.  I spent months and months training and I wasn’t about to let a bike wreck ruin the year.  The song is “My Shot” by Lin-Manuel Miranda from the musical Hamilton:


I'm not going the wrong way.  This is on a short out and back.

Not the same photo as above.  Taken hours apart.  I had taken them off during the first flat.

A bit excited.

About to take off.

Still can't hit the trash ca with my paper cups.




Found this walking to Wild Eggs Friday morning.  No one around.  Just a freaky fast Jimmy Johns.

Bag Prep... how I make my bags easily identifiable.

When you register late, you don't get any personalized stuff.  So I put my name on my bib.

The one M-Dot marketing I'll do.

Lunch on Saturday

Mom, Dork, Dad.  Awesome they came out to spectate and cheer!

Couple finishers.  Love this woman so much!!